I have been wishing for this day for, it seems like, forever.
Some days, I’ve prayed this day would come more quickly, like on those first post-adoption days when temper tantrums and melt-downs were the welcome-to-the-United-States norms. When even a soft and gentle “no” followed by a “try this instead” yes led to a deep, grief-stricken cry and a quiver lip that, when it still emerges from time to time, totally broke my heart.
When anything perceived as rejection caused and still causes total withdrawal.
Other days, I’ve wished that each fragment of each second would just slow itself down. We’ve already missed so many moments, and this little boy we just adore has missed so much. Time can’t slow down enough, it seems, to make up for the minutes of our baby’s childhood that we’ll never, ever get back.
But I no longer have to wonder what today will feel like. Because Superhero 3 turned 5 years old yesterday. He came to us at 2 1/2. Which means that today, for the first day in his life, our Superman will know what it’s like to live INSIDE a family longer than he’s lived OUTSIDE of one. And every day after today is a weight we place on the other side of the knowing-family scale.
I have been waiting for this moment for more than 30 MONTHS. For the day when our precious superhero would know the familiar arms of parents longer than he’d known the paid hands of caretakers. When he’d know the chaos and craziness of family longer than he’d known the dry, quiet, classroom-like routines of an orphanage.
When he’d know imperfect, extravagant, lavish, unconditional love longer than he’d seen his friends depart his orphanage and wonder what such love of family must be like.
I’ve been waiting so long to cross that line. To tip that scale. To be on the OTHER side of a broken history of abandonment and institutional life.
And yet yesterday, I had so many mixed emotions about this superhero’s birthday.
Our two older superheroes have stories of R&R deployment deliveries and TGI Friday public water breakings on big brother’s 3rd birthday. They have stories, very specific stories, about how they entered the world and where (and how on earth they managed to land their births on the same day, three years apart).
As we celebrated Superhero 3’s birthday yesterday, Superhero 2 asked me a question I had never thought about.
“What time was Superhero 3 born, Mom?” he asked. “You always sing to us on our birthdays at the time we were born. So what time should we sing to him?”
And I didn’t even know.
Even two and a half years into this sweet little boy’s life, I still know so little about the first half of his story
Stories are my passion. Stories are my life. I write our family’s story on my blog, I edit inspirational real-life stories for my publishing company. Our biggest prayer for the superhero we are hosting for the summer is to CHANGE HIS STORY!
And as a story person, it absolutely kills me that I don’t know the way my own son’s began.
I don’t know how his mother’s water broke, or where she was when she realized this angel was coming into the world.
I don’t know where she delivered this baby boy, or how many hours it took, or how he crinkled up his sweet face when he took his first breath.
I have only a handful of photos of his first two years of life, and I have no baby pictures to post in frames to give to HIS wife someday.
I have no mementos from that birth. No hospital bracelets, no crusty umbilical cords. I have absolutely no memories of that early life.
I have only the knowledge that his mother, no matter what her motives or her story, loved this boy enough to place him wrapped in blankets tenderly on the floor of a hospital, just outside the door to the surgery area where she was sure that a medical professional would find him.
One of Superhero 3’s medical issues required immediate attention — attention, one doctor told us last year, that would have had to be given in the first three days of life, or the boy we now know as our son would have died.
We don’t know the story of our little man’s birth, or how he got to that hospital floor. We don’t know where his mother was when the police searched for her, if she ever read the article in the local paper seeking her out or how many tears she may have cried after making that incredibly difficult decision.
We don’t know why she abandoned the boy we now call our son. And we never will.
But we know this: Superhero 3’s mother loved him enough to carry him. To deliver him. To love him. In a country where there are more than 13 million abortions a year and a nation-wide cap on the number of children each family can have. Where children with outward deformities, like Superhero 3’s hand deformity, are seen to some traditional families as a curse.
To get him help that she was either not able or not willing to provide. To risk her own life and freedom to leave him not in an alley or on a doorstep or at a police station or in a garbage can, like so many of the babies our friends have adopted, but in a hospital, where she was sure he could get the immediate care he needed to SURVIVE.
No matter what her other motives or reasons, somewhere IN there was pure and selfless LOVE.
And on Superhero 3’s birthday, I so badly wish I could share with her what WE love most about her son.
That he is a ball of charisma and personality, and that his smile just lights up a room.
That his spirit is the most courageous and tough and indomitable I’ve ever seen. That he hardly flinched through 14 casts and 10 surgeries in five years. That he considers hospital stays sleepovers with popsicles and Frozen marathons.
That he had on appendage amputated and another transplanted and all he took was one dose of Tylenol one time one day.
That he sings to himself through every shower and is too excited about life to ever use his walking feet.
That his big brothers just adore him and his parents and grandparents can’t help but dote on him, especially when he sticks out his tongue and yells, “I French toasted you!”
That he gets away with murder because his impish little grin gets under my skin, and when he opens his arms wide and says, “I love you BIG much,” “puddle” is not even the word for my state.
That he fills a hole in our hearts we didn’t even know we had … until those perfect black-brown eyes took our breath away.
No, I don’t know how our baby’s story BEGAN. But I do know how it ended.
Not in the kind of perfect and patient family this superhero deserves, but in the arms of parents who love passionately but have to apologize frequently. In the midst of brothers who prize Superman but sometimes play too hard. In the center of a family totally and completely in love … and overwhelmed by the fact that they don’t deserve this sweet blessing, but that God, in his infinite grace, gave it to them anyway.
After grappling with this issue for two-plus years, and after reading a powerful article from a beautiful adoptive mama friend, we no longer believe Superhero 3 was MEANT for us. And we have NEVER believed we are any kind of saviors.
There is one Savior, and we are not Him. (Thank you, God. I can’t even save breakfast, not to mention PEOPLE.)
But we do thank God after every hug, every snuggle, every French toast kiss that He would trust US with this incredibly special boy’s redemption story.
Because that’s what God writes through adoption. He writes a REDEMPTION story of brokenness that He transforms into beauty. Of ashes that he makes into ART.
Of a little boy who lived two and a half years in an orphanage and now, at age 5, barely remembers a life where he didn’t snuggle daily in multiple sets of arms.
A life where he slept two to a bed and wasn’t allowed to crawl under the covers of his parents after nighttime nightmares in his trademark starfish position and radiate heat that makes a king bed feel like a furnace five nights out of seven each week.
A life where he didn’t know what it was like to experience the love of Jesus working through the frail, often-times faltering hands of FAMILY.
And when I think that FEAR almost stopped us from bringing this perfect boy into our home — fear of providing for his medical needs, fear of financing an adoption, fear of bringing home a child who could very well have attachment issues after living without parents for the first two and a half years of his life — I feel absolutely sick. I can’t even go there. The thought is just too much, causes too much pain, and I have to push it from my mind
Because the truth is that fear very easily could have robbed us of our greatest blessings.
Superhero 3 may not have been “meant” for our home. But God, in His amazing grace, allowed us to provide one for him. And by His even wilder and crazier grace, He somehow trusted US to help rewrite this precious boy’s story. So that it didn’t end in an orphanage and a life that turned to the streets at 14, but in a home. In wide-open, daily-failing and constantly-in-need-of-forgiveness parental arms.
Thank you, God, for trusting us, these frail, faulty, failing-every-day people, with one of your most beautiful gems.
We love him BIG MUCH, and we promise to never take this priceless gift, any of the three of them, for granted.
Thank you for so graciously writing US into HIS story.