Days like today are easily overcome with emotion. We accepted Autumn into our lives and our hearts with only a silken thread of hope that she would one day be ours. She was two weeks old when we met her and so tiny that we had to brace her in her car seat (a special one designed for preemies that was still too big!) with six of those blue and pink hospital receiving blankets just to bring her home. I will tell her entire adoption story in a later post, but of all the children we have ever loved and cared for, Autumn’s story is the most dramatic and tragic.
When we met Autumn she was wearing boy clothes that were entirely too big for her. The mother had not prepared for Autumn’s arrival and the NICU was out of clothing donations for little girls. I refused to hold her until Erin had time to bond with her. All Erin could say was, “Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness!” over and over again. I put my had on her little chest and she grabbed my pinkie with a strong grip as if to say, “Please, help me. I trust you.” I promised that day I would devote myself to her and fight for her right to live and to grow up happy and healthy. I could not promise her or myself that I would be her daddy. To do so would have been dishonest and in violation of my duties as her foster parent. But in my heart I knew I would fight tooth and nail to my last breath to love and protect that little girl.
My mother bonded with Autumn almost out of necessity. Someone had to be with Autumn every second of the day for the first two weeks of her life. We had to have our hands on her during that time because her body could not regulate its internal temperature. Should she turn too hot or too cold we would have to seek immediate medical help. Mama took the night shift, Erin took the day shift, and I took over in the evenings when I got home from work. Many nights I held her to my chest while I attended graduate classes online. She grew quickly and showed strength and resilience that belied her tiny stature. She was something fierce! Erin looked after her every need, catching naps here and there when she could. I never heard her complain. Autumn was her life. Through Autumn, Erin’s desire to be a mother was truly self-actualized. Even Phillip, but more especially Carl, took turns feeding her and showering her with attention. To this day Carl still calls her “my baby Autumn.”
Today, my little girl officially became Autumn Rose Jenkins. We are now and for all eternity a complete family. The path has not always been easy, but it has certainly been worth it. We’ve watched her grow and develop like any other child should. Her brothers dote on her and she rules the roost when it comes to the play room. Yet she is compassionate and loving to a fault. I love my sons with all my heart, yet there is something about a daughter that melts a daddy’s heart. She’s my partner in crime, my wrestling opponent, my candy girl. I will love her for the entirety of my life and beyond. I am grateful to be her daddy and I know she is grateful to be my daughter. It is for that reason that I know my life is blessed. Happy adoption day, Rosie!