ashal emmanuel’s adoption story | part 1

by lani


12/17/2012  12:55pm

Hi Joel & Lani,
Please call me when you can.


and so it began.

45 minutes earlier, we had received an email from the very same gayle at christian family adoptions, informing us that things had been slow at the agency lately, and could she please send our profile to yet another partner agency in the south?

2 days earlier, we had finished our mourning rituals for the anniversary of sky gabriel’s death and birth. those posts, which are important for setting the stage for this story, are here: one, two, three, four, and five.

9 days earlier, baby boy P was born, 6lbs 8oz, to a young woman in florida who chose to seek adoption for her son.

joel, at work at the time, received the email first, and by the time i had my phone in hand he was already on the phone with gayle. he called me immediately afterward and passed on the news … there’s a baby in florida born a week ago; he is of haitian and african american descent; he’s in a foster home; relinquishments are all signed; he has been substance exposed, but we don’t know how much; he seems calm and healthy; do we want him?

that’s it.
that was all the information.

“um … i guess … i don’t see why not. do you?”
“how sure is it?”
“i think it’s pretty sure.”
“i guess i’ll call gayle back and tell her yes?”

we were both in shock. i stumbled out of our room into the kitchen, where two of our housemates were chatting. wide-eyed, i managed to say, to myself as much as to them, “i think we’re parents,” and receive several enthusiastic hugs before catching my breath.

the florida agency required that we receive certain documents to review before they would accept our “yes,” and it looked unlikely that we would receive them that business day. we finished the day with an assurance that we would receive the documents tomorrow, and this 9 second video, which i showed to everyone who entered our house, preceded by “want to see our baby?!?”

i’m not sure how we managed to sleep that night, but somehow we did, and monday came to a close.


the whole week up until we left for florida felt like a big sleepover party at our house. it was almost christmas, and in addition to our regular housemates we had former housemates and friends visiting and staying over most nights. tuesday morning we awoke to several girls sleeping in the living room, a busy day, the promise of another email – this time from florida, and snow!

sky ashal 080 sky ashal 092sky ashal 097

months earlier, i had scheduled this day to have sky’s footprints tattooed on my feet. i decided to go through with it despite all the excitement, and throughout the morning, as i was having this done, we were communicating with the agency in florida. it is impossible to put words to the range of emotion bound up in this experience. it was a rite of passage, an archway from the desert into the land of abundance.

sky ashal 110

there are a number of reasons i chose to memorialize sky in this way.

sky ashal 114

it is representative of my binding commitment to live with the constant reminder of death, because that which is limited is precious.

sky ashal 120

it proclaims that another human dwelt here and left his mark on my heart and flesh; a small person spent all the days of his life within the universe of my body.

sky ashal 126

these prints are a reminder that every step i take brings me one step closer to being with sky, and as the lines of his footprints fade into the lines of my feet, the day when we will be together becomes clearer. at the time, each line of sky’s baby foot branded onto mine brought us seconds closer to certainty with the little baby in florida, too.

sky ashal 123joel, waiting for the procedure to memorialize our first son; waiting for the email to accept our second son. seconds stretched to infinity during those moments of pain and anticipation.

sky ashal 128finally we received the email. it contained precious little information about this baby boy P, but at that point we already knew what our decision would be. joel left to fax our consenting signatures, and i stayed, voluntarily trapped on a stretcher at the apex of memory and hope, of pain and joy, of loss and gain.

sky ashal 132IMAG0176i will never regret the choice to engage fully in grief while simultaneously choosing to leap into the wild uncertainty of new relationship. this was one of life’s mountaintop moments. crystal clarity and bitter cold and triumph and hardship all mixed together in profound ambivalence.

it hurt so good.

sky ashal 140

12-18-2012  12:26pm
From: Gayle
To: me; lanimaria

Hi Joel & Lani,

Here is all the info that is available at this time.  Please let me know if you would like to go forward and accept the referral of this baby.

12-26-2012  12:32pm
From: me
To: Gayle; lanimaria

Yes Gayle we would

to be continued …