Today I sat on the phone and I listened to words that fell like stones within my heart, and tiny pieces shattered. I listened in disbelief as the nurse relayed medical information that I did not want to hear. And deeply, I raged as I heard her speak about MRI results that are a direct result of medical abuse and neglect. And I quietly thanked her and said we would patiently wait for the next step. We would wait to hear the neurosurgeon’s recommendations; we would wait to hear about one more piece of heartache, we would wait to hear one more portion of pain. And I really wanted to say “no, thank you”. I wanted to shout, “no thank you God, I am already trying to piece together his fragile mind”. “No thank you God, I don’t need to add to this load, I am already buckling beneath the weight and I’m tired”. “No thank you God, he doesn’t need to have these added physical issues and I don’t need the reminder of his previous pain” And inside me I rage, and I swirl with the knowledge and the pain. And I’m angry and in my car alone, I actually scream and it’s so loud it scares me and my tears blind me. But they cannot take away my sight. No, I see all too well.
I see orphan babies receiving shoddy surgeries tied to metal crib bars enduring minutes and hours without a loving touch or word. I see the terror in my child’s eye as we enter an operating suite because he has seen this equipment before and it was steeped in trauma. A child who becomes a scared, whimpering mess because he has been brought to this point before and it involved terror and pain. I have seen and held the castoff babies in his section of the orphanage that go without medical care. Human minds assigning value and worth, labeling life and death with a pen on paper. Nameless and faceless children marked indelibly as unworthy upon birth. Picked to die, they lie with enlarged heads and shrunken bodies suspended between life and death. And my soul struggles to shift out from under this burden, “No thank you, God. Can I please not see today”
The only sound in the orphanage I heard was not the laugh of a baby or the cry of a hungry toddler. No, it was in the “lying room” where babies are placed to die. Children that don’t receive pain medication, lying in the sweat of their pain racked bodies, lulled by the sound of buzzing flies and a single suction machine sitting in a 2 Liter 7-Up bottle of tepid water. And I wait, and I wish to say, “no thank you, not today God. I would rather not see today”
But the images they flicker across my memories and they are not a nameless, faceless evil residing across the ocean. An evil housed a world away and not my problem. No, this hurt also lives in my own country, my own home town. I willingly signed up for foster care and invited it’s victims into my house and their faces march across my memories. I have looked into the sightless gaze of an 18 month old as she undergoes a sex abuse exam, and held her 4 year old brother smeared in his own poop as he raged against me. I’ve used my touch to comfort the pain from burns and breaks, but never came close to touching the deeper scars that will always remain hidden deep within the heart. I’ve held broken babies whose only crime was crying too loudly when their mom was trying to sleep off her high, and nursed to health a toddler who got on daddy’s bad side. I’ve seen the parental excuses and the broken system and overworked and overburdened caseworkers. I know the alphabet from RAD to ODD to PTSD and FASD, an alphabet soup inflicted on tiny minds. And I’ve held the dying baby and I’ve wept in the hospital parking lot because I didn’t have the answers, but I knew the need. And my soul cried out, “No, thank you God, I’m not this strong”.
I see that adoption and foster care can NEVER be about me or you. Because the minute, you bring a child home to fulfill a need or want, is the minute you are setting yourself up for disappointment and heartache. The day you think you can save them, is the day you lose yourself. YOU CANNOT! Fostering and adoption is hard, gritty and dirty. You cannot do this without arming yourself with the knowledge that this is not the intended way to enter a family. No, it is not the natural order of things. In order for adoption to occur, the child has had to suffer a loss. And this loss is often so deep that your love cannot even begin to fill the hole and if you stand too close to the edge of that hole, you will fall. You will find yourself determined to fix a piece of broken that has never been your job to repair, and you will tumble. But there really is no alternative because you can’t just say, “no thank you God” to the broken baby that is now a teen.
I see the contrast, of evil and good; failures and triumphs; ashes and beauty. And I know that this is hard stuff and I have many “no thank you” days. Days I question my choices, and think the cost might be too high, and I’ve spent myself emotionally, physically and spiritually. Days where I look for the miracles and all I see is hard work returned with no gain. And the waves tower high and the neurosurgeon team gives more news and maybe sometimes the miracle won’t happen in this lifetime. And I breathe deeply, set my face as stone to the Lord and place my back to the naysayers, the know it alls, and the neuro teams that question. Because I know truth and I have learned trust.
I want to say “no thank you God”, but I really don’t. I don’t want to go back to the days that I sat with clean hands and an innocent mind and paid my tithe and did my good deeds and checked off my Sunday church attendance. The time before I was given sight into a world that would break me fresh every day. The time when my biggest concerns were dinner menus, soccer practice and trying to perfect the art of parenting. And now that I have seen, I would not take it back, “No, thank you God, no turning back.
I see now that sometimes with a storm you never see a rainbow. Sometimes it’s too dark and all you see are the raging winds and rain and the destructive aftermath. You find yourself standing in the midst of the ruin and the broken, and you look to rebuild. You pull on your tool belt and you are ready to work because you’ve been taught that in order to fix it, you must work hard to rebuild. And you have pinned your success on the world’s standards, so you know you have a monumental task. You pull up those bootstraps, you are up to the challenge, because we all love the underdog and the Hail Mary pass on 4th and goal . And you pour yourself into this child and each day you step back to see your work and it’s not better. And the worst is the knowing. That deep knowing that this child will never be truly okay and the work will never truly be finished during your time. That some wounds will never heal, some walls can’t be repaired and the hard part was never the road to adoption. Oh no, the hard part is now, and it’s found in the child’s repetition of self-sabotage and lying and anger. And the miracles you saw to bring the child home don’t seem to continue. You are standing in the ruins and the broken, and it feels so very lonely. And then you lay your head down at night and realize once again that the healing did not come today…, and the flame of hope says “maybe tomorrow, we can try again, maybe tomorrow” Perhaps that is the miracle, a love that looks for the promise after every storm. And the trials you walk, and the storm that rages has only served to remind you that He is our only hope and when we open our eyes we see that eternity contains a lot of tomorrows.