January 30, 2015

Fighting the Fear

“No, Mommy!  Please!  No!”  His desperate screams fill my ears and I have to turn my head away so that he won’t see the tears that threaten to leak out of the corners of my eyes.  So that he won’t know how much his helplessness and vulnerability break my heart.   Oh, how I long to rescue him from this pain!  To protect him from this terrifying situation that causes him this out-of-control panic.  Instead, I hold him even tighter, pinning his arms so that he can’t move.  He may believe at this moment that I am the worst parent in the world by subjecting him to this agony, but I know that this is what he needs in order to be healthy.

“Sh, it’s okay,” I keep whispering into his ear.  “I’m here, Sweetheart.  I’m right here.  Just squeeze my hand.  Sh.”  I continue to hold him securely while he continues his frantic cries.  He is unable to hear my words of comfort.  The roar of fear has caused his ears to be deaf to my voice.  He is so blinded by terror that my face, the room we’re in, everything becomes fuzzy and out of focus.

I pray silently, Please, God, let this be over soon!  The phlebotomist patiently attempts a third and then a fourth time to locate a good vein, to draw enough blood to fill 10 – yes 10! – vials to be sent to the lab for testing.  With each passing minute, with each painful stab of the needle, with each piercing scream, it gets increasingly difficult to watch.

I knew when our little foster baby had his organ transplant four years ago that it would mean life-long concerns about his health.1  I knew when we adopted him two years ago that it would mean a life-long commitment to his care.  That it would mean sacrificing countless hours, summoning boundless energy, and experiencing immense inconvenience. 

What I didn’t know, what I never could have planned, was the indescribable love in my heart for this resilient child.  The unimaginable heartbreak of watching him endure repeated medical tests.  The fierce protectiveness that I feel for him every time we step foot into this place.

And I didn’t know how significantly the medical trauma of his early years would affect him.2   That it would cause him to have such ongoing fear.   That every time he has a medical procedure, even a minor one, he is re-traumatized, and the healing has to start all over again.

Normally, getting your blood drawn should not be such a traumatic event.  It shouldn’t be such a major ordeal every single time!  One would think that after being subjected to various medical procedures hundreds of times over the past six years, that he would get used to it.  What is he so afraid of? Why doesn’t he just remain calm and hold still?  He knows it’s going to be over in a few minutes.  Why isn’t he brave enough to fight this fear?

Finally, mercifully, the needle comes out, the band-aid goes on, and I reassure him once again that I am here, and that he is safe.  And he is safe . . . until next time.

January 25, 2015

The Path Home


Never in her life had she been so terrified.  So paralyzed by fear that even the simple task of breathing in and out seemed suddenly so difficult that it required her undivided attention.  Her ears barely registered the bird singing in the branch overhead or the cars speeding by on the busy street nearby.  The weeds in the cracks of the sidewalk went unnoticed.   All she could see was the little white building with a faded pink sign that included the words “woman” and “choice.”  She asked herself, How on earth did a good girl like me end up at a place like this?

The story wasn’t supposed to happen this way.  She had thought for sure that it was a romantic love story that would end in happily ever after.  Her beloved had given her true love’s kiss, and had assured her of his commitment.  He was going to carry her off into the sunset.  Into a future bright and full of promise.

But the promises had been shattered, right along with her heart.  Her true love was gone, leaving her with a houseful of small children to raise alone.  Adding another one to the mess simply was not an option. 

So here she was, walking towards the little white building with the faded pink sign, scarcely able to believe that it was really happening.  That her story was going to end in death – not only the death of the heartbeat growing inside her, but also the death of her innocence and naiveté.  The death of a dream.

January 12, 2015

The Relay Team

Through blurry eyes I pour coffee into my extra-large mug, watching the brown liquid fill to the top, hoping wearily that the caffeine it contains will do its job quickly this morning.  I did not sleep well last night – again.  My precious child sleeping in the room down the hall kept coughing at irregular intervals; his weakened lungs have been fighting germs for several weeks now, germs that refuse to give up and go away.  As much as I would love to cuddle with him on the couch today, nursing him back to health, I simply do not have the time for such luxuries. 

My other little guy, my foster child, has once again managed to fill my calendar today with appointments - appointments which will require the majority of my energy and attention.  I should tell myself to continue pressing on and not give up, knowing that I am being obedient to what the Lord has asked me to do.  But still, it is difficult not to get discouraged.  It is impossible not to be exhausted.

As I quickly check my e-mail inbox before the busy day begins, one particular notification suddenly catches my attention.  It practically jumps off the computer screen and into my lap:  75% off an island getaway.  On this cold January day, under the cloud of sleep-deprivation, with the kitchen clock ticking rapidly towards the incessant demands on my time today, a vacation in the sun sounds absolutely heavenly!

I do feel a momentary twinge of guilt that if I take this trip, it will mean that my husband will need to stay with the children, holding down the fort here at home.  However – true confessions here – we have been taking separate vacations for years.  He takes a few weeks every fall to go hunting with a buddy in the Northwest.  I take a child or two with me on various trips to visit extended family on the West Coast, or to see the sights in some faraway city.  We love to travel . . . just not together.

It is not because we do not love each other passionately.  We do!   It is not because we need to take a break from each other.  How I long to spend more time with him!  The one reason we cannot enjoy vacationing together, the one obstacle that keeps us apart is, sadly, a simple one:  we do not know one person who is able to care for our foster children while we are gone.