We got the call on a Friday afternoon. DCFS was looking for foster parents to come up to the hospital that day to start bonding with a 6 day old baby boy who was born addicted to meth. He would need to be brought home in just two days. We weren't certified for infants and we had no crib, no carseat, no diapers, not a single article of babiness in our home. Not to mention the fact that we had to google meth to figure out what that would even mean for this situation. I felt totally unqualified and utterly clueless. Also, I really, really didn't want to change diapers again. So of course, we said yes, and headed right up to the hospital.
The nurses told us that he was very, very lethargic, but other than that, doing fine. We visited him as much as we could for the next day, but he mostly slept. I remember just looking into his tiny, unfamiliar face, wondering if we would ever be intimately connected with him. Will he be with us long term? Will some uncle or aunt come to claim him? Will his parents work things out and regain custody? I had no idea that he was my little-man soul mate and that I needed him so much.
We brought him home two days later, armed with a bassinet, tons of formula and bottles and diapers. He slept all. of. the. time. He slept all day, and all night. I was so worried about him, all of the time. I was terrified that he wasn't getting enough to eat because it was so difficult to wake him, and then he would stay awake long enough to eat much. He didn't cry much, and when he did, it was the most quiet, polite cry I'd ever heard! After about two weeks, he started staying awake longer, and by two months he was on a fairly normal schedule, although still a very "chill" baby. I was totally fine with that. By two months, he had also officially stolen my heart.
There was no contact or involvement from either parent during the first few months, despite the state's best efforts, which should have meant that his case would be considered abandonment. In that circumstance the adoption would have gone through very quickly and smoothly. But Ace had 7 different social workers within the first 8 months, and I don't think any of them was on the job long enough to move forward in any way with his case. But since we knew we were going to keep him in the long run, we tried to be understanding about the lack of progress.
But then things changed, when after he'd been with us 8 months, his mother came to the office and asked for visits. I was so shocked by the news, and quite honestly, terribly disappointed. Which of course I felt horrible for. Of COURSE I want his mother to visit with him. Of course I want her to fall in love with him and see what she's missing and do everything she can to get her life straightened out and get him back. But by then, I loved him so, so much. It was a really strange, sad feeling. The first visit, I was a nervous wreck. What if he gets hurt? What if she feeds him something weird?? I just felt a little sick. But of course, everything was fine. At one point, the visitation facilitator texted me to ask how to get him to stop crying, and I knew exactly what would would work for him, and it did. I had been afraid to let myself feel like his "mom" up until that point, but I couldn't help feeling it at that moment. :O)
Over the next few months, there were many more visits scheduled, but unfortunately his mother wasn't able to make most of them, so the visits were cancelled. The next year and a half were pretty uneventful, as far as state involvement. He was our little boy and we were his family, and things were delightfully normal. He grew at a normal, healthy rate. Learned to walk, learned lots of words, and loved his big sister and foster brother. (We had the blessing of raising another foster son for a year, who was 5 months older than Ace, but unfortunately he wasn't able to stay with us permanently.)
When Ace was 18 months, my husband and I found out that we might be moving to Indiana, which worried us a little...ok, a lot. DCFS does its best, but the parental rights still hadn't been terminated, let alone the adoption process started. We were probably looking at another year, at least, before things were finalized. The church that hired my husband wanted us there in about a month or two, so that definitely didn't add up! My husband made a bold decision to message Ace's parents on Facebook and ask them to meet with him. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a tiny bit apprehensive about the meeting. Their Facebook accounts showed involvement in some activities that left us...unsure of what type of greeting we'd recieve. But we were desperate! And amazingly, they agreed. Micah explained to them our situation and asked if they might be willing to come in to sign over their rights to us so that the adoption process could proceed. Let me tell you, that's not an easy thing to ask of a person. And I think his mother, in particular, had a bit of a hard time with it. No matter what her life situation, I'm sure a mother's heart always has a special place for the children she's born. But they said that they would! And they said that if he had to be put with another family, they were glad it was us. They probably have no idea what that's meant to me.
After the papers were signed, we all went out to dinner one last time. I loved meeting Ace's mom. She was beautiful and quite sweet, and I just wanted to hug her and not let go. As Ace's adoptive parents, we were made aware of some of his parents' family history, and it gave me such compassion for them. When we said goodbye, I hugged her again and assured her that I would always speak well of her to Ace, and that I was so very grateful for her help. We also agreed to send letters and photos occasionally.
I am so, so thankful for the blessing of getting to meet Ace's first parents. To thank them, to say that I love them, and to be able to tell Ace someday that the people he came from, while not in the best situation at that point, were kind and friendly, wanted the best for him and were happy that he was with us.
After those papers were signed, it took about 3 more months to finalize the adoption. The social workers did everything they could to expedite the process, and his adoption caseworker said that it was the quickest adoption he'd seen in his 25 years! Definitely an answer to prayer. His adoption was final just two weeks before we moved.
Some of you might be wondering...as far as any effects of the drugs that Ace had in his system...he's been pretty lucky. Drugs can affect bodies in different ways (all bad, don't do drugs!) and you just never really know what to expect. But other than the lethargy, he's had a bit of trouble with lack of oxygen and respiratory issues and slight delay in some development...that's it! The Doctors said that he may show some signs of depression/ADHD/fits of rage or things like that when he gets just a bit older...we'll face those issues lovingly and prayerfully if/when they come. Right now, he's just your average 2 year old who tests everything, wants to explore (read: destroy) everything his mother owns, and flirts shamelessly with every girl at church. :o) He's so smart, and so charming. And maybe just a little ornery. :O)
Other fun facts about our precious Ace!
Favorite food: French fries, chocolate
Favorite toy: Rocks
Favorite thing to do: Cook!
Ethnicity: Hispanic/pacific islander
Special talents: Using his dimples to control people, using the toilet, removing pants in public
Dislikes: Boundaries, excessive cheek kissing, wearing pants
Favorite phrase: "Watch this!"
Favorite color: Blue
Special interests: Teenage girls, the fridge, calling Grandma, things with buttons
I'm so happy that we can finally share all these photos and stories about our special little man! It was torture not being able to show you how precious he was for those almost two years.
Love you guys!