February 10, 2012

The Wild Ride

I am a twin.  My twin sister gave birth to twins, as did my cousin, my grandmother, and great-aunt.  It’s pretty evident that twins are an inherited trait in my family.  It is providential, therefore, that even though I am biologically unable to pass along the family genetics, I have been able to experience the joys of being a mother to twins.  It didn’t just happen by accident, though, nor even by my own calculated efforts.  As only God can do, He had been preparing my husband and me to be parents, placing us in just the right place at exactly the right time, and interconnecting plenty of isolated incidents in order to miraculously deliver twins into our family.
The Preparation
My husband and I had already been foster parents for three years in one state, when a job transfer caused us to relocate to another state on the other side of the country.  Caring for 12 different children during those three years had been like a roller-coaster for us: from the excitement of welcoming new children into our home; to the insecurities associated with our lack of parenting experience; to holding our breaths every time a child’s parents went to court; to the daily frantic pace of feeding, clothing, educating and training the ever-changing members of our family; with barely enough time to grieve the loss of one child before the next one came.  While most parents have 18 years to “get it right”, we had somehow managed to care for children of all ages from newborns to teenagers in just three short years.  Talk about a crash-course!

In spite of our energetic youth and passionate desire to make a difference in the world, we exited that wild ride with relief, feeling physically and emotionally exhausted.  It took us a few days after arriving at our new destination before we remembered how to breathe, and a few days after that before our bodies recalled what it felt like to get a full-night’s sleep.  We had become accustomed to having up to six children at a time in our large home, so the peace and quiet of caring for our one adopted son in a tiny apartment took quite a bit of adjustment.  I literally would wake up with our 1-year old and get him dressed and fed, kiss my husband good-bye as he set off for work, clean the apartment until it sparkled, and then look at the clock:  8:30 a.m.  Yikes!  How was I supposed to fill all of those minutes remaining in the day?!

The Location
Actually, parts of my day were spent house-hunting in our new community.  We had in mind some specific criteria:  we wanted our new residence to be close enough for my husband to easily commute to work but far enough away from the city to have plenty of trees and land; roomy enough to be comfortable but small enough for me to easily keep tidy; and of course within our price range.  Seems easy enough, right?  After several weeks we were becoming frustrated, because we just could not seem to find a house that was the right fit for us.  We finally fell in love with a darling house, complete with painted shutters, large front porch, and an enormous backyard that would be a perfect place for our young son to run and play as he grew older.  

The only problem was that it was just on the other side of the county line from where we had been looking.  That meant that my husband’s job and our new church were in one county, and we would be residing, paying taxes, using the library and assigned to a school district in another county.  Well, being in a different county didn’t seem to be that big of a deal, and the house suited us perfectly, so we decided that this was going to be our new home.  Little did we know how significant that decision would prove to be.

The Timing
It’s practically a law of human nature that when you get off of a roller coaster, you are so thankful to have your feet firmly planted on solid ground again.  And then what happens about 5 minutes later?  You say, “Let’s do it again!”  We had barely finished unpacking our boxes when we felt compelled to get our foster care license in this new state.  Since every state has a completely independent foster care system, it meant starting all over again – paperwork, background checks, classes, and home-studies.

During the previous three years we had agreed to care for children of all ages, but now that we had a “permanent” adopted child, we realized that it would be wise to be a little more selective.  Our little guy wasn’t quite two-years old yet, so in our final licensing interview with the social worker we specified, “We’d like to have a child under the age of two; maybe a girl; perhaps even twins!”  The social worker gave us a humorless smile that meant, “Yeah, right!”

That social worker may not have had a sense of humor, but God sure does.  Not even a full week later, that same social worker called me and said, “Would you believe that we have just gotten a call from the hospital?  They have twin baby girls who are unable to go home with their birthmother.  Since you live in the same county where they were born, you would be perfect.  Can you take them?”  No way!   How could it be any clearer that they were meant to be with us?  We just “happened” to live in the right county, and we just “happened” to get our license just days before the twins needed a home!  How absolutely amazing!   Of course I said “yes!” before hanging up the phone, and then I started squealing, laughing, and shaking my head in disbelief!

The Twins
The twin girls had been born two months earlier, but because they were so premature (28 weeks) and weighed only 2 pounds each, they had been immediately admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit.  The medical staff there had efficiently attended to their many needs, coaxing air into their tiny lungs, refusing to accept the failure of their underdeveloped organs, and battling the numerous complications that tend to attack tiny bodies.  However, with the combination of the doctors’ skills, the babies’ strong wills, and the Lord’s protective hand, ounce by ounce they gradually grew until they became healthy enough to leave the hospital . . . just days after their new foster parents were ready for them!  Of course it was love at first sight, and they were the most precious babies I had ever had the privilege of holding. 

To be honest, however, those first few months were pretty much a sleep-deprived fog that I barely remember.  They say that journaling is a good habit to develop, because so many details are later forgotten.  Wonderful advice, of course, except completely impractical. Believe me, if I had actually had even a few minutes of free time, there’s no way I would have used it to journal . . . I would have taken a nap!  I do have a few vivid recollections of that time:  of myself sitting on the couch feeding one of the babies, rocking the other baby in her bouncy seat with my foot, while reading a story to my two-year old.  Or the memories of the arduous process of getting two babies bundled up in their snow suits, attached to their medical equipment, buckled into their car seats, driving to the grocery store, getting them unbuckled and into the double stroller, and rushing through the store hoping nobody stopped me so that I could rush back home before they started crying for their next bottle.  By then I knew for sure that God had a sense of humor, because He was most likely watching me during those days just laughing and thinking, “Be careful what you wish for!”   However, in spite of the physical fatigue, I truly knew without a doubt that God had placed these babies in my care, and I was thrilled to be back on that roller coaster once again!

The Scare
One of the requirements for new foster parents is the completion of a Child and Infant CPR and First Aid class.  It takes a few hours on a Saturday, and it’s actually kind of fun getting on the floor and counting breaths into a child-sized mannequin.  The adult students sometimes even giggle and make jokes during the class.  In a real emergency, however, when the baby who isn’t a doll has stopped breathing and her lips have turned a dark shade of blue – no one is laughing then!  That’s when you hope and pray that your training has been sufficient.  One cold night in December, my husband and I had gotten home late from a Christmas party.  The twins were only a few months old, and still quite tiny.  I carried them into the house, and left them sitting in their car seats on the family room floor, while I sat nearby to watch tv and wait for them to wake up for their next bottle.  My husband had gotten called into work, so I was home alone with the children.

I will never know what caused me to glance over at the babies, but when I did, I knew instantly that something was terribly wrong.  One of them had skin that was completely pale and lips that were the most awful color of purplish-blue that I had ever seen.  I knew by sheer instinct that she wasn’t breathing.  I snatched her up and was appalled at the nonexistent reaction:  she was as limp as a rag doll. Almost without conscious thought, my hands and mouth automatically kicked into action, desperately trying to breathe life into the eerily still body before me.  Never again would I complain about the required CPR class!  After what felt like hours, but I’m sure was only moments, her little mouth started coughing, her skin regained its color, and the beautiful pink returned to her lips.  Then we both began to cry.  The rest of the night was a blur.  A frantic call to my husband.  Arriving at the nearest hospital in record-breaking time.  A long sleepless night of admitting her to the pediatric floor, waiting for test results and trying not to fear the worst.  

Finally, she was stable enough for me to leave her side.
A few days later, while the first baby was safely recovering in the hospital, guess what happened?  Yep, the second baby decided that she didn’t like her sister getting all the attention, so she had a few tricks of her own up her sleeve.  One day, while I ran out to the store to buy yet another package of diapers, my husband was working from home while keeping an ear out for the baby, who was sleeping in her crib.  When he didn’t hear her after a while, and it was definitely past time for her bottle, he went to peek in on her.  There she was, pale and blue-lipped, not breathing!  He got to put his own CPR skills into practice that day!  Whew!  A successful resuscitation.  A quick call to me on my cell phone.   A second urgent trip to the hospital in less than a week.  It was a wild ride that no parent would ever choose to take!

It soon became apparent that the second baby wasn’t recovering as quickly as she should have.  In fact, when she cried, one side of her face scrunched up into that fierce scowl that babies everywhere know how to make when they are upset, but the other side of her face remained completely expressionless and still.  Something was clearly wrong and the doctors were thoroughly baffled.  What had caused this facial paralysis?  Would it be temporary, or was this now a permanent condition for her?  In a blinding moment of clarity I realized that the answers to those questions weren’t important.  Her appearance was utterly insignificant to me.  Even if her face remained deformed for the rest of her life, I knew that I couldn’t possibly love her any more powerfully than I already did. 

Fortunately, it didn’t take too long for the antibiotics to fight the infection that had caused the babies to stop breathing, and for the muscles in that sweet face to resume functioning.  The girls were discharged from the hospital into our care, and the normalcy in our lives eventually returned.

The Surrender
Every foster parent knows when children are placed in her home that there is a possibility that they will some day leave.  But somehow in the day to day routine of caring for the children, that fact gets pushed to the back burner of her brain and becomes something to worry about later.  Shortly after the twins celebrated their first birthday, my husband was hired by another company, which would require us to relocate to yet another state.   Because the twins were part of the foster care system, they would not be allowed to leave the state with us, but I was confident that they would be free for adoption before too long.  So my husband began his new job, moving hundreds of miles away, and planned to come home on the week-ends, while I remained in our home with the children.

The plans were all clear in my mind about how the details would work out, but of course God’s idea of perfect timing was completely different than mine.  Months went by.  Complications with the birthparents.  Postponed court hearings.  Long, lonely weeks as a single parent to an active three-year old and twin one-year olds.  Too-short week-ends with my husband. 

After six months of the utter madness, I finally cried out to the Lord.  “What am I doing here?  My husband is living in a different state.  My son needs his father.  And I’m refusing to leave.  Oh, Lord, You know that I can’t bear the thought of abandoning these girls.  I love them with every ounce of my being;  how could anyone else possibly love them as much as I do?!”  In the midst of the tears streaming down my face and my fists banging against my pillow, I sensed His tender voice saying, “I love them more.  Trust me.”  I could almost picture Him pointing to my clenched fists and asking me to open them.  I have faced some challenging situations in my lifetime, but this was by far the most difficult task I have ever been called upon to do.  Reluctantly, but obediently, I opened my fists.

The Miracle
I informed the girls’ social worker of the anticipated move, contacted a realtor about selling the house, and began the monumental task of packing our belongings – all the while praying frantically for a miracle.   I knew that God was able to perform a miracle if He wanted to, but the question was, did He want to?

Our house did indeed sell, and I couldn’t procrastinate any longer.  Those back-burner thoughts came to the forefront of my mind, and I began to brace myself for the day I knew was quickly approaching, when I would have to say good-bye to my sweet little girls.  I was willing to be obedient, but that didn't mean that I had to like it. Enough of this awful, turbulent ride!  It’s making me sick!  I want off now, and I want to take my children with me and never set foot near this theme park again!

All of a sudden, everything unexpectedly happened at once.  The girls’ birthparents who had fought so long and hard to get their children back suddenly gave up their parental rights – voluntarily!  The girls were no longer foster children but were now free for adoption!  The case was quickly moved from the foster care department to the adoption department, a new social worker was assigned, and a whole new set of paperwork, references, and home-studies were completed – in record time.  It was almost like sitting back and watching all of the details supernaturally fall into place.  And how’s this for God’s timing?  The very same day that the adoption social worker was at our house for the final interview, the moving van was in our driveway and the boxes were being loaded onto it.   There is just no way I could have planned that!  God had indeed performed a miracle.

In His sovereignty, God could easily have chosen to remain silent, to provide another family for the girls, and to gradually heal my wounded heart.  But oh, how thankful I am for His miraculous intervention!  That He reached down and touched my open arms, and allowed them to be filled with the twins I had come to love so dearly!  The roller coaster had been indeed heart-wrenching and terrifying, yet thrilling and exhilarating.  I wouldn’t have traded that wild ride for anything!


  1. What an amazing story - and what an amazing God we serve!!!

  2. Thank you for sharing the story of how you came to be Momma to your beautiful girls! May God continue to work in and to bless your sweet family! Phyllis Mook

  3. You are both what was and will always be best for the girls. They are your girls. You are their mom and for that I will always be grateful.