An End and a Beginning (Part 4)

On Tuesday, March 22, our travels take us from Austin to Fresno, California via Los Angeles.  From Fresno, we rent a car and drive 30 minutes to a small town north of Fresno called Madera.  No trip I’ve ever taken, regardless of distance, has felt longer than this one. When we arrive, there remains only a hint of the setting sun on the horizon and the weather is cold and wet.  It matched some of what we’ve been feeling.  California’s Central Valley is like a scene straight out of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.  It’s all farms and pastures…and it feels very, very far from home.

After traveling all day, we finally arrive at Madera Community Hospital.  It’s almost 9:30 pm and it’s after hours, so we have to enter the hospital through the Emergency Room.  Surprisingly, every hospital worker we meet seems to be expecting us and we are quickly ushered to the Maternity Ward.  One nurse smilingly asks if we’re excited to meet our son.  Our son?  Wow.  Yes, our son!  We are excited beyond words.  There is a child – a boy – somewhere in this hospital who needs a family and parents to love and protect him.  We are determined to be his parents.  But, in the back of our minds, there remains the sobering possibility that it could all change when the sun comes up in the morning.

We arrive at the door to the Nursery.  I am not kidding, I felt the passing of time slow and everything seemed to unfold in slow motion.  We’re led inside and we notice, in the nursery, one solitary infant in an otherwise empty room.  Is that him?  We strain to look past the nurse’s shoulder hoping for a better glimpse. Surely, that’s our boy!  As the nurse begins to wheel his little plastic bassinet towards us, I am overwhelmed by a flood of emotions.  I find myself weeping uncontrollably at the intensity of seeing my son for the first time.  At some point in those tears, I notice Carita clinging to my arm, hand over her mouth, crying along with me.  I’ve often felt, in the 9 years of infertility, that my life was stuck. Sometimes, I felt as if a new day was just my pseudo-future, a pale imitation of what life should have been like.  But when I gazed upon the sleeping, peaceful face of our baby boy, it was as if life suddenly became very unstuck.

At that moment, one thing was very clear to us.  No, the answers to the mysteries of the Universe did not unfold before us, but it did feel like a long journey was drawing to a close.  We knew with every fiber of our being that, had our path deviated at any point in the last 9 years, we wouldn’t be holding this boy – our son – this day.  Had we gotten pregnant 9 years ago, or 8, or 7.  Had the China adoption proceeded in the expected pace.  Any of those happen and we aren’t there in Madera, California that night.  At that moment, everything that we’d endured seemed worth it.

With shaky hands, I reached for him.  Holding a newborn and knowing that there isn’t another person on earth more responsible for his well-being than you is a powerful moment.  Looking down on him, I choke out the words, “Hello, son.  I’m your dad and this is your mom.  We’ve waited so long to finally meet you.”  That’s all I can manage through the tears.

We named our son Jacob Dylan.  Jacob, after Jacob of the Old Testament.  The specific reasons for this choice we’ll share in a different blog post.  Dylan, simply because we liked it.  I did joke with the nurse that we were inspired in equal parts by Bob Dylan – the legendary rocker, Dylan Thomas – the Welsh poet, and Dylan McKay – the side burned anti-hero in the ubiquitous show Beverly Hills 90210.  I think the nurse believed me.

The nurse showed remarkable sensitivity to our situation.  We were provided two rocking chairs, a private room, and all of the time we wanted to soak up the moment.  We’re so grateful to the medical professionals at Madera Community Hospital.  I do remember holding Carita’s hand, as she took her turn holding our son.  We tried to pray a prayer of thanksgiving, but the words kept escaping us. It’s still comforting to know, that even as our words failed us, God could listen to our hearts.  Our hearts were indeed praising Him.

The rest of the time at the hospital was a blur of filling out forms, receiving baby care instructions from the nurses, and basking in the joy of the night.  Finally, we wrapped baby Jacob in some swaddling cloths and left the hospital at 11:30 pm. Our first night as a new family was spent in the Springhill Suites off of Highway 99 in Madera, California.  There has never been a more joyous night of sleepless child care than ours on March 22.  We got a couple of hours of sleep that night.

As the sun rose on March 23, we both knew it would be a momentous day. The birth mother was supposed to sign her Parental Rights Termination papers today. Once she did that, we would sign our own documents, assuming full legal responsibility over the Jacob.  Once signed, these papers would be binding and irrevocable.  She could also, for whatever reason, refuse to sign it. That morning should have been full of tension due to the uncertainty.  Instead, we felt an indescribable peace from the Lord.  The old hymn, “All the Way My Savior Leads Me” was on my mind that morning:

All the way my Savior leads me, what have I to ask beside

Can I doubt His tender mercy, who through life has been my guide…

…For I know whatever befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.

While we wait at the hotel for the lawyers to arrive, we have lunch at the restaurant across the street.  Our first family meal.  It’s a greasy diner off the highway in the middle-of-nowhere-California-town called Madera. That meal wouldn’t have been more special had it been in the fanciest restaurant, in the most beautiful setting on earth.  Of course, Baby Jacob slept through the whole meal.

At 4:45 pm, our lawyer, Ted, and his wife, Sheryl, finally walk into the hotel lobby. There are big smiles on all of our faces and hugs all around.  The birth mother signed the papers, without hesitation!  As they tell us more about their interaction with her, we get the sense that God is writing a much bigger story here than just our adoption story.  Ted and Sheryl tell us about the small ways that redemption is entering into the birth mother’s life and how, through all of this, there are glimmers of hope that she can turn her life around…that she might one day experience her own redemption through the Cross.  We are elated, inspired, and humbled that God assigned us roles in this narrative that is still unfolding.

On March 23, 2011 at 5:12 pm, Carita and I sign the four pages of documents that now give us the legal rights as Jacob’s parents. More importantly, we receive the spiritual stewardship of raising Jacob as our son.  We have never felt more dependent on the grace of God, nor more confident in the sufficiency of that grace.

There’s so much more I could write, but those will wait for future posts.  For now, we are content to let this story come to an end, as we look forward to a new beginning as a family.

In closing, here is a picture of our son, Jacob Dylan Chen.  I hope you enjoyed this ride with us.  For those who, in tears and in hope over these many years, beseeched the Lord on behalf of our family, reflect on His answered prayer and the knowledge that Jesus doeth all things well.

 

Here is the world, son. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid.

 

Broken Promise (Part 3)

From the moment we told Ted that we were interested in adopting, things went into overdrive.  We had paperwork to fill out, police and FBI background checks to attain, travel plans to make, things to purchase, a house to prepare…and the baby was supposedly due March 1st, which was less than a week away?

Our everyday lives were put on hold as we hustled to take care of details.  The first week of March passes by and no baby, yet. Going into the next week, we figure it’s going to be any day now.  Sitting on pins and needles doesn’t begin to describe how we felt…

On Saturday, March 12th, we receive a call from Ted.  Once we decided to pursue this adoption, we’d been free of doubt regarding whether this was what God intended for us.  Now, Ted was telling us the the birth mother was having doubts about us adopting.  Was she just getting nervous?  Did she have hesitations about us as people?  Is she even considering what’s best for the baby boy?

We will probably never understand how difficult of a decision it is to choose to give up your child.  How difficult it must be to see the upside of those choices?  Birth mothers who make that choice, against all odds and in the face of the “convenience” of abortion, often do so under horribly stressful circumstances.  So, we weren’t completely shocked to hear that she was having doubts.  We still hoped and prayed that God would somehow calm her nerves, help her to consider the welfare of the child, and ultimately choose us.

On Monday, March 14th, we get another call from Ted’s office.  The worst thing we could conceive, in our grimmest imaginations, was actually happening.  The birth mother changed her mind and no longer wanted us to adopt.  After all of the positives steps forward in this adoption, she decided that she’d rather one of her relatives take custody of the boy.  We knew, from all reports, that there were no “good” situations within her family.  What made things worse was that, once she decided that we weren’t going to adopt, we had zero access to any information.  We wouldn’t know when she’d deliver, what hospital she’d be at, nothing.  There was no closure, no explanation as to why.  Selfishly, we couldn’t believe that she’d backed out.  More importantly, we couldn’t believe that this was the outcome God intended.  It was a loss and a sense of desolation far worse than anything we’d endured thus far in our infertility and adoption journey.  We felt completely cast aside.

Seriously?  C’mon, God.  After all that we’ve gone through, over the years and in the last two weeks?  We were beyond crushed. This felt like an incredibly elaborate hoax, cruelly played out by God and we were the ones being punked.  We never went after this…why did He have to bring this to us?  If He was going to say no, why did He say yes in so many smaller ways leading up to this?

In nine years of infertility, we never allowed ourselves the choice to purchase baby-related items, never picked out kids’ names, never made any plans as if children were a certainty.  But, this adoption was like kicking over an ant pile and it set things in frenzied motion. Our house was littered with the remnants of our hope deferred: the stroller that we’d picked out three days ago, a bassinet filled with baby clothes, a study in need of conversion into a baby room.  We’d even given the boy, our son, a name.

We spent the next week in a haze of sadness and regret.  A part of us sensed that God wanted us to keep hoping, but I found it difficult to attach that hope to anything.  And attaching it only to God didn’t feel all that reliable at the moment. Carita’s faith amazed me, though.  The substance of her faith was, once again, revealed through fire.  While I crawled into my hole to lick my wounds, she cried out to God and pressed harder after Him.  What an amazing woman…

On Sunday, March 20th, we got yet another phone call.  This one was from Madera Community Hospital in Madera, California. We were informed that at 4:20 that morning, the birth mother had given birth to a healthy baby boy.  The hospital social worker said that the birth mom’s preferred option to adopt him had fallen through and that she was, once again, wanting us to adopt.

There was one catch:  We have to travel to California before anything is finalized or the baby boy will be taken by social services and placed in a foster home, pending resolution of this adoption.  The hospital needed to know whether we’d be willing to travel out there to take custody of the baby boy.

This was what we’d been hoping against all hope to happen – that she’d pick us. But was this just another false lead? Would the birth mom change her mind again? Would a blood relative appear at the 11th hour to take him away?  In our hearts, this boy was already our son.  The thought of him spending even a single night in foster care seemed unacceptable.  At the same time, the possibility of us traveling to California to hold our son for a couple of days…and then have him taken away was a nightmare beyond reckoning.

What are we willing to risk for this child, who would be our son?  What are we willing to lay on the line and hand over to God, by faith?  So, with as much faith as our wounded hearts can muster, we make arrangements to fly out to California. And by faith, we believe that we will be bringing our son home.