In our previous adoptions we were spared witnessing the agony of the children's birthmothers as they signed their relinquishment papers and handed their babies to the caseworker. The placement process began when we met at the adoption agency where we joyously received our newest addition. It was all smiles, tears of joy, snapping of photos, placing our baby in the car, and traveling home to friends and family members who were eager to join in our celebration. We didn't see the other side -- the crying young woman who left the hospital empty-handed, most likely questioning her decision to make an adoption plan. There were no welcome home parties for her, no people congratulating her on her decision. It was much more likely that instead of receiving compassion and understanding, she was met with criticism for "giving away" her baby. As she faced the postpartum blues, there was no sweet baby to hold close. In our sheltered place, we didn't think about or deal with her pain.
This time, it was an entirely different story. The hospital staff had been told of Carrie's adoption plan. Although some of them treated us with suspicion, most of them were kind and accommodating. I don't think they had faced a situation like ours where the adoptive parents and birth family were together at the hospital. I remember the nurse looked shocked when she came in to give instructions for Josiah's care after leaving the hospital and Carrie told her to talk to me. We were tentative as we spent time in the hospital with Josiah. I realized that I would have Josiah every day, and I tried to be careful that Carrie had all the time she needed.
Our plan had been to have a placement ceremony in the hospital chapel. After the ceremony, Syd and I would leave with Josiah, and Carrie's parents would take her home. At the last minute, the hospital administration decided that Carrie would first have to check out, physically leave the hospital, and then return for the placement ceremony. Then, the hospital social worker decided she wouldn't witness the relinquishment papers, and Syd and I were charged with the task of finding two people who were willing to witness and attest to Carrie's signing of the papers in which she relinquished all of her parental rights. We headed to the ICU waiting room, and finally found a couple who was willing to help.
While Carrie and the caseworker completed the legal documents, Syd and I found a quiet place and prayed for Carrie, her sister, parents, Josiah's birthfather, and his family. We asked God to give them strength to carry through with this plan. As difficult as it was, we even prayed that God would close this door if it was His will for Josiah to stay with Carrie. (I'm really glad God didn't choose to shut the door!)
I had previously served as a witness to legal proceedings for four other birth mothers. Being a part of this process changed me forever. As a witness, I found it heartbreaking and gut wrenching to see them tearfully say goodbye to the children to whom they had given the gift of life. When Carrie appeared at the chapel doors with red-rimmed, swollen eyes cradling Josiah in her arms, my heart was filled with love and respect for this brave, strong, loving young woman. We had a moving placement ceremony with scripture, prayer, a special dedication song, and promises we made to each other and to God that we would raise our son to love God, and to know the love and sacrifice that brought him to our family. I can't begin to describe the feelings we experienced in the moment Carrie placed Josiah in my arms and entrusted us with her son. Even now, sixteen years later, my heart is tight and my emotions are raw.
Here we are now. Josiah is 16 years old. Throughout the years, we have maintained a relationship with Carrie and her parents. We've shared Josiah's life with them in pictures, by e-mail, and with visits. Our entire family was able to attend Carrie's wedding. She is married to a kind and loving man, and together they have two children. She is a great mom. For a time, Carrie's parents, known to our children as Lollipop and Popsicle, lived 90 minutes away from us. We made fun day trips to see them at their lakeside home. Josiahand Popsicle spend time together in the wood shop, and they have bonded over guns and other guy stuff. Priscilla (a.k.a "Lollipop") has become one of my dearest friends.After they moved to west Texas, we've been able to see them when we've traveled to Abilene to see Rachel and Nathan at HSU. Last spring, Josiah and I stayed with Carrie and her family for the weekend, and Josiah was able to spend lots of time with Ben and Jordan. It has been great to see how much Josiah is like Jordan, and to be able to get Carrie's observations on ways she sees that she and Josiah are similar. I feel like I have a deeper window into his soul because of the insights Carrie has shared with me.
I envision that our relationship will continue to grow stronger, year by year, milestone by milestone. What a neat experience it was to have Carrie, her mom, and her children attend Nathan and Amanda's wedding. They are our family. We aren't threatened by them; our lives are so much richer for Carrie being a part of them. I am excited to be able to share Josiah's accomplishments, his funny stories, his struggles, and his victories with the one woman in the world who loves him as much as I do.
Every day, Priscilla's words from our first meeting ring true -- no one can ever have too many people loving him.