Stories

Love, Loss, and Admiration: Connecting with my Son’s Birth Mother
By Patrick Fitzsimons

It was Sunday evening. My wife, Molly, and I had spent the weekend in a quiet hospital room in a small town in Oklahoma. A thousand miles from home, we had passed most of the time by ourselves. There had been occasional interaction with the nurses, and some very precious moments spent with our new bundle of joy. Thirty six hours ago, we had witnessed the birth of our son. It was a powerful experience, one that completely overwhelmed me. But the emotions I experienced watching Eli enter the world were just the beginning of what was about to happen. Nothing could have prepared me for what would come next.

Eli Fitzsimons

For the months leading up to Eli’s birth, we had developed a strong relationship with his birth mother, Krystal. As we got to know her during a weekend trip to Oklahoma months before and many emails back and forth since, we felt confident that we were a great match. We really liked her and believed she felt the same about us, and we agreed that we were meant to find each other. Molly and I were at last ready to begin our family.

Eli was born in the early hours of Saturday morning, the day before. I’ll never forget holding him in my arms for the first time. It’s hard to imagine the concept of a person appearing and instantly feeling such a connection, especially since we had not gone through the normal course of a pregnancy that most couples experience. I loved him immediately and didn’t want to let him go. After a few minutes of passing him around, Eli was taken to the nursery, where the doctors could check him out. Molly and I spent the whole time watching him through the nursery window, completely in love with our new son. The emotions of the experience, combined with a night without sleep, meant we were exhausted. We returned to our hospital room to get some rest.

Later that morning, the nurses brought Eli to our room for his first feeding. It was our first time to be alone with him and it felt like the true beginning of our new family. But then, the nurse came and took him away. Having recovered from labor, Krystal wanted to see him. Understandably, she wanted to spend some time with the person she had carried for the last nine months. Wanting to be respectful, we gave her as much time with him as she wanted. As the hours went on, we experienced a growing feeling of uneasiness. We were new parents and wanted the nurses to teach us how to do all the things new parents need to know. On top of that, we began to worry that she was going to change her mind. Eli stayed in Krystal’s room for the rest of the day and spent the night with her as well. Our first night as parents was spent apart from our son, in a room down the hall.

Sunday morning and afternoon was more of the same. Eli spent most of the time in Krystal’s room. As the day went on, we grew more and more afraid. The longer she spent with Eli, the stronger the bond would be and the harder it would be for her to let go. The nurses, having not gone through many adoptive situations, would come to our room and ask where the baby was. We would say he was with his birth mother, and the nurses would frown and say things like, “shouldn’t he be with you?” Of course, we felt the same way, but wanted to give Krystal as much space as we could. It was the hardest thing to do, feeling like we were completely powerless. We had already shared our fantastic news with our families back home, we had shed tears of joy over our new son, and now we faced the possibility that we would be leaving without him.

As the afternoon become evening, we were nearing the time we when Eli would be discharged. It had been hours since we had last seen him and we were convinced that she had changed her mind. One of the nurses came to our room and said, “It’s time go.” Not knowing what that meant, we nervously walked down the hall to Krystal’s room. When we walked in, she was holding him. The adoption agency case worker was there as well. She was filling out the discharge paperwork. As I glanced at the papers, I noticed that there was a different name written where Eli’s name should have been. At that moment, I had a dreadful feeling that she had changed her mind and had decided to raise him herself. It was all I could do to keep from panicking. I had to be strong for Molly and face whatever would come next.

So there we were, Molly, myself, Eli, Krystal, our case worker, and a nurse. It was the moment of truth. The nurse finished going over the instructions for discharge and said we were ready to go. Before we could react, Krystal asked the case worker and the nurse to leave the room. Once we were alone, it felt like time stood still. Imagine the tension where you can either be overjoyed or devastated.

Then Krystal began talking. She said how much she appreciated us allowing her to spend so much time with him. She admitted that she had had second thoughts about raising him. She didn’t think she would care so much about him, but how could she not? But she also said that she knew we were meant to be his parents. She was confident that she was making the right decision and was ready for us to take him home.

It was in this moment when I truly felt the impact of becoming a father. Her decision was made and she was entrusting us with the care of this beautiful boy. In one moment, I was overjoyed for our son, saddened by her loss, and empowered to start my life as a parent. The three of us shed tears as we exchanged words of love and admiration. I will remember that moment and those feelings for the rest of my life.

Molly & Patrick Fitzsimons with their son, Eli.

As we got ready to leave the hospital, Krystal handed Eli to me. In one motion, she gave us the greatest gift a person can give — she made us parents. As we walked out of the hospital together, I felt a deep connection with her. I know that she will always be a part of our lives, and I’m confident we will see her again.

Just as we felt when we first met our son’s birth mother, I’m certain this is a match that was meant to be. It took us almost two years from the beginning of our adoption journey to the time when we returned home with Eli. Every minute was worth the wait, and I wouldn’t change a thing.  NZMG

Patrick Fitzsimons resides in Durham, North Carolina with his wife, Molly, and son, Eli.  Patrick and Molly are both Noah Z.M. Goetz Foundation education program participants and grant recipients.

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