I’ve written before about the overwhelming losses felt as a Mommy who loves children who are not her own. Children who are sent into her home through an organization rather than a pregnancy. Children who desperately need her to fully attach to and abandon herself in her love for them even though they may not stay. Children who bring with them days, months, years of hardships or traumas that we can hardly even imagine. Children like mine.
There were some of these losses that I expected. I expected to say good-bye to a child I loved. I wasn’t excited about it, but I expected it. Some losses caught me off guard. I didn’t know how much I would mourn the days before I met these precious littles.
Today I’m sharing another unexpected loss.
I shared yesterday about the multi-faceted weight that engulfs your heart as you instantly fall completely in love with a little stranger. The little boy who inspired those words wasn’t the first that we had said good-bye to. But somehow his leaving was the one that broke the emotional dam I had created. There was something about the pain that day that I simply couldn’t ignore. And so all of the sorrow from previous losses and kissing his little cheeks good-bye combined into an emotional flood that simply couldn’t be held back. I grieved hard when Mr. “I” went home.
After about 6 weeks, we received a call for another tiny baby. I soaked in every single second with that little one. I didn’t really share. He was teensy and up all night and I didn’t care. How I savored those moments. He only stayed a weekend and was able to return quickly to his mother. I rejoiced for her and cried tears for my empty arms. My path of grief now held experience for me and I was able to find rest in the precious healing my Savior offers even within the tumultuous emotions.
Just a few weeks after that, we received a VERY unexpected call. Mr. “I” was in need of a home again. Would we consider accepting him back into our home?
I didn’t even call my husband before I shouted, “Yes!” I knew what he would say. We hardly even breathed the rest of the day. The aching in my arms for his preciousness that time had quieted suddenly burst out again with new intensity. Oh, how I wanted to snuggle that special little boy! How I wanted to kiss those cheeks again! How could this even be possible that he would come back to us!?
But when the caseworker arrived at my door. When she set the carrier down on my porch. When she turned it around so I could see the baby who had my heart all tangled up in love, my heart just stopped. It had been two months. And the teensy, newborn-like, swaddled little baby I had said good-bye to was gone. In his place was a four-month-old. Bigger. Exploring his world with waving hands, kicking feet, and gurgling noises. All the soft and fuzzy baby hair was gone replaced with that peach fuzz of new growth (of course with the long stragglers still hanging on at the top). I recognized the stage. This age. That smile. But I didn’t recognize the little baby I had loved. And my heart broke.
I grieved hard again. But I fought against this grief. This grief felt wrong. Selfish. Jealous. I didn’t know where it belonged and so I fought it. I tried not to cry. I tried to pretend it wasn’t happening. I fought to show attachment for this little one who felt so new to me.
A few days passed and it was becoming clear that this little boy would need to be with us longer than his first 7-day placement. This was going to be long-term.
I began to attach to this new little one. He was often smiling and melted back into my baby-wearing routine like he recognized it. My girls didn’t skip a beat in their over-whelming love and attention to him. He required lots of care and through giving it, my heart began to connect again.
But I still struggled with where to put that secret grief. The one that still reared it’s ugly head when I least expected it. The one I didn’t know how to understand. I don’t like emotions that don’t have a box I can put them in. I like my world to be ordered in black and white pristineness. And this emotion didn’t fit anywhere. Why was I experiencing it anyways?
Then one day I was engaging in an activity I never knew I would have to perfect: Facebook stalking. I’ve become an expert. I have three pictures of my two oldest girls before I met them and I got them from Facebook. I have pictures of biological moms, dads, and grandparents. I got them from Facebook. I have ultrasound pictures and birth stats of several of my children. I got them from Facebook. If I want to do my best to fill in the missing pieces for my precious children. I stalk Facebook.
Anyways. That’s what I was doing. I was going through pages and praying for those biological parents, looking to see if there was anything new, when I suddenly stopped and just stared.
I had seen the picture before. It wasn’t new. But I understood it now. It’s a picture of my three daughters with their biological mother. It was taken during their first visit with her. After they hadn’t seen her for the better part of a year. And her face in that picture. Her eyes. Her smile. I recognized it.
I knew what she was feeling.
Her daughters were strangers.
She loved them fiercely. But could hardly recognize their faces.
I saw the struggle on her face. The struggle to reconcile those feelings. To associate an old love with a new face and age.
Suddenly I understood.
You see, I have prayed that God would give me true love for the first parents of my children. It’s so easy to get caught up in the details of what happened and forget about the people.
People created in God’s image who I am called to love.
People who perpetrated hurt, but who are themselves hurting.
People who were never given the opportunity to see and experience the world the way I did growing up.
People who usually hear unkind words and hateful speech.
People who gave the gift of life to some of my greatest earthly treasures.
People who showed they loved these children even when they hardly knew what that meant.
And through that struggle. Through those lost days with my little boy. Through that unexpected, heart-rending grief. God gave me a precious gift.
A gift of understanding. A gift of empathy. A gift of love.
To people who are precious to my children.
People who have lost those days. Lost those days and many more.