The man and woman look at me, puzzled, as if my question is odd or out of place. As if...wondering why no one explained this process to me yet. “It’s an open adoption, but this will be the last form of contact we have with each other,” Cammy says through a subtle whisper.
“Thank you for allowing us to be here,” the woman says.
“Please take good care of her…please,” Cammy replies through her hardly recognizable voice. All I hear is the same anguish I’m feeling inside, and it’s becoming clearer by the moment that this isn’t what Cammy wants.
“I'm not ready,” I argue.
“Please,” Cammy says to the nurse. “I can’t take this anymore. Will you have him leave?”
What? Me? No!
“That’s my daughter,” I shout. “No one asked me if I wanted this…them!” I point to the couple. “I don’t want this. I didn't agree to this!”
“Security,” the nurse says, calmly, into a corded phone.
“I thought you didn’t know who the father was?” the adopting woman asks. “That’s how everything was stated in the paperwork. There were no DNA tests or consent forms. Is this the father?”
“Yes! This isn’t fair. This isn’t right! She’s mine. She belongs to me. She’s everything to me. I’ll take care of her myself if I have to. I don’t want to give her up. I don’t. She’s my everything, Cammy…” My voice trails off into moans, a type of guttural sound that has never come from my throat before. “Please don’t take away my daughter,” I beg. “That’s my baby. She’s part of me. You can’t take away a part of a person like that. You can’t.” I sound insane. I sound wild and crazy, and Cammy is hysterical, watching me.
“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid it’s too late,” the adopting woman says. “You would have needed to sign papers disagreeing with the adoption, but we were told the father was unknown.”
I look at Cammy, unable to understand how she could go through with something like this and not tell me. “Cammy, tell them I’m the father. I didn’t sign papers because I didn’t know we were giving her up for adoption until four hours ago,” I shout.
“He’s the father,” she cries through a whisper just quietly enough that I can hear, but we both know it doesn’t matter now. The woman said the paperwork was done. Cammy doesn’t respond. She just weeps. Her eyes are swollen and her cheeks are red, covered with big, thick tears. The couple—they’re holding my daughter tightly in a protective stance as if I were going to attack my own child. They’re protecting her from me. “AJ, you have to know that she’s my everything too, but—”
“They’re taking our daughter, Cammy! It can’t be this way!” I hardly have a chance to finish my sentence when hands wrap around my arms from behind, and I’m pulled out of the room, backwards nonetheless—just another form of punishment to give me one last look at this scene that will forever be burned into my mind.
While my world moves in slow motion around me, I keep my gaze set on our daughter, as a tiny pink hat is fitted snugly over her dark hair, and then I see her eyes—they’re large and looking everywhere, wondering what is happening in her world that was just created less than ten minutes ago.
The very last thing I hear before I’m out of the corridor is her cry—the sweetest noise I will never hear again.
Today is her birthday—my daughter. She’s twelve years old. I don’t know what state she lives in. I don’t know if her parents are good to her. I don’t know if she got exactly what she wanted for her birthday and I wish I could send her a gift—a card and tell her that today is the 4,380th day I have woken up, praying for her happiness and wishing I could see her again.
“AJ, GAVIN IS crying again,” Tori grumbles as she tears the thick, warm blankets off my body. “It’s your turn to feed him.”
They warned me about this. The sleepless nights, the crabby wife, the sleepless nights. When is it going to end? I feel like I have the flu, except I don’t have the flu. I have a four-month-old who won't sleep through the night. I haven’t slept more than five hours in four months. Or is it four hours in five months? How old is our son? I can’t even remember, I’m so delirious right now.
With my feet hanging from the bed, I clumsily slide the rest of my body off and hang on to the wall for support. Every night I lose sleep, my eyes take a little longer to adjust to the opaqueness of this house at three in the morning. I don’t bother trying to open my eyes anymore. Instead, I feel my way around through the house until I make it down into the kitchen. I reach for the fridge, remove the bottle, carry the bottle to the bottle heater, click the switch, and rest my head on the cool counter until the damn thing beeeeeeeeeeeeps. Some nights, I think Gavin just wants to hear the beep, because by the time I get into his room to feed him, he’s stopped crying and he’s back asleep. And I’m awake, walking down the hallway like a zombie trying to find my bed again.