Part 32: Epilogue: Starting life all over
As of her third visit to the pediatrician, two days ago, Christiana Marie weighs 12 pounds and is 24 inches long.
She will be adopted by Kathy and Joe in April (state law mandates a six-month wait), and then christened shortly after that. Wendy will be the godmother; Andy will be the godfather.
Interviewed together in their dining room, where the Journal-Bulletin first met the family a year ago, Andy and Wendy say the two months since the baby's birth have passed in "stages." When Wendy found herself still feeling empty and sad, and was crying into November, she paid her therapist another visit.
Again, the therapist concluded that Wendy doesn't want a baby, that she is not longing for that. She said Wendy was feeling a normal sense of loss after having been pregnant for nine months, and that those feelings would end when her hormones returned to normal.
To help ease the transition, Wendy's daughter Nicole came up with an idea: Wendy and Andy should go away together overnight - someplace romantic, even if close to home. Andy and Wendy picked the Residence Inn, a Marriott hotel in their own city of Warwick, where they drank cocktails by a fire, watched TV and got reacquainted.
Another time, they went out to a Providence Bruins game. They went out with friends. They did the things they loved to do before the pregnancy, before Wendy's life became "me and Kathy, me and Kathy, me and Kathy, me and Kathy."
And pretty soon - by early December - the crying stage was over.
"I know I did something. I know I made my sister happy," a proud and contented Wendy says. "I finally did what I wanted to do, and now she has a baby, I have a niece. After all these years, I did it. I gave her a baby. It's not talk anymore."
"Feels like we're starting life all over again," adds Andy. They're even thinking about moving, maybe buying a bigger house in the same part of Rhode Island, maybe with some woods behind it for Rachel to play in.
First, though, Wendy will go back to work on the catering truck. Is she looking forward to that?
"No," she says.
Andy responds with his famous smirk. She's "spoiled," he says. She's on the phone all day with her sister, her mother, her friends. Or out to lunch with Nicole. Wendy smiles, and doesn't deny it. She and Andy both know she's earned this break.
She'd like to thank all of the Journal-Bulletin readers who greeted her with hugs and tears and warm wishes at stores and restaurants this Christmas season, who "treated me nice and kind."
To those who disapprove of what she did, all she can say is that surrogate motherhood is not for everyone, and that "You have to see my sister. I've lived with her all these years. You don't see what I see. You don't see the joy I see in her eyes."
* * *
There is joy in Kathy's eyes, all right. Also, gratitude, pride and awe. Her mother, Louise, describes it best: "Kathy and Christiana are in love."
Christiana will cry, and Kathy will rest a hand against her cheek, whispering, "Mommy's here, Mommy's here, Mommy's here," and the baby soon grows dreamy-eyed and quiet.
Kathy especially loves lying with Christiana on the couch, the baby's tiny head against Kathy's heart. "I don't just hold her. I really nestle her and sleep with her. I'll give her a bottle and she'll hold my pinky. These are things I never dreamed possible. She doesn't even have to cry and I've got to go to her because she's so beautiful. I can't stay away from her. I keep looking at her."
Louise and Dr. Fraioli, the pediatrician, say Kathy shouldn't be so quick to pick the baby up when she cries, but Kathy ignores this advice. "I've waited 20 years, so that's what I'll do if I want to."
She holds and kisses the baby so much that a neighbor across the street, witnessing it all from her second-story apartment, is so touched, she cries.
Yes, Kathy and Christiana are in love, and nothing - not even the harshest criticism - can rock it.
Though the family was unnerved at first by some readers' negative reaction to their story, they now take a generous view of those critics, saying it's just natural for people to resist something new, and that, in the larger scheme of things, it doesn't matter.
"All we have to do is look at the baby," says Joe, "and all that meanness goes out the window."
They wanted their story told because they want to help people, Kathy says.
"I hope they will learn from my family," she says. "My sister's shown such compassion to me."
Only a tiny percentage of surrogacy arrangements end in conflict, according to OPTS, the national support and advocacy organization. But those are the stories that become movies and books, Kathy says. Few of the success stories are publicized.
When they agreed to share their experience, the family felt certain of a happy outcome.
* * *
Kathy says the past two months with the baby have been a string of transcendent moments.
Going to the pediatrician or to Sunday Mass, reading Good Night, Moon aloud in a rocking chair, walking the house all night to soothe Christiana's cries - it makes her so happy and excited, she almost feels anxious, "trying to grasp every feeling I'm feeling."
One day, she and Christiana come out of a store to discover it's snowing, and it's practically too much to bear - "I don't believe this is happening to me! I'm here for her first snow!"
Now and then, Kathy will realize, "Oh, my God, she's gonna grow."
Already, the bassinet is too small for the baby, so Kathy's loaned it to an expectant relative. "My heart, when that bassinet went out the door!"
Even Joe felt the loss of this small piece of furniture, which holds so many memories. "Don't be giving all our stuff away," he told Kathy.
Like her, he is entranced by this child. He willingly takes his turn when she cries in the night, heating her formula, feeding her, burping her and changing her, even filing her fingernails when they need it.
He is proud of himself, Kathy says. It's like he's "doing his tour."
"Yeah, I'm on watch," says Joe, who's just given Christiana her bottle.
The other day, his friend Mickey called up. Joe said he seemed a little lonely, like he was feeling the loss of his pal. "He wants me there with him. But I got responsibilities!"
And with responsibility, comes exhaustion.
Some nights, Kathy and Joe are both up, sitting on the couch, their heads nodded together, with the baby and her bottle between them. "But we cherish it," Kathy says. "We're very aware of what's going on here. We're parents: We're tired, we're bitchy, and we're happy."
This year, for the first time, the couple put up a live Christmas tree, hung with tiny toys instead of nondescript glass balls. Lights are strung all around the house, there are decorations in the window boxes and red bows everywhere, and four stockings hung on the fireplace.
The second stocking from the left is for Joe's disabled brother, Donny, who also is happier than he's ever been.
He's been going to school at the Steve N. Picillo Center, which is affiliated with the Fogarty Center, and he loves it so much, he gets up at 6 to wait for the van that brings him there. "He doesn't want to eat breakfast, he's so excited," says Kathy.
Joe has to remind him, "Donny, you have to take your coat and hat off because you've got a couple of hours. You have to shave. You have to comb your hair."
A few weeks ago, the whole clan - Kathy, Joe, Donny and Christiana - went Christmas shopping together. They were strolling up and down the aisles of Wal-Mart when Kathy had another of her small epiphanies, a realization that it's actually happened, that she has a family now.
"You're living it," she says, "and it becomes, 'My God!' It's like, life is so simple, isn't it? The simpler it is, the better you make it. Going to Wal-Mart. Stepping out of yourself. Caring about the baby."
* * *
The day after Christmas, Kathy reports: "It was the best Christmas we've ever had."
The whole family, including Louise, her husband, Bob, and Wendy and Kathy's brother Chip, gathered on Christmas Eve at Wendy and Andy's house. There was much "squeezing and hugging and kissing" of the baby, says Kathy, and everyone noshed on soup and appetizers and opened gifts and basked in happiness.
"There's always a lot of love," says Kathy, "but it was even more special because of the birth and because everything came out so well."
Wendy held the baby most of the night, and felt proud whenever anyone said she is beautiful. She takes care to mention, however - because everyone keeps asking her - that she feels no motherly attachment to Christiana.
"I held her and played with her and did Christmas. But this is Kathy's baby."
The way Chip put it to their mother was: "Wendy's back."
The Christmas Eve revelry continued when they all piled into seven cars and made a caravan to the home of Auntie Bev, Louise's sister, for a "feast."
Again, the baby was passed "from arms to arms to arms," says Kathy. "I let everybody spend time holding her."
This is typical. Kathy eagerly hands the baby over to those who admire her, so willingly that a number of people have remarked to her about how unusual that is.
But to Kathy, it seems only right.
"I share with everyone," she says, "because she was shared with me."