Monday evening, after a full day of work+kids+ongoing renovation house stuff, I got a text from a friend saying she’d seen our former foster daughter at the local grocery store buffet dinner on “kids eat free” night.
I’ve been blog-silent for a long time. So I haven’t mentioned that from March 2017-August 2017, we fostered a 2 year old girl.
She had thin blond hair and tired blue eyes. She was so soft.
I’ll call her ZZ.
ZZ came the same day I got back from a trip to Haiti. ZZ came the month I started a new business. ZZ came during one of the darkest periods I’ve had in my 13 year marriage.
On paper, it was perfect. We wanted to adopt another girl; she had birth parents who weren’t even trying. After 6 years of on-going foster care drama and then finally adopting LLM and Babygirl, a straightforward adoption seemed like just the thing.
Except it’s not a thing. There is no “straightforward” adoption from foster care. Adopting from foster care is painful. It’s long and it hurts everyone involved.
We spent the first couple months adjusting. Re-creating bedtime routines with two little girls. Packing 5 lunches instead of 4. Waiting to fall in love with a new little person.
Then things turned dark.
In June Mark and I started whispering to each other “This doesn’t feel right.”
By July, we were screaming it.
We thought, “Maybe once she’s adopted it will get better.” But I knew better than to walk down that aisle full of doubt. A piece of paper doesn’t fix things. It just makes them permanent.
On a hot July morning, with wet grass under my feet, while ZZ played nearby in a pink baby pool, I called her social worker and said, “I can’t do this.”
Five weeks later, she woke from her nap and I packed up her still-warm stuffed animals into a duffel bag. An hour later she was gone.
In the months that passed, I was both relieved and devastated. What sort of person can’t love a child? LLM’s behavior was worse than hers ever was. It wasn’t that. Why couldn’t I do this?
I started anti-depressants and got really distracted. Mark and I would hash out those 6 months over and over and speculate what went wrong. But at the end of the day, all I could cling to was the marrow-deep knowledge that she wasn’t mine. Whatever that meant; she just wasn’t mine.
I hated that I felt this way. I’ve done this before, I told myself. I love kids who didn’t start as mine. I made them mine. I don’t believe blood is thicker than water. Love makes a family, so wtf is wrong with me?! If only I were better, stronger, more spiritual, mentally- healthier, less career-minded, softer-hearted, less selfish, and on and on and on…
Over weeks and months I’d get sporadic updates about how she was doing and where she lived. Another foster family. With an aunt. Back with her mom.
Slowly I mostly forgave myself for whatever part I played in her displacement. For agreeing to take her when our family had no margin and when I should have been wise enough to predict how it would go.
For failing her.
Then yesterday, my friend texted that she saw ZZ at the grocery store buffet. That ZZ looked happy and healthy and was clearly loved by her mother. My friend talked to ZZ’s mother (God bless her boldness cuz that could’ve been awkward as heck!) She said she knew ZZ from when she was in foster care with us and that she was happy to see her doing so well. ZZ’s mother told my friend that she had been deep in addiction when ZZ went into foster care. She told my friend that when ZZ went to us, with adoption on the horizon, that’s when she started to fight.
While we were falling, she was rising. Slowly. Painfully. Beyond what I could see.
“There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“Maybe,” said the farmer.”
I’d love to conclude with conviction that I always knew God was in complete control and my mistakes are for His glory.
I can’t do that.
I have to process, and hurt, and grow into something new. I have to doubt and yell and feel all the feelings.
The past couple years have been rife with uncertainly, and pain, and deconstructing everything I thought I knew. It was not clean. It is not certain.
I am the farmer, who can only say,