It started when our local Baptist Association hosted an Easter egg hunt for foster families. They were kind enough to nclude prospective foster parents for the event, so I was attended as well.
After parking near the other cars, I watched as foster mom’s pulled up in minivans and mega-vans and SUVs, most with multiple kids of different races piling out. I smiled as little ones toddled around with Easter baskets bigger than they were, thinking about how real this whole thing was becoming. These were blue-eyed and brown eyed and chubby cheeked darlings, no longer case studies or statistics. Here were babies and preschoolers and big kids who had found a safe place to land in the homes of loving families. They were protected. And happy. And doing normal little kid stuff. The weight that we might be embracing one just like them in a few weeks settled in, and I took another step toward forming a mental picture of what our life might look like.
I planned to stay for only 45 minutes, knowing I had another normal little-kid event to attend, Titus’ first game of the season. When the time was up, I said my goodbyes and began walking toward the car. But on my way out Felecia, one of our county social workers, asked if she could walk and talk with me.
If you’ve read previous blog posts, you might assume nothing would shock me at this point. I should expect the unexpected. We all should. We serve a mysterious God who is a master plot-twister. That day, He did it again.
“Beth, we got a call yesterday. There was a baby born Friday who we will take into care on Monday. Would you and Nathan be interested in fostering this baby?“
One heartbeat and a blink of an eye.
The easiest and quickest yes I’ve ever spoken.
I vaguely remember asking if it was a boy or a girl, but at this point my IQ had dropped dramatically as I tried to wrap my mind around what was happening. I was having trouble forming sentences, and stumbled over words. A baby boy, she said. A baby boy!
My brain tried to compute a child joining our nest. THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW. I’m not sure I said goodbye, and I definitely forgot to get her number in case I had questions. I glided to the car like a sleep walker in autopilot, but at the same time, totally unsure of how to preform mindless tasks. Is my seatbelt on? Where are my keys? How do you start this thing?! Tee ball, game, Beth. Get it together and drive! You can wig out later.
I remember zilch about the drive to the ball field, except that about half way there I started questioning my memory.
Did I hear her correctly? Did she mean this Monday? As in not tomorrow but the next day!?
Needing a repeat of the conversation, I dialed my friend Machelle, who I hoped and prayed was still at that Easter Egg hunt. “Machelle, this is Beth. Is Felecia still there? Hallelujah. Could you ask for her number. Wait. That’s weird. She might not want to give me her personal number. Would you give her my number and ask her to call me as soon as she has a chance? It’s REALLY important. Great, thanks!”
Cause that didn’t raise an eyebrow at all.
By that point I had miraculously arrived at the sports complex, having little memory of any turns taken or stops made. As I walked toward the ball field from the parking lot like a zombie, another thought struck me:
Maybe I should have asked Nathan about this.
The game had already started, but I caught sight of my son, in all his 5 year old cuteness, standing in the outfield. I looked to the right and saw my husband near the dugout, wearing his coaching shirt and hat. I stared at what was happening on the field, but mentally I was elsewhere. Our family was about to change in a profound way. All the sameness I was witnessing was about to disappear, and I had the strangest feeling it would never be this way again.
I was frightened, and thrilled, and completely taken by surprise. We were only 8 weeks into our foster parent training. A baby boy was coming? On Monday!? By my estimation, this whole scenario was at the very least 2 weeks earlier than I had expected.
I should stop expecting.
T-Ball games only last about 30 minutes. Hallelujah, amen, because I needed to talk to my husband NOW. The teams shook hands, kids came by for snacks. I did the, “Great job, Titus!” spill, and Nathan gave me the “How did it go?” eyebrow raise.
And then I lowered the boom on his orderly and predictable world. Good thing I married a man who cares more about others than himself, or that could have been a very difficult conversation.
Something about telling Nathan forced reality to set it and snapped my brain into gear. And with the gears now turning, I faced the realization I that I had a lot to do to get ready for a newborn. You’ve heard of nesting. I went into hyper-nesting. My mind raced with what all that needed to be done. I had a crib, but that was it. No bottles. No car seat. No changing pad. No nothing. I had enjoyed 36 weeks of preparation for my two biological babies. I was looking at 36 hours at best for this one. How was I going to get everything I needed in 36 HOURS?!
We left the ball field, and I called my friend Katrina to give her the news and tell her I needed someone to help me get a grip. Three hours later, she and Callie charged into my driveway like the Calvalry, SUVs loaded down with two kids worth of baby gear. Bless the hearts of mom’s who keep everything and are willing to share! I picked through the Rubbermaid boxes of onesies and bibs and bouncers, hardly believing that a baby would be putting it all to good use before the next weekend rolled around.
The next day (Sunday) was a blur. I didn’t talk much about our news to church members. Quite frankly I was beginning to wonder if I had dreamed the whole thing. It was a packed day from beginning to end, which left no time for hand wringing or anxiety. We just did life. With the knowledge that we could be gaining a family member the next day.
Monday morning came. Titus out the door to school and a kiss to Nathan on his way to work. I remember him saying, “Call me if we have a baby. I’ll come home.”
I love that guy.
I performed the worlds fastest house cleaning, dressed Anna and dashed to the grocery store for FORMULA and DIAPERS. By 11am I was home wondering if this was really going to happen after all.
Shouldn’t they have called by now? Maybe they decided to take him to someone else. Maybe I dreamed the whole conversation. What is the protocol for this sort of thing?!
At 1:45 pm, the phone rang.
“Beth, what’s your address? We’re on our way to the hospital and then we’ll be straight over to your house.”
WITH A BABY.
It struck me then. This fragile, less than three-day-old wee one, was being picked up by strangers, only to be transported to a stranger’s home, to be cared for by strangers. Vulnerable and utterly dependent, he was being entrusted to those who didn’t even know his legal name. For the first time, I cried over the heartbreak of it all. I was blessed to be receiving this child into my home, but the blessing came on the heels of agony for others. I’ve never gotten over the loss and pain that proceeds the healing and redemption in foster care and adoption.
30 long minutes went by before I heard Gracie barking and knew he had arrived. It was raining. I walked down the back steps, heart pounding, and saw one social worker holding an umbrella over the other as she tried to maneuver the car seat out without getting him wet. I ran over and bounced around them like a puppy, eager to help but totally unsure of what to do.
And suddenly he was under my roof. They put the car seat down right in the middle of my living room. I kneeled down to move the blanket aside, and I got my first look.
No words. Just big, deep emotions. I picked that wee little 5lb bundle out the car seat, and had no more doubt about what to do. This was deeply instinctual and familiar territory. Where there had been uncertainty, now there was none. My calling was clear as day: love this baby.
The stranger transport people stayed about 20 minutes. As my friend Jenna described it, having appliances delivered requires more ritual and paperwork. I signed nothing and new nothing. Save they name they called him by and the immediate, overwhelming desire to nurture, protect and mother this tiny one.
How long that role would belong to me was a mystery. A great unknown that would dominate my thoughts in the days, weeks and months to come. But that first night with him brought one certainty. He was now a part of us. Our history. Our story. And we were a part of his.