20 Mar The Hand Off
The actual hand-off to Bio-Mom was not so bad.
The aftermath, although still in its early stages, has not been too bad either.
By far, it was the anticipation of the hand-off that was most brutal.
There was a hearing scheduled in the afternoon, and we were quite sure a phone call would come that day announcing the decision. Such a level of certainty and advance notice would usually be a luxury, but it didn’t feel like it this particular time. Beloved Spouse took the day off to stay at home with me and LAD, and the three of us moped around the house together most of the day. It was almost surreal because not only were Beloved Spouse and I sad and dreading the final moment, LAD had gotten shots the day before, so he was low-grade fussy-and-feverish. Even the skies were cloudy– the whole day was exactly as gloomy as we felt!Whereas once upon a time I had only philosophical responses to the question, “How can you give them back?” now I have an empirical answer. Other reunifications will inevitably be different, but this is how our first time went.
We had a relatively short list of things to get done so that LAD could be ready to go whenever the call came, and on any other day the combination of having a few easy tasks and two adults available to accomplish them would have meant quick work, but under the circumstances, each “honey-do” was a slow, emotional slog.
There was paperwork, of course. Any time a placement ends, the various logs we keep are surrendered to Angels. So I updated the medication log with LAD’s most recent dose of Tylenol, made a copy for my records, and pulled the original out to hand over for the official file. Wanting to be thorough and efficient, I went through the entire binder front-to-back looking for anything else that needed updating, copying, etc. Unfortunately, I made the sentimental mistake of lingering over certain pages. In that binder was LAD’s whole life, my nostalgic self said, and I was there for most of it. Since there’s not much ahead, let’s look back and relive! I remember that doctor’s visit, that WIC appointment, that text message exchange… Eventually my impatient self interrupted: What are you doing? Who cries wistfully over having *less* paperwork to do?
The hardest part was the packing. Here are all his clothes– the stuff he’s outgrown, the outfits we bought him as he outgrew each of those sizes, the things our friends and family bought for this or that special occasion, the blankets we used to wrap him in to swaddle and soothe him during long, sleepless nights, the toys he played with (and drooled on) as he was learning motor control– all properly logged on the inventory page with receipts appropriately attached, all neatly packed in a duffel bag we had bought and embroidered with LAD’s name for exactly this occasion. But now the changing table was painfully barren: empty shelves, empty bins.
Finally, late in the afternoon, the call came: Meet us at Thus-and-Such in 30 minutes. Beloved Spouse, who was holding a sleeping LAD, began sobbing and protesting, “I don’t want to do this!” I stretched my arms around my two beloveds and cried, too. When I regained my composure, I replied, “We love him enough to do this.” Beloved Spouse rallied at this and said determinedly, “Yes. Yes we do.” So we loaded everything in the car and headed for Thus-and-Such.
Bio-Mom arrived right behind us, so we let her take LAD out of the car seat while we loaded up her friend’s car with LAD’s belongings. The staff at Thus-and-Such were clearly not accustomed to this process going smoothly because there was a whole horde of them staring at us through the windows from inside. County Social Worker met us in the parking lot and invited us in. There were a lot of official people involved, so many that I lost track of the introductions. When we all sat down at the table, Public Health Nurse went over his medical record– current medications, upcoming appointments, what follow-up is needed when– and then looked up at us incredulously: “He looks GREAT!”
I showed my logs to Public Health Nurse and asked if she needed copies. “Nope, I’ve got everything I need here. You guys wanna go ahead and say your final goodbye before I do the clinical assessment?” Gulp. This is really it.
I stood up, gave LAD a big hug and lots of kisses and then held him up so I could look him in the face: “You are ALWAYS welcome at our house.” Beloved Spouse took him and gave him similar cuddles and benedictions, then handed him to Bio-Mom’s Friend. Bio-Mom then hugged each of us tightly, kissed us on the cheek, and emphatically professed her love and appreciation for us and everything we had done for LAD. We each congratulated Bio-Mom and told her we were proud of her, but Beloved Spouse was the brave one, asking pointedly, “You’ll keep in touch? Send us pictures and updates and keep us on your list of babysitters?” Bio-Mom chortled, “Are you kidding? You guys are at the TOP of my babysitting list!” County Social Worker interjected jokingly, “You want me to write that into the case plan? I can do that, y’know…” We all nodded and high-fived and laughed together as we made our way out the door.
Bio-Mom and Public Health Nurse went into another room to do the clinical assessment, which is roughly the medical equivalent of an exit interview, while County Social Worker walked us out to the parking lot and congratulated us on a job well done. After exchanges of gratitude and a reminder to keep Angels in mind any time they had a child under 5 in need of a placement, Beloved Spouse and I finally got back in the car and drove away, still a little blue but more settled than we had been all day.
That was how we rolled.