Here's the thing--no one tells you when you strap in for the crazy ride they call foster-adoption that some of those turns are going to knock you blindsided. No one tells you how steep the hills are. No one tells you the height of the peaks or the depths of the plummets.
No one tell you because frankly, no one's experience is exactly the same.
I've been going over this in my sleep-deprived, cold-addled mind and have realized that the first-person experience of foster-adoption is by no means a one-size-fits-all enterprise. Not that any adoption is, really. Each one has it's own storyline that plays itself out over time. But the whole radical "who knows what's going to happen" of foster-adoption seems unique when compared to the checklist dossier preparation and "you've been matched!" process of many international adoptions.
For us, what we asked for is certainly not what God had for us. Remember my plan? Hispanic siblings, preferably a preschooler and older toddler. But what's this? A 14 month-old Caucasian boy? Yep, that sounds about right.
Left to my own devices, my own plan, I would have missed the blessing that God was waiting to hand us. Foster-adoption leaves that door pretty wide open for you. You have to listen--and listen hard--in order to hear the voice that leads you to your child.
I didn't post about meeting Little Man, primarily because I left that initial get-together with a sinking feeling so palpable in my chest that I wished I could literally peel it away. See, my picture of my future child (children, actually) was that we would somehow be the first home where they were genuinely, deeply loved. And so clearly, this was not the case. A true battle erupted in my heart the moment that I asked the fostermother if I could hold Little Man. I saw the look in her eye, and I knew it instantly. It's the look that says, "Well, o.k. But are you worthy of holding this child? Because when I hold him, my whole heart goes into it. And you ... well, I bet you're just going to hold him."
If you have children--bio, adopted, step, whatever--you know what I'm talking about. There is a certain amount of healthy suspicion that we hold in our hearts in regards to others interacting with our children. And this momma had it.
In other words, this was her boy.
I didn't go into foster-adoption with the desire of adopting someone else's child. I went into it looking for my child, our child, the one that God placed here, knowing that we would find him or her or them there.
But what do you do when that child already has a momma? A family? Is loved?
I am so shocked and humbled by the fostermom's decision to let us adopt Little Man that I can barely get my head around it. I am pretty certain that I could do that--that I would be the mother in Africa begging the family next door to please, please raise my child so that he might live. But oh, the cost. Think about it too hard and you feel the bile rise in your chest. A choice like that should never, ever have to be made.
You know that saying? "Being a mother is like choosing to live the rest of your life with your heart walking around outside of your body"? Well, this dear woman just chose to send her heart far from her body, from her table, from her love. The cost? I can't imagine.
Little Man was adorable at our first meeting. His hair is thick and fine and fully brown as if it's already made up its mind that messing around with highlights is a useless endeavor. His eyes were a bit wiser than your average 14 month-old. He was wearing some discount store jeans and a screen-printed sweatshirt that did nothing for his complexion. And he was happy. Smiley, interacting, content to crawl around and explore ... loved.
I wanted to make sure that I'd always remember that day. I took great pains to remember every detail, no matter how flustered I was that this. was. it. And my memories are holding--I can picture him chomping on a goldfish cracker, and grabbing for my necklace and trying to figure out how to get from one part of the play structure to another.
But the thing I know I'm always going to remember is the look in the fostermom's eyes when she let me hold her baby. There was so much bound up in that, so much to live up to. And she thinks we meet the muster. Amazing.
Saturday afternoon, I will go back to the same spot to meet Little Man again. This time, I will go prepared with a stroller or a carrier, and a diaper bag of my own. I won't have to cast around, trying to pick out who he might be. His face is already a part of the backdrop of my mind. The whole clan is coming; the kids will meet their new little brother for the first time. We'll start the process formally known as "transition." And from this moment on, our family will never be the same.