The Snuggly Hug

By Darren Main

Note:  I wrote this essay for the Family Builders Adoption Agency Newsletter.  It is because of Family Builders that I an now a father!

Tears poured down my face.  I guess it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise, but for whatever reason, I didn’t see it coming.  The day was sunny and warm and I was having a Snow White sort of morning—I woke to a “snuggly hug” from my son, I bounced around the house preparing for the big day, enjoyed a beautiful bike ride through the park and half-expected a bluebird to land on my shoulder.

Jaden and Darren MainOne year and one month to the day earlier, my world was turned upside down by the arrival of my son Jaden.   I had been thorough the PRIDE training, done a home study and spent countless hours of soul searching in an effort to prepare for single fatherhood.  And then I found myself looking into a crib at San Francisco’s General Hospital.  My heart was so full even as my mind was in a state of shock.

Had I taken a different path to parenthood, all of this joy and fear and anxiety would still be there as I held my son for the first time, but the path I had chosen involved the additional stress of concurrent planning.

It was not a surprise, of course.  The whole idea that my child was both trying to reunite with family while at the same time developing a permanent home with me had been well covered in my PRIDE Training, but the magnitude of this process didn’t hit me I picked him up for the first time and I knew with an absolute certainty that my arms would feel empty forever if my son was not there to fill them.

I’m not sure what I expected, but I figured there would be some sort of a courtship in which I would learn to love him.  I expected the bond to take months or years to form.  But in that moment, my heart opened in a way that I didn’t think was possible.  It was as if Jaden had reached into the center of my being and now held my heart in his tiny hands.

In the weeks that followed I began to realize just how difficult a process concurrent planning actually is.  With every social worker visit, lawyer meeting, court hearing and supervised visit with his birth parents,  I realized that my heart was not in Jaden’s hands at all, but rather in the hands of a legal system that, for all its finer points, wasn’t really concerned with my heart.

Months went by and like any emotional stress, it became the new normal for me—so much so that I simply went on with my life.  I changed diapers, looked into preschools and learned the true meaning of sleep deprivation.   Had the stress of concurrent planning remained on the surface of my mind, I’m not sure I could have done all that needed to be done for Jaden.

And then, after thirteen months of uncertainty, the big day had arrived.  Family and friends gathered at the courthouse to help celebrate as Jaden and I sat before the judge wearing matching ties.  I felt at ease as the judge reviewed the paperwork and asked me to take an oath.  I was at peace as I signed final documents.  Foolishly, I thought, “Wow, that was not so bad.”

And then the judge said Jaden’s new full name for the first time.  All of the fear, all of the uncertainty came pouring out as I knew that Jaden was mine—that he would be my family for the rest of my life and that nothing would ever change that.

Since then many people have asked me if it was worth the emotional risk—would I do it again?  The truth—I would do it again one hundred times over, just know the simple joy of starting even one day with a “snuggly hug” from Jaden!