When the call came, I knew she either had a baby for us or a possible baby. Caseworkers are allowed to submit our profiles without asking us for anything we have said “yes” to, but they have to call and give us the details for things we are “willing to consider.”
I can’t give too much of the personal details of my son’s story for several reasons:
- It’s his story to tell when and how he chooses, and I won’t steal that from him. The internet is forever.
- Parts of his story are unique and would be identifying for anyone who might be looking for him, so for his safety and our family’s safety those will not be shared. It is also the reason I will write this anonymously.
That said, our caseworker had a little boy with a chronic illness that she wanted to know if we would consider. There had been neglect and possibly some abuse. He was safe now, but couldn’t stay with his caregivers so they were placing him. She asked me to research it, talk to people, and let her know soon. They had to submit profiles in a couple days. So I spent the next three days on the phone and getting an internet degree in his illness. I called several pediatricians, my mentor who is a nurse, my best friend who is a nurse, my sister-in-law, and then my husband, and I prayed HARD. If we said yes it meant daily care for a lifetime, probably a short lifespan for him, financial commitment for healthcare, and whatever unknowns yet uncovered.
In the end, none of that mattered. We knew we had to say yes. We had peace about it. We were uncertain about what the future would look like and how our lives would change, but we had peace. There is nothing like the peace from God because joy always follows, and so we submitted our profile. Two days later there was that caseworker’s name on my phone again and there was the sick feeling too. I answered and she said the words that changed our everything forever, “They picked you.” She also said they were coming. To Memphis. In two days. To meet us. Holy moly.
Two days later I bought a Thomas the Train toy and drove with my family to the Chick-fil-A on Poplar and walked into a room where the cutest little boy in sunglasses was sitting at a table munching on some nuggets. He looked just like our other kids. To this day, you wouldn’t be able to pick out which of these is not like the others. We chatted and laughed. I played with him, and my kids met him and played, and it was crazy and surreal. We agreed to go to the zoo the next day together. At the zoo we got down to business. If we wanted to pursue it, they were on board, but they weren’t going to sugar coat it. The told us as much as they could about his daily care, what challenges they had faced, the shortcomings they knew he had experienced in his care, and what doctors said about him. We knew it would be hard but definitely possible. The ride home was quiet. The kids were tired, and we were thinking.
I cried when I got home. This was way harder than I had imagined. For the last four years I had expected a baby. Even though we said we were open to an older child, that almost never happens in private adoptions. It’s extremely rare that someone VOLUNTARILY places an older child. We had lots of friends who had adopted while we were waiting, all healthy infants. I was sad for this child and honestly a little sad for me and us. I knew this was going to change everything for all of our family and our future – including our biological kids and their future – and I felt a great responsibility for that. But we knew it was right. This little boy filled that longing that God had placed in us so long ago.When we thought of what our future might look like with him, it seemed exceedingly difficult and scary, but when we thought of our future without him – now that we had touched him and smelled him and tickled him – it seemed impossible. So we said yes.
We had to travel to get him from another state and I will spare you the details, but that is no joke. There are lots of hoops to jump through in order to bring home a child out of state, and rightfully so; protecting children is definitely important. One of the most notable issues is the unexpected cost of having to stay in another state for a minimum of 10 days while paperwork gets done. Our community stepped up, and we had everything we needed at very little cost to us. We learned how to care for him, made pages of notes, met with his current doctors, set up appointments for when we got home, and soaked in all the information we could from his caregivers about his early life. It’s such a strange thing to not know some of the most basic things about your child. How much did he weigh at birth? When did he crawl? When did he walk? First tooth? Vaccinations? Favorite food? Nightly routine? Favorite TV show? Does he sleep with a lovey? So many things to remember to ask. And then we were on our own. We drove away, and they let us have this child for forever.
Bringing him home was even more difficult than I could have imagined. Food was hard. That’s all I can say: food was hard. It still is, honestly. Lots of things still are. We depended so much on God to fill us with love for him as we coaxed him and soothed him, as we tried to understand him and care for him. If you met him today you would never guess what a difficult time we had at first. He’s a great kid, and he wins the heart of almost everyone he meets. We are so proud of him.
Adoption is beautiful, but it is beauty from ashes. It is restoration, but that means brokenness happened first. It is difficult, and wonderful, and hard, and messy, and so very good. Children need families and people need to be stretched and asked to love big even when its hard or they don’t feel like it, because when love is a choice and not a feeling it is incredibly powerful.
We are not done being stretched by adoption. He is such a joyful kid, and he is talented and gifted in so many ways. We enjoy him and love him. He’s our son, brother, grandchild, cousin, nephew, etc. That doesn’t mean the hard days are gone though. The residual effects of his early years, the confusion over what adoption means and why it happened to him, the anger he is likely to experience as he grows older and learns more about his illness and its implications for his life, all affect us sometimes. Some of those we see daily as part of our routine, others come like tidal waves that knock you over unexpectedly, but even with all of that we would do it again. His is a life worth living, and we are so glad we get to be around for it. He was always our son, it just took a while to find him.
Research tells us that over 1/3 of Americans consider adoption but no more than 2% actually end up adopting (Jahng, Kenny. “Adoption Awareness: 10 Facts about Adoption That Will Surprise You.” The Adoption Journey. June 17, 2012). Much of that is because of the financial cost, which I didn’t even talk about. We are not wealthy people and could not have afforded this adoption, but people show up to help children find homes, and having a village for our family made this possible. I always tell the truth about our adoption, because life is not a Hallmark movie. People are messy and kids are even messier. If someone is considering adoption, they should know that just like with biological kids, it will be harder than you expected and also more wonderful than you knew possible. And totally worth it.