Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Day the Heartbreak Stopped

Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines Him to bestow benefits upon the undeserving
~ A.W. Tozer

March 8 is an auspicious date in our household. It is the birthdate of Mr. Hat's mother. It is also, less significantly, the date our naughty Cat Hat was born. 

But most importantly, it is the day that saw the end of years of heartbreak. Ten years ago today, Grace came home.

For seven years, we had tried to expand our family. We made charts, endured tests, hoped the drugs would work. We contemplated and debated adoption, unable to see how it would ever be financially possible. 

Then one day, a baby fell from the sky, into our arms.

A friend in another state was housing a girl at the end of her pregnancy, a girl who suddenly, finally realized adoption was the best choice for her child. Remembering our desire to adopt, they called us, touching off a whirlwind as we sought to cram a process that took months into just two weeks, which was when she was due. When we got the call she was in labor, we drove an entire day to get there, the whole time feeling indescribable excitement.

They put this darling little bundle in my arms. This little, tiny thing with big brown eyes, a shock of dark brown hair, rosy cheeks and rosebud mouth. My son was beautiful; he looked just like that picture by Bessie Pease Gutman. For three days, we held him, loved him, planned for his future.

Then, just as suddenly as he came, he was snatched away. His birth mother learned the limits of his father's rights and beat a fast path home to Virginia. I never got to say goodbye. Instead, I came home to a ready nursery, piled up shower gifts, and the antique wicker bassinet in which I once slept trimmed in blue ribbon. I didn't get cards of congratulations; they were messages of condolence.

It was a while before we dared to dream again. When we did, we looked in Mexico, Afghanistan, and China. Three times, we started the process to adopt from China. Three times our process was sidelined. Clearly God had some other direction for us. 

We began our plan B late summer of 2001: domestic, transracial adoption. It was terrifying to trust the domestic process again, but it was clearly what God had in mind. Our only child, a tiny little autistic girl, enthusiastically begged God every night for a sister, asking Him to give her brown eyes, brown arms, brown legs.

In late January 2002, we got THE call. She was here! She'd be ours. We visited her in a temporary foster home, bonding with our new daughter, cooing over her gigantic cheeks, counting the days until she could come home. We swapped out the blue ribbon on the bassinet with yards of pink; she was coming home tomorrow.

And then it happened. On Valentine's Day, our hearts were broken again, as her birth mom came to claim her. It was just as heartbreaking, but this time, I at least knew I would survive. Another ribbon-tied bundle of condolence cards and pictures joined the first in a drawer, the only proof I have that for too short a time, I was a mother to two others.

Two days later, another little girl was born. I didn't know until the week after. We were so afraid she'd be lost, too, that we didn't visit. We couldn't bond and lose again.

Court day came. We got on our coats to head to the agency, breathless with anticipation that this might just actually work this time. Miss Hat was bouncing with joy. 

We headed to the door. Hands on doorknob, the phone rang. Not today. The judge wanted to see more effort to find the birth father, so he would have the chance to assert his rights to her. A man who abused her birth mom, who disappeared and was never a part of her life or pregnancy, stood between us and a dream fulfilled. So again, we waited.

A week later, on March 8, 2002, I was on my knees, while a woman I'd never met stood before a judge in another county, voluntarily relinquishing her rights to this little girl. I begged God for her courage and the judge's common sense. I begged Him not to let this fall through again. 

And then the phone rang again. It was done. She was OURS!

Her sister nearly crashed through the door of the foster home in her excitement to finally meet her baby sister, this baby she'd prayed for for years. The foster mom, Mama Pat, met me at the door with the most beautiful baby I'd ever seen and put her in my arms. 

There really aren't words to describe how that moment felt. My heart hurt, tremendously, but for once, not with breaking. It hurt with bursting gratitude and joy. Seven years of ache and many thwarted plans had finally met their end with this tiny little thing in my arms. Here was a gift of such tremendous worth I never could deserve it: Grace.

Ten years later, Grace is an energetic girl who lives her life in extremes; there's no middle ground for this child. She's wild, quirky, entertaining, and talks incessantly. She's brought tremendous joy and lots of laughs. She's also given us lots of frustration and challenge. There are days I want to quit. But at the end of the day, it's all OK, because...


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