After a difficult custody hearing yesterday Baby went to live with his new family in Wisconsin. After having that sweet child for 6 months, our hearts are full of a jumble of emotions. We feel sad about the loss of the dreams and plans we unintentionally made about him being part of our lives forever.
We feel grateful for the opportunity we had to care for him for a while. We feel heartbroken for his birth parents. We feel frustration for "the system", but don't know what we could do to make it better. Ideally there wouldn't be a "system", parents would be healthy, stable, loving and fit to care for their children. But because that is not the case, some children need a place to be cared for and loved. We are happy to offer that love and stability.
We were able to meet Baby's new parents for the first time on Monday. After months of prayer and fasting that Baby might be the answer to our prayers, it was hard for us to face the fact that he might be leaving. My amazing husband set a great example for me in focusing our energy on loving this new family. It would be very easy for us to be angry with them, to be resentful of them "taking our baby away", but we didn't want that to happen. They are good, kind people.
They've been through the wringer the past 6 months, just like we have, waiting for an outcome with Baby. Communication was not the greatest during this case, and this poor family thought everything would be wrapped up by last Christmas. They were all ready to welcome a new baby in December and had no idea it was even an option that we may be able to keep him.
Emotions were high during court yesterday. The judge (who has been doing this for 30 years) cried as he read his verdict, something which has never happened before. The caseworker (who is fairly distant and unemotional) got teary as he expressed his sorrow for our family afterward. The Assistant Attorney General expressed how sorry she felt for our family, also with tears in her eyes. As the judge told us, they don't often have to choose between 2 good families. In juvenile court the choices are almost always clear-cut. It's heartbreaking to take a child from their birth parents. But if the parents aren't fit to care for their children, at the end of the day the judge and attorneys can go home feeling that they did a good thing for the child. In this case, he was choosing between two families that are healthy, loving and stable. One family had to be hurt, and the judge had the responsibility to decide.
We've cried more over the last 5 days than at any other point in our marriage. Last night we were feeling like we'd cried everything out, but as I type this the tears are flowing.
For Ellie, this is a part of life. She's seen 10 of our "babies for now" come and go. She loves them while they're here and misses them a bit when they go, but she doesn't remember life being any other way. Ethan is having a hard time understanding where Baby went. Every so often this morning he'll say, "I want Baby home...". He's sad, but it won't last long.
Mostly I feel gratitude. The fact that we have 2 children is an absolute miracle. I am so grateful for them, and look forward to focusing more on them. I look forward to getting back to "real life" without extra time away from them for court dates, doctor appointments, visits with birth parents, etc. But there is a part of me that wonders if/when we'll have more children. I'm a planner, and I want to know where they'll come from and when.
As I look back at my life I can see that God's plan for me is always better than my plan for my life. But why can't I always remember that? I am working at turning things over to Him, trusting His plan and doing the best I can with what I've been given.
So where do we go from here? Right now, our family is going to focus on healing. We plan to spend a lot of time together. We parted with Baby's new family last night with promises to keep in touch. I can see us being life-long friends with them, and I hope it turns out that way. As for foster care, we plan to take some time off for hearts to mend. We'll reassess whether this is something we want to continue later.
Last night Ellie reminded me of a quote from our foster care training, "If your heart doesn't break when they leave, you didn't do your job." I asked her, " Is your heart breaking?" She said "Yes". " Then you did a fantastic job!"
Thank you for your kind words and encouragement, prayers and love. Our hearts are hurting, but that helps us know that we did our job.