Yesterday, I felt defeated. For some reason, I got my hopes up that I would get our much-anticipated call that the adoption was finalized. (I didn’t make this day up, by the way – I spoke with the court clerk supervisor who told me it’d either happen yesterday or today). Following suit with this process over the last two years though, that didn’t happen. I wasn’t surprised, but I was still frustrated. I knew in my head that it wasn’t that big of a deal – today, tomorrow, a year from now. But I couldn’t shake feeling disappointed, frustrated, defeated. So many times throughout this process things haven’t gone how I’d expected.
But then I picked Rylee up from school. She dropped her toys and ran into my arms yelling “mommy!” On the way home, she pretended to see a bear outside the car then threw her head back, mouth open, laughing the type of laugh that is good for the soul. And at night, as we left her room, she said “Sweet dreams! *kiss* Love you!”
Reality hit. The piece of paper really changes nothing. Piece of paper or not, Rylee is our daughter. And so today, I choose gratitude and joy. Gratitude for this beautiful, incredible, sweet, loving little girl that God gave to us. Gratitude for sweet moments like catching a caterpillar or pretending to run from an imaginary bear. Gratitude for my husband, who is a far better father than I could have ever imagined. Gratitude for this process, that though frustrating, has made me more patient, has increased my trust in the Lord, and has made me thankful for the little things. Gratitude for countless family and friends who have prayed for us, supported, and encouraged us throughout this process.
I also know the reality that Rylee wouldn’t the incredibly sweet and loving little girl she is had she not been cared for and loved so well and in such great homes during her first year when she couldn’t yet be in ours. I hate the fact that I didn’t get to be the one caring for her from her first moment, or that I didn’t get to hold her for the first time until she was 5 months old, or bring her home until she was 11 months old. But I’m much more grateful for the incredible people who did give her loving homes. There are not adequate words to express, but here’s a feeble attempt.
Thank you. Those words don’t begin to convey the gratitude in my heart. They seem hollow. How do you express the appropriate thankfulness for keeping my baby safe and loved when I wasn’t yet able?
When Rylee was 5 months old, we were able to begin visiting her, thanks to her incredible foster parents. This was a gift, one we did not take for granted. In fact, from May – November 2015, every single weekend, we drive down to my parents’ house in Dunwoody and get to spend the weekend with her. My heart was full, all was right. Then, every Sunday, my heart would break all over again as we had to tell her goodbye. (Why didn’t we just move there? We thought about it, and certainly would have, but were actually advised not to by our attorney so as not to appear that we were trying to “skirt the process.” The process she was referring to was ICPC – the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children; more on that later. Back to the point of this post.) Through every tearful goodbye and sobbing car-ride home, every empty week yearning for the weekend to be reunited with our sweet girl, there was one small gift. We knew that she was in good hands, and there is no replacement for that.
To Amy and Robert,
Thank you. Thank you that you said “yes” when you got the call from a caseworker explaining that there was a baby girl just born, still in the hospital, who needed a home. For holding her when she cried and helping her feel secure, thank you. For never leaving her side when she was admitted to the hospital with RSV, thank you. For having newborn pictures taken and saving precious memories, like her hospital wristband, for me, thank you. For taking her to Church on Sundays and displaying the unmistakeable love and light of Jesus, thank you. For welcoming us when we were just strangers into your home. For believing in us, praying for us, and being the first ones to call us “mom and dad,” thank you. Though Rylee won’t remember her time with you, the impact will be lasting. It has forever colored all of her memories yet to come. Her ability to love and be loved was no doubt shaped by being loved from the very beginning. We are indebted to you and so very grateful. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
To Rachel and Cliff,
When Rylee was in need, you didn’t even hesitate. You made room in your already full home and, even with three children of your own (one an infant a few months younger than Rylee!), while still grieving the loss of your sister, you gave Rylee a home full of love. Rachel, your boundless energy never ceases to amaze me (what is your secret?). Cliff, your laid-back, go-with-the-flow, but incredibly generous heart is astounding. You guys supported us and loved us – but more importantly, loved Rylee as your own. Thank you. For getting up in the middle of the night with Rylee, in between waking up Crosby!, thank you. For taking her back and forth to doctor’s appointments and giving her breathing treatments every few hours when she just couldn’t shake that virus, thank you. For not yet having her outfit picked out when we’d come to pick her up because you knew how much I loved doing that, thank you. For how you continue to pour into her life, thank you.
Mom and Dad,
You made those weekends possible. You’re the very best grandparents a kid could ask for. For loving her from the very beginning, thank you. For all the driving back and forth to pick her up and take her back, the babysitting, the housing an extra family (and two dogs!) every weekend, thank you. For letting us leave your house a wreck every Sunday because you knew that every minute with Rylee before we yet again had to leave was precious, and that cleaning could come later, thank you. For supporting, encouraging, and making me believe I could do anything my entire life, thank you. You set me up with the traits needed for this journey – endurance, perseverance, and maybe a little stubbornness. Probably the lesson I most remember from Dad growing up was that if you’re going to do something at all, you should give it everything you’ve got. I fought hard for Rylee, and I gave it everything I had, so thank you. For how you both continue to love us all, thank you.
For all of you who made those 11 months without her *almost* bearable, thank you. Linda, for the endless support, encouragement, positivity, and prayers, thank you. For raising Adam to be the man, husband, father he is, thank you. For being the VERY best Mimi, thank you! Ann and Tim, for reaching out to us to let us know there was a little girl who needed a loving home from the beginning, and for believing in us, praying with and for us, and doing all you could to help, thank you. Joe and Amanda, Amanda and Thierry, and the rest of our incredible family. Whitney (our wine and talks helped get me through!), Kristi and Adam, and the rest of our community group and Church family. Jacquelynn, our phenomenal NC caseworker, who knows how to get the job DONE! All the other caseworkers, guardian ad litem, our attorneys, the judge, and all the other people throughout this process who played a role, said a prayer, offered a word of encouragement… you all mean more than you know.
Thank you. Today, my heart is full, and I choose joy.