The message lit up my cell phone screen in the middle of a night. “We have a baby!” In capital letters, this joyful note marched across the screen. Despite being half asleep, I couldn’t help but smile. We had the same reaction when we received “the call”.
My friend and his wife live in Georgia and had tried for years to have children of their own. Four years ago, they plunged into the foster system to become parents. They went to classes, had their background checked, finances scrutinized, home inspected and the dozen other things they had to do to become licensed caregivers. Briefly, they had a little girl who eventually went back home. For months, the pale green and beige nursery sat empty. The door kept closed as though hiding a secret sorrow.
They waited. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. When the caseworker called, she sounded worn out and as though at her wits end. She asked if they would be interested in a little girl who was at the hospital; she had some “issues.”
“Issues” covers miles of territory. Everything from withdrawal symptoms to severe developmental problems and thousands of other things in between. Experienced parents know this often means battles to get specialized care the child may need, and constant doctor and therapy appointments in addition to parental visitations, caseworker visits, CASA visits. It’s a huge consideration. After a brief consultation (less than a 10 seconds) he and his wife agreed to meet the social worker at the hospital to meet their new placement.
He told me, when they walked in and saw this tiny being, clad only in a diaper, which looked huge on her and tiny enough to fit a doll, he was scared to death. The wires and tubes attached to her did nothing to reassure him.
When the nurse picked up this baby, quickly swaddling her after removing the connections to various machines, he almost did not put his arms out to receive her. Huge blue eyes with luxurious eyelashes peered up at him and he was smitten by this being who weighed barely more than a bag of sugar.
Peaches, as she has since been nicknamed, had been abandoned at the hospital immediately after birth. Her mother noticeably upset that her child had been born with a cleft lip and palate, walked away and never looked back. The physical deformities would require several future surgeries to reshape the inside of her mouth and nose so she could eat without aspirating and breathe normally.
My friend and his wife did not even notice the gaping hole. They saw blue eyes, a halo of blonde peach-fuzz, perfect creamy complexion and delicate fingers topped with tiny nails. They saw perfection.
One at a time, as they held her, each lifted her up and smelled the top of her head. Newborns have some sort of perfect scent associated with the top of their heads which creates a rush of hormones with parents (or any adult lucky enough to hold a new baby). My friend and I had a conversation about this phenomenon nearly a year before, he thought I was crazy until I urged him to look it up. All he knew was he fell in love in that moment and that little girl would be theirs until he took his last breath.
It’s been almost a year now, the adoption is in process, surgery is scheduled, and Peaches has her daddy wrapped firmly around her little finger. She is adored and she laughs as he tells her how she is the perfect pick of all the peaches around.
It was an imperfect start to fatherhood for my friend but, in other ways, it was utterly perfect because it brought this family together. I wish a happy Father’s Day, to him and to all the dad’s out there who are taking care of their children and families to the best of their abilities. You are loved and needed more than ever.
Written and submitted by Sarah Roush for The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.