I have decided to tell the story of Matthew Day in several smaller parts, kind of like a serial publication or a multi-chapter novelette. So sit back and enjoy this first part of a series of, let's just say, several. I would say a nice, even three, but knowing me, it won't be nice, or even "even" or just "three"! I'm not sure how many parts this will truly be...reliving this day brings up such strong emotions--admittedly overpowering at times--so bear with me, and just enjoy these next couple of posts! Even now, I struggle at times to make sense of it all...even the most intense joy, the most incredible beauty, the most powerful dreams realized, and the firmest of fellowship can be fraught with complex and difficult-to-decipher emotions, feelings, and senses. I am feeling all of that as I write this, and as I struggle to sift through.this recounting of a moment that instantly made me and Jeff (we think) the luckiest people on the planet...and made Matthew the most beautiful baby in the world.
Matthew came on a Monday.
My parents drove down from PA on Sunday afternoon and stayed over our house just that one night (Sunday to Monday).
The night before he came home to us, I barely slept. How can you sleep when your life is about to change forever? Over the past several months, I had become accustomed to wandering ghostlike around our dark, quiet house at ridiculously late (or early!) hours while everyone else was sleeping soundly. I would read, do crossword puzzles, write in my journal or here in my blog, do Facebook, check email, create photo albums in Shutterfly, and on goes the list. My brain simply would not turn off at night. So, on the night of Sunday, December 13, 2009, I did it one last time. (Fast forward briefly here: I haven't had trouble sleeping since!)
And then, bam, the day was here. Cool and partly cloudy here in Maryland, a typical winter day...it was hard to believe that our life was about to change forever. That we were about to become parents at last. That the dream we had held for so long (cheesy as it sounds) would finally come true. That we would drive to Dulles Airport as a couple--a family of 2--and drive away from Dulles as a trio--a family of 3. Baby in the backseat. Completely and utterly dependent on...us? Relying on...us?...for his every need? Part of me wanted to run away and hide. The other part wanted to jump into the sky to get him down to us all the quicker.
Yeah, the best word I can use to describe the day of December 14 would be surreal.
We wanted to keep things small, so we invited only family to come to the airport with us (except for our friends Donna, John, and Caitlyn, who agreed to serve as our photographers/videographers--Donna and John have adopted four children from Korea, all mostly grown now, and Caitlyn is their youngest--she is 14). We knew that the likelihood of ALL of our immediate family being able to make it was slim, with such short notice. Well, only a couple of people didn't make it (for perfectly good reasons); our family went WAY out of their way to be there for us and for Matthew. We were truly and deeply touched. More on that later, I promise. We have one INCREDIBLE family, that's all I'll say for now.
Per our agency's strong recommendation, we asked my family members (they are the out-of-towners; Jeff's family lives locally, in the Manassas, VA, area--very close to Dulles Airport) to book rooms at a nearby hotel on Monday night rather than staying with us. This was very, very difficult for us to do, knowing that my family members, in particular, were driving from 4 hours away (NJ and PA), with only 6 days' notice. And my brother and his wife with 3-month-old Jack in tow!
They were all taking time out from their busy lives--at the very last minute--to be with us on a very special day. It was asking a lot for them to be there, and then to tell them they couldn't stay with us was...well, just very hard. I felt like the coldest, most callous, most ungrateful person! And on top of that, our agency explained that no one should be holding, feeding, or changing Matthew but us. No passing him around from person to person at the airport. No crowding him, no cuddling him, no kissing him. He must start learning, immediately, who Mom and Dad are--and that we will never, ever go away. Keep the welcome wagon warm but calm. He's already going to be startled by the harsh lighting of the airport and the crowds and the busy-ness of it all.
I cannot even tell you how much all of this went against the person who I inherently am. Jeff, too. But we honored our agency's request, knowing that they have done this a million times and their advice really was in Matthew's best interests. We trusted them. My family was so respectful and kept a decent physical distance (but I know they were dying to squeeze him and kiss him, hold him and love him!). But wait a minute, I'm getting ahead of myself here...I'm going chronological, and so he's not even technically here yet!
Matthew's plane was scheduled to arrive at 8:11 p.m., so we left Olney (which is about an hour from Dulles without traffic) at about 3:00. My parents took pictures of us getting into the car, and of the four of us at the front door, Jeff and I embarking on our path to parenthood (scrambling to make sure we had everything we needed in the diaper bag!). After so much had gone wrong in our life during the past 3 difficult years, finally something was going right! Hope was no longer being yanked from under our feet just when we thought it was safe to exhale. It was Matthew's "gotcha day" (which we are calling Matthew Day from here on in)...and we were finally about to exhale.
My parents had booked a room at the Holiday Inn Dulles, and we pulled into the parking lot at about 4:00 or shortly thereafter. A brilliant sunset streaked the clouds blood red across the sky over top of the hotel's roof. Just your regular run-of-the-mill hotel, backed by one breathtaking display of beauty. How perfectly poised the irony! How cleverly captured the contrast: ordinary vs. extraordinary. A dance of two extremes, brought together. An ordinary day in Dulles, VA--but a far from ordinary day in the lives of two people from Olney, MD, and one little boy from Korea.
In just 4 hours, we would finally hold our son Matthew in our arms for the first time. It was surreal--for months, we had only five photos. The same five photos (as I've mentioned in previous posts) hanging throughout our house, in various frames, in varying sizes.
After months of having only photos, in just 4 hours, we would have HIM.
(to be continued)