Sunday, January 13, 2013

Maybe two babies, maybe none

(This is the fourth installment in our detailed journey.  Start here, or go to Part 2 or Part 3)

The two babies that might have been.
Before we met Becky, we began to consider other options to parenthood.  We still didn’t want to dole out $20,000 for an agency to match us (which is essentially what they do, by counseling the birth parents and weeding out those not committed to an adoption plan).  Through my online contacts, we decided to try to adopt through our foster care system.  We weren’t necessarily set on a newborn.  In fact, I kind of dreaded the idea of constant nightly cries.  And foster care had the cheap factor going for it.  So we began taking classes and we underwent a new homestudy.  

We were licensed as foster parents in July, the same month that the match with Becky fell through.  We waited patiently, so I thought, for two months before I got antsy.  I found out that we didn’t have to limit ourselves to our own county for fostering, and that a neighboring county was in need of foster parents.  It sounded too good to be true.  We went to their orientation and filled out paperwork requesting that they transfer our license.

One week later, we got a call from our own county regarding the possibility of a foster placement.  (Coincidence?  I think not.) We were actually given two choices.  One was a sibling set of a one year-old sister and 6 month old brother, whose parents were expected to lose their parental rights.  The other was a 6 month old Latina whose fate was uncertain.  None of the previous children we were matched with before had ever been Hispanic, and this was one of my #1 priorities at the time.  Even though it was a risk, I felt that again this was a sign, and we opted to foster VV.

It was a long weekend, waiting to hear back from the social worker to see if another family, also given this same choice, had picked “our” VV.  Maybe I didn’t think fostering all the way through.  I was concerned about having two kids at once, even though they were likely to be available for adoption soon.  I just wanted a baby in my home.  I didn’t think about the future, or the fact that this baby may not stay with us.

We picked up our little cherub from an emergency foster care placement where she had been for about a week.  The first thing we did was drive by my parents’ house to show her off.  It was as if she was ours from the first moment we saw her.  Then we brought her home and basked in the glory of a baby in the home.

Our first weekend with VV. Alex is holding her up as she explores sand!
Social worker visits and case meetings ensued.  We met VV’s parents and paternal grandmother at the first meeting.  Mom was 16, dad was 20.  They had been married for 2 years.  The reason VV was removed sounded like a big misunderstanding to our ears.  Miscommunication followed by a vindictive phone call. So we braced ourselves for a nice little babysitting gig and nothing more.  But VV would end up staying with us for 10 months.

We thought we had completely moved on to another phase of our journey when we started fostering in September, so it came as a total surprise when I got an email from my brother’s girlfriend in mid-December of 2009.  She was pregnant, and they wanted us to adopt the baby.  Has there ever been a bigger sign?  Why else would all the other leads fall through if not so that we could adopt our own nephew?  It was the perfect match!

I confirmed with my brother about their intentions, and we arranged to meet to discuss their reasons and their options.  In trying to guard my heart, I suggested that Alex and I could be the little guy’s legal guardians while they figured out how to handle the situation.  But they were adamant that adoption was the way to go.  In fact, she gave me a boppy pillow as a gift.  We went to prenatal yoga together.   Our nephew was due to be born in April.  

My mom I think got the most unique announcement to a firstborn grandchild.  My brother and I met with her at her house.  We sat her down on the sofa, and I proceeded to give her a present, a newborn dress (ultrasounds suspected a girl) with the tag saying “dla Babci” ("for Grandmother").  As my mom looked at the dress to try to figure out what was going on, I proceeded to tell her that it looked like Alex and I were finally going to be parents…. that we were adopting a baby, and that the baby’s father was my brother.  I think this arrangement was meant to smooth over the announcement that my brother was unexpectedly expecting a baby with the joyous news of our long-awaited parenthood.

In February, we met with our attorney to have an adoption plan drawn up for the hospital.  We’ve never gotten this far before with a lead!  This was it! Except that it wasn’t.  A week after we spent $800 on attorney fees, I got a text message from my brother saying that his girlfriend had changed her mind.  No apology, no further explanation.  I was crushed.  

I couldn’t just forget about this birthmother like I did the others.  This baby was going to be in my family no matter what.  He would always be a reminder of our crushed hope, or so I thought.  My faith journey had brought me to Christ by now, and though I was still weak in it, I’m sure it helped me through.   In fact, when my brother left for boot camp and my parents moved, Alex and I took our newborn nephew and his mother into our home.  

I'm welcoming home baby Andrew.
She had been living with my parents for a year, but my parents were downsizing and she wasn’t able to join my brother until he graduated boot camp.  We were in the hospital for our nephew Andrew’s birth, along with our foster daughter.  That whole time in my life seems like a blur.  I wonder how I could’ve survived the intense emotions of welcoming a nephew while at the same time trying to shake the loss of a son. 

Just a couple of months earlier, Alex and I met with an adoption counselor to discuss some of my conflicting emotions.  At that meeting, I remember hearing the counselor rephrase my concerns like this: “On one hand, you may be adopting two children – your nephew and your foster daughter.  That’s so exciting!  On the other hand, since neither is a guarantee, you could lose both children.”  I remember hearing this and dismissing it.  There’s no way God would allow us to lose both children.  One or the other, if not both, but we will be parents this year!  

Perhaps God orchestrated the heartaches in such a way that they would manage to bounce tiny bits of joy off each other.   From April to July, we had two children in our home, neither of them ours.  But we heard the pitter-patter of little feet and we smelled the sweet scent of an infant.  I babysat Andrew only reluctantly during those months.  It was very hard for me to make sense of our relationship.  Having lost hope of being his mother, how could I settle for being just an aunt?  It wouldn’t be until a year later that I finally fell in love with my nephew for who he is.

Over the months, it began to be more and more clear that VV was going to be reunited with one of her parents.  At first, we thought it’d be with her dad.  He was very active in meeting with us, visiting with her, while her mom made no such effort.  But then there started to be resistance from him and his mother when it came time to show proof of child-friendly living arrangements, sufficient income, and the like.  For a moment, we thought VV’s goal may be changed to adoption (by us, who else?), since mom showed no interest and dad was resistant, while neither grandmother was available or willing to do what needed to be done to get VV back.  But then mom began to get more and more involved.

Once we saw that mom was making a solid effort, jumping through all the hoops to regain custody of her daughter, in spite of our own desire to parent her daughter, we knew we had to make the transition back as easy as possible for everyone involved, especially VV, who was 16 months old when she left our home.

(Part Five to be continued...)

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