It will soon be two years, and I still haven’t talked much about it. The shock, the pain, the grief, the sadness, the rage. Even amongst ourselves we don’t speak of the deep hurt that descended on us, and there is much I can’t speak of because it isn’t mine to tell.
In one phone call of decisions made completely apart from the fullness of hearts with great hopes and dreams, life changed.
Have you had those moments? As time goes by they are pivotal in your memory. There is the before… and the after…, and in your mind your whole world turns around those moments of grave events or choices or decisions.
Baby A was coming up on two months old, her little personality blossoming, her relationships with each of us unique and special. I can’t say the whole family was as in love with her as I was, but all were being charmed by her eager smiles, and not one of us suspected we only had a few short days left with her.
Even when the turnover date was affirmed, I was numb at its suddenness. From my point of view, there had been every reason to hope that eventually my daughter might be able to adopt this child. There had been no contact with her birth mom, though the agencies involved were trying. There were no problems with Baby A that indicated she wasn’t being cared for in a better than expected way. The reason they were taking this infant out of my daughter’s home was because there was a need to place her in a different foster home.
Because they had discovered that she has a brother!
When I first heard about Big Brother I didn’t connect that they would want to put the children together in the same home, because I assumed he was being cared for by family. I don’t know details, but they quickly found that he was in need of placement somewhere safe and loving. And my daughter wasn’t able to take in a five-year-old boy as well as a baby. So the alternative the agencies pursued was to find another foster home that could take them both.
We were still clueless, while they were seeking out the right home for these siblings who didn’t yet know about each other. Searching through lists on computers, making phone calls, setting up meetings, deciding what day would work to pick up the children.
And then a call to my daughter. And our world came to a screeching halt.
She was so new to fostering that even though she knew this could happen, there was no frame of reference for anything she should or could do to question or delay the inevitable. And in the end, there wasn’t. Because these children do not yet belong.
Try telling that to people who are all in, who are loving hysterically, who don’t have an “off” button.
I can’t speak to what other people felt, though I was in it with them and saw the tears and heard the anguish in their voices. I can’t tell what my teenagers felt to have fallen in love with this child and now to have to somehow give her up and be ok with it. We weren’t ok.
I can’t say how people can work in agencies that move children around like pieces on a game board, distancing themselves from the heartache the children must feel when the familiar feel and smell and sound of the people who have cared for them disappears in an instant. From my point of view there is much about this system that is cold and uncaring and oblivious to what is truly best for the children and the people providing a home for them.
What I can tell is what went through my mind. A punch to the gut. Disbelief. Denial, and a hope that they would reconsider. Hurt for my daughter, for my kids, for my husband, for myself.
I was carried back 19 years before when I lost a baby through miscarriage. There were similarities that I didn’t want to relive. The initial pains, the disbelief that after waiting 7 long years we could possibly be losing this baby, continuing on with my plans for three days, denying that anything bad could happen to my baby. Pleading with God to protect this child. And then having to finally admit that I was helpless to stop what was going to happen.
And in both situations, my mind switched from groveling in what was happening to figuring out what I could do next.
Within minutes after I lost my baby I felt God give me some specific instructions of things to do, which gave us ways to grieve and eventually share our experience with other people going through the same situation.
With Baby A, I knew we needed to keep loving her as fully as we had been, and we needed to be able to send with her evidence of that love, of her place in our family, in our hearts, no matter what happened to her. Foster parents keep a life book for each child, documenting all the things any parent likes to have records of, so that wherever they go there will be an ongoing record of milestones, illnesses, doctor visits, achievements, and the writing and thoughts of their caregivers.
So we worked together to make a scrapbook of Baby A’s first two months with my daughter, madly printing pictures and laying out pages to assemble, at least one of us working nonstop for the next couple of days. There were clothes to be packed, blankets and wash rags and toys, books and bottles and formula. Her things. The scent of our familiar hands on them.
The day came after a fitful night of sleeping on the floor next to her bed. The last bath. The last pictures. Heads turned for the tears before the next last time of holding her to see herself in the mirror, see her favorite pictures on the wall.
There is so much more I want to tell, but I see that this post is going long, and I want to respect the time you have taken to read this. So I am going to stop here in the story, and pick up tomorrow with part 2. I won’t make you wait a whole week, but this story deserves to be told more fully than I can do it in this short space.
I want to leave you with one of my very favorite passages to mull over until tomorrow, a passage that has touched my life in many different ways over the years. As you read it, maybe you will think how it applies to your own life, to your own before… and after… pivot points. And if you’ve never read it before, let it cover you like a warm blanket, soothing your own hurting places. Because it’s written to you by God, who loves you no matter what you are going through, who loves you like this:
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 The Message (MSG)
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.