Adoption is often called a 'roller coaster.' But I'm not so sure that's the best or most accurate metaphor. Roller coasters are fun. They are exciting, thrilling, and fill riders with adrenaline. Yes, there is a great deal of fear as you slowly creep up the first hill and anticipate the stomach toss that will come with that first large drop. But mostly the emotions are exhilarating and positive.
When was the last time someone included words like grief, sadness, and heartbreak to describe a roller coaster?
Instead, I believe the best metaphor to describe the adoption experience is to equate it with traveling a difficult yet awe inspiring journey. And as our precious son celebrates his first birthday, I wanted to reflect on the journey that brought him to our family.
BEGINNING THE JOURNEY
Our family’s beginning didn’t start off easy. After getting married in 2012, we both had a very difficult journey with grief, losing both of our mom’s just months apart in 2014. Not too long after, we discovered that we’d likely not be able to conceive a child together. That was a very painful season of grief for us that lasted several years. Much of our social environment revolved around young families with kids, so we needed to find a supportive community where we could express our grief honestly and openly while coming to accept the reality of our situation. As we healed emotionally, we knew that we needed to do something with our grief in order to move forward. After a couple of years, we began exploring the idea of adoption and eventually were approved to adopt in June of 2019.
A couple of weeks later, we launched a GoFundMe page to help with the adoption costs. While we had already saved closed to to 50% of the total funds needed (including any unforeseen legal or travel expenses), we still needed to raise just over $15,000. We were told to expect a 12-18 month wait before being placed with a child so we figured we'd have plenty of time to raise the funds! However, through the incredible generosity of our friends, family, and social network the entire amount was raised in just four weeks!
As it turns out, the speed that the funds arrived wasn't a coincidence...
A CHILD IS BORN
I was eating lunch at work in early August when I got an email from our caseworker with ‘URGENT’ in the subject line. A baby had just been born early that morning and the mother made the difficult decision to place them with an adoptive family to beat care for this child. He was born at just 30 weeks and weighed only 3.3 lbs. This meant that there were some significant medical risks along with weeks of hospital care. Our caseworker wanted to know if we were interested in having our family adoption profile to the mother. After taking it through with my wife, we both responded YES! This baby needed loving parents to help him grow healthy and strong, and we felt like we needed to make ourselves available.
For the next 24 hours we anxiously waited, not sure what to expect. We knew the odds were slight that we’d get selected. After all, this was our first time our profile would be shown. The agency told we'd likely know more in the next 2-3 days. However, that next day at lunch I got a phone call from our caseworker. “Can you get your wife on the phone? I’d like to talk with the two of you.” She called to tell us that mom had selected us amongst the profiles she saw and believed we were the best candidates to raise this child. We were being placed with a precious baby!!
We weeped with joy thinking about how the long journey of grief and healing that brought us to this moment. We began to envision what our lives would look like parenting this child and shared with our closest friends, family and coworkers this exciting news. There were lots of calls, texts, hugs, and exciting conversations that envisioned our future family.
We would be heading to the hospital in the morning to sign paperwork to for temporary guardianship. After this, we'd be meeting our future baby boy!
THE HEARTBREAK OF ADOPTION
[from Dads Journal] Well, it's 24 hours later, and I want to vomit...I guess that’s where the ‘roller coaster’ metaphor kicks back in...
The mother of this child failed to show up for our appointment this morning. She’s didn't answer or return any calls from the social worker. She’s not at her home. There’s no way of establishing contact.
We came home from our hospital visit with heavy hearts running a million different 'what happened' scenarios through our heads.
In the meantime there’s a little baby in the hospital who doesn’t have either of his biological parents. If contact isn’t established within 24 hours, Child Protective Services will be contacted, and the child enters the foster care system. At that point, we would likely no longer have a chance to be involved in the child’s life.
This situation sucks.
There’s still a chance that communication with the mom is re-established. However, every hour that passes by takes with it a little more of our hope. Yes, our hope remains in Christ. But our hearts are heavy right now as we wait and wonder.
Jesus spoke about moments like this with his disciples just before his death and resurrection...
Here on earth you will experience many trials and sorrows. But take heart, I have overcome the world. - John 16:33
The greatest stories often come from the greatest heartbreak. But that doesn’t make it easier to feel in the moment. That’s why we continue to cling to hope and pray for the child. That's all we can do right now.
ANGER IS A HECK OF A MOTIVATOR
The next morning, the sadness of my grief began to transition to deep anger. I thought to myself "How is it that a tiny premature baby is alone at a hospital right now while a flawed system would rather see this child placed into the foster care system instead of allowing a loving family, already selected by the biological mother, to care for him and take him home?"
I wanted so desperately to fight and advocate for this child. It was the only thing I could think about. My anger grew more Hulk-like every time I thought about this baby being alone while we waited for the inevitable 24 hour CPS call to come. I began to craft up one last attempt to fight for this child. Let's just say that it was basically something you'd see Tom Cruise pull off in a Mission Impossible movie.
Luckily, I realized that I don't look good in tight black spy clothes, and I talked to my wife about how I was feeling.
She had been feeling the same way I did, but had already begun to surrender her anger to God. She asked me a powerful question: "Do you think that bypassing the social workers and connecting directly with the CPS worker is God's plan or your plan?" I don't know if the conviction I felt has anything to do with roller coasters, but it definitely caused me to step back for a moment.
As a social worker myself, I was so caught up in wanting someone to fight and advocate for this child that I never stopped to consider if I was the best option.
SURRENDER AND HOPE
We decided right then to pray and entrust this little baby into God's hands. He could do far more in this situation than either of us could. Perhaps there was another family out there that was better equipped to raise this child than us. Maybe in rushing through this, God was asking us to wait patiently and trust him rather than make something happen on our own.
So we made a commitment to surrender the outcome of this situation to God. This is His child and He knows what's best.
Despite the grief in our hearts, we felt at peace. So, when we received the call from our social worker that CPS had been contacted, we placed our trust in God and asked him to care for this little boy and to bring healing and comfort to our hearts.
A CRAZY TURN OF EVENTS
No joke...Three hours later, our social worker called us. As I looked at the phone, I thought that either she was on her way over to literally rub salt into our eyes, or that there may be some good news to share.
“Are you up for another roller coaster? Because CPS just got in contact with Mom and the adoption plan is back on!”
Ok, I realized this sounds like a cheesy movie plot or a distorted 'everything always works out if you just have faith’ type of church sermon. But that is not the message I want to convey. Us surrendering the outcome of this situation didn’t necessarily guarantee the call. And truthfully, there was no guarantee that things wouldn’t change again.
A few days later we signed paper work for temporary guardianship and committed to invest our love into this child as our own no matter what. For the next 30 days we entered into what’s described as the “legal risk period” while waiting for full guardianship and legal placement.
Eventually the birth mother signed over full guardianship to us, and after seven weeks of daily hospital visits, we brought the precious boy home.
After three months of supervision meetings with our social worker, we completed and submitted the final paperwork, and the adoption became final in February of 2020.
Between the generous donors, favor with CPS, and the speed of the placement, God‘s grace has been evident throughout this entire adoption journey. The name ‘Jaxson’ is derived from the name John, which means “God is Gracious”. There isn’t a more fitting name for our precious son!
BEHIND THE IMAGE
I would be lying if I didn’t say how exhausting these past twelve months have been...especially during the COVID-19 pandemic which has limited the amount of support and recreation options available. Yet watching him grow and learn has made it so worth it. I am proud to call myself his father!