Another week in our journey has come and gone. John is in the bedroom giving little Lizzie a breathing treatment. The little boys are in bed, big boys are watching TV. Georgia is on a "date" at a school play. I needed to blog tonight.
I needed to blog because as we are four weeks into our new lives with "little ones," more of their story has begun to unfold before us, more of the sad truth about their predicament. Harder for me has been the realization that when we took these precious little ones- we were stepping into unknown territory. And the unknown territory is all because of one little box we checked on the last form of our home study. The question beside that box asks: "Willing to accept legal risk placement?" and we checked "Yes."
Of course, going back to that moment in my mind, our adoption caseworker was very cool and gentle about it. She was awesome after all. I remember sitting on our back porch and she was going over the final "application" to adopt. To the question of ages, we listed all ages up to ten since we had already determined not to upset the birth order already in place with John's three children. For the question of siblings, we checked "yes" and stated that we were willing to accept a group of 2-6 related children. To the question of race, we checked "all" because we truly did not have a preference. And that last question: "willing to accept legal risk placement?" Is the reason we now have C,C, and E.
Going back we wouldn't have done anything differently. We know scores of people who have accepted legal risk placement and now have their children, safely and permanently legally adopted. We have also heard a "few" horror stories, but not enough to scare us from checking that "yes" box.
When we first got that "all important" call about C, C, and E, we felt they would be ours for good. We forgot about checking that little box. We drove blindly and madly to a town nearly two hours away to pick up two dark-haired little boys with runny noses, and one blond little tot with soft chubby cheeks and a funny little smile. We signed some paperwork in the Cracker Barrel Parking lot. We took possession of three car seats, four garbage bags full of clothing and personal belongings, broken toys, stained and worn-out pajamas and outfits that I would never dream of putting on a child. We stuffed all of these things, along with the kids, one bicycle, one pink princess car, three green duffel bags and quite a few plastic superheroes with missing limbs into one car. We didn't have enough time to take a breath or process the depth of this situation, or pause to consider the risk.
We brought home our new kids, introduced them to our existing kids, put everyone to bed and tried to sort through the mounds of junk, limited paperwork, and varying emotions. Lizzie woke us up the first night and I hopped up to rock her in a rocking chair that brought back memories of Jeremiah. I stroked her hair and smelled her baby smell and recalled all the nights I had cried myself to sleep wondering if God would ever hear my cry and give me a baby. Had he given me a baby? No, not in the conventional sense, but for a few nights I forgot that she wasn't mine yet.
My mom came into town and stayed for four nights after I called her in a panic. We had only had two hours notice after all! John took off family medical leave, but it didn't kick in for another week. Alone at the house with three preschoolers, mom and several wonderful church members came to my rescue. The first few days and nights were especially rough. I was so tired! But after mom came and went, and then John was on leave, everything seemed to get a little better. They began calling us "Mommy" and "Daddy." My friend April came to help me out one day and meet the kids. She commented that I had waited so long for a child to call me "Mommy" and now I had three who called me that special name.
But then the next week came. Week two was when the case worker called to arrange a visit with biological mom. We didn't know the whole story, but we began to piece it together with the fragmented information in their files and with what we had been given by DFACS. At the end of week two, another worker called to arrange a visit for the oldest child with his biological dad. Soon we were shuffling the kids around to meet with people who had obviously let them down to some advanced degree in the past. When we told the oldest of his visit with dad, he threw himself in the floor crying and begged not to go. At their second visit with mom, he informed her that "I have a new mommy and daddy now" which did not go over well. At each visit, mom sent more junky toys, more candy, more cheap clothing in the wrong sizes. She sent home garbage bags of Easter candy with labels warning not to give to small children due to choking hazards and chocolate bunnies so old they had turned almost white. Again, we sorted through the "baggage" and pitched what was unacceptable.
And in the past week, I have started feeling this deep fear and sadness. I have to remind myself every day that God is in control of this situation. I would hear one thing from one person involved in the case and I would feel like it was just a matter of time until the termination would take place. Then I would talk to another worker or voice in the case and hear a completely different side of the story. This is just a mess, just a tricky mess. Nothing seems to ever be simple in life. But some grace did come yesterday, through our Families First caseworker, Jocelyn, who took one hour out of her busy life to talk to me and answer all of my questions about the pending court case, birth mom's rights, criminal proceedings, and a lot of legal jargon. She reminded me that we did agree to accept legal risk and that there is no guarantee that these children are here to stay. Then she reminded me of the important role we play in these children's lives right now. "The best thing you can do right now," she told me, "is love them and try to give them the most normal and healthy family situation you can give them at this moment in their lives. Love them the way you would want someone to love your children."
At first that really stung. I wanted to say "but I don't have any children of my own." It reminded me of all the kids I have loved and lost. It reminded me of Peniel and Jeremiah, who's hand prints are all over our home, and who we could not have loved more if they had been born to us. I still can't bear to paint over Jeremiah's drawing on the wall beside the pantry, or his name that is drawn into the wall above the bed he used to occupy. Some of their clothing and toys have now been passed on to these two new little boys. I don't put a shirt on these boys without remembering Jeremiah wearing it on the first day of Kindergarten, or to church one Sunday. And I know that when we took those two sweet boys, we were also taking a risk. We loved them with all we had, with complete devotion, but we couldn't keep them. In the end, we lost them, but our love for them will never go away.
So we will love again because love is worth the risk. We don't know how long they will be ours. I pray it is forever, and I pray that we were wise to take the risk again. For them, tonight, right now, they are part of this family. And in my heart they always will be, no matter what.
Please pray for us.