I watched the sunlight beam a million rays on her dark curls, the cool breeze of winter’s end swirling around us.
She held my hand and looked up at me with big brown eyes, a questioning look on her face. Inside? She seemed to ask.
“Yes my, love, we are going inside.” I ached to pick her up and carry her far away, never to return to the nightmare facing us.
Pushing back the torrent of tears ready to tip me over the edge, I closed the back door behind us, sat her on my lap at the kitchen table, and turned to face her. I sighed, unable to speak and looked around. We heard low voices coming from the living room.
A pile of memories flowed through me: silly food fights, the echo of laughter through the walls, the warmth of utter happiness. We’d turned this house into a home.
The memories faded as the voices grew closer.
I snuggled into her neck, taking in the scent of her toddler skin, then I turned her face toward mine. “You have to go with Ms. Taylor right now. You’re going to stay with someone else for awhile. But I need you to know you are my heart and soul and I love you very much.” I squeaked the words out, tears escaping from the corners of my eyes.
They were coming.
My days are spent with the humdrum of normal societal activities. I work, I make dinner, I spend time with family, and take yearly vacations. I live in the suburbs and I drive a sedan that practically everyone else drives.
But inside, my soul is tender and quiet. It’s been changed in a way I can’t explain. My drive for success is no longer what fuels me. My need for the ideal family—marriage, kids, a dog, the white picket fence—is no longer what fills me.
I’ve stepped into a world that shattered me in the best and worst of ways.
Here’s my story.
Two years ago, I called my county’s foster care agency and I told them my interest in being a single foster mom with intent to adopt. They received me well and I finished my paperwork at record speed. I heard nothing back for a solid three months.
Did I do my paperwork right? Was there a child for me?
My life was in a good place.
In my early 30’s, I’d been working for years as a nanny to a handful of families I’d come to love. Kids were my life. I never walked into a house as a nanny without giving 100% of who I was to them. And when it was time to leave, I carried a piece of them in my heart. Always.
That was exactly how I felt about fostering. Any child coming through that door would get all of me. It’s unnatural to assume otherwise.
One day while nannying, it hit me as I watched the four-year-old playing in a fort I’d just built. I wanted to adopt a child of my own. Adoption had been in my heart for as long as I could remember.
My arms felt empty, I felt longing. I wanted to put a baby to sleep at night, to whisper prayers and dreams in their ears. I wanted the sick cuddles, the endless conversations around the dinner table. I wanted the teenage drama, the never-ending bond between a mom and child in this life and into the next. To have the ability to say, “I love you” and “you are mine,” just the way God spoke to me was my heart’s cry.
The last guy I’d dated in my late twenties had been par for the course and I’d been single since. I wasn’t interested in getting married at the moment. But being a mom had always, always been there.
I remember talking with my case worker Ellen about options in fostering. For awhile, my rose-colored glasses fit just fine. “Yes, well, I’d really prefer to adopt.” She didn’t smile at that, but she did sigh.
I recognize now that the goal of foster care is not adoption. I know sometimes it’s in the best interest of the child to be with their biological families if restoration and a healthy environment can be possible. It’s not always the case, but I get it.
Ellen asked me a lot of questions regarding preferences of children, but I honestly didn’t have any, and it surprised me that most people did.
Because I was single, I’d received some push back from friends, family, and church members. “What you’re doing isn’t fair to the child you may end up with. How could you have a child that will never have a father?”
Not one to be rude or assertive, I thought to myself, ‘Fair?! How is it fair this child doesn’t have anyone?’
I took it in stride, but it never deterred me. “I understand your concern, but for me, I am not choosing to have a child without a father. I am loving a child who already doesn’t have one. Who doesn’t have anyone.”
Also, how do you know this child will never have a father? I could still get married one day, I thought. I rolled my eyes just thinking about it.
It was surprising where the support came from. People I didn’t know closely came out of the woodworks to pray and encourage my new endeavor. My church had been a rock for me for years. My Christian faith started about ten years prior to my decision to foster, but I can’t say my relationship with God was always in the greatest place. And maybe not even in the greatest place at the time of my decision.
I knew it would be hard. I took the fostering classes, talked to so many people. Listened to the podcasts, the sermons. Read the books.
But I didn’t realize the depth of my emotions and how quickly my heart would be tethered to these little ones.
One day, shortly after I received the news that I would be receiving an eight-month-old girl of mixed ethnicities with a sibling on the way, my foster case worker sat across from me shifting stacks of papers.
“Oh, I need to let you know that some of the information you received was incorrect.”
Excuse me? My mind began to wander into a direction of no return. My palms started to sweat. I made no moves, said nothing. My hopes were so high.
Ellen continued, “I know they told you the family wasn’t involved at all. Well, the parents are not technically involved, but the mother is still required visitation with Piper.” She peered down over her glasses, and looked at me somberly, waiting for my reaction. I immediately thought of how endearing she was. But honestly, I was relieved. This news was better than what I was expecting.
Already, I’d had my hopes up and crashed from two other potential cases that didn’t work out. I’d had my heart set on the first one, but he was taken to a different family within twenty-four hours. The second potential came as a sibling set and was ripped out from under me before I could even say “sure.” I still felt on edge, but knew this case was much closer than the others had been. Fostering to adopt seemed more than possible in this situation.
“You know also the baby is due in several months. You will get her too, once she’s cleared from the hospital.”
Madilyn. I’d already chosen a name for her once she was adopted. “Yes I am aware.”
All my life I had wanted this. To love and nurture and teach a child—my child—about the Lord’s goodness. I wasn’t planning for two, hadn’t expected it. A newborn at that? I’m all in. The thought of it didn’t even give me pause.
Ellen spoke quietly, “Also, the child has a port-wine stain. Will you be okay with this? It’s fairly large and on the left side of her face.” She peered at me from her low-set glasses again.
I looked at her quizzically, assuming it was some type of birthmark. “Yes, of course.” I almost responded in a question. Some potential parents aren’t okay with things like this?
‘We are talking about a human life here, not a pair of jeans,’ I thought to myself.
One week later, Ellen drove up to my house and pulled the most beautiful dark haired, brown-eyed child from a black-and-gray car seat. Ellen placed her right into my arms with a smile on her face.
That moment changed my life forever.
How had I not known all along that she was mine? The minute I picked her up and she stared at me with big, soft eyes, my heart caved in my chest.
We were irrevocably intertwined. What if I had missed this? I thought, my emotions soaring. Piper gave me a toothless grin and I sat her in my lap in awe. My heart felt overwhelmed, like it might explode. It was a frightening feeling, something I’ve never experienced before. Was this real life?
It was real life. In the moment, I was fully living my dream. It felt full, yet fragile.
Because we don’t ever know how the story will end.
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.