Sunday, January 1, 2012

1/1/2012 New Years Day

We just hung out at the hotel today and watched the St. Louis Rams take on the 49ers on TV.  How ironic it is that the one game we are out of town for they happen to be playing the local team. :)  Unfortunately the game didn't turn out like we had hoped...of course we are not surprised.. but they made a game out of it anyway.  While we were watching, the stats for a new young player for the Rams came across the screen.  The 4th string quarterback, Tom Brandstater (who had to come into the game because everyone was hurt) was from Turlock, CA, the town that our hotel is currently in.  How fun is that??? 

After the game we headed to the mall in Modesto to look for a gift for the birth parents.  We wanted to get them something that would embody his birth and be a momento they could keep forever.  We also wanted to make sure it was something they both could appreciate and keep individually.  After going in every store, we decided to call it a day. 

On our walk back to the car, Brett came up with a great idea.  We could engrave a charm similar to a dog tag with his initials and birthday that each of us could have and wear if we wanted or treasure as a keepsake.  We were at peace with this idea and were excited that it would be something that would unite all 5 of us, and every time we looked at it we would think of each other.  We found the perfect site online to order them from once he was born!

We ate dinner at the hotel and then went into Modesto to see a movie.  We went and saw "New Year's Eve" which was so appropriate for the day and a pretty good movie!

It was nice to have a relaxing start to the New Year today.  We are so excited for this to be the best year of our lives!  Cheers!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Yosemite National Park: New Years Eve 2011

Our friend Jen gave us a generous gift of money so we could enjoy California while we waited for our baby to be born.  This was very thoughtful because we were beginning to get stressed out financially, knowing we were staying longer than planned.

After sleeping in pretty late (we had been up since 2 am the night before), we decided to drive 2 hours to Yosemite National Park.  The drive there was nerve racking because we kept losing cell service.  We were so afraid that the birth mom would go into labor and not be able to reach us.  We did talk to Cole on the phone while we had decent service and caught him up on our visit with the birth parents.  The drive there was really cool because we got to see a different landscape then we were used to.  It had been foggy in the morning but as the afternoon wore on and we were further northeast, the clearer it got. There were rolling hills along really curvy roads with steep descents as we winded through the valleys.

As we got closer, we still keep going in and out of service and were frustrated.  As we actually got into the park, our service got much better and we were able to relax and enjoy our afternoon there.  It was pretty chilly, about 40's in the shade and low 50's in the sun.  It was a great thing we had our fleece and jacket. We hiked around and found a visitor center where we asked a guide about an easy, yet scenic trail we could hike on.  We wished we could have done one of the longer more strenuous trails, but we didn't have the appropriate shoes (flew out there with my Toms and Brett's casual brown shoes) and my back was bothering me from the plane and car rides.

We decided to hike to Lower Yosemite Falls where we could see the view of the tallest waterfall in North America and actually hike up to the lower portion of it.   It was a very easy hike to the falls and was stunning to see the waterfall from a distance!   We then saw we could hike up the rocks to get super close to the lower portion.  We ventured up the rocks climbing over all of these huge boulders.  I only slipped twice!  (didn't hurt myself though :))  I camped out on this great boulder I found that had a stunning view of the falls.  Brett decided to be more adventurous than me and climb closer to the actual water.  He made it up to the lower pool and took some awesome videos.  I stayed back and photographed the falls and him climbing around.

Brett climbing around. 

Brett is the little white speck on the left hand side in the middle. 

Walking back from the falls, we saw these calm domesticated deer that were just hanging out in the tall grasses near the trail.  They let us come extremely close to them and never budged.  There were signs that said do not feed them!  We saw 5 in total and one was huge according to Brett.  He had a big rack that was like 16 points. :)

We also stopped at Ansel Adams photography gallery located in the park.   We picked out a small black and white photograph of the falls we hiked to for Owen's nursery.

We were on a hunt for a penny machine where we could get a souvenir penny.  We have been collecting these pennies since we were on our honeymoon in Hawaii.  We have pennies from vacations and places we have been throughout our almost 9 year marriage.  We found a penny machine at the souvenier shop.  The pennies we collect on this trip will one day be the most special to us!

After grabbing a snack, we decided to drive around the park and saw the half dome mountain top that was pretty amazing.  It started getting dark so then decided to head home.  It was so refreshing to be out in the cool air getting some exercise after traveling the whole day before.

We arrived back at our hotel in the evening and where exhausted but decided that it was still New Years Eve and we needed to go out and celebrate.  We got ready and went to Cool Hand Lukes Steakhouse and Saloon next to our hotel.  There signature dish they served with every meal was Jalapeno Baked Beans in a iron kettle which were surprisingly very good.  We had a great meal and watched some football on TV.  We went back to our hotel, watched New Years celebration in New York City on TV, and feel asleep before the ball even dropped (California time)!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Meeting the Birth Parents

What a day so far!  We flew out to California in the middle of the night.  Got here and realized the birth was a false alarm, and now we are going to meet the wonderful birth parents so gracious to pick us to parent their child.  We were so nervous sitting in the booth waiting for the four of them to arrive.  The birth father's parents were coming along with the birth mother and father. They had seem lots of pictures and videos of us from our profile but we had never seen them.

We had gotten a short description from the paperwork of what they looked like and were so excited to see them for the first time.  We told the hostess that we didn't know who we were meeting but that one in the party of four would be pregnant so they said they'd keep the eyes open.

They showed up, we greeting them and then talking began.  It was obvious how much they all loved each other and how much they all were in support of the adoption.  They told us how long they reviewed adoptive parents profiles and how much thought they took into picking the right parents to adopt their baby.  We told them how honored we were that they chose us.  That we would spend the rest of our lives making sure they made the right decision.

It definitely gave us some great insight into the whole adoption process.  All the things we mulled on and were worried about really didn't hold a candle to the burden the birth parents bear in choosing who will be raising their child for the rest of their lives.

They were curious about our house and the neighborhood we live in.  The birth father said it looked really cool in the pictures, but his mom was a little confused on the layout of our neighborhood because it isn't a traditional suburban neighborhood.  They were curious about how the nursery is going, and we explained how its setup will occur once we finish the basement.  Until then we plan to keep the baby's crib in our room so the guest room is available for our grandparents, siblings and friends can stay with us.  We shared how we have been working feverishly on the basement so our family and friends could come and visit and care for and love the baby as he grows up.

It was glaringly obvious that the birth parents are so mature in their decision for giving up their child for adoption.  We really question how we would have been able to handle this situation at their age.  They are very strong and love the baby so much; they know the best thing for him is to let another set of parents raise him.  And we are the ones so blessed to accept the gift. :)

The birth parents are the sweetest and cutest two teenagers ever!  All of our fears melted away upon seeing them and hanging out with them for the two hours.  We are so lucky to have had that experience and chance to get to know them prior to the birth.

 The restaurant where we ate. (taken the next day)

We sat at the booth in the back left hand corner. 

The False Alarm

Once we arrived we got our baggage, our rental car, and made the drive to Modesto, California to find a hotel and get settled before heading to the hospital.  Cole told us to just hold tight as we got all the information from the hospital.  

We found a hotel in Turlock, CA that was an extended stay hotel with a kitchen in every room.  We decided on Candlewood Suites and got all of our stuff settled and freshened up so we could head to the hospital when ever we got the green light.   We got antsy and decided to head over to Modesto (which was just about a 10-15 minute drive from our hotel).  We drove around for awhile updating everyone and getting super excited about seeing the birth parents for the first time. 

Cole then called and informed us that the doctors had finished doing all kinds of tests and her water breaking was a false alarm and that she was just leaking fluid.  They made sure she and the baby were healthy, checked his heart rate and made sure he was moving around.  They actually told her that he was incredible active!  Cole told us that the doctors thought she would go into labor in the days to come but if she didn't they would induce her on Wednesday.  So, we decided to stay in California because she could go anytime and we wouldn't want to miss the birth for anything.  He also told us that they really wanted to meet us and hang out.  He gave us her phone number and told us it was okay to call and set something up.  

We immediately called her (after running to the store to get a car phone charger) and she told us the story of her hospital trip again.  She unnecessarily apologized for this being a false alarm and was really sweet on the phone.  She reassured us that everything was fine with the baby and all she wanted was for him to come out when we has safe, health, and ready.  She asked us to meet them for dinner in about 30 minutes at a place right near where we were located.  

We met her, the birth father, and his parents for dinner at BJ's restaurant in Modesto, California.  It's a nice microbrewery/restaurant that is part of a very nice outdoor shopping center.  

The 2:00am Phone Call

We went to bed that night (Thursday-the day my sister and Will arrived) around midnight and were hoping to sleep in late.  Instead, my cell rang at about 2:00 am and we were totally sound asleep.  I don't even remember the phone ringing.  It was Cole from American telling us that the birth mother's water broke and to start to make plans to head to the airport.  He told us he would keep us updated throughout the night and morning and we didn't have to crazy rush but that we get ready to travel!

We were so excited and couldn't believe this was actually happening!  Although we were really tired, we jumped up and started packing.  (Actually, Brett asked if he could go back to bed for awhile first...:))  I had already started packing all of my stuff and the stuff for the baby so the majority was ready to go.  I went and woke up Laura and Will and they got up to help us out.

I don't know what I would have done without them!  They kept us calm and grounded as we tried to remember everything.  Brett got on the computer and booked a flight that left at 5:50 am to San Francisco with a layover in Denver.  Will got our car seat out of the box and detached from its base and packaged up so we could check it as part of our baggage.  We decided to fly with a little portable baby bed Elizabeth and I found at Babies'R'Us instead of lugging the whole pack'n'play.  Otherwise, we packed just the bare essentials for us as far as clothes and toiletries since we would just be hanging out in the hotel room.  We packed lots of outfits, sleep sacks, blankets, and bottles for the baby-thinking that we could buy stuff when we got out there.

Laura and Will drove us to the airport to catch our flight at 5:50 am.  I can't explain how perfect the timing was for them to be there to drive us to the airport and take care of things around our house after we were gone.  We will forever be grateful to them for everything they did!

The flight to Denver was smooth and uneventful.  I think we were just tired and both in shock that this was actually happening and that we would be meeting our son later that day.

When we arrived at our delay in Denver, we found out that our next flight was a little delayed and we had some time to catch our breath.  We heard from Cole that she wasn't at the hospital yet, that she was going to her doctor's appointment first.  He then told us that this could have not been her water breaking and just a leakage or "accident" and to hold tight and we would get back to us.  He texted us a little later and said that all systems were a go and that her contractions were only about 15 minutes apart so she still wasn't at the hospital yet but would call us when they got there.

While we waited for our flight I updated everybody!  Here is a picture of him drinking a beer at 8:30 am (to us it felt like much later since we had been up since 2:00 am and were up until midnight the night before) on our layover in Denver while booking our rental car for arrival in San Francisco!  The bartender actually brought out a second round for him, but as a responsible "dad-to-be" he declined :)

We got on our flight and headed to San Francisco.  On this 2 hour flight we both began our journals that we will one day be able to share with our son of the journey we took to get him!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Our Amazing, Supportive Family and Friends

We will never be able to thank and show our full appreciation to all of our family and friends who have embraced our situation as their own.  We have an unbelievable network of support around us that love us and are willing to do anything for us.  This baby is going to be so lucky to be part of the O'Daniell/Driscoll clan!

From the first phone call everyone of our family members and friends offered their help on anything from giving us baby stuff, taking us shopping, helping us with the house and basement, to helping me with my school work.  The day we got the initial phone call the Talbert's even invited us over for some yummy dessert.  It was so nice to hang out with them, Riley and, Jack and enjoy the moment.

We spent the first weekend in Chicago for Christmas and my parents and Laura and Will showered us with baby gifts as "special Christmas presents".  It really became real to us when opening the little lovey, rubber ducky, toys, and fleece orange and blue snowsuit from my dad.  It brought tears to my eyes that they were so thoughtful.  My mom hasn't been able to drive since the accident due to her neck brace so she said she was dying to go shopping after they got the phone call.  Laura and Will arrived at my parents a couple hours before we did that Friday and right when they got there Laura turned around and took my mom shopping for the baby!

The morning after Christmas day my mom, sister, and I went shopping to look at /buy some of the bigger items I needed to possibly travel with.  We went to Buy Buy Baby, which is an amazing baby store by the way, and spent the morning shopping and looking around.  When it was all said and done, we (my mom and sister) bought our stroller (via Elizabeth's research) , pack'n'play, car seat, a blanket, outfit, socks, a hat, and Sophie the Giraffe.  It was so nice to be able to spend that time with them just the three of us!

When we arrived back home, Brett went back to work and I became very busy trying to get the house in order before I went back to school the next week.  Elizabeth, Liam, and Annie came over on Wednesday afternoon and took me shopping at Babies R Us.  She helped me register for some more stuff and gave me all kinds of advice on a variety of baby items!

Laura and Will decided to make the trip down to St. Louis later that week to help us out in the basement and around the house.  They came on Thursday afternoon and Will immediately got to work vacuuming the dry wall dust down in the basement (god love him :)) to get ready to lay the floor.  Laura and I went grocery shopping, did laundry, and straightened up around the house.  The floor then got delivered later in the afternoon.  Ryan came over to help unload along with Will, Laura and I.  It was a team effort and we got it all into the basement before Brett got home from work.  Melanie brought a delicious dinner over and we all ate and hung out with the kids for the evening.  It was such a great time to for Laura and Will to get to know the Talberts.  The guys all worked in the garage painting all the trim and doors for the basement.

Melanie also gave us our first hand made gift for the baby.  A gorgeous and soft knitted hat!!  I had been dying to make him one but hadn't found the time.  It was killing me that he wouldn't have a hand made hat to wear right after birth.  What a precious gift with perfect timing!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Phone Call with the birth parents

We were lucky enough to get the opportunity to talk with the birth parents on a conference call on Friday, December 23.  The birth mother counselor, Cole, set up the call for all four of us to be on including him at 2:00pm.  Brett came home from work so we could be together on speaker phone to talk to them.  We also spoke with our counselor before hand and she gave us great advice on what to say, ask and how to do so.  That conversation just mostly reassured us that we needed to follow our instincts and just go with the phone call.

We talked with them for about 50 minutes and had great conversation.  They seemed like such super sweet, genuine, and mature people.  Of course, I cried in the beginning trying to express to them how thankful we were that they chose us and how much this meant to us.  We talked about things like what we wanted to name him, what color the nursery was going to be, their interests, why they chose us, her family situation (not supportive), how open they wanted to be, and how her pregnancy has been.  We were all nervous at first.  The counselors had told us that it would be like being on a blind first date.  We all loosened up after a while and the conversation flowed smoothly.

They are open to having an "open adoption" which is what we want as well.  They are comfortable with letters, phone calls, pictures, and e-mails.  They want to keep the visits open ended because they only want to meet if him if he wants to meet them.  They want it to be his choice when he is older--which is very mature of them.  They also asked permission to give the baby some gifts when he is born and as they gather stuff along the way after his birth--also so mature of them to ask us. :)

One of the first questions they asked us was what names we were thinking of.  We told them our name and asked them what they were thinking.  They told us a name they each liked.  It obviously was something they both cared about a lot for it to be the first thing they asked.  Brett and I talked about after the phone call and decided that we liked both of the names they came up with as middle names so we would let them choose the middle name.

During the conversation, she called the baby "our baby".  Hearing that was the most amazing thing ever.  It brought up so much emotion in me, I almost wasn't able to hold it back.  It was so reassuring for us to hear her say that.  I am sure she will never know it, but that one comment calmed my heart so much and allowed us to "jump in" with two feet and embrace them and our baby!

We were given each others e-mail addresses at the end of the conversation and told that we could talk back and forth as long as we copied the counselor.

We then packed the car and headed to Chicago for the Christmas weekend with my family.  It was so exciting to be able to be hours away from sharing the joy of our news with them face to face!