It’s another day of waiting for a post-court call. How many does this make? I can’t keep track. Can’t keep track of the hours and days of waiting to hear what’s happened in there while we’re left out here. Left out here like we’re nobody, because, I guess, technically, legally, we are.
I can hear our social worker say it again- “She won’t be in care when she’s 2.” I remember when she said it, inwardly flinching, flinching at her confidence that the adoption would be done by then.
We’re a few weeks away from her second birthday, and legally, nothing’s changed.
They say the process is slow, they try to warn you about how long it can take, but sometimes even they stand back and scratch their heads with you. Because it takes so shockingly long.
And when a pandemic steps in and moves things down even slower, you have to reckon with planning her second birthday before you plan for that trial.
How are we still here? Still moving our lives around weekly visits that he normally doesn’t show for, still unable to have closure, permanency, full embracing.
Part of me reels at how long it’s been. Another part of me knows it’s another proof of God, because only He could get us through two years of such a roller coaster ride.
It feels like another world, ages ago, standing in her nursery holding her tiny 2 week old self while I talked to her lawyer. “How long do you think it will be?” I asked. “Weeks?” We wanted forever, but foster care comes with hopes of weeks. “Oh, months,” the lawyer responded confidently. I remember feeling a jump of joy at the longer-stretch hope, and at the way that deepened the forever hope.
Those 2 week old memories, when withdrawal wasn’t completely over and everything was new to us, and now I look at her running and laughing, 2 weeks so long ago and 2 years right around the corner.
I wonder what I would have thought if I knew the lawyer’s expectations of months would turn into years and turn into maybe forever but that the years would come first.
I think I would have thought I can’t do it. How can anyone hang on that long? Hang on without any certainty, any claim, any closure. How can we maintain that level of angst, hope, fear, for two years?
I look back and know it was God. I remember last summer when they gave us 30 days, 30 days left with her before sending her back, back to the people who were still using, and I remember sobbing and banging the steering wheel and cry-yelling at God, telling Him, “I have to see You. I have to see You!” Because it all felt so dark and lost and if I couldn’t see His hand, couldn’t see Him work, the despair would win.
And He showed us, showed us Himself and showed us His work, and He intervened, intervened for her, in a way that the system still finds inexplicable. Because how does a system explain divine intervention and commanded angels and a Kingdom made up of these little ones?
And now over a year later, I’m still so grateful and still catch my breathe when I remember how close we were to losing her, and yet I also gasp when realizing that 13 months since we almost lost her we still don’t have her.
We still don’t have her.
And it’s this weird splitting, this dynamic of dualism, that on one side hits me with this inexpressible gratitude, to have had her and held her for 23 months- how can I be so gift given?? But the other side comes as well, knowing I’ve never had her.
We’ve never had her.
We live with that ache and simultaneous hope, longing for the big day where it’s made official and we for the first time have her, have her as our own, our child, our family member.
But how do you keep going when that day is planned for but not promised?
It has to be for Jesus, it has to be. It has to be an eternal service.
And God uses lots of ways to get you through it, and I look at her and she smiles and I know He uses her herself to pull us along.
“Hands!” It’s one of her favorite things, to hold hands, and she doesn’t even need to go anywhere, but she’ll just wander the floor with me, just so she can walk and hold my hand.
He video calls her, he the one who claims parenthood, and it’s such an odd reality- he claims a title he functionally has no claim on, and we function fully in the role we can’t claim. He calls her his daughter, but he can’t understand what she’s saying, and I explain her life to him and he says she looks like her mother.
I swallow, stung, knowing he didn’t mean it to hurt, knowing it’s true, but I hold her close and two years of raising this child flash through my mind as I see the immense amount of work and love poured out yet motherhood eludes. This child who I’ve given sleepless nights and held through tremors and potty trained and yet whose pictured face I’m not even allowed to post.
There’s a sign down at DSS in the room where foster families wait while their foster children have supervised visits with their bio families. “Parenthood requires love not DNA,” it tries to comfort.
It tries, but when you’re sitting there stomach churning while you wait for the child to be brought back, it doesn’t comfort much. Because you know these letters aren’t painted on the other room’s wall, you know that while you fill this role of parent, there’s another in the next room who has the rights to her just because of DNA.
How do you stand on Mount Moriah for two years and maintain that level of tension? Isn’t the ability to do just that in itself a miracle as much as the ram?
“Hands!” she squeals again, and she has no idea, not a clue of the black cloud that hovers, the complications that are always present, the hopes, the fears, the wait. And while I long for a paper to call me her mother, I reach my hand out to her and she takes it and we walk together.
While I live in the awareness of this strained system, and our family can’t relax in the peace of permanency, I also know that ours is the family that knows her, that understands her new words and favorite things and what makes her giggle. We know how happy she wakes up and how to calm her when she’s sad, what her favorite books are and how good she sings. We know her inside jokes and favorite bedtime routine and that she loves being held.
And when she’s scared, she runs to me, runs behind me and hides and holds onto me, and she reaches her arms up and says, “Uppy, mama!”
Mama. She calls me mama.
Though a paper doesn’t and a judge may not, she calls me mama. And this makes my heart swell, and the ache settle. And while I’m waiting for a legal process to make me her mom, I know I already am to her. “Mama’s got ya,” I say as I scoop her up and hold her close and smell her hair, and she holds me tightly back and we rock and sing her favorite comfort song.
And I pray again, surrender again, recognize her as His again, relinquish again.
And I don’t know if the knife or the ram will come, if my heart will end up stabbed through or the rescue will come. But I know she calls me mama.
She calls me mama.
And so we stand at the altar. And her voice calling for me, her hand clutching mine, it’s daily manna in this long journey that helps us to continue on it. And so we continue to wait. To pour out. And live in the unknown. Knowing she’s worth it. And knowing He is.