This is how it happened: we were sitting in our attorney's office down in Portland, where we had been staying for two days while we waited for the courts to clear us for taking him across state lines. All the paperwork was in line--Buddy's birthmom had signed off her parental rights and we had signed everything we needed to sign. But lingering doubt hung over our heads because of one potentially life-changing bit of information we did not know yet. Buddy's birth father has Native American heritage, and depending on the percentage, Buddy could have been claimed by his birth father's tribe if he had 24% or more of that tribe in his blood. If Buddy had been claimed, he would have been taken from us and this little baby who had only been with us (and that I had been nursing) from the start would have been taken from us and we would have never seen him again. Talk about sitting on pins and needles!
Our attorney was doing everything in his power to get us that information, but you can imagine how high of a priority it might be to a tribe to figure out whether or not they can claim some random baby. We were looking at potentially enduring the unknown for weeks--not a happy prospect when you are trying to bond with a baby and want so badly to call him your own. Thankfully, God is bigger than our doubts and busy tribe officials. :)
So, our attorney sat looking at us and saying that he wasn't sure if he should file Buddy's birthmom's termination of parental rights or not. If he did and then we discovered that the tribe could claim him, he would be lost to us forever. If he waited, then Buddy could go back to his birthmom if the tribe laid claim to him. Considering his birthmom's mental state, we weren't sure which was the better option, but we did know that either way he would be lost to us.
Our attorney paused in explaining all this to us and I remember we all just sat for a minute, unsure of what to do next. At that moment, his secretary popped in with a call for him. He came back moments later with a huge smile on his face. "By chance" he had been able to talk to a tribe official who had gotten right on our case. This man had just called to inform him that Buddy's birth father was half Japanese and half Native American (which we already knew) but that his half native heritage contained another tribe as well. That made Buddy 23.78somethingorother% of the tribe and thus they were unable to claim him! The official offered his condolences, because that meant Buddy could not receive benefits from the tribe--like we cared about THAT in the least!!
Later, as we were driving home in the car, I looked back at our kids--two in booster seats and two in infant seats--and felt an overwhelming joy and peace. Once again, God had blessed us with a glimpse of his hand in the building of our family. We arrived home that day for the first time as a family of six.
So now, one year later, I'm contemplating the joys and trials of this past year with Buddy and all they have taught me. Some of the things I've learned are hard to admit, but at the chance I could be an encouragement to some other adoptive mom out there or just as a testimony of God's grace in my life here they are, for better or worse.
1. That boy's smile can light up a room.
I've never known another baby with such a ready smile that is so full of life. Buddy has a way of drawing people's attention and warming their hearts with his responsiveness. What a special gift.
Along with that, I am so thankful that Buddy has such a laid-back and easygoing personality. God knew I couldn't handle two high-needs babies at once, thankfully!
2. It took me two months to truly love Buddy.
Before Buddy was born, I heard testimony after testimony of adoptive moms seeing their babies for the first time and immediately falling madly in love. Somehow, I just expected it to be the same for me.
Seconds after Buddy was born, as the nurse wrapped him in a blanket, she turned towards me and whispered "It's your baby!" I smiled and nodded through happy tears, but a part of me wanted to say "No he's not, not yet anyway." I wasn't going to let myself think of him as mine until his birthmom had signed all the papers and we had heard from the tribe. However, even after we brought him home and he was truly "ours" I still felt like I was babysitting someone else's baby.
Oh I loved on that boy, for sure. I nursed him and kissed him and told him I loved him and soothed him and hugged him. But all the while I felt like such a liar. However, sometime during that time (you'll have to forgive my sleep-deprived memory) I was reminded of some wise words I once received from a mother of eight. She said, "You don't have to act the way you feel." She taught her kids that when they felt angry or frustrated with each other. I came to realize that the opposite is true as well when it comes to love--you can act on something you don't feel. Eventually, after time upon time of going through the motions, the love will eventually be there to bring truth to those actions. It can save a marriage, or it can create a mother's heart-bond. I suppose that love is sometimes "at first sight" and sometimes it will catch you by surprise because it has been growing so quietly all along--even a mother's love.
3. God not only preserved Buddy's life, he also preserved his health.
From the moment he emerged into this world as a roly-poly 8 pounds, Buddy has been the picture of perfect health. Considering the stresses and the under-nourishment he recieved in utero, this is truly a miracle.
Buddy has met (and even exceeded) every developmental milestone: sitting up at 6 months, crawling at 8 months, walking at 12 months. He is a very observant, diligent and determined little guy. It's so cute to watch him stack Duplos or figure out how some toy works--so serious and focused. He will sit quietly for a long time totally concentrated on the task at hand. :)
I often wish I could take Buddy in to the different doctors, psychiatrists and counselors who told his birthmom that she would be better off terminating her pregnancy and say "See, see? YOU almost ended the life of this perfect little boy." And that is what he is. Perfect.
4. Biological motherhood is one of the strongest bonds on earth.
Even though I had given birth twice before, I never fully realized the incredible bond of love that God gives a mother for her child until I gave birth to Boy Blue and we brought Buddy home weeks later. There is something about giving birth that is so miraculous. To see your baby for the first time and have him placed in your arms and be filled with that immediate overwhelming deluge of love for him is beyond words.
I came to realize how innate that bond is one day when I was busy at something (cooking? cleaning? laundry?--again, sleep-deprivation) and I hopped up to get Boy Blue who had just woken up crying. I didn't even think about it, I just got up to take care of him, semi-lost in thought. Then I realized that Buddy had already been crying, but it just hadn't registered in my brain. In my mommy-brain, the birth connection with Boy Blue was so innate that my body responded to his cries before my brain registered them. Over time, my strong connection with Boy Blue faded a bit, even as my bond with Buddy grew, until they were on an equal level. By now, I can honestly say there is no difference. Each of my children fill equal yet unique spaces in my heart. Most of the time, I forget which one came to us through adoption. :)
By the way, I can't say that I recommend giving birth and adopting two children in such a close period of time because it does make it more difficult to bond with the adopted child early on, but if I had it to do over again, I would. One hundred times over.
Okay, well, maybe just ten. :)
Let me just interject here and say that FarmDad immediately bonded with Buddy. In the hospital, FarmDad held him cuddled close constantly, except for the times when he had to be under the biliruben lights. Even now, they share a special bond that is different than the ones FarmDad has with our other three. It is the sweetest thing in the world to see Buddy light up and say "Dada!" when daddy comes home from work. :)
3. Don't over-analyze everything.
This is something I am constantly having to remind myself--I guess because I've read the adoption books exploring the psychology of adoption and how being adopted can shape a person's life, even if they are adopted as an infant. I would always catch myself thinking things like "Maybe his fear of being playfully tossed in the air stems from distrust that developed because of the loss he experienced at birth" or "What if his bad sleep routine is because he has sleep issues like his birthmom?" Even writing those things now seems silly, because they are no longer issues and in fact it is Boy Blue who has now reverted in his sleep habits and is dealing with separation anxiety! So, through it all I'm learning that there is a fine line between being aware of issues that may arise as a result of being adopted and over-labeling things that don't need to be labeled.
4. God's still working on me.
The number one thing I have learned this past year is that I have some deep-rooted pride, fear and selfishness issues that God is trying to weed out of my heart. By far the hardest for me to admit, but so true. I fight the pride when I wonder what others think about us having so many small kids or wondering if adoption has ruined our chances of having a picture-perfect little family. I find myself fearing for Buddy's future more than I do with my biological three. Most of all, this past year has revealed the selfishness in my heart. At the end of the day (or the middle of the night, or the wee hours of the morning, or at naptime, or...you get the picture), when tiredness clashes with one or the other needy baby, I'm reminded of how utterly I depend on God's grace to see me through and my desperate need for him.
It is then that I realize that God's biggest purpose in leading us to adopt just might be to save me from myself. And I thought we were just saving a baby's life. Silly me.
Through it all, God is teaching me the beauty of adoption. Not Buddy's, but mine.
Amen and hallelujah.