May 22, 2017, the day we met our future son.
We had no clue what to expect from this day. At this point we had only seen one photo and a 30 second video of him so we were walking into this unprepared. Would we have a “moment” with him and feel overwhelmed with love and emotion? Would he say anything to us? Would we walk in and feel no connection? The last question was the one that kept haunting me. I tend to romanticise things sometimes so I was a “little” freaked out that it wasn’t going to be perfect..who are we kidding, my expectations were off the charts.
We had gone to Target the day before and picked out a little Paw Patrol gift for him. I even bought a new shirt that had zebras on it so he would think my shirt was cool, I tried to think of anything and everything that would make him more comfortable around us. Truth is, the first meeting wasn’t as magical as I hoped for…it was kind of quiet. When we met Henry that day we learned he was non-verbal and wow, that was a hard pill to swallow. We knew from the mounds of paperwork we had read about him he was diagnosed with severe autism but I didn’t plan on him not being able to talk to us. He made little sounds here and there but he had a bottle in his mouth the whole time and barely made any eye contact. We followed him around Chuck E. Cheese for about an hour and tried to get to know him a little better. We left feeling a little defeated to be completely transparent, it was far from magical.
During that visit we met his foster mom, his social worker, and his case worker. They were all so kind and gave us as much information on “J” as they could. His case worker Emily was so helpful as we talked about his case and what was next for this little guy. It was during that conversation that I felt a fire lit inside of me to advocate for “J” but I also felt afraid that maybe we weren’t equipped to be his parents because of all he would need. The drive home was really quiet that day, I don’t think we said more than a few words for the next few hours. It felt like this boy we had dreamed up in our heads was much worse off than we had hoped. I knew this wasn’t the end though, I wanted to see him again. With Curt’s permission I am sharing this – he was VERY unsure about moving forward. That evening we finally opened the dialogue and started talking about our first visit with “J”. He couldn’t wrap his brain around parenting a severely autistic son right off the bat so our first conversation was me trying to convince him that he wasn’t “that” autistic. That conversation didn’t really end well and we needed more time to really come to terms with things.
Several conversations later, we came to the conclusion we should have another visit. Because we were selected as his adopted parents already, we were given the opportunity to do a series of visits with him before a decision was made. Our next visit would be one hour unsupervised which we both felt would be a much better gauge of how we felt about moving forward. On the drive up the second visit, I did most of the talking. I asked Curt to be open-minded and did more convincing that autism “isn’t that bad” because I had so much experience with it. Looking back, I wish I would’ve just trusted the process and not been so anxious to talk Curt into loving “J”. Within the following weeks, we saw God lead Curt to make the decision to adopt in a completely different way. If I could have done anything different throughout this process, I should have trusted that the Lord would work in Curt’s heart like He did in mine.
Thankfully, our second visit was much better. We picked him up and took him to Chick-Fil-A because what kid doesn’t like chicken nuggets and french fries, right? During that visit we saw a new side to “J”, he started to open up a little. Although he wasn’t super interested in the nuggets and fries, he sat on my lap and snuggled into my chest while sipping on his apple juice. Remember that magical moment I was waiting for? Yeah, that was it for me. I looked at Curt from across the table and held back tears as I whispered, “Oh my gosh, I love him”.
You can find my other posts on our story with Henry and foster care here https://ourgatheredcottage.com/category/foster-care/