2007 was a really tough year for our family. We had two failed adoptions, one in January and another later that same summer. I’ll blog more about those another day, I want to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel that year. I wouldn’t be exaggerating when I say that we were at our limit. We felt emotionally and spiritually stripped and beaten. Not to mention that we were quite literally financially destitute. We were clinging by a thread in every way imaginable and by November of that year the depression seemed unbearable. It was as if for a time all hope of expanding our family had been smothered by the harsh realities of life.
During this timeframe I was obsessed with adoption. I went through a phase when I could think of nothing else. I was determined to somehow find a baby we could adopt. I would spend hours a day searching sites, running from agency to agency, and generally driving myself nuts with the mix of depression and fixation. I shied away from my friends, on the days I wasn’t meeting with agencies I would keep the blinds closed and sit in the dark for hours at a time. I was either a frenzy of action or a serious bump on the log. Right or wrong Sean was my life line and main source of comfort during this time. You can’t allow yourself to fully fall off the cliff when you are caring for another person. Sean was such a blessing; he kept us laughing, hoping, and generally pushing on. I would do anything for him, even when it meant remaining sane in a situation that I felt anything but sane about.
We had been approached by the main agency we were working with twice during this time with potential situations which, although painful, we had to turn away. The first was because we simply did not have the money that it required. The second was more painful. We were presented with the details and something just didn’t feel right. They gave us a few days to think things over. Many nights were spent on my knees pleading with the Lord to make it feel right. We all know how that goes, right? It doesn’t really work when we try to tell Heavenly Father what his will should be for us. I knew this but I tried anyway, so desperate was I for another child. Alas, the answer remained no and Greg and I decided to trust that answer no matter how excruciating. So I called the agency and said that we would pass this time but not to give up on us. I lay on the floor after that phone call and poured my heart out in prayer asking for understanding and strength. I look back on those tear filled hours and days and know that the only way I survived was because of my faith in God and his timing.
Thanksgiving came and went and I decided to take a break from all things adoption in order to enjoy the Holidays. I just couldn’t face it anymore and I knew I needed to either let it go or end up in a padded cell. I wanted Sean to have a more balanced and happy mamma. So I picked myself up, brushed myself off, put on some mascara and relieved myself of that heavy burden for a time. It was during this hiatus that we got a call around 8 pm on a night late in November. I had put my pajamas on and was snuggling on the couch with Sean when the phone rang. It was the adoption agency and immediately my heart stopped beating. These phone calls were a mixture of joy and apprehension. Would they offer us something that we would have to turn away or would this be it?!? Greg took the call and I watched anxiously hanging on every word trying to read any clues I could glean from his expression. He let them do most of the talking so I couldn’t tell from his side of the conversation what the specific details might be. He was furiously writing things down and the mumbled, “Ah huh’s,” and “Yes, ok’s,” were killing me! He finally hung up and I said, “WELLLLLL??????”
He smiled and I could tell the adrenaline was pumping through him just as much as me, we were both shaking wildly. “There is a little boy being born tomorrow in California and we have about 10 minutes to decide whether or not we want him.” At these words my soul literally jumped. I know it was God prompting me that this was our baby. Still, despite that immediate rush of surety, I knew the money was going to be an issue. We could barely afford gas and groceries at this point because of the previous failed adoptions. I did what any girl would do in this situation. I called my Dad. Forever and always my hero he said, “I’ll loan you the money at a reduced interest rate. I’ll pull it out of my retirement investments and we’ll invest in your family instead. Do it.” Crying, shaking, and with a strangle hold on our faith, we called the agency back and said, “YES!”
Greg stayed on the phone to set up the meeting details with the agency for later that evening while I ran around the house like a crazy woman trying to get dressed and calm myself. I was shaking so terribly I could hardly get my pants buttoned. I didn’t dare attempt any makeup sure that I was going to poke my eyes out and end up with lipstick in my hair. We were told that we would need to board a plane as early as possible the next morning so my Mom rushed over to help us get things together. We hustled off to our meeting and returned home much later that evening our arms full of papers with a long list of to do’s and our hearts so light we were floating. I spent that entire night making travel arrangements and trying to gather myself long enough to pack. I would go back and forth between the medicine cabinet and my dresser aimlessly wandering. I can remember getting frustrated at one point trying to find my underwear mumbling under my breath until I realized I was in the kitchen looking under the sink. Because that’s where I keep my underwear… yep, can you say excited and stressed?
When you adopt from another state there is red tape and government coordination that would make any person pull their hair out. The first thing you learn is that you cannot leave the state where the baby was born until the state where you reside and the state of birth are in agreement. If you leave without their permission, even if the adoption papers have been signed, it is considered kidnapping; a federal offence. What the two states have to “agree upon”, we never did really find out, I don’t know if anyone but the adoption lawyers really understand that one. In short, this meant that in putting together our travel plans I had no idea how long we’d be in California. This process can take anywhere from a week to two months and it is left open-ended. So I packed as little as I thought we could get away with while traveling with Sean who was almost 3. After a harried night of looking under the kitchen sink for my underwear and without a wink of sleep whatsoever, we drove to the airport well before the crack of dawn.
We landed in California at noon. We drove straight to the hospital where we met our little Alex. One look and we fell head over heals in love. I can remember staring at him through the nursery glass afraid to look away for fear that I’d wake up from this blissful dream. The next few days in the hospital were rough. As adoptive parents you have absolutely no rights until the adoption papers have been signed. You can only see the baby with the permission of the birth mother. There was nowhere for us to be. We were told to stay at the hospital but there are no waiting rooms for adoptive parents where you can hold your baby in privacy, and you certainly can’t sit in the birth mother’s hospital room. Can you say, “Awkward!” So the hospital cleared out a janitor’s closet, put a rocking chair and a folding chair in it and stuck us there. We spent so much time in this little, windowless room over the next two days that my sanity was sorely threatened. We were allowed to hold Alex for short periods of time until he was requested by his birth parents. By the time all was said and done later that first evening it had been almost 36 hours since I had slept, we’d spent all day in our “closet” enjoying Alex as much as we were allowed, and getting to know the birth parents. Alex has a wonderful and loving birth family whom we bonded with despite the awkwardness of the whole situation.
I slept that night with a heart so full I could hardly comprehend what had happened. I’d just had a baby with, not 9 months, not 6 months, not 3 months or even a week or a day’s warning. I’d had only hours to acclimate and the stress caught up to me so I crashed hard. The next day we spent over 9 hours in that closet. Then the blessed moment finally came that evening when the papers were signed and we were allowed to take him home… well home to the hotel. At the hotel I changed his diaper and decided he needed to be fed. There were mixed emotions, I didn’t get to do the first feeding. I wasn’t the one to give him his first bath or do his first changing. So many firsts I had missed and the emotional stress of going from zero to baby in less than 3 days took its toll. I handed Alex to my Mom and promptly curled up on the hotel room bed with Sean where I proceeded to sob uncontrollably. It was just too much to process. I was happy, nervous, and exhausted. After a time I sat up, swiped my sleeve across my face and said, “Well, I’m not recovering from giving birth, one of the perks of adoption I guess. Let’s take our day old baby to Red Robin for dinner!” My Mom and Greg laughed but agreed because I think we were all feeling a little like caged animals at this point. So we did and I can’t tell you how fun it is to watch people’s faces when you allow them to think that you’re wearing skinny jeans a day after you’ve given birth.
The next few days went by in a strange blur. Sean had a hard time understanding that suddenly he was a big brother. We’d had no time whatsoever to explain things to him. It is also difficult to care for a brand new baby away from home. Alex was jaundice and I needed to get him vaccinated and cleared for the flight home so I had to find a pediatrician. Instead of sending us to the hotel with a specially lit crib for the jaundice, the Dr looked at me and said, “This is southern California, take him to the beach.” There we were, the first week of December, at Huntington Beach with a 3 day old baby. It worked and he was cleared to fly home as soon as the government gave us the go ahead. It took a little over a week and we were on our way!
It has been 5 years and Alex continues to be our ray of sunshine. Don’t get me wrong. He is still your typical 5-year-old and all that comes with it. I feel like my days are filled with what I call “broken record moments.” I know you mothers out there can relate. It feels like you’re constantly saying, “Stop that, don’t do this, please stop doing that… FOR THE MILLIONTH TIME, QUIT IT!!!!” However, when you think of all that Alex has to deal with, he is absolutely remarkable. I wonder if later in life he’ll look back and think, “What did I get myself into?” Think about it. His older brother has Asperger’s, his Dad has ADD, and his Mom? Well you know my story, having a chronically ill mother is hard. And yet, he is the sweetest, most tender-hearted little person. Several times a day I hear his miniature voice say, “You know what Mom?” “What,” I say. “I love you Mom,” he replies. On the days when he sees that I can hardly move he will say, “Mom, can I lay on the couch with you and watch a movie?” He is polite and kind and a perfect fit for his brother. He succeeds in getting Sean to play with him, I mean actually interact and play with him. He and Sean are best friends, a trend I hope will continue throughout their entire lives.
A couple of years ago I realized that because of my health my kids were going to need some special attention from me. Each month I take each of the boys out on an individual date with me. It is our time to connect. It is my way of showing them that despite all that is going on with me they are important, valued, and loved. On my dates with Alex I usually feel like the one being showered with love and attention. He is always smiling and has an infectious laugh that brings pure joy to all who hear it. I am amazed at his strength. He usually has to come with me to my Dr’s appointments and he sits quietly without a peep. Greg and I try really hard not to lay the burdens of my health on the shoulders of our children but there are those unavoidable moments when it can’t be helped. Despite all of this Alex is our trooper his demeanor always one of happiness and love. He is our ray of sunshine and although 2007 was a difficult one, I would do it all again because it meant that we got the best happy ending of all in the form of a sweet little soul named Alex.