The director of a women's shelter told us she had a young girl who had checked in a few days prior. She was eight months pregnant. She had no intentions to parent. When Dorcas asked her if she'd considered adoption, *A* exhaled and smiled for the first time since checking into the home for abused and substance-dependent women and their children.
"I want to do that."
I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. A baby! A sibling for Sophie!
I'm certain, even though I hadn't spoken a word since "hello", my excitement could be felt through the phone line. I was on the verge of a teeny squall when Dorcas said (the words forever embedded in my brain): "Now, I have to tell you, it's a scary situation. You and Russ will really need to pray about it before you make a decision about this baby."
Dorcas is not a word-mincer, and for the next forty-fiveish minutes, she proceeded to just flop it out there - all the gory details about this birthmother's history.
(Pause for a moment...)
I think adoption is an incredible thing. Anyone who knows me at all knows I have never once anguished over the fact that my children are not "biologically mine". I've never missed pregnancy or grieved not giving birth (I've had to grieve the loss of a baby...but that's not what I'm talking about.) I've never missed seeing me or Russ in the face of our newborn children or watching our genetic traits unfold in new, little wordy or science-y Mini Me(s) before us. Don't get me wrong, I don't say this to belittle or begrudge those who do desperately want these specific things; I say them simply because it has just never been part of my definition of motherhood. I wanted to be a mom. I wanted to hold babies, to rock them, to watch them grow and change, to teach them things, to laugh with them. I frankly didn't care how it happened. I believe God knows exactly who our children are, before they're formed, and at some point after we felt led to adopt, I just trusted Him to bring them to us. The "in His perfect timing" part wasn't a picnic - especially for someone who's not known for her patience, but I knew it was part of adoption.
And adoption, I truly love.
That said, ask any adoptive parent, there are scary aspects of adopting. (Insert cringes of horror at the absurdity of that statement.) What happened with Seth was an anomaly. I know that. What I mean is, even in "normal" adoptions, there are often turbulent waters to tread through before you get to that wonderful moment of peace before the judge. And that night, as Dorcas was detailing those freaky, foreign things, in her special "speak the truth", no holds barred, Dorcas sort of way, I felt myself start to shake.
In A's case, those details involved a lot of things my naive, sheltered, (shall we call it prissy?) self had very little knowledge of. Most specifically: drugs. Big, scary, life-altering drugs. Eliza's birthmother took an unimaginable number of illicit recreational and prescription drugs before and during her pregnancy, from conception until she entered the women's shelter - about five weeks before Eliza was born. A fact very few of you knew, mostly because, you just didn't need to.
I tell you now, not to try to paint A in a negative light or stand in judgement of her in any way. We all mess up. We all choose paths we wish we hadn't. Every one of us has at least one ugly garment in our closet that we wish we could burn. Really, if we're completely honest, most of us are just one or two bad decisions away from a totally different life. It's only through the shed blood and saving grace of Jesus that we're given hope, and a promise, and a renewed purpose. Russ and I are forever grateful that A chose life for our baby girl, and that she chose us to entrust with that life. And Sophie, to this day, calls Eliza the "best gift ever". Our birthmothers will always be more special to us than we can ever, ever express. I tell you these details about her now only to help you understand the miracle that is our sweet daughter.
When Dorcas finished putting it all out there on the table, my immediate reaction was fear. Crushing, paralyzing, make-you-sick, all encompassing fear. Every fiber in my being wanted to run far away from another uncertain adoption situation. Let's just put a pin in all the other *stuff* for a moment; I couldn't handle another special needs baby! The suffocating demands, the neverending exhaustion, the physical toll on our bodies, the emotional toll on our marriage, the financial hardship. No way. No, thank you. NOPERS. I could feel the word forming on my lips when I suddenly paused and told Dorcas we would get back with her. First, I jumped on the internet and did some research. That did not help calm me. Then I called my dad to get his medical opinion on things. He was forthright in admitting he couldn't offer any clear-cut answers when it came to drugs (especially these particular drugs) and their effects on a developing fetus. So I went into our bedroom, closed the door, and did what I should have done first - I got on my knees and prayed. I told God I desperately needed crystal clear guidance on this decision. I begged Him for guidance. I promised that wimpy, ninnified me wouldn't even be freaked out if He'd just go ahead and write the answer for us above the mantel in bold letters. "DO IT!" "DON'T DO IT!" I pleaded with Him for a tell-tale, obvious sign, not just a feeling. Please Lord, tell me what to do!
And then it hit me. This quiet sense of rest. It was the kind of calm that only comes from knowing you're following where God is leading.
And for a girl who will never ever, even in her most relaxed state, be described as "chilled", that was my sign.
I knew we were supposed to say yes. I knew this baby girl, whether she had deformities, whether she could see, or hear, or speak, or eat, or learn, whether she required round-the-clock care, I knew she was our daughter. And each time I talked to Russ about it, he said he felt exactly the same way. So I picked up the phone and told Dorcas our answer was yes. Absolutely. YES!! From that moment of acceptance, one-by-one, God opened door after door after door - orchestrating every single moment of the adoption, down to the tiniest detail. First in amazingly, impossibly healthy exams and tests, for both mom and baby, and then in absolutely wonderful heart-to-heart conversations with A. From that first slightly awkward "nice to meet you!" embrace, we felt the same kind of undeniable connection with her that we'd felt during our initial meeting with Sophie's birthmother - that weird certainty that the stranger sitting across from you is carrying your child and is going to be, from that moment on, a forever part of your story.
March 7, 2011 came and we all met at the hospital for A's induction. It started at 6 o'clock that morning and our sweet little screecher didn't make her appearance until 13 hours later. Let me tell you, seemingly endless hours of watching someone lie in a bed allows for a lot of thinking time. As I sat there, doing the only thing I could do on this end of the birthing process: pace and eat a lot of Skittles, I realized we were just moments away from seeing if she was okay - if God really had protected her from all the bad stuff. I knew all the pre-birth tests in the world couldn't tell us for sure, but in a very non-Kristy way, aprehension took a backseat to excitement. I totally trusted God's plan for our family. Somehow, I just knew it would be okay.
At 7:47pm, there she was...
Beaten up and bruised from a hard, hard labor. But totally, perfectly, wonderfully fine.
We named her Eliza Kate. Eliza, meaning "consecrated to God" and Kate, meaning "pure".
And just like that, our world became infinitely sweeter.