So as always my anticipation of events is always far crazier than what actually happens. My mind is a wild place and this is the closest anyone will ever get to being in it. Poor DH has a birds eye view of my "what if" crazy thoughts. I like to plan and be prepared. I hate surprises so much that I usually know what I'm getting as a gift from DH before he gives it because I hate the idea of not knowing what to say (especially if its not what I expect).
SO our trip...
This year we went for Baby Girls Birthbrothers birthday party (or at least thats what the plan was). A week before we went we skyped with the family and found out that cousins were all away at a soccer tournament. I do believe that some of them went to a soccer tournament however I think it also was an excuse to not have the party part of our visit. Baby Girls birth aunt last year chose not to come because of Baby Girl being there. I also know that D and her siblings do not all get along- so I'm not sure exactly the full reason but I think there is more to it then the tournament- I could be wrong.
This year unlike last year Baby Girl kept asking "Are we going to see M tomorrow?" "Are we going to PA tomorrow?" EVERY night before she went to bed for about three weeks. It was fun that she was anticipating the trip this year. She loves her birthbrother M! Finally it was the day we got to go to PA and she was grinning from ear to ear when we got into the car. We split the trip like we have each time we have gone down visiting friends in NY along the way. Baby Girl didn't like the idea of having to wait one more night.
On Friday morning we drove the last part of the trip and went directly into the city. We went to terminal market and got a philly cheese steak. We took the sandwich with us to the hospital and ate in the same atrium where we filled out the legal paper work with the adoption attorney just prior to meeting Baby Girl. I ate so many peanut butter sandwiches alone in that cafeteria it was nice to be able to enjoy a cheese steak with her. We then spent about 20 minutes trying to find the NICU! Its funny day in day out we had the same routine spending hours on end in that hospital and the floor the NICU was on escaped me. One woman tried telling me it was in the other building to which I responded- they moved the NICU? She insisted it hadn't moved but that we were in the wrong building. Gah! Finally we started over and went to ask security where the NICU was.
A few nurses were going out for lunch when we arrived. None of them we recognized. They said they would tell others we were there. While I was looking in with Baby Girl the doctor that discharged her was at the desk. He came down to say hello. Another doctor that was involved happened by and recognized me and chatted with us. Another nurse passed by and said "Oh I remember her she was a premi - right?" I told her no she was an NAS baby. "Oh she responded- Mom you look like you are doing well." "I am doing well as is her birthmother" (thanks for implying I was on drugs). Everyone as always was surprised we were visiting D and in a superficial way was happy to hear she was doing well. I think they all think we are naive and that D is going to take advantage of us. D isn't a monster. D loves Baby Girl. Yes she has made mistakes and because of those mistakes we have kept a significant amount of information about Baby Girl from her- but there is no reason not to allow her to visit as long as she is sober. Baby Girl got to see a bassinet outside the NICU similar to the one she slept in. She seemed to really enjoy that.
We then went back to the hotel to check in. We spoke to her birthsister about them all coming over to swim. M apparently on the days leading up to the visit had been typing into his communication devise asking when they were going swimming at Baby Girls hotel. This was D's first time seeing Baby Girl since we walked away at the hospital over two years ago. I could tell the moment she saw her she wanted to smother her but she held back. They gave Baby Girl the coach that goes with the princess castle they got her for her birthday. Getting Baby Girl to say anything (hello, thank you, hi) was impossible so we went down to swim. M and Baby Girl jumped into the pool over and over and over. They were like fish that needed water. D got out a few times for "air" aka smoking. I think we were making her nervous. Baby girl refused to go to her in the pool but no one pushed it which I think helped. D blew bubble gum bubbles which make Baby Girl so happy. We were in the pool I believe for 2 hours! (DH fact check this for me :) ) It was finally time to go since Baby Girls lips were blue and chattering but she insisted she still didn't want to get out! We said good-bye and made plans to meet at the Please Touch museum the next day.
We arrived about 10 minutes before they opened. I wanted to get there early because Baby Girls birthfamily is never on time and I wanted to avoid the awkwardness of paying. They were early too! I think they were excited to see Baby Girl and got ready quickly. I paid for everything it was easier then splitting things up plus I dont ever give D things as gifts and I felt like paying for everyones admission was giving her the gift of time with Baby Girl. (The only physical gift I have given her is a flower and a photo album they day we met- I send LOTS of pictures and I send physical gifts to her birth siblings but not D).
Everyone had a blast at the museum. There were buses, and cars to pretend to drive. There were rockets to shoot. There was a mock grocery store, hospital, news station, and construction site. There was a lot to do. M and Baby Girl kinda played in parallel however most of the time they were in different spaces. D again had chewing gum so Baby Girl kept asking her to blow bubbles. This was they key to Baby Girls heart :) Baby Girl, M and D had a tea party in the Alice and Wonderland exhibit. We then went upstairs and there was a carousel. D went and got M and Baby Girl tickets. Baby Girls birthsister helped M and DH helped Lily. D and I waved from the side as they went around. After the carousel we briefly played in the water but I could tell our time before a meltdown was getting closer. Baby Girl is pouting in just about every picture taken at the water station. We took pictures in front of the sign. In the other two pictures of Baby Girl with her birth siblings she is right there with them being held. This year her siblings are standing next to each other holding onto each other and then there is a gap of about a foot and Baby Girl is standing alone. I know its her age- she isn't as quick to warm up to people she doesn't know well but the picture speaks so much to why I want Baby 2's birthfamily to be in our same state.
We went back to the hotel so Baby Girl could re-group and take a nap. After her nap we went to Mom-Moms house. We gave her birth siblings their birthday presents which I hope they enjoy (we got M a a kite and her birthsister a bath pamper set). D's oldest brother was there briefly but he left almost immediately after we arrived- just long enough to say hello. Baby Girl, M and D jumped on the trampoline for hours. Her birthsister, Baby Girl, D and Pop-Pop blew (soap) bubbles for a while. I chatted with Mom-Mom and Pop-pop. It was as relaxing as the second time you spent the day with your in-laws. It was a little more comfortable than last year but still awkward at times. I think the in-law comparison is the closest I can come to explaining the relationship to outsiders. These people are amazing and allowed us to parent this beautiful girl but they still love her to death. They are as much family as they are unfamiliar strangers.
While we were at the museum D had shared with me that J had been harassing D's family. I brought this up to Mom-Mom (baby Girls birth grandmother). D had told me that J was saying that it wasn't fair that Baby Girl was visiting them but not him. I told them that he had been given a chance to visit. According to D he had seen pictures of last years visit though I never shared those pictures with him unless he looked on shutterfly. We did learn that he had been in jail though its unclear for what. After talking with Mom-Mom I do think that he has been harassing them by phone but I dont know the validity of his including Baby Girl into the harassment. It was just a quick reminder of the drama of our hospital stay and to make sure I take a deep breath and take a step back. D is an adult physically however emotionally and drama wise I need to remember that she has a way of exaggerating. Its how she interacts with the world and I'm just not used to it. I felt much better after talking with Mom-Mom. I did let the agency know that D was having trouble with J and left it at that. (true to their form they essentially said they could do nothing but I guess I'm crazy thinking that an adoption agency should support their birthmothers- even if its just a phone call to D saying- everything OK?)
We had pizza for dinner (which Baby Girl didn't eat for the first time in her life). After dinner D and Baby Girl went back outside to play on the trampoline and DH and I stayed upstairs and chatted with Mom-mom. We got to hear how D was doing - all positive!! :) Mom-mom brought the cake down to sing happy birthday to M. Last year I regretted not getting a picture of us singing happy birthday to her birth sister. This year I took it - and its one of the best pictures I took all weekend. Baby Girl and M sat next to each other when they got their cake. Their eyes and puffy cheeks and perfect chins side by side make me smile because she will be able to see herself in him because she knows him. After cake Baby Girl went back outside which is when I realized that it was already past her bedtime. Her birthsister before dinner had taught her how to do a summersault on the trampoline and she was practicing it again. She was getting really good! We let her play a short while longer and then we started to say our good-byes. Pop-Pops health has continued to decline and he didn't seem confident he would see us next year- which I hope he is wrong about because we really love him. Everyone asked for a hug and kiss goodbye and Baby Girl declined them all. When D asked I interjected and reminded Baby Girl that she wouldn't see her again for a whole year. I told Baby Girl it would mean a lot to D if she gave her a hug (this is something I never do because I don't think hugs are mandatory). She then stepped up and hugged her- I was so so so very happy for both of them.
D walked us out to the car and told us how sad she would be to see us go but was happy we came to visit. I assured her that we would be back. As we drove out of town the next morning Baby Girl was already crying "I wanna see M!" "When are we going to go to PA?!"
Can't wait for next year!!