Two years ago at almost this exact time of year I got a phone call from a friend who I knew for a very long time (OK, since I was 2) and due to life circumstances, we had grown apart. She called me because she had turned her life around and was expecting her first child within a few weeks. We began speaking and I slowly started to feel good about her again. Her baby was born in July, seemingly healthy and she was very happy. After many phone calls and a few weeks, (and a story that I will not share here because it is not mine to share) she asked me if we would care for her son temporarily. We said yes right away and he came to stay with us. He was five weeks old. Over the next five weeks, we grew to love him and treat him as if he was our own child. Also during this time, she said repeatedly that she wanted him to stay with us, to grow up with us, to have a Mom and a Dad, to have three sisters. We said yes to all of that. And then she changed her mind. We were heart broken. We were not sure he would be okay with her, but also had no say in the matter, so with many tears we sent him home. Thankfully some family moved in with her and all is fairly well now.
A few weeks went by, and we slowly healed. Around the end of October I could no longer just sit with my thoughts of other children. I knew that I did not want to carry any more, but that I wanted our family to grow. My husband, my wonderfully understanding, supportive, amazingly enthusiastic about most of my ideas, jumped right on board. We would become foster parents. We attended all of the classes, did all of the fire marshall checks, had a home study, filled out medical forms, set up a bedroom, and finally became licensed foster parents. We chose to accept up to two children under age 4. We also made it clear that our intention was adoption. While in foster care, the primary goal is family reunification, case workers generally have a pretty good idea about which way a case is headed. There are no guarantees, but they usually try to look at the desire of the family (foster only or adoption) if possible when placing children. This whole process took about six months. We received our license on St. Patrick's day. Every day the phone didn't ring was disappointing. We went about our lives, and tried to be patient. After all, if we weren't getting calls, there wasn't a child being abused or neglected. (Not that there weren't children in trouble, but you know...) 14 days after we became licensed, my phone rang. It was March 31, early afternoon. Our home study worker called us and said that a baby boy had been born twenty minutes earlier, gave us as much history and information as she had on the family situation, and asked if we would accept him. I said yes, without a moment of hesitation.. She told me that someone would call us later that afternoon when all of the court paperwork had been done so we could go up and start bonding with the baby right away. I ended up calling her back around 4:00 because I had still not heard from anyone, but there was no new news. Tortuously, we went to bed without having met our little guy, and also under a blizzard watch. The next morning was Friday, April first and we woke up to school closed, and all state and county government closed. This meant we would have to wait until Monday to meet our boy! We live as close as you can get to the hospital he was in and we could not get there to see him because the paperwork hadn't been finished. It was the longest weekend of our lives. I have never been so unhappy to have a surprise three day weekend. April Fools day it was indeed. We spent the weekend getting ready for his arrival. We didn't know anything but a first name. We didn't know if he was a preemie (he was, by six(ish) weeks), if he was born addicted to anything (he was not), if he was healthy(he was, but had some feeding issues being so early). We just knew that we couldn't wait to meet him and to kiss his sweet face. Monday finally rolled around and I heard from the case worker around 10:00. She told me I could head up to the hospital to meet him any time. I dropped Maya off with a friend and hurried up there. I arrived about twenty minutes later. He was in the continuing care nursery, I told them who I was and they sent me right in. He was alone in a bassinet, all swaddled with a cap on. He looked exactly how I thought he would. This is the moment I first saw him.
This baby would change us in so many ways. He was in the hospital for eleven days and then came home with us. In the days we waited to bring him home, I spent every moment I could there with him. Friends and family took our other kids while Will was at work and they weren't at school and I spent hours with him sleeping on my chest, reading Harry Potter out loud so he could learn my voice. The girls came to visit every day and were so excited to have a baby to hold. *I am going to break in here and just say that there are parts of his story I will not put here, because he should get to decide who to tell and when and what*
When he came home, due to the circumstance of his case, we had to bring him to visits occasionally, but they didn't last long. We were falling in love with this amazing boy. Foster care is hard. You are asked to give all the love you have to a person who might not get to stay. It is beautiful, difficult, stress inducing, wildly hard and ever changing, but absolutely worth it. I developed this insane, intense outrageously bold sense of protection for this little boy, this tiny baby who might not be my son one day. He was today, and I loved him like he was. It's funny, people say there is no difference in the love for a child who is born to you and a child who isn't. I disagree. I love ALL my children equally, but completely differently. I cannot describe the love I had built for him. Desperate, fierce, consuming are all appropriate and accurate and that is such a scary thing to feel you might lose. Thankfully, the months went by fairly uneventfully. The goals for the birth family continued to go unmet, despite many attempts and much support. In January, When he was nine months old, the judge terminated the rights of his biological parents and we began paperwork to adopt him. He was definitely a part of our family. We could not remember what it was like before he came. We still had visits from his caseworker once a month, and his guardian ad litem every three, but things were smooth going at this point. There was always a chance that the adoption wouldn't happen, because with foster care nothing is final until it's final, but when we got our court date to finalize his adoption it was a very good day. We started a countdown 40 days out from our date and our friends all jumped in to help. This was one of my very favorite shows of support we had along the way. It means so much that we are so loved by so many. This has been such a journey. Many months of never being able to take a deep breath, much love for an amazing little boy, many lessons about giving everything up to the universe and having faith that things will work out the way they were meant to, lots of good thoughts from people we love, and lots of love and support sent to his first family who will miss out on life with the most wonderful boy. I think about his first mother quite often. I wonder how often she thinks of him, and if she misses him. I always give him an extra kiss when I put him to bed, for her. Whatever went on in her life to bring her to where she is now, I mourn for her because she is missing out on something indescribable, a boy like no other. A funny, silly, sweet, truck obsessed, animal loving boy who has lit up our world.
On July 18, 2012 Ned became our son officially, on paper, and in the eyes of the law. Of course for us he always was.