I tried to write something upbeat and lighthearted today. I really did. But the truth is, I am having one of those introspective, deep thinking, my burdens are too heavy, one set of footprints days. You know the kind? It's all just a bit too much and still not as much as many others are enduring. It will pass as all these things do. The sun will shine again and life will resume its normal nuttiness because God is great like that and he promises good things to follow bad and so we can tell the difference we have to endure both.
The reason for my woe is me baditude? Well, about 10 years ago I was faced with a decision that changed not only my life but the lives of all the people I love. It was hard in the truest sense of the word. My 13 month old niece, Abigail Grace and and 6 week old nephew, Kenneth Michael had been taken from their birth mother and placed in protective custody. My mom took them initially but was unable to keep them. I was asked to step in. Kinsey's dad and I had been separated for about six months. I was just beginning a relationship with Richard. I had enrolled in college as a 26 year old single mom with a 21 credit hour schedule in my first semester and was working part time as the craft and fabric department manager at a craft store where I was responsible for finishing display works for the items in my departments. I was barely holding together my little family of three. Both kids were adjusting to a new home and only one full time parent. I was overwhelmed and suddenly had two more babies who depended on me for everything. Our lives were chaos. Daycare and school, dinner, homework, baths, and bedtime then up til 2 or 3 every morning doing my own homework. Kenny had reflux and would projectile vomit several times a night then wake up crying. Abbey would usually wake up when she heard Kenny and she shared a room with Kinsey so every time she woke up so did Kinsey, who had just started Kindergarten. We were living on a fixed income and the financial burden was tough but we survived. I juggled everything for a couple of months. Not long enough to perfect our schedules but long enough to realize I was not effectively parenting anyone. I called the caseworker, crying so hard she could hardly understand what I was saying, and told her I couldn't do it. Then I laid on the floor next to my bed for hours crying and praying.
The caseworker told me all about the new foster family. I checked with everyone I knew in the system and was told over and over again how well the babies would be cared for. The day I dropped them off I packed all their freshly laundered things in a box with the fleece blankets I had made for them, buckled them into their carseats and just drove until they fell asleep. I watched their little faces in the rear view mirror and thought over and over again that I could change my mind at any time. I carried Kenny in first, sleeping in his infant car seat. Then I picked Abbey up and snuggled her against me, relishing the weight of her in my arms. I carried her in and her new foster mom told me to lay her in the pack n play. I laid her there and the tears began to flow. I knew when she woke up she would cry for me. She would wonder where she was and why I had left her. She wouldn't understand. She would never, ever understand how I could do that. And neither would I. I had watched her come into the world, was in the room when she was born. She trusted me and loved me. And I left her there. With strangers. For the next year or so I provided respite care for the kids, I requested them on special weekends and for family events. I supervised visits with their parents and wrote reports for the court. I attended FST meetings and I stayed involved. And then my schedule became more hectic and Richard asked me to marry him and we were planning a wedding. I went on with my life. Their foster mom stopped asking me to keep them. When I saw them at ballgames they hid their faces and acted like I was a stranger. It hurt but I thought it was good. I thought they had found their family and they would be safe, loved. Richard and I began trying to have a baby of our own. It didn't happen right away. I was sure it was because God had given me two beautiful babies already and I had given them away. Then I don't know exactly what happened but suddenly they had been adopted. By another family. People we had never met. People we didn't know anything about. They were no longer living in our community. We no longer ran into them on a regular basis. My daughter didn't share classes with their foster sister anymore. I lost contact and control and could no longer pretend that the choice I made didn't affect every one of us. I think of them all the time. I ask about them often but no one really has the hard answers I want...what are they like, are they happy, are their parents kind, do they love them for real? Like mothers and fathers should? And every day in my job I see kids damaged by broken bonds in adoption and foster care. Angry and hurting and broken because the people God chose for them ultimately could not care for them. Whatever the reason. And the truth haunts me. Was I chosen for them? Did I choose to ignore that? Should I have given up other things, like school and work to care for them? I don't know if I will ever know. And a part of me doesn't want to because I can reason it all away. But in reality I look at Alayna, my sweet baby girl and I think of Abbey, roughly the same age and how it would feel to walk away from her now and I don't know how I did it. Was I so completely exhausted and depleted that it was self preservation or was it just plain selfish? I pray for them every single day. I always will. Just as I pray for my own children. Richard has told me many times that if I had kept Abbey and Kenny we would not have had our own children. It would not have been financially feasible for us. Would I trade Ethan and Alayna for the world? NO!! But would God provide for however many children He blessed us with, biological or other...I believe He would have. Given the choice now, with a wonderful husband, a roof over our heads, an education to fall back on, a stable job, there would be no question. Of course I would raise them. No questions asked. Of course I would. And that is the thing that haunts me. How 10 years can make so much difference.