Monday, May 25, 2009

What do we know? An update on our family

The past two weeks have been a blur. On Mother’s Day, our minister stopped us prior to church and mentioned that a friend of hers, a social worker, was trying to place a boy with a same-sex couple.

Were we interested?

She didn’t know much, but she knew that bonding was going to be an issue, since this boy had been in foster care for much of his life. We knew that since we were “off” as teachers during the summer, so we might be a good match. We told her to contact her friend and tell her we’d be interested. In the meantime, Tod’s parents were coming over for the holiday, and we had food to get ready while we secretly assembled our home-study papers and birth parents letter, all under the cloak of secrecy.
Our minister told us that her friend was a no-nonsense kind of person, so if she began talking to us after reading our information, we could pretty much guarantee that she had picked us for placement.

We faxed our stuff to her and waited.

We waited on pins and needles, not really knowing what to do. Our minister had talked with the social worker and she said that we could create a book for the boy in anticipation of the transition from foster care to placement with us. We combed our many picture files and made a collection of photos showing him who we were as a family for his photo album. I remembered my Children’s Literature class, and printed out a simple, repetitive text for the photos. “Anna, Daddy, and Papa” started each picture heading. The pictures showed us playing, during the holidays, swimming, etc. Having this little task seemed to keep our minds from driving us crazy with anticipation and uncertainty.

Due to a variety of circumstances, the social worker was extremely overworked, so it came as no surprise that the initial phone call from her came on a late Friday afternoon. I had carried my cell phone and the landline wherever I went that week in anticipation of her call. As it would happen, she called when I was in the shower and Tod was gone to get the babysitter for our date night that night. Tod heard the phone ringing as he closed the door to leave, but assumed that I would answer it. I listened to her message and I quickly called her back on her cell phone, even though she said she would “get with us next week” and we talked for quite a bit setting up a meeting time for the following Tuesday. I kept my phone conversation quiet as we got Anna settled with the sitter and headed out to find food prior to the cabaret performance. When our beers came, I told Tod about the conversation and we cheered to our potential new son. As mentioned, Pastor Julie told us that her friend wouldn’t mess around with us if she didn’t think we were the ones, so reality set in as we waited for our food.

We had talked with Julie quite a bit during the week, as she was eager to find out what we knew. She and her partner are adoptive parents as well, with two little girls. She was in contact with the social worker and would relay our thoughts and messages to her as we waited for her to contact us. A while back, we stopped at the park across from our church and Anna tossed a penny into the fountain making a wish. We asked her what she wished for and she said, “A little brother!” Pastor Julie shared this with the social worker and she remarked that she couldn’t compete with that kind of cuteness.

Tod took the day off of work on Tuesday, and we puttered around the house getting stuff ready for the boy to come. Meanwhile, I was mentally getting ready to go back to work for the spring/summer session the next day. My blood pressure was probably through the roof. During our initial home study, I cleaned like I had never cleaned before, our house was spotless and everything was in its place. With this meeting, my level of concern was high for sure, but now that we are parents, my sense of reality took precedence over the need to clean. If we presented a house that housed a three and half year-old, as well as a 150 pound St. Bernard that was too clean, she’d think we were freaks. I cleaned up the chunks and called it good as I quickly stashed stuff in closets and vacuumed up the visible crumbs and clumps of dog hair.

The meeting with the social worker went well. We were all in a pretty good space when she came, and were actually sitting in the living room calmly reading when the doorbell rang. We sat around our dinning room table and began to talk about life, kids, adoption, and this little guy who was the center of our attention. We talked about the boy’s history and I kept asking question, as we had made a list at lunch of things we thought we should know. As his narrative was read to us off his file, our questions were answered and we began to know more about who this little guy was. His birth parents were drug users and he tested positive for marijuana at birth. His weight was normal and his Apgar score was 9 (which is good). I can’t go into details about the birth parents right now, but needless to say, they are out of the picture and he has been in foster care with a retired couple since shortly after birth. We found out that his name is Elijah and we debated keeping that as his name since his birth parents live here in Jackson. We settled on keeping the name and calling him Eli for short. Speaking of biblical names, I live up to my biblical counter-part Doubting Thomas. I tend to be the one that errs on the side of caution and will believe it when I see it. As the social worker shared more and more about Eli, I stopped the conversation and asked point blank if this was a match for placement. She said yes and the news began to sink in for good. Instead of speculative language, we began to talk in terms of this happening for sure within the next few months.

I asked if we could see pictures, but she said that people tend to get stupid and stop listening once they see the pictures, so she wanted to finish up the paperwork before we could see him. When that time came, my hands were sweaty and my heart was beating fast. I got up to get Anna something as she pulled out the pictures from his file, a collection of studio shots from somewhere. I came back to the table with my future son spread out for me to see for the first time. Being in the delivery room when Anna was born gave me a front row seat for the birth process and showed me more than any health class movie ever could. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I was worried about what he might look like due to the drug issue and some other health issues (now resolved). What I saw was a young boy with a smile that could light up a room. He has blonde hair, so of course he looks bald in all the photos but he had bright eyes and a killer smile.
The social worker called Anna over and asked her if she wanted to see her little brother. Anna pored over the pictures and after a moment pointed at one and said, “I like that one!”

We agreed.

We will meet him soon, a supervised visit with the social worker and the foster family. After that, we can meet as often as our schedules will allow. Placement will take awhile, but the social worker has promised to pull some strings and favors in the hopes of getting Eli here before summer is over. The transition won’t be abrupt, rather it will be some visits and perhaps some overnights before the big day. This is a good thing as we the time to play a big game of chess with our house, shuffling furniture around to make a room for Eli. Thankfully we kept most of Anna’s baby stuff, and it is gender neutral, so we’re good to go with his new room. Anna is transitioning out of the little baby girl stuff so we’ll flip it over to him to create his new space. We have a pretty big “to do” list in anticipation of his arrival, and we’re okay with that, as we want to make sure that this guy has all the best in his new life. Fate dealt him a crappy hand at birth, but we’re about to change that and offer him a loving home forever.