Darcy Olsen Stuns on PBS Special
It’s my first day as a licensed foster mom when I get a call to go to the hospital and pick up a baby girl. So I race over to the hospital, and I make my way through this huge labyrinth of a medical center, but I’m early, and to my relief, over to the right is a small chapel.
I go in, fall to my knees, and start praying and crying, really sobbing, because I’m absolutely terrified. The only thing I know about this baby girl is that she has spent the first two weeks of her life on a morphine drip.
So I’m praying for her future, and I’m praying that I will be enough.
I’d always wanted children, but I was going to do everything in order: an engagement, a wedding, and a baby.
And, in fact, in my 30s, I was so confident that this was my plan that I went out and bought an S.U.V. to fill it with my future children. And while I still believe in positive thinking, that S.U.V. didn’t end up manifesting any of those things.
So I’m praying that I’ll be enough because it’s just me. And in that moment in the chapel, my courage comes from knowing that somewhere upstairs in this hospital is a baby girl who, right now, has no one.
And I have to be enough because I’m who there is.
I make my way up to the NICU, see this beautiful, beautiful baby, but she can’t be five pounds wet, and I’m about to tell the nurse that there is no way this baby is ready to go home. But the nurse is so calm and collected, she just diapers this baby, changes her, swaddles her up tightly, and hands her to me. I mean, it was like she was part of a NASCAR pit crew. She was so confident with this baby.
And I take her and say, “Okay, like, now what?”
And she says, “You take her home.”
Now, if I seem a little surprised by all of this, it’s because I really was. Like I said, I’d always really wanted a family, but by this point, I thought that window had closed.
And it wasn’t just that I was almost 40. I was a workaholic C.E.O. of a multimillion-dollar organization, and I was still single. But some months before this, I had been praying, and I felt inspired to become a foster parent. I have no other way to describe the feeling I had to turn my life completely on its head and open my home to a child. But I know that when the spirit speaks to your heart, you listen.
And so I thought, okay, I can, like, take in teenagers because my mom had had one of those surprise babies who I’d helped as a teenager. So I had a new plan, and I went into the foster care agency, the orientation, and they said, “You can’t foster a teen. Your loft doesn’t have the right kind of door, but we would be so grateful if you would put a crib at the foot of your bed.”
And I was, like, “A crib for, like, a baby?”
(laughter) And she said, “Yeah,” and I said, “Don’t you have any, like, married couples? Like, two-parent families who can take care of these babies better?”
And that’s when I learned that the number of infants entering foster care was at an all-time high, largely due to the opioid epidemic, and a lot of would-be foster or even adoptive parents were not open to taking these infants.
And there were so many going into the system, she said, that they were sleeping overnight in shelters and government office buildings downtown. And I pictured a newborn under the glare of those horrible red exit signs, crying, and crying, and no one coming.
So I said, “Sure, I can take a baby.”
Back at the hospital, I put this little baby in the car seat, and they insist on wheeling us out in a wheelchair, which is really weird because I didn’t just have a baby.
(laughter) This kid isn’t even mine.
(laughs) But that’s how me and this baby girl started our journey and our wild ride in life together.
About six months later, I learned that she can’t go home, and I’m asked if I would like to adopt her.
And I should tell you that I really thought hard about this decision. I was absolutely exhausted. I was going to work, and then I would come home and do the night shift with the baby, and then the midnight feed, the 3:00 a.m. feed, the 6:00 a.m. feed, and I wake up and do it all again. Not to mention the extra medical appointments, the court appointments, the social workers coming in, and I was just exhausted. So I should tell you that I really thought about what to do with this baby.
But the truth is, she was the easiest decision I’ve ever made. She was my calling, and I was the only mother she’d ever known.
So I did what any mother would do, and I kept her.