Let My Heart be Hardened
All morning I am tense. My hands tremble slightly, and I keep forgetting what I am doing. I don’t even attempt to eat breakfast. The kids joke and I attempt a smile, which gets nowhere near my eyes, not having heard a word. I snap at them over nothing, and they pat my shoulder to show me that it’s okay. I pack a diaper bag overflowing with snacks, toys, and extra clothes. Finally, I get the baby dressed in a cute outfit, making sure everything matches and nothing is worn out or stained. A friend once had birth family file a complaint because the child was wearing two slightly different white socks. The story has stayed with me.
I arrive a few minutes early and hold the baby in the car until the last moment. Then, kissing his fluffy baby hair, I gather his bag and hurry across the parking lot to the DHS building. Inside he sees his parent and leans nervously into me. I talk to him happily, soothing. I whisper one last prayer that only he and I can hear. The caseworker arrives, ready to take them back to the visitation room. I take the hint and try to hand him over. He clings tightly to me and starts to wail. I try to gently pry his arms from my neck as he goes into a full scream. The caseworker meets my eyes with sympathy as I finally get him into the parent’s arms. Baby reaches toward me as I step back, his eyes full of confusion and betrayal.
I turn quickly and nearly run from the building, but not in time to hide my tears from the security guards and the people nearest the door. I try to scrub them away before getting back into the car with my kids. My son tells me something, but again I don’t hear. The empty carseat mocks me in the review mirror. I pray desperately, while keeping a calm face for the kids. A few words from a cartoon musical play repeatedly through my head, “Let my heart be hardened.” A very tempting thought. It would be so much easier if I didn’t care.
We go to my mom’s house, because it is nearer to the DHS building and begin our schooling. I try to push my concern aside, but it’s impossible because I know that he will be screaming for the whole two hours, just like he does every week. My phone vibrates. I grab it and check the ID. It’s my sister, another foster mom. I pour out my heart.
“I was hoping you were the caseworker calling to tell me to come back early,” I admit as we close our conversation.
The phone rings again forty-five minutes after I left the baby at his visit. This time it is the caseworker.
“He screamed so hard that he vomited. Can you come get him?” She asks
“I’m leaving now,” I tell her.
My brother-in-law is there.
“Just go,” he says.
He understands, too. He’ll watch the kids.
It takes a desperate minute to find my keys. I run to the car. Nauseated and shaking, I push the speed limit, picturing my baby red faced, screaming himself voiceless, thinking that I’ve abandoned him, not understanding. I run across the street and into the building. I can hear him crying through the lobby, two locked doors, and down a hallway. I grab my phone to call the caseworker and let her know I’m here. It’s dead. I get in the line at the window, but one of the security guards from earlier asks me what I need. She offers to go tell the caseworker I’m here. An angel in a moment of need. She returns quickly to assure me they are coming.
And there he is. So sad. Red swollen eyes reduced to slits. On seeing me he lets out an angry bellow and lunges into my arms, where he quickly quiets and soon cuddles his soft baby head into my cheek.
On the drive back, I’m so upset I try calling my husband and each of my sisters, but no one answers. I’m so used to my support base being there, I don’t know what to do. I quickly realize that I’m looking for human help, instead of turning to God. I pray for my little passenger, that he will not be scarred in any way, that this trauma won’t stick with him. I pray for peace, and it comes like a blanket, covers me, comforts me. God is good. Baby is sleeping peacefully in his seat, and I’m no longer begging for a hardened heart, I’m singing:
Where can I go from your presence,
From the heavens to the depths of the sea,
Where can I go from Your Spirit,
Knowing that your love surrounds me.