Please Note: this post was very difficult to write… part of me wanted to sugar coat all the emotion and the truth of my heart. I feel so indebted to Judah’s birth parents that saying anything with a negative context seems so wrong, like a betrayal… and yet the truth is … my judgements were not a reflection of who he was… but who I was…. and thankfully, hopefully, no longer am.
Intense love does not measure, it just gives. – Mother Teresa
Before every ‘t‘ was crossed and ‘i‘ dotted, it was arranged for us to meet the baby’s birth father. Every conversation about him sat heavy on my heart. Words like “Fear”….”Anger”.. “Failing to relinquish rights”… “Choosing to parent”…”Saying NO to adoption”… danced around my mind, taunting me with doubt. Adoption wasn’t his first choice. Choosing someone to raise his son was, of course, very scary for him. This baby was his family and he desired never to let go.
Ben and I had agreed that without his blessing, we could not proceed. Legally we could apparently, however, morally…we couldn’t. We never wanted Judah to grow up thinking we ‘pulled’ him away or that there had been a fight over who would raise him. I wanted him to feel the security of the choices being made, knowing this road would have all its own challenges without us adding to them. Speaking on Judah’s behalf, we believed he would want his first parents and his future parents in a loving alliance.
The night before the meeting, I was in a dark hotel room, I allowed myself time to grieve, to cry hard. Ben had gone home for the day. My lack of sleep and being alone with Criminal Mind re-runs left me a mess. Thoughts of packing my bags and lugging an empty car seat home left me broken. Thanks to TV, thoughts of a crazy serial killer looming in the halls, stalking this vulnerable girl, left me terrified.
I was emotionally exhausted…
Time was ticking, adding to the great pressure, threatening the possibility that we would have to say goodbye to our son. The son I had just given my heart.
Feeling so helpless, and unable to sleep, I decided to write a letter to the man who so deeply loved my son… his son…
We had been told so much about him, but I didn’t know if he knew anything about us. Our threatening to take away his rights wasn’t the truth of who we were. Our agenda wasn’t to destroy a family, but to open our hearts to this baby and all of those who loved him first. Of course this young man wanted to raise his son. Of course having strangers step in claiming him would be terrifying. I believed that fear of the unknown was holding his decision.
So I wrote…from my heart…
Truth about who we were, truths about our intentions. I did my best to express our hopes and dreams for his son. I opened my heart to say that we didn’t just want to make Judah a part of our lives, but him a part of our lives as well. That if we were to take this journey together, our hearts were open to him. I told him that I knew this couldn’t be easy, that no matter what he chose I hoped he would have peace.
Soaked in prayer…I sent it to the social worker who would then forward it to him.
We spent the morning with Judah. I had moments of tears, silent ones that slipped down my cheeks unnoticed. I tried not to let my mind go to that place. I wanted to choose peace to believe that God had brought us this far… for what purpose would that be to send us home, leaving our son behind. I chose to ‘Trust God’, knowing that whatever the end result, He would never leave me, nor forsake me. Then we kissed our son good-bye and departed for the church where we were to meet the man who held our family’s fate.
Sitting in the back seat of the social worker’s car, waiting, added to the pressure. The interview seemed to be staring me square in the eyes. I wondered if I had kissed Judah enough, if I had soaked in every single detail of his perfection to last a lifetime. I tried not to cry.
Tears muffled in my throat. I knew those three days were not enough. In this, I thought of my sweet S. (his first mom). Had she wondered the same thing, had she kissed him enough times, soaked in every single detail, every bit of who he was, all of his perfection, to last her a lifetime…
If this young man refused, rejected us, I wondered if Ben would just throw our previous agreement into the sea of forgetfulness and have us proceed. I didn’t really think I would ever have the strength to walk away now. It would be like me choosing to relinquish my rights, choosing adoption for my son… and I didn’t want to…. All of these thoughts gave me a greater understanding of where these two young people stood. I knew they were broken, I knew this was beyond my comprehension, I knew their courage was shaking inside this rumbling pressure of time and the unknown.
A handsome young man in a grey suit was strolling down the sidewalk. I watched him as he made his way across the street in our direction. He looked very pleasant, my first impression was good. His big smile declared joy. Softness in his eyes and face spoke kindness. Hostility didn’t seem to be looming behind him. Thinking this was a done deal and I hadn’t even stepped out of the car. I went to open the door and then noticed the young man walked right on by. He wasn’t coming to the church. About to ask “where is he going??”
when the social worker announced from the drivers seat, ”Oh, there he is…. OK guys, just be yourselves, everything will be fine. We will keep the meeting short and….”
Her voice trailed off. From across the parking lot, I saw a young man walking in rhythm, his body bounced from side to side with each step. His pants were baggy, his leather jacket alone was intimidating, his hair hidden below a durag. The ease I felt from the grey suit that had just abandoned me was gone.
Not only do I have Israelite blood, I am a small town, country girl, where the worst thing that happens is you make the wrong turn at the yield sign or you have toilet paper stuck to your shoe.
Here is the TRUTH… the thoughts that crossed my mind were…. ‘Oh Gosh, … I’m gonna die today...’ (not in the literal sense… or of course I would have hidden under the seat of the car)….. I just felt intimidated by his confidence … his ‘tough’ guy appearance heaped some fear unto the nerves taking up residence in my stomach…..Hesitantly, I followed the others out of the car. We walked to the church.
Inside the doors, he removed his hat, revealing perfectly sculpted cornrows. His smile was the biggest most beautiful I had ever seen.
“Please God, let Judah have his smile”, the thought crossed my mind. I found myself being taken by him. He hardly spoke a word, yet his gentle demeanour calmed my fears.
We sat down in a little conference room. M. sat across from us.
At first, it was slightly awkward. Some basic information was exchanged, adoption lingo bounced around and then the real communication began.
As this young man began to share his story, all my judgements were running to the door, tail between legs. He was intriguing, brilliant and humble. He shared about his life in Africa, his journey to Canada, Victories, Heartbreak. I found myself drawn in by him, hanging on each word. He shared about how people misread him from an exterior that kind of looks rough and tough and didn’t even slightly match the interior that was currently melting my heart. Words fell from my lips “that is too bad“ but inside, I was kicking myself…I, too had made a rash judgement… and was horribly wrong.
I went from thinking he could be packin’ and was gonna bust a cap somewhere I wouldn’t like…to falling in love with this kid and thinking we had gained another son.
How often do I misjudge another human being? How often do I assume the worst? How often do I never have the chance to see how wrong I am? In this moment, I learned a lesson that was in fact painful to admit about myself. This wasn’t at all attractive. It didn’t reflect the Jesus I knew and loved. It was something very ugly that revealed something I detested in others. Please forgive me….
I would never trade him for a grey suit. I love his edgy style. I love that he is himself and I am so crazy thankful that he is Judah’s first father… I would not change a thing.
This young man was so genuine, real, and honest. He shared his fears, his hopes. He spoke from his heart. M. was not only completely charming, winning our hearts but it was so obvious how much he loved Judah. Again, a reminder of how blessed this baby was. Everyone was pulling for him, everyone loved him. He was surrounded by an army of people who were cheering for his life.
Before we even had the chance to really share our hearts. He spoke with certainty, “ I know you are gonna be good parents to T, I want you to do this”. Then he stood up and asked…..
“Can I just pray over you guys“…. and he did… he stood over us and spoke this unbelievably beautiful African style prayer. His tears fell, our tears fell….We listened to the poetry that united our hearts and made us family.
M., you my friend are so loved, not because you gave us a son, but because of who you are. We believe in you. We are proud and thankful to know you. Not a day goes by that I don’t see your beautiful smile and recall the events that made you apart of us and us apart of you. The word “hero” can be thrown around so lightly. Heroes step into situations that no one else is willing to; they have protective instincts; they do what most can’t or won’t. Your courage makes you my hero. You have touched my life, our lives. We love you so.
Joni is thankful to be a wife, the mother of 3 homemade blessings, and 3 adopted blessings. Their first adoption was an open domestic adoption followed by the international adoption of a sibling group from Ethiopia.