Hope: A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen; a feeling of trust.
Webster sums up the meaning quite well, wouldn’t you say? Hope can be a fickle thing. Around one moment but gone the next without any clues as to when it will be back. It can feel elusive in our time of need, yet as cliché as it sounds, it is one of the things we need to hold onto with an iron grip.
Isn’t there another cliché saying? “Clichés are accurate, that’s why we call them clichés.” Cliché-ception.
Let’s be real for a minute, though. When darkness and struggle surround us, hope is what we crave, and it can be a life preserver as we continue our journey of life. It can cut through the bleakest of winters and the thickest of fears. President Snow from “The Hunger Games” explains it in the simplest of terms: “Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.”
I remember the feeling of finally handing in our adoption papers. I was handing over the folder full of my thoughts on parenthood, discipline, my medical chart, paragraphs about my family, siblings, thoughts on my marriage, its stability, and of course, all my secrets. I felt relief, fear, excitement, and hope: hope that after all we’d been through, adoption would lead us to parenthood. It took me and my husband a couple years to have the guts to do this, and there we were, jumping into the unknown with hope of becoming parents through adoption.
Our efforts were rewarded quickly, which we weren’t expecting. Two weeks after our profile went live, we were contacted by a birth mother who was 34 weeks along. Rachel wanted to get to know more about us. Our emails turned into text messages and phone calls. After a few weeks of communicating, Rachel and the birth father, Aaron, wanted to meet us. Josh and I took a long weekend and made the eight-hour trip to Reno, Nevada.
Even after almost four years, I can still remember how I felt when we met them. Rachel was so familiar to us. Aaron was very shy and reserved, but during dinner we got him to warm up a bit. Throughout the weekend we learned more about each other, and solidified an adoption plan. We couldn’t believe it was happening! On the last night, while getting some ice cream, Rachel grabbed my hand and placed it on her stomach. I felt the little baby flip a couple summersaults and give a few good kicks. I think that is when it all became real to me. I quickly ordered my ice cream and shoved it in my face so I wouldn’t cause a scene by bawling. Luckily, my husband was calm and collected. He offsets the hot mess in me.
We left Rachel and Aaron that weekend feeling excited and scared, but mostly excited. It was unknown if baby was a girl or a boy, but we didn’t care. Rachel was due in four weeks, which felt like four days! There wasn’t a single baby item in our home! During the drive back to Utah, I made a list of everything we needed as Josh and I bickered over name ideas. Upon arriving home, we tossed our suitcases onto the floor and put off unpacking until the next day, which was Monday. I got up, got ready, and went to work like I do on every other day. It was uneventful, but I like quiet days at the office. A little after lunch time, I ran some errands for my boss, one of which included taking his truck to the car wash. As I stood staring at the line of cars wait for their turn, I received a phone call from Rachel’s sister.
SHE WAS IN LABOR. THE BABY WAS COMING.
Good thing we still had our suitcases out. Josh and I repacked, tossed in a couple outfits for a baby boy or a baby girl, and decided flying would be a better way to travel this time around. The hour flight felt like an eternity, but we eventually touched down in Reno. Upon collecting our luggage, we basically sprinted to our rental car and probably, most definitely, sped to the hospital. At eleven o’clock in the evening, Josh and I met our daughter, Katelyn Nicole. She was seven pounds, five ounces, and had a head full of dark hair. She was perfect.
Now, this is where the story gets tricky, and for the sake of my heart, I won’t be describing every detail and emotion that we felt as Rachel’s placement of Kate took a downward spiral.
Rachel and Kate were released from the hospital two days after she was born. Aaron said we was going to sign, but wanted a few things first. A paternity test, an open adoption contract, another meeting, a lawyer . . .The list kept growing and our fears of losing Kate were magnified with each passing day. Rachel was not deterred, and her plan to place Kate with us was always strong. However, after only two weeks of being parents to sweet Kate, the birth father was able to block the adoption and force us to return Kate to Rachel. The image of Rachel holding baby Kate, wrapped up in the brand new cuddly blanket my mom had bought her, as we drove away, is forever etched into my mind. Everything we had hoped for had just broken into a million pieces, and I was certain that I would die from sadness and heartbreak.
I don’t tell you this story to scare you or to dwell on the negative aspects of adoption that happen sometimes. I am telling you this story so you can see how having hope, even when everything is broken and dark, can lead you to the most precious of all rewards.
In October of 2010, six months after the loss of baby Kate, we received an email from another prospective birth mom. Sadie wanted to know about me and Josh and felt strongly that we were meant to be the parents on her 1-year-old son, Harley. We communicated with Sadie via emails and instant messages for about a month before she flew up from Texas to meet us.
Let’s be honest: Josh and I were skeptical and guarded, but upon meeting Sadie, Glenn (birth father), and Harley, those feelings melted away. It seemed as if we were being shown that the love we had for Kate wasn’t the only love of a child we would feel in our lives, which was how we felt when we lost her. Our meeting with Sadie, Glenn, and Harley went well, and our caseworker told us to try to stay calm (right?!), and she would let us know if Glenn and Sadie were indeed going to place Harley with us.
Twenty four hours passed, and we still weren’t sure about the fate of our current situation. Around five o’clock PM, we received a text from our caseworker that read, “BUY YOUR PLANE TICKETS!” It was happening. Glenn had signed relinquishment papers that afternoon, and we would be flying to Texas to go through a transition phase with Sadie and Harley and ultimately have Harley placed in our family. One week after Glenn signed, Josh and I were taking off from snow-covered Utah en route to sunny San Antonio, Texas. We really had no idea what we were doing, but we knew that it would be okay. The hope that carried us through our losses and struggles would carry us through this experience as well.
Harley felt familiar and part of our family, as if he were born to us. His attachment to us wasn’t an issue, and the love we have for him grows daily, if not hourly. After two weeks of slowly transitioning his care from Sadie to us, it was time to sign the final papers and head home. Such a bittersweet feeling washed over us. We were excited to go home and start our new life as a family of three, but we didn’t want to leave Sadie behind in Texas. She also became such an important part of our family, and it didn’t feel right to leave. Harley’s placement wasn’t like the ones we’d seen portrayed by friends, or how we thought it would go down, but it was perfect. Sadie signed her papers with strength and poise. She signed with the intent to give her son what she deemed best. Josh and I were, and will always be, in awe of her strength and her ability to make such a decision for her child. We love Sadie so much, and her hope to find parents for Harley met with our hope to be parents.
We flew back home to Utah one week before Christmas. We were greeted at the airport by family, and upon arriving to our house, we found friends had left piles of gifts and a fridge full of meals for us. I will never forget that Christmas morning when I took my son out of his crib, dressed in his penguin and polar bear jammies, and took him to sit by the tree. He spent that morning crawling between Josh, his uncles, aunts, and grandparents, dragging toys along and leaving a trail of Cheerios behind him. All those years of hurt lead to this moment. We had hoped for this for so long, and here it was, staring me in the face, showing me it was real.
I’ll never understand fully why we had to experience such devastation before we experienced such joy, but I can tell you that holding on to hope, that desire to bring a child into our home, kept us strong and lead us to Harley. He has been the balm to our wounded hearts.
Almost four years later, the message of hope holds fast in our souls. Harley is a vivacious and sassy redheaded boy. He is smarter than both of us, although we try to hide such information from him, and we couldn’t imagine life without him. We started on the path to adopt again six months ago and are currently approved and waiting to find our next baby. There isn’t a crystal ball to tell us how this will work out, but if we have learned anything at all, it’s that “Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.”
Hope will lead you through the forest of fear and carry you through to the existence of your dreams.