If you love superbly written, heart-wrenching but emotionally fulfilling stories that make your heart grow tenfold, then Dear Emily and Dear Tabitha will be books you will love just as much as I have. And today, I have a sneak peek of the Prologue from Dear Juliet, the third book in the Forever Family series, about Seth’s quest to find his happily-ever-after…
My heart beats wildly in my throat as we walk through the doors of the maternity ward at Temple University Hospital. My husband, Kevin, squeezes my hand as tight as he can.
“I’m a mess, Kevin.” I blurt out. “Is this even real?”
“Yes, babe. This is very real. We’re about to meet our baby,” he says, his own voice shaking.
Our plane touched down in Philadelphia less than twelve hours after we received a call from our adoption counselor, Jessica from Forever Home Adoption Agency. We’d been on their waiting list for almost two years and had just about given up hope that we would ever be selected to adopt a baby when she called us late last night.
“Kelsey! Hi, it’s Jessica. I’m so sorry to be calling you so late, but I have the most incredible news.”
I immediately reach to my right, shaking Kevin’s shoulder to wake him up from a sound sleep. We were both exhausted after the last trick-or-treater left our front porch around ten o’clock tonight and were asleep before our heads hit our pillows. I look at the clock. It’s only eleven-thirty. It feels like we’ve been asleep for hours.
“Hmm?” he moans and flips over to see me sitting straight up in bed. “Is everything okay?” he asks hesitantly as his eyes widen and then squint. “What time is it?”
I know exactly what Jessica is about to tell us and tears pool in my eyes as Kevin focuses on my face. God, I love this man and we’re about to get the news we’ve been waiting for.
I grab his hand, place the phone on speaker and say, “Jessica, we’re both awake. What’s going on?” Kevin’s eyes glisten as a warm smile spreads across his handsome face.
“A baby was born earlier today and the birth mother, Lily has committed to an adoption plan. She was presented several profiles to choose from and she immediately chose the both of you. How soon can you be in Philadelphia?”
That phone call was twelve hours ago and I’m still in shock and disbelief. Our dream of starting our family is right in front of us and I never thought this moment would arrive. I clutch Kevin’s hand harder as we walk to the nurses’ station.
“Excuse me,” I say quietly. The nurse behind the desk looks up and nods. “We’re here to meet with Jessica Hyde. She’s a social worker.” I hesitate, unsure of what is going to happen next.
“Oh, you must be the Olivers. Yes, she’s in the nursery right now.” She gets up and comes out from behind the desk. “Follow me.”
We follow her down the hall and I realize that she’s either walking very fast or we are walking very slowly because there is a huge distance between us. Kevin speeds up his pace and I follow suit.
We catch up to her and turn the corner together. In front of us is a large glass window with at least ten infants inside. All are asleep in their bassinets except one. That baby is being rocked in the arms of an older woman. She looks up and smiles and I recognize her face from the adoption agency’s website. It’s Jessica.
The nurse swipes her key card and unlocks the doors to the nursery.
I’m suddenly frozen in place. I wasn’t expecting to meet the baby so soon.
I don’t know what I was thinking, but this wasn’t it. Maybe I expected some more time going over paperwork and preparing to meet our child. This is too fast. We just found out!
Am I ready for this?
Are we ready for this?
I remain frozen in place as I try to picture that little baby in the empty nursery we’ve had ready for what seems like forever. Yellow walls and neutral safari bedding suddenly don’t seem right. Insecurity builds as thoughts of our future swirl in my head.
Will she be happy in our home?
Will she be happy with us?
Kevin eagerly pulls me into the nursery and Jessica’s warm voice fills the room.
“Kelsey. Kevin. Say hello to Juliet.”
She raises the baby’s head so we can see her small face, her pink cheeks so perfect and round. My breath is immediately taken away and my heart melts along with some of the uncertainties that I felt just moments ago. She’s sound asleep and softly sucking on a green rubber pacifier that seems to take up half of her face. Jessica motions to the empty rocking chair next to her and Kevin leads me over to it so I can sit.
Before I know it, she’s placed into my arms. My hold on her is awkward at first, because well, I’ve never done this before. My arms are stiff and Kevin places his hand on the crown of Juliet’s head, engulfing it in his palm.
He’s mesmerized by her. In love with her already.
Yes, this feels right.
“Relax, Kelsey. She’ll know if you’re nervous and you’ll wake her up.” Jessica softly chuckles and nods again.
I begin to relax my arms and settle more comfortably back into the rocking chair, Juliet softly molding into my chest.
“Isn’t she beautiful?” Jessica asks. I look down at the little bundle and she twitches slightly in my arms, relaxing back into a deep sleep. Her baby scent hits my nose and I begin to feel more at ease.
“Yes. She is beautiful. Perfect,” I say as Kevin’s thumb sweeps across her tiny forehead. His eyes lock onto mine and he nods slowly, a smile spreading across his face.
“She looks perfect in your arms, Kels,” he whispers.
We sit there for what seems like hours, but only minutes have passed. Kevin asks the question that’s been on my mind for the better part of the last twelve hours.
“Where is her birth mother?”
Jessica takes a deep breath and seems hesitant to tell us.
“Lily doesn’t want to meet you. Or see Juliet,” she responds with sadness in her voice.
“Oh?” I reply, surprised.
“She’s very young. Only fifteen. She just wants to sign the papers and go home. Well, go home as soon as the hospital will discharge her. She’s already been moved to another floor.” She pauses for a moment as if she wishes for another outcome. “We have to respect her wishes.”
This is surprising to me, and Kevin and I exchange worried glances. What could this mean? My chest tightens and I realize that I’m holding Juliet closer, more protective.
“Fifteen? Can she even give this baby up? Can her family intervene?” I’m suddenly terrified that the beautiful little girl in my arms can be taken away from us.
“No. She can legally sign the adoption paperwork. It’s her choice. Her family cannot intervene nor do they need to be present during her revocation of rights. They are actually completely unaware of the birth and of Juliet since Lily has been living with a friend for some time.” Jessica states matter-of-fact. I have to trust that our social worker is speaking the truth, but her words don’t comfort me at all. “I’m sorry, but I’m unable to discuss anything more with you about Lily.”
“But she’s only fifteen,” I push, suddenly feeling very sad for the child who just gave birth to this beautiful little girl. “And her family doesn’t know?”
How can this be?
“She’s fifteen and scared. She absolutely does not want her family to know. But, believe me, she is very clear minded when it comes to the decision to give up this child,” Jessica assures us.
Kevin’s free hand swipes through the back of my hair and rests on my shoulder. While this all seems like a whirlwind, his gesture comforts me immensely.
“Okay, what’s next?” Kevin and I ask at the same time.
Jessica smiles warmly and says, “It’s time to become her family.”
* * *
The next few days were a blur. We spent every single moment we could with our daughter, experiencing all of the wonders and joys of a newborn. The hospital gave us a room in the maternity ward where we could spend our first precious moments together as a family.
The nurses practically had to pry her from our arms both nights we were there so they could take her back to the nursery.
Every single moment felt so right.
It breaks my heart that we were never able to meet Lily. I want to thank her. Tell her that Juliet is going to have a wonderful life. That her decision to give this little girl up was so selfless and strong, especially for a young girl. My heart tugs whenever I think of Lily and how scared she must be. I ache to comfort her. To hold her and tell her everything is going to be okay.
“It’s time to go home,” Kevin whispers in my ear as his lips brush against my hair. This simple gesture distracts me from my sadness, if only slightly. I tighten the car seat straps and tuck the pink fleece blanket around our daughter.
“Yes, it’s time.” My cheeks warm as tears prick my eyes.
Jessica enters the room and her expression is stoic. My breath hitches and I’m suddenly nervous.
“Before you go home, I wanted to give you this.” She hands me an envelope with Juliet’s name scrawled across the front.
“Lily asked that you give this to Juliet when she’s old enough to understand all about her adoption. She wanted to explain why she did what she did.” Jessica purses her lips and bows her head. “You have to know how incredibly difficult this is for her.”
“Of course. I can’t imagine,” I say softly.
I’m overwhelmed thinking about how to even explain all of this to a child, much less promise to give her a letter from her fifteen-year-old birth mother.
I touch my lips softly to Juliet’s nose and wrap the blanket tightly around her baby carrier. It’s only been a few days since we met our daughter, but my protective instinct is already in high gear. Kevin reaches down to take the carrier, kisses my cheek, and says to Jessica, “We’ll make sure that our daughter knows her story and how Lily loved her enough to make this heart-wrenching decision. She’s given us a gift and we’ll repay her by raising Juliet with more love than she can absorb.”
His words should be comforting to me, but my heart is pulling me in another direction.
I’m terrified what this note could possibly contain.
My chest clenches and fearful thoughts swirl through my mind.
I try to compose myself but the envelope feels like it’s about to ignite in my hand.
I tuck it into my purse and promise myself to hide it away forever.
Lily’s words have the potential to destroy our daughter’s happiness.
I vow to myself that Juliet will never see this letter.