happy birthday baby boy!

just over 4 years ago, jeff and i decided to embark on something i had felt passionate about for many years. we took an arduous certification class, bought outlet covers and put away the knives and cleaning products, subjected ourselves to the scrutiny of others and became licensed foster care providers.

although the push was mine, jeff came on board willingly.
during that early licensure, we both worked full time with weekends off, so we became an emergency placement home. this enabled us to say yes to several children who were in need of a safe place to stay, on short notice.
we were an in-between home.

the first set of siblings we had were anna and crystal. i cringe when writing crystals name as it was evident her mom named her for the drug she was fond of abusing.
anna was a chubby cherib with dark skin, dark hair and big beautiful eyes. tiny crystal was about 7 weeks old, skinny and quiet. when we got them, i didnt have a crib and crystal slept in a dresser drawer beside my bed. she weighed under 10 pounds. they didnt stay with us too long, moving to a more permanent foster home. about 2 years later our case worker called us to tell us that crystal was up for adoption. she was severely delayed. she had been separated from anna who had been adopted by another family.

next came a little boy, who's name i cannot now remember. he awoke in the middle of the night and ate bananas. i found the peels under his pillow in the morning. his grandparents came to get him from out of state to take him to live with them.

in april of 2003 i was at a place in my nursing career where i just needed a change. i had been a hospice nurse for almost 7 years. although this was my niche, i needed a break. i had given my employer notice and was looking for a new adventure when our case worker called.

"hey, how are you and jeff doing? any interest in doing more than emergency placement?"

"well, funny you should ask, i just quit my job. we might consider doing something more..."

" i have this little boy. i dont know when he will be able to be released from the hospital, but if he leaves he's going to need some nursing care. why dont you give it some thought and discuss it with jeff. if you would like to see him and speak with the doctor, i will give your name to the NICU. bring your i.d. "

yeah, sure, just go and see him. come on! who could say no then?
hook line and sinker.
reel it in baby.

i head to the NICU with my drivers license. i push the buzzer. the nurse that answers gives me that impatient what do you want? look.
i explain that the social worker sent me, i am a potential foster home for baby antonio. she sweeps me in the door after checking my i.d. and says to another nurse "this is antonio's foster mother" i stammer as i follow her into the unit "umm, potential foster mom" if she hears this, she doesn't acknowledge it. she leads me through the maze of plastic bubbles filled with tiny babies and tubes.
then asks, "have you met him yet?"
"ohhh, wait till you see him, he's beautiful"

so there in a bassinett with tubes, tape and cords lies a tiny, 5 pound, brown baby. his mass of silky black hair is about 2 inches long and stands almost straight up. he is wrapped up like a burrito, sleeping.
i am instructed to sit in the rocker.
in the blink of an eye the nurse has disconnected him from the monitors, swooped him up and handed him to me. then she turns tail and is gone.

here i am left marveling at the smallest child i have ever touched. he is so small i hardly register his weight in my arms. he opens his eyes lazily and looks at me. then, closes them and falls back asleep.
the nurse eventually comes back and i try to figure out where to begin asking questions.

sadly i learn that antonio was born two weeks before i had met him to a teenaged mother who drank and drugged throughout her pregnacy. she received no prenatal care, and waited over 24 hours after her water broke to come to the hospital. doctors estimated antonio's gestational age to be around 34 weeks. he required some oxygen at birth, but breathed spontaneously and was never intubated.

around 8 days of age, he developed what was thought to be necrotizing entercolitis. he was sent by ambulance to denver to the childrens hospital where he stayed for 3 days. the situation resolved itself and he didnt require surgery. he was then transported back to fort collins . when we met him, he was being fed through a nasogastric tube and had had little interest in nippling. the occupational therapist had been working on getting him to recognize the nipple, but with little luck.

i returned daily and sit and hold him. and gaze at him. and marvel at the size of his fingers. i learned that he had two court approved visitors. me and his lawyer.
after a few days, i convince jeff to come and see him.
i was flooded with love and fear.

jeff got the same nurses treatment i got.
sit in the rocker, he was instructed.
only now, i can unhook the monitor and cords and i hand him to jeff.
jeff looked as though he was going to cry.

(this photo is taken a few months later. i believe it to be the day jeff realizes he is in love with his son.)

fast forward 2 weeks. it is memorial day. we are walking to the elevator. we are carrying a diaper bag full of blankets and clothing given to us by the nurses. we are carrying a car seat with a 5 and a half pound baby boy. we look at one another in the parking lot and say
"can you believe they just gave him to us?? what were they thinking?"
we drive directly to our favorite mexican restaurant where jeff orders a margarita.
i hiss at him
"what are you doing??????" because i really want one too.
i am beginning to freak out. how the hell am i supposed to know how to care for this child??

this tiny baby has become a small boy. he is 4 years old today, and somehow we are pulling it off- we're doing it! we're parenting, and he's surviving.
we ditched the name antonio (we believed he needed a clean slate, a fresh start.)
our brown, mexican bean is thriving. we have had small hurdles, but none we havent been able to get over. i imagine we will continue to have challenges, because isnt that what being a parent is all about?

happy birthday buddy! you have changed our world immeasurably.
i cant imagine life without you.


Val said...

He sure is a cutie! I would have taken him too. :-)

Anonymous said...

Big happy birthday to the J-man. Can't wait to give him a birthday squeeze, even if it will be one month later! We can give each other birthday squeezes.
Presents will be late, sorry. World keeps turning faster around here.
Love to all,

Maggie said...

I'm so glad you stumbled across my blog. What a perfect day for me to first read yours; a nice recap in the first post!

Happy birthday to your little guy. Congratulations, 4 years later. Even though my "little" guy is 10 years old he and your son have some similarities -- born from similar situations.

Corey Paradise said...

Antonio Paradise A.K.A. Jaden Coleman A.K.A. the J-man, a man of many names, because one isn't big enough for him! Looking like a fine upstanding wildman of alaska. That nosetube sure takes me back! Hey J, remember the chicago snostorm before you couldn't say much yet, just "dorey" and "noodie" and stuff like that.....happy birthday! when you gonna get that boy a skateboard.

Judy V. said...

You pulled my heart strings today! God Bless you and your husband for giving this little man a fair start in life.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...