One perfect moment in time

imageIn sixty hours, I will place her in her father’s arms, turn, and walk away. I’ll cry. He may too because he’s kind and gentle like that. I love her. It’s going to hurt. A lot.

For the past eight months, I’ve been her mother. At the end of the week, the choice to keep me in her life is exclusively his. He tells me he wants me there, but I know that desire may change in time. As his confidence grows, I may come to be an intrusion, a walking reminder of a time he’d like to forget. He is a good man and I will always respect whatever choice he makes. Although I hope our relationship will continue, I accept that my work here may be done.

I walked eyes open into the fire and knew all along this day would come. Reunification was always the plan-as it should have been. I’d do it a thousand times over if only I could always reach this end. I would love and lose again and again for this finish. For once, I walk away knowing a system wrought with corruption that so often harms children more than it helps them has, this time, properly served a child. A family has been protected and a child has known immeasurable love. Always.

Here’s where many will tell me that they could never travel this path and will offer me accolades. Please don’t. The gift is mine. I am ever so grateful for this moment of light along this sometimes dark journey. I’m no hero. Over the years, I’ve done as much wrong as I’ve done right. I have regrets. I am often weak and scared, angry and impatient. I am never as good as I want to be. I never stop educating myself, I’m always striving to improve, but did not have the skills years ago that I have now. In nearly eleven years as a foster parent, thirty children born to another woman have called me “Mom.” I failed some of them.

This time with this child, this opportunity to serve, and be an instrument in the preservation of a family is one of the greatest rewards I’ve ever received. There may be a hundred ┬áreasons to be here, but this is why I came. To help. Giving my heart to a child who may never know my name, and supporting her father through her journey home has restored my faith in this work. It has granted me one more chance to know love, eight more months of time mothering an infant that I thought I would never know again, countless memories to feed my soul, and one moment in time when all is right in the world.

Blindsided

More than three years ago, for a few weeks she called me “Mommy.” Last night, I saw her face on the adoption photo listing. My stomach has been burning ever since.

I was forced to surrender her after her brother who was also placed with us experienced a violent psychic break and had to be hospitalized. I advocated for their separation. I explained that their relationship was toxic and he was a threat to her, but no one would listen. I was told that I was being unreasonable and a new home was found.

I tried hard to control my emotions as I strapped that tiny sobbing girl into the backseat of her worker’s car as she clung to my neck and begged me to make sure the other kids and Daddy knew that she loved them. I failed and could not contain my tears. Her time with us had been short, but her impact was huge. She was so clever, sassy, mature, resilient, compassionate, and loving. I never could get her out of my mind.

Little Guy and New Guy hiding. I like it when they hide--they're quiet.

Little Guy and New Guy hiding. I like it when they hide–they’re quiet.

Now there she is a lost child listed alone and as a severe risk. I want to inquire, but fear she is no longer the child I knew. Three years is a long time to stumble through the minefield of CPS foster care and separation from siblings usually only happens after they’ve done terrible, often unspeakable, things to each other. Even the most resilient children ultimately break down.

We are already battling ferociously to reach another small child whose time has been long and pain is deep. Another victim of a system that very often does far more harm than good. I don’t honestly know if I could handle another child of this intensity. Just a few days ago, I tossed our struggle in the message below to the Facebook universe as the weight has become to much to bear alone. I fully believe the prayers and positive energies of my friends that followed afforded us a peaceful weekend, but am not so sure I want to tempt fate.

I’m not whining. Really. I chose this path and take full responsibility for all the strife that’s come my way, but fuck it’s been hard lately. This work is hard. Harder than I could ever explain. Harder than you can imagine unless you’ve traveled this way yourself. It comes at great cost. A price, again, that is difficult to explain. A constant vigil, chronic stress, old traumas bubbling to the surface for all my children, honest introspection, committing every day to do better than the day before, finding the strength to never take the assault personally and always see the wounded child beneath the rage, unwavering perseverance when everyone around you shakes their heads and asks why. Because the price is greater if I don’t. Blowing out of here–this place where we will harbor the children that many before have turned away–is a ticket to an institution and all hope lost. Because if I don’t do this work, who will? Because I don’t want one more child to graduate from foster care to prison. Because I want to walk the talk and be the change. Because my inner warrior queen believes when all others have lost faith. It’s still really fucking hard sometimes. This would be one of them.

All that is rational and wise within me says to let this one go.

But the heart won’t hear reason.

I once told this child that I loved her and if I had a choice she would have stayed. I have never stopped thinking about her. I can’t explain what motivated me to browse the photo listing last night–the thought of adding another child now was not even on the radar.

Part of me wishes that I hadn’t looked, never knew. I could have gone on believing that she had remained with a relative as I had heard at last update years ago. But I did look and I do know and now I have to choose. Do I risk losing the ground we’ve gained with this small wounded warrior who just today summoned all his courage and laid his weapons and broken heart at my feet? Or do I turn my back on a child who I once vowed to always love?