Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Big Adoption Series - Chapter 8

So, we were adopting again. Adopting already.

We were gearing up to bring a wrinkly-faced, codgerish baby into our mix and in hindsight, that sounds pretty scary, but at the time, it felt positively right. We did the math. By Summer's end, we would have a 17-month old toddler and a baby.

We could never have imagined that within six months of bringing Calvin home we would be brewing a new addition. Yet at the time and even in this exact moment, I am comforted by time-frames that free-fall out the window. I am calmed when a brand new plan floats down to fill a spot on our plate that we didn't even realize was empty. I know enough to know that when things come together "behind the scenes" I am the one standing in the back. There couldn't be a better reminder of who is really in charge. Hallelujah, it ain't me.

This baby was knitting together in hot pursuit of us because that was the story God penned for its tiny, magnificent life. We were drumming our fingers on the table, waiting on that very life to fold into our own because that was the story God whispered in our ear. Only really, he didn't whisper. Really, he laughed crazy-loud and shouted "Get ready for this!" Because He knew that our serene life was about to give way to the kind of mayhem that arrives uninvited on the heels of mid-night feedings and nap schedules and cans of formula worth their weight in gold. Oh, and a toddler who is barely walking but already won't. stop. talking.

Oh, we had no idea.

I pitched myself off of the crest of hopeful anticipation and right into the place where I do my best pre-baby nesting. Ebay.

I searched for another crib to match the one right across the hall. I searched for boy bedding. I searched for girl. Of course, I couldn't buy, and this pained me. I was an artist with no brush. I was Rachael Ray with no EVOO. I had a vision. Scratch that - I had two. But I couldn't execute either of them.

Baby's birth mom had relayed the information that she would not be finding out ahead of time whether the baby was a he or a she. She was guarding her heart in any way possible. It made sense to me, but even if it hadn't, it wasn't my show. It was none of my business.

Lurking in the dustiest corner of my mind was the notion that she might change her mind and decide to keep the baby. We have all heard the stories. But from every indication, she was resolute.

We did not hear from her during this time and we rarely heard from her family. With our home study complete, we heard very little from our agency. In lieu of communicating, we all did a version of the very same thing - we watched those paper pages fly from the calendar. This was time-sensitive waiting we were doing. There was a bright, shiny light at the end of a tunnel that was growing ever shorter.

Cory and I swam in a sea of butterflies and scooped them up, one by one, in our nets. Without warning, they would be loosed, and we would repeat the entire scenario again and again.

(My pent up anxiety unleashed one night as I slept, when I dreamed the baby arrived as my 28 year old cousin, Terri. We thought it was a little surprising, but in the end, we rolled with it.)

We inched nearer to the sun, our shadowed selves grew longer, our tomato plants scrambled up the side of our garage. We marveled as Calvin plucked words from the sky and made them his own. We kissed his black hair. We waited.

We held tight to the one thing that we believed - there would be a baby in our arms at Summer's steamy end.

New information was sparse, so we gripped harder on that one thing. Our knuckles blanched and our muscles ached, but we did not let go.

With just one month to go, I wrote a Bible verse on a note card then folded it in two. Words of courage and faith and selflessness written in everyday blue linked together chain-mail-style and stood guard in my back pocket. We bundled up our jangled nerves, kissed on the lips and walked into Papa Vino's to meet Birth Mom Shosh, for the very first time.

There we sat, Cory and I, Shosh and her parents. We glided through small talk and every now and then the thought would hit me smack dab in the heart: she has a baby growing inside her and she's planning to give that baby to us. The evening swung wildly from normal to hard to comprehend. I pretended to eat my food and mused silently that those seated around us, dipping bread into oil, talking with a friend, perhaps on a first date -- they had no idea what was happening right beside them.

Of course - I fell in love with her. Of course I did.

I wanted to push pause on the rest of the world and just stare at her beautiful smile, her gorgeous curls, her earthy skirt. I wanted to memorize her, to intuit her baby. I wanted her to like me. I wanted her to trust me. I wanted her to love me back.

Somewhere beyond tiptoeing around the difficult and looking past the belly we all touched our toes to the water and before long, we were in up to our ankles. The conversation took a turn. We all knew why we were there. I struggled then just as I sometimes struggle now to strike a balance between demonstrating my all-in excitement and respecting her loss. I felt myself reigning in in deference to all that she was preparing to release, and then I worried that she would find me too far removed from the magnitude of the gift. I vacillated and prayed that God would give us all the exact lenses to view the scene most accurately, most graciously.

I looked into the eyes of this young woman, my peer, and saw Jesus looking back. I know she was nervous. I'm sure she was overwhelmed. But I saw glimpses of her heart and I wanted to see more. I saw an intelligent, genuine, trusting soul. I saw a woman being obedient when it couldn't have been more difficult. She said to me on that night that from the moment she discovered her pregnancy, she knew the baby was not meant just for her. She quieted her confusion in the midst of voices of dissent so that she could hear the Only voice that really mattered. She knew what she was to do. She knew for sure that God's plan was oceans wider than what we could cobble together on our own.

She loved that baby. She kept it safely in her care. I will never know the way she talked to that life within, the prayers she prayed over it, the tears she shed. Those moments are theirs alone. But I know that my child was loved from the very start, and that is a gift that can't be wrapped.

Our plates were cleared and I had one question saved up. I turned it over and over in my pocket, so unsure of how it would be received. And then I asked, "Would you be willing to give this baby its middle name?"

Her eyes welled and she looked back at me in awe. "I was just telling my mom how much I wished for this, but I was sure that you wouldn't ask. It was just a dream."

She already had a name in mind for a girl and a boy.

We had chosen ours, too.

I joked about the fact that we had just bought tiny knit pants covered in monkeys at Old Navy - one pair pink, one blue. We had scoured the clearance racks, just for the fun of it, with plans to return those that we would not need, in the end.

"Do you want to know which ones to take back?"

It was my turn to look back in awe.

"Yes! But...I thought you weren't going to find out..."

"Return the blue pants."

My eyes spilled over. I bit my lip and shared our girl name, so unsure if she would "get" it. She smiled wide and shared her girl name and the moment glowed bright and warm.

I clasped my hands tightly in my lap, because just like that, Ruby River felt close enough to reach out and touch.

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Join me here next Wednesday for Big Adoption Series - Chapter 9

(To catch up on Chapters 1-7, click here and start from the bottom.)