Countdown

Out of all the institutions Tara ever lived in, she never thought she’d wind up in a maternity home.

July 5, 2000
Tara, who was now eight months along, was back to her part-time job until after Mackenzie came.

The house parents took the residents for ice cream on the 4th of July and to see fireworks. That weekend they were going to see “Shakespeare in The Park’s Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream.'” It was Tara’s favorites of Shakespeare’s.

One of the residents who’d just had her baby, made a face at some customers at the ice cream parlor when they kept staring at the group of pregnant residents. She then made a screaming noise to further mock their behavior. It worked – they turned away.

Tara house sat for her friend who’d been keeping her dog for her while she was living at Gladney. It was a four-day job and it was great to hang out with him. He was scared of the fireworks, though. Tara’s back was hurting now but she spent the day at the lake with some of the other residents but she didn’t swim. She never put on a bathing suit the whole time she was pregnant although many of the other women did. She just felt too huge at 206 pounds (by the time she went into labor).

In comparison to this summer, Tara’s childhood summers smelled like spaghetti sauce, watermelon, summer nights, roses, firecrackers, and loud TV’s; felt like velvet, heated pleasure, trampolines in flight, canopy beds, slumber parties, and drive-ins; tasted like honeysuckles, muskeydimes, and ice cream from the ice cream man, shakes, licorice, and fresh fruit; and inspired longings of naps, swimming, laying in front of the air conditioner and fan, trails, and Ping-Pong.

She took a nap before meeting Ben.

“I’m glad you’re working part-time now until the baby comes,” Veronica wrote Tara. “I know it’s very hard on you riding the bus and the heat; etc. I have so much to tell you. Several of our friends have dropped off little outfits just because they’re excited also and can’t wait until one of the showers. Mackenzie has a closet full of clothes already and she isn’t even here yet.

One of our church members shared with Frank and I that she’d adopted out her child seven or eight years ago. She has a wonderful story.

Her pregnancy was just at a bad time in her life and she wanted more for her child. Sound familiar? Anyway, she hadn’t had contact until the last few months when she went back to the agency and there were several letters from the adoptive parents. The biggest impact her story had was that she cried and said that the couple had taught her daughter to love her and even now at the age of seven or eight she knew she was adopted and especially loved by someone she’s never met (yet) and she’s remembered in their prayers each night.

This is what I want for your baby. She’ll be told from an early age how special she is. We read Ben several special books about adoption and although it hasn’t sunk in yetâÂ?¦eventually it will.

Now we’ll have two children to read them to. Also they’ll have the shared history of adoption and hopefully go to each other with questions and concerns, hopefully eventually coming to Frank or I.”

Chelsea sent Tara a book and a card.

July 6, 2000

One of the residents, 17, got her APs and showed Tara their profiles. Tara saw why she picked them.

July 7, 2000

Tara met with her caseworker to set up the Nursery Visit Plan, something all residents did about a month before the baby was born. They could have as many as six or seven visits with the baby in the center’s nursery for 2-4 hours at a time. What were recommended, though, were three or four visits for 2 hours at a time due to the emotional nature of them. They could invite people to come and take pictures, feed the baby, change her/him; etc. It would just be the resident, whoever she invited, and the baby. There were two visiting rooms on campus, one a large room with extensive toys and cribs, the other a small one that was also used for the Placement Room whenever a resident wanted to have her placement on campus.

The Placement Room was also where Tara met Veronica and Frank for the first time.

Tara had initially planned on six visits but after the first one being so hard; she knew she had to cut back to four. She felt guilty but her caseworker assured her that most residents don’t have six visits because the more time a birth mom spends with the baby, the harder it is to let go.

The last visit was often on Placement Day but Tara decided to have her last visit the day before Placement Day.

Tara wished so much that her family could have been there but she took lots of pictures. Every time the transitional mom dropped Mackenzie off, she was in the cutest outfit and shoes, things Tara couldn’t afford to dress her in.

Mackenzie would be in Transitional Care for six days, something Tara felt guilty about and was against at first, but realized that if she didn’t use this option that she wouldn’t get any visits with Mackenzie before Placement Day.

No visits could occur, of course, if all legal paperwork wasn’t complete, which in Tara case was not a problem much to her great relief.
Tara was to sign the relinquishment papers 48 hours after giving birth, as was the law in Texas and have nursery visits every other day till Placement. Initially it was going to be daily but she changed it due to being so emotional and recovering from her C-section, at her caseworker’s suggestion.

Tara emailed and called all her friends to plan to come see Mackenzie and residents could come, too, if invited by the birth mom.
Tara had picked out a nearby playground for Placement, where she used to take her dogs to play. It wasn’t far from the center and every time she passed it, she imagined what it would be like. She bought Mackenzie’s placement outfit after going to three different stores.

She picked out five outfits and had to choose one dress from them.

She finally picked an extravagant pink ruffled dress that came with a sheer cape that could be removed. It looked like a fairy’s outfit and came with pink bloomers. She bought little white satin shoes but didn’t buy any socks since it was going to be so hot.

Although the paperwork said up to two residents could visit with the birth mom and the baby for 15 minutes, many more residents came and usually stayed 30 minutes to an hour.

No one chased them out of there, either.

Visiting residents would usually bring the birth mom a soda or some lunch if she needed it during the visit and each resident would take turns holding the baby.

It was priceless and Tara didn’t want to forget a minute of it.

The first time Tara met Ben, 2 �½, she gave him a stuffed Dalmatian animal.

Tara didn’t find out until later that he happened to be crazy about the movie “101 Dalmatians.”

He later slept with the stuffed animal often.

July 9, 2000

Veronica and Frank gave Tara a wallpaper sample of the nursery, a card, fridge magnet, and a book. It was dancing teddy bears. Tara met Ben. She thought they were excellent parents.

Susan had Tara over for lunch and dinner and they watched a movie.

Tara and a group of residents went to see “Shakespeare in the Park” the night before but left at intermission because everyone was uncomfortable.

Tara’s caseworker drew up the hospital plan. The nursery visit and placement plan would be done that week.

July 10, 2000

The artistic resident who’d helped Tara with the dorm newsletter was coming to visit the next day.

Tara was meeting with her caseworker the next day to do the nursery visit and placement plans.

July 11, 2000

Tara had emailed Veronica thanking her for three cards she sent her and she wrote back:

“I love hearing that the baby is active. I took a couple of pics of the nursery and will have them Thursday if they turn out. Any plans for placement are fine for us, just tell us when and where and NOTHING can keep us away. Ben painted you another pic and it’s in the mail. I’ll try to remember to bring my camera for the visit. You’re sure you don’t mind me photographing your belly? Mackenzie will love to look at in her baby book,” Veronica wrote.

July 14, 2000

Veronica and Tara missed each other at the doctor’s appointment and she got a speeding ticket trying to catch Veronica at the dorm. When Tara got home there was an email waiting:

“What kind of a police officer gives a speeding ticket to a pregnant woman? Did you try telling him that you had to pee or that your water broke or something (kidding)?

Thank you for your grandmother’s pic. I will add it to the baby book. I’m so glad she will have some pics of her family as I know kids want to have a connection to their biological family and wonder about how they look/looked. Our first shower is fast approaching – July 22 and I can’t wait to get all the goodies.

So, how are you feeling? Sleeping a lot? Has the heat affected you? My mom had all of in the early months except my sister and she was born early September.

Mom says that was the hardest pregnancy due to the heat. Are you still hungry all the time or has that calmed down any? Hope you don’t mind all the questions.”

July 18, 2000

Tara got an email from Veronica:

“Hey, I loved getting your favorite childhood memories. I printed it out to put in Mackenzie’s book. I liked to twirl and skating and jumping through the sprinkler. Your sister plays a large part of your memories – what a sister to fluff your pajamas in the dryer. I can’t wait to meet her; she sounds like such a special person. I can’t wait to meet her yet am nervous at the same time.

I always wanted a mini bike and dated a guy who drove a motorcycle just so I could ride on the bike. Not a very good reason, huh? It’s nice to know someone remembers 8 track tapes and “Dallas” and drive-in movies. Sounds like lots of your favorite memories are similar to mine. I also really really liked vacations to Disney World and Colorado. My mom always took the electric skillet and coffee maker to cook to save money. We always ate sandwiches for lunch and got to eat out at dinner. We looked forward to dinner all day. We always got a $10.00 bill to buy a special souvenir and I usually picked out several small junky items that eventually ended up in the trash a few years later.

I hope you’re having a great week and getting some rest. I know the heat must be unbearable. My friend asked lots of questions about you. She said how she’s so happy there are special people out there like you to make my dreams come true. I told her how I am worried about you after Placement and wanted you to have lots of support. She looked kind of funny and said how she also can’t imagine how you might feel and she got quite weepy. She was asking me about the last time of Placement and knowing how emotional I am she asked if I cried the whole time. I told her no, that I was so nervous for the birth mom and kind of in shock that I didn’t cry until it was all over – – on the way home and started thinking of my son’s birth mom. I hope I don’t become a waterfall and want to be very strong for you. Is there anything we can do to make it easier? If there’s anything we can do or say, please tell us.

I’ll see you at the doctor Thursday.”

July 19, 2000

Tara, a non-religious person, decided to have a minister at Placement Day to bless her baby, although she wasn’t religious. She figured her child could use all the help she could get, coming from her.

Veronica was happy about it:

“I know I’ll see you tomorrow but wanted to write anyway,” Veronica wrote. “I’m so glad you found an outfit (for Placement) that pleases you. I can’t wait to see it. I know you went to a lot of time/trouble to find just the right outfit.

I’m also glad you mentioned a minister/pastor. Our pastor I know would LOVE to come as he keeps asking for updates. He was actually an attorney several years ago and hated it. I’m so glad you suggested it. Frank and I talked about it a time or two but weren’t sure how you’d feel. Our pastor always knows the right thing to say also; as I’ve asked him to pray with me for you and that I say the right things and am supportive of you. I would love for you to meet him. He will most probably shape Mackenzie’s life in the church.

I can’t wait to see you tomorrow. “

July 21, 2000

Veronica was working on Mackenzie’s baby book and needed Tara to answer a few questions for the book:

Foods started to crave – breads, oranges, oatmeal

Dreams during pregnancy – that the baby looked like an angel

First time she felt movement – 4/00 at 5 months along

“I think it will mean a lot to her to know some of these answers if you don’t mind,” Veronica wrote. “I can’t believe how much I enjoy seeing you! Truly, I look forward to each meeting. I always start out a little nervous, but end up very relaxed and enjoying your company. Thank you so much for Ben’s stuffed dog. He did sleep with it last night. That was very very nice of you to honor him in such a way.

I want to share something with you. I am so honored and so looking forward to parenting your daughter, yet there is a small part of me that is regretful for you, that you won’t know the joy of being a mother! You are such a special person and I am already worrying about you after the Placement. Please know that all APs must feel the same way while enjoying our new family. We will be wondering how you are and how you’re feeling and truly feeling a little (lot) guilty that our happiness is juxtaposed by your grief. Please share this with other birth moms.

I just want you to know that when we’re home with a beautiful baby and being ecstatic at the same time, we are grieving for you.”

Tara told one of her favorite house parents about what Veronica wrote. Every time Tara got an email or card she shared some of what was in it with the house parent who loved hearing all about it.

A few days later Tara got a card from Chelsea:

“Once upon a time there were two sisters,” it read. “They went through lots of stuff together. Some of it was good. Some of it wasn’t. But through thick and thin, they stayed close, and they were sure they always would. And this made the world seem good. Thinkin’ about you today. Thought you might enjoy this novel while you’re waiting on Mackenzie.”

July 22, 2000

Veronica emailed Tara:

I just got your email and wanted to write and tell you about the wonderful shower. Firstly, there was a big teddy bear with a big pink bow sitting on a park swing in their front yard to point the way to the shower. Next, another friend hand made the cake. They also made a big brother cake for Ben and made a big deal of giving it to him. He got so excitedâÂ?¦”For Me?” And proceeded to eat it. Several people also brought presents of books and balls for him.

Now the good part. Mackenzie got so many good things. Some of the goodies included a walker, silver comb and brush set, toys, bibs, clothes, sleepers, shoes, keepsake books, money, rattles, headbands, and bath wash.

Also the centerpieces were gifts. One was a wicker baby carriage filled with lotions and soap. And the best news is Frank and Ben finished Mackenzie’s floor while I was gone and it is beautiful. We’ll pick up the nursery furniture either this weekend or next.

Okay, so how are you? We got your “idea of Heaven” and “Help Me Grow” poster. Thank you so much. I have to let my friend read your “heaven” as she is a writer and I know she’ll enjoy it. Or course, we will put it in Mackenzie’s book. Hope the cold front actually does arrive and make it easier for you. How did the girl in labor Thursday do? Everything okay?

Thank you for the answers of food cravings, dreams; etc. I am also so glad you remember the first time you felt Mackenzie move! That is amazing!

I plan on making it on Thursday to your doctor’s appointment if you don’t mind.”

July 24, 2000

The last girl due before Tara delivered right on the day she was due.

Veronica wrote:

“How are you feeling? Just 9 days! Of course it’ll probably be a few days later than that. We are so excited! Hope the heat isn’t killing you! I keep wondering, Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½How’s she doing?’ Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½Is she extremely tired?’ Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½Is she happy, depressed, scared, nervous?’

Wanted to update you on the nursery. We got the furniture yesterday afternoon and of course couldn’t resist staying up late to put on the teddy bear sheets and windowpane bumper pads. It looks great in the pink room. Then I started putting up all of the little outfits, sleepers, and onesies. The diapers are stacked into a corner – I think there are about 300 of them and about eight boxes of Wet Ones. Looking forward to getting lots more diapers at my next two showers! I know how quickly we’ll go through those diapers! We had over 1,000 with Ben and about the fifth month I looked and was out of diapers.

How is your sister? I know you’re looking forward to her visit. I hope you feel up to showing her around a little bit – maybe in the mornings and at night? Busy doing the leave of absence paperwork at work. Seems silly to even do it as I just work 16-20 hours a week now and plan to go back just working 8-12.

We got two new books at the shower for Ben about “new baby sister” and are making a big deal of them. We also enlisted his help in her room putting up stuff and asking where she would like this and that. I really think he’s getting used to the idea. Then at church last night he held a baby – a 2-month-old that he thinks is too cool.

As excited as I am and in great anticipation, I am of course concerned about you and your well-being. We continue to pray for God’s guidance for you and for our family.”

July 25, 2000

Veronica emailed Tara:

“It’s only eight days until D day – i.e. delivery date, or soonerâÂ?¦hope you’re feeling good. They say you get this tremendous burst of energy 1-2 days before you go into labor. Any energy boosts? You’re been on our minds a lot lately. Frank just got home from work and out of the blue said, Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½Tara could deliver any day.’

Been busy writing thank you notes for the shower gifts. My brother and sister-in-law are here. They’re the ones in our will to take care of Ben and Mackenzie in case something was to happen to us. They’re really great people. She is a nurse and he is in the military hoping to make full colonel next year. Their children are both in college. Hard to believe how quickly they grow up.

Do you feel like the girls are looking at you like you’re ready to deliver any minute and they’re watching you? That’s what my friends say, their families stare at them the last few weeks before their due date like they expect the baby to just pop out any minute. It makes it uncomfortable for the pregnant person.”

July 31, 2000

Emails from Veronica helped the time pass by quicker for Tara:

“Frank is absolutely convinced that you will deliver on August 4th. I’m not sure why, if he had a dream or what, anyway, I told him that I’d have to email you and tell YOU – the one who is delivering that that is the day.

My husband’s sister who is pregnant had her first sono at 16 weeks and the baby is very big/long. The doctor is already recommending a special support, kind of like a girdle! See you’re not big at all! We’re really hoping it’s a girl so she and the baby can grow up together. How is the girl who delivered last week and how is the baby?

The nursery is finished except for the window treatment, which I am determined to get finished today. We’re looking forward to the shower on the 6th. Of course if you’re in labor we’ll send my sister to open the gifts so we can be with you. Several people approached us today at church to say they’re praying for all of us, which means you, too. I really appreciate all their support. Our pastor will be back in town soon and I’ll ask him about Placement Day.

Take some naps and I’ll talk to you soon.

P.S. I will try to make it to your appointment if you’re sure you don’t mind.”

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