On a Monday in April of 2014, my family welcomed its newest member. He’s one of the very best new things that has ever happened to me, and it was clearly meant to be that we first met him on a Monday.
My sister and brother-in-law have talked about having children for years. Things don’t always go in the way we plan them out. The winding path from first talking about having kids to the time they received the perfect little baby for them (and for our family) is their story, not mine. I can only tell you a little bit about my thoughts in the time leading up to his arrival. I always knew my sister and brother-in-law (“M & P”) would make great parents. They are a great team and each bring wonderful traits to their family. My mom was practically made to be an excellent grandmother. I read somewhere that “an uncle’s job is to help a kid get into mischief the kid has not thought of yet.” Based on that, I always figured I’d make a good uncle ;-).
As I said, things do not always go according to plan, and I think I wondered earlier than anyone else in our family “have they considered adoption?” I just kept it to myself since it wasn’t my decision to make and I recalled the annoyance and frustration that had been created in my previous marriage when family (or strangers) asked about plans for kids. My policy is – people will tell you about their plans for kids or any related difficulties if they want or need your support. If they don’t, it’s not yours to bring up – ever. I just wanted to do what I could to support M & P in deciding what was right for them.
At some point, I don’t recall exactly when, my little sister told me they were going to move forward with adoption with an agency in Fort Worth. I could tell she was excited and anxious about it when she told me. As her big brother, I was excited and anxious about it too. She gave me a wonderful book soon after called The Family of Adoption. It’s fascinating, and sometimes hard to read, and beautiful, and I learned so much. I’d recommend it to anyone. If you know someone who is adopted, considering adoption, considering placing a child for adoption, or if you think you have nothing to do with adoption at all, it’s a good book to read! It’s just full of good stuff to know about kids and families and culture.
There are lots of steps to being approved for adoption. Thankfully, one of them was not any type of psychological test for potential uncles of adoptees! As part of the adoption process, M & P put together this really cool book that would be shown to birth mothers who were working with the same agency for adoption of their children. It told all about their family and why they wanted to adopt. The birth mothers (and sometimes fathers too) get to pick from the prospective adopters. Not all adoptions are this way. I’d say my allergies acted up when I looked at, but it was at my mom’s house. She might read this and be worried that I was allergic to something and overclean her house before I visit again :-). I’ll just say – it is a wonderful book.
Many months later, I heard from my sister that a birth mother had liked their book and wanted to schedule a phone call with M & P – sort of an interview, which would also include the birth father. The birth parents decided they wanted their baby to go to M & P, but also wanted to meet M & P in person first. The next days were a rollercoaster of anticipation, excitement and anxiety, and that’s just me. I can’t imagine what M & P were going through. They were handling it much better than I think I would have. We all knew this little baby was coming pretty soon; he came early! He came before the in-person meeting could be scheduled. M & P headed for Houston (where he was born). There is lots more to the story, but suffice to say, the birth mother had some second thoughts while still in the hospital. M & P spent two days in a Houston hotel. I offered to go see them or take them dinner, but they just wanted to be alone, which I understood. I would have been the same way. I felt a million miles away and so helpless, and again, could not even imagine what they were going through. I was so glad they had each other in that hotel room.
As it should be, the adoption agency case workers can’t put any pressure on the birth mother to give up the baby, and neither could M & P. No one should be saying “but you said you would” to a birth mother. The decision is hers (and the birth father’s when he is involved). The enormity of that decision is immeasurable. So, everyone waits, and fingernails get chewed, sleep and meals suck, real estate deals get neglected because a hopeful uncle can barely think straight enough to know east from west, etc. A few days after the birth, the birth mother told the case worker that she would make a decision by noon. I went into my office and tried to act like it was just a regular old day. This was unfolding only about 20 miles from my office.
At 11:30, I determined that my mind was so far away from work, that I might actually be harming the deals I was working on and decided to go for a drive. I tried to be prepared for my sister to call with good news or bad news. I drove and drove, and then my sis called and said they were about to sign the papers and would be leaving with
our boy their new son. I drove, perhaps a tad fast, straight to the hospital. I saw M & P for just a second (and am still astounded at how not-crazed they looked) and then they went upstairs with the caseworker to meet their son. I waited – there was lots of stuff to do up there and it took several hours. Then the elevator opened and there was my family. The little guy was snoozing in his carrier and was so so tiny. M & P had a long drive home ahead of them, and were totally emotionally and physically exhausted. I also suspect they were just ready to get the heck out of Harris County after a harrowing few days there. They understandably wanted to be back to the comfort of their house with the little guy. I walked them to car, watched while the nurse made sure the car seat was in correctly, and then watched them drive away.
I went home and just sat. I had a cold beer. I sat some more. I may joke about mischief with my nephew, and I truly hope we get into some, but I was also feeling pretty overwhelmed at what had just happened. A decision was made that will literally change the course of many lives, even lives we don’t know of and lives that may not exist yet. I tried to come up with some framework for thinking about what had just happened. The words below were all I could come up with and I’d like to share them with you.
The Boy Who Was Loved Double
At an unexpected time, an unexpected call, then an unexpected rush, then an expected boy, then an unexpected wait, then the potential of bad news, then a hoped for treasure, then a sleepy walk to the car, then an alone car ride, then, for the first time in a few days – I took a deep breath.
Two days can seem like an eternity. I wonder what it seemed like for you? I wonder if you’ll have questions some day. Why? How? Where? Who? I hope you feel the blessing and the grace of the space to ask your questions. Yell them if you need to and be proud of your questions, because seeking and being responsible for our own peace and joy is the hard and great work of life. I hope you learn to be ok if you receive silence, or a whimper or a whisper, or tears, or an answer you don’t like, or even anger or hurt, in response to your big questions. Sometimes the courage and space to ask the questions, the asking itself, is sufficient, but feeling at peace with that takes longer than you want.
You, my little one, are a person who comes from great joy and blessing and love. How many can say that two mothers and two fathers, two families, and two homes anxiously and lovingly welcomed him into this world and loved him so much from his first breath that they agonized over who and what was best for him? I saw it. I heard it. I saw the waiting, the hoping, the fear of not knowing the future. I heard the love and the courage. I hope some day you will know, know deep down, that sometimes the hardest thing is the right thing, especially when you love someone. In that way, you can give others the space and support to seek and find their own peace and joy. No matter your questions, and the ups and downs life may bring, please remember that you are so special and treasured; you were born into double the love.