Discharge day!

There are many unique experiences that come with being an adoption caseworker. Although  some things can feel routine, bringing joy to parents who have waited months and sometimes years to start a family, that experience never gets old.

As I arrive at Leesburg Regional Medical Center, I remember a Christmas Eve many years ago.  I remember the birth mother who tearfully left the hospital wishing things could have been different.  I remember seeing the new born meet his mommy for the first time wearing a Santa hat.  Feeling the enormity of it all sometimes still takes my breath away.

After I make my way through the hospital, am buzzed into the nursery and am lead through a room full of chubby cheeks under carefully knitted hats, the nurse begins the discharge process.

Here are a few things to expect on discharge:

  1. You will watch your adoption worker sign a lot of paperwork.An agency representative signs the discharge papers due to the language of the adoption paperwork. That might sound confusing, but the way it works is, that Gift of Life is a child placing agency and the child is  “placed” with the adoptive couple until finalization.  We are technically the legal guardian, however the adoptive parents take the baby with them when they leave.
  2. You will get lots of medical instructions.You will receive instruction about the umbilical cord, jaundice, and other details of newborn care.  There will be a lot of info, but it will be written down as well, so don’t worry if your head is spinning. You will also be instructed that you will need a follow up appointment, usually within 2 days of discharge, and they’ll ask you for the name of the physician. Most discharges require a follow up appointment to be scheduled before you leave the hospital.
  3. You will get your first care package.The hospital usually tries to send the couple home with as many extra diapers, formula bottles, and pacifiers as they can find.  They will also throw any non identifying sentimental items such as the generic bassinet card or the paper measuring tape used to take the first measurements.  Often they have a little diaper bag stuffed with these goodies.
  4. You will get to dress the baby.This will be most likely the first time, you get to wrangle your fussy little newborn into an adorable outfit. (No baby like to get dressed.)
  5. You might be able to bring in the car seat and get your little one fitted in snugly.The policy of how the baby gets to the car changes from hospital to hospital.  In this case, they have me put baby in the car seat and check to make sure the chest clip is at armpit level. They check that the straps are snug.  You should be able to put two fingers in between the baby and the straps.  Sometimes they put the carseat back in the bassinet and wheel it down to the car with you.  Other times, they have the adoptive mom (or caseworker at times) sit in a wheelchair with the carseat on their lap.  And other times they do it differently all together, and they have the car seat stay in the car and the baby is carried in the adoptive moms arms in a wheelchair.  Whatever the scenario will be, the caseworker might be able to find out ahead of time, and if not, the hospital staff will be accommodating, and let you go back and forth to the car if needed.

​Your caseworker will be there to help answer any questions you might have.  All in all, it’s a truly exciting day

As I,m driving away from this discharge, I am thinking of all the times I have seen adoptive parents strap baby in the car seat for the first time. Many times, it takes them a while to figure it all out but once they do, it becomes routine.

The drive must seem surreal for adoptive couples.  But the thought that this drive home might be the moment when it really sinks in for them, the idea of that sweet joy never gets old.

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