It was a Friday afternoon. I was driving home from work when I got a call. I got THE call. I usually don’t pick up while I’m driving but the name of our social worker was plastered across my phone. It was difficult to curb my excitement as well as the turning in the pit of my stomach. We had been through this before and it had ended in disappointment.
The conversation went something like this:
Patty: Hi Jeff it’s Patty. How are you?
Me: Good and you?
Patty: What are you guys doing tonight?
Me: Normal stuff. We’re going on a date.
Patty: Well, it may be the best date of your life…
She then told me of a 3-day-old baby boy who was just brought into foster care and was waiting for us to pick him up. We had been matched with him, but she was waiting for more information from his social worker and would call me back. So I waited. I fought the urge to call Michelle for almost an hour. Finally, I couldn’t hold it in any longer and called her at work. My words were cautious but hopeful and I promised to call again as soon as I heard back.
So I waited some more.
Another 45 minutes went by and my phone rang again. “Okay it’s a go!” I got all the details and called Michelle again at work. She promptly quit her job. (Of course they were fully aware months in advance that this could happen.) On the way we stopped and bought a car seat for the little guy. We had no clue which one to buy, and the sales gal at Baby’s R Us was probably still in high school and definitely not a mother. So we just picked up the best one we could afford, unboxed it in the parking lot and took 20 minutes figuring out how to strap it in the car. Then we continued our adventure.
We made it to the hospital and found our way to the nursery. When we got there a nurse was holding in her arms a little baby boy. He was beautiful. We both cried. And smiled. And were generally in awe and disbelief. We realized we were unprepared for this experience, and it was better than we could have imagined.
After demonstrating that we knew how to strap the little guy into his car seat, (actually we had no clue so the nurse coached us) we were off to our home with a baby boy. Crazy crazy crazy. Did they just give us a baby? We were instant parents. It’s true that you drive slower and more cautious with “precious cargo” in the back seat.
My mother-in-law met us at home and helped us get everything in order to take care of this new member of our family. The first night we just stared at him and marveled at God’s grace. We had never been happier.
The next 5 days were as close to perfect as you could get. We got into a routine and found even the most disgusting things didn’t bother us. Some of you know what I’m talking about. We were just happy to have this beautiful baby in our home. We nicknamed him “Baby Bird” or “Little Bird” because he would open his mouth and look up at us like a baby bird when he was hungry. (We didn’t feed him worms I promise.) He was an excellent baby. Even his crying was sweet and innocent. I know I sound like I am romanticizing a bit, but he really was a great little guy.
One thing the social worker did tell us was that there would be a court hearing on Wednesday to review his case. We had very little information, just that the mother was a drug abuser and the father was not in the picture. Little Bird had been exposed to drugs but did not have any withdrawal symptoms. He was in perfect health as far as the doctors were concerned. So Wednesday rolled around and we waited for the call to let us know what the situation would be moving forward. We weren’t prepared to hear the news we received.
Apparently, dad unexpectedly showed up at the court hearing. The court ordered a quick background check on him and decided that if he was able to take care of the baby, we would have to give him back the next day. We were blindsided. It was devastating. I still have no words to fully describe how we felt.
Looking back we should have asked more questions of the social workers.
Of course, we knew the risks when we picked him up at the hospital, and in the back of our minds we were aware that this could happen. It still took us by surprise. And it hurt. Not only us, but our family as well. They were all thrilled that we were finally parents and they were grandparents, uncles, and cousins. Telling them the news was one of those things I don’t want to have to do again. You almost feel guilty dragging your family through this kind of situation because they didn’t sign up for it.
Thursday morning we got the call that we would indeed have to give Little Bird up that afternoon. Our friends and family dropped everything and gathered at our home. I’ll never forget that day and how hard it was, but also the amount of love and support that surrounded us.
About an hour before the social worker came to pick him up, we had everyone leave so we could spend some time alone with him. We cried together, but we also gave thanks to God that we had him for those six days. When she arrived, we brought him out and I made sure he was strapped into her car seat correctly. We both kissed him goodbye. Then she drove away.
We’ve had a few months now to reflect on this experience and there are some things that it taught us.
We have amazing friends and family. Many people will celebrate the blessings in your life, but there are usually only a few who will weep with you in your darkest hours. There were special people who came and wept with us or just sat in silent support. We have people who love us deeply and we are so very grateful for them.
We realize too that we were given a gift for those six days. We were able to experience everything from the hospital forward, which is unusual for foster parents. And we got to see what kind of parents we are. I know that my wife is an amazing mom. Motherhood is built into her and it is a wonderful thing to behold. I have never seen my wife so beautiful as when she was taking care of that little baby boy.
We also learned much about our God. This was a Gospel experience to us. For six days we “adopted” a helpless beautiful little baby boy. It is ridiculous how quickly and how deeply we fell in love with him. It made no sense that we would love him like that, but we did. (And really we still do). God loves us adopted sons and daughters with a perfect and eternal love, and we got a glimpse of that. He sees us as His own just like we saw Baby Bird as our own.
We also got a glimpse of loss. We have friends who have lost a biological child to illness, so we definitely don’t equate our situation with that kind of loss. I think The Lord knows what we can handle and is gracious to us. This was all we could handle for sure, but He let us experience the loss. He knows that kind of loss. He knew that experiencing that loss would give us a clearer picture of His love for us and the extent to which He was willing to go to bring us back to Himself. It may sound strange, but experiencing that loss has brought us closer to our God. We have just a bit more understanding of who He is, and that has the effect of redeeming some of the pain.
The Lord is the only one who can redeem our pain. Thankfully He does.
We were reminded that we are not in control. He is. All we can do is pray that Little Bird’s dad is a good guy with a good family who will love him and guide him in the right way. But we aren’t certain that will happen. What we know is that God is good and His love surpasses ours. So we simply trust Him.
At this point we are waiting for another child to bring into our home and love. We still want to adopt, and Lord willing it will happen soon. Until then we will wait and pray and put our faith in Him and His timing.