For my part 3, I'm so excited that Deanna (Leyla's first foster mom) agreed to co-write this post with me.
Up until this point, our lives were very much separate. They were foster parents of a darling almost-1-year-old. We were licensed foster parents with no placement and no prospective placements, who just so happened to babysit their daughter a few times.
And then life -- OK, God -- threw us together in this crazy plot that none of us could have written on our own.
Before you continue with my Part 3 (and Deanna's Part 4), be sure to catch up on our stories.
My Part 1 and Part 2. And Deanna's Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3.
And now . . . the big reveal.
The next part of the story has no logical order of events. It gets all jumbled up in my head when I
remember it, because I’m pretty sure it all happened simultaneously. And really fast. It happened really fast.
In January, we met a new respite family: the Lewis family. Dropping Leyla off for the first time we met Ryan and Rachel and their sweet daughter Maddy. Conversation flowed easily and we were confident in the loving care Leyla would receive in their home. It was such a treat to receive pictures and updates and an occasional question via text message while we were away. They were able to watch Leyla for us on a few more occasions that winter.
I'll never forget when the Gemmers first walked through our front door and into our lives. We talked easily enough, crowded together in our entry way by discarded coats, shoes, a huge suitcase and a tiny child strapped into an infant seat.
Laundry was spread all over my living room (but I think it was at least folded.) I felt self-conscious suddenly. What if our home . . . what if WE . . . weren't good at this? What if we weren't enough somehow?
In spite of the copious amounts of laundry, the Gemmers never let on that they were uncomfortable leaving Leyla with us. As much as I enjoyed the small talk, I was ready to get that sweet baby into my arms. :)
As I mentioned in my previous post, it did not take long for me to fall completely head over heels for Leyla -- and feel in my heart as though she were already mine.
worker checking in on a few things. Before we hung up, the worker asked me how the weekend at the
Lewis’ had gone, and I just knew.
From the tone of her voice and the way she asked the question, I knew that she had the Lewis’ file on
her desk and that they were in consideration to be Leyla’s forever family.
though most of it was very interesting, it little had to do with the baby in our care. So I spent a lot of
time in class cross-stitching, listening, and thinking about our sweet girl.
One night I went home and suggested to Darin that maybe we shouldn't keep Leyla until she was legally free. That every day she was reaching new exciting milestones and wouldn't her forever family be sad that they missed them? That every day she was becoming more attached to us, and wouldn't that make things harder on her in the long run? That maybe there would be a family out there willing to take the risk and take her now?*
Turns out Ryan Lewis was in that 36-hour class with me. Even though I didn’t have any official
information, my gut knew that their file was on our worker’s desk. I knew that they were a lovely family. I knew that we had connected. I knew bits and pieces of their story of infertility and loss. I knew they were completely smitten with Leyla. I knew they had an empty crib.
I wondered what God was doing.
*Leyla was not yet legally free, and wouldn’t be for quite a few more months. This meant that while
adoption was looking likely, there was still a chance the biological parents would be given more time, a smaller chance that would be granted custody, and still opportunities for a relative caregiver to come forward.
didn’t want this amazing family to get away. I knew I didn’t get to choose Leyla’s family, but I really
wanted it to be this one. And so when I look back I don’t know if what I did next was right, but it is what it is.
I don’t remember the specifics of the conversation, but after class one night as Ryan and I were chatting, I told him that Leyla was likely headed towards adoption, but that our family was going to continue to do foster care, and therefore were not available to adopt. We left it at that, but I knew a seed had been planted.
The phone call I received from Rachel within hours of my conversation with Ryan confirmed that.
Since Ryan could not answer any one of my billion questions, I called Deanna just as soon as I could. I can't remember if it was that night, or the next morning. But I knew that yesterday wouldn't have been soon enough.
I didn't know what the plan was for this baby. But I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
information, and keeping confidential things that were meant to be confidential, I told her much of our journey, and she shared a lot of hers. I told her that it would be a risk to take Leyla with the hopes of adoption, but I also shared my reasons for feeling now would be the right time for her to move.
I gave her all the right answers, like "We'll have a lot of questions we need to discuss with you." And "Ryan and I will have to do a lot of talking and praying." The truth is, I really could have given her an answer right then. Ryan and I had already decided that we would be Leyla's potential adoptive parents, and were ready to take her in. But I didn't want to sound like I was making a casual decision. And Ryan and I did decide that we would hear ALL the details on the case first before we gave our final decision.
We were invited to come to a meeting with all the players in her case where we would go over all the details on her case, as well as her prognosis and any medical issues or delays she might have.
I do remember one final hurdle before the Lewises fully committed (although I was pretty sure it was just a formality at this point), was a big meeting at my house. It was Leyla’s 6-month review with the Holly Ridge Center and their birth-through-3 early intervention program. This was my status update that afternoon:
It was a great meeting where we were able to celebrate the amazing progress that Leyla was making,
and address some of the new challenges we were facing.
And ultimately the meeting gave the Rachel the confidence to know that she had the skills and the
support to mother Leyla well.
I already knew she had the love.
She’d had it from the first day she met her.
Keep posted for Parts 4 & 5: Transition.