Cradle care and post placement agreements and belly buttons

Today was pretty momentous: our nephew was born, and a friend found out that her three hoped-for foster children would be placed with her this weekend. We are beyond excited to welcome the 15th grandchild to the team, especially a boy only four months younger than Griff! Explaining a new baby to the kids, the difference between a cousin and a sibling, and what a belly button is made the afternoon downright adventurous. (Side note: the last time we had this conversation, the kids called Dave Uncle Dave for a week.)

The foster placement was exciting in a different way. We met these friends through a strange out-of-town-guest coincidence, and hit it off immediately. When they announced their intention to foster, we weren’t surprised. They have huge hearts and an easy way with kids. But we’ve been watching them grow attached to these kids from afar for months now, and have been tamping down our excitement on their behalf as they waited for news.

Adoption and labor are different. I look at my nephew and consider my sister-in-law a miracle for producing that healthy kid! Dear God. I am almost glad I’ll never know what that feels like, miracle or no. Adoption and fostering have such unpredictable paths and timelines though, and that development process can be just as excruciating. They’ve been waiting, hoping but trying to stay neutral, for so long. Foster parents require a whole new level of dedication and patience, as the children they welcomed into their home may end up their adopted kids, but may end up leaving them after an unspecified period of time. My friends in the process have said it’s a constant state of love for the kids and respect for the parents who are trying to get back on track.

In foster and adoption, there are constant surprises. After two, we felt like we knew what was going on and knew what to expect. We didn’t.

Griffin was born on a Friday. He was so healthy, they were going release him Sunday morning. The trick is, Arizona only allows the adoptive parents to take custody after consent is signed, and the mom can’t sign the consent for 72 hours. The hospital is the only place we could stay with him; when he would be released, he’d go to a cradle care home for the remaining time. A Sunday release would mean two days away from him, which we really didn’t want! Fortunately, the doctor and the hospital were amazing. As long as the room we were in wasn’t needed, they’d discharge him Monday around noon and give us an extra day together.

I’ve heard about cradle care but never experienced it. It loomed over our adoption experience, this time when they’d rip our son out of our arms for no good reason. In reality, it served as a bridge between our baby moon in the hospital and bringing him home to our toddlers, who clearly knew something was up. Adoption windows are stressful. You feel like you have to be on every minute of every day, and that’s in addition to being woken up all night by nurses and a newborn. We were tired! The cradle care parents were awesome. We texted the entire time Griffin was out of our arms, and our social worker assured us he was in good hands and she knew them personally. It was strange, but left us in a wonderful place when we went to pick him up the next day with the kids. Their excitement was beyond reason.

For Lilou, we signed our only Post Placement agreement, something I swore I’d never do, because I worry it takes away a child’s choices down the road. This agreement is submitted to the court, and outlines our communication plan for the course of her life. In this case, it felt right. We totally understood Amy’s need for proof that she’d be able to maintain a relationship with her daughter. And Amy clearly is sensitive to Lilou’s needs and to all of our kids’ needs, the same way all of the kids’ first moms are. If we have to adjust, she understands.

Those examples both caught us off guard, and yet are not unusual. Because every adoption is different and every state’s laws are different, no two adoption experiences can be alike. They did teach us to expect the unexpected, which brings me back to our sense of excitement on behalf of our friends. They have spent time bonding with these girls, and waiting with full hearts. They don’t have cradle care as the kids are older, but they have to wait a few days before placement. Our adoption situations couldn’t be more different, and yet we share common ground.

Becoming parents through adoption has made me more sensitive to everyone’s experiences as they become parents. I don’t care how you do it! The process of becoming a parent is almost as scary sometimes as being a parent. The joy I feel watching people I care about feel the wonder of adding to their family, whether the first child or the fourth or three at once, never varies. We parents experience a recurring miracle in our children, however they come to us. I say this not to rub salt in the wound of those who are waiting or those who are struggling. I see it and wonder, as someone who had to actively fight to be a parent. I stared down the possibility of a lifetime without children and knew, somehow, I would regret giving up that dream. Nothing is for certain for any of us with children, aside from knowing we will love them through frustrations and joys from the minute they enter our lives until the minute they leave. These new names on the roster just remind me that dinnertime tantrums do not outweigh the beauty of watching my children together. So we welcome all of them with open arms! Thank you to their parents for sharing your joy, and reminding us of our first experiences with each of our amazing kids.