You can catch up on Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.
This is where things get a little tricky for me. On one hand it would be beneficial for me to share a lot of detail about what it was like to bring Cai home once he was born. Sharing would be appropriate because so many of you helped support us through this process, either through prayer and encouragement or financially. Sharing would help people understand more about who birth families are and why people shouldn’t be so suspicious and afraid of them. Sharing would compel our people to share with their children which would in turn make more positive interactions for my, and many other adopted, children in the future. (This is where I want to go on a rant about parents who don’t teach their kids about anything outside of their own standard family structure and the unintentionally hurtful things kids say to adoptive families as a result…but I won’t.) But on the other hand, this is my son’s story. This is his birthmother’s story. Bearing all that in mind I’m going to do my best to walk a fine line, and if you feel like I’m being vague at any point or you wish I had said more, now you can understand my conflict.
Because Cai had been born so late in the day Tuesday, I prepped Jonathan and myself that we’d realistically be waiting until Friday morning for our caseworkers to meet Melissa to sign her paperwork, with placement to follow. Wednesday morning we made some loose plans for how to spend the next couple of days, and Mama sent us on a lunch date. We went to eat at a burger place we love near my parents’ house, ran into some people who work with my dad and were intentionally vague about why we were in Dallas in the middle of the week. Sorry, y’all. I never feel good about it, it’s a problematic situation. Maybe just don’t ask me questions like, what are you doing in Dallas in the middle of the week. Jonathan dropped me across the street to get my nails done which I had been obsessing about for weeks because Melissa keeps her nails done and I had mine done the last time I had seen her and I didn’t want them to look a mess at placement or she’d think I couldn’t keep myself put together… All that nervous energy has to go somewhere. It could be worse than nails, I guess. Anyway, as I sat in the salon chair I got a call from Jennifer updating me on the plan for the next few days. I had been wrong about everything. First, Melissa wanted everything to move forward without any delays. Her plan was to sign at the 48 hour mark, and do placement at the hospital. She is an extremely purposeful person, and had put a lot of thought into how she wanted to walk through this process. We affirmed that anything she wanted we would be happy to make happen. Jennifer told me Melissa would be calling me soon to fill me in and to ask us if we wanted to come visit her and Cai at the hospital, and she’s so sweet and accommodating it would be easy to miss that she really wanted us to come see her that day. We had known this was a possibility, and had talked through it already, so I knew we would say yes if she was up for a visit. It’s not such an easy decision because there’s always the risk for us that she may decide to parent and Cai wouldn’t be ours. It would be devastating to meet him and hold him believing he would be ours, and then drive back to The Woodlands without him. I have known more than one person who has lived through this (or even more) and I don’t take it lightly. I had mentioned the possibility to my mom a week or two prior, and she very gently asked me if I would be a little worried about meeting him before she signed. My response at the time was, “I’m terrified about everything every minute. I can’t make decisions based on that.” It would’ve been fine for us to say no. Jennifer made sure we knew that on every possible occasion. Instead we had a conversation we’d had a lot of times before in the process: It’s a yes, right? Yes, it’s a yes.
Melissa called later in the day and asked if we would like to come see her and the baby. We asked her over and over if she was sure she was up for it and was she sure her family wanted to go home when they were planning to and told her again and again that if she needed or wanted to change the plan we would be fine, we had no schedule, no conflicts, but YES, we would love to see her, and we would love to meet him. My mom snapped this photo of us during that phone call and sent it to me weeks later. Notice my heels off the ground.
As sure as we were that we would go see Melissa and Cai we were just as sure we wouldn’t tell anybody about it. Some things are too hard to explain, not because of the people we’d tell, but because of how much we were processing. We drove the 5 or so minutes up to the hospital and were greeted by Melissa’s caseworker outside her room. We spent about an hour and a half with Melissa and Cai and a few minutes with Melissa’s mom, too. It was a sweet, happy visit. Melissa was in good spirits and felt good physically. She told us everything about her sweet baby boy, Crosby Cai. His name was on all his paperwork and on every name blank in the hospital room. It was written on the whiteboard and on the paper attached to his bassinet. We asked before we did anything. Is it ok if I pick him up? Is it ok if I take his photo? Is it ok if we take photos with him? My mom knitted him this hat, is it ok if I put it on him? She kept enthusiastically replying, YES! but we had to ask. I remembered from one of our first adoption trainings someone mentioning this scenario briefly and we adhered to their advice earnestly. We talked and talked and passed him back and forth and when it was time for Melissa to eat dinner we said our goodbyes and see you tomorrows and we left feeling peaceful. Cai was being loved and held and treasured by his birth family, and we were going home to put Evie to bed. We didn’t tell where we had been even as our closest friends all checked in to see how we were doing. It was nice to have a moment to ourselves, a moment we weren’t sharing yet.
Meeting our son
Our first photo together
Nearly three months later I really don’t remember a lot about placement day before late afternoon. I know we spent some time here and there and I have photos of Evie napping with her face on a baby doll in her bed at my parents’ house. As the day wore on I got a lot of sweet messages from our people. Words of encouragement, prayers, and scripture memes (thanks, Lyndsay) came in a steady stream as we counted down the hours and minutes. The day was long.
We got the call from Jennifer in the late afternoon that Melissa would be discharging and signing, then we would come back to her hospital room for placement. Once all the paperwork was signed on both ends the hospital could discharge Cai, and she wanted us to leave with him and give her some time to collect herself before her mom took her home. We made sure we knew exactly how she wanted everything to go. She was wiling to let us and our caseworkers take photos, and to be in the photos, which is so generous and we’ll always be thankful for that.
After we had word that Melissa had signed her papers we met Jennifer and her intern in the hospital lobby to sign all of our paperwork. We chatted and laughed and waited to hear they were ready for us to come up. We rode the elevator up to her floor and sat in the waiting room just outside her room. We listened as her caseworker explained that Melissa was ready, and so glad we were there, but she was very sad, and very emotional.
Placement was hard. It was a sweet, quiet, slow, difficult experience. Everyone, including our caseworkers had tears streaming down their faces. Melissa placed Cai in my arms and we talked a little about how he had been that day, how she was feeling. He was dressed in the most precious and lovingly chosen outfit that her mother had gotten for him. She was there, too. We all hugged each other, a lot. I encouraged Melissa to hold him again as many times and for as long as she wanted. I promised he would know all the things she was whispering in his ear. The nurses came in to cut off their hospital bracelets and prepare him for leaving the hospital and I instinctively stepped between them and Melissa and Cai and announced firmly to anyone who could hear that we were not in any hurry and we would be staying as long as everyone wanted to stay. Everyone agreed. When she was ready, Melissa told us it was time, and I should put him in his carseat. We had given her a gift. We had hugged and said goodbye. There wasn’t anything left to do. So we put our heads down, loaded up our arms with the carrier and the bags of gifts his birthfamily had given us, and stifled our sobs till we made it into the hallway.
We rode the elevator to the lobby and I asked Jennifer if it was normal to leave placement with gifts and cards, because this was our second time to do so. I already knew the answer. We loaded the car and stood in the parking lot with Jennifer for a few minutes so she could make sure we were ok. She said, “This sucks.” I want to make sure you know the truth in that statement. Nothing about this is perfect. Nothing about this is ideal. Only God can redeem what comes from so much pain and grief. He does, oh He does in full and with an abundance of goodness and gentleness and grace, but it starts here.
On the short drive back to the house we pulled ourselves together. I actually think Jonathan may have slapped himself in the face a few times. We completely bungled disseminating information. It hadn’t felt so important this time, we were focused on other things. There was no carefully planned list of people to call or text, we just told who we told and posted a photo of us with Evie in a big sister t-shirt on social media. I realized we probably should’ve thought it through a little more, but I can’t say I was bothered. We enjoyed prioritizing Evie and Cai and each other and letting everything else fall however it landed.
Just like that, we were four. Evie loved Cai fiercely and immediately. She laid eyes on him and exclaimed, “He’s so tall!” My heart could explode.
We’re still technically in the process of adopting Cai. There’s a mandatory six month period between placement and finalization, and we’re nearly three months in. Most days we don’t think about it that way, but next week we have a post-placement visit with someone from Gladney’s Houston office, so we’ll clean the house and make sure the kids are bathed and we have had a ton of coffee and don’t look exhausted. All eyes are on August and finalization, and we’ll share more about our plans for celebrating with all of you when we have a date set.
In the meanwhile, keep supporting adoption. You’re all changing the world, one family at a time, and this family is thankful.