January 2, 2008, we handed our 26 month old foster baby, MiMi (my nickname for her, since that's how my son pronounced her name), who had lived with us for 20 months, back to CPS so they could transfer her to a relative placement in another state. I met the worker at 4:45 in the morning at a restaurant near the highway here in our small town. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done...
The night before I could hardly sleep. The grief was so physical, it hurt between my shoulder blades to breath. I barely slept the whole night, and finally crawled out of bed around 3:30 to get us ready. She was so sleepy; she hardly knew what was going on. I cried as I placed her in the workers car. The worker was very nice, patting me and assuring me everything would be alright.
We had decided to take a trip to Red River, New Mexico, and felt like leaving the same day MiMi left would be good for me. So I came back from dropping my little foster baby off, and tried to sleep a little more, but since that was impossible, I finally got up and began to get ready to go. At around 7, I went to wake up my son, Luke, and Angel-Leah, the four year old whose adoption was just finalized the month before. I had worried a little over how all this was going to affect Luke (who is also adopted) and Angel-Leah. I had warned them the night before that MiMi would not be here when they woke up the next day. They said their goodbyes with the rest of the family the night before. But when Angel-Leah woke up, her eyes wandered to MiMi's bed, and she sat up, stricken looking and said, "Is MiMi gone?" I said yes, and she burst into tears, crying "I didn't get to tell her goodbye! I wanted to say bye to her!" My tears began to flow hard, too, as I tried to reassure her that she HAD said goodbye. We sat in the bedroom and cried together.
We finally got off on our trip around 9 that morning. I was very grateful to know I would not have to spend the next few days at home as we tried to get used to life without her. Too many memories there. That did not help my grief, though, and I spent most of that day either in tears, or trying hard to fight them off so that my children could enjoy going on the trip. The Lord is so faithful in little ways. At one point in the morning, sitting in the back of our big van with my 11 year old daughter, Mary Susannah, I opened the newspaper to Dear Abby. And there, the first letter was from a former foster child, telling how much she had been loved as she grew up, and as an adult, she wanted to give back to the world all that she had been given. I felt like the Lord had planted that letter that day, and I was so grateful, and it DID help!
The next few days were a time of constant communication with God for me in a way I haven't had for a while. With the older children and my husband gone most of the day skiing, and not being able to sleep at night, I spent most , if not every minute, of my waking hours praying. Praying for comfort for MiMi and I, and praying that the Lord would help me make sense of all this, and give me insight.
That night we stopped at a Best Western motel, and my son Spencer was able to get wireless service on his laptop. I checked my email, and there was an email from the worker who had taken MiMi to Florida, assuring me she had done fine on the trip, that she had asked for me several times, but did not cry, that she enjoyed the plane ride, and that the worker felt very good about the great aunt's house where MiMi was going to live. She thanked me for what a good job I had done caring for MiMi for 20 months. That helped, too, to know that MiMi had not been scared all day. But sleep was hard to come by again that night, and once, when I did fall asleep, I woke up thinking I heard her calling mommy!! After that, I don't think I slept at all.
The next morning, we arrived at Red River. My husband Bill and children Spencer, Beau, and Mary Susannah headed for the slopes, while I stayed with Luke and Angel-Leah. We unpacked our things and went shopping for snow shoes, and later headed for the slopes to watch the older ones ski. A big boy had built a tunnel in the snow near the bunny hill where Mary Susannah was skiing, and the little ones had a wonderful time playing in it. A very nice lady sat down by me, and began to talk to me about my 'cute children.' Poor lady, before long I was telling her how we had lost MiMi the day before and I teared up, although I did keep under control. She told me about some friends of hers who were foster parents and had recently adopted their foster child, and decided they could not do it anymore. Soon the little ones and I headed back to the hotel to get warm. I was so worried about MiMi, and finally gave into the urge to call her great grandmother. I'm not sure if it was a mistake, probably not, but as soon as I heard her voice the tears started. The grandmother is so very nice. She told me that they were taking good care of MiMi. She told me all the things they had bought her, and all the things they had already done. She did tell me that MiMi had woken up three times during the night crying for me, and that she had finally thrown up, but that they were able to settle her down and comfort her. That was hard to hear, but I was so grateful to her for being honest with me. When I cried about how hard it was to let MiMi go, she reminded me that their family had also lost her 20 months ago, and that it had been very hard for them, too. And I know she is right. She assure me once again that they would be sending me updates and pictures of MiMi for the rest of her growing up years, and that when they visited Texas, I could see her. I decided after hanging up that it was not good for me to keep calling her grandmother and crying like I did during the time that they needed to re-get to know her (having only seen her twice since she was 6 months old) and that unless I KNEW I could control myself, I would communicate over email from then on.
Hanging up from the phone, I decided it was time for me to get a grip on all this. So I made myself really look at all this. I made myself realize that MiMi was not really ever mine, I was just a surrogate mother, a temporary mother, while her extended family was not allowed to, could not, or would not, take care of her. I was there to take the place of 'mother' during a time when she needed one. One terrible feeling I had was that I had betrayed her. I had allowed her to know me as 'mommy' when I knew all along that I might not get to raise her. But at the same time, I knew that had I held her at arms length during a time when she needed a mommy, she would not have thrived the way she did.
But oh, how this hurt. It hurt me, and it hurt her. I began to wonder if there was any way I could ever do this again. I began to pray that night when sleep would not come again and ask God what He wanted me to do. In less than two years, I had added two children to my already large brood by adoption through the foster care system. I asked God, was that enough? I love these two children who did not come from my own womb with the same fierce love that I love the ones who did come from my womb. Would just raising these two along with the rest of my children fulfill James 1:27's teaching that pure religion was take care of orphans and widows? Do I stop now? Maybe I was like some other people try to tell me that they are: too sensitive to take foster children, that I, too, get too attached, and obviously can't give them up without great grief. Did God really want me to keep doing this? Or do I quit now? But as I prayed, I suddenly got a very clear picture in my mind of holding out my arms, and taking a child, and feeling the heaviness and warmth of them, and also the excitement that comes with a new foster care placement, and I knew I had my answer. Yes, God still wants me to foster. Whether it will continue to be through the state, or taking prison babies as I have done privately twice before, or however He wants me to do it, I said yes to Him. And I know He will help me.
A few days later we arrived home, and the next morning seeing MiMi's empty bed brought tears once again. I knew it was going to take a while to get over this. I decided to take the bed down, and rearrange the room, so I wouldn't remember her every-time I walk in. I tried to disassemble it as little as possible, so I could put it back up quickly again when and if I need too. I cried as I took down the bed. Angel-Leah sat with me, and told me she loved me and she was sorry for me. Then she and I moved some of the furniture around so there wouldn't be an empty space.
As I fed them lunch, MiMi's great grandmother called me. She said she wanted to give me an update. She said MiMi cried for three nights, but it seems to be getting better. She says she was playing now on her own. She told me some more of the things they are doing, and that they were going to the beach that day. I told her that as I was trying to get MiMi prepared to go live with them, I told her Nana was going to take her to a water park, and that she was excited about that, because she loved the one here in Grandview so much. So I suggested she use those words, and she said she would. She told me she loved me for all I had done for her great grand daughter, and that she would call me often, and send me pictures very soon.
Thanks to everyone who prayed for us. We continue to need the prayers.
Six days after MiMi left, I received a call from CPS. Angel-Leah’s birth mother and father had a new baby, now five months old. A relative had been caring for him, but they had decided they would rather have him grow up with his sister, since it had become apparent that the birth parents were not going to make enough progress to have this child returned to them either. Would I take him, the family wanted to know?
So just less than one month after MiMi left us, Angel-Leah’s brother Tommy came to live with us. One year later, almost to the day, we finalized our adoption of him. He doesn’t replace MiMi in our hearts; he has his own special place. It took me a while to realize that God has a plan. MiMi didn’t need a ‘forever home’, she just needed a safe place for a while during a terrible time in her life, and we gave her that. Tommy needed a ‘forever family’, along with his sister, and our son Luke, and we are very blessed to give them that. God doesn’t make mistakes, he uses us to the brim, when we let him.