Thursday, February 9, 2017

Gotcha Day: A Story of Adoption

The date was February 9, 2015. My wife and I sat in our car in front of the Department of Social Services building in our town. Gloved hands gripped together, our breath steaming in front of us.

We were terrified.

We looked at each other, said a quick prayer, and got out of our car. I quickly checked the two car seats in the back to make sure they were latched correctly, and hand in hand, we walked toward the imposing tan brick building. The walk across the parking lot seemed to take forever.

Entering through the glass doors, we found ourselves in a lobby. We moved into a cordoned-off line in front of a service desk, where we had to sign in and state why we were there. We received little stickers with our names on them. After signing in, we noticed that our social worker, Nancy, was standing nearby. Her face lit up as she gave each of us a hug.

"Are you excited?" she asked, obviously recognizing the look of pure terror on our faces. We smiled weakly and answered in the affirmative. She led us down a hallway, where a series of chairs were lined against the right wall. We sat down, my leg bouncing nervously.

A few minutes later, a tall lady with white hair and glasses came around the corner. Nancy stood up and introduced us to Sally, the kids' Guardian ad Litem (or their legal representative in the court system). We shook hands with her as a few more people came around the corner, which turned out to be the kids' social workers. They were accompanied by a middle aged couple that turned out to be the kids' current foster parents.

Since everyone had arrived, we were led around a corner and into a small conference room. Each of us were given name tents and a packet of papers. The meeting began, and the conversation turned to my wife and I and our decision to become foster parents to two little three-year-old twin boys. We were asked questions by the GAL and social workers about our disciplinary strategies and our beliefs on parenting. We were given a background on the kids, their situation, their medical history. After about ninety minutes, the meeting was adjourned, and the decision was made that we would meet up in an hour at the boys' daycare center.

As we walked out of the room with Sally and Nancy, Sally turned to us and asked us a question we'd been dying to hear:

"Would you like to see a picture of your new sons?" We both choked up and nodded. She reached into her purse and pulled out a photograph of two little boys, smiling at the camera. While they both looked like they could be our biological children, one of the boys especially looked just like me. My wife squeezed my hand.

We got into our car and followed Nancy up to the boys' daycare center. At this point, the rain had begun. As we pulled into the driveway of the center, we realized the boys' previous foster parents had beaten us there and were waiting for us in their car. Together, the five of us walked into the center, where the boys were called into a room away from the other kids.

They stood there in front of us, very shy. We stood back as the other foster parents explained to the boys what was happening, that we were their new "Mommy and Daddy" and that they would be living with us now. One at a time, the previous fosters got on their knees and gave hugs to each of the boys, telling them to behave themselves, before they quietly excused themselves and gave us time to get to know the boys.

Looking back on it now, I realize how not-normal it was that the boys didn't scream or cry or throw a fit as the people they'd been living with for the past six months said their goodbyes and made their exit from their lives forever. They simply stood there quietly with big tears rolling down their cheeks. I got on my knees next to the nearest boy, the one that looked like me, and opened my arms. He shyly walked towards me and into my arms, and I held his shaking body, his tears wetting my shoulder. I pulled back from him and used my thumb to wipe the tears off his cheeks, telling him everything was going to be okay.

After an hour playing with them at the childcare center, we packed up the things their previous foster parents had left for them into our car, loaded the boys up, and clicked them into their car seats. We made the rainy drive to our house, the boys giggling the whole time in excitement. Upon arriving to our house, we got out the camcorder and video taped them walking into their new home for the first time. One of the boys was so nervous that he had severe stomach cramps and rushed into the bathroom (nothing like being thrown into parenthood, eh?).

The next few days were nerve-wracking for my wife and I. We spent a lot of time crying, a lot of time dry-heaving, a lot of time quietly contemplating. We'd always wanted children and had struggled with being able to do so for a few years. Now, we were thrust into the role of parents to three year old twin boys. We should be overjoyed, right? But the weight of the situation had settled on our shoulders.

Would this work out?

Would the boys like living with us?

What would we have to deal with regarding their past and previous placements?

The boys had a fifteen year old sister in another foster placement. Would she like us? Would she be okay with the boys living with us? (we later welcomed her into our home as our third child the following June).

It turns out that while the process hasn't been easy, things have definitely worked out. Two years later, here we are, an official family. We have since adopted the three children, who have taken our last name. And the kids are doing awesome.

The boys are in kindergarten and are already reading. One of the boys is in gymnastics and loves it. Our daughter is a senior in high school and has been accepted to her first choice in colleges next fall. She has participated on both the tennis team and the swim team this year and did great at both. We are very proud of her.

We were thrust into being instant parents. And while we'd always wanted to have kids and eventually adopt, we didn't choose to adopt. We aren't superheros or awesome people (read what I mean here). We just did it because we felt it was the right thing to do and because God asked us to.

So here's to today, kids. Here's to February 9. Here's to Nancy. Here's to Gotcha Day.

Here's to family.


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