After much pondering and prayer, I decided that I had to keep my promise to Maria. I attended the weekend classes to become an "Angel" for The Gabriel Project, in addition to completing the Spiritual Adoption Program at church. Becoming an "Angel" came with a slew of responsibilities, from gathering baby items that Maria would need, to making doctors appointments to finding housing for her. Between those two things, my time was fully occupied, so I called Martha's successor and told her that I had to take a hiatus from my duties as a prayer partner at the abortion clinic. She understood and I felt extremely relieved that I had one less obligation to be accountable for.
First on my agenda was making sure that Maria got to a doctor. She seemed weak and frail and I knew she was in dire need of prenatal vitamins. I set up a meeting with the director of The Gabriel Project to find out how to proceed. I was told that I could set up appointments for her and accompany her, if she so desired. In addition, they would pay a monthly allowance towards housing for her, but only if she was considering placing the baby for adoption. Adoption was a topic I had not even brought up with her. I needed to get this girl to a doctor first. She was very thin and there were no visible signs of her pregnancy. We still had no idea how far along she was.
Finally, three weeks after our first encounter, we were sitting in a clinic awaiting the doctor to see her. By then it was April 2004. She was 8 weeks pregnant and was due mid December. The doctor was a bit concerned because both mother and baby were underweight. He prescribed prenatal vitamins, iron tablets and told her she must have 3 meals a day.
I made it a point to call her almost daily to check in on her and to see if there was anything she needed. As time passed and her pregnancy started showing, she brought up the issue of her roommates finding out she was pregnant. She didn't want to become the "talk-of-the-town" and desperately wanted to leave there. I told her I would start looking for a place for her to live. Soon I was back on the phone with TGP (The Gabriel Project) to find out what needed to be done for housing. It was then that I was informed that Maria had to come in to their office to discuss adoption plans, followed by another appointment with a local adoption agency. Something in my heart told me this wasn't going to work.
I phoned Maria the next day and explained the situation. I told her that she didn't have to commit to placing the baby for adoption, but she had to agree to the fact that she was considering it if she wanted housing assistance. Up until that point, she had no idea that Scott and I were adopting. We were very close to receiving our own referral but I didn't mention it to her since I didn't want my situation to influence her decision whatsoever. I digress.
Maria agreed to the meeting with TGP and we set out to look for a place to live. After seeing many places that would:
a) accept the funding directly from TGP
b) be within the budget that she was being given, which was not much
c) was a half-way decent place where a young single woman can be safe (A couple of places we went to were pretty darn scary. One particular place we were shuffling beer cans with our feet as we walked down the graffiti-filled hallways.)
We found a small, clean efficiency being rented by a single mom about 30 minutes north of me. The landlady had 3 children, including a 2 year old daughter with Down Syndrome. Maria loved the place. The landlady was a young Christian woman who was overjoyed to have another young woman as a tenant and she assured me she would take good care of Maria and her baby. Everything was falling into place.
In late May, Scott and I received our referral for a beautiful little guy who was 9 months old and waiting for us in the Republic of Belarus. I was beside myself with excitement. Maria had a doctor's appointment the week after my referral arrived. I took pictures with me to share with her. As I was driving to pick her up, I decided I would use the opportunity to speak to her about going to the local adoption agency and finding out about the process of placing her baby for adoption.
She got in the car and I said, "I have a surprise for you. She smiled and asked if I was pregnant. We both laughed out loud and I said, "No. But close." I then told her about having been in the process to adopt and that we had just received our referral. While at a traffic light, I pulled out my wallet and showed her our little guy's picture. She oooohed and ahhhed as I had expected and congratulated me. I told her how badly we wanted a baby and how long we've been waiting for this little guy. I then proceeded to tell her that although I didn't know him, I loved him. It was something inexplicable. She quietly listened. My heart told me that she knew what was coming.
As I drove, I silently prayed. I asked God for His will to be done as to whatever decision she makes. I continued speaking to her about the arrangement she had made with TGP and the housing. I reiterated that she did not have to place her baby for adoption, but she did have to go to an agency and at least inquire about the process. She remained quiet. The mood in the car became somber and we she rode quietly for the rest of the drive to the doctor's office. She hadn't given me an answer about going to the agency.
When we arrived at the doctor's office we were told that she had been scheduled for an ultrasound that day, in addition to the regular doctor's visit. We were both excited and her brightened mood was now evident. We would get our first glance at the baby she was carrying.
After about an hour of waiting she was called in. We were taken to the ultrasound room and she laid back on the table. Before long, we were watching the small miracle God had created slowly moving in her womb. We both had tears running down our cheeks. We also found out it was a boy and that she was 14 weeks pregnant. The baby was still a tad smaller than he should be, but looked healthy otherwise. Maria also was still a bit underweight, but was slowly gaining.
We left the doctor's office carrying the ultrasound pictures and in a much more festive mood than when we had arrived. Shortly after we got in the car, she turned to me and said, "Ohilda, I'm keeping my baby." It was no surprise. I knew she would. I could see the maternal look in her eyes when she spoke about him. I also knew that she had been praying and that God indeed was filling her with strength in knowing that He would take care of her, and her baby.
I called TGP director the next day and told her that Maria had decided to keep her baby. She sounded perturbed and immediately said that if Maria had already decided than they could no longer pay for housing. That was a huge blow. Maria had lost her job in the fields shortly after our meeting, and finding work while pregnant and sick was almost impossible. I was told to encourage her to give the baby up for adoption. I told the director that I would speak to her again and see if I could change her mind. I knew I wouldn't and I admit I didn't even try. I prayed about it and in my heart, I knew she loved this baby and God would provide, one way or another. We would let it ride as long as we could. In the meantime, I had already spoken to Scott and hinted on the possibility of a "worse-case scenario", could Maria come live with us until the baby was born. I needed a Plan B. God, as always, had other plans.
June, July and August went by pretty much uneventful. I saw Maria on a weekly basis and spoke to her every other day or so. On my visits to her, I often chatted with the landlady who had taken Maria under her wing and would make sure she had home cooked meals every night and that she attended church with her every week. She cared for her like a mother hen.
On September 16, two days after Maria's regular doctor visit, I was dressing to attend my brother-in-laws birthday dinner. I heard my cell phone ring, but figured whoever it was would leave a message. Sure enough, a minute later, the message ring was going off. Immediately following that, my house phone rang. Again, I put it off figuring I'd check the caller ID and call the person back after I got dressed. A minute later, my cell phone rang again. This time, I knew something was wrong. I ran to the phone and picked it up. It was Lucy, the landlady. She was hysterical and I couldn't make out what she was saying. Finally, I said, "Is Maria alright?" She said, "No! There's blood everywhere, the baby's coming and I've called 911. Something is terribly wrong! You have to get here, now!" I immediately said, "I'm on my way!" I ran to the room, grabbed my purse, my shoes and yelled out to Scott who was also getting dressed for the party, "I have to go! Something has gone terribly wrong! Maria's having the baby. I don't know the details." I hopped into my car and headed to her house. What was normally a 30-35 minute drive, I made somehow in 15 minutes. My mind was swimming. The baby was only 28 weeks.
As I was pulling up to the house, the fire rescue squad truck was out front. I run out of my car and through the pathway on the side of the house that leads to Maria's room. The door was open. I walk inside the small room and see puddles of blood all over the floor. Maria is laying on the bed screaming in pain while paramedics are frantically coming in and out of the room. Her sheets are covered in blood. I look for Lucy and find her standing in the corner of the room, trembling. I asked, "What happened?" She told me she was not sure. She had been at her house making dinner when she heard Maria screaming. She said she ran into the room as Maria was coming out of the bathroom and blood was just running down her legs. Just then, the paramedics asked who her nearest relative is, I said, "She doesn't have any. I'm her friend." He then said, "We need to take them to the hospital right now. The baby's not going to make it and she's in bad shape." No sooner had they said that, they plopped her on a gurney and were running out the door with her.
I thanked Lucy for calling me and ran to my car in order to follow the rescue truck. I felt like there was a magnet attached to the rescue truck that was somehow pulling my car. I stayed right behind him the entire drive to the hospital.
While driving, in between tears, I cried and prayed. I asked God to please save her baby and to please save her. I remember just saying over and over, "Lord, please don't let them die! Lord, please don't let them die!"
The rescue truck headed into the emergency room while I parked my car and ran after it. She had already been wheeled up to the maternity floor. I immediately went up to the nurses station and they told me that they had taken her in to do an emergency c-section. I asked if they knew why or what exactly had happened. The nurses had no idea. They asked again who her immediate family was, I repeated that she had none in the U.S. I didn't even know how or who her family in was outside of the country or how they could be contacted. I asked them to please come get me as soon as they had any information. I turned and went into the waiting room. I pulled out my rosary and prayed harder than I've ever prayed. I called Scott and told him all that had happened. I told him I would not be home that night, followed by something that I probably didn't even have to say, I asked him to please and pray hard.
Almost 2 hours later, a nurse came to the waiting room to get me. It was about 11 p.m. by then. She told me that Maria was out of surgery and had asked for me. I asked if I could see her, they said, "Of course." I quickly followed the nurse to the room. I looked at Maria and immediately tears ran down her scared face. She asked, "Where's the baby? No one here speaks Spanish." I was so distraught that it didn't even dawn on me to ask about the baby when the nurse came to get me. I turned to a different nurse who was fiddling with her IV and asked about the baby, she said he was in the NICU and the the neonatologist would be in soon to speak to Maria. I asked if he was going to make it. She told me she didn't have any details. That's all she knew.
About a half hour later, the obstetrician on call appeared in the room. He said he was not sure and wouldn't know exactly until the placenta is examined, but he was pretty sure that she had a placental abruption. This meant that there had been a separation of the placenta from the uterine lining. He said that she had hemorraged severely and was given 3 pints of blood during her c-section. She would have to be in the hospital for at least a week. I stood there frozen for a moment and then realized that Maria was waiting for me to translate. I did. I then turned around and asked about the baby. The doctor explained that when the placenta detaches from the uterus, the baby's life support system is cut. There might have been an interruption of oxygen to the baby. He also reminded us that he was only 28 weeks and althought premies do survive at that age, his lungs were not fully developed and there could be other complications . I then asked about the baby's weight. He said he did not know. He ended the conversation by telling us the neonatologist would be in soon. Once again, I turned to Maria and translated in detail. I couldn't make out if she was really understanding everything that was happening.
She had been given pain medication in recovery and was now asleep. I sat by her side and prayed.
It was almost 3 a.m. when the neonatologist came into the room, accompanied by two other doctors.
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