Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Joe's placement story

This is the story of bringing Joe home. It's a long one, I know. And it is probably more detail than you care for. But, I am writing it for two reasons. 1. I want to record it to be able to share with Joe some day. 2. I want to be able to share with you all of the unique joys and challenges that come with adoption.

On Friday, December 14th, we had dinner with our birthmother. She told us the name that she had picked for him was Gabriel (when you adopt through New Life, you agree to keep one name that the birthmother chooses as a part of his name.) My wheels started turning because the name we liked doesn't go with Gabriel, so I knew I needed to choose another! She is a tiny little thing and at 38.3 weeks pregnant, she looked as though she were going to explode! She had been contracting for a few days was so incredibly uncomfortable. So, I was not surprised when we got the call the next morning that she was at the hospital and 7cm dilated!

Rusty was playing golf, so I called him and said "It's happening! She is in the hospital!" Neither one of us knew what to do with ourselves... we were beyond excited! He came home and when he walked in the door, I said "We need a name. Here are my two options. Sit down you can't get up until we decide!" So we decided his name would be Joseph (a family name on both sides) Gabriel. 

Then, there was radio silence for a few hours. The longest hours ever. The agency had not heard from the birth mom (which is not uncommon), but I was dying to know anything. Finally, we heard that he was born and healthy, but that is all we knew.  We spent the rest of the day getting ready for Joe, running last minute errands and trying to spend some quality time with Ben on his last weekend as an only child! We scheduled a visit to go see her in the hospital the next day. 

We got up and went to church, but I was mostly just going through the motions. My heart and my thoughts were definitely elsewhere. I just could not wait to meet him, to hold him and to know more details. And yet I was so scared. So far, this process had been so much different than Ben and I just didn't know if this boy was coming home with us. It's a difficult place to be... wanting to love him fully and embrace this new child and yet trying desperately to guard your heart and protect yourself from hurt. 

We went to the hospital that day and got to visit his birthmom. We found out that she had not told any of the staff about her plan to place for adoption and my heart just sank. That scared me so. Her family was there, most of who supported her decision. But she had a sister that was obviously struggling with it and it made for a pretty uncomfortable time. I held Joe for a quick minute with everyone looking at me just didn't feel comfortable enough to get the cuddles I wanted. She had a friend come visit her who also did not know about her plan, so we stepped out and let them visit. That was a sweet time with Joe's birth grandmother where we were able to share some very honest emotions and I did my best to reassure her.

We went back to the room and Rusty got to hold Joe for a few minutes while I snapped a few photos to show when we got home. We gave her some gifts and then we left feeling even more torn than before. We were hopeful and loved him already, but so terribly afraid.

The next morning, Rusty went to work for a few hours and I took Ben to school. I was so distracted that I forgot his bag and his lunch, so had to run and get him some to take back! The phone rang and it was the case worker at New Life. My heart stopped. I just knew that she had changed her mind. But, actually she was just calling to clarify some details on the paperwork. I rushed home and got ready, met Rusty and we headed to the hospital. The phone rang as we pulled out of the neighborhood and we looked at each other in a panic. Rusty stopped the car in the middle of the road. "It's Cindy. Oh no." I just knew that Cindy was calling to tell me personally that she had changed her mind. But no, she just wanted to know how away we were because they were ready for us. We drove as fast as we could to the hospital, thinking it was a good sign that they wanted us there already but still not sure. 

From a work standpoint, Cindy did not need to be at this placement because she had not worked with this birth mom, but she was so sweet to want to be there for us. Our birth mom had asked to have a pastor at the placement and we were so honored that Ed agreed to come Cindy to the placement so that he could pray over us. This couple has been so instrumental in my life and it was such an honor to have them there to share this day.  We signed all of our paperwork and then we sat waiting to hear that our birthmom was ready for us to come up to her room. 

We walked in and she was holding Joe on her chest. She had been crying. Her mom was with her and she had been crying too. The mood was somber. They were pleasant, but it was just awkward. I gave our birthmom a gift from Rusty's mom and also a gift from us- a James Avery remembrance ring with his birthstone. I explained to her how special it was for me to wear one for Holland and that I wanted her to have one too. We all cried. And the we sat. And sat. And waited and waited some more. We were waiting on the pediatrician to come and give Joe the ok to be discharged. For a few minutes, we were left alone in the room with our birthmom and her mom. Trying to break the awkward silence, I proudly shared with her the name that we had chosen, Joseph Gabriel. She looked at me with a blank stare and then she and her mom looked at each other. It was obvious that she was upset. I wanted to puke. "What's wrong", I asked. "You don't like the name." "You didn't want to use Gabriel as the first?" she asked. I explained to her that we liked the name and intended to keep it, but we were going to use Joseph as his first because it was a family name. Then, it got even more awkward. We sat there in silence. She clung to Joe and my heart got heavier and heavier. 

Finally, I had to leave the room and I broke down. I just lost it. I was so heartbroken. The very LAST thing that I ever wanted to do is to hurt her. This is exactly why I used to say I would never do domestic adoption. Why I didn't think that I could have a relationship with a birthmother. I have been so hurt and disappointed as a birthmom and I NEVER want to be on the other side of it, hurting someone else. 

The nurses took us to a different room to give us discharge instructions and then we waited outside her room as they loaded her up. She came out in the wheelchair, holding Joe and we walked behind her as they wheeled us to the chapel. I felt like I was the enemy, like I was there to steal her baby. 

We got downstairs and everyone went into the chapel except me. I stopped at the doors and physically could not go in. Cindy came out and asked what was wrong and I just sobbed to her. "I cannot do this, Cindy. I can't. She is mad at us, I hurt her and I feel like I am stealing her baby." There is probably not another person on this earth that could have comforted me in that moment other than Cindy. I don't think anyone else could have gotten me through the doors of that chapel. But God, in His infinite provision, allowed her to be there that day to wipe away my tears, tuck my hair behind my ear like a mother does and usher me in to accept His plan for our family. 

Ed spoke for a few minutes as we all stood around in a circle and then he prayed over Joe, over us and over our birthmom and her family. It was a sweet time, but one of the hardest of my life. She held Joe and kissed him goodbye and my heart was broken for her. The emotion of that moment is as strong for me today almost 14 years after I experienced it myself. She handed Joe to her mom, who said her goodbyes and then handed him to me. We hugged and sobbed. That was the first time I had held him since we got there. I wanted to feel joyful. I wanted to be thankful, but all I could feel was devastated for her. I felt her emptiness and her pain. We have a video of that time and I am so thankful to have it. One day, I want to be able to show Joe how loved he is. 
She left and we stayed for a few minutes. Cindy and Ed reassured me that my feelings were not from the Lord and that I could not allow the enemy to lie to me. I have embraced that advice in so many moments. 

I wiped away enough snot to pose for a few pictures.

We loaded up and we headed home with our son in the backseat.

When left the hospital with Ben, we were on cloud nine, ecstatic, hearts overflowing. But that situation had been so different. We had spent the previous days with him in the NICU bonding. And our birthmom terminated her rights after she went home so we did not have to physically see her hurting and in pain. We weren't oblivious to what she was  feeling, but we did not have to see it.

But with Joe, we drove away with desperately heavy hearts. "That sucked." I said. I didn't know how else to describe it. "Yes, it did." Rusty agreed. We talked some and then we rode in silence. I prayed for God to comfort our birthmom as she drove him with empty arms and I prayed for Him to quickly replace our sorrow and pain with joy! 


  1. So beautiful, Jenni!! Love you, friend!!!

  2. I love Joe! and Ben and their mom and dad.

  3. Such a beautiful, raw story. I'm crying. Thanks for sharing. Congratulations!

  4. What a wonderful story! I am so so happy that God has filled your heart and arms with another child. You are blessed beyond measure! How faithful is our God!

  5. Tears as I read this story. He is so loved. You are so loved. I love that Ed and Cindy acknowledged the enemy giving you those feelings. I love that God picked you and Rusty to be his parents. Joe is right where he is supposed to be. It is God's plan. I am so excited and happy for you and your family. Congrats jenni!!

  6. Wow. This story is heartbreaking on many different levels.
    God Bless

  7. Hello! I'm stopping by from Kelly's Korner and I cannot wait to catch up on your story. After reading this post, I felt like I was reading OUR adoption story. My husband and I adopted a little girl through domestic infant adoption almost 18 months ago, and I can't even believe it's been that long! We have an open adoption with her birth mother and email regularly and visit 3-4 times per year. As we were leaving the hospital, we had teh same emotions that you talked about- we saw their pain, and we felt like we were stealing her baby. I don't think anybody really understands that unless they are in the same situation. Anyway- sorry to write a book! Glad you linked-up and I'm looking forward to following!

  8. I am so proud of you and love seeing what God is doing in your family. He has blessed you incredibly! Love you!

  9. I have been wanting to read Joe's story, and I finally had time to tonight! I'm so glad you've written about it, and it's SO normal that a second adoption is SO different! Our two girls' adoptions were so completely different, and even though we felt elation, love, joy, and all of the raw emotions, we felt completely different after driving away from each of them.