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newborn baby toes

The Family Toes

Our plan is to make a quick getaway, to say a guilty goodbye to Crystal and bring our newborn daughter home. This plan was carefully crafted to make this day as bearable for Crystal as possible.

Roger and I show up at the hospital. Crystal, the experienced mom, shows me how to change an impossibly small diaper. She mentions that her Grandma, whom everyone calls Honey, would really love to meet the baby. But she’s been battling cancer and isn’t well enough to leave her home.

We find out Honey lives not far from Crystal, who lives within 10 miles of our home.

So we decide not to listen to the adoption experts about the clean getaway, and to follow our hearts instead. We ask Crystal (though she could have dictated any route home from the hospital had she wanted to, since relinquishment is still weeks away) if she would like us to take the baby to visit Honey.

She lights up. And we load the cars. Before long we all arrive at Honey’s house.

As soon as we get Tessa inside, Crystal, her mom and Grandma Honey huddle over the baby. Three generations ooh and aah over Tessa’s toes – she has the family toes. This is an intimate moment where I feel like an outsider, and I wonder if I can ever truly be this baby’s mother.

newborn baby toes

Tessa begins to cry and Crystal says to me, “Get the bottle, Mom.”

I didn’t even bring in the diaper bag! I’m not used to this. I can’t do this. I’m not a natural. We’ve all made a big mistake. I’m embarrassed. I’m exposed for the fraud I am. Who in their right mind would consider me a mother? Panic attack.

Roger brings in the diaper bag and I have a crying baby in my arms, so my moment of self-pity is over in a flash. Crystal giggles, good-naturedly cooing to Tessa: “See, Mommy has what you need.” And she smiles at me, telling me all is well.

Our glance also communicates that it’s time for us to leave. I know how grateful Crystal is that we’ve brought Honey and Tessa together. I know she will be incredibly sad as we drive away. I know I am itching to start our lives with this beautiful baby.

We gather all the stuff and say our goodbyes. I whisper in Crystal’s ear during a hug, “You call whenever you’re ready. I love you and I’m thinking of you every single day.”

She looks at me with pure love and trust in her eyes and whispers, “I know. I will.”

We finally make our quick getaway and head home. With our daughter.


This was in response to a writing prompt at the Open Adoption Roundtable, where the assignment was to “write about a small moment that open adoption made possible.”

Click over to Production, Not Reproduction to see what others have to say.


Lori Holden's book coverLori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, blogs from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life.

19 Responses

  1. First, a big thank you to Lori’s Mom for the update on the kids! I know I’ve been thinking of them during this difficult time!

    and Lori, I love this story of the Family Toes, each and every time I read it!

  2. Wow…. Thank you.

    It brought tears to my eyes to hear of the selfless love of Crystal, and the love you all felt for this little baby!

  3. Good Tuesday morning! I’m Lori’s Mom with an update on the kids during this traumatic time in their young lives. They are doing remarkably well for being 500 miles away from the “best Mom and Dad in the universe!” It helps that they are with all their cousins, each of them their favorite. Of course they have their “I want my Mommy and Daddy” moments, but only when tired. We drove until 12:45 AM Sunday and they were awesome travelers. Yesterday we swam in a 55 foot deep crater in 90 degree mineral water. We were surrounded by a rock dome, with a hole way at the top where we could watch the clouds drift by.
    Today we journey into Salt Lake City to show them where their Mom and one aunt were born.
    Roger and Lori, we really miss your being with us — it truly is not the same without you. But you are with us in spirit as we reminisce about our family sing-alongs. Can’t do it without your talents.
    Of course we are working on a very difficult jig-saw puzzle. It reminds us of life where each of us tries to figure out how the pieces fit together. They eventually all mesh into a wonderful, complete picture. So far none of our puzzle pieces are missing. We are grateful.

  4. Mom, just like when I was a teenager, you’ve made me cry. And, just like when I was a teenager, I’ll get you back somehow 😉

    Thanks for taking such good care of T&R, especially during this time.

    I loved reading about the cenote, the sing-alongs, and the jigsaw puzzle. Don’t tell Sheri and Tami that I’ve hidden the last piece.


  5. Wow! I love your adoption stories, and this was no exception. I appreciate you sharing this very intimate moment with us.

  6. This post and you and your mom have made me cry.

    One of the first things that was discovered when I met my birth father and my half sisters is that we all have the same little toes.

  7. Once again this makes me cry too! Lori I am so grateful for you and Roger. Thank you so much for that moment. I can not tell you how much that meant to us. I miss my grandma soooo much!!!!! I will always have this memory!!! I LOVE YOU!!!!

  8. I love this moment and I have to say I have thought about it often since I first read it. I also love that crystal chimed in here too!

    and thanks to lori’s mom for the update. I loved reading about the kids and especially the jigsaw of life…

  9. That is a beautiful story of the day you brought Tessa home.

    We had a great time on our trip, but really, really, really missed you and R.

    Hey! Where’s the last piece to the puzzle? If we would have had it, we might have finished it!!!

  10. She shares their toes, who would have ever guessed that. That’s the kind of piece open adoption gives to adoptees. Thanks so much for sharing this beautiful story.

  11. Oh my gosh I am absolutely in tears. Such an amazing moment between your daughter’s two mothers. I can’t wait to read more about your adoption journey over the coming year!

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