A year ago, Brett and I spent the night in the hospital with 6-week old baby Owen. He was still in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Scott and White, but we had to prove to the neonatologists that we could care for him for 8 hours. All night, I panicked.
Right next to me, with no nurses in the room, was a tiny little human with a heart catheter who had only recently survived major abdominal surgery. He was in and out of heart failure at the time and the tumor in his liver was a big question mark.
His doctor watched as I attempted to clean his Broviac port.
She loved this baby. She had taken care of him since he was care-flighted from a hospital in Waco where his brave birth mother delivered him.
And the doctor wanted to make sure we could handle the challenge in front of us.
“Can you do this?” she asked, skeptically.
It was a time, perhaps, that I should have feigned confidence instead of being honest.
“Of course I can’t!” I told her. How can anyone say they’re going to be the best person to care for a meth baby with a tumor who may not live past 4 months?
But we did it. We survived the night. And no baby was harmed in the process.
I left the hospital feeling anxious. His first doctor’s appointment was with an intervention radiologist only three hours after he was discharged from the NICU.
Owen cried a lot when he first came home. He cried more than Ellia but less than Olive. We bounced between oncology, cardiology and surgical appointments. And we waited for him to grow. We celebrated every pound as if it was a year of life. And we learned how to be the new family we had become.
There were some difficult nights. Two weeks after a five-hernia repair surgery, I heard Brett screaming from Owen’s room.
Owen’s clothes were soaked through with blood, as if he’d been shot. Owen was inconsolable. His surgical incision had opened, and fluid was leaking everywhere.
On the way to the hospital, I tried to put pressure on Owen’s incision. I was panicked and clueless. At one point, Owen’s eyes began to roll backwards, and I thought I was watching my son die.
The surgeon decided to leave the wound open, and we cared for the incision at home until it finally healed.
Parenting can be so hard.
But then there were good days, like the day when we headed to court to make Owen’s adoption official.
We took Ellia out of school, the kids dressed up and we bribed Owen’s sisters with Skittles so that they would be compliant and make us look like capable parents. During our long wait, our lawyer prepped us for our time with the judge. It was very straightforward—she’ll say this, you say this.
When it was our turn, the crazy Gibson clan danced our way through the courtroom to stand before the judge, on behalf of our son, but also on behalf of us as a family.
The judge asked us all of her questions, then, she looked at me and said, “Do you think it is in the best interest of this child to be raised by you?”
Oh, dear God. Things they don’t ask you when you’re having your kid cut out during a C-section.
I stood there at that bench staring at her.
Should I disclose to the judge that I had just given my kids candy and told them to lie if someone asks them if I let them drink coffee? Should I tell her the truth, that there are better moms in the world? That other people have read more books or have better methods of discipline?
But that day I realized that whether or not I was most qualified, I still get to be the one that tries my best. Maybe that's what it is to be a mom.
I get to be the one that often fails, but keeps showing up. I get to be the one that wakes up in the middle of the night and stumbles toward the crib to make sure Owen hasn’t fallen prey to a midnight diaper explosion. I get to be the one who fishes the pacifier out of the toilet and learns the hard way that Owen’s army crawl rivals cheetah speed. I get to be the one who teaches him how to be brave and how to cry and how to respond when someone hurts his feelings. I get to be the one who figures out how to flush an IV and falls asleep with him in the hospital.
And I’m so lucky.
It’s been a year. A wild ride of ups and downs and smiles and tears, and all I know is our family was finally complete when Owen Gibson came home last June. He makes us laugh. He is both serious and hysterical. He loves to entertain his sisters, but he has no interest in performing baby tricks for anyone else. He’s happy, resilient, determined, and calm. He’s amazing, beautiful, and perfect.
The judge’s question was difficult because it was a question I had been afraid to face. However, due to awkward stares from the people in the courtroom, I finally answered her.
“I hope so,” I said.
“I guess it is within his best interest to be raised by me. Because this is his family. And I’m his mom.”
And maybe that’s all I know today—until tomorrow when I learn something new. But, Owen, I get to be the one that loves you.
And son, I’m so deeply grateful for that chance.