One month ago today we saw the face of our sweet boy! I wrote this post a few days after we accepted our referral, and have toyed with not posting it. It's a long post, so I won't be offended if you move on now....fair warning.
The referral process was extremely exciting. And also really hard. Although we were overjoyed at our referral, the days that followed brought a lot of tears, mostly out of sadness, guilt, and fear.
This second part of the referral process caught me completely by surprise. In the lead-up to waiting for that golden moment--that time when you would see your child's face and take a definitive step towards parenthood--we never paused to consider what would happen after the referral phone call. You have to make a choice. You have to choose to accept your child.
The night we received the referral, we began reading and re-reading our son's files. Without going into details, there were some things in his medical history that we wanted an expert's opinion on. We took them in stride, confident that this child was meant to be ours. We were concerned, but optimistic.
We used an international adoption specialist who is well recommended out of MI. That particular specialist generally gets back to people within 24 hours for a review of the records.
As luck would have it, our referral fell just before a long weekend. So began the sixty-six hours of waiting to know what challenges our son faced, if any. Sixty-six hours for my mind to conjure up terrifying scenarios. Sixty-six hours of holding our breath.
We sent the files Friday morning, 9 a.m.
After 24 hours we hadn't heard anything. On Saturday we attended an event with the adoption group we are in, and that was awesome. It kept our spirits up and kept us positive. But we were starting to get anxious.
By Sunday, we still hadn't heard anything. I reorganized the closets, and groused at The Man. I groaned and whined to friends. I imagined the specialist had been in a terrible accident, dead in a snow-filled ditch. (And to set the record straight, I wasn't worried about her. I was concerned about finding another specialist to send the records to.)
All this time to think brought around a new fear--what would we do if we found out he wasn't OK? This was something I'd never imagined before. We wanted to be sure that we could parent this adorable baby. We were certain he was a wonderful child who deserved everything in the world, but if he had special needs, were we the right family for him?
By Monday I was in full panic mode. I was sure the specialist hadn't called because she had terrible news. I was prepared to hear that our child's charts revealed something rare and tragic, which required intense research on her part. I started chanting the refrain "please let him be OK" over and over in my head. And this is when I started to completely lose it.
A deep dread filled me. And doubt started to creep in.
The Man, on the other hand, was steadfast. He didn't seem to have the same fears and doubts as I did. I tried to be comforted that he believed we could handle anything. But the scenarios in my brain kept me from really believing it.
I was guilt-ridden at the doubts that I had. I was upset we had told family and friends, and terrified that if we chose to turn down the referral (which still makes my heart skip to think about) that we would be judged. I was devastated that some part of me had to know these details about his health before I could just say yes.
And everything inside of me was saying yes. But that little devil on my shoulder was whispering...what if.
By Tuesday morning I was frantic. After another sleepless night, I awoke early and finally broke down. I took the medical report to the computer and began Google-ing anything and everything in the report. As you might assume, very very bad thing to do.
So...this is the part of the story where I start to feel scared that I'm telling you all of this. Scared that you might judge me as I judged myself. And worried about what our son might think if/when we talk about this someday.
I'd like to say I had no doubts what-so-ever. That I was ready to accept his referral immediately, and the specialist's reports were just part of the process. But the truth is, I was really scared. And I had doubts.
Somehow, a tiny voice deep deep inside of me knew it was going to be OK.
On the (late) afternoon of the fifth day, the medical specialist did call. Thank the heavens. (She had been out of town at a conference which was why the delay.)
She was very thorough and in the end, she said he was a very healthy little boy. The few concerns in his files were reviewed and weren't as scary as they had seemed.
But I just couldn't believe she was saying he was really OK. I had recorded our conversation (we conference called) and I had to listen to that recording over and over, to reassure myself that I wasn't imagining the whole thing.
I stumbled out of the office, got in my car, and sobbed. Just completely fell apart. Gal-pal Emily called and I babbled like an idiot. I felt like I had been holding my breath for days, and finally, a sweet gasp of air.
Looking back on it, I can see that the waiting compounded all those feelings of fear and concern. I have one of those brains that works overtime on things, stretching a tiny worry into a canopy of fear. And once the fear gets that big, it's hard to push back down.
I was mostly afraid of having to make a choice about this referral--more specifically that we would be faced with choosing not to accept it. I know others who have had to make the difficult choice to turn down a referral, and my heart aches for them. And I know from our training that this is a very real possibility and something you absolutely must do if this is not the right child for you.
Happily, we didn't have to make this choice. But I felt terrible that I even contemplated the notion that we'd have to say no. A friend told me that this is part of being a mom. The Guilt. All moms seem to have it. Is this my introduction?
In the month since the referral, the busyness of planning for his arrival has made things much easier. And I'm not all neurotic and angsty, despite how this post sounds. At least not most of the time.
Once in a while I still feel like I'm holding my breath. And in weak moments, those doubts about his health still plague me. I wonder if he's really OK...if the medical specialist was right. Then I go back and listen to the tape.
Perhaps I won't believe that until I hold him in my arms for the first time. Until I look him in the eyes and connect with that tiny human. I hope that's the case.
Or maybe, this is what parenting will be like for me. God forbid, but I have this nagging feeling that I'll always be wondering if he's OK, and be worried that he's not.
I do know, that we'll handle whatever comes our way. We are strong, smart, and have a good foundation. And we have love. So much love to give. We'll be fine.
He IS the child we are meant to parent. Somehow I knew that the moment I saw his face.