My aunt adopted my daughter: how I birthed my niece

May 22 2013 | Guest post by Melodee
The two of us.
The two of us.

In early 2008, I realized I was pregnant. Now to an outside observer it would seem a rather obvious outcome. I had just engaged in my first act of sexual intercourse, we didn't use protection and I had no idea where I was on my cycle. I was 23 and had just started my second semester of college.

The problem in the situation was that the father was not prepared to have a child and frankly, neither was I. We weren't together romantically and it wasn't a situation that I wanted to tie myself into. We weren't a good parenting couple — or any kind of couple — and I only wanted this child raised in a better environment than the two of us were going to provide.

After talking it out with my religiously conservative parents we came to the conclusion that my Aunt who lived on the West coast with her husband was the perfect choice. They were a biracial couple, as was the baby to be. They were unable to conceive, being 2-3 years married and in their forties. And the reason most important is that while unwilling to adopt a child from outside the family, my Uncle had no qualms with adopting one from inside.

I was living in the Midwest at the time and I chose to fly out to the West coast where my aunt lives about a month before I was due. I had issues of high blood pressure towards the end of the pregnancy. We had arranged for a doctor on the West coast who I immediately went to see as soon as I got there. He told me to come back four days later on the following Friday. My blood pressure was still high on that Friday, so it was bed rest for me for the weekend.

I returned to the doctor the next week. The tech took my blood pressure, got a concerned look, told me to lie on my left side for a few minutes and she would come back and take it again. She came back and retried, but it didn't go down. Five minutes later, it still hadn't gone down. It was basically trending at 160/120 and they were getting pretty concerned. They decided to admit me to the hospital across the street for overnight observation. They told me there was no way that they would induce.

I was nervous. I hadn't taken any classes on delivery, I felt like I didn't really know anything. But I figured it would all work out. After a few hours of a spike in blood pressure every time I went to pee, they decided to give me a catheter. During this time, my aunt stopped by with school work and books. Reading seemed to calm me down, so I was encouraged to do so.

The on-call doctor found out about the pregnancy and insisted that I must be chemically dependent and he called for a drug screen of my urine. They never did get a 24 hour bag of urine to test for protein. They did not find drugs. As it had been several hours and the blood pressure did not go down they decided to induce three weeks early. I got very nervous and anxious. The same "kind" doctor politely informed me that if I did not calm down that I would probably stroke out. That really "helped" calm the nerves. I called my Midwest family to tell them of the impending baby. This was about 7 pm Monday night, West coast time, 9 pm Midwest time. My mom immediately called an airline and switched her tickets from the end of the month to the red eye the next morning.

Meanwhile, the doctor softened my cervix and tried to prepare my body for labor. My mother and the Pitocin arrived at about the same time on Tuesday. Things began to progress and they kept informing me about the option of an epidural. Being the third child of six kids, my mom had told me more than once how miraculous an epidural was, so I didn't want to wait too long and miss my chance.

I decided around 6pm on Tuesday to go ahead and get the epidural. My nurse came in and said that as soon as she could send someone to be with me for the required hour after administration she would, but in the mean time would I like some drugs? Sure. At about 7pm they sent in the drugs. Around 8pm they finally sent in the anesthesiologist and the replacement nurse.

They sat me on the edge of the bed and had me lean into the nurse to expose my back. My mom and my aunt (the adoptive mother) were sitting in the room — my mom sleeping as it had been a long day. The next part of this is told to me by mom and aunt. As the doctor pushed the needle with the epidural all the way in, I slumped over into a coma. The nurse began to ask "Sweetie, can you just squeeze my hand?" My aunt told her that my name was Melodee, which woke my mom up and the nurse tried calling my name. I was unresponsive. The anesthesiologist told me later that he, with his 20 years experience, was so scared that it took all he could to write out his report of what happened without shaking.

They did what they could to wake me up for a couple of hours. My aunt and my mom remained calm, even to the point of singing worship songs in the room. The nurse reported later that it was the most calm room she had ever been in with a situation like that. Finally, around 10:30-11, the baby's heart rate started to decline. They made an emergency decision to give me a cesarean section. Also, as a precautionary measure, they intubated and anethsatized me. They rushed me into surgery and Carissa Eliana was born at 12:01 on Wed., Oct. 1, 2008. At three weeks early, she was a bit scrawny and her intial APGAR score was a 2. After a few minutes, however, she was a healthy 5-6 and they rushed her to the NICU. My aunt — her mom — got to be with her right away and was the first person to hold her.

I didn't wake up in the ICU until about 10 am on Oct. 1st. I was out of it most of that day. They moved me to the maternity ward on Friday and Carissa and I were out of the hospital on Sunday. My mom stayed with us for about a week. I had tickets to stay there for about a month.

It was easy to give my baby to my aunt — the baby was never mine. You see, I had decided really early on that this child wasn't mine. I was growing her for my Aunt and Uncle. I may have been the life giver, but they are the life sustainers.

It's been four years and I've still never once regretted my decision. I see her once in a while and my husband (who I started dating May 2008 and is not the father) is totally supportive of everything. I treat her like a niece. She knows I'm her birth mother and comprehends it about as much as any four-year-old. I'm happy, she's happy, my aunt's happy and even though we don't speak any more, my aunt tells me the birth father is happy too. Win-win.

  1. Very cool story! I had a baby for a close friend of mine in 2010. It's an amazing experience. I'm glad it was so positive for you!

    • The experience itself wasn't positive. It was really tough and there were a lot of really hard things to go through. I'm still holding onto a lot of things that happened during the pregnancy.
      The birth was crazy and I'm kind of a unique snow flake, because those things don't really happen to people.
      The outcome of the whole thing? That was wonderful. That is a great thing. I'm glad it happened for the sole reason that now my barren aunt has a super great daughter. I'm happy about that.

  2. This is really beautiful. I don't think there are any wrong answers when dealing with an unexpected pregnancy – it's such a tough situation. But your way of conceptualizing it as growing a child for your aunt and uncle is really powerful. When you and your husband decide to have your own kids (only saying this because it mentions it in your bio, not trying to presume), I'm sure you'll be an amazing mother.

  3. Thanks for sharing your story, and I'm glad everything worked out well for everyone! (Despite the scary medical bits, yikes!) And I love her name.

    Nitpick for the editors about the title, which confused me at first: your aunt's daughter is technically your cousin, not your niece. (Though it makes sense, as the author says, that they have an "auntie/niece" type relationship given the generation difference.)

    • Yep, word choice was intentional & made based on how the author describes their relationship. Kind of like when people have sisters who are really cousins… I think the way she describes their relationship is more important. 🙂

  4. I was growing her for my Aunt and Uncle. I may have been the life giver, but they are the life sustainers.

    WOW!!

    • This was a statement I found on an adoption site that helped me a lot. I don't remember which one. I wasn't the originator of this quote, but I totally loved it also. It helped keep a lot of things in perspective for me.

  5. A very inspiring post.

    My son was also born with an APGAR of 2, and spent some time in the NICU. It's amazing how resilient babies — and their parents/carers/family members — can be.

  6. Wait, the epidural made Melodee **lose consciousness for hours** and the medical staff just… waited it out?? Can anyone with obstetric experience comment on that? It seems utterly bizarre to this well-read but not-a-medical-expert person.

    Melodee, I'm so glad you were able to find a solution to your unplanned pregnancy that you were happy with. It sounds like your aunt and uncle are great parents.

    • Yeah, I was wondering about that too. It definitely sounds like she was in a coma for several hours without anyone really doing anything about it…? But, then, I'm guessing there are probably a lot of details left out, considering that the author wasn't conscious during that portion of the story (obviously). Definitely confused me, though!

      • FWIW I did a quick Google on the topic and was only able to find case reports with discussions like "A non‐sedated parturient given an intrathecal local anaesthetic injection should never lose consciousness." Yikes.

      • As an obstetric anesthesiologist, I don't know what happened. I can make guesses, but most of these would end in stat cesarean deliveries, not waiting it out. I'm wondering if she just fainted, or even had a seizure, and doesn't remember the next few hours because of the IV medicine she had received.

        • I replied below. I know the information I relayed, because my mom and my aunt told me. It is exactly as I reported. Both of them have read it and neither have said I told it wrong.

    • Hi Qob, (and all of you other posters)
      They didn't exactly wait it out.
      "They did what they could to wake me up for a couple of hours."
      They tried several different methods for waking me up. There were several doctors constantly coming in and out of the room. The thing that was curious was that in no way was I actually in harm. I mean, my blood pressure and heart rate were normal, my brain activity was fine, everything seemed perfectly normal except for the fact that I wasn't waking up. So they monitored me on top of smelling salts, and drugs to wake me up, in the hope that I would come out of it on my own.
      When I obviously wasn't going to and the baby was in danger was when they took emergency medical action. Why would they before hand? If neither of us were in danger it was a smarter decision to just wait and see. Once something did happen, they immediately jumped into action to take care of the situation.
      I know that isn't exactly the answer you were looking for. But it isn't as if my mom and aunt were running around the hallways looking for someone to help. There were two on call doctors in the room, an anesthesiologist and at least one if not two nurses. They were doing what they could.
      Hope that helps. 🙂 -Melodee

      • Also, they weren't sure it was the epidural itself. That is just the thing that happened right before I went unconscious. I could have had Eclampsia. It could have been the mixture of drugs in my system. It could have been the trending high blood pressure for several days taking it's toll on my system. Or it could have been the epidural. The point was that they weren't sure, so they waited because everything was uncertain.

        • Thanks for responding. It just seemed like a very scary thing to happen and the way you told the story was so calm, I thought I had to be missing something!

          Glad you were ok in the end.

          • I guess it was scary?? I was unconscious so I wasn't scared. lol. 🙂 My mom and my aunt were pretty scared but are both very very calm people so they were just waiting it out. I double checked my facts with aunt and the only part I have a little bit wrong is the waking up bits.
            After the c-section where they had anesthetized me (just in case), they gave me more drugs just in case I woke up panicky and trying to take out the breathing tube. They said was coming out of my "semi-coma-tose" state around 8 am instead of 10 like I thought, but I don't think I really fully woke up until 10.
            When my mom called my dad in the midwest (who hadn't heard anything since 9 the night before) and told him I was in a that state, he immediately called everybody he has ever known to pray for me. He freaked out. My poor daddy.
            However, it all turned out fine.
            Sarah, (below this one) my aunt was convinced it was Eclampsia too, but they never officially diagnosed me because it was a really weird reaction.

        • Yep, not an OB but someone with greater than average knowledge of birthing due to the research I do: eclampsia can trigger coma. High blood pressure is one of the key symptoms of eclampsia. It may have been coincidence or the epidural might have been the straw that broke the camel's back in an already stressed body (not judging about the epidural, just looking at it from a multiple stressors perspective – many medical procedures could have been that last trigger). Glad you're okay and everything worked out in the end! Your perspective on being a birth mother is very similar to a close friend of mine's.

  7. "I had just engaged in my first act of sexual intercourse, we didn't use protection and I had no idea where I was on my cycle."

    – how does this equate to "conceiving magically"? Seems pretty nuts and bolts to me!

    Beautiful, scary story! Your niece is gorgeous.

  8. This is a beautiful and inspiring story, Melodee. While this is an interesting account of your birthing/labor, though, that's not what interested me about your unique situation being the birth mother of your niece. What I would have liked to hear more of is the struggles you may have had emotionally during the pregnancy and early months of postpartum.

    You said in a comment "It was really tough and there were a lot of really hard things to go through. I'm still holding onto a lot of things that happened during the pregnancy." This is what I'd like to hear more about in your story… when I read the title of this post I was thinking of what an incredible sacrifice it had to have been; what a selfless, generous and difficult thing you did, and really would love to hear more about your experience deciding this, your aunt & uncle's reaction, the birth father's reaction, the conversations you had about it, the struggles, the resolutions… there is so much more to it than the labor experience and I feel like you just barely scratched the surface when touching upon the other elements of giving up your daughter for adoption to your aunt & uncle.

    Thank you for sharing & I hope to hear more.

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