We did finally come together that weekend. Kelly somehow persuaded Mallory to meet us at a local deli, where we had the first of a series of tearful conversations about how hard this all was. Sharing these emotions somehow released us all. We spent the rest of the afternoon poring over baby-name books at Barnes & Noble. After much chuckling and arguing, one of us (who knows who?) hit upon Rebecca: the perfect name, because in Hebrew it means "faithful," or "to unite."
Then came the birth itself. Mallory called us midday on her due date to say that she'd gone into labor. Knowing her penchant for punctuality—we'd already stashed our bags and a brand-new car seat in our car—we drove to Medford in a record seven hours. We visited Mallory in the hospital and then left her to pace the halls with Kelly and her best friend. We heard Rebecca's first cry from right outside the birthing room door.
With incredible generosity, Mallory invited us in. Each of us held our daughter (we all called her "ours" from the beginning). Then it was our turn to do the hard thing. We left for those promised 24 hours, and yes, we had a tough time not biting our nails off. Yet the moments we'd been together just beforehand, and the days and weeks we'd spent establishing a bond, made us feel a lot less panic-stricken than we might have. We went to a local jewelry store and bought Mallory a traditional open-adoption gift—a mother-and-child pendant with Rebecca's birthstone, blue topaz, embedded. We bought a pair of matching earrings for Kelly, too. They weren't returnable. That was part of our leap of faith.
The next morning, Mallory called and said she'd like us to come to the hospital. The word that best describes what followed: miraculous. For a day and a half we all shared in Rebecca's care and in a torrent of emotions ranging from sorrow to euphoria. Kelly showed me how to change a diaper. Eric chose CDs to fill the room with music. Mallory's friends and family came by. Flowers arrived. Then we took Rebecca into an adjoining room for our first night as her parents. We could feel Mallory and Kelly next door, mourning the imminent loss of their new baby. Knowing their determination to go through with the adoption despite the pain made Eric and me all the more committed to keeping them close within our family circle.
Rebecca's birth and the days surrounding it were definitely the most intense times of my life. I remember walking into Mallory's room after she'd signed the adoption papers but while she was still holding Rebecca, saying goodbye—she'd put the sheet completely over her head, creating a cocoon to protect her during this devastating transition. I also have a photo of Mallory's dad's face, full of melancholy, as he held Rebecca for the first time. But we had happiness, too: Mallory walking arm in arm with me down the hall as Eric carried Rebecca; all of us sharing a messy meal of Thai food on a hospital-sheet tablecloth; Mallory talking to Eric's parents on the phone, becoming family without ever having met.