I remember exactly when our lives changed. It was 5 years ago and I was standing in our kitchen, probably putting dishes away or cleaning up after lunch. The girls were being their goofy little carefree selves in the family room and the phone rang. I looked on the caller ID and saw “New Horizons”. I immediately thought “Hmmm, why are they calling? I’m guessing they forgot to bill us for something.” I answered and it was Marlys. Marlys never called us, unless it was related directly to an adoption. She runs the show over there, but she doesn’t call about office stuff, so I was confused. We had already told them we weren’t continuing to try to adopt. We had decided to let our home study lapse after searching and hoping for over two years and having our hearts broken after a couple of moms decided to parent. Not that we didn’t want them to parent; we did, but when you are on the roller coaster, emotions run high and emotions run low and we were definitely at the bottom of the last hill, slowing to a stop before the exit.
We had tried domestic and we had tried international. We had tried a few different agencies, stopping short of the unethical ones that basically shut down Ethiopia and Guatemala, and were about to shut down the Congo right after it opened. We set our parameters narrow and we widened them. And still, no baby. We tried to rejoice with friends who were matched far sooner than we were, only to later grieve with them after they had a “disruption” in their adoption and gave up their son. By the way, what on earth is that?!? A disruption? We use that term to describe a heart wrenching, trauma inducing event in the lives of an entire family. We are seriously detached from the reality of pain if the word “disruption” even comes close to being an accurate description of that event. At any rate, we were spent. And then Marlys called.
She had a baby and she wanted to know if we wanted him. Plain and simple. Yes or no. Did we want him? Yes. I don’t know where the word came from, but there it was. I could not have answered any differently in that moment. It was not a choice. Yes, we wanted him. The birth mom was in North Carolina, working with a partner agency in Charlotte. She was having a hard time finding a family. The baby was bi-racial and the mom was HIV positive. We needed to update our adoption book and get it to her right away. We needed to get our home study updated. We needed to blah blah blah. I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. I was frantically thinking I need to call my husband. I need to pray. I need to calm down because this could very well be just like the others and I don’t want my heart to hurt again.
When we first talked about adoption we both wanted a child who was HIV+ or who had AIDS. We knew these babies were not adoptable in their home countries (most likely Ethiopia) and we also knew that these babies were very easily cared for in the US. We wanted to adopt the child who wouldn’t have been loved otherwise and who may not even have lived otherwise. Little did we know we were about to receive exactly what we asked for. Except he wasn’t a she and we wanted a girl. We (or maybe that’s just I) wanted to name her Evangeline. We wanted to complete our perfect little family of 5 with 3 beautiful little girls and live happily ever after. But a part of me knew this baby was a boy right from the start and part of me knew that was best, but we could still be happily ever after right?
We updated our adoption book, sent it off and waited. Marlys put us in touch with Doris at another agency in Charlotte and she set up a time to talk to the birth mom. We knew very little about her. She was in her late 20s, Caucasian (the birth father was bi-racial), she used some drugs and alcohol during pregnancy, she had two biological sons already but could not parent this child. After waiting all day to finally talk to her, we found out she was in pre-term labor at the time we were to have our first phone call. It was July and she was not due until late August. The baby would have been over 7 weeks early, not unusual for drug and alcohol exposed babies, but quite early at any rate. We figured we better settle on a name and quick.
When we had our girls, we had always had a girl name chosen before we even knew we were pregnant, much less having a girl. We weren’t even engaged when we picked out our oldest daughter’s name during a nonchalant conversation on the couch one night. And we had just had said first daughter when we were watching a show on HGTV and decided on our second daughter’s name. Boy names, however, were a completely different story. We never had one. And now we were adopting a boy. So, we did the diplomatic thing and both came to the proverbial table with our list and narrowed them down from “hate” to “ok, maybe I could live with that for the next 60 years.” We came up with three names: Ezekiel, Ezra, and Elijah. Neither one of us really wanted Elijah because it was just too common, and thanks to Sid the Science Kid, I just couldn’t imagine myself calling my baby “Zeke”, so we went with Ezra. It honestly didn’t feel quite right, but I figured I’d get used to it.
Our phone call with the birth mom was rescheduled to the following week and we waited. The date rolled around and once again, no call. We didn’t know what to think. Was the birth mom ok? Did she change her mind? Was the baby ok? So many variables. Many moms in her situation are transient. They can skip out on the adoption agency or on the treatment center at any time. They can decide to parent at any step along the way. They can return to using drugs and harm themselves and subsequently their unborn children. We were once again walking a thin line between benefit of the doubt and complete freak out. Then the phone rang and it was Doris.