I had faith we would get to this point, and here we are. All by God’s grace.
It has been oh so sweet. And oh so difficult.
Three hundred and sixty five days ago Adam and I unpacked our car after a week at the Cape. Sand still between our toes and sunscreen residue on our skin. We ate our Nardelli’s sandwiches, surrounded by beach chairs and suitcases on our kitchen floor. I lifted our empty plates from the table to place in the sink and my phone rang. I knew by the ringtone that it was our case worker. I knew before we even said “hello” that our lives were about to change.
Pictures by my sister, Cassandra, at Cassandra Madeline.
A two and a half year old boy. African American. Can you be ready in four hours?
Time stood still. The shock of that short six minute phone call momentarily paralyzed me. I wanted to give in to it, but I knew there wasn’t time. This was the real deal and we needed to move. Fast.
Unpack as quickly as possible. Install our extra air conditioner in his bedroom. Shower. Race to Target and get him some clothes, toys, a baby monitor, diapers, and snacks. Sizes were a complete guessing game for us. We called immediate family on our way to the store and we missed our exit. I texted friends to pray and asked for advice on what to buy.
Bubbles. Bouncy balls. The video monitor I swore we would never spend money on, but now “we don’t know what an active toddler is capable of.” Sold (and we’ve never regretted it). A Batman hoodie. Cargo shorts. Goldfish. Applesauce.
We arrived home with maybe 30 minutes to spare. Making the tacos I had planned for, pre phone call, was not even a blip on our radar. I may have grabbed a granola bar and I remember telling myself “Breathe deep. Just do the next thing.”
At around 6:30pm a white car pulled into our driveway and two women stepped out. I was too scared to look and could only muster up quick peeks out our living room window as I asked Adam for the play-by-play. We waited for the first glance of our new son’s face and uttered prayers out loud, mostly “Jesus help us!”
The next hour or so was a complete blur. He was sleeping in the car and needed some time to be woken up and brought in. One of the case workers waited with us inside. After a few minutes he was semi-carried to the door in an almost business-like manner. It still makes me cringe to think about. He arrived with a few plastic bags of clothes and toys, including an outfit he had thrown up on earlier that day. Some of the things he had were brand new and likely a care package from the family he was with for two days prior to us. That’s what I remember about his entrance through our front door and into our family.
He played with toys and jumped off our ottomans while Adam and I signed a mountain of paperwork. A smell filled the room that indicated his diaper needed to be changed. We hardly remember a word that was spoken to us that evening. One of the case workers called his birthparents on the phone and they said goodnight and “I love you” to each other. He is so very loved by his birthparents.
It was getting late and we asked the case workers about his bedtime. We were given shrugs and told “maybe 9pm?” We’ll just figure it out, I guess.
Then, they left. We were all alone. Now what? Let’s give him a bath. That may help calm him if he’s scared. I’ve never bathed a child before, but we figured it out (and were glad we bought a rubber ducky at Target earlier that day).
After his bath we gave him some goldfish crackers and watched an episode of Jake and the Neverland Pirates. At that point it was the only kids TV show I had heard of. I fumbled into our Netflix account, hands still shaking from the shock of the day, trying to add it to our list.
Bedtime was hard. We assumed he was sleeping in a crib because no one told us otherwise (actually, no one told us much of anything). We found out many months later, after we had transitioned him to a twin bed, that he had never slept in a crib before. He was probably terrified being in a “cage.” After about three hours he finally dozed off. Adam and I were up most of the night watching him sleep on our new video monitor.
Life has never been the same since July 21, 2014, and it never will be again. We are forever ruined, in the best possible way, by this little man.
Today, one year later, we are home from another week at the Cape. This time with our little J in tow. We got home last night with a car full of plastic beach toys, a deflated orca whale, and countless sweet memories.
First three pictures by my mom, Karen, at Ground to Grow On Photography
We traded quiet road trips for stops on the side of the road to “use the facility.”
We sacrificed peaceful days on the beach reading, for digging in the sand making “cement” for creative factory operations.
We gave up exclusively tending to ourselves, to make sure baby skin was covered in SPF and sleep wasn’t sacrificed too much for watching sunsets over the bay and going out for ice cream.
It is all worth it. Every difficult moment of the past year was, and is, tremendously worth it.
This boy is a treasure. A true gift from the kind and generous heart of God. He is astoundingly valuable and worthy of love and care and all the complexities that go with adopting from foster care. I can’t imagine life without him, and it’s hard to imagine life before him anymore.
Our culture says these kids aren’t worth it. They’re too “damaged” and “troubled.” Or that it’s not worth the hassle to work with the broken state agency. One person said to me that J’s birth mother should have been sterilized. I’m certain some would say that he should have been aborted and his parts sold for a cheap profit.
By God’s astounding and abundant grace, He gave little J life. A life that has hope and a purpose. A life that has experienced an immense amount of healing and maturity over the past 365 days. A life that is precious to Adam and I, our families, his birth family, and those who have met him.
His life is not a mistake. He is an absolute joy, a priceless treasure, and is worth fighting for every single day.