Sunday, April 13, 2008

Can I just use the title from my last post?

I was the one in the senior yearbook that said I wanted to be a mom - with 12 kids.

Unfortunately, I had a few issues.

I didn't marry until I was 38 years old. Let's just say I had some abandonment issues that led me to push people away before they could leave me. Let's just hope I'm over that one.....

I married a man with a step-daughter. His ex-wife and step-daughter had left town, so he didn't get to see her, but he always carried her picture.

I'd struggled for years with endometriosis. I'll spare you the details, but I was left with poor odds according to my doctor: 25% chance of ever getting pregnant, and a 25% chance of carrying that child to term. And my age only made it worse. My ex-husband was born with a birth defect that, while not life-threatening, required numerous painful surgeries to correct. He had the first at age 3, and the last in high school. He was left self-conscious of the scars, and with constant pain, and didn't want to pass it down.

We decided that maybe kids weren't for us. We were busy with our careers and extremely active in theatre. That's how we met, actually. I had just moved to Redding, and auditioned for a play, and we were both in the same cast. So that's what we did - one show after another.

About 4 1/2 years later, his ex-wife and her daughter moved back to town. At least I got to be a stepmom. I first met Jen when she was 14. Tall, and beautiful, with braces and bony knees. She's still so close to my heart and we talk all the time.

Not long after she came back into our lives, I thought of adopting. Not wanting to overwhelm my husband, I prayed about it. Less than two weeks later, he came to me and asked if maybe we could adopt a little one.

We were in the middle of building a home, so decided to wait until we moved in. In the meantime, I researched everything on adoption I could find. We were seriously looking into a Russian adoption, since each of us happened to be half Russian.

One day, at a local event, we ran into some old theatre friends who had adopted. I asked them what agency they'd used. Turned out it was Shasta County - fost-adopt. A light went on in my head, and I looked at my husband and we both smiled. I'd been a foster child for five years. What better way to enlarge our family?

Two days after we moved into our new home, we called (it would have been one day, but it was a holiday!). We found they were having an informational meeting in just a few weeks.

Soon we were wrapped up in classes, and forms, and new friends. Home studies, and so many questions. We decided that health problems didn't scare us, nor did mental problems. We decided that at our age, an infant wasn't "necessary."

We went down on the list for a boy, aged one to four.

While we waited, we got a phone call. A three-year-old boy was living in a guardianship. His guardian was overwhelmed with his behaviors, and it was decided he should be offered for adoption. They wanted a home without kids to observe him for a few weeks.

He had the biggest smile I'd ever seen. And was the only child I'd met who could scream for 8 - 10 hours a day. His mother had used cocaine during her pregnancy (her 9th) causing her baby to have mini-strokes while still in utero. She drank to come down from the high, causing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Who knows what caused the cerebral palsy, or the retardation.

He blossomed in our home, but we knew that he needed far more experienced parents that we were. Love doesn't fix everything. An adoptive home was found within a day of his internet posting (I wrote it!), but it would take months for the paperwork to go through. Of course, he would stay with us until it happened. No way were we going to have him move again. I eventually (eight months later) traveled with him to his new home in Missouri, and remain close to his adoptive family.

One day, a few months later, I got a call. Though I took notes, I don't need to refer to them, because I remember every word. The worker who'd done our home study wanted to tell us about a little boy.

He was a little younger than we were on the list for - only six months old. He'd been in care since birth, since his birth mother struggled with tremendous demons, and the hospital feared for his safety. While pregnant, the birth mother had attempted suicide. During his first six months, the county had tried to reunify him with his birth mother twice, only to have to remove him again due to abuse. It didn't look like she'd be able to parent him, ever.

His birth father was in jail, and wouldn't be released for at least a year. They weren't a "couple."

He was blond (not really) and blue-eyed (ok, she got that one wrong completely).

And he was so serious. He rarely smiled, and had never laughed. He could pull himself up to standing already, but he didn't have a single tooth. And he couldn't bear to ride in a car.

We met him a few days later. He sat solemnly on his foster mom's lap, thumb in mouth, gazing at us like he was trying to figure out why we were there. I asked to hold him. A few minutes later, a worker asked if we wanted to consider taking him home. I answered honestly. I'd fallen in love with him the minute he'd been placed on my lap.

His long, lovely lashes, his hazel eyes (just like mine). His serious expression.

It didn't take much longer for my ex-husband to fall in love with him, too.

It wasn't an easy road. His birth-father got out of jail much earlier than anticipated, and decided he wanted to parent our little one. His mother was pushing him hard, as she'd been adopted at birth, and they declared they'd never let our little one be adopted. We spent months trying to help him reunify, months of dread, prayers, and tears. Eventually, his demons got the best of him, and even he decided that we could offer a better home.

At nine months, our son finally laughed. At ten months, he got his first tooth. At a year, he walked. At age two, we finalized the adoption, and I finally thought he might have bonded to us. But 18 months before that, he'd walked right into my heart. My little boy. My Jacob Elliot.

And today he is eight years old. I love him beyond measure. And he loves me, too. I love his thick hair, his loving heart, the freckle on his knee. I love his determination to collect and identify rocks. His love for animals. His care for those younger and smaller than him. His long silky lashes that frame hazel eyes, just like mine. And when he smiles, and laughs, I'm reminded of those days long ago when he never smiled, never laughed. And I thank God that He has entrusted him to me.


Hal Johnson said...

Y'know, it was doggone inconsiderate of you to write these last two posts. Sheesh, when you're a guy, and a pilot guy, it's embarrassing to have tears coming out of your eyes while surrounded by other guys in the flight planning room.

The line about Jake taking food and toys to give to less fortunate kids was enough in itself to choke me up.

Plus, your kids are so doggone cute that it hurts to look at them.

Erica said...

Annie you are such a wonderful mother. What a blessing Jake is. He is lucky to have you. Happy Birthday Jake!

rev rock said...

Keep writing blogs Annie...the world needs to hear stories like yours!