Pediatrician Dr. Amy Lumeng was all set to become a mother, just not right at that moment.
"I told them I was at work," Lumeng says, chuckling. "I asked if we could do it after I got off."
Not a problem, the Hawaii Child Welfare Services worker said. Baby can wait a few hours.
Depending on how you looked at it, Lumeng and her daughter-to-be were either a perfect match or proof that the universe has an odd sense of humor.
Lumeng, 39, comes from an extremely close-knit family. Her father is a successful physician, and her mother was a nurse before retiring as a Liberty House employee. The fifth of five daughters, Lumeng found the hardest part about being away at medical school was calling home and hearing the rest of the family chowing down at Zippy’s.
Baby M (Lumeng asked that her real name be withheld) didn’t get to know her biological parents very well. She spent the first months of her life addicted to narcotics thanks to the illegal drugs to which she was exposed while in the womb.
"She was in the neonatal unit to manage her withdrawal," Lumeng said. "For the first couple of months, she had to have morphine injections every four hours until she could be slowly weaned off of it."
Lumeng figures it was meant to be. As a pediatrician, she was more than equipped to handle Baby M’s medical needs. And Baby M, all giggles and smiles, fit right in with the Lumeng clan.
Lumeng had started the process of getting licensed to become a foster parent two years earlier. Through her practice, she had worked closely with Child Welfare Services and was acutely aware of the number of children who were in need of a loving, if temporary, home.
When Lumeng first took Baby M home, she figured it was a temporary arrangement. The child’s mother was attempting rehab and was interested in regaining custody.
"I just considered myself a member of a team that was striving to act in the child’s best interest," she said. "I felt it was my job to provide her a good home until her parent or some other relative came for her."
But a year passed, and Baby M’s family situation didn’t improve. She needed a permanent home, and Lumeng was all too happy to provide it.
Despite her rough beginning, Little M (she’s no baby anymore) is now a healthy, happy 2-year-old. She likes watching "Little Einsteins," loves dressing like a princess and loves hanging out at the beach with relatives.
Lumeng says she’s humbled by the love and support she’s received from family and friends — even patients — and awed by how much help she’s received from her social workers. Mostly she’s stone crazy about her little girl.
"I love being with her," she says. "I feel so blessed, and I enjoy every day we have together."
Reach Michael Tsai at firstname.lastname@example.org.