Friday, July 18, 2008

I look into his big brown eyes and kiss his soft and chubby cheeks. My fingers run through his abundant dark curls. His toasted marshmallow skin is in stark contrast to my fair skin and blond hair. Yet he is mine in every way imaginable. I carried him in my heart, my head, and in my dreams for such a long time. I guess that’s partly what made the path such a special one. The road to him was anything but ordinary. It was filled with twists and unexpected turns. Mountainous peeks and deep valleys. But it was also one filled with hope and faith.

By nature, my husband and I are both go-getters. We set our minds on something, and just barrel through to the finish line without looking back. We can also be very spontaneous. So it was likely a surprise to no one when, in the matter of one day, we decided to sell our house AND adopt a second child. That was November of 2006. The goal was to be settled into a new and slightly larger home and immediately start the adoption homestudy process. And we did. By the following May, we had closed on a new house and began the application process.

Unlike last time, we went into the process with eyes wide open. We felt more experienced as we had adopted through the same agency only three and a half years earlier. Our daughter, Alexandra, also came to us though adoption but hers is another story all together. And by August of 2007 we were officially approved as adoptive parents and waiting on a call.

September came and went and no calls. Then October and November. This was baffling to us, as the wait for Alex was relatively short. She came home after only three months of waiting and here we were after 3 months and not a single call. At times I questioned if we were on the right path. How could a family as blessed as ours, who’d already experienced so much good, ask for another child. Did we have the right? Was it selfish? But in the end, I always felt the desire to stay the course and that something extraordinary awaited us.

Around that time, we heard through a friend about a woman in PA who was looking to make an adoption plan for her unborn child. Although we had been seeking to adopt a Caucasian child, we found that this woman, LeAnne, was pregnant with a biracial child. I guess it was something we had never seriously considered. I mean, crazy as it sounds, we hadn’t given it much thought all. We had always “pictured” our family with Caucasian children. So we talked to each other and our families. We did some personal soul searching and started to realize what a non-issue it really was for us. We knew our family would eagerly embrace any child. That was never a question. And I guess the only thing that held us back previously was worrying about what others might think. Although we have never hid the fact that our daughter is adopted, at the same time, we don’t always wear it on our sleeves. But in the end, it wasn’t about what others might think or the conclusions they would draw.

So I was quickly put in touch with LeAnne. She was the sweetest little thing. Already parenting two children alone and being in the midst of a high-risk pregnancy, her strength and determination amazed me. We chatted on the phone with ease and anxiously agreed to adopt her baby girl. Over the following weeks we kept in touch and she sent paperwork into the agency we were working with. With each conversation, my admiration and love for her grew. But although things were progressing well, in my heart I knew. I knew this wasn’t our baby. This was her child and she was meant to raise her. Conversations continued and I tried to ignore what my heart was saying. My head told me that we needed to line up things just in case. So we did. But my heart was right. This wasn’t our baby and she did decide to parent. It was a weird feeling and still is actually. I know there was a reason for us meeting. It just wasn’t the reason either of us first thought. I was there to support her emotionally during a difficult time and she, and her baby, served as a catalyst for our family opening ourselves to adopting transracially. I know that neither of us happened upon each other by chance. God was very busy laying the ground work for what would lay ahead.

So once again, we reevaluated our grids. We opened ourselves up to race as well as some other medical conditions. And the calls did trickle in. A strong desire was also growing within me. As the days passed, I became more and more convinced that we were meant to welcome home a biracial baby. And not only a biracial baby, but a baby boy. I would pick them out in malls and in crowds. Something drew me. It’s as if I knew this is what would complete our family.

At the same time, a very dear friend of ours was matched privately. A friend that I actually met during our first adoption experience. With our girls being only weeks apart in age, we grew close rather quickly. So as the due date approached, the more nervous we both became. It wasn’t about jealously and who deserved what. But our relationship would change, that was a fact. No longer would our children be in the same stage at the same time. And our late night phone calls offering one another support would soon cease. My nights wouldn’t change, but hers would now be filled with middle of the night feedings and all the other things that come along with a new baby. On Friday, March 7th my girlfriend welcomed her little girl into the world. We celebrated by phone and with picture messaging. Baby was beautiful, Mom was glowing and I couldn’t believe how truly happy I was for them. This was her time.

Five days later our case worker called me at work about a potential situation, a newborn biracial baby boy. The calmness that I usually handled these calls with was out the window. It was unexplainable. There was something about this call. This case. This baby. As our caseworker explained the situation and all of the details, my heart was screaming out. Already born the day before, his mom was looking to make an adoption plan. As the details were shared with us, it matched every single scenario that I had been praying about. For some reason, I was so emotional that I had to go out to my car and just cry. I listened to my radio and the songs that had carried me through some of the more difficult times over the past few months. And I pleaded with God for the chance to raise this baby.

We were on pins and needles. If chosen, we would be expected to be on Staten Island the next morning. Those hours of waiting for an answer seemed endless. Calls went back and forth throughout the afternoon and evening. My stomach was in complete knots. At 8pm, we were told that the mother was leaning towards us but had not yet seen the profiles. I think knowing that made it even worse. I think I paced the floors for the entire next hour. Our answer finally came at 9pm on March 12th, 2008. Melissa had chosen us to raise her son!

The next hour was a total whirlwind. News traveled fast. We had three different phones ringing off the hook and my e-mail inbox was soon flooded with congratulations and well-wishes. Reality and logic set in long enough for us to realize that we needed to make a quick trip to the only store open. So we got Alex out of bed and headed to WalMart to pick up the essentials. Grandma came with us and soon our carts were overflowing. With our heads still spinning, we left our house at 2 am to head down to meet our son.

Around 11am March 13th, we arrived at Richmond University Medical Center on Staten Island. I called up to our social worker who in return invited us up to Melissa’s room. I was so nervous that I almost threw up in the flower bed. Feeling terrible that we had neither time, nor clear enough heads to order flowers, we made a quick stop at the gift shop. Alex picked out a bouquet of red roses for Melissa and we headed up to the room. Upon entering room 202, we were eagerly greeted at the door by Melissa who proudly held the tiniest, most precious bundle of joy. She immediately handed me her son, our son. It had taken nearly eleven years, but our family was now complete.

Cullen looked so tiny wrapped up in that blanket. After having a daughter who didn’t have a full head of hair until nearly three years of age, I was in awe of all his thick black hair. And for such a little peanut, he had the most enormous feet! Soon, we were unwrapping him and checking out every inch of our beautiful son. He was simply magnificent, and my heart overflowed with love for him.

We spent five heavenly hours at the hospital getting to know our new son and his first mother. We shared kisses and hugs, laughter and tears, stories of the past and hopes for the future. Sharing that time with Melissa was a dream come true. Unlike with the birth of our daughter, I was able to look her in the eyes and thank her. Mother to Mother. But eventually it was time to say our goodbyes. As we hugged, I held tightly onto her hoping she would somehow understand all of the unspoken things I wanted her to know. To understand how honored we were at this privilege, to know how much he would be loved and cared for, to know that we would never forget the sacrifices she made for him and that he would be raised with the knowledge of her love.

After all of this, it was time to bring our new son home to meet the rest of the family. Upon returning to our house we were welcomed with a huge banner, flowers, gifts and a constant stream of well wishers. The tears fell as each person held our 7 pounds of answered prayer. It marked the end of a very long journey. One that my husband and I set out on over a decade earlier. This was the end of the road. Our family, and my heart, was finally complete.

In a string of events that I can hardly deem a coincidence, we arrived at our respective homes the very same day that our friends did. Born only 4 days apart, our babies would grow up side by side, just as their sisters have. Our relationship would not change with the birth of these babies, but rather deepen. Our late night instant messaging over the agony of the wait was replaced with comparing stories about feeding times and sleeping patterns. Four months later we still look at these two beautiful creatures in amazement at how truly blessed we are. And as this chapter of our lives comes to a close, a new one now opens. And I have my nose pressed eagerly into the pages excited about what lies ahead.