Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Big Adoption Series - Chapter 7


I used to say that I could never do an open adoption. I said it in that annoying, naive way of someone who doesn't have a single clue what they are talking about. I said it in that patronizing way, "Oh, good for you! But I could never do it."

I didn't say these words aloud, but I said 'em, alright. I said them to myself. I said them to my heart.

You would think I would have known better. "Never say never!" Ha ha ha. But I still said never and I meant it, every time. I had seen all of the Made For TV specials. Open adoptions usually ended with dashed hopes and empty pocketbooks and gussied up cribs that would never be smudged up with baby grime hailing from who-knows-where. Occasionally, open adoptions even ended with custody battles and soul-shattering tug-of-war.

It's true, I knew that there were some positive outcomes. But that was not a risk I was ready to take.

And mostly? I did not want to share some one else's baby.

So, when a February night sky watched as we shuffled into a nondescript restaurant to meet the Birth Mama's parents, I was as surprised as anyone. And holy cow, was I nervous.

Think of the scariest job interview you've ever sat through and then ramp up the anxiety level by a factor of one hundred. That's sort of what it feels like to interview for a baby. Only we didn't know anything about these people. We couldn't Google them beforehand or bone up on their research. We couldn't impress them with the right answers, because we didn't know what their "right" even was.

The good news is, in times of uncertainty blended up with the jitters, I tend to default to my truest self. Maybe everyone does this. But for me, it's all I know to do. Stress boils me down to a shy-but-talkative, kinda-funny-but-mostly-not reduction. It boils me down to Shannan. Take me or leave me. (But please, take me!)

I know we ordered food, but I do not remember eating. I remember looking over at Cory when questions were asked. I remember deferring to his calm. I remember loving that profile sitting to the left of mine. I remember hoping that if nothing else, they could see the strength of our two-man team.

The people across the table ate fries and asked us questions that felt like getting to know a new friend. They were gracious and kind. They were in uncharted territory, just like us. Their nerves snapped and jumped right along with our own.

They told us the whole story. The promised nothing. They were fulfilling their part of a mission that may never move another step forward, and we all knew it. But we walked back into the icy dark with a spark of a hope. We hoped for a brand new gift. We dared to believe that God's plan for their daughter and her child might sweep out wide enough to bring us in under its net.

Still, we knew that this new hope we held was really just a speck on the horizon. There were other things that factored in. There were other people who had a say. There was one brave girl making the hardest decision of her life. There was the possibility that God had something different up His sleeve.

Months passed and the speck grew speckier. The Birth Dad was wild-cardish - unresponsive at one turn and over-eager at the next. The agency thought the baby might fit better with an inter-racial family.

Inch by inch, that lush blanket of velvety hope slipped out of our fingers. It was ok. It really was. We were at peace and we trusted that God knew best. I prayed at night for the Mama, the baby, the different family who might welcome the child. We believed strong that if it wasn't God's best plan for us, it wasn't worthy of our angst. We knew enough to know that we could walk away with hearts as full as they were the night that call came in.

So, we got back to the business of our regular, ordinary bliss. We kissed almond eyes and fiddled our way through a winter of toy school bus adventures on the dining room floor and stacks upon stacks of books.

All the while, I prayed for the girl who I wouldn't recognize if she were standing in front of me in the check-out line. I prayed that she was being guided graciously through all that she was facing. I prayed for people to stand in a tight circle around her, to prop her up. I prayed that she would know, for sure, what to do. And that she would feel loved, all the way through.

Somewhere between cold and warmish, the phone rang again. The same voice on the line wondered where we were with our home study.

Home study? What home study?

We were told that Birth Mama had switched agencies after some complications and differences in opinion. She had switched to Bethany, the very same agency that had completed our first home study, for Calvin.

Birth Mama was still intending to place the child for adoption. She was still interested to learn more about us. Were we still interested?

Wires that had inadvertently crossed were ironed smooth. We had some work to do. But we were interested, baby. We were 20 miles past interested.

In completing a home study for an open adoption, we were tasked to write an autobiography that the Birth Mom would read, along with a few other profiles, to make a final decision on adoptive parents.

We took turns at the keyboard and tapped out the clearest, truest written version of ourselves. We hoped that she liked us, but we resolved to not try to make predeterminations on what the "right" answers would be. Six pages later, we had an encapsulation of Us, our parenting styles, the state of our marriage, our faith, our views on being an interracial family, and all that falls in the cracks. I would be lying if I did not admit that with every line that I wrote, I breathed a silent plea, "Pick us! We'll love that baby. We'll teach that baby everything it needs to know."

We attached a photo of our little family, and with the click of the mouse, our fate rested in hands we had never seen.

A few weeks later, we got a different kind of call.

We were chosen.

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Join me here next Wednesday for Big Adoption Series - Chapter 8

(To catch up on Chapters 1-6, click here and start from the bottom.)