when the brave face cracks.

When the kids are finally in bed and the house is quiet.

I can stop pretending and assuring.
I can stop being brave and strong for them.

All I am then is wrecked.

All day I try to patch the breached damn with platitudes, positive perspectives, and head knowledge, but at night it bursts.   The torrents rush out.  The brave face crumbles.

During the day I can recite for you all the reasons why I am supportive of first families and long for redemption, healing, and reunification for foster kids. I preach to myself the gospel of sacrifice and of a God who is good and sovereign.  I can tell you of a Father who knows each hair on her head, and who sees even a sparrow fall.  I know there is a bigger story being written and I play only a small role.  I am aware that this is all part of the gritty world of foster parenting.  In my head I know these things.  Even in my heart they are deeply rooted.  I know this child is not legally or biologically mine. I have no delusions regarding that fact.

In a previous post I said "I'll let you know when that day comes" regarding how it feels to let go of a dearly loved foster baby, a baby who so seamlessly became a part of our family, and who was as sweet as she could be.
I'm not sure if words can adequately describe how it feels but this is my attempt.  Full disclosure and brutal honesty.

Torment.  Anguish.  Torture.

These are words that come to mind. Maybe that sounds like a heavy dose of hyperbole but if it is then, at this moment, I'm living in that exaggerated state.

It feels like being told that you must give away your baby.  A baby you can't even bear to leave with a babysitter without that maternal longing to return her to your arms.  You must give her to strangers and simply walk away.  You must do what is absolutely unnatural for a mother to do.  You wonder if they will know how to comfort her when she cries, or if they know that she is ticklish under her ears.  You wonder how she will spend her days.  You wonder if she will be safe, if she will be well loved.

It feels like being told your baby will die shortly after he is born.  The death of a dream.  The expectation of horror. Knowing you will have to figure out how to let go after such a short time, and walk away with aching empty arms.  You wonder how you will continue to breathe.

It feels like looking up at an ultrasound screen and seeing a silent heart.  A sudden awareness of all you will miss and all the experiences that will never be.

It feels like staring into the perfect face of a sleeping baby and suddenly realizing that you won't see her first teeth come in, or see those adorable toothy smiles. You won't be there to watch her learn to crawl, or take her first steps, or say her first words.  For the first time in your life you wish you could have the privilege of potty training or scrubbing her art work off of the walls.

It feels like staring into an empty cradle where a baby once slept.

It feels like being pushed under a wave and tumbling around in water.  You struggle to find footing, and you forget which way is up.  Your chest burns and your head aches, craving something that is essential but elusive.

Of course, in my head I know that this is all part of the "job".  This is what we signed up for.  We knew we would fill a role for however long a child needed us. I knew it would be hard because we've done this before.

I prepped myself and our kids as much as possible before our placement, with the reminder that '"this will be temporary".

This case was a bit different than we expected though, it blew out of the water all my best laid heart preparation.   

I knew there would be no protecting my heart with this one.

I remember that moment of stomach dropping fear knowing the storm that could come and choosing to walk into it, while at the same time praying that this cup would be taken.

My "this is only temporary" resolve crumbled when I saw a fragile little girl laying alone in a hospital room filled with other tiny babies being doted on by Mommies and Daddies.  She slept quietly in a hospital bassinet in the back of a room filled with babies being taught how to nurse, and receiving skin to skin "kangaroo care".  She was like a little Roo without a Kanga.  I knew then that I could be that Mama to her.  I have been.  For 5 months she has been nestled and carried next to my heart in a "baby wrap".  There was simply a vacancy that needed to be filled.

When you see me in person I should warn you that I will be wearing my brave face. It isn't very thick or strong, and it may crack on occasion but I will do my best to keep it in place. When I see you I will hold back the torrent, and I will stifle the wail.  My spirit will be keening as a mother losing a child but I will pretend I don't hear it.  Simply because I must. Please forgive me if I avoid eye contact, and make meaningless small talk. This is me boarding up the windows and surviving the screaming wind and pounding rain.

There is no rest for the weary other than in the One who is my Sabbath.
That is where I will find my joy and comfort, even when my feet keep moving, my hands keep reaching, my heart keeps breaking, and my spirit keeps trusting.

I will continue undaunted,
simply because there is more life to live.

It's not about me. I'm not the point.

There are more babies lying alone and there are more children forgotten.

The paradox of fostering.  It hurts like the pit of hell, and yet you know you would do it all again.

Soli Deo Gloria,


Unknown said...

As the parent of an adopted daughter who lived in both terribly good and terribly bad foster homes, can I just say thank you? Let me tell you what I'm sure your heart already knows, that love is certainly not wasted and has created in that child connections that will stay with her forever and help her to continue to form close relationships. Obviously you know that what you are doing is important, but thank you for doing it. It is precious, even though it hurts so very much.

Lynnea Hameloth said...

Oh Carla....in a weird way I'm glad to read this post. Becuz I can.not.imagine having to "give up" Baby Violet and if you said all was ok and gave the "Christian" response that you are "supposed" to give I would have wondered what is wrong with me. Cuz my heart would be breaking into pieces.
You are a strong Mama. It just is hard. Know deep down that you have given that little girl the BEST possible first months of life. The absolute best. <3

Joanna said...

I am so sorry you are having to go thru this! I've been there, too, and you describe all those feelings exactly. I remember standing in the shower, feeling like I couldn't breathe. Feeling like there had to be some mistake because the pain was too great. I spent 2 months going daily to the NICU with my little guy. God gave us the privilege of being a part of saving his life and helping him learn security and bonding. He was with us until age 17 months, when he was sent home because of a legal error on DCS' part. I hear my pain and yours in the words you've written tonight. And I have no words to make it feel better. You already know it will become more bearable with time, but that's no consolation, simply an assurance for a later date. Hugs and prayers .

Talitha Koum said...

Thank you so much for your post. I just went through losing a special needs baby through foster care, and although we only had him for two months I never knew of such pain when we lost him. No one else knows the depth of the loss especially because they are foster children and "it's in the job description". But I wanted to thank you so much for your open honesty, at times I felt like I shouldn't feel this way because he wasn't "technically" mine. But reading your post really made it clear that it's ok to go through a loss and that there will indeed be a light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you for shining the light of Christ, especially in the darkest of times!