It has been ten years since we began our adoption journey. In honor of the passing of time, I will be publishing one post each month in 2013 that reflects on our lives in 2003. Please read the January, 2003 post.
The autopsy on baby Matthew is inconclusive as to which exact kidney disease he had. The pathology is indicative of several different conditions, and a second opinion is required. One of the possibilities is that he had a kidney disease that could also be quietly destroying the kidneys of my husband or me. In order to rule this particular disease out, Andrew and I each need to have renal ultrasounds. Mine is scheduled for my birthday.
Meanwhile, we are inundated with tasks to qualify us for adoption. We have our fingerprints taken, so that the Child Abuse and Neglect Tracking System (CANTS) can make sure we are clear of any records. We are cleared, as I knew we would be, and I wish that ALL potential parents – not just foster and adoptive parents – were required to pass this background check.
We fill out paperwork with our fire escape plans, our conflict resolution plans, and every type of contingency for a crisis in the home.
Our first home study visit takes place this month. I stay up late the night before the visit, cleaning every corner and rearranging shelves, even though our place was already clean (of course it was clean -- we had no kids or pets). In the evenings, I take a figure painting class, and several nude oil portraits hang on the walls. I shove them under the bed, in case our social worker is a prude, and I hang paintings of flowers and landscapes instead.
Our renal ultrasounds are healthy – finally a piece of good news – and we decide to spend a much-needed weekend at a Bed & Breakfast while we work on Adoptive Parent Profile. We drive several hours away to a lovely quiet home nestled in rural Michigan. Snow encrusts the ground and our car tires crunch appealingly as we pull in front of the inn.
Despite the winter beauty, my heart is heavy. I ache for my missing baby every waking hour of every day. Tears fill my eyes at the most random triggers – the chiming of our musical clock, the sight of a bird taking flight, the smell of a food I craved during my pregnancy – and happiness is elusive.
As we settle into the Bed & Breakfast, I begin talking with the young woman who works there. She asks why we are on vacation – I mention that we are planning to adopt and needed to escape town for a few days to clear our heads and write our adoption profile. Her eyes fill with tears, and she tells me her story.
She had four children, a handful for a mom in her twenties. Her toddler son was diagnosed two years earlier with leukemia, and her life revolved around caring for him. Last year, she gave birth to another baby – a girl—but she was so busy caring for her son that she did not even think very much about the new baby, other than to hold her and care for her as needed. She was preparing to lose her son, and she was blindsided when the baby girl never awoke one morning. The diagnosis was SIDS. Several months later, she lost her four-year-old boy to cancer. She speaks openly of her two missing younger children, while expressing great love and appreciation for her older two children. Listening to this young mother, looking at her, I feel ashamed of my own grief, so insubstantial in the face of such immeasurable tragedy. How could someone endure so much loss and still breathe? And yet, she does breathe, and she does not appear tortured. She appears sad and realistic and accepting, with a sweet smile and impossibly old eyes.
Andrew and I take a long walk through the woods, and I cannot stop talking about the young woman back in the inn. Her quiet strength and ability to face each day, her determination to keep living for her two surviving children and her husband, convince me that if she can move forward, so shall we. I feel as if I were meant to encounter this woman at this exact moment, to pull myself out of my self-pity and feel afresh the gratitude for all I have. I know I will remember her and her story as long as I live.
Andrew and I ponder what we will write in our adoption profiles. We decide to focus our writing on what we have—and what we have is each other. We write about our relationship, our marriage, our love. He writes a section about me and all the things he loves about me, and I do the same, joyfully writing about what a wonderful teacher he is and how well he relates to people. We write about our parents, and how both his folks and mine have enjoyed decades-long marriages. We write about our siblings, and our love for them, and theirs for us.
We communicate that ours is a home that will provide love and supports of every possible type to every person who dwells within it. There really isn’t any more to say other than that.
We spend the weekend writing, and eating good food, and hiking through the snowy woods. And I feel my baby’s presence, and I weep for him, and I continue to turn my face toward the slim rays of sun peeking through.
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