a mixed bag

Have you ever experienced the kind of joy that is born from someone else’s pain? It’s the kind where two parties give and get and both hearts burst but in opposite directions.

Foster care and adoption are full of that kind of mixed-bag joy. It is always holding your happy and someone’s sad at the same time. Every victory is a loss. It’s like a sports team rivalry where one of each of your twin brothers plays on opposing teams and the championship is on the line. How do you cheer? Yet, how do you not?

I’m a foster mom who believes in biology. I want families to stay together, to  heal, to learn from mistakes and love better.  I believe in being a safe place for a little while, while parents work things out. And I am for their success. Even when it means their adorable child will leave me to return to them. Even when it means goodbye to a bit of my sunshine and a piece of my heart.

Make no mistake, I’m a pretty awesome mom. Anyone would be lucky to have me – even for a little while. I’m full of all the arrogance that makes me believe I would always be the very best choice for any child. It takes a a bit of chutzpa to jump through each and every hoop – I mean law – to become a foster parent. You can’t do it without a pretty good sense of confidence and a feeling that you have something special to offer.

But in my heart, I know I should be temporary. Children need roots that sink deep into the ground and out into a family tree of look- and act-a-likes. Their hands need to slide into the hands of those who made them. They need pictures on their walls that anchor. They need the mirror of their own smile on someone else’s face so they can roll back their shoulders, walk into the world and say, “This is who I am!”

Anything less is tragic.

That tragic is where foster care and adoption begin. That tragic is how I became a mother. Someone else’s sad made me happy. It happened 11 years ago when a young lady placed her tiny 8 pound, 14 ounce linebacker into the arms of my husband (who has never let go). Then she stepped outside and crumpled to the ground.

It happened again when a system looked at a file of our family and matched us with a file of a four-year-old boy. The system thought he could be safe with us for a while, maybe longer. We squished all the love and joy into the time we had with him. This time, we were the crumpled ones when he went home.

It happens now as we wait for a very-long-time-coming resolution to the cases of the two littles we’ve wrapped our world around. We cross our fingers around an outcome we desperately want but dare not say aloud. We know the outcome of our heart’s desire means a world and lifetime of hurt for someone else. And the knowing tempers our hope and our joy. It sits in the same room, surrounds us.

Every victory is a loss. Every loss is a victory.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I wish for the moments of unadulterated joy other mothers experience. That one where she gets confirmation on what she has suspected for several weeks.  That one where she gets to tell her husband news, making him giggle-cry and lift her off the ground. That moment in the hospital of counting toes and fingers and pointing out look-alike features. That moment when she gets to hold all of that and know it all belongs to her. Those seem like very, very good moments to me.

I love my moments of mothering and I wouldn’t trade them but sometimes, just sometimes, I could do with some straight-up, flat-out, selfish happiness untossed with sadness.

 

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7 thoughts on “a mixed bag

  1. Made me a sloppy, crying mess. So much thought and love put into this. Being a child from foster homes and adoption, I can see the joy and the character you are giving those littles. Being a mom myself, my heart cries out for your sadness. You are one strong girl and I absolutely love you. I keep you in my prayers that you can experience the straight up, selfish happiness that you so much deserve!

  2. Made me a sloppy, crying mess. So much thought and love put into this. Being a child from foster homes and adoption, I can see the joy and the character you are giving those littles. Being a mom myself, my heart cries out for your sadness. You are one strong girl and I absolutely love you. I keep you in my prayers that you can experience the straight up, selfish happiness that you so much deserve!

  3. I’m trying to hard to spill out the emotions and words I’m feeling and thinking. Although I’ve never dealt personally with foster care or adoption, I can relate to that mixed bag in other ways. Hoping for my 4 month old baby to get a heart transplant was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Doctors told me that if he didn’t get a transplant, he wouldn’t live long. But I knew, without anyone having to tell me, that the only way for my 4 month old to get a new heart would be for someone else to lose their own loved infant child. How could I hope for such a thing, but how could I not? Well, the heart never came. We were losing time. So we opted for a rather risky surgery instead. It worked. Truly miraculous. The doctors were baffled. It wasn’t supposed to work, but it did. It worked perfectly — for about 16 months. And then it stopped. No warning, no gradual decline. It literally just stopped working in the middle of the night. And I knew it was God. God made it work; God let it stop working. And so I think, what would it have mattered if Lucas had gotten a new heart? It probably would have stopped working when he was 21 months old, anyway, just like his own surgically-modified heart did. I guess the point I’m coming to is that God really is in control, and we just have to do the best we can to have a positive influence on those we have stewardship over, no matter how long or short that stewardship lasts. It’s hard to say good-bye, but you are an awesome example of not letting the threat of “good-bye” make you love any less deeply. You are an incredible, strong woman, and I have a lot of admiration for you!

    • Kristin! Exactly! I didn’t know how to include it in the post but I have a brother-in-law who needed a liver transplant and that was our exact feeling, how could we pray for someone to lose their loved one so we could keep ours? That is precisely the sentiment I was trying to capture.

      Breaks my heart that you lost Lucas. Your face is the one in my mind-picture dictionary under faith, love, hope, and strength.

      Thank you so much for your comment. YOU are the incredible, strong woman. I adore you.

  4. I’m crying reading your part Laurie as well as others comments. It truly is a blessing, a joy and a huge responsibility to be a parent. God enables us to learn so much about who He is and how much He loves us as we work and sacrifice for those He trusts to our care for whatever time frame. Thanks for your examples of loving and cherishing motherhood.

  5. Paragraphs 5 and 6 break my heart, and for my own selfish reasons, I don’t want them to be true. But I think they are.

    Paragraphs 11 and 12 reflect exactly what is in my heart. That is the very loss I live with and struggle to endure well.

    When I selfishly wish I could say “mine, mine, mine!” I try to remind myself that we are all children of our Heavenly Father, and we ALL belong to Him first. And if I ever wonder what God thinks of adoptive parents, I like to remember that Jesus himself had an earthly adoptive father.

    I love the other people who comment on your blog. “We just have to do the best we can to have a positive influence on those we have stewardship over, no matter now long or short that stewardship lasts.” So beautifully said.

    Wow, lots of tears over here tonight as I catch up on your blog, which could not be more aptly named, by the way.

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