The car that took Meggie away pulled into my driveway and there she was, just as I remembered her. Her brown hair stuck straight up and she seemed to recognize me with her quizzical little smile, almost as if she knew that she had come home at last. The ache in my heart eased. I picked her up and clung to her as I carried her to the rocking chair in her room. I began to feed her, tears of anguished joy pouring down my face, not understanding how she could be there but thrilled beyond reason to hold her again…
And then I woke up.
Baby Jenn’s parents walking up to me, “We think that she’ll be better off with you, and we miss our freedom.” They hug me and put her back in my arms. She turns enormous blue eyes on me and hoots happily, bopping up and down in excitement. As I take her in my arms pure elation mixes with disbelief, I turn to find little Meggie, as the tiny newborn I first loved, laying in a hospital bed, abandoned and alone. She wears only a diaper, her ribs poke out from too thin skin. Seeing no one to care for her, I scoop her into my other arm. She nuzzles into my neck. So does Jenn. I cuddle them close, feeling a blinding unspeakable relief and joy. I take them home to feed them and find Baby J. already there in the place that should be theirs, but rather than thinking him an interloper, I happily move him over to make room for my girls, and snuggle them all close. So happy I feel like I might fly apart, yet crying in unbearable relief to have my three babies all safe and together at last right where they belong…
A cry cuts through my dream, and I feel it starting to slip. In panic I try to cling to the little forms in my arms, but they’re already gone. I lay there for a moment clutching at the memory of a moment ago, how it felt to be Jenn and Meg’s mom again, to know they were safe and happy and cared for. A silent tear slips down my cheek as I go to Baby J. in the dark and hug him and press my cheek into his soft fluffy hair, then lay him back in the crib that was once Meggie’s, and then Jen’s, and for now is J.’s but will likely be empty again too soon.
The sense of longing for what will never be lingers as I return to bed.
“Everything okay, honey?” Matt asks sleepily.
“He just needed a cuddle,” I reply.
Well-meaning people tell me that I have a special gift to be able to do foster care, that they couldn’t handle giving the children back. To them I say: No, I do not have a gift. I really don’t, and it makes me feel awkward that they think so. I feel the loss acutely.