This story is a follow up to Whitney’s first story, which can be found here.
“Dear Baby K,
I will never forget the day we got the call for you. The phone rang, and somehow, I knew this was it. This was the call we had been waiting for. Daddy and I already decided that whatever the call was, we would say, ‘YES!’ I was out running errands, and as I sat in the Trader Joe’s parking lot listening to placement from the county talk about you, I was in tears immediately.
The woman on the phone said, ‘We have a newborn baby girl. She needs to be picked up from the hospital in about three hours. We have to confirm you are open to long term, most likely permanency to lead to adoption.’ I was speechless. I literally just had tears of joy! The woman on the phone continued… ‘Is your family open to adoption?’ I replied, ‘Absolutely!’
I called Daddy immediately and told him the news. Only I could hardly talk, because this was the greatest blessing. He replied, ‘Are these happy tears or sad? I can’t tell.’ I said, ‘These are defiantly happy tears!’ We were both so happy! I ended my errands to rush home, where soon after Daddy arrived. He had left work early to help prepare for you. Shortly after, Gama arrived to help. We quickly got down all of big sister Layla’s clothes, got the car seat installed, packed a diaper bag and set up a mini crib in our room.
I went and picked up Layla and Hunter early from school and told them the news. The looks on their faces were priceless. So much JOY in such tiny faces. Layla was jumping up and down saying, ‘FINALLY! My dream came true!’ My heart felt so FULL! We hurried home where Gama met us. She cared for the kids while Daddy and I went to meet you.
Walking into the hospital, we had so many different emotions. What would you look like? How would this go? Could we parent a baby we had never met? Could we possibly love a baby we had never met? And…. then I saw you for the first time. Laying there in your bassinet in the hospital room. The nurse began giving instructions, and all I could see was your beautiful face. You were so tiny and precious. At first, I just admired you, and then I realized I AM your new MOTHER, and you were my baby. At least for this moment.
I picked you up while you were still attached to all the hospital cords. I held you in my arms, and fell in love in an instant. No worry or concern, just love. Instant love. I felt so blessed to have this privilege with you. Daddy held you next (mostly because he’s such a gentleman and always puts me first) We were both sweet on you. After getting your feedings down, instructions for home and all you required, we got to take you home.
I had the pleasure of being wheeled out, in a wheel chair (a PINK one!) with you in my arms! I laughed when the nurses told me they were going to wheel me out, but they said it was hospital policy so I guess the joke’s on me. It was a funny feeling, since I did not just give birth and was perfectly fine. BUT let me tell you… It was so special to carry you out like that. I thanked Heavenly Father as I held you in my arms. I thanked him for answering so many prayers, after so many long agonizing years of sorrow and loss. Daddy and I both felt so grateful and blessed. While we knew there was no guarantee of permanency, we still felt hopeful but didn’t assume it would happen. We just enjoyed loving on you.
Bringing you home was the greatest feeling! As we drove up to the house, we guessed what the kids’ reactions would be like. Layla and Hunter were beyond thrilled. They held you right away, giving you lots and lots of kisses. Layla said,’“I’m your big sister, baby!’ And Hunter followed with the same, ‘I’m your big brother, baby!’ It was sweet and tender. Once friends and family heard the news of your arrival, they quickly stepped in to offer help, support, and whatever we needed. Within the first week, we had formula given to us by your Auntie, a stroller, baby clothes for days, and so much more donated by people we love.
Our days were filled baby snuggles, kisses, LOTS of kisses, bottles, bottles for days that seemed to take forever to wash, laughter, staying home and admiring this new life, sleepless nights and so much love! Losing sleep to hold and feed you at night was something I will never take for granted. Now, it’s not something to normally be grateful for, but when you want a baby for so many years, you learn to be grateful for every aspect. Even changing little bums and loosing sleep. I remember complaining when Layla and Hunter were babies–they woke up all night! Now, this path has given us a different perspective.
It has been amazing to watch the big kids love on you, it made my heart happy. It made Daddy and I feel like we were doing it right. People would often mistake you for ‘OURS,’ and it was no mistake, because for that time, you were ‘OURS.’
Now, there was a side many people didn’t know about, a side we struggled with. You were sent to us as a medically fragile baby. It’s not a secret, but it made sense to deal with it privately. You were so special and new. I didn’t want anyone sharing their two cents about ‘those babies’ and yada yada. We felt the need to protect you from any unkind thing someone would say. After all, you never did get a say in all that has happened to you in your short little life. You were just the victim, and we were here to fight for you. Even if that meant you would wake every hour screaming. We knew THIS IS what we were supposed to be doing.
Eventually, time went on, and things got easier. You started to smile and coo. You had the cutest little baby smile. We were SO in love with you, baby girl. At night, I would feed you your bottle (Daddy and I took turns), and rock you to sleep. I loved your loud breathing on my chest. Your skin touching mine and how you would always have to hold my necklace. I knew it was your comfort level, and how you knew you were safe. Safe in Mommy’s arms. I would often sing you this song called LAVA.
‘I have a dream I hope will come true
that you’re here with me and I’m here with you.
I wish that the Earth, Sea, and the Sky up above-a
will send me someone to Lava.’
Layla and Hunter adored you. They would ask multiple times a day to hold you and love on you. It healed my mama heart in so many ways. Just seeing their love pour out to you, a baby they had just heard of and met. They were the best big siblings and so helpful. It made every long night and busy day, with many doctors appointments, therapy, phone calls and emails to social workers, and visits with your biological mom worth it all. YOU were worth it all. The THREE of you were worth it. MY 3 Babies. Then, one day all that came crashing down hard. It was like a bad nightmare. We had just been told that you would be with us for six more months, and then we would know more after that point.
Since foster care is unpredictable, you never know where the case will go. Every 6 months, the biological parents usually have to appear for a court date, and the judge makes a decision at those dates. For example, a judge may say, you need to do X, Y and Z, and if you have in 6 months, you can be reunited OR if you haven’t, we will grant you another 6 month term. OR the bio parents can loose their rights and the case leads into adoption.
Then, one day all that came crashing down hard. It was like a bad nightmare.
I was getting you ready to go, buckling you into your car seat about to pick up Hunter from school when I got a phone call. When I answered, the person on the other end started rambling on. They were your new social worker and said to me, ‘By the way, I’m going to come and pick the baby up tomorrow. She’s going back to her mom to live with her. We just need to get a crib.’
(We are pro reunification with the biological families, when and if we feel it is a safe move for both children and parents. This was not the case.)
I couldn’t speak. Tears immediately fell down my face. Inside, I was screaming, ‘She is my BABY! You can’t take her!’ What in the world was happening!? You were supposed to be with us long-term, and now they were taking you!? TOMORROW!? While my whole body was shaking, I replied, ‘What do you mean? We were just told we had six-plus months with her! How can you just take her!? YOU don’t even know her or her needs. THIS bio Mother doesn’t even know how to care for her!’ I ended the conversation quickly since I needed to get Hunter from school and also because I was so upset I just needed to get off the phone.
The first person I called was Daddy at work. I could barely speak. The words literally skipped off my tongue, and I felt like I was being choked. He was so sad to hear this news. We knew we had to do something. After that nightmare of a phone call, I did everything I could to contact as many people I knew working your case. To my shock, NO ONE was informed about this decision. This social worker had not followed protocol.
After several phone calls (challenging to say the least, as I tried to hold my composure), emails, and doing my own research, I contacted social worker supervisors, the attorney, the case manager, the pediatrician, the therapist, and finally the public heath nurse. Now, this might seem extreme, but my mama heart knew this wasn’t how it was meant to be. I knew you required special treatment, and I could NEVER just hand you over to someone who wasn’t trained or educated about it. I was doing my job to advocate for you! We loved you and wanted the absolute best for you.
From this moment on, everything was a blur. We continued to care for you, while digesting this terrible news at hand. My body felt like I had been beaten to the ground and stomped all over. AND somehow, I had to find the strength to fight for you, to fight for your life and what your body needed, to be a strong mama, to not loose all emotion in front of the kids. After all, they did NOT know what was going on. They didn’t need to know everything.
I couldn’t climb back into a deep dark hole again. My family needed me. Baby girl needed me to fight, and I couldn’t put myself in that dark place again. My fight went from removing you from our home in less then 24 hours, to 7 days to now 2 weeks. I fought because I knew it was wrong. This was not about being selfish and wanting you to ourselves… but we did want you. Trust me, baby girl, we would have done anything to keep you in our arms forever. Since, foster care is primarily about reunification with biological families, we knew this was not our battle. At this point, our battle was about what’s right and what’s wrong for YOU.
To our disbelief we were told the county never looked into your file. They were so focused on how well your bio Mother was doing. I was stunned, and mad and angry with them. I voiced all of this. It might be the Ginger in me. All they could see was that you needed to be with your birth Mother. End of story. On our end, we saw a baby who had a lot of needs, a baby who we helped through a vicious experience and helped her to be a healthy baby. However, this wasn’t over for you. You still required a lot of care. This was so scary for us to think of you leaving and not getting that care. I fought for you day and night. I couldn’t sleep much or eat.
All of a sudden, those daily to-do lists didn’t matter so much. I spent my days holding you as MUCH as possible. When you were sleeping sometimes, I would just hold you and pray with you. Kiss you and love you. When the big kids came home from school, we would just lay on the floor with you. Holding you and giving you more kisses, of course. We slowly started to tell the kids that we never know when you might leave, so love on her as much as you want.
During this time, we had lots of meetings, doctor’s appointments, phone calls, emails back and forth, and more. This consumed me so much. At night I would stay up late replying to all of these emails. This was a messy case. I caused that. I made a mess because YOU weren’t being thought of FIRST. And after all, this is about the children. I didn’t care what it took to make this right. Daddy and I started to accept the fact that you would be leaving soon. It was hard to swallow, but we had to. This didn’t change our love for you. That would never change.
Once we got a good support team from the county, and trust me they weren’t all on our side, we felt we could move forward. In those two weeks we had left, you spent more time with your bio mother then with us, your foster family. Our hearts ached and the kids especially. I felt guilt initially for putting them through that. I hated to see any of my kids in pain.
Eventually two weeks were up, and it was the night before you were leaving. As much as we tried preparing Layla and Hunter for this day, it was difficult beyond measure. I felt the same pain I did a few years back, when we left the hospital without our baby. Only this time it was worse. We knew you, we held you, we knew your smell, how you liked to be fed and swaddled. You were our baby. We cried over you and loved you as much as possible.
Daddy gave you a sweet father’s blessing that night. It was beautiful and just what you needed. It was what we needed to hear too. The kids cried, and when I looked into their eyes I knew their pain. Layla, who had made a New Year’s Resolution of wanting a baby sister (big request I know!) and it coming true, and Hunter, who had really developed into a big brother for the first time. I saw my big kids develop into different little people. Sweet baby K, you are a miracle baby!
It’s hard to put into words what those last hours felt like. That morning, the kids got to hold you for one last time. Layla fed you a bottle. Then, I dropped them off to school. They were upset of course, but keeping them home would have been worse. Upon returning back home, I fed you your last bottle with you in my arms. I held you while you napped. I didn’t even cry because I had literally cried all the tears I had. I felt pain, but I felt comforted by God. God was testing our strength and will power to advocate for you, baby. If all the pain we have felt is for you to feel no pain, then we would do it all over again.
I remember having to pack your things. Gosh, that was rough. We picked you up with literally nothing, and you were leaving with so much more than that. Your favorite binkies, your little pink crocheted baby blanket handmade by an elderly woman at church, your clothes with our smells on them, little lovies, and more. I drove you to meet your mother. It was sad to me, but I prayed for your mother. I prayed she would care for you at the level you needed. I wanted her to succeed because I knew in turn you would thrive.
Baby girl, you deserve the world and beyond. We only were able to give you nearly three months, but I know those first three months of your life were well spent. You were loved, and you offered so much love to our family. Seeing you thrive in our care was so rewarding. I won’t ever forget you, and I will always remember to pray for you. Hunter always remembers you in his prayers, and often gets mad at Layla if she forgets. You are so special to us. We love you, sweet baby.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Whitney Billings. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your story here. Subscribe to our best love stories here.
Read more stories from Whitney:
‘MOM, why did you say no!? We want that kid to come here!’ We fell in love. and it wasn’t hard or forced or even on purpose.’: Mom’s long foster journey leads to adoption, ‘It wasn’t a dream anymore. This was real’
‘We met the birth mom. ‘Come to the hospital to greet your daughter.’ Days later, I got an email: ‘Your birth mother has been located.’: Adoptee adopts child from birth mom and foster care, becomes birth mother
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