It’s one in the afternoon on a Saturday and my husband, Jon, and I are going to meet our son. Our son. He’s three; his name is Sir Patrick. Earlier in the week we got the news that Division of Family Services had selected us to be Sir Patrick’s parents. So here we are, on our way to Sir Patrick’s foster mom’s house for our first meeting– a 20-minute journey that will change our lives forever. It’s January, but it’s sunny and warm, and I keep my eyes closed but my face toward the sun.
For a moment that feels like an eternity, my heart nearly bursts from fears I haven’t let myself realize before:
Am I going to ruin his life? I’m not a mother. What if I’m a terrible parent?
Why would I change our life? Albeit childless, it’s still a good one.
The intensity of my fears surprises me because, even though we started the process only a year earlier, we had been thinking about adopting for several years.
We kicked off our adoption journey in February 2001, when we met with our social worker for our first home visit. Six home visits, 39 hours of training, a home study, homework, five referrals, a lifebook, and a million hopes and wishes later, we found ourselves “in the system,” in September of 2001, which meant we were officially on the rolls as potential adoptive parents. The only thing to do after that is get on with your life and wait for the call. Pregnancy without a due date, we joked, feeling confident we could handle whoever came our way, whenever it would happen.
In November we received a one page fax and photo about Sir Patrick. His birthmom abandoned him when he was two years old, and he spent a few months at “Our Little Haven” (a home for abused, neglected, drug-exposed, or HIV-positive kids) and a year in foster care. He was described as shy at first, but warmed up quickly. He had speech delays and hearing and vision problems. Sure, we said, we would love to be considered. We were primed and ready, full of confidence and hope that this would be a great kid and we would be great parents.
Now confidence and hope were out the window, replaced by fear and terror. This was all really happening. No matter how much you prepare, you are never truly ready for change. I fiddle with the radio and then hold Jon’s hand. We don’t speak because it takes all our energy just to keep breathing.
We park and walk up to the door. All those months of training, preparing, and dreaming are coming down to this moment. Neither one of us has the nerve to knock. One of us finally does. We wait. And wait. We are shifting and moving. It feels like I am living a lifetime on this porch. I reach out and grab Jon’s hand. The door opens, and Patrick’s foster mom says, “Here’s your new mommy and daddy!” And before we can even say hello, Patrick jumps in our arms, hugging us so hard his glasses fly off his head. Here is our boy in our arms. The thick glasses, the runny nose, the big ears, the sweet smile– they are all ours.
We play with him for a while, then drive back to our old life. It would go like this until he moved in for good four weeks later.
Going from a family of two to a family of three was traumatic at first, and I felt guilty that having him in our home felt so much like having company over– nice to have, but when are they leaving again? We were strangers to each other. He cried a lot, I cried a lot, and Jon just had this deer-in-the headlights look for about a month straight. Each day was a challenge, and we just kept reminding ourselves that this would all be okay. Then one day, it all became normal. There wasn’t an exact moment or day that I felt it but slowly, over about a month, it all just came together.
Almost eight months later, my son bears little resemblance to the shy, awkward boy we opened the door to that day. He’s is now a bright, happy, talkative, and charming four-year-old. It amazes me how he has become like us. He loves parties and football games; he is outgoing and fun, and a friend to everyone. He is starting to talk like us, which is simultaneously painful and hilarious to hear.
A few nights ago, Patrick woke up in the middle of the night crying, probably from a bad dream. Jon went in and calmed him down for a while, and then asked me to take a turn. I lay down on his bed, sang to him, and recited Goodnight Moon, which I now know by heart. Almost at the end of the story, when he was drifting off again, he reached out and wrapped his arms around my neck.
“I love you so much, Mom,” he said, pressing his head into my chest.
“I love you too, sweetie. I am so glad you are my son.”
And we both drifted off to sleep.