So I left off the story in Part 2 (click here to read!) with Brian holding our daughter for the first time. I can freeze that memory in my mind and remember every detail.
I really don’t know how to proceed with the story at this point, because as much as I would love to tell you that we spent the afternoon playing and laughing and crying…it was actually probably one of the weirdest, hardest days I have ever lived through.
I want to first of all say, that I want to be honest about the facts of how difficult the next 2 weeks was. I was in no way prepared for how complicated and emotionally intense it would be to transition EJ from her foster home to our home. It’s not something you can prepare for, there is no manual or book that can lead you through this process. You have to remember as you read that adoption is a team effort, that you can’t isolate the child or children from the influence, jurisdiction, and attachment of foster parents, foster siblings, case workers, and anyone else on their team. (In our case, this includes a pretty large group of doctors and specialists too!) Everyone’s experience is going to be different, and I hope that what we learned and what we experienced during this process can help others maybe go through it a bit more gracefully then we did.
And so Brian held his daughter for the first time and we both just looked at her like we have never seen a baby before, and we all sat down in the living room for a chat. Me, Brian, Christina, Fran, and foster mom. Without missing a beat, foster mom launched into a lengthy explanation of Emmi’s medical history, her past ER visits, her daily perils, and all the worst-case-scenario information. I grabbed my ipad and started taking notes, because…WHAT IN THE WORLD IS HAPPENING AND WHAT AM I DOING HERE. I’M 12 YEARS OLD AND I’M TRYING TO CONVINCE YOU ALL THAT I CAN DO THIS.
It was a weird way to meet my daughter (whom I had not gotten to hold yet at this point). It was a very Anne of Green Gables moment where I had made castles in the sky about this experience and it turned out very differently
So, I did finally get to hold my Squish. She was kind of confused about what was going on, but was content to just be held and look at everyone with those huge eyes. Then I was told that I was holding her wrong. Ok cool, I just messed up this very magical moment by holding my medically fragile daughter wrong. Ok. Great. I don’t even know what else I can say about that. Squish, if you are reading this now as a teenager. You know we are good. I was super happy to hold you and look at you and I just kind of tuned out everything for a while and looked at you. Also, I will still call you Squish, just maybe not in front of your friends.
Meanwhile, the stream of information never stopped. So much information. So much to process. I think it lasted about 2 hours. Meanwhile our case worker Fran had to leave, but promised to be in touch and help us along. Fran is the greatest, and we love having her in our life! She was our fierce advocate during this process, and she’s definitely someone you want on your side.
Finally, we had a chance to kind of relax more and ask questions about her daily routine and how she liked to sleep and how to feed her and all that. This was a welcome relief from the flood of medical information, not gonna lie. EJ kind of perked up and we got to see her laugh and giggle and just be a squishy 6 month old baby. This is the first photo I ever took of her, and I got to send it to all my family that day. That smile made this day a ton better. We were in love.
We spent the afternoon getting familiar with her life with her foster family, and we were able to really connect with the foster parents by telling them about our own journey up to this point. I told them that EJ was already covered in the prayers of our family, friends, and church…and that we had a beautiful community just waiting to welcome her home and help us care for her. I could see foster mom visibly relax, and with tears in her eyes she told me how much she loved EJ. Squish, if you are reading this as a teenager, know that you were loved deeply by this family. They brought you home from the hospital, saw you through many dangers, and saved your life. They will always be a part of you.
The next 2 weeks were a blur. Christina (EJs case worker) wanted us to be absolutely sure we could handle her medical needs, so we drove an hour away almost every day for two weeks to do bonding visits and go to doctor’s appointments. It was so exhausting, and we often didn’t know what we were supposed to do or where to go until the last minute. Brian still needed to work, and I was frantically trying to get our home ready for a baby. My best friend drove here from Georgia and helped me clean the house and get ready to bring EJ home. My sister ran around and organized gifts and got me a pool pass for the summer. People started dropping off diapers and clothes. It was insane.
During that time we brought EJ to our house for two overnight visits. The first one, we kind of sneaked her in and didn’t tell anyone but a few people. During these visits she met her Auntie Apa, Uncle Twent, and Auntie Wissa for the first time! Oh, and also Lucy. (Apryl is my sis, Trent was our housemate and our dear friend, and Elissa is my bff)
And so we slept little, drove alot, and fell in love with our little Squish.
About halfway through the transition process, Brian and I decided to get away for a night and go downtown to spend the night in a hotel. It was our “babymoon”-our last chance to get away by ourselves for a while. It looked like it was going to be a few weeks before we could bring baby girl home, so we grabbed this one chance. It was a gift from God, because things got suuuper intense after that.
We got word the next day that EJ was sick and that we were to meet up with her and her foster mom at the pediatrician’s office. So our little babymoon was cut short, but we were grateful for it. There were and still are concerns about EJ’s kidneys, so they wanted to make sure she didn’t have an infection. During the visit, I spiked a fever and started feeling really unwell. We had just decided that EJ would come home with us that night for a visit so we could experience what is was like to watch over her and get her through a sickness or infection. Brian then had to take ME to the urgent care and make sure I wasn’t sick with something I would give to EJ. The doctor took one look at me and said he didn’t think I was sick, I was just really really really stressed. When we told him our story, he lit up and said “I was adopted!” He got it, he was kind, and he was actually from our same town and was working the clinic that day randomly. (Looking back, I’m pretty sure that me and Ej were both sick with a little virus…and that we probably picked it up at the doctor’s office, and that the stress wasn’t helping us fight it off.)
So, after some drama with lots of people trying to make decisions and lots of emotions involved, we took a sick Bonnie and a sick EJ home to our house for another overnight visit. I’m indebted to the foster mom for teaching me how to pack a hospital bag. She was stuck at the hospital with EJ one time during a snow storm and had nothing with her and no one could bring her anything. She always had a “go bag” in her car from that point on. So that night, I packed a hospital bag just in case and we all went to sleep. Early the next morning, we realized that something might be wrong, and we were instructed to take her straight to the ER. Here is where I nearly had a panic attack. Up to that point, I had never been in the ER before that I could remember. I hate hospitals (though now I’m super comfortable at our Children’s Hospital and Clinics). I was being thrown waaaaay outside my comfort zone on so many levels, and at this point I thought it would break me.
That was the longest morning of my life. I was sick, Emmi was sick, and we were stuck at the ER because it was taking forever to get an ultrasound done. Thankfully, she was ok and we actually got some good news about her kidneys. I’m so glad we had that experience, but at the time it really shook my confidence. Emmi and I went home and were sleepy and miserable together, while poor Brian actually had to go to work for the rest of the day.
I could probably ramble on and on about those days. They were days of intense spiritual battles- you could feel the war being waged around our family. We were simultaneosly so happy and so fearful and doubting. I was often just paralyzed by the fear of the unknowns in Ejs life. We had to have a serious conversation with Fran about the possibility that we would not get to see Emmi grow up. We had to decide that she was worth the risk. She was. She is. That was always true in our hearts. Always. Fear tried to make us stumble and made us second guess ourselves, but God was already writing our story and knitting our family together. No papers or people or doctors’s guesses or bloodwork or ultrasounds could say or do anything against his plan for us. God was unshakeable in this, and always has and always will be.
So let’s skip to the good part. The part where Brian came home from work on a Friday afternoon and we decided to go see a movie. We were so weary. We had been going back and forth with our team about our actual “coming home” date and nothing had been decided. Everything was ready to bring our baby girl home, we were just waiting. We figured a little distraction would be good, and it looked like it would be the next week before we got any answers.
Then there was a text from Christina. Brian froze and looked at me for confirmation about what it said. “Does she mean she wants us to move EJ tonight? This was not the time to miscommunicate over text message, so Brian asked her to clarify.
“Congratulations, it’s a girl” she said.
AND THEN WE DIED OF HAPPINESS.
We grabbed Lucy, got in the car, and posted this photo for all our family and friends to see.
And so tomorrow we celebrate our 1 year Family-Versary. God’s timing is perfect, his gifts are so good.
There is more! Part 4 is coming soon!
(I have been walking down memory lane a bit on my Instagram account. You can see the Instagram feed right over there ——–> on the right side of the blog, and you can follow me @iambonnieb to see a bit more of the story. If you don’t use instagram on your phone or tablet, you can see my photos with this link https://instagram.com/iambonnieb/
You can also see these posts on my Facebook page here: Bonnie B. Photography on Facebook