I met an amazing couple while Caleb was in the NICU. I don't know their last name. I doubt I'll ever see them again. But I think about them a lot. They are some of the most amazing people I've ever met.
The mom's name is Camille, and the baby's name was Chloe. Camille was Chloe's biological aunt. Chloe's birth mom (Camille's sister-in-law) realized when she got pregnant that she wasn't ready to be a mom, and Camille and her husband had been trying for nine years to have a baby, so the birth mom offered for them to adopt Chloe. Of course, they were ecstatic.
Then, at the 20-week ultrasound, they found that Chloe's legs weren't developing. She would never be able to walk. Camille and her husband talked about whether or not they still wanted to adopt her. Obviously, it's hard to walk straight into a trial like that. But they were angels and recognized that she was already their baby, and that the inability to walk didn't change anything. They already loved her, and there was no going back.
Then she was born three weeks early, but her lungs were very, very underdeveloped. She was admitted to the NICU. After a few days it was very apparent that there was more wrong with Chloe's little body than just her underdeveloped lungs and her undeveloped legs. She was retaining fluid--swelling up terribly, and not urinating.
It was the same rare, undiagnosed problem as Chloe's other biological aunt who only lived for a few hours after birth.
Camille and her husband were told that Chloe's chance of living was looking dim.
They just wanted the adoption to be finalized. They wanted to look at their daughter and know that she was theirs, that they were parents, as they always wanted to be. They hoped and prayed that she would hold on until she was one week old, when the adoption was set to be finalized in court. Since her condition was so unstable, they didn't dare make the 45-minute drive home at night. They slept on the floor of the Parent's Lounge every night. They ate in the cafeteria. I don't know where they showered.
After another day or two they learned that Chloe was deaf and blind. They were told that she would likely never be able to breathe on her own.
They could have walked away at that point. Chloe's birth mom was considering not signing the adoption papers anyway. But that would have broken their hearts. They loved that baby. They wanted her and needed her.
It was a rough week for Camille and her family. There were lots of ups and downs; some days it looked almost as if Chloe was going to be alright. That made their decision even harder.
The day of the adoption came, and Chloe was made theirs. Their dream came true, and they had a daughter. I saw them that day, and I'm sure I can safely say that it was the best day of their lives.
But the next day, I think it was, they did the hardest thing that anyone could ever do. They had to let their baby girl die. I didn't see them that day, and honestly, I'm glad. I don't think I could have handled it. I imagine that they had their family with them, and Camille sat in a rocking chair and held her baby for the first time, soaking in all of the love, the looks, the memories, the good...and then she let her die peacefully.
They were left alone, just the two of them, as they were when they had started their journey to parenthood. Only, they were left with hefty medical bills. They were left with more pain in their hearts than most people could fathom. But they were left with the knowledge that they were parents--that they had a daughter named Chloe who was more loved than most children in the world. That although she only lived for a week, she would be theirs forever, and no one could take away the title of "Mom" and "Dad."
They are true heroes. They knew what they were getting into by the time the adoption was finalized. Every good parent sacrifices for their children, but Camille and her husband put everything on the line. They will always have an ache in their hearts, but they will always have part of Chloe in their hearts, too, that will make the ache worthwhile.
Camille, if you ever read this, I hope you know that I admire you more than most. I hope to be as loving and giving of a mom as you. I will never forget you or Chloe. I will always remember you as a hero.