September 7, 2015
I am just sitting down to feed the baby, her eyes getting heavier with each sway of the rocking chair, when the phone interrupts my peaceful moment with it’s shrill ring. A phone call in our home usually means something important is about to happen . . . a new placement, an update on our children’s case, a new or rescheduled appointment, someone who needs something from me. Whoever it is will just have to wait, I think to myself. That’s why we have voice mail. I’ll listen to the message in a few minutes, after this sweet thing is asleep.
I must admit that this is one of my favorite times of the day, a brief respite of quiet and calm, when loving her is the only thing on my mind. Oh, how precious she is to me! She has this habit of looking at me with her deep brown eyes, as if she is looking into my heart, begging me to love her. Everything about her is miraculous and beautiful and breathtaking. She frequently touches my mouth, as if to say, I don’t just want to hear your words; I want to feel them. She snuggles up to my neck in that sweet place that children know how to find, and there is nothing else I would rather be doing. Nowhere else I would rather be. I feel like the luckiest person in the world; every day I get to experience the joy, the sheer pleasure, of loving her.
About an hour later, when the baby is snuggled safely in her crib and the dishes are washed and the laundry is neatly folded, I suddenly remember the missed phone call, and stop to listen to the message. It is the social worker who had called, and because she doesn’t contact me frequently, I know it must be something important. I promptly dial her number, and am surprised when she answers on the first ring.
She is quick and professional, getting directly to the point: This little one’s mother is not doing very well. In spite of the offers of help and available resources and encouragement from the many professionals who are involved in the situation, the mother continues down a destructive path, further and further away from being able to care for her sweet baby. The news is serious and sobering.
Unexpectedly, a lump forms in the back of my throat and hot tears spring to my eyes, and I feel an overwhelming sense of grief and loss. Where did these strong emotions come from? Why am I not secretly rejoicing? The mother’s decline means that her child will be staying with me, at least for a little while longer, right? Always, always in the back of my mind is the hint of uncertainty, never sure of what the unpredictable future will hold. I never know how long a foster child will live with me. So I should be relieved at this news, relieved that I won’t be having empty arms any time soon.
So why the tears? Why am I so deeply sad at the news that this baby’s mother is not doing well?
First of all, I grieve that this young woman is depriving herself of the priceless gift she has been given. She is a mother, the one who grew this child in her womb and who gave birth to her. The one who shares her upturned nose and her perfect complexion and her DNA. This little one is growing and changing every day, learning about the world around her . . . and her mother is missing it. She is missing her baby’s first steps and her wet kisses and the splashes and giggles of bath time and the snuggles at bed time. She is missing the incomparable experience of loving her child.
And I am sad for this little one, who may grow up without ever having an opportunity to know her mother. Today she is innocent and protected and treasured. But some day she will be old enough to understand the details of her story . . . the story of her birth and the circumstances that led to her placement in the foster care system. She will learn of her mother’s struggles and challenges and failures. She will question why her mother wasn’t strong enough or motivated enough, why she didn’t love her child enough, to change. No matter how wonderful and even magical her childhood may end up being, her heart will always feel the loss of her first mother.
And I am sad for this young woman’s family. Once upon a time, she was someone’s little girl as well, and somewhere out there is a mother who is probably crying her eyes out at the loss of her daughter. At seeing the choices her daughter is making and watching the irreparable damage it is causing. At letting go of the dream that her daughter might one day live happily ever after. I cannot imagine the grief.
Because of the complexity of the situation, because my primary role is to nurture and protect this little one in my care, I don’t know if I will ever see her mother again. I may never have the opportunity to tell her that, not only do I pray for her, I am teaching her daughter to pray for her.
If you happen to see her, this young woman who has played such a vital role in the life of this precious child, please reach out to her. Please show her the love of Jesus.
If she ever visits your church, lost and broken, looking for answers to the mess that is her life, please embrace her warmly, without judgment or criticism. Accept her into your fold, and show her how to find forgiveness at the cross. Show her how to find healing and wholeness and the peace that she so desperately needs.
If you meet her, please remind her that her story isn’t over yet. That God is still at work, molding her and shaping her into the amazing woman He designed her to be. Remind her that He will never give up on her. That He will never abandon her. Please remind her that regardless of her past, regardless of where the future takes her, the Lord will never relinquish His hold on her. He will never stop loving her.