The moment I heard my son’s name spoken for the first time, my heart physically leapt in my chest.
My husband had mentioned him a week or so previously, but not in too much detail. Jordan is a pediatric nurse at a children’s hospital, and was working in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at the time. He had been assigned to care for a very sick premature baby one day in early August 2013.
This precious little boy had gone through a cardiac and respiratory arrest at seven weeks old. The ER staff had worked tirelessly for fifteen minutes doing CPR, administering five shots of epinephrin and five shocks with the defibrillator, to get his heart started again. After going such a long time without oxygen, however, he was declared to be mostly brain dead, and given very little hope for recovery. A couple days later, Jordan picked him as his assignment for the night, and continued to care for him as a primary nurse for several months.
Our firstborn son, Rainor, was only three months old when Jordan first mentioned this little one he was caring for. “Honey, there’s a little black boy with an afro who needs a home.”.
Those words were the only convincing I needed.
For years, I had felt an undeniable tug on my heart whenever I saw African-American boys. I knew that we would adopt one someday. I had no doubt that God put that desire within me. My affection for the big, beautiful, natural curls led me to often mention the “black baby boy with an afro” who would someday join our family.
I grilled Jordan for more information, and what he told me left us both feeling grim. This precious baby had a LOT of needs. He was dependent on a tracheostomy tube to breath, and was fed by g-tube. He had extensive brain damage with no indication of how much he would ever develop. Caring for a child like this would mean turning our home into a small ICU, countless doctors and therapy appointments, facing years of unknowns, and the possibility that our son might never be able to live a normal life on his own.
At the end of the conversation, we agreed it was probably too much for us. We were a young family (Jordan was 23, I was 24), just starting out with parenting and Jordan’s career. I was struggling with postpartum depression and a great deal of physical pain from a difficult childbirth with our son. Our house was tiny, and we were trying to get our feet under us financially.
The timing just wasn’t right.
I am so grateful that God is not swayed by our doubts and dismissals. He faithfully kept that baby boy on my mind over the days that followed. One week later, I picked Jordan up from work and we headed down to visit my family in Kentucky. He again started telling me about this little one who needed a home. Again, we discussed the details and consequences of taking on such massive needs.
At this point, Jordan hadn’t told me the child’s name yet. He was trying to discuss everything while still holding to his responsibility to protect his patient’s privacy. But as we talked, his sleep-deprived mind slipped and he said his name. We had actually moved on to talk about other things, so I didn’t even know that the name he mentioned was that of the little boy we were considering bringing into our family. But I heard that name, and everything changed.
My heart physically leapt inside my chest.
It was one of the deepest spiritual experiences I have ever had. Like the reverberations of that name within my ears traveled through my entire body and ended in my heart, causing it to skip a beat. It was excitement and wonder and the unknown and soul-deep LOVE.
“Is that his name?” I asked breathlessly. “Is the little boy’s name Robert?”
“Yes,” Jordan replied.
“Baby, I didn’t even know who you were talking about, but when you said his name, I felt my heart actually skip a beat.”
We both wondered at what had just happened. Jordan soon drifted off to sleep, trying to catch up after another long night shift, and I drove on in silence, my heart still pounding in wonder.
God…could this be real? Could this be our son?
I wish I could say I had no doubts beyond that moment, but that’s not the way my fickle heart works most of the time. Questions of whether we could do this, SHOULD do this, filled my thoughts constantly.
How would it affect Rainor? Would it be good for him to have a “twin” brother (Robert is exactly a month and a day older than Rainor.)? Would we be somehow depriving him of the time and attention most firstborn children get during their alone years with their parents? What about our marriage? Could we be strong and hold it together, no matter what comes?
And what about foster care? Foster care! What a huge, unknown, scary world we would be stepping into.
Another week or so passed, and one day Jordan told me that the hospital had found a foster family for Robert. They were coming in to begin training to care for his medical needs, and he would be going home with them in a few weeks. I felt a sense of guilty relief and a twinge of sadness. It was confusing, but I decided that God knew what was best for Robert and for us. I simply prayed for him and his new family, and entrusted them into His hands.
That peaceful attitude did not last long. I was driving home with Rainor one day (I do a lot of good thinking on the road), and suddenly I got MAD. Righteous anger filled me, and I started telling God what I thought. God, I just feel like Robert is supposed to be OURS. Lord, if You want him in our family, let the situation with this other foster family fall through.
The very next morning, Jordan walked in from his night shift, and said “Hey, that other foster family isn’t going to be taking Robert home after all. It just wasn’t the right situation, and it fell through.”
Well, that did it. We began the wild ride of becoming Treatment Level foster parents.
We spent the next few weeks filling out stacks of paperwork, watching hours of education, signing our entire lives away, readying our house for a home study, and filling half of Rainor’s small bedroom with medical equipment and a second crib. Every other day, I spent long hours at the hospital training to care for Robert’s medical needs, and loving on our new son. He was perfect.
Our licensing worker at the foster care agency worked miracles for us. She completed what is normally a six-month process in less than a month. Several times, she visited Robert in the hospital with us, and her care and compassion for his situation was visible. I don’t know if she slept much in that month, but because of her dedication, within a few weeks Robert was finally ready to leave the hospital that had been his home most of his short life.
Two months after Jordan first mentioned that black baby boy with an afro who needed a home, we brought him into ours.
Robert was six months old, and had spent all but ten days in a hospital bed. His eyes were wide open, amazed and curious at everything he saw. That night we tucked him into his own bed in his own room, his brother sleeping only a few feet away. He was ours. Stamped on our hearts forever.
People often ask how we got into foster care. Was it something we always wanted to do? What made us decide to take in kids with medical needs? How did we know the timing was right? I always laugh as I begin our story. We did not choose foster care. God chose a beautiful little boy to be our son. He chose us to be his parents. And He used the incredibly difficult, painful, redemptive road of foster care to bring us all together.
What is your fostering story? What made you choose foster care, or are you still considering it?
More posts you might like:
Embracing the Ancestors of My Adopted Son
The Labor of Becoming a Parent – Birth and Adoption
Why We Are Choosing Day One