Girly came to us by adoption. Her story is many miracles at a time.
BigGuy was our biological child. We had determined that there would be no more biological children from our marriage for many, many reasons–the greatest of which that BigGuy’s pregnancy nearly killed us both. And we were thankful to have had the gift of *A* child at all, but we didn’t feel like a complete family (at the time) with just one child.
We considered adoption. Foreign adoption and private domestic adoption… very costly. Husbeau also worried about how we would bond with an adopted child when we have a biological child. So we investigated surrogacy–which appeared to have similar (or shorter) wait times as international or private domestic adoption and with a similar price tag. We started down that path and our surrogate wound up in personal crisis and we couldn’t continue with her.
Which brought us (or rather, me) back to adoption. Husbeau again issued his concerns and my response was to become a foster care family. We could see how we bonded (or didn’t) to children that weren’t ours. It was like a test run. Husbeau was reluctant then, too: what if we DID bond with and love those children? How would we handle them leaving? We weren’t quite as worried about BigGuy because he was heavily into the autism spectrum at that point and barely noticed people being in the room. Foster parents have a pretty nasty image in our country, too; so when they told us “No, no–you’ll be okay! It’s not what you think!” all I could think was “Well, we’re not LIKE you…” In retrospect, we were just like them. They just weren’t articulating the emotions of it very well. But the concern made us drag out our foster care licensing for so long that they almost closed the file.
We were licensed both for foster care and adoption. At the time, in New Jersey, there was the foster care division and the adoption division. The latter handled cases of children whose case goal was adoption. The former handled cases of children whose case goal was to be reunited with their family; but concurrently–they worked a backup plan of adoption in case the reunification fell apart. We were licensed for both. The form to fill out for adoption is horrifying. It’s like ordering a refrigerator. The first question they ask is what gender you’ll accept. Appealing to Husbeau’s frugality, I said “Let’s put that we just want a boy. We have all the boy things to pass down and really–nobody ever wants the boys. Everyone wants the girls.” (sad, but horribly true). Husbeau’s response was “You leave that blank and just be glad if someone gives us a child…” Fair enough. It went on to actual tones of skin coloring that were acceptable… the rest is pretty equally unnerving when you consider that these are specifications for a child.
We fostered. We actually loved it. Those other foster parents were right: we loved those kids so much that all we wanted for them was to be happy. And when they left us, they usually left to relatives or at least to another foster home that was better able to care for their special needs (that happened twice). We knew that they would be much happier with relatives no matter how seemingly “nicer” our house may have been. We weren’t their family. It didn’t mean they didn’t love us. It just meant there was still that void of place in their lives. And fostering didn’t come without it’s casualties. People that we thought knew us better assumed we were making money by fostering and one went so far as to challenge us as to why would do it if we weren’t making money from it.
“Well, if we don’t do it–who will?” I asked her.
“That’s not really YOUR problem, though,” she responded.
That relationship took a very decided turn at that point. We loved fostering. We loved helping those kids on their journey. It wasn’t always easy, but we did love it. Just 4 months before our license was due to be renewed, we decided we would only renew our fostering license and give up on adoption. We’d been matched 2-3 times through the state and those matches fell through. Suddenly, we started considering all the things we could do with just one child. BigGuy was about to turn 5 and was a lot more independent and mobile. We could travel! We could downsize our living arrangements! It all started becoming exciting. We would foster and take breaks between placements to reconnect with just the three of us.
Six weeks later, we got the call. It was a Friday evening. It was a girl. At this point, we had fostered for almost 3 years. I ran through the usual list of questions and stumbled on the fact that this child was SEVEN. DAYS. OLD. I confirmed that the woman calling was from the ADOPTIVE unit. Turns out, Girly was a Safe Haven baby. She was given up by her mother in the hospital at birth. The state got rights to her that day and we were next on the list. After getting the rest of the information, the woman asked “Do you want her?” and I quickly replied “Yes”. She said “Do you want to discuss it with your husband?” and I replied “If it will make you feel better–I can do that…” at which point I hollered up the stairs to Husbeau, ran through the list of answers to the usual questions and said “She wants to know if we will take her,” and of course, he just chuckled at me.
It KILLED me not to immediately go to the hospital (a good 40-minute drive into the depths of hell of New Jersey) to see her. My cousin and his son were coming over. The state had to get paperwork to the hospital to clear us anyway. I tried to tell myself they wouldn’t be able to do that so quickly anyway.
The next day we went to see her. We didn’t know her name, so we didn’t know what name to give when we arrived at the hospital and needed to get through security! I remember them actually taking the time to hunt down the correct nursery and the correct child… and seeing her for the first time.
There is so, so much more to Girly’s story and the journey to her becoming a permanent part of our household. So many amazing parts. So many sad realities of her life that we have yet to endure. People tell us all the time that she is lucky.
A child. Left at a hospital. With nothing from her birthmother–not even a picture and no idea even the race or ethnicity of her birthfather. No health history. And a void she feels so deeply that as soon as she had enough words to articulate it, she made sure we knew. She will grow up obviously Hispanic in a white family of privilege that will disconnect her from what the world will assume of her.
I don’t feel like she’s such a lucky kid.
But she sparkles. Literally. She is vivacious and loving to the Nth degree. Generous, precocious, intelligent and to date she is very healthy. I’d say we got the better end of that deal. And I am thankful for it every single day.