I’ve long thought adoption was a beautiful picture of the gospel – that it showed the love of Jesus in a unique and profound way. I thought the call to adopt was among the most significant people could respond to. And I was happy to watch other people fulfill it.
I never thought it would be me.
I’m not sure why, exactly. Maybe because no one in my family had done it. Maybe because when I pictured my life, that just wasn’t a part of the narrative I imagined. Whatever the reason, I didn’t expect it. Which, of course, is how the best stories begin.
I had recently given birth to our third child and was in that season of sleepless frustration when our six-year-old had wet the bed, our four-year-old was screaming from timeout after drawing on the walls with a Sharpie, and the newborn had an explosive diaper. We were all crying. Except my husband. He wasn’t crying. He was resolved: “We’re done. We’re officially maxed out.” It was one of many moments of parenting that felt like we were operating outside of our capacity in almost every area. So that was it. Three kids. End scene.
Fast forward about six months. I was rocking the littlest late one night and looking at her, sweet and sleeping, and wondered to the Lord, Is this my last baby? Are we really done? And in that quiet nursery, in a way I’ve only experienced a handful of times in my years of following Jesus, I sensed the Lord almost audibly tell me, You’ll have another, but it will not come from your womb. It was profound in a way that had me hold it in my heart and simply ponder it. I didn’t speak of it for several more months to anyone.
The thought eventually became paramount to all my other thoughts, and I knew it was time to tell Chris how I felt. I was nervous in a way I’d never been in sharing my heart with him. What would I do if he didn’t feel the same way? How would we manage not being on the same page about something so consequential?
“I don’t think our family is complete. I think we’re supposed to have a fourth child.” I told him I didn’t want him to respond, just to think and pray about it for a day or so. The next morning, in our kitchen while kids were eating breakfast and being loud and dropping cereal all over the floor, he looked at me and said, “I love you, and I love our life, and if you feel like we’re supposed to have another, I’m in. But I really think we should adopt.” I teared up and told him about the night months earlier when the Lord had spoken to me in the nursery. And from that moment, the two of us were on a mission to bring our son home.
There are so many little intricate stories that make the process of finding Christopher so amazing … I certainly don’t have space for all of them here. There was the moment when our oldest son (about seven at the time) told us that he definitely wanted a brother, not another sister, and he wanted him to be a “different skin brother.” There was the time when Chris and I spent a day fasting and praying apart from one another and came back together realizing we were going to do domestic adoption, not international like we’d assumed. There was the day when Chris told me he wanted to give the child his name, to make him a junior. There were lots of moments when we needed money for a home study or an application or an attorney or an agency and it came just in time. My favorite of those was when a group of college students whom we loved (and who were all pretty broke) came into our house with a paper grocery sack full of cash and checks and coins, over more than $2,000, to help bring him home.
It was amazing. It was also the most difficult thing I’ve ever chosen to do. We got a phone call on Jan. 30, about a year after starting the process, from an agency out of state telling us we had a match. A birth mother had chosen us, and the child would be born in late March. We were ecstatic. We got the nursery ready and made a travel plan for when we would go pick up our son. On March 30 we got a call that the baby had been born, but we needed to hold off on coming down. The next morning it was confirmed that the birth mother had changed her mind and decided to keep the baby. It was so surreal. On the one hand, how could I be disappointed that a mother chose to parent her child? I knew what it was like to give birth and look at a baby I’d carried in my body for months, loving that baby in a way I hadn’t realized I was capable of. But on the other hand, I thought that was going to be my baby. And now all I had was an empty nursery.
That scenario would happen in one form or another three more times. Later that same year, when we learned yet another child we’d planned for would not be ours, Chris called the agency and told them not to contact us again unless the time period had already elapsed for the birth mother to change her mind. We would pick him up on a moment’s notice. But we could not endure this level of disappointment again if it could be helped.
And life went on. And we had days of joy and days of wondering if our child would ever be home, if he would ever sleep in the empty nursery that had been ready for so long. If our family would ever be complete.
It was a chaotic Wednesday afternoon, trying to get reading and fast math homework done before we went to church. It was loud. When my phone rang, I shut myself in the laundry room so I could hear who was on the other end.
“Mrs. Brooks, your son is here. This is it. It’s happening.”
It was Jan. 30. A year to the day from the first call of the first child.
But this one was him. Christopher Michael Brooks Jr.
And when we saw him, when we held him and smelled him and kissed his tiny face, all was right in the world. Every doubt and fear and trial and heartbreak was so unbelievably worth the experience of us being his mom and dad. Forever.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – November is National Adoption Month. Audrey Brooks lives with her family near Nashville, where she works with Angie Smith Ministries.)