"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious." Albert Einstein

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Born in My Heart

My home growing up was always filled with kids. When I was little, my parents were foster parents to older kids. I especially remember worshiping my foster sister Tracy. I followed her everywhere and thought her platform heels were the coolest thing on the planet. I remember her long hair and how beautiful I thought she was. She left our family suddenly but would call us collect for years after. When we moved, the calls finally stopped. Tracy doesn't know that my littlest sister is, in part, named for her. She doesn't know that my mom and I talked about her the month my mom passed away. I don't think she knows that she will always be a part of our forever family.

For a few years, Tim and I,  had the opportunity to be foster parents. Over those 3 years, 7 children called me mom. One was adopted by her grandma. One went to live with his older sister. One was adopted to a special needs home perfect for him. Two are still in the system last I heard. Two have returned to the biological mother. While I loved all, four were kiddos that I knew were not mine. I relate a lot to the song - "From God's Arms, To My Arms, To Yours" with these four. I know I was just a vehicle to get them to the arms waiting for them.

The other three... well, I'd like to introduce you to my other kids. Recently, I received a note from a friend mentioning that she had only known me post-divorce. As I thought about it, I realized, she didn't know my other kids. She doesn't know such a huge part of my life. I don't talk much about the girls. So many things you can't say when dealing with DHS and so often, there are no words. This blog is a loose chronicle of my life and would be so incomplete without mention of the girls - I still think about daily.

Shelby (the name we were going to give her) was the first. She came to us 10 months old and already walking. She and Ryan worshiped each other. She has straight brown hair that was always getting in her eyes, with just a bit of curl on the ends. She loved to wear her cowboy boots and had very little fear of anything. She liked to snuggle and some of my most cherished memories are of rocking her and Ryan together after baths, reading together the same books over and over. After 8 months, DHS suddenly decided to move her. We were devastated. It was the hardest I've ever seen Tim cry. Our joy knew no bounds when DHS called two days later saying a mistake had been made and could we take her back? She was so cute when she came home - she ran to her bed and dived in and covered up. She wouldn't get out for the longest time, instead just snuggled in and pretended to sleep. Some months later, the judge decided that she was to live with her grandmother. Walking away from her while she screamed, "Mama, Mama, Mama" at the airport was one of the hardest things I have ever done. 

It took me over a year to finish her scrapbook and mail it to her grandma. I have talked to her on the phone some and her grandma sent me her handprint. She should be in 2nd grade now. I wonder if I would recognize her? I haven't talked to her or her grandma since the divorce - it has only been recently I could even choke out the word divorced, so they do not know. I don't know if I will ever call again or if I will just visit the memories once in a while. 

My other two girls - Shaye and Dayna (as we wanted to name them), were like twins. Born 51 weeks apart, Shaye is small for her age and Dayna is larger for hers. Shaye is quiet and more serious but look out when she smiles! She has a million watt smile that makes you smile. Dayna has beautiful green/light hazel eyes which are stunning with her dark skin. More than the color, the mischievous twinkle will make you laugh every time. Both of them are so cute they make your heart hurt. 

They were bitty when they came to us - almost 1 and almost 2. I learned how to braid hair as we spent every Sunday afternoon braiding. I learned the value of good lotion and created sweet memories making lotion letters on the kids' backs after bath time. Again, the girls worshiped Ryan. They would build the most elaborate forts and pirate ships in the living room, complete with all the necessary clothing and equipment. The girls loved being first mate to his Captain. 

Once the girls got into a left over tube of diaper creme. When I found them, they were completely white from head to toe as well as the leather couch. They left little white footprint on the carpet as we headed to the tub. I wish I had taken a picture.

Other funny memories -
Soon after they arrived, Shaye was brushing my hair for me. Suddenly she said, "Mama, your hair nappy." I laughed and laughed. I have never used that word before so I don't know where she heard it, but it sure was hysterical.

Dayna was pretty emphatic about her opinion of broccoli the first time I put it on her plate. She looked at it for a long moment and then put it in her mouth. She promptly took it back out again and set it carefully on her plate and said, "That be nasty." We laughed and laughed. We still use that phrase.

Another thing I loved about these girls is how they helped tear down walls and build bridges. Once, when we were shopping at Ross, a  little girl, maybe 6, started talking to the girls. She kept looking at them and then at me, and then back to them while her mom and I visited. Suddenly she asked me if I was their mama. I said that I was. She looked at me incredulously. "But lady... they are brown!" "Why yes, they are", I replied trying to swallow my laughter. The other mother was mortified and hurried her daughter away amid apologies. I loved how strangers who would have never approached me, suddenly struck up conversations. I loved how I reached out to others to get help, especially when I was trying to figure out their hair. I loved that the walls between us melted a bit. The girls created a common ground. 

We were going to adopt the girls. We went to the termination hearing with our adoptive file in hand and the recommendation of DHS. Twenty minutes later I walked out of the court room stunned. The DA reversed positions and the girls were headed toward home. More stunning to me, was my calm in court and the words that came from my mouth but not my head or heart as I recommended they go to an aunt first to rally family support to the mother. The court listened and two weeks later, I said good-bye to them. Four weeks later, I understood why the Lord kept them from my arms - Tim filed for divorce. There was a peace for me about the girls. I knew they were safe. I knew they were loved. I knew the Lord loved them more than I did and I trusted he would care for them. I begged him to keep them in the hallow of his hand. Actually, I still do. 

Soon after we arrived in Oklahoma, we discovered that our last chance with medical insurance of having another baby had failed. It was one of my darker days. That weekend I went yard sale-ing and found this print - 
Mary Cassatt

I fell in love with it and paid $7.00 for it. Ironically, the girl you can see looks exactly like Shelby. Seeing the two girls together, reminds me of Shaye and Dayna. I see the print daily and think of each of my girls. 

Many have said to me that they could never do what we did. That fostering is too hard. I agree. I didn't do it by myself. I have felt the Lord beside me every step, every joy, every heartache along the way. I know the Savior in a way I had never understood before fostering. I believe with all of my heart that I made covenants with these beautiful kids to be there when they needed me. I believe I will see them again. I will squeeze them and laugh with them and introduce them to each other. I will always love them. They are the children born in my heart, forever mine. 

November is National Adoption month. I have never adopted or given away a child. I do know this - Children are to be cherished. Fostering, adopting, they are both about LOVE.