When are you gonna come down
When are you going to land
I should have stayed on the farm
I should have listened to my old man
You know you can’t hold me forever
I didn’t sign up with you
I’m not a present for your friends to open
This boy’s too young to be singing the blues
Almost a year ago, we posted Go to a Good School. And like the dilemma about which it was written, it is filthy with impossible choices, double entendres, “literal” metaphors and more hyperbole than our usual. Admittedly, the story is the kind of solid drama our family experiences on the daily, but a divergence from our norm came in the story’s resolution at the part where we decided to give “our baby” up for adoption.
“Our baby” in this case, refers to our two oldest children’s’ now toddling birth brother, and to say that our decision not to raise him was hard, is understated. But it was the best choice for our family despite the crack it produced in the emotional glass house we had constructed when we learned Birth Mom was pregnant again. Protecting ourselves from a process we’d barely survived two previous times was a necessary precaution, even though the third pregnancy was different in most ways. The last two pregnancies she had been homeless in Seattle; but this time, she was a couple of days drive away from us, and Baby Daddy was a totally unknown-to-us variable. Birth Mom’s drug use and homelessness were also huge factors. She had admitted to needle use of methamphetamines and other drugs from conception to a month before delivery, so we were understandably cautious regarding whether the pregnancy would ever make it to term, given the conditions the fetus faced.
And then there was the issue of how much contact I could manage with Birth Mom, and what it meant to invite her brand of crazy back into our lives after several glorious years of peace. Since I was the one she had formed a relationship with when her first child came into care with me 11 years ago, I knew that I would be the one who would talk with her, text with her, pay for motel rooms for her, advocate for her, wire money to her, seek services for her, counsel her, and generally be a parent to her. I knew the emotional toll and time costs would be high, and I knew our kids would be impacted; especially the oldest one. Given all of that and so much more, the realization that our family did not have the resources to manage another child was not subtle and in fact was fairly obvious from the outset. Complicating the whole thing for me was my personal and our collective track record of never giving up on anyone. Even once we had made the choice not to raise him ourselves, walking away from Birth Mom in her time of need was never an option. And more importantly, abandoning baby number three to fend for himself through foster care and inevitable adoption to strangers in a state where he’d be lost to his brother and sister forever was simply not going to happen. It was the one scenario that would have called our bluff not to take him.
Predictably, through all the advocating and fighting for his right to a family and to his siblings, the emotional glass house keeping that little baby boy at a safe distance from our hearts shattered. But we picked up the shards and we duct-taped them together and we pulled it over us to house our resolve to find him a family and bring him to Washington.
Birth Mom and Baby Daddy reappeared and restarted visits when the baby was around seven months old, so of course the social services clock for due process was also restarted. Birth Mom asked me repeatedly at that point to come and get him; promising to relinquish immediately upon my agreement to raise him in the same home with his siblings, not understanding due to her mental compromise that I couldn’t just drive to Nevada and pick him up.
But she had it all worked out in her mind, I would later learn, in a scenario she created in which she would keep him in Nevada as long as she could, and when the state was about to terminate her rights, she’d sign some papers and I would drive down and get him. She actually told Baby Daddy’s sister that she always knew I would eventually have him, but that she wanted him in foster care there as long as possible to be able to bond with him so he would never forget her. Her scenario to keep him in Nevada by refusing to sign relinquishment papers worked as planned, but the part where I come in and get him at the last minute did not.
I first told her about our friends here in Seattle area who wanted to adopt him when she was in the hospital post-cesarean delivery. I told her they were amazing, and that we had known them since three of the four of us had been in the same doctoral program. In fact, I had called them from California the very day Birth Mom called me when she was around eight months pregnant to say she was “keeping” this baby. I had hung up from Birth Mom’s call and immediately called to see if they were still an option for placement because the only thing I knew for certain was that Birth Mom was not getting custody. They said they were still in. If you read this blog regularly, you know what happened from that phone call day until the baby was five months old and in foster care in Nevada.
What happened from five months old until now included nine more months of back-and-forth with the birth parents, and a lot of calls, texts and sleepless nights. Nevada initially said “no way” to an interstate transfer involving the baby going to a non-relative. I called every social services office in Nevada once I had been informed that the placement committee had flatly refused to consider our friends as and adoptive option, but still I reached one dead-end after another until I called the State Ombudsman’s office. It was there that I learned about the process of the placement committee, and it was from that information that Hallie and I hatched a plan to have our children, the baby’s biological siblings, make a video including the proposed adoptive family in which Hallie would ask the placement committee to allow our friends to adopt her baby brother. The baby’s social worker wasn’t sure if it would work, but enthusiastically agreed to show the video to the placement committee. The decision to allow our friends to adopt the baby was unanimous within hours of our video being shown.
Stalls and blocks continued to impede progress to actually get the ball rolling to initiate an interstate transfer even after the committee said yes, but I had sent a joint email to our friends and the baby’s social worker introducing them all, and I kept regular contact with the case worker and the baby’s paternal aunt until finally Nevada made contact with our friends. From there, the process to get an updated home study and prepare to complete the paperwork for an interstate compact for the placement of children (ICPC) was in the hands of our friends and their local Washington ICPC worker, and my role diminished to essentially being the squeaky wheel.
After fifteen months, baby number three arrived in Seattle a few days ago with his new family. We haven’t met him yet, but I’m sure we will soon.
I’m also pretty sure I have postpartum depression. I hope we made the right call to say no more kids. I don’t see any way we could have managed another child. I hope he never feels like he wasn’t good enough. He went to a wonderful family who will love and cherish him. I hope someone tells him someday how hard I fought for him. He needs to know that if it had come down to him being stuck in Nevada or us taking him, we would have taken him. That is how I know that it was meant to be that our friends are his new parents.
Ironically, one of the parents in the family who will be adopting our baby was the one and only person in my entire friend group who brought gifts and made a big deal out of my taking baby Hallie into foster care all those years ago when she was almost a year old. It was the nicest thing anyone outside of my family did to welcome Hallie; and in fact, it was the only thing anyone outside of my family did when I embarked essentially alone on the parenthood journey with a fragile eleven-month-old brain injured foster child. I have never forgotten the kindness. Multiple other encounters throughout the years have more than shown us that these are the people you want to adopt your baby. They are patient. They are genuine. They are solid.
I definitely don’t mean to imply that I could possibly know the pain and anguish of giving birth to a child and then, for whatever reason, having to give that child up for adoption, but I will humbly say that this has been as close to just such an experience as a non-biological parent could likely ever feel. And now that it is all over, I am not sure what I’ll do with the feelings that I failed somehow – that I took the easy road.
I’ll work all that out in therapy, but for now, it is enough to know that what is really true for me is that this whole process had nothing to do with me or my road choices but rather was all about the baby finding his yellow brick road to The Emerald City.
So, goodbye, yellow brick road; you’re in good hands.