The trip to the store for diapers and baby formula should have been a five-minute errand, but Edie McGee stretched out the drive, reveling in the freedom to go past her driveway.
It was McGee's first chance to get out of her Millersville house in two weeks -- since the Anne Arundel County Health Department quarantined her with a suspected case of severe acute respiratory syndrome.
McGee, one of five such cases monitored in Maryland, developed a fever and had trouble breathing shortly after she and her husband returned from adopting a 14-month-old girl in southern China -- where the SARS epidemic originated.
Her husband, Kevin, and little Madeline were isolated with her at home for three days, but they didn't develop any symptoms. Doctors cannot say for sure whether Edie McGee, 45, ever had SARS but say now she is completely recovered from her illness. And at 4 p.m. Monday, a county nurse called to tell her she was free to go wherever she wanted.
"I was like, wow, the azaleas are in bloom," McGee said in an interview yesterday, describing her first moments out of quarantine. "I've missed spring."
Still, McGee said any illness she may have picked up China was worth enduring for what else she brought home.
Madeline, who at first cried for hours after the McGees picked her up in China, has learned her first English words -- Mama and Daddy. The dimpled little girl they had known for weeks only through photographs now blankets the living room with her toys and shares her graham crackers with the family dog.
As a mother, "you'll move heaven and Earth," Edie McGee said. "Once you have that photo, there's a hook on your heart. There's no way you can't go."
McGee, who had declined to give her name while in quarantine, said she wanted to go public now to take some of the stigma out of being suspected of having SARS. While her relatives have been supportive -- they dropped off groceries on her doorstep during her quarantine -- she learned of hurtful comments they endured.
Some people who worked with her brother, an airline pilot, were skittish about flying with him, even though he had been cleared by his supervisors and health authorities. A few people asked her relatives, "Is it safe to be around you?"
Anne Arundel authorities questioned the McGees' relatives about their health but said there was no need to probe into the family's casual contacts unless she grew sicker. There have been no SARS-related deaths reported in the United States.
Even though few prospective parents have canceled trips to China, the spread of SARS there has slowed adoptions in the past few weeks. Travel services in the country have been disrupted, and tens of thousands of people are under quarantine. The China Center of Adoption Affairs, the central agency in Beijing that handles all the adoption paperwork for Chinese children, closed for two weeks and just reopened Tuesday, according to its Web site.
A U.S. State Department spokesman said this week that the number of visas processed for adopted Chinese children has dropped about 60 percent.
The McGees, whose adoption was handled by America-World Adoption Association, had invested more than $17,000 and nearly two years into becoming parents. Edie McGee said she had already lost a child in a miscarriage, and she wasn't about to lose another over fear of SARS.
She called the quarantine "mildly inconvenient" and joked about how it changed her outlook on simple errands. She was allowed to go just outside the yard, as long as none of her neighbors was out.
Yesterday, McGee spent the afternoon shopping with Madeline to find Mother's Day gifts for her daughter's new grandmothers.