This is the second post in the series "Memoirs of Fostering, Adoption, and Safe Surrender." If you haven't read why I'm doing this series, I encourage you to click on the above link and read through that post, and then the first post in the series. Also, please remember that some small details and names have been changed in order to keep confidentiality. However, the main points and overall account is truthful and accurate.
"Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock." Isaiah 26:4
3 months had passed since that first day in the hospital. Although Baby Jonathan came to Krysten and Kurt as a short-term placement, their social worker told them after 2 weeks that there were no family members involved and that it looked like Baby Jonathan was going to be part of their family forever.
Baby Jonathan grew quickly, as newborn babies often do. But it wasn’t only him that was experiencing growth. Krysten and Kurt began to feel a love and adoration for this boy like no one they ever had before. Of course they had loved their nieces but this was different, they considered Jonathan to be their son and they cherished getting to be his parents. He was cooing and beginning to explore his vocal chords. He had a big, strong cry and was already beginning to grow out of his 3 month old clothing. He loved bath-time, was giving smiles and loved snuggling up to them for naps. And of course, their “village” fell in love with him too. He charmed everyone around him with his big-toothless grin and sweet, round little face.
So with promises of adoption ringing in their ears, the little family took on each day cherishing each sweet moment and looking forward to spending the rest of their lives together.
It was a Wednesday night just like any other. Krysten was happily preparing dinner in the kitchen. The kitchen window was open and a cool fall breeze wafted through the window and into the apartment. She breathed it in deep, “Feel that, Jonathan? Fall is here.” She looked across the kitchen and there Jonathan swung in his swing, which she had dragged into the kitchen so he could be with her. There he happily sat, cooing and watching her. She rushed over to him, heart swelling at the sight of this precious, beautiful baby, and gave him a loud, hard kiss on the cheek, “I love you, sweet boy! Daddy will be home soon!”
At that moment the front door swung open. “See,” she said, “there he is!” But as she turned around to greet her husband she only saw the back of him as he dropped his laptop bag on the floor and then walked back outside. He was on the phone.
She stood there frozen for a second. There was something in his posture, something about how he didn’t make eye-contact with her. There was something that made her think, “something’s wrong.” She tried to brush it off and continue cooking but with the window open she could hear the deep murmur of Kurt’s voice on the phone. From just the murmur of his voice she again knew that something was wrong. It was deep and that meant it was something serious. “I hope his grandma is ok,” she thought, and quickly said a prayer for Kurt’s grandma’s health.
A few more minutes went by before she heard the front door open again. She dropped what she was doing and started to walk out of the kitchen and as she turned the corner, Kurt was coming around the corner from their entryway into the dining room. She froze when she saw his face.
There he stood in the doorway, face red, eyes puffy and tears streaming down his face. Krysten’s stomach dropped. Something was very, very wrong. In a broken and soft voice he said, “Come here” as he held his arms out to embrace her. She was too stunned and too scared to move. What was going on? She’d never seen her husband like this before. He said it again, softer and more pleading, “Krysten, come over here.” “No,” she said, “tell me what’s going on.”
Their eyes were locked as her stomach turned within her and with fear at what he was about to say. “The social worker called. Jonathan has a grandma who has just been cleared through the foster system and she wants him.”
Barely above a whisper Krysten said, “No.” Her body was shaking and she thought she was going to throw up.
“Krysten,” he said as his voice cracked and tears streamed down his face, “we need to take him to her tomorrow at 2pm. She’s going to take him.”
“Nooooooooooo!” Krysten screamed as her legs gave out from underneath her. She collapsed into a heap on the floor. Her heart felt like it was being physically ripped from her body and the tears started immediately and uncontrollably falling. Kurt was by her side in a second. He wrapped his wife in his arms and there they cried together on the floor, hearts utterly broken.
Within less than an hour the entire extended family and close friends were crammed into their living room. Everyone grieving. Everyone processing. How could this happen? How long had the grandma been in the picture? They had been told for over 2 and a half months that there were no family members involved. Did they have the right kid? Did they have the right grandma? Was this all a big mistake?
Jonathan was passed around the living room as everyone wanted to hold him, kiss him and love on him one last time. He was happy. He smiled at everyone who held him and cooed in delight at each new familiar face that squeezed him tight. This sweet boy had no idea that the trajectory of his life was about to change forever.
He was also the only one that slept that night. Krysten and Kurt’s family and friends all tossed and turned throughout the night as well. Everyone praying, begging God that this was a mistake and that they’d wake up in the morning to a phone call saying, “just kidding.”
But the phone call never came. As the sun began to rise on that dreaded Thursday morning, Krysten and Kurt knew it was useless to stay in bed any longer. They had broken one of their top rules the night before and kept Jonathan in bed with them. Crying, praying and staring at him all night long was all they did.
A deep sadness hung over them as they tried to have as “normal” of a morning together as possible but everything they did just brought more sadness and tears as they knew this would be the last time they got to bathe him, get him ready for the day, sit and do their Bible reading together as a family, have breakfast together and on and on, the day of “lasts” continued.
Meanwhile, all the family members were having just as rough of a morning. Everyone’s hearts were breaking as the minutes and hours ticked by. Each of the family members wrote letters to Jonathan. Krysten and Kurt wanted to send Jonathan off with memories of the first 3 months of his life both for his biological family to be able to see how well he was loved and cared for and so that he could have something to look back on. They printed every picture they had of him and put them all in a picture book, along with all the letters from the family. They also printed a 2-page schedule and list of likes and dislikes to give to his grandma.
It was noon and it was time to start packing up his bags. Jonathan played happily on the floor, again, completely unaware of the sadness around him. They loaded him and all his belongings into their car and headed for Orangewood (the group home where the transfer of care was set to happen).
They arrived 15 minutes past 2:00 but they didn’t care. These were the last moments they would get with Jonathan. As they began to unload everything out of the car, their social worker, Laura, met them in the parking lot and helped them bring the two suitcases full of toys, clothes, diapers, and other baby supplies that they wanted to give to his grandma. They wanted Jonathan to have everything he was used to.
The 4 of them walked through the double doors of Orangewood, to the left was a small sectional beige couch and coffee table and to the right was the check-in desk. The room was small and just barely fit the furniture that was in it. After checking in, they all sat down on the sectional. Their social worker kindly and gently walked them through what was about to happen and how the transfer would work. Unfortunately, she was unsure if they would get to meet Jonathan’s grandma or if another social worker would just come, take him from them and give them to her in another room. They both began fervently and silently praying that they would be able to meet his grandma.
Another social worker, named Beau, came into the room and introduced himself. He was the investigative social worker and had been the one that called Kurt just a mere 18 hours earlier. He let them know that the grandma had made a wrong turn and was now running late. As they sat there waiting, Laura asked if they’d like to take one last picture together, through tear stained faces and strained smiles, the little family of 3 posed together for the last time. They finished taking the picture and sat back down, continually passing him back and forth between them as they savored the last moments together. Tears steadily ran down both their cheeks and as they sat there on the couch, he fell asleep in the only daddy’s arms that he had ever known.
Then, the double doors swung open. Where Krysten and Kurt sat on the couch they could not see the door, but they heard it open and one of the social workers stood up and walked toward the door. Krysten and Kurt turned to see a petite, curly haired woman with the same mocha skin as Jonathan standing in the doorway. If she was wearing make-up you couldn’t tell but her kind brown eyes and beautiful skin didn’t need it and even though her hair was graying, she didn’t look old enough to be a grandma.
Beau greeted her in Spanish and walked her over to the other 4 on the couch. As they stood to greet her, Beau said something to her, again in Spanish, and she exclaimed, “oooooh!” She looked into Krysten’s eyes as she extended her hand to shake it. Krysten was captivated by the kindness and compassion she saw in the eyes of Jonathan’s grandma and she said, “Hi, my name is Krysten. It’s so nice to meet you.” She responded through broken English, “It so good to meet you too.” Then Kurt said, “And this is Jonathan.” His grandma turned and saw the baby she had been desperately trying to get for the last 3 months and exclaimed “Oh! Mijo!” Kurt slowly and carefully handed Jonathan, who was still asleep, over to her and she grabbed him, holding him close and clearly fighting back tears began kissing his head and saying softly, “Mi corazon, me amor, te amo. Mijo, te amo. Te amo.”
With one hand holding the baby she reached into her purse and pulled out her cell phone, she clicked the button to reveal her screensaver and turned it for Krysten and Kurt to see. The screensaver was a picture of that swaddled, beautiful newborn boy that they had laid their eyes on 3 months earlier and it suddenly hit both of them: his grandma had been there the day he was born.
After that Krysten pulled out the 2 page typed-out list she had written to give to his grandma. On it, she had his daily routine, along with a list of all his likes and dislikes. When she finished going over the lists with his grandma, Beau said something to her in Spanish and then walked over to the desk to grab a piece of paper. As he walked over, the grandma turned to Krysten and Kurt and with sincerity and kindness said, “Thank you so much. Thank you for taking good care of him. You have been his mommy and his daddy for the past 3 months. Thank you.”
Their hearts were completely breaking as tears continued to roll down their faces, knowing these were their last moments with Jonathan. Beau returned with a pad of paper and pencil in hand and the grandma began saying something to him again in Spanish. He copied down what she said and then turned to Kurt and said, “His grandma would like to give you her phone number so that you can call her and get updates on how he is doing.” And then she said, “You can call me. Sunday is my day off.” Krysten and Kurt looked at each other stunned. In all their training they had never heard of anything like this happening. They looked at their social worker to assure it was ok to take her number and their social worker gave them a reassuring and excited smile. Kurt folded the piece of paper and put it in his pocket.
And then the moment came. It was time to say goodbye. Beau said, “Well we need to get going, there’s some paper work that she needs to fill out.” The grandma handed Jonathan back to Krysten for one last goodbye. He was still sleeping. Krysten put her nose to his head and breathed in deeply determined to try to remember the way he smelled. She gave him kisses on every part of his head and then handed him to Kurt. Kurt did the same and then handed Jonathan back to his grandma. “Goodbye,” she said, “And thank you again.” And with that, they picked up all his things and walked down a hallway and out of sight.
Krysten, Kurt and Laura stood there just staring down the hall. All of them were crying. Krysten had been trying to keep control of her tears and although they were steadily streaming down her face, she wasn’t crying uncontrollably. Laura said, “Let’s sit down.” So they plopped down on the couch, no one really knowing what to say. “So…” Krysten started to speak but her voice caught and she felt herself beginning to lose the composure that she had fought so hard to maintain. “Krysten, it’s ok to let yourself go. This completely sucks,” Laura said, placing her hand on Krysten’s leg. That was all it took. Krysten let the floodgates open and allowed herself to fully open up to her broken heart. Kurt wrapped his arm around her and she buried her head in her hands as she sat there sobbing uncontrollably.