Two years ago, in early November, we pulled a crib from the basement, pieced it back together and began wondering who might come along to fill it. We made space in the corner of our room. Pictures were hung, one with the alphabet, another boasting a beloved song lyric, and though the crib beneath those pictures was empty, anticipation filled our home.
A few weeks later, on a blustery night like the ones of late, I watched a tired social worker cross our threshold in snow covered boots, carrying a borrowed car seat and the weight of a very long day. It was 8:30 at night with a pile of paperwork ahead of us, and she was still an hour from home. As she took off her coat, my children crowded around the baby, still sleeping, unaware of his new surroundings, his new family however fleeting. My husband and I looked on as tiny fingers stroked even tinier ones, our boys volleying for position, each wanting to be closest to the sweet-faced arrival. I remember rocking that baby back to sleep late into the night after the older boys had gone to bed. I remember wondering how many nights he would stay.
The next day, I sat at my kitchen table and wrote, “We have room and I feel that in such a profound way that to do anything else, to not at least try would be a lie. Even if it leaves us heartbroken. Even if we fail and retreat, deeply bruised, to the life we knew before…we will undoubtedly be wrecked by this new adventure, but I have trust that we will also be rebuilt.” I wrote these words with tears rolling down my face, splashing onto my fingers as I typed. I remember hoping I was right.
Now, as we face the end of this chapter and await the lengthy path to adoption, I recognize that whatever trials our family has endured, the trials that this little boy has already overcome and those still laid out before him make our own challenges nearly irrelevant. Yes, there were nights that I all but abandoned that trust I’d started out with, days when the fear spoke louder than love. Over time, though, as weeks turned to months turned to years, we learned this was never about us. We have always had some form of choice on this path. This little boy has not.
As we enter National Adoption Month, we must keep straight in our minds who is to be honored, who and what is to be celebrated. In a powerful blog by Robyn Gobbel, LCSW, she writes, “There is no adoption without tragic loss…Regardless of what blooms, it starts with tragedy.” These are hard things to remember, but they are necessary if we hope to ever see this child clearly. The struggle and loss that brought him into our family are part of his story, too.
The other night, I overheard my husband talking to our oldest son. “Your mom and I couldn’t do any of this without you guys,” he said. “How much you help with [our foster son] and how you love him just like a real brother…”
“Because he is our real brother,” interjected my 8-year-old as I walked into the room. He repeated it, looking directly in my eyes. “He is our real brother.”
His statement covered me in joy and sadness. In these early years of life, our older boys hold this sentiment and believe it. I believe it, too, and yet, I know the truth. This littlest boy’s first family had to be undone for ours to be completed.
It was his world, not ours, that was devastated and then rebuilt – and I anticipate the finality of this devastation with a court date circled in ink on my calendar, a date that has changed and been delayed more times than I wish to recall. It makes me angry, even now, as I type these words. But to foster, to adopt, is to become comfortable with conflicting pulls of emotion.
When I step outside of my own frustration, I think of his mother and how she will await this same day. We will mark ours with love and tears and celebration, but how will that day be marked for her? How foolish I was to believe that we would be the ones destroyed by this journey. How callous I was to imagine it as an “adventure.”
Our family was lucky enough to be chosen for this child. We have been fortunate to walk alongside this boy we love so very much, this boy who was loved long before we ever entered his life.
A canvas hangs above his crib, the one that I placed there two years ago in preparation for his arrival. It is split down the middle, one half a bright blue with orange shining sun, the other half midnight gray. On it is written an Otis Redding lyric. “I’ll be the moon when the sun goes down just to let you know that I’m still around.”
I always thought that was me. I thought I was the sun and the moon. Of course, I did.
Now, I know it is his mother. She will always be the moon. I can settle for the sun. “That’s how strong my love is.” There is room in this house for both.