For 25.5 months; 111 weeks; 778 days we have been awaiting this day. You see, 25.5 months; 111 weeks; 778 days ago, we got a call from Lutheran Social Services saying that they needed a home for a four-month old boy named Isaiah. With overwhelming excitement and genuine earnestness, we accepted. My hands shook as I called my dad to tell him about the sweet baby that would soon be held in our arms and certainly in the deepest wells of our hearts. It was a blur driving home to get the car seat we had purchased “just in case” we got a call. When I arrived at the hospital to pick up Isaiah, the boy’s name was not Isaiah, it was Martell, and he was not four months, he was two months. When I saw him, it was almost as if my heart expanded out from my chest, opened wider than ever before, and wrapped around his sweet, tiny brown body, effortlessly promising to protect him and love him with every fiber of my being and to the very best of my limited human ability.
For 25.5 months, we fed him bottles, cleaned up spit up, changed poopy diapers, rocked him to sleep, swaddled him, found lost binkies, dried his tears after shots, gave him countless baths, snuggled him when he was sick, taught him to love his little sister, learned that his favorite toys are kitchen utensils, and did thousands of loads of his laundry.
For 111 weeks, we learned the foods he likes, treated him for seasonal allergies, laughed until we couldn’t breathe, gave him nebulizer treatments, took him for his wellness visits, read to him for hours and hours, prayed with him and for him before bed, taught him to share, and to say “please, thank you, and I’m sorry,” disciplined him with kindness, slept on the floor beside his crib all night, and kissed his many minor boo boos. All of which has brought us such unquestionable, overwhelming, and pure joy.
But you guys, for 778 days we have taken him to daycare, not knowing if he would visit his biological parents that day. We have been riding the ups and downs of the emotional rollercoaster believing that he could leave our home any day. We have been asked, “where did you get that baby?”, “Is he your kid?”, “Why is his skin brown?” We have had eyes rolled at us by checkout clerks for using the WIC coupons given to us by the state announcing to others in line, “You’d all better go to another line, this is going to take forever.” We have been painfully stared at by hundreds of strangers as we walk anywhere as a family. We have been pulled over in small town Illinois and wrongfully treated after the officer walked around the passenger’s side of the car, doing a double-take at our son in the backseat. When he was just twenty months old, we have had people we trust say things like, “You’d better make sure he doesn’t keep hitting, especially with a family history like his.” We have become painfully aware of our ”middle-class whiteness” and our inability to fully understand the extra high hurdles our son will have to jump to prove his genuine goodness in his near future.
While the pictures on our Instagram and Facebook accounts show a mixed-race family tenderly embracing one another with wide smiles, you should know some of the speed bumps and potholes that mark the road families like ours travel. Don’t get me wrong, I would take every hurtful comment and every judgmental stare all over again if it meant Martell would be our son, but on this website, promised to be marked with authenticity, you should know the truth. Our journey thus far, and our journey to come has not been and will not be an easy one. Hands down. We are going to have to have conversations with our son for his protection that we would have never needed to consider with our biological children. We are going to have to have frank and difficult conversations with people in our lives to protect his emotional health and well-being.
We rejoice today, though, because after two years, one month, two weeks, one day, and 14 hours of uncertainty, we are finally certain that Martell will be a Walder for the rest of his life. We are finally certain that the struggles that are uniquely his will be struggles that our family promises to bear with him through. We are finally certain that the first child ever to be under our parental care will be our forever child. Lord-willing, we are finally certain that we will get to love him through his first broken bone and broken heart. We are finally certain that if these opportunities present themselves, will get to coach his teams, invite friends over for sleepovers, plan birthday parties, take family vacations, help him with homework, hear about his first crush, teach him to drive, help him apply for colleges, apply for a job, get married, and the list of dreams for our forever child goes on and on.
So now, I’d like to say thank you. Thank you to his biological parents for choosing life. For choosing to carry him for nine long months—through the likely swollen ankles, stretch marks, food cravings, lack of sleep, nausea, heartburn, constant exhaustion, painful contractions, all the way up to his first cry, when you could have chosen to preserve your teen years, preserve your physique, and preserve your childlessness. Thank you for giving to us our greatest gift in life. We promise to love and cherish him as our own.
We’re so thankful he’s our own.
Also, notice our awesome shirts? Martell and Esmae have shirts that say “Best Day Ever.” Gabe and I have shirts that say “Hip Hip Hooray.” These shirts were purchased from an Etsy shop called Celebrate Always. They did an amazing job shipping them quickly, making a custom shirt for Esmae (for free because they loved being a part of our story). I would HIGHLY recommend them!