I felt lost.
Almost like a zombie with no direction, no purpose. I grieved heavily and I said no to every placement offered after that. I felt like a physical piece of my soul had been torn off and taken to West 3rd Street with Piper and Micah.
Brittany invited me to see the children twice in the first couple of weeks that followed their reunification. We met at a park and I sat on a bench beside Brittany, overcome with joy. As the wind blew in the trees around us, I felt my heart soar watching Piper squeal in happiness on the swings.
“This is wonderful, Brittany. You are a good mother. They look so happy.” I watched Micah trying to pull up on the bench beside us.
Neither of us smiled. We sat fully in the experience that bound us to one another. Joy and sadness intermixed as we watched the scene before us.
“Thank you. I’m thankful they had you as a foster parent.” She didn’t look at me, but kept her head down. “I’m doing really well. Saw Ellen a few days ago because she has to check up on us every once in awhile. I’m glad I made it to this moment. There were days I wasn’t sure I was going to ever see them again.”
She remained guarded the rest of our time together, but I felt the peace surround us like a cloud. Keeping our guard up was understandable, given the situation we had found ourselves in.
I was able to squeeze and hug the kids until we had to say goodbye, but it would never be enough.
There was never enough time for kisses and hugs. I watched Brittany get them situated in their carseats. When she turned around to wave at me, my heart squeezed in my chest.
It was the last time I ever saw her.
I felt myself slip into a depression when I didn’t hear from her for two weeks. I tried to call with no response. I reached out to Ellen, but I wasn’t given any information. I was told, “She can contact you if she wishes. I’m sorry it’s happening like this right now. Just give it time.”
Mentally, I drove myself crazy. I replayed all the moments I braided Piper’s beautiful dark curls. I replayed Micah snubbing in my ear after I picked him up and he would immediately calm down. I could still feel his blankie. I could still feel Piper’s hands in mine.
Thanks to advice from my mom, I learned to move forward in my days. But I wasn’t well inside. I grieved the children- and even Brittany- as a death although everyone was still alive. I went to a Christian counselor.
Best thing I could’ve done for myself.
I started to grieve and heal. I learned coping skills I thought I knew but had forgotten in the midst of this darkness. I felt my future held purpose again. I could love again. I knew I still had the desire to adopt. I just needed to give myself time to heal.
Eight months passed. One day after work, I was enjoying a cup of tea while reading a magazine when the phone rang. I picked it up and recognized Ellen on the other end of the line.
“Heather? Hi, I hope you’re well. I need to talk to you about the Brown children.”
My voice caught in my throat. A pit of turmoil began to form in my stomach. I sat upright while she continued talking.
“I have been following up with Brittany to offer additional resources once the case was closed. That went on for a few weeks. Well, I couldn’t get in touch with her after about a month of those meetings. Long story short, she moved 600 miles away and ended up leaving her kids with a second cousin, Tabitha. Brittany went missing.”
She paused and I took a second to gather my thoughts. I could hardly believe she was calling me and telling me this.
“The kids didn’t stay with Tabitha long. She took them to a homeless shelter and they went back into the system. Tabitha didn’t want kids but couldn’t find Brittany. I honestly think she thought it was temporary, like a babysitter situation. We’ll probably never know what happened in their exchange.”
I couldn’t speak. She sighed heavily before she went on. “So the kids have been in three different foster homes over the last five months. There was some questionable neglect and/or abuse in the first two homes. They are currently with an older single lady who adores them. But two days ago, she found your letter in the back of Micah’s book. It overwhelmed her. She wanted to reach out to you. Do you have time to talk about next steps?”
My world shifted like an avalanche as I held tightly to my phone. Tears threatened to spill and I choked back a sob. Was this really happening? I’d waited so long to just hear one word about Piper and Micah. Now I was taking in more information than I could hardly bear.
I closed my eyes, my heart thumping in my chest. “Can I see them?”
She holds tightly to my hand.
Her little eyes peer up at me, more guarded now. Less trusting. I can’t expect anything more given the trauma she’s experienced. My heart swells with love. Joy bubbles up inside me to the point I can’t express it. Could a person die from the overwhelming feeling of love? I’d felt this before with God.
He loved me like this.
Micah regressed, and is now back to crawling. It’s only a matter of time before he’ll be back to walking again. I’ll never forget how he’d come straight into my arms and nuzzled right under my chin. A place he belongs. He found old familiarity.
Today was our Gotcha Day.
I ache for all that was lost. I ache for Brittany and the choices that led us here. She was finally found, still living out of state, but terminated her parental rights easily. She was pregnant again. I’d never stop believing the best for her. I truly wanted her to find hope and joy and happiness. I could be mad at how she abandoned her kids again and put them in harm’s way, but I’ll never know what drove her to that point. Only God knew.
The reality is, she was designed with beautiful purposes too. She was beloved by her Creator.
God’s grace and purposes weren’t just for people who had their life together. Brittany just needed to grab ahold of them and claim what was rightfully hers.
I would always hold hope for her.
I prayed we could be in touch. I wanted my children to know their biological mother. It’s important to us all to know where we came from. I planned to put in the effort for Piper and Micah to know her, whether she ignored us or not. Every month, I saved pictures in an envelope for her. Maybe one day I could give it to her and show her how they’d grown.
Gotcha Day meant joy and sadness intermixed. My familiar dichotomy.
My happiness came on the wings of loss and that was a hard truth.
But, mostly I was overcome by gratitude. I’d chosen to walk in the valley with these kids and their mom. I’d chosen to love despite my fears. I’d chosen to sacrifice my desires. I’d chosen to go against societal norms of what a family is “supposed” to look like. My mom had told me to be proud of myself, but maybe I was just thankful that God had used my life in such a way.
I am just thankful for the day I chose to open my arms- and then open my hands.
I loved my family. I could never be more grateful for the gifts God had given me. I reached down and smoothed back Piper’s dark hair.
Yes, my love. We can do hard things.
Thank you for reading my fictional story of a Foster Parent scenario. I wrote this piece for the goal of raising awareness- stepping into another person’s shoes. Choosing to love despite the risk of loss. I wanted to create a possible foster care voyage into the brokenness, grief, sacrifice, healing, and the love that is evident from such a journey. Because love does hard things. And we all know that the hard things in life are always worth it.
“I urge you, therefore, to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,” (Ephesians 4:1-2, ESV)
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is coincidental.