As I sat with the women gathered after Bible Study on that Tuesday morning, February 22, 2022, I knew that the question was coming.
“Any updates about the kids?”
I could hear the hesitancy as she asked because even though the details might have varied week-to-week, my answer hadn’t changed since our group began meeting that previous August:
“We’re still waiting for paperwork to be completed.”
Any foster parent knows the endless reality of paperwork, and anyone who was in the process of adopting their foster children during the Covid pandemic experienced delays beyond the norm. Jada joined our family in June of 2020 at 10 months old, legally free for adoption, and still it took 19 months for the process to be finalized. Here’s how it finally went down that day:
As our Bible Study small group wrapped up, I glanced at my phone and noticed both a smiley-face-filled text from my husband and an email from the social worker. The email included Jada’s adoption decree, which had actually been signed on February 17. I’m not sure what sort of noise I made before sharing with the ladies and shedding some tears. I swung by the grocery store and found the most perfect ‘Baby Girl’ balloon for my officially adopted little girl, sharing my happy news with any and every person I encountered. When I picked her up from preschool, Jada barrelled out the door exclaiming, “Mommy!” and the reality of that title settled a bit deeper in my soul as I scooped her up, squeezed her, and planted kisses all over her sweet face.
My husband brought home cookie cake and we celebrated after dinner that evening, appropriately singing “Happy Birthday” at Jada’s bidding. As the happy news sunk in, I allowed myself an eye roll and chuckle that this life-changing information had sat on someone’s desk (or more likely, in someone’s inbox) for five whole days while we went about life doing what foster parents do best – wait.
On David’s adoption day, my mom asked me how many months we’d waited. It had been quite some time since we’d switched to counting in years for him, so I was surprised to hear myself speak the number 40. He’d come to our home at only 10 weeks old, weighing less than 10 pounds, and my heart had hung in the balance for 40 long months.
So when I saw the social worker’s name pop up when my phone rang on that Friday afternoon, May 20, 2022, I was both hopeful and wary. As it became evident that she had in fact called to let me know that the ink was drying on David’s adoption decree, my heart trembled as it cast off the balancing pole and began easing off the tightrope it’d walked for so long. The kids were napping, no one else was home, and almost everyone I knew was working. I called my husband, sobbing more than I could speak.
Then I sat on my front porch, feeling almost uneasy as my heart tried to find footing on more solid ground. Overwhelmed with gratitude, I prayed and thanked God for hearing my cries and allowing this precious child to remain in our home. I prayed that his birth parents know mercy and kindness. I wept. I texted everyone I knew to let them know that Baby David, now 3.5 years old, was officially adopted into the Paynter family.
And when I could wait no more, I walked upstairs to wake my little boy, hug and hold him, and let him know that we now shared the same last name.
“I love you,” he said, for the first time without any prompting from me.
My heart was now leaping, dancing with joy. “And I love you, my beautiful boy.”
We waited one month more to plan and prepare a proper celebration for both adoptions. This included a huge gathering of family, friends, and food trucks at our aptly-named Big A party. At church the next morning, we proclaimed God’s faithfulness as our two precious children were finally baptized. My heart, already filled to the brim, nearly burst as I heard our pastor declare David Daniel Justus Paynter and Jada Janae Dove Paynter to be children of the covenant.
Undoubtedly, they were worth all of the wait.