This is the part of the story where it starts to feel more like J’s story and Milo’s story than it is my story and Dan’s story. I hope this makes sense. There’s nothing to hide or feel ashamed about. But that first meeting with J — and subsequent meetings, really — was just so… precious and private and emotional and weighty. Dan and I will tell Milo about all of that first meeting, but we will never tell anyone else about all of it. At the same time, there are significant parts of that meeting that I want to share as a testimony to the greatness of adoption and open adoption and selfless decisions and God’s goodness.
J’s back was turned to us when we walked into the room. She had Jayden in her arms. She put him directly into my arms, which she had told me was important to her. It was important to us, too, having read specifically about infant adoption, especially after baby and mom have been together for some time and are clearly bonded. It was a significant, sweet, ceremonial gesture, and I can’t imagine it being any other way.
Jayden was wrapped in a blanket wearing a onesie that now will sit in his memory box as a memento from that first meeting. He was asleep. At three weeks old, he was small, of course, and he was so handsome. Perfect dark, smooth hair. Little pursed lips. Long, skinny fingers. He murmured a little as we tried to remember what it was like to hold a baby.
We sat down with J near us. There was a bit of time when Dan and I just observed Jayden, and J just observed us. In those moments of silence, the weight of what was happening was thick in the room. She was absolutely heartbroken to say goodbye-for-now to her baby boy after nine months and three weeks. But she was resolute. And she felt God had clearly placed us in her life at the right time for this purpose. She has shared this with us many times, and each time she shares it, it seems to be more from a place of joy than a place of sadness.
Though excited, we were hurting badly for J. The better we got to know her, the more we took on the emotions she was feeling. The way you start to hurt and rejoice for the people you love. (And I recognize as adoptive parents we will never fully understand what the birth mom of our son has felt and will feel.) We were nervous, too. In this moment, our lives finally came parallel to each other. We shared a very intimate, personal experience with a near-stranger with another near-stranger watching. And we hoped this would be a lifetime of getting to know each other to the extent that we would consider J and her son our family.
At one point, J stood near us and shared some of her emotions. She and I share a strange unequal but common bond. I have two sons in Africa who I am apart from. I only get pictures of them and brief updates. She was making the decision to have a son who she will be apart from on a day-to-day basis. And because of my experience, I knew how much it would mean to her to get much more than pictures and brief updates. I knew how meaningful it would be for her to get daily updates and emotional support and physical visits and frequent encouragement.
I looked up at her with Milo in my arms. My voice cracked as I swallowed hard and became teary. We both now had sons who are not in our homes.
Eventually, we left to go back to our rental home with plans to meet up with J at least a couple of times before we would return to our real home. We carefully and awkwardly put Milo in his car seat and walked out into the cool, clear Utah night. We drove through McDonald’s on the way home. I was starving but had been too nervous to eat much at dinner. Finally after travel snags and a long drive and an early morning and a day of waiting for this moment, I could feel relief that Milo was really, truly in our care.
We got home, took him out of the seat, and changed him into warmer clothes, quickly looking over his perfect little arms and legs and toes and fingers. I leaned back on the couch with him on my chest. It felt unreal, but so good… J had been so affirming about her decision to choose adoption and choose us. And though I had told God I thought a dark brown baby girl would be best for our family, He had chosen to intersect our story with Milo’s — and more importantly, J’s — in ways I had never imagined. Our stories are those of waiting and discerning and plans not going as planned and heartbreak and loss and family and joy.
In J’s deep hurting, she chose to make the hardest decision of her life. And through that decision, she gave us hope in the midst of our own deep hurting. We love her, we love Milo, and we love our God.