Our experience of welcoming a child into our lives is so different from the images we see and the stories we hear that writing about it has been difficult for me.
Both boys that sleep peacefully in my home as I type came into the world in similar ways.
Their birth mothers did not know that they carried life for months as the tiny bodies developed.
Both boys were born in hospitals and then stayed in those hospitals for weeks.
They were cared for by doctors and dedicated nurses whose faces we have never seen.
They were rocked by arms that only held them for a short time. And then when the day came for those babies to go home . . . they were placed into temporary care.
Our oldest lived in the city apartment of a 76-year-old woman and baby Cam was placed in an upstairs apartment of a 58-year-old nurse. There was love, but there was no permanency.
We picked up Cole at the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in the city. He arrived in a cab with his foster-mother and a box of his belongings. Business swirled around us, people smiled and moved on while our entire life shifted. It felt dingy. It felt uncertain. It felt rushed.
And then we put him in the car and drove home to our future uncertain. It would be over a year before the adoption was finalized.
When it came time to pick up two month old Cam, we requested that we meet him at his foster mother’s. I thought it would be more natural and less chaotic.
The truth is that is was still awkward and uncertain and it was hard.
We drove down an unfamiliar urban street. People were hanging out in groups in front of houses and looked at us as we got out of our cars. We followed an unknown DCF worker up stairs to a large white house I am unable to describe as I felt like I was walking through a tunnel of thoughts and emotions. I remember he opened the door without knocking. We entered a hallway and at the top of large wooden staircase he greeted a woman holding the a tiny baby.
I am sure she said hello, but I remember her greeting as being “He has colic!”
She placed the sweet-faced, cradle capped, little boy into my arms, bringing us into a living room while she bustled about gathering objects and telling us about the little one’s many medical issues. She offered us a large medical book. I declined, overwhelmed.
The social worker sat. Andrew collected the objects and put them into our car . . . a bouncy seat, a baby bathtub, bags of clothes and a large activity car for when he is much bigger. And she talked. She talked all about this little boy. She was anxious. He was sick. He’d had a fever, tremors, seizures . . . and the words swirled and I tried to bring grace and peace. I thanked her, reassured her. And while we headed out the steepest back exit staircase, I handed the baby to Andrew and grabbed the handrail to steady myself.
The social worker spoke to me as Andrew placed the tiny baby in the cavernous car seat. “The visits are on Mondays, so we will need to schedule that.”
I looked at him, overwhelmed by the whirlwind that was, and completely empty of understanding. This baby has visits? With whom? “. . . Ok . . .” I tried to say, tried to think.
“Maybe we will change that, I will call you . . . ” He said more to himself than to me, and he was gone, waving and in his car.
And then we were in our car. I have the same picture of Cam, in the car seat, but I cannot publish pictures of him.
And at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon I asked Andrew to please call our doctor. We had a sick baby and a weekend ahead and I didn’t know what to do.
And the uncertainty began.