Anybody who has ever known me has known that all I ever wanted to be was a mother. When I was two, I used my own diapers for my baby dolls, and when I was five, I would fall asleep praying to God that my baby dolls would come to life overnight.
So, by the time I was married and we had decided to expand our family, the anticipation was intense. Almost as intense as the emotional roller coaster of the many failed attempts that followed. I suffer from a medical issue that gives me a better chance of getting struck by lightening than getting pregnant (doctor’s words, not mine). After many years of watching our friends and cousins have babies, I did my best to come to terms that it wasn’t meant to be…or at least focus on other things.
In 2001, after a job lay-off, I found myself at the door of a foster care agency accepting a job. Within months, Bryan and I went through the licensing process to become foster parents for some of the teenage foster children I had met. Since finding a healthy baby for adoption in the state foster care system was near impossible, we didn’t really have that as a goal.
In February 2003, I received a call from child placement. They had an 18 month old boy named Gabriel that was going up for adoption. He had been born HIV-positive, but had recently tested negative (a common occurrence in babies!) therefore they were able to proceed with adoption. After a brief, but very excited conversation with Bryan, I called child placement and agreed.
I cannot even begin to explain the excitement! I went home that night, and the whole family (Bryan, James and I) set forth to turn our spare room into a nursery. We put together a crib, painted the walls light blue and hung Winnie the Pooh decorations. I pulled baby blankets that I had made out of my hope chest and put them in the crib. The next day at work, my friends had obliterated my office with blue streamers, confetti, and “It’s a Boy” signs. Then, I got the call…
Child placement informed me that the current foster family of Gabriel had decided they wanted to adopt him. Since he was already placed in their home, and had been living there, that foster family had preference as far as any judge was concerned. It was one of the lowest points of my life.
The door to the nursery was closed. I couldn’t face the empty crib. Many times, in bouts of sadness, I found myself in the rocking chair in the nursery crying and praying. Everyone knew to leave me alone if I was in there. I simply could not be consoled.
Many months later, during one of James’ monthly caseworker visits, the caseworker decided to investigate our house (something they do to document that James’ surroundings were adequate). Upon entering the nursery, she asked me if we had a baby or were expecting one. With a few tears, I was able to tell her the story of Gabriel and how I was not ready to “undo” the nursery…deep down, I still had hope.
She piped up, “One of my coworkers was just telling me about one of her foster babies that is going up for adoption. His current foster parents are older and aren’t interested in adopting. Would you like her number?”
The rest, as they say, was history. I made the call and within a few more months, we had our first visit with Ashton. Ashton was 11 months old, had gorgeous carrot-colored hair, and a great toothless smile. He said “mama” for the first time during that visit. Bryan and I fell in love with him instantly. He belonged with us and we knew it.
For three weeks, we did the required visits, first for an hour or two at the foster family’s home, then we were able to take him for a walk, and ultimately, we were able to take him for the whole afternoon. Finally, a week before his first birthday, he came home with us permanently. His first birthday party was also a baby shower.
Ashton had no problems adjusting…he slept great, ate well, and played hard. He looked so much like Bryan that I very nearly questioned his fidelity. He acted like us and is still so much like both of us that we have a hard time convincing anyone of his adoption.
It wasn’t for several months before something occurred to me…Gabriel is the Messenger Angel believed to have been the one to tell Mary about Jesus. In our life, that interpreted in a way that we realized if it had not been for Baby Gabriel and the empty nursery, Ashton would have never come to us. Baby Gabriel had been a messenger for us.
I once heard a saying, “Childbirth is an act of nature; Adoption is an act of God.” Nobody believes that more than us!