Whew. I thought this day would never come.
Or, maybe I was afraid it would.
Or, maybe I thought I would miss it all together.
Yes, it’s true! We are thrilled to announce that after four years of miscarriages and fostering and now adoption, we have graduated one tiny phase of parenthood: the kingdom of newborns. It is a huge relief, let me tell you.
It’s funny now, to think back on how hard we prayed for children.
Maybe we prayed a little too hard.
Then we had the experience of being pregnant for two and a half years straight, almost, with no surviving babies to show for the emotional rollercoaster ride of pregnancy.
Then we had the experience of fostering more than 80 children, until we almost did not survive ourselves.
And now we are done. Officially. Completely. No more emergency last minute babies, no more overnight kiddos, no more last minute placements just until they find an available foster home.
We. Are. Finished. Fostering.
Our house is full, our family whole, and we have given everything.
Really, we have.
We have said goodbye to so many of our own babies, and we have said goodbye to handfuls and handfuls of other people’s babies.
And now we are home. Us. Family.
I knew when Baby Girl came, that she would be our last baby. When we knew she was coming, I fasted and prayed for her so often to be safe and healthy while growing in such a dangerous world. We knew they didn’t expect her to be born alive, and once she was born we knew they didn’t expect her to survive. I had started my cancer battle by then, and had learned enough to make every moment count.
I know we still have parenting ahead of us, obviously, and that there will be other battles and other hard days and that the exhaustion will continue.
But this piece: the gathering of our children through fostering, and the making every moment count, and the swimming in devotion to these children even when I have no idea how to help them, that we have done well.
Not without mistakes.
Not without the police being here two weeks ago just to force a head count.
But, in one of the few areas of my life, for maybe the first time in my life, I can honestly say that we have done our very absolute best and given all we had to give.
And I haven’t missed a moment.
I lost working at LDS Family Services, because I needed to be home with the children. I lost extra income from hospital shifts, because I needed to be home with the children. I lost a comfortable living, because I needed to be home with the children – who are so very expensive. I lost the time I used to spend in study, and I lost the time I used to play with friends, and I lost the organization of my home.
But I got these babies, six babies.
And my friends are still out there.
And my home is clean enough-ish.
And my work? We have had sufficient for our needs, and my work with patients has been improved through these life experiences, and Nathan has had time and space to explore his own work in new ways we never expected. We have learned so much, and gained exactly the experiences we needed.
Raising children is hard work enough for me, these days.
I remember how chaotic everything used to be, and how strict we had to be, and how much barking we had to do just to keep so many traumatized children with special needs contained and functioning.
Now? Now we are finally, finally, finally, in a settled place, in a still place, in a home of peace (not so much quiet, just yet). We belong together, and we are learning each other, and we are all getting better at expressing ourselves, saying what we need, asking for help, and enjoying each other’s company. Now, finally, we are happy.
We are home.
We are family.
Back then, at the beginning, I thought today would come too soon and be too hard.
In the middle of those years of grief, when I lost both my parents and all my babies, I knew that this day would wrench my gut beyond what I could handle. It would be what finally knocked me over a very precarious cliff, I thought. I might finally drop my basket.
But it was perfect, exactly perfect.
I wasn’t cheated out of anything.
It didn’t happen until I was ready.
And then it was right.
It was right, and a relief.
I tossed the bassinet to Nathan from across the garage, and threw the newborn swing at him, and flew the playmat like a frisbee. We pulled out Barrett’s car seat because he finally gets to move into a booster, and he is too big for his booster chair at the table. We downsized a stroller, and passed on the extras.
And the clothes?
Any mother will tell you, in girl world language, how hard it is to let go of their tiny clothes.
And this Baby Girl wore her preemie clothes for six months, and her newborn clothes for another four months.
It’s not about tiny clothes that gag you with cuteness.
It’s about the smell of memories that waft through the air when you touch them, and how very warm the tears are that days once so overwhelming have now passed so quickly by.
This was the first outfit I took to her in the hospital, where she had been wearing only a diaper and a thousand tubes and cords for fifty-one days.
This was the outfit I brought her home in, when we drove straight to the temple across town for me to pray my Hannah-tears over this little Samuel-baby-girl who was a miracle, my miracle.
This was the outfit she was wearing when Nathan held her for the first time, when she smiled for the first time, when we gave her the speciality bottle she finally took instead of only the feeding tube.
These are the pants that matched that adorable shirt we had to cut off when we resuscitated her.
This is the dress she was wearing that time we rode in the ambulance, the shorts she was wearing when we were life-flighted, the sleeper she was wearing when we took her last pictures before surgery when she didn’t wake up and laid there on life support.
This is what she was wearing when we finally came home again, on the airplane, or when we flew on another airplane back to another hospital, or when we called the ambulance again and they were sure we had lost her.
This is the dress she had on that time she stopped breathing in the middle of stake conference.
This is what she was wearing when I knew, I knew, she was our baby and staying in our family.
It’s not about the cute clothes.
It’s about the sacred and precious memories, and the love that grows through those experiences.
Baby Girl is ten and a half months old now, which is how big Anber was when we got her.
For the first time ever, there is a strange continuity of experiences, as Baby Girl finally grows out of newborn clothes just in time to turn one, moving directly into Anber’s baby clothes as if it was always meant to be.
And the bassinet? It’s not just a girly bassinet with ruffles and pink. It’s where we laid her sideways and elevated, because she couldn’t breathe on her back. It’s where we glued monitors to her every night, so that we would wake every time she stopped breathing. It’s where we rushed when the alarms warned us her heart had stopped again.
The little swing? It’s not just a cute swing in all its pink glory. It’s where we rocked her on her side after feeding her through a tube, just so she wouldn’t throw it all back up.
The big infant swing? It wasn’t just a gift from a friend we miss, but a symbol of love. That friend twice drove the baby all the way to me at the hospital in Tulsa where I was working, just because of feeding crises and to help get her back to sleep. That friend rocked her and fed her and loved her, when others were too afraid to try to help.
The first walker, the one she already wore out? A miracle. Because she wasn’t supposed to live this long.
And here we are at a new normal, where our family is as it is, where the kids who live here get to stay, where so many little ones outgrow their clothes and toys faster than I would like.
But that is good and right, and as it should be.
They are healthy, and happy, and normal.
This is our home now, without any boy clothes under size 4.
This is our home now, without any girl clothes under size 12 months.
This is our home now, full of children who are growing and playing and breathing.
It was a good day, not hard at all other than the hard work of doing all there was to be done.
It was an exactly perfect day, even in its exhaustion.