Joshua (No 3D as there was too much stuff for the machine to go through)
I'll tell you guys how it went yesterday as I'm sure that's why you're reading this, but first, you have to labor through, pun intended, my story.
I had a meeting yesterday with some Christian men with whom I had just recently met. We were sitting at lunch and one of them asked me why we had done embryo adoption. I told them the story of our two foster babies, Matthew and Zane, specifically Matty's story. I explained how we received Matty after he was born five weeks premature to a mother who admittedly took meth two days before delivering and how Matthew had meth and morphine in his system at birth. How he was born with a cleft lip and palate. How we had to literally squeeze the milk from a special bottle into his tiny throat as he had no sucking mechanism due to the gaping hole in the roof of his mouth.
I tried to paint a picture of what it was like to wake up every two hours to feed an infant who is so hungry and yet can't swallow fast enough so the milk inevitably comes shooting out of his good right nostril because of its accidental slipping into his open palate. So far, no crying from this big babbling baby.
I went on to tell how through God's mercy and love Matty grew and became healthy and happy. He was always full of smiles, even when we had to put tape on his lips and nose to prep him for the upcoming surgery. How even with splints on his elbows to prevent him from grabbing at the tape he still would babble and giggle at our silly faces and Nick's goofiness as he tried to make him laugh. How we got used to the strange looks and the innocent questions from children to their parents, "Mommy, what's wrong with that baby's mouth?!" How it didn't phase us when a well-meaning adult described his current condition as "grotesque" but that after surgery he would look great. I'm sure none of my true emotion was coming through, but I was trying and again, not crying...yet.
I continued on by relating what it was like to watch your six month old be prepped for surgery, to see him whisked away on a gurney, so small and helpless with the cutest baby gown on, still smiling, still happy. How agonizing it was waiting for word from the surgeon that everything was okay and that Matty did great. Being told how the sutures and tape couldn't get wet which meant we couldn't clean him up the way he deserved for a whole week and had to leave dried blood, snot, and boogers crusted on his nose and upper lip while we attempted to "live a normal life."
How the poor little guy slept like crazy and almost two days to the minute began bouncing back like nothing had happened. Within a week, he was smiling again through a tight upper lip, trying to learn what it felt like to have your two upper lips connected as his face moved with limitless expression.
I had no way of telling these awesome men of God how much joy poured into our lives abundantly more than we ever deserved or thought possible when we not only were able to watch Nick and Zane, but now a fully healthy recovered Matthew. Ever full of laughter, ever full of joy, ever bringing happiness into our home. The month and a half after his surgery where all our boys were happy and growing, was the best time of our lives, and the happiest.
Matty's progress from a premie baby to a thriving eight month old was something I will always stand in awe of God for how He accomplished it and will always feel blessed to have been a part of.
Obviously it didn't last. Obviously the system is broken and we lost him. As far as we know he's doing okay, but the day we lost him was the darkest day of my life. I've never cried so much as I did in the days following Matty leaving our care.
It felt as if he had died.
I told the men in front of me how to top it all off, a week after, Nick, Zane, Katy and I were driving and from the backseat, I hear a very quiet three year old voice whimper, "Dad?"
I looked in my rear view mirror and saw Nick with his chin on his chest looking at his feet.
"It's my fault that Matty left, isn't it?"
We were done. At this point we already knew Zane was leaving in a week or so and the look on Nick's face was too much to take. I couldn't answer him. I knew of course the answer was no, but my stomach was lodged so far into my throat and my heart had fallen onto the asphalt we were traveling on, that it felt like one of those dreams where you try and scream but can't. Katy rescued me as the tears streamed down my face and she told him of course it wasn't. I quickly regained my composure, pulled over, turned around, told him to look at me squarely in the eyes, and said, "This is not your fault. It's not our fault. It's not God's fault. God has a plan for Matty. We don't know what that plan is yet, but we trust His plan."
In that moment, I couldn't quote Romans 8:28 as I couldn't remember it, but the promise was embedded deep enough within me to get the gist across to Nick.
Fast forward to the present again. Here I was, sitting next to and across from Christian men I barely knew, welling up again, over a year and three months later, reliving the same emotions I did at that time with my son in sorrow. I explained to them that I wasn't strong enough to go through that again. I knew there were kids out there that needed caring for, but I couldn't handle it. Both for me, for Katy, and for Nick. It's not that I care more about these kids than a foster parent does, they're just stronger than I am, able to shoulder that burden and keep on loving. I am in paralyzing awe and admiration of a good foster parent who loves kid after kid after kid. It's not because they are withdrawn or void of emotion or disconnected or dehumanize the situation. I believe a good foster parent has just as much love for these children but is able to deal with the loss better than most of us can.
That's why we withdrew from the foster care program.
They then asked the obvious follow-up question, why didn't you guys try in-vitro with your own embryos instead of someone else's? I informed them how we still felt a deep desire to help children who needed help the most, and what child is in more need than one still in a petrie dish and in cryogenic freezing? We made the decision not to have more embryof created but to give the embryos already created a chance to grow up.
I left that lunch a little down, finished work and came home to find Nick already sleeping. After making sure he was tucked in and kissing his forehead, I walked out into the living room and sat next to my bride. I put my hand on her engorged belly as I usually do when we're just sitting there, and suddenly I felt them. It felt like Rock-em Sock-em Robots going on inside of her! Kick after kick after kick for a solid ten minutes and I was in heaven. Katy tried talking to me but I have no idea what she was saying. I was so intently focused on making sure I didn't miss a single kick that I couldn't hear a word she said, not that I can do anything else plus listen anyway. It took 20 weeks, but it was amazing. I don't know how Katy is doing it with those three banana-sized babies treating her insides like a bounce house, but it is overwhelming to feel them in there.
Back to the reason you're all here. Yesterday's doctor's appointment went just fine. Still status quo from the week before and nothing new to report. But again, all three are growing, hearts are beating, and no additional problems other than Joshua's non-existent amniotic fluid. And yesterday, after reliving our loss, it was the perfect news and a perfect ending.