“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” -Psalm 82:3-4
Several months ago an evil man very nearly killed a helpless baby. During his long stay in the hospital, the baby’s little body revealed serious past injuries, showing that his short life was likely filled with pain and fear. Someone (in their infinite wisdom) hung a picture of this man right there on the wall in Baby J’s hospital room. That first day, I snuggled Baby J in my arms, careful not to touch his wounds; I looked at that picture on the wall, and I felt that I had come face to face with evil.
We brought J home on a Wednesday. It wasn’t until the following Monday that I was able to read through his hospital discharge papers. When I did I wanted to pass out, to scream, to shake, to vomit, but I simply wept. For two days, I wept. How could anyone do these things to another human being, let alone a small baby? The reality of human brokenness, evil prevailing where love should have been.
“Deliver us from Evil,” I’ve always prayed, faithfully reciting the words Christ taught. I prayed them …
As we left the hospital with Baby J. the nurse told us to bring everything on the counter; they would just throw it out if we didn’t. So, I upended the pink plastic medical bin into a bag and didn’t look in the bag again until we got home.
My husband Matt was holding the baby, my sister Jenny making dinner, the kids circling me with interest to see what treasures I had brought from the hospital. (You know, besides a baby). I pulled out five tubes of antibiotic ointment, about twenty syringes, blue gloves, adhesive tape and then a long cylinder of some sort with one tapered end and a twist on lid on the other. A flashlight? I twisted the end, but no light came on, instead it started to shake. I looked at my sister confused. She began to laugh.
“Is this what I think it is?” I asked.
“Um, yup, I think so,” she laughed, “When Ella was in the hospital they rubbed one on her back to help loosen the gunk in her lungs.”
“Huh. Yeah, J. did have breathing trouble there for a while.”
“Hey, what’s that thing?” one of the kids asks, “A toothbrush?”
Another comes over and looks at it with interest.
“Ooh, it’s a back massager!” He takes it, turns it on and trots over …
When you look at a helpless baby, whose body will bear the scars of a grown man’s rage for the rest of his life, a lion awakenssomewhere within, ready to defend that child at any cost.
The wounds we bear from the loss of our foster babies still bleed crimson, as I bend to pick up little J. from the hospital crib. His eyes are glazed, his diaper dirty, every inch of his face covered with burns. My hands tremble as I gently lift him, not because I am nervous, but because I am afraid. I know where this path leads. I will fall helplessly in love with him. Our time will be too short. He will go to live with relatives as the plan already indicates. I will be left with a broken heart, mourning his loss as those who came before him are dredged back to the surface of my grief. Is that a place I can choose to go?
I haven’t decided that I will bring him home yet. But, if I don’t, who will? I cuddle him close as a recent conversation with my five year old replays in my mind.
“Mommy, when is baby Jennifer coming back?”
“I’m afraid that she isn’t coming back, sweetie.”
“But, we can go visit her! When can we go visit her?”
“I’m sorry, honey, we can’t see her anymore.”
“Why not?” …
I walked slowly into the jewelry store. The sales girl, young with long blond hair, asked if she could help me. I said that I was looking for a charm with a pearl on it. Megan means “Pearl or Precious One.” The young woman pulled out two trays of charms, and showed me three with pearls. Two were large and gaudy, but one was simple, with just a tiny pearl, like my tiny baby. I asked if she had a helmet charm, too. She showed me. It was thick and chunky, like my little Jenn who wore a helmet for four months. I said that I would take them both. She showed me the bracelet that went with them and how it works. I reached a finger out, touched the little pearl and began to cry.
The poor sales girl kept saying it was okay and did I want a tissue. I told her very briefly about our babies, gone from our arms but never from our hearts. She didn’t know what to say. She boxed the bracelet, and I paid. Then I walked with red eyes through the mall and out to my van. I drove partway across the parking lot, then parked again. I opened the box and took out the charm bracelet. I removed the charms and, holding them in my palm, just sobbed.
At last, I threaded them back on, first …
If you ask me how I’m doing, I’ll probably cry. If you give me a hug, I’ll probably cry. If you tell me you care, squeeze my hand, or catch my eye, I’ll probably cry. And, you know what? That’s okay.
All my life I’ve been the strong one, the responsible oldest sister, the one who makes things happen. No one ever called me the sensitive or tender hearted one. I built up a thick protection, hiding all pain and sorrow in little compartments to be kept hidden unless I was alone. To me pain was private and personal, not to be shared, not open for public viewing.
Then God gave and God took away. First sweet five month old Meggie, and then bubbly eight month old Jenna. Where I once sat and rocked two tiny babies, I now sit and hold two little outfits, outfits that I press to my face vainly trying to recapture that precious baby scent.
When we lost Meg, I avoided anyone who wasn’t family. I would leave a room quickly to avoid having my tears be seen. I carefully avoided places where I would feel vulnerable. We didn’t attend church for a month. We lost Jenn four days ago. Today, I sat in church with a weeping son huddled under each arm, and I wept, and beside us my mom …
I hold her close against my chest long after she surrenders to sleep, cherishing these precious moments with the daughter whom I have only a few more days with…
When we brought baby Jennifer home from the hospital there was every indication that we would be adopting her. The months passed. The certainty grew, as did her place in our hearts. With her gregarious personality and happy chortle she became an integral part of our lives. Then, her parents changed their minds. A terrible caseworker combined with an apathetic lawyer in an overtaxed foster and court system to make a perfect storm of a foster care mess.
But, through it all God protected this baby. He used us to meet her needs in ways which no one else could. Now, we have just a short time left with her, and as I rock her to sleep I wonder: How do you fit a lifetime of love into a few short days, especially knowing that she may never experience it again? How do I let go and trust that God can care for her without my help?
Time passes and the night wears on. Jenn sighs in her sleep and lays her little fist against my chest. I stroke her tiny fingers one at a time trying to memorize the little dimples in each …
Oftentimes, your mind can know something, but the message doesn’t quite reach your heart...
When we brought three day old Baby Megan into our home we were told that she was going to leave us quickly. At each court date it was reiterated, and yet, time passed and she stayed. At first there was a bustle of trying to put her with these relatives or those ones until all of the relative options were exhausted, and she was still with us. And we kept right on praying and dared to hope. I thought of the amazing story that we would have to tell her of how God overcame so many obstacles so that she could be a part of our family.
Following the bustle were three months of nothing. No hearings. No court. No word. And then a sudden e-mail tagged on to a response to a message I’d sent. One moment I’m eating lunch with my daughters and the next, Katie’s concerned voice, “Mommy, why are you crying?”
We just got the order today. I understand your concerns, but Judge C. ruled that this was best, she will be moving. I’m working with the worker (out of state) to find out when exactly this will be happening. I will be taking (Megan) to the Michigan border, so I will contact you once we …
Since becoming a foster mom there is one statement people make to me which I want to take a quick moment to address. It is usually said in a cheery off-hand sort of way and goes something like this, “Oh, you do foster care? I could never do that. I’d never be able to let the babies go; it would be too hard!”
I’ve been tempted to respond with a sarcastic, “Well gee, it’s easy for me because I’m really a very cold hearted person.” What I usually say instead is something more along the lines of, “I can’t imagine what it would be like to give up a child, but I know that if God calls me to it, He’ll also give me the strength to get through it.”
My sister Jenny, also a foster mom, meets the statement with, “I know it would be really hard, but sometimes we need to put our feelings aside and do what’s best for the children.”
As we face our first foster baby leaving this week, I have learned a new meaning for the word grief. But, I also had the privilege of caring for her these five months and am honored and blessed to carry her in my heart and prayers for the rest of my life. And I’m trusting God to get me through it.
I wake up this morning with a stomach bug so bad I can’t even straighten, after spending most of the night awake, in tears, and, I’m loathe to admit it, utterly despairing. This is coming on the tail of a nasty virus I’ve had for days, my boys being away at camp, and my mom far away when I so desperately need her. Despite all my calls to lawyers and caseworkers they plan to come and take away our little Meggie on Wednesday, and not to a better future, but to put her in a different foster home in a different state, to be a victim of the system. Such a beautiful happy baby, who smiles in her sleep every time I go in to check on her, almost as if she senses me standing there, who belly laughs when her sisters play peek-a-boo with her, and who is thriving and well adjusted. And I cry out to God, “How much do you think I can take? Are you even paying attention here!?” And I wonder, “Is this how Job felt?” And I ask, “God, where are you in all of this?”
Then, I pick up baby Jenn and she gurgles with joy. I help her with her physical therapy, and she’s able to reach her toes -a breakthrough for her- and my broken heart catches a glimpse God. My toddler, with her frizzy blond …
As I stepped up to the desk at NICU to meet our new foster baby, I tried to look like a pro. I showed my photo ID and was taken into a dimly lit room full of bassinets and nurses who were charting on the computers scattered about.
“Here she is,” the nurse said before hurrying off, “don’t pick her up until I go find her paperwork.”
I looked eagerly into the bassinette and beheld perhaps the ugliest baby I’d ever seen. Bug eyed, skinny, bald.
I guess they can’t all be cute, I thought with a grin, I really can’t wait to hear what Matt will say when he sees her, though. Then I noticed a blue card on the crib, declaring the baby a boy. I was looking into the wrong bed. I turned and found her behind me, much more normal looking. She was small and as bundled as could be in her swaddle and hat with a pacifier taking up most of her face. About all I could make out were her round cheeks and the fact that she was white, a detail we hadn’t known until then.
After an hour of standing there awkwardly, talking to her but not touching her, the nurse informed me that the paperwork hadn’t come through and I needed to leave. The social worker had told them about us and given all of our …