I was never one of those high school girls who knew how many kids I wanted, but I knew I wanted kids and I knew I wanted to name my daughter “Katelyn” (a combination of my sister’s name and mine :). I didn’t have a boy’s name picked out and I never knew that I would be adopting….
Last month was a celebration of my adoptions (Feb 12, 24 and 26th). Sometimes I sit and look at the boys bouncing around the room. Sometimes I wonder why I’m so exhausted. I mean, many families have 5 kids. But few families have 5 boys in a five year period – my eldest is about to turn 8, the youngest is almost 3, and my sister’s two are in between these.
So it seems about time to “explain” our situation a little bit (since I’ve alluded to the “long story” before). Almost nine years ago, we became foster parents and had a one-year-old boy for over ten months. He returned to his mother and we had a set of siblings for “emergency shelter” for two days prior to getting a call about Super Tall Guy. I was on rotation in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit as a fourth year resident when my sister called me and said, “Lynne, they have a newborn baby boy that we can pick up….and J.P. has already agreed to watch him.” Yes, J.P. is a dear woman, a foster parent who was fostering 4-month-old twins at the time, and yet agreed to watch Super Tall (at a whopping six pounds four ounces) for the first six weeks of his life until he could be in a daycare center. It was noon and we had to pick him up before the social worker left work at five.
My co-workers were awesome and let me leave a bit early. I met my sister and we found an infant car seat in our basement that someone had loaned to us and we made our way cautiously into the hospital’s nursery. The social worker asked for our driver’s licenses and then showed us to a bassinet with a little tiny baby swaddled in white. We both held our breath. We couldn’t believe it. We were going to take a newborn home. We were clueless. And we certainly didn’t have a “diaper bag” or anything prepared. The social worker disappeared and returned with a pair of blue pants and a striped blue shirt that she put over the hospital long-sleeve shirt. We buckled him into the seat and quietly walked out of the door. We might have started to breathe again once we got out of the parking lot, but it’s unlikely.
We couldn’t do anything but stare at him all night. Kathy ran out and blitzed the store – baby bassinet, diapers, wipes, clothes, bottles, formula….anything and everything that we needed. We had nothing. Nothing except an incredible love at first sight, joy at cuddling a soft sighing newborn, and unending gratefulness for the foster mother who was willing to make this possible for us.
It wasn’t too long before we reached a rhythm. I finished residency with tiny Super Tall Guy in my arms at every event – award ceremony, graduation ceremony, anything – I took him everywhere. Though it was hard to leave him during the day, I was chained to the dining room table that summer to study for two board certification exams (pediatrics and internal medicine). Day after day, night after sleepless night….and one day, I sat at the end of the table when my cell phone rang. Kathy said, “hey, Lynne, they have a two-week old baby that they need a home for.” I said, “oh….well….you see, we have a baby in the house.” Her heart started, “I know, but…” My brain responded, “we have a baby already….” “Aw man, I’m supposed to be in a meeting – I’ll call you back in a few minutes.” She hung up. I returned to mitochondrial disease manifestations. The phone rang. The caseworker wondered, “Do you want to pick him up….or should I drop him off?” I replied, “she said ‘yes,’ didn’t she?”
Enter the Flipper – two weeks old and tiny – a little African American baby with the softest hair I’d ever felt. I spent the next year asking every patients’ mother, “What do you use in your child’s hair,” until we finally found a product that seemed to tame some of the wild. He barely uncurled from his ball-like position. He mewed and sighed and stole your heart the moment we met.
But in the middle of the night, he was inconsolable. He fussed, he wept, and once he got going he shrieked with a sound no human could imagine. I was the “night time” person ….the one who got up all night with the babies. The one who kept diapers and wipes and binkies and bottles of formula on my bed stand. The one who paced and rocked….and fell back asleep before the babies did.
I’m also the one who finally told my sister, “I just can’t take it anymore. His cries in the middle of the night just tear at my soul. I can’t handle him. Either you’ll have to do the nights….or we’ll have to call CYF to find another family.” I just couldn’t….and I’m the “Baby Whisperer” who calms any child…but I couldn’t do anything with this little guy.
I sometimes think about the Flipper’s cries at night. Sometimes I’m sorry that I couldn’t do it. And sometimes I think about the fact that he came to us (foster care) because a couple years prior, an older sibling had been found with over 20 broken bones at the age of 3 months. It broke my heart to think of that baby. And I wondered if that sibling had had the same heart-wrenching, mind-numbing cry in the middle of the night….his mother would have had a real struggle. I who hold three kid-associated degrees and have years upon years of experience working with infants…. I couldn’t stand the noise. Wow.
But Kathy could. She could rock him. She could pace around the house. She could put him in the car and drive around town until he settled down. She could love on that boy….and I could love on tiny Super Tall….and soon we figured out who was “mommy-ing” who.
Whew…getting late…and Super Tall has come downstairs…is scratching his back and arms….yawning….and giving me “the look”….the “hey, put me back to bed” look (he’s also rubbing his ear and picking his nose, but I probably shouldn’t mention that).
So….the story of the next three boys is just going to have to wait.
I have a Super Tall little man to tuck in again.