April 4. That is the date that is written everywhere and that I’ve written dozens of times. He will too. That’s not the date I remember though. April 12. That’s the date etched in my heart.
April 4, 2010. I remember a clear blue sky and a day of photos, smiles and family. Photos of our 3-year-old daughter hunting Easter eggs in my brother-in-law’s front yard. Some high. Some low. Each with a treat inside. Photos of me with bunny ears perched on my head awaiting our turn to visit the furry white rabbit in the garden gazebo. Photos of the Easter feast soon to fill our round bellies. That is what I remember.
April 4, 2010. Elsewhere, another round belly was the focus of the day. The round belly of a young mother about to give birth. She was young, excited and scared. Her plans were made. She knew what she needed to do, difficult though it may be. This child would arrive. Today. The two parents she’d chosen for him were there. Waiting. Parents she’s chosen three months before. She loved him. More than breath. She could not provide for him though. Such a difficult day. Afternoon came and brought this gift to the sunlight for his first breaths. He was perfect. Ten little fingers. Ten little toes.
As the afternoon turned to evening, plans shifted, jilted and crumbled. The young mother drew a deep breathe and did again what she knew was right. She sent the couple home. They were not the right parents for this special child. She felt lost, confused, afraid. A new plan was created to bring him home and find a new family. Somehow. One day. Two views. Two views that were about to become one. We had no idea.
April 10. The phone call. It was Saturday and I was happily chatting about play and its power with parents of special needs children at my Discovery Toys booth in Fort Wayne. A vibration in my pocket alerted me to the call. As the screen turned to view and I saw “Adoption Agency” on the screen, my heart stopped. It had been a wait of 13 months for our second child. I surely had not expected the phone to ring that day. But it did. It did!! Oh. Oh? Oh! I sought a corner of quiet and the social worker explained the situation. Yes. Yes. Okay. Uh huh.
The next few hours were a blur of phone calls, hand me down clothes gifted by a team member who happened to have them in her car, excited hugs from a nearby vendor now a forever friend bonded in this special shared moment. A boy though? I had been so sure we’d have two girls. Lily and I had talked for months about her sister, Jasmine, and what life would be like when she arrived. A boy? I thought surely this match was not the right one. What if it was?
April 12. Two long days later, we made the two hour drive to her home. A million thoughts go through your mind. What do we say? What do we do? What will she think? What will we think? A boy? Really? We didn’t have a name. There are no boy plant names. Cedar? Oak? Maple? Family names? Nicholas. Yes. IF this was a match, he would be named Nicholas after his great-great-grandfather.
We arrived at the small house. Later we would learn it was home to this special young mother, her grandmother and her four brothers. The house and it’s tenants were clearly carefully cared for. A knock on the front door was quickly answered by our social worker. She was there with her huge, beautiful, sad brown eyes. Eyes that he got from her. Her grandmother lovingly by her side. He was there, snuggled in a small bassinet dozing in the patch of sunlight from the front window.
For three hours, conversation somehow flowed smoothly. I wish I remembered more of what was said. So many emotions tangled up inside. Disbelief that we might really become parents again after such a long wait. Excitement. Sadness for the reality of the situation. Tenderness. Respect. Patience. Impatience. Indescribable. “I’ll go check his laundry,” she said and excused herself to the basement.
Thirty minutes went by. “Should someone go check on her?” I asked. Her grandmother went and soon returned with her.
A few minutes more of unremembered words and then the words I’ll always remember. “I want you to be his parents,” she said. I know I can never fully understand the courage of a birthmother to decide such things. The weight on her heart must be enormous and yet perhaps some relief as well. There in her living room, we hugged her and cried together. The attorney was called and we left. We perched at an Arby’s table. Waiting. Waiting. Then the call asking us to return.
This is no rule book written for how to feel and what to do in adoption. There isn’t. Arriving back at her home to pick up her son who was now ours as well was so difficult. Our prayer was to be respectful and loving as we knew not what else to do. She was sitting at the kitchen table holding him. She was rocking gently back and forth, whispering to him, telling him how much she loved him, telling him how much she hoped that one day he would understand. Tears from those brown eyes splashed and disappeared one by one into his fuzzy blue blanket.
As much as the memories of that day are fuzzy in parts, others are crystal clear. What happened next is one of them. This young mother who had been through so much. Whose heart was breaking. This young mother stopped rocking. Took a deep, slow breath in. She whispered, “ok,” stood up and turned to me. Those big brown eyes looked at mine and said, “He’s your son now.” Wow. I will forever admire her and love her with a depth that is hard to explain. The love and courage of a birthmother is incredible. Absolutely incredible. We are so thankful to have her in our lives and so thankful for our son! She trusted us to keep our promise of an open adoption and we have loved watching her grow as he has as well. We’ve learned that open adoption does not take away the painful side of adoption but we pray that it has helped lessen it.
April 12. That day? That’s the one I remember as the first day we first met Nicholas.