The knot in our stomachs wound tighter as the elevator climbed to the eighth floor. The doors slowly squeaked open, and we made our way down the long hallway. It was a dreary November morning, and the gray from outside seemed to be spilling in through the window panes and casting a sad fog over our hearts.
The meeting room was filled with toys of all kinds — stuffed puppies, plastic dinosaurs and baby dolls with cheerful but worn faces, all telling the tales of children, birth parents, and foster families who sat in this room before us for their final goodbye visit.
We smiled the best we could and made small talk. The social worker silently observed and took notes.
Our foster son was as happy as could be. Oblivious to the occasion at hand, he bounced around excitedly from one toy to the next. Occasionally his birth parents tried to pick him up and hug him. Though they were strangers to him, he willingly obliged for a moment before wiggling down to explore the next toy that caught his eye.
I sat there trying to take it all in, resisting the tears brimming behind my glasses. I was grateful that our little boy was only twenty months old and unaware of the sadness that loomed large in the room. Soon enough he will have to face the harsh realities of this world, process the brokenness of his birth family, and grapple with the pain of drug addiction that had brought this visit about.
But for today, he just gets to play.
I'm thankful to say that my husband and I were not the ones saying goodbye that dreary November day. Though we feared that possibility a year ago, that is no longer the case, and that day's visit brought us one step closer to making this boy our son. We couldn’t be more grateful. This is what we, and so many of our friends and family, have earnestly asked God for. We praise him for working on our son’s behalf, and are filled with such joy and relief that he will soon be adopted and officially ours.
Yet what we were completely unprepared for is the profound sadness that would also linger in our hearts over the brokenness and pain that often precedes the glorious reality of adoption. For us to receive a son, someone else is losing a son. For us to welcome him in as a part of our family, they must say goodbye. Though I didn't give birth to him, he turns to me and says, "Mommy." This is such sweetness to my ears, but as I look into the eyes of his birth mother, grief seeps in and paints a vivid picture of the consequences of sin and the destructiveness of addiction.