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Baby Maybe No More

It all happened in just two weeks. Well, it was actually 13 hours shy of two weeks from the moment a friend text me about an expectant mother looking for an adoptive home for her baby to the moment we met Gabriel Levi.

The message came through on a Wednesday, just as I was walking into our weekly staff meeting. I quickly tapped out a text to the number listed on the Facebook post my friend had sent me. “I’m sure you’re being bombarded, but I wanted to let you know that my husband and I are very interested in the potential to adopt. We’re a certified adoptive/foster family through Loudoun County. Thank you. 😊.” I also sent a link to our home study and family bio, and mostly forgot about it the rest of the day. We’ve had so many false starts with foster care and adoption, we’ve learned to only walk through doors that are open and to not pry open the ones that are closed. More honestly, after almost getting to welcome more than a dozen kids into our home and having each placement fall through for one reason or another, we’ve learned to keep our emotions at bay.

To my surprise, a woman replied later that evening, “the birth mother would like to talk to you.” The next morning, Ashley called. She said she loves both her children, her 1-year-old daughter and her unborn son. But, for many reasons, she can’t raise another baby right now. She talked about how she wanted an open adoption (we love that idea) and to name her baby Gabriel (we love that name—in fact, it’s my brother’s name). She mentioned she was staying with her parents for a while in a town just 45 minutes away from our house, and we should probably meet. I suggested we get together over the weekend.

“I’m due in 10 days, and I delivered my first baby two weeks early. We should probably meet today.”

Three hours later, Aaron and I sat at TGIFridays in Leesburg, sweating through our work shirts and nervously sipping iced tea while we waited for Ashley’s arrival. She walked in, wearing a similar nervous smile, holding her beautiful daughter, and following behind her mother. It took a while for all of our nerves to subside before we got down to the matter at hand. She talked about how she’d like a safe and happy home for her son and how often she’d like to see him. Aaron and I talked about how we’d care for him, and teach him about Jesus’ perfect will, and tell him how he was loved by his mother long before we ever got to hold him. As we walked to our cars an hour later, Ashley said she’d like us to adopt her son. “I think y’all will be great parents.”

A half hour later, I was on the phone with an attorney to ask if this was even possible—adopting a baby that could be born any moment from over the state line in Maryland. When she heard we already had an approved home study in Virginia, the attorney announced, “it’ll be a lot of work in just a few days, but it is absolutely possible.”

So we got to work. I took the day off to fill out documents for nine hours straight. That same day we got paperwork notarized, cashier’s checks written, documents overnighted to Richmond, and fresh fingerprints submitted for background checks.

The next day, a Saturday, we met with our attorney and hired a lawyer to represent Ashley. On Sunday, Ashley invited me to go shopping for baby clothes. We filled a cart with teeny outfits and Huggies and even some special infant water that I didn’t know existed—“you gotta have this,” Ashley insisted. Done and done. The next day, Monday, a social worker from a private agency came to our home to expedite a home study to appease the state of Maryland. (This is now our third home study in 18 months because, eye roll, bureaucracy.)

Meanwhile, the few close friends who had heard we just might be getting a baby any day dropped off literally everything a person would need—and items a person probably doesn’t need—to raise a baby. Within a few days, our entryway had filled up with car seats, bassinets, swings, baby monitors, swaddle blankets, diapers, wipes and bottles. A friend even found a few mothers willing to donate their breast milk to this baby that was still a maybe. After work each day, Aaron and I would pile into his truck to pick up a crib, a glider, changing pads, swings and car seats—all given up from friends free of charge out of love or, in a few cases, a desire to purge their home of baby gear now collecting dust.

Then, we waited.

We were ready. Within six days of first hearing about this life-altering opportunity, we had all of the legal ducks in a row and all of the must-have supplies in stock. We no longer lost sleep over the stress of finalizing paperwork, but from pure, joyful anticipation. (I can’t imagine how expectant parents do this for nine months.)

And at 1 a.m. on Sept. 19, Ashley’s mom called and executed the plan we’d all talked about. “We’re on the way to the hospital. She’s in labor!”

“Yaaassss,” I’m pretty sure I shouted. “Be there soon.”

At 6:20 a.m., surrounded by a crowd of people who love him—his birth mother, his birth father, his birth grandmother, and, yes, his adoptive parents—Gabriel Levi took his first breath. It was more of a mucusy yelp than a breath, but it was the most beautiful yelp I’ve ever heard. First Ashley and Gabriel’s birth father held this ruddy 7-pound, 12-ounce boy, with each commenting on how he got his dad’s nose and his mother’s eyes. Then they handed him to a teary-eyed Aaron, who’d chosen his middle name a few days earlier. “In Hebrew, Levi means joined,” he’d told me after settling on the name.

And just like that, Gabriel joined our family. And we joined his.

The next day, after talking to my mom about how quickly this all happened, she text me a loving reminder that this was not an overnight miracle. She recounted how, over the past six years, Aaron and I underwent countless fertility tests, treatments, and, in one case, a risky surgery in hopes it would do the trick. (See blog post from June 5.) Then we signed up for foster care. We got to love a few littles who came into our home for short stays, but we were never chosen for a long-term placement. (Btw, we still want to foster children once we settle in with little man.)

And then it happened in the most unexpected way.

My mom compared it to a performer who’s credited with overnight success. “The real-time story is that the musician or actor took every 2-bit part available. For years. And then their big break came. Shazam, seemingly out of nowhere. But we know it didn’t happen overnight … No, Gabriel Levi is not a two-week, out-of-nowhere success,” my mom wrote. “Our Father had conceived this plan since the foundations of the earth. Welcome home, Gabriel.”

Well said, Grandma Care.

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