Two weeks ago, Jason and I almost gave up on this adoption. We were reminded that because our home study paperwork was lost in the mail last fall, a long list of clearances, medical exams, and other things would expire before our consultant contract did, and we had to decide whether it was even worth the time and money to update it all with only ten weeks left on our FAC contract.
Because, verily, verily, I say unto you: We. Were. Beyond. Exhausted. Of. This. Process.
We were running on the mere memory of fumes. Even my rock, Jason, had stopped encouraging me that it was going to happen. We were just two weeks shy of TWO YEARS since we decided to pursue this adoption, and in some ways we didn’t feel any closer than we had been at the beginning.
When we started, all signs said “Go,” all the lights were green, and it felt like the seas were parting just for us. There was no question in my mind that we were meant to pursue this. But a few months in, lights started turning red. The perfect plan unraveled, and it seemed like we were out in the weeds, struggling to make any headway at all.
The day we realized that the updates were looming, I got out a piece of paper and wrote out a checklist of items that needed to be completed for our consultant. Then I wrote out another checklist of items that needed to be completed just to update the home study. The paperwork, fees, and “proofs” that we are worthy to adopt had been absolutely endless. We had to squeeze appointments, phone calls, and reams of forms into our already busy schedule. The lists looked like the hurdles that we didn’t have the strength to jump.
I set those lists on the kitchen counter, and neither Jason or I even touched them for 24 hours. I wrote an email to the care coordinator that could have been a chapter in Lamentations. She responded right away with kind words and sincere love.
I hadn’t updated my blog for a long time. There was nothing to write that I hadn’t already written. No news. No change. Just nothing. Before we started this adoption, I had no idea the degree of self-worth that is tied up in the attainment of this goal. Even though it is completely out of my control, its failure or success feels like a direct reflection of ME. It’s humiliating to repeatedly answer kind inquiries with, “no news,” because it feels like I am saying, “No, we are still not good enough.”
Wednesday morning, October 2, I packed up all of my children and left the house at 7:30 a.m. to take my kids to school and co-op. Jason stayed home to take an important phone call. At 7:36 a.m., unbeknownst to me, our consultant emailed us a case that required a response by 9:00 a.m. When I dropped my girls off at school 30 minutes later, I had a text from her telling me to check my email. I didn’t have the time I needed to give it my full attention, and Jason was tied up at home. I drove my other three kids to co-op and sat in the parking lot trying to figure out what to do before I went inside to teach a class of 5 and 6 year olds about the character trait of contentment. In the confusion, I sent a “No” response before we had time to actually make a decision. Then, Jason texted me and said we should say “Yes,” and with 10 minutes until the deadline, I sent another email explaining that it was a mistake, and we wanted to say yes. Then I checked my email obsessively for the next twenty minutes, hoping for confirmation that it had been received. When I did hear back, it turned out that my second email was too late, and we had apparently missed our opportunity to present to that mama. The rest of the day went badly. I floundered my way through it, forgetting important appointments and items, arriving late, listening to arguing and bickering from the backseat, and stewing in frustration while I idled in traffic. It was a stupid day.
And then the day was done and we were all home for the night. Jason had made chicken and potatoes, and we gratefully scooped them, warm and comforting, onto our plates. I took one bite and then thought, “The only thing that would make this better is peas.” Suddenly, I remembered seeing a bag of frozen peas in the back of the freezer weeks before. I actually jumped out of my chair and went in search of those peas. The peas that would save that horrible day. I gasped when I found them, heated them up and spooned them on top of my mashed potatoes, and then closed my eyes while they popped between my teeth. I was SO thankful for those peas. That silly bag of peas felt like a hug.
I do not know what changed my heart the next day, but I woke up with a burning compulsion to continue. I felt completely different. I told Jason that I wanted to finish strong. Cross every “t”, check every box, pay every fee until our contract expired. Yes, until our contract expired. Because that is honestly what I saw in the future. It felt like the finish line. The day that I could finally lay down and rest, with no more scrutiny, no more anxiety, and no more wishing/wondering/hoping. It had been a long road.
My new enthusiasm drove me to start working on the list. Jason followed quietly. I felt a palpable high, almost like a caffeine buzz, that lasted for days. I prayed so often that my prayers became like background music.
My close friend, Amanda, told me that she had been praying for renewed hope for me. She knew how desperate I had been feeling, and her concern buoyed me up. I found the bowl of the leftover peas accidentally left in my Tupperware cupboard the next night and laughed. It was a reminder of my funk on the previous day. But it was also a reminder that what I really wanted was RIGHT THERE when I needed it.
I powered through the next few days as if I was being pulled forward by a fervor. I prayed constantly for very concrete things. The first was some encouragement in a dream. Two times during this adoption, I had been awoken in the night by a vivid dream that stuck with me for the rest of the day, felt like a personal message to me, and which influenced my decisions afterwards. I prayed that I would wake up with some kind of confirmation that God was still listening and still had a plan for us.
I also prayed boldly that we would would be matched with one of the mamas that we had said “yes” to that week. I prayed that I would see our consultant’s name on my phone screen, calling us with good news. And even more recklessly, I actually told friends that I was “praying expectantly” that week.
Then I committed to shutting out the negative voices that I had been listening to for the past year. The voices that answered every scrap of encouragement with scorn and even used statistics to convince me that God had forgotten us. It felt like I was holding onto a new hope with a tight but fragile grip. I refused to listen to the hopelessness. I told God that I trusted Him, and then I asked Him to change my heart to one of contentment and faith.
Miraculously, I started to feel something happening. My despair sloughed off. We started checking things off of our lists. All of the work started to feel manageable. My kids and I prayed out loud in the car on our way to school. We asked boldly for a match in the next week.
On Thursday, my neighbor texted me and said that she had dreamed that Jason and I were on a plane, traveling to pick up our baby. She said she had debated about telling me because she didn’t want to upset me. She had no idea what a thrill her text gave me. I had asked for encouragement in a dream. It never occurred to me that it wouldn’t be MY dream.
The next Tuesday, I sent our consultant an email just before I went to bed. I told her that while the long wait had been agonizing, I could tell that God had been working in our hearts the whole time. Two years ago, I had a very narrow view of what I wanted our adoption to look like. But during the wait, I had changed my mind completely, and was actually hoping and praying for the things I was most afraid of at the beginning.
She responded the next morning with a very kind and encouraging message, agreeing that God was using the wait to grow us, and closing with the words, “Believing your yes is coming, friend!!!” Heartened by her words, I drove my girls to school with the same consuming intensity that had propelled me through that previous week. We had been listening to the local Christian radio station for a few days, and during the drive, the “Verse of the Day” bit came on. The DJ read Psalm 37:7 and discussed it, adding some witty anecdotes of her own. “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” It was like a balm had been poured on my restless heart. My shoulders relaxed, and I whispered my agreement, with no bitterness, just quiet resignation. These things that had seemed like foolishness to me for over a year started to take on a new reality: faith, trust, hope and joy. After I dropped the girls off, we continued on to our co-op. The sun was out. I was keenly aware of my change of attitude from the week before.
Friends there asked how the adoption was going. I told them about the approaching deadlines and expirations. I told about the two heartbreaking failed attempts that we had already made. I was honest about the relief I anticipated feeling when the contract would expire. But I felt a lightness while I recounted it all. The pain I had felt for over a year had lost its oppressiveness.
I spent an hour and a half in the nursery, holding other mamas’ very loved babies. It felt completely natural to lift them out of car seats, balance them on my hip, smooth their fine hair, and smile at their bright eyes. I was telling the other ladies in the nursery about the rough day a week before, when I heard a faint hum. I asked if it was someone’s phone. I walked toward the sound and realized that it was coming from my purse.
The next moment is a snapshot of joy in my memory. I peered into my purse where my phone was lying on top, screen-side up…
…and it said her name.
I had imagined that moment daily for almost a year. I thought that I would stare at her name on my phone for a moment of euphoria, knowing what it meant, and letting the flood of relief wash over me.
But in real life I plucked that phone out of my purse so fast I almost dropped it, and then I held it up to my face and allowed just enough breath out to say “hello?”
She asked how I was, in a voice that sounded like a smile. I stepped to the nursery door, trembling, and said, “good…I think…?”
She laughed. And then said, “Well, you’re about to get a whole lot better…because you have a match!”
She said she had known it when she replied to my email a few hours earlier, even knowing that the things that I told her our hearts had changed about were now going to be part of our adoption story.
I opened the baby gate, walked out into the hall, hyperventilated a bit, and said, “We DO!? Tell me, tell me!” And then I didn’t hear anything else she told me because the lights were so bright, and my friends were smiling at me with anticipation, and it was real, and the answer was “YES!”
It was the perfect day. I was surrounded by friends when I got the news. My parents were in town, so the kids and I left co-op early to tell them and my girls at the same time. We told everyone, in fact. Risky, we knew, but it was impossible to contain our delight.
I took my girls to their lessons that evening, and we stopped in the baby section of Target and touched all of the sweet little things that had felt off-limits to us before. We gasped as we realized all of the wonderful ways it was working out.
On our way back home that evening, we passed two minor car accidents as we drove through one town. Our concern for the drivers and passengers quieted us. And then as we drove through the town before our own, we passed through every single intersection under a GREEN LIGHT. Every one of them from one end of town to the other, inducing gleeful squeals of laughter.
I have no guarantees about what will happen from here on. I have learned in this last two years, that it is possible to be uncertain about the future, and still possess utter joy in the present moment. The brilliant days just before heartbreak were still brilliant days. I can still count them as blessings, even if they don’t last. I am not certain about what is to come, but my prayers were undeniably answered. That IS certain. And I will smile every time I remember those green lights and that little bowl of peas.