It was Thanksgiving morning. I was getting ready for our family’s meal while the water on my stove simmered.

My phone started to ring; it was our social worker from the adoption agency. Only a week prior had she called us to give us the good news that a prospective birth mother had chosen our family to adopt her baby girl due in mid-February. A smile spread across my face as I went to answer her call, assuming greetings and wishes for a happy Thanksgiving would be her intent.

As soon as I said, “Hello,” I would realize this phone call conveyed so much more than well wishes.

“She’s having contractions,” our social worker declared.

In that moment, I didn’t know whether to be excited or scared, but I felt like she could hear my heart beating through the phone and knew the lump in my throat prevented words from escaping my mouth.

Twelve weeks. The prospective birth mother had gone into labor 12 weeks early, and she was 1,000 miles away. We learned quickly that the plans we had made for travel, lodging, and even meeting the prospective birth mother were dismissed in an instant — but the fact still remained that we had a baby ready to enter the world, very early.

After discussing everything with my husband and waiting patiently for the social worker to call us again after she made it to the hospital, we knew we had to begin making new arrangements and contacting our family with the news. The social worker assured us that the best thing to do was to wait to hear news of the baby’s safe arrival and to receive information from the hospital NICU.

Because our daughter was born so early, we were certain that an extended NICU stay was inevitable. However, we were uncertain of any difficulties she would face from her premature arrival.

We had two older daughters at home and started making arrangements for them to stay with grandparents for as long as they needed care. My husband and I decided that we would both travel to meet our newest daughter together. Then, he would come home, while I stayed to better understand what we needed to do and to coordinate with the NICU, adoption agency, and social worker on the best outcome for our entire family.

When our social worker asked us to be patient that first day that our daughter was born, I felt like a terrible mother leaving her there without someone’s care. However, those first three days we remained home were some of the most important to help us prepare for the unknown number of weeks and the crazy journey ahead. With the help of my husband, the adoption agency, and social media, we began looking for flights, places to stay, ways to rent a car, and even information about the hospital where we would be spending so much time.

The next two months were not what we had planned at all when we were matched with the prospective birth mother. But we learned some very valuable lessons in our attempts to figure it all out.

1. Familiarize yourself with the area and the hospital where your baby will be born, especially if it is not local.

We had researched the city and the hospital, and we asked friends and social media to help us when the time came. This gave us a degree of flexibility as our plans changed.

2. Even before the baby’s due date, have an idea on how you will travel to the hospital once he/she is born.

Even though we only had a week to think about plans before our daughter was born, we immediately started searching flight options, where we would fly to and from, and the estimated cost of tickets. My husband was relieved to know that we had a couple options for airports and flight times, so we weren’t scurrying trying to figure it out at the last minute.

3. Discuss some of your plans with family or friends.

My parents were already aware that whenever our daughter was born, they would be the caretakers of our older daughters while we were away. We knew we would call them as soon as the time came, and because they knew details of some of our other plans, they were able to help us stay calm through the altering plans.

4. Use social media for any help.

We were able to find places to stay, new people to meet, churches who offered support, restaurants to eat at, and so much more as soon as we asked our online friends for help. The extent of that help was astounding.

5. Ask what the prospective birth mother wants/needs.

Because of the premature delivery, we hadn’t been able to meet the prospective birth mother before she went into labor, but our original plan included reaching out to her as we began this journey. We asked our social worker to communicate anything from the prospective birth mother regarding meeting us, any needs she might have while staying in the hospital, or seeing her baby in the NICU.

We were able to coordinate our flight so that we arrived at the hospital before she was discharged. That time is one we will never forget.

6. Be patient and understanding.

If you’ve lived long enough, you know that one thing can be certain: change. Our best-laid plans can change in an instant because life happens. A million different things can alter what we expect, especially when waiting on the birth of a baby.

We learned to show compassion to the adoption professionals, the birth mother, our social worker, NICU staff, and even rental car employees — because we coveted everyone’s patience with us as we navigated this new journey.

We would have gone crazy if we hadn’t given and received the grace to just keep going.

Jill is a 34-year-old wife and mom. She has been married to her husband, Brannon, for 10 years and has three daughters; her newest addition was added to her family through adoption. Jill and her husband were in the adoption process for over 900 days before being matched with a birth mother. When they received the call that their baby girl was born, she was 1,000 miles away and three months early. Now she is thriving and home with her Mom, Dad, and two very excited and loving big sisters. Jill lives in a small community in Kentucky. She has her bachelor’s degree in psychology and Spanish and obtained her master’s degree in Christian Ministries. Jill’s passions are her faith, her family, writing, playing sports and eating good food.