In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, Portrait of an Adoption is hosting the third annual acclaimed series, 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days. Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.
Dear Traevin, Daddy Loves You
By Ryan Blades
I have quite a story to tell you, although it will be many years before you read it. You came to us on Dec 24th at 11:00pm, a wholly unexpected gift. In a not-too-distant future you'd have called me Uncle Ryan, but instead you call me Daddy. While we were not planning for a baby when you came into our lives, and we were never on the "adoption list", we couldn't be happier to have you to love.
I write this letter hoping that you can see the absolute joy and love you have brought to our lives, and that you'll never doubt your own self-worth. You are a happy and beautiful little boy who melts the hearts of all you come across. We welcomed you in with open arms, and although we had no real idea of what to expect, we have never looked back.
You were born on Dec 22nd to my brother and his girlfriend. They each have three other children, but you were their first baby together, and they were so excited to have you! Two days later, our family was getting together at your Grandpa's house for Christmas Eve celebrations, and you were about to be discharged from the hospital. We were really looking forward to meeting you.
It was about 2:00pm when we got a phone call from your birthfather saying that a social worker was going to drop by their hospital room before discharge. This was the first hint that something might be wrong, and it started to raise the anxiety level of all of us at Grandpa's house.
We knew that both of your birthparents had a history with Child and Family Services with their other children, but we didn't have a lot of details. A few hours later, your birthfather called us again, this time with panic and anger in his voice; you had been taken by Child and Family Services. We could hear your birthmother sobbing in the background. Her baby had just been ripped from her arms.
Your Mommy and Auntie rushed to the hospital to find out exactly what was going on. When they arrived at the hospital, you were already gone with a social worker's business card and a court order left in your place. They immediately called the number on the business card, offering to help in any way possible.
They found out that there was a very slight chance that you could come home with one of your relatives through a program called Kinship Care, rather than going to Foster Care while the investigation involving your birthparents took place. After a few minutes on the phone, your Mommy found out that she and I were the only family members that met all of the qualifications for the program.
In the rush to get to the hospital, your Mommy had left her phone at Grandpa's and had no way to communicate with me before having to say yes or no to the social worker on the phone. Little did she know, I had been sending messages to her phone telling her that we could take you home with us if that were an option. We had never met you, but we already loved you and wanted to keep you safe and within the family. Mommy consented to police record checks for both her and me, and she was informed of the next steps by the social worker.
Things suddenly kicked into high gear. It was at 6:00 pm on Christmas Eve when I got the call "We're getting the baby! We're getting the baby tonight!" I am proud that we both trusted our hearts and each other enough to make the decision to fight for you that night. When your Mommy told me of the process we were about to undertake, I knew it would be a very difficult process, and that there were no guarantees that we would even succeed in bringing you home, but we were going to do everything in our power.
Those of us still at Grandpa's house immediately dropped what we were doing and set off for our house. We needed to get it ready for a Child Services inspection. However, as we were all en route, we received another call from the social worker.
She had forgotten to mention that we needed to have a full-sized crib or we wouldn't be allowed to bring you home. This was a problem. On Christmas Eve, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, closes at 6:00pm, and it was now 6:15pm. We were desperate. We started calling everyone we knew that had children to see if they had a crib we could use for those first few nights. I'm sure some of these people were incredibly confused with such a random request at dinner time on Christmas Eve without any of the backstory, and unfortunately, no one had a crib available.
Finally someone suggested we call Mommy's brother and his wife, your new Uncle and Auntie, as they were expecting to have a baby any day now. They were beyond gracious and agreed to dismantle, deliver and set up their beautiful, brand new crib for you to sleep in until we could get our own a few days later. Mommy and I will be forever grateful; without their generosity, we wouldn't have been allowed to bring you home.
We finally reached our house, and everyone went to work getting it ready for the inspection. Mommy and I had just returned from an out-of-town Christmas celebration with her side of the family, and were preparing to leave for a vacation in a few short days; the house was a wreck.
The utter selflessness, dedication and love shown as our entire family came together to put away laundry, scrub bathrooms, and clean dishes was a beautiful show of their love for you. Mommy and I were only there for about thirty minutes before we had to leave for our interview at the Child and Family Services office, but the rest of the family stayed behind and continued to work diligently to get our home ready for you.
The interview was over two hours long, incredibly personal, and very uncomfortable, but apparently we answered the questions well enough, because the social worker went off to present our case to her supervisors. Before she left the room, she warned us that it was unlikely our case would go through as placements are almost never made this late at night, let alone on a holiday. Our hearts sank a little bit, but we remained hopeful.
She then asked if we'd like to see you! We were so surprised to hear that you were currently in the building and excitedly jumped at the offer.
We had not yet met you, and the moment I laid my eyes on you was one I will never forget. You were beautiful beyond words, with a full head of spiky hair, and a tiny milk moustache. The social worker handed you to me and your tiny body fit in my two hands. You were still red from your recent birth and your face was still all squishy. You opened your beautiful blue-grey eyes and my heart was yours.
About thirty minutes later, the social workers came back in, and we were thrilled to learn that we had passed the initial parts of the screening. The last step would be the home inspection. The social workers would bring you to our home, and if we passed, you would be left there with us. We nervously rushed back from the interview to a beautifully clean home and some exhausted family members.
The inspection began and it became apparent that the list was painfully over-generalized for any type of home and a child of any age. We had a few laughs as we had "conversations" with you, a two-day-old infant in a third-story apartment, to ensure you were up to speed on important things such as septic tank and farm equipment safety as these were items on the list. By 11:00pm, we had passed the inspection, and the social workers left us with one change of clothes, a single receiving blanket, and just enough formula, single-use disposable bottles, and diapers to last about twelve hours.
It was like a surreal game of house when we put you down in the crib that very first night. I remember lying in bed beside your crib, thinking back to that morning. We had no idea that by the end of the day, life would have changed so drastically! The adventure had begun.
At the time, we had ten other nieces and nephews. We'd babysat before, so we were pros, right? It had only been, what? Three years since we had changed an infant's diaper? But it's like riding a bike, no? Wait... Swaddling? What's swaddling? Oh the baby taco thing? How exactly does one go about tangling the baby in a blanket so perfectly? And how much formula do you give a two-day-old infant? Turns out this was going to be entirely different than babysitting a toddler. Your every need was suddenly dependent solely on Mommy and me.
A week later, I was sitting in a courtroom with your birthparents. My stomach was in knots, but I was trying to put on a brave face for everyone involved. We had been told that Child and Family Services was applying for a six-month Temporary Guardianship Order, which meant that you would likely be in our care for the first half-year of your life, but no one knew what would actually be decided by the Judge. He could approve the temporary measure and further investigation, or send you back to your birthparents right then and there, or even decide that you could never go back to them again.
We had learned about some of the complicated reasons prompting Child and Family Services to remove you from your birthparents in the first place, and each member of our family had equally complicated feelings about what the best outcome of this day would be. The judge ruled in favor of Child and Family Services, and so the six-month TGO began.
During these early months, we were on a learning curve unlike any we had previously experienced. I was now a stay-at-home caregiver and Mommy took a two-week leave from medical school before having to return to full-time studies. We finally learned to swaddle effectively, started to become familiar with Child Services policies and investigations, and began to learn about all of the other challenges and joys of raising a baby.
You were a late night party animal and loved nothing more than to be awake from 11:00 at night until 4:00 in the morning. I can't say those were my favorite nights ever, but knowing that you were starting to trust us and bond with us was well worth every waking moment. We couldn't help but fall in love with you.
Your birthparents visited a few hours per week and, understandably, emotions were often very high. We also had frequent visits from your social worker and our Kinship Care worker. During our conversations with your social worker, it became quite clear that the investigation was not going in your birthparents' favor; despite their love for you, they just weren't capable of parenting you. She asked the million-dollar question: if you wouldn't be allowed to return to them, would we adopt you?
Without hesitation, I told her that I would gladly be your Daddy.
The next part of the story was probably the most difficult on both us, and your birthparents. We found out that in order for us to adopt you, the Temporary Guardianship Order would have to become a Permanent Guardianship Order. This could happen in one of two ways: your birthparents could choose to continue with the investigation, up to fifteen months, until your file was large enough for Child and Family Services to present to a judge requesting a PGO, or your birthparents could end the investigation by terminating their parental rights and consenting to a PGO before that fifteen-month time period had elapsed.
This would not be an easy choice for them. You see, if they decided to continue with the investigation, and the courts ruled on a PGO, the adoption would be closed, and they would have no access to you until the adoption was fully processed, which could take years.
If instead they consented to the PGO, a clause would be included allowing them to continue to visit you, but they would be ending the investigation and their fear that you would never be coming home to them would become a reality.
After some very difficult and emotional conversations, they decided to consent to adoption, a decision they made out of love for you.
We're now waist-deep in adoption paperwork, and you're becoming such a big boy. As your Daddy, I couldn't be more proud of you. You have a contagious smile, an adorably squeaky "Hi!", a hilarious army-style crawl, and the most outrageous mop of hair. You have brought a light into my life that is so intense I would be lost in the dark without it. I can't wait until my new title becomes officially official.
I am proud of you, my son, and no matter what happens from this moment on, I will love you dearly, with every fiber of my being. It won't always be easy, and I won't always have the answers to your questions or the remedies for your pains, but I will always give you my all. I hope to provide a well-lit path for you to discover, or even better, the skills to blaze your own. But whatever you do, know that you are and always have been wanted and loved.
Ryan Blades is man who does not shy from non-traditional roles. He recently traded in his downtown 15th-floor corner office and corporate life to become a surprise stay-at-home Dad. He lives in a cozy apartment with his medical-student wife, Megan, their son Traevin, and their two dogs, Kira and Stella. Ryan now spends his days surrounded by all things infant, takes care of the house, and rocks a mean casserole. Trained as a professional photographer and artist, when Traevin's demanding schedule allows, Ryan enjoys taking photos and sketching comics.
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