One week. Seven Days. 168 hours. 10,080 minutes.
This is how long we’ve had “X”, our new foster son. With his addition to our family, we now have three children under three: Martell who will be three in about a week (insert crying emoji—time is going too fast!), X who is nearly two, and little Esmae who will be one just after Martell turns three (insert another crying face). To say that life has been chaotic may be a slight understatement. I was on the phone the other day, trying to have a serious conversation while all three kids were awake, when the following ensued:
“Did you go poop?” …serious conversation… “OFF the stairs boys!” …serious conversation… “Where is Esmae?” …serious conversation… “Don’t throw your crackers all over the floor!” …serious conversation… “No jumping off the couch please!” …serious conversation… “You need to go potty? Okay, thanks for telling me!” …serious conversation… “You need me to wipe you? I’ll be right there.”…serious conversat… “Stand up your cup, it’s spilling everywhere.”…serious conv… “Do we really need to cry right now?”…serious co… “Keep your hands to yourself boys!”…seriou…”Everyone needs to go to sleep right now so Mommy can go get a massage in a VERY quiet room.”…serious conversation OVER five minutes ago. This seems as though it could be written for a comedy skit, but I kid you not, this is my real life.
I walk into stores, doctor’s offices, or the YMCA, the only places I have ventured with all three thus far, and people look at me like I’ve lost my ever-loving mind (which is honestly debatable at this point).
So, for those of you wondering what is going through our minds, I am here to let you in—I’ll walk you through where are minds were before we got the call, and then the time lapse between the call from our agency to the moment we held little X in our arms late on Friday night. The setting for which our minds arrived at a “yes” last week began developing a while ago, so I’ll do my best to keep it succinct and easy to understand.
About eighteen months ago, we had to say goodbye to a little four-year-old girl living in our care. Her life was one that you could read about in a textbook on adverse childhood experiences. It was raw, unprotected and carelessly dropped without anyone there to pick up the pieces.
When we got the phone call for her just over two years ago, the list of abuses that plagued her past and the list of resulting negative behaviors lead me to believe that we would never bring her into our home where we had a ten-month-old Martell to protect. When I nonchalantly explained to my husband that we had received a call for a little girl who would soon be four, but who had lots of issues, he told me with tears in his eyes that “he really thought we should consider her.” Gosh, even writing this out brings up heaps of emotion and heartbreak all over again. I am sitting here with tears streaming down my cheeks as I bring these buried memories back to my mind’s forefront. When we prayed over the situation, I was so convicted of my callousness, and felt as though God whispered to my soul that “we had the opportunity to carry some of her burden so she wouldn’t have to.” He reminded me that the goal throughout the course of this life here is not, nor will it ever be the American Dream. Just 24 hours later, this sweet girl walked through our red front door into her fourth foster home in a matter of only three months. She was visibly unbathed, trailing behind her bags of clothes riddled with maggots, quiet and shy, and oh-so-broken.
Throughout the course of the ten months that we shared our home with this wrecked little girl, we became broken alongside her. Her anxiety and explosive tantrums, self-protection and destructiveness was like a palpable spirit within our home—a weight that was felt by not just her, but by each of us. Between restraining her for hours at a time, to taking random exits off the interstate in order to issue a timeout after she would scream and whip toys or shoes across the car, to throwing her bowls of cereal at me just after I got ready for work, to inappropriate sexual behavior, we felt as though we were drowning—isolated and in over our heads. At the end of her time with us, we became pregnant knowing that she would return home shortly after we conceived. When her return home date was pushed back and back and back, I started showing signs of having a miscarriage around eight weeks of pregnancy due to, what the doctors explained as unhealthy amounts of stress. In essence, Gabe and I felt like we were in a place of needing to decide which life would be with us to stay—our unborn child’s life or this little girl who was scheduled to return home shortly. We chose to have her removed from our home.
There is an unmatched depth of shame and sadness surrounding that decision. It’s difficult to explain for me, because I do feel as though the right decision was made, but as you can imagine, we feel as though we failed this little girl. When she left, my husband and I showed many different signs of post-traumatic stress disorder—my husband’s anxiety flared up like never before during her time with us, and continued until just a couple of months ago; I lost a significant amount of weight due to stress and could cry at the drop of a hat when anything was mentioned of her. We knew that it would be a while until we would take in another foster placement after her. We needed time to heal from the wounds we seemed to have absorbed from her; for as we got in there, right up close to her hurt in attempts to apply deep compression to her bleeding heart, we found that we, ourselves, were in fact bleeding as well.
In our season of “rest” we had our sweet Esmae, adopted our boy Martell, and experienced some healing. There were a few calls from our agency that we received and declined—one that I wrote about here. So, knowing what you know now about our past with said little girl, you can imagine, when we got this phone call for little X last week, fear rose up in our chests and throats as we considered:
What if Gabe’s anxiety comes back again?
What if he is hard on our kids?
What if we don’t have enough energy?
What will people say about us—we’re going to look crazy!
What if we “fail him” too?
It’s hard to explain what rested the questions for me. Again, I felt like I had a quiet spirit—one that whispered, “carry this little boy on the backs of your privilege. It won’t be easy—in fact, it will be really hard, but you get this chance to love through the loss of yourself and teach your kids what it looks like to truly sacrifice on behalf of the broken.”
So we said, “yes.” So we run around more than we used to. So we cry when they wake one another at naps. So we ease the sadness of Martell as he feels “separate” from Mommy and Daddy. So we cuddle Esmae more as she feels left behind. So we wipe the tears of our broken little fella as he struggles to fall asleep. So…you guys…we carry our crosses. It seems crazy, but it’s right. It doesn’t always feel “good”, but it is, indeed, good.