November is National Adoption Awareness Month and Prematurity Awareness Month. We asked Adam and Jennifer Bess, parents of a premature adopted baby, to share their touching story. Find out how they struggled to adopt and fatefully found their daughter, Hannah Rose.
Our adoption journey started in 2011 with an international search from the country of Russia. After waiting nearly two years for a match, we (along with thousands of other adoptive families) heard the devastating news that Russia’s government passed a law to ban all Americans from adopting their orphans. Throughout the beginning of 2013, we struggled to begin a brand new adoption plan as we processed the heartbreak that accompanies adoption loss. Little did we know that through our toughest and most challenging days, Hannah Rose was preparing to make her surprise entrance into our lives.
Just one month after we finished adoption paperwork with a local attorney, our social worker called to say we were matched. We arranged to meet the birth parents, and the first thing they said to us was “We feel like God wants us to bless you with this baby.”
There is nothing more incredible than finally experiencing joy after such a long and difficult road. We left the meeting feeling excited about this baby due in November. Later that same day, Hannah’s birth mother went into pre-term labor and was transported by ambulance to UF Health Shands Hospital from her local hospital. Three weeks passed with successful bed rest—until Hannah decided she was ready to enter the world on Sept. 8, at just 28 weeks gestation.
The team of physicians whisked her away and immediately began working on our 2-pound, 11-ounce baby girl. To the astonishment of many, Hannah was breathing on her own by the time we were able to visit her in the Level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). In response to how well Hannah was doing in those first days, one of her nurses said, “This just doesn’t happen.”
From that first night onward, Hannah continues to amaze everyone she meets. After 11 days at UF Health Shands Hospital, Dr. Kavisha Shah was able to support our transfer request to a NICU closer to our home in Tampa. We met Hannah at Tampa General Hospital (TGH) after her transport team taught her the “gator chomp” on the drive down Interstate 75. Once the TGH team swooped into her room to make their assessment, we heard things like “What did they do at UF Health Shands to make this baby so healthy?” and “Is she really a 28-weeker?”
Our feisty little girl continued to progress rapidly during her time at TGH, spending a total of 45 days in NICU hospital care. At 34 weeks, we brought her home at a healthy 4 pounds, 13 ounces.
The fact that Hannah was even born at UF Health is another amazing twist to our story. We began our married life in Gainesville while Jennifer completed graduate school and worked in a research lab at the University of Florida. One summer evening just before moving to Tampa, we sat in the bleachers at The Swamp watching the sun set. Then and there we decided that we wanted to become parents through adoption. While we could have never imagined the winding road that would follow, we are glad that it led us right back to where we started.
The name “Hannah” means “God has favored me,” and we truly believe this tiny little girl will do big things in her life. We are blessed to be her parents and thankful to the entire UF Health Shands and TGH teams for their incredible care of our daughter.
-Adam and Jennifer Bess