A SPECIAL DATE!
Imagine my surprise when visiting my mom one day to receive a phone call from our caseworker, Lindsay, at Bethany Christian Services. She had tracked me down at my parent’s because she had an urgent question. There was a three day old baby girl for adoption. Would we take her? The baby was bi-racial, born in an ambulance on the way to the hospital, and was withdrawing from cocaine.
How do you answer a question like that? My husband and I were hoping to adopt again (we had adopted Mordecai two and a half years earlier), but were thinking of maybe a toddler or preschooler. After all, I was six months pregnant and we already had eight children under the age of ten. We had absolutely no intention of doing two babies again. Yet, here was this gift of a baby extended to us--a baby with no home and family; a baby who would remain in foster care indefinitely if we did not take her. Of course I said yes.
Lindsay then asked if I was sure.
“Yes,” I told her, “we’ll take the baby.”
“Great,” she replied. “She’s in Seattle right now; can you come pick her up?”
Now? No, of course I couldn’t. My toddlers needed naps, my husband was at work (imagine showing up in Seattle with my eight children and trying to pick up a new baby).
“Well, how about if I go pick her up and bring her out to your house?” she offered. No, that wouldn’t work. My husband wouldn’t be home to sign the custody papers (besides I had visions of total chaos--toddlers waking from naps, a screaming baby, messy house, etc.) Finally we agreed on meeting at the office in town after my husband arrived home from work.
It wasn’t until I hung up the phone that I fully realized what I had done. I had agreed to take this baby without a word to my husband. I knew that Chuck would be thrilled about the baby, but we always made our decisions together. When we adopted Mordecai there were three weeks between the time we agreed to take him and the day we actually picked him up. I never dreamed while having the phone conversation that we would be picking up the baby that day.
The rest of the afternoon was a blur. I dug out the car seat and all of our newborn baby girl clothes and washed them. I made a list for Wal-Mart--diapers, bottles, formula. All the while my children looked on, wondering at my sudden desire to get ready for the baby (I was pregnant!) I couldn’t tell them about this baby girl because I had yet to tell my husband who was at work.
God is so amazing. It just so happened that we had a babysitter coming that night (arranged weeks in advance) so we could have a rare date night. When Chuck called to tell me he was off work and on his way to pick up the babysitter, I told him I had big news and to brace himself.
“Honey, when you get home we need to go straight to the Bethany office. They have a baby waiting there for us.”
He was thrilled, praise the Lord! He picked up the babysitter and briefed her on the change of plans while I gathered the children around me and told them the news. They were so excited. They bombarded me with questions, most of which I couldn’t answer.
We chose our baby’s name during the fifteen minute drive to the office--Avi Providence. Avi is Hebrew for “God is my father”; something we hope will be a comfort to her throughout her life. The name Providence was chosen to remind us of God’s sovereignty in bringing her into our family.
As we walked into the office we were greeted by our caseworker holding a gorgeous pink bundle with an unbelievable mass of curls and striking blue eyes. After signing the papers we headed to Wal-Mart with our new baby, and had the most memorable date night in our ten years of marriage.
Life moved at a swift pace. I now had nine children to care for (four of those under the age of three) and was pregnant. As it turned out, sweet little Avi was not withdrawing from cocaine as the hospital said (she tested positive at birth). She had a very erratic sleep cycle, sometimes only sleeping for a total of a couple of hours a night (and no, not a couple in a row), and had very unpredictable feedings. But we did not have to deal with the screaming and sensitivity of drug withdrawal.
God still had work to do in my heart, however. I could vividly remember Mordecai and Jubilee’s first year. (Mordecai was adopted at four weeks old and was drug affected. I gave birth to Jubilee when he was two months old and breastfed both babies.) I remember being so tired I could barely care for everyone. I remember Mordecai’s many hours of screaming as he threw the drugs from his system. I remembered how difficult it was to nurse both babies and to be up at night continually with two babies. I didn’t know if I was up to it again. I thought that perhaps I wouldn’t nurse Avi. I could pack her full of formula, and maybe get some sleep at night. Babies are bottle fed all the time after all. It’s certainly not the norm to nurse an adopted baby.
Two days before we picked up Avi, God began preparing my heart in an amazing way. At a prenatal visit with my midwife, I told her that it was probably crazy, but could she assure me there was only one baby. The midwife took extra time examining me and listening to the baby’s heart, and told me that she definitely thought it was possible that I was carrying twins. I was measuring big, the baby seemed to be all over, and she couldn’t be sure about the heartbeat. Wow, Chuck and I had always wanted twins!
I had two days to ponder the idea of twins before Avi made her unexpected entrance. Now what? Three babies at once? The uncertainty dragged on at each visit as the midwife could neither confirm nor deny the possibility of twins. For weeks I wondered about having three babies. We had always wanted twins, but now? God, however, was busy working in my heart. I knew if I had twins, I would never dream of only breastfeeding one of them. I would never say, “Well, it’s just too hard to be up at night with two and to nurse two, so I’ll bottle feed one so I’m not so tired.”
When I finally went in for an ultrasound to check for twins, it was confirmed that I was only carrying one baby. Only one? No problem. After pondering life with three babies, two suddenly sounded easy. Not only that, I now knew that I would breastfeed Avi when the baby was born. Just as I would never choose to nurse only one twin, neither would I choose to nurse only one of my babies. Suddenly it all made sense. I had been afraid of all the hard work ahead of me. God needed to get my attention and get me back on track, and he used the possibility of twins to do a work in my heart.
Tucker Benaiah was born when Avi was three and a half months old. Avi took to nursing so well, that she actually nursed better than Tucker in the beginning. The babies are now ten and six months old. Avi is walking and Tucker crawls and climbs all over. Both babies are happy, healthy, and breastfed. And oh, I even occasionally get some sleep at night!
Bellingham, Washington, USA (written 2006)
Read the story of Chuck and Renee’s previous adoption, IMMEASURABLE JOY.
And now Chuck and Renee have adopted three children from Liberia.