The next morning I called our caseworker. I could hardly choke the words out...
"...We've decided it's best for him to go to another couple."
She said okay and that she would contact all the right people right away. I said we would let his birth family know later that day. After the call with our caseworker I knelt down at the foot of our bed, buried my face in the comforter and screamed between sobs. "NO!!" I kept screaming over and over again. "No, no, nooooooo!!!" I didn't want Aurelia to hear me. I knew this was going to be so hard on her and I didn't want to exacerbate that by having her see me like this. I cried and screamed until I couldn't breathe and my screams and sobs gave way to defeated gasps. I pulled it together and walked to the living room, tears still rolling down my face.
"What's wrong, Mama?"
"I'm just really sad, love. It's okay."
Aurelia folded her arms, walked away and sat down behind our comfy chair.
"Aurelia, are you okay? It's not your fault! It's okay!"
"I just need a break." She does that when she's too upset and needs to get control of herself and come back to the situation.
"Okay, let me know when you're ready for a hug."
"I have to ignore the emotional side. The emotional side is the selfish side that wants to throw myself on the ground, throw a fit and cry "he's mine! I want him! I don't care about anything else!" The emotional side isn't looking at what's best for Noah. Logically I know...I know what will be best for him. I know he'll do better being the only child at home right now. He'll be the BEST brother to another brother or sister someday, but right now he needs to have all the time and attention of his mommy and daddy."
We remembered hearing in our foster care training about a foster mom who had put together a long, intensely thorough report of sorts about her foster child, their likes, their needs, where they were developmentally and the kind of family she felt would be the best match. I started creating one for Noah. These were my thoughts after finishing the "wish list" for his future parents...
I worry he'll think he wasn't wanted or loved. No! No, no, no, no, no! You have been wholly wanted and fiercely loved from the first moment you existed.
I worry his new family won't love him well enough. What if they aren't kind? What if they don't make sure he knows he's always been loved and wanted? What if they turn out to be mean, or shut us out, or get divorced? What if they don't love him or love each other? What if they love the idea of him, but not him? I want them to snuggle him everyday. I want him to hear "I love you" every single day. I want them to show him how incredible he is and for him to know they think he's an amazing, beautiful little spirit. I want them to recognize just how miraculous and fantastic he is and for him to feel that. I want them to tell, to show, everyone around them that he was loved by everyone in his life from the very beginning, including us.
I worry he'll never know about us or his first Mama. We regularly talked to Noah about his beautiful (strong, smart, fantastic, I could go on...) birth mom. We told him how he got his crazy beautiful eyes from her, how she loves him, how her parents love him, and how we love him. What if he never knows any of that? Once he is with a new family, they are his parents, completely. It's their choice how much they do or don't tell him about us. I hope they tell him good things. I hope they tell him how fiercely and completely he was loved by us. I hope they tell him his story with pride and that he grows up knowing how many people sacrificed and how many people put themselves aside completely for him, to do what was best for him.
I worry other people will think he wasn't wanted or loved. This is part of why I want his new parents to tell him is story, to build his confidence in knowing he's always been loved and wanted so he can tell other people with pride. I don't want people to think "you gave him back?! You're horrible, heartless people". No! Do you have any idea how heartbreaking it was to put ourselves aside and make this decision? How much it hurt to finally have our dreams realized only to know that our role was to help someone else's dreams come to be?? After everything we went through to finally have him with us and then know we weren't going to be the best place for him.
A day after telling our caseworker our decision, I had to take Noah to the ER. His vomiting had become more frequent again and the color and consistency had changed. I knew he either had another obstruction or his NJ had come out of place somehow, so Daniel stayed home with sleeping Aurelia and I drove the two of us to the ER. The ER doctor said "he's a complicated little boy and honestly, you know more about his condition and what's okay than I do." It was both frustrating and reassuring at the same time. On the one hand it's great to have a doctor tell you as a parent that you are the expert on your child, on the other hand its frightening to know they don't know any more than you do. We had some x-rays done and no obvious, traumatic obstructions were found (they look for backup in the intestines as the result of an obstruction). I looked through the x-rays with the doctor, showing him the usual locations of his obstructions and asking about every slightly larger dark spot which is a sign of a possible obstruction. Everything looked pretty normal. All they could really do was send us home, tell me to keep doing what I was doing (keeping his airway clear, slowing his feeds) and to follow up with his GI.
The next morning Aurelia, Noah and I went to a follow up appointment with one of his specialists. I explained to the specialist that he had thrown up 7 times the night before and that I was concerned his NJ tube had gone out of place or that he had another obstruction. We were taken directly to radiology at the hospital next door. After a few hours in radiology they determined that not only was the NJ in the wrong place (and huge for his size) but he also had another intestinal obstruction and needed to be taken into surgery immediately. He was readmitted to the hospital, this time locally, 5-10 minutes from our home. He hadn't even been home from Children's Hospital a week. That night we got a call from our caseworker saying they had a couple who wanted to meet Noah. This couple had been contacted about him last summer at the same time we received our second call about him, but they hadn't responded before the agency was done selecting couples. They had been thinking and wondering about him ever since and she was a nurse.
The first night Noah's new parents came to meet him I spent two hours with them at his bedside, getting to know them, telling them about Noah, telling them our story. They were a sweet couple but it was still uniquely hard. It was hard seeing them excited because that had been OUR excitement. It was hard seeing them meet him for the first time because that had been OUR first time. This was OUR son, he was OUR happy ending, he had been OUR miracle, the rainbow that finally appeared after so many storms. He was the fulfillment of everything for us, and now I was seeing it all play out with them. Every bit of joy that I knew they were feeling, was reminding me of everything we were about to lose.
After they left I kissed my sweet boy and rocked him to sleep. As I drove home alone through the dark empty streets I became hysterical. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" I screamed at myself. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!" My sobs felt more and more hopeless. "You're taking away Aurelia's brother!! YOU'RE TAKING AWAY HER BROTHER!! He's YOUR baby!! He's YOUR SON!!! Why are you doing this?!"
I pulled into the driveway and slumped onto the steering wheel. Nothing in my life has been as excruciating as letting our little boy go. I could hardly put in the effort to breathe. I wanted to disappear. I wanted to just stop being. I called Daniel and cried "please come get me". Without hesitation he ran out to the car, opened my door and helped me out of my seat belt. He wrapped his arm around my waist and helped me walk into the house. "Tell me we're doing the right thing," I said. "Remind me why we're doing this. Tell me everything is going to be okay."
"We're doing the right thing. This is what is best for both kids. Everything is going to be okay."