I have been slowly mulling over a couple of blogs I read a month or so ago. These days my thoughts are scattered and interrupted by the nearly constant needs of my small children. It takes time to formulate my random thoughts into cohesive ideas. It takes even more time to find the time to sit down uninterrupted and write them down. So forgive me if they are not fully processed or if nap ends in the middle of my post.
I recently read an article by Dr. John DeGarmo called My Grief Is Real: The Tears of a Foster Parent. As a foster mom I have cried many tears over my kids who moved on. I usually cried those tears the first time we found out they wouldn’t be staying in our family. And God faithfully comforted me each time as we began to work toward helping that child move on to the next phase of their life. Dr. DeGarmo’s article is a very encouraging article if you are in the midst of this phase of your journey…one of moving kids to the next phase.
But I am no longer in that phase of my journey. My family has moved on toward the next phase, where our kids will not be moving on from our family. We adopted Daniel last November after two years as his foster parents. And we are moving forward in the process with Girly K and Baby K and will, Lord willing, be adopting them this summer. Reading DeGarmo’s article made me think about the differences in the tears I cried for our kiddos who moved on and my three youngest kiddos. There were tears of grief for the kiddos that I didn’t get to keep, that we said goodbye to. But those tears didn’t last very long. We met daddies and cousins and friends who loved our babies and we could easily see God’s hand in moving the kiddos on.
For my youngest three kids, especially Daniel, I have cried many more tears. Tears for Daniel as we experienced the back and forth of if he would stay or if he would move. Once we knew he was staying we cried tears for him that he will never live with his birth mom again. He has a bond with her that I can not understand in my rational mind…to love someone who has done such harm to you. I cry tears for him as I anticipate the hard conversations we will have with him about her. My tears aren’t all for Daniel. I cry a lot of tears for myself. Parenting Daniel is hard. I cry because I will be his mommy forever and I will have to be the one to have the hard conversations. I will be the one he will hate for taking him away from his birth mom I will be the one he yells at in anger, “You’re not my real mom, I wish you’d never adopted me!” I have a different kind of grief and tears for Daniel. I grieve the pain in his heart and I grieve the pain in my heart as I struggle to love him the best that I can, knowing that it will be forever, knowing that it may always be hard. I cry tears for two oldest kids. I cry that we have given them a difficult brother. I cry for the sweet times I miss out on with them because I have to give them space away from him when he is being mean or aggressive with them. I cry for the loss of the simple, impulsive life we used to live and will never be able to live again. I grieve that they no longer get to have that.
I love my Daniel and I prayed so hard that God would let us keep him. We see tremendous growth in him and he is a delight to call my own. But I am not naive about the journey we face. I know that it will have it’s ups and downs. I have no doubt in my mind that God brought us to this specific time and place. And though I cry a lot of tears I know that He is here with me in the midst of all of them. He does not judge me when I cry tears of anger because Daniel is hitting and scratching and kicking me because I did not give him his black coat because I don’t know where it was. God is with me when I cry tears of grief over the loss of time with Joanna and Sam or Kirk. God is with me when I cry heart-broken tears when he says he hates me because I gave him a consequence for disobedience or he says he feels safest with his mama (his birth mom) because she gave him bottles (though I know the truth about how she treated him). These are the tears that I cry now. Yet God is my comforter.
I was thinking about these things, saying yes to loving Daniel as a son forever, despite the many tears, as I read a blog post by a friend from church, Kim Rankin. She talks about Being Brave. “Perhaps bravery is not the absence of fear, but the refusal to be paralyzed by it. Perhaps there is bravery in admitting we are scared. Perhaps recognizing we need help is the bravest thing of all.” There is a special kind of bravery that God gives us that leads us to do things that the world would call foolish. Bravery for me is saying YES with all of my heart to Daniel even though I know in my mind that it will not be an easy journey.
*Author’s Note: D is up from his nap so this is an unedited and pre-proofread version of the post…unlikely to be edited later. 🙂
I made the comment to Kirk last night that sometimes I wish we had been able to have D since he was born. We were thinking back over the various children God has brought in and out of our life and the journey that He has taken us on in order to get us to where we are today. On the day that D was born, we weren’t ready yet to be his parents. Four and a half years ago, when D was born, if he had entered foster care we wouldn’t have been there to be his placement. We didn’t want to be foster parents, we wanted to be adoptive parents.
Sam and B
Three month before D was born we took in a pre-adoptive placement. One month into our journey we became foster parents as the court decided to try to get the kids back with their mom. This proved to be 6 of the hardest months of my life. We learned that some moms desperately want to be good moms but just haven’t been taught how. They love their kids but seem to be unable to get stable enough to provide their kids with what they need. After 6 months we had to ask for the kids to be moved, we struggled through the guild of that decision and closed our foster/adoptive license saying we would never foster again (at this point D was 3 months old).
Adoption Blanket for baby S
By the time D was 1 year old we had decided to pursue private adoption and were working on our private home study through a local foster agency. By the time D was 18 months old we had been matched with a mom and were taking home her baby from the hospital. A week later we were driving to her house to give the baby back. We spent the next six months trying to figure out what God was doing in our lives and asking Him lots of “why” questions.
By the time D was 2 years old, we had decided to foster. We’d re-taken the 9 weeks of classes to become licensed and switched our adoptive home study into a foster home study. And taken in our first placement. We still stay in contact with Baby Girl M’s father. I asked God for a clear sign that fostering was the right path for us and He gave us M. She was delightful. Her father was grateful. We had spent months healing from the pain of feeling like God had used and abused us in our previous situations. We began to see more and more the dire need for foster families. In the two years that we’ve fostering we’ve had 8 placements (and done respite for several more).
Little D (a few months after he joined us)
After baby girl M who went home to her dad after a couple of months. We had her in the spring. That summer we had baby boy J who went to a friend of the family. That summer we also decided not to pursue twin girls J and J. We did respite care for them for several weeks and enjoyed them so much. This was the biggest conflict of our marriage so far. That fall, on my birthday, we took in Little D. If D had come into care when he was born, we wouldn’t have been ready for him. It’s been a long, hard journey, but I am so thankful for the work that God has patiently been doing on our hearts to bring us the the place where we’d be ready to step in and become his parents.
Little D’s chicken, Snow White, went “broody” about a month ago…this means she started collecting eggs and sitting on them to hatch them. Unfortunately, without a rooster none of our eggs can hatch, I’ll spare you the chicken reproductive system. We drove out to Duda Lang Farm and bought a dozen fertilized eggs and put them under Snow White. Twenty-one days later we were supposed to have cute little chicks following their mama around as she teaches them how to eat and drink and survive in the world.
By the end of day 1 we were down two eggs…eaten by other hens while Snow White got up for a quick nibble of food and to stretch her legs. (A broody hen sits on her clutch of eggs day and night for 21 days, turning them every 15 minutes to help them develop properly.) We started keeping a closer eye on them, especially whenever Snow White got up for her brief daily meal. After a couple of weeks eggs started to disappear. We’re not sure what was happening but by “hatch” day we were down to only 3 eggs.
On Thursday night, before I went to bed I checked the eggs and found that two of them had a little crack, “pip”, in them (an air hole) showing that they would hatch soon. The next day we anxiously watched and waiting as one of the eggs slowly opened more and more. It was almost all the way open when we decided to have lunch and nap time. After nap time when we went to check on the new chick…it was gone. All that was left was half of a shell. We suspect that another hen ate it.
So we blocked off the other hens in an attempt to save the next chick. We waiting excitedly all day and finally after dinner it made it’s appearance. A floppy little black chick cracked out of it’s egg, exhausted but triumphant. We kept a careful eye on Snow White to make sure she was careful with her new little chick. All was well as we put the littlest three kids to bed. We let the big kids hold the 1 hour old chick before they went to bed. When Kirk and I checked on it before we went to bed it had been smothered under Snow White. The third egg turned out to be a dud and had died before even hatching.
This day was such an emotional roller-coaster. The highs of watching the eggs slowly hatching. The lows of checking on them to find death and an empty nest. The next day we went back out to the farm and I debated and debated whether to get young chicks to give to Snow White (apparently we could sneak them under her at night and she’d wake up and assume they’re hers). “Maybe I can teach her to be a good mama hen. Maybe if they’re a little bigger she won’t smoosh them. Maybe if there’s more of them she’ll be a better protector.” In the end we got six week old chicks…just about the age that chicks are off on their own and the mama starts laying eggs again for her next clutch. It wasn’t worth the risk. Snow White was not a good mama. She didn’t keep her eggs safe enough to develop properly into chicks. She didn’t keep the eggs or chicks safe from the other hens. She wasn’t able to keep them safe from herself.
Coincidentally, as we’ve been having discussions with Little D about Snow White being a good mama to sit on her eggs and keep them safe and warm, we’ve also begun conversations with him about adoption. Adoption in general, and specifically his adoption into our family. This weekend, as we watched Snow White’s patient sitting on her eggs come to nothing…we talked with Little D about how he will not be able to live with his birth mom again. Snow White was unable to keep her eggs safe and provide them will all that they need to survive in the world. Little D’s birth mom was unable to keep him safe and provide him with all that he will need to survive in this world. We told him that since he can’t go back to live with his birth mom we were asked if he could keep living with us and be part of our family forever. And we said, “YES! We would love to have his as a part of our family forever.” We told him that since we picked out names for Joanna and Sam when they were born and so we had picked out a new name for him too. We were going to change his name to Daniel. He asked if he was going to have Daddy’s name and was very excited that he would be a Ward forever. The court system is moving slowly, but the movement is forward. We hope to have an adoption date before the end of the year.
Daniel with “White Head”