As you can see, it has obviously been quite a while since I have written. I wish I could say that I was traveling the world, curing cancer, and inventing an infant car seat that's actually light enough to carry without breaking a bone. But alas, I must confess that none of that has happened. It's just been the same old thing around here. Except for... not really so much.
To catch you up, Big and Little Sis, along with their Little Bro, went to live with their grandparents. I never did have an empty house, though. I had been available to keep infants this summer when I was out of school with the expectation that either the baby would have to move to another home once it was six weeks old, or the girls would be reuniting with their family. On July 2, I welcomed a four day old little boy, Skippy, into my home. He left on July 5 after court and then I received Kobe Wan Kenobi a few days later. He was pretty pitiful upon arrival, but perked up after a couple of days. He went to live with his aunt, whom I was able to meet. It's always nice in this situation to be able to meet the family members and get a good warm-fuzzy feeling about them. Then came Eyelashes. This child, well, let's just say... He is possibly THE easiest baby in the entire world and he has more women in love with him than Carter's got liver pills.
The girls moved out on August 15. Exactly one month after Eyelashes came to live with us. I am beyond blessed that their grandparents are very intentional about making sure that we're able to keep in contact. I've even been able to see them a few times and they're doing great!
So now it's just me and the ever-famous Eyelashes. And the dog. And the cat. We lead a simple little life. Or so I thought. On October 4, my social worker called with a strange placement request. I hadn't told her that I was ready for another placement, so when she started talking, I was a little confused. Then it all came back into focus. Skippy was being placed back into care and they asked for me. So of course, like any sane, 31 year old, single foster mama who's working full time... I said YES!! This wasn't just any three month old. This was Skippy! He was mine. And I was his. And he came on Saturday and everything was beautifully wonderful and peaceful and easy. Ummm... NO!
Having two babies five weeks apart in age was insanity! However, things were just starting to settle down when he was sent to live with his grandmother. Eyelashes and I got back into our just-the-two-of-us routine. And then my phone rang again two weeks later. It was Skippy again. He was back, and so was the insanity, but I would have had it no other way. After three weeks and getting into a nice groove, Skippy left again, and this time it looked to (hopefully) be a permanent thing.
As Eyelashes and I got back to our old routine yet again, I realized that I had, within a four month time frame, loved and lost six different times. Which brings me to the title of this post...
It seems like an oxymoron, doesn't it? Love, unconditional love, takes guts. You can't be scared when it comes to love. If you are, you will withhold parts of yourself that are essential factors in the equation. You will keep for yourself parts of your heart that you want to protect from vulnerability and the potential harm that could come if things "don't work out." It is HARD to love. It's risky and incredibly terrifying.
There's one thing in particular that we tend to be most afraid of, though, when it comes to love. Loss. The loss of love is something that is capable of bringing even the strongest of us crashing down into a shapeless heap, hurting and longing for what once was, but will never be again. If you have ever been there, you know just how devastating that feeling can be. You know just how much of a basket case you can become. Just how desperate your heart can be to feel even one ounce of a bit better. And for that, you would do almost anything.
Is it that fear, then, that keeps us from giving our hearts over to love in the first place? If so, then I am up the creek without a paddle.
Please allow me to jump tracks right now, in the hopes that they will connect again soon...
One thing I, and almost every other foster parent I've ever met, cannot stand is the question, "But how do you keep from getting attached?" (Can I get an AMEN, fellow fosters??)
Let me explain to you what I'm thinking every time I get asked that question...
"If one more person asks me that question, I'm going to scream. And then vomit. And then go coo-coo-for-coco-puffs crazy. Would you bring your own baby home from the hospital and then keep yourself from getting attached to it just because you weren't sure if they would be with you forever? No!! That would be horrible. This is the same exact thing, but just different."
I don't say that because I would like for people to continue to be my friends, and because some could somehow, possibly, just maybe find it rude. Instead, I usually reply with an, "Of course I'm attached. You can't not get attached."
Here's the truth of it, though. Nothing keeps me from getting attached. It's a child. They have been ripped away from their family and everything they know and love in life. They are not at fault, but typically blame themselves anyway. What kind of horrible person would I be if I just left a kid who is hurting and scared outside to fend for himself? 'Here you go, kid. Here's some food, but make sure you don't come inside the house. That's for family only.' I would expect every single person that I know to call DHR and report me for being a terrible person and to then hit me as hard as they can upside the head in hopes that it would knock some sense into me. So how is it any different if I don't love them? Am I any better if I let them into my home, but don't offer them love and comfort in, perhaps, the most terrifying and uncertain moments of their lives? NO!
When I first started this journey, I didn't know it at the time, but I had a lot to learn about love. I remember thinking that I couldn't really say "I love you" to Little Man because I didn't really feel it yet. I said it anyway, but I can remember that it felt weird. Like I was a phony. We're taught from an early age not to say those three words unless you really mean it. (Are kids still taught that these days?) And I can guarantee you, if you've heard those three little words come out of my mouth intended for your ears, I meant it. I still do.
What I didn't realize when I had Little Man was that love is a choice. It's not a feeling. It's a commitment. It's a promise. It's a lifestyle of servanthood and putting someone else before yourself. It's loving a child enough to give them what they need, even if it's hard. It's holding a child close and letting them rest in your arms when just 20 seconds earlier, you wanted to pull your hair out because of that same said child. It's building connections with a child's birth family so that they know that you are invested in their future. It's giving a child chance after chance to be loved on, hugged, snuggled, affirmed, kissed, comforted, and prayed over even when they give you chance after chance to go insane. It's loving forever, knowing that they will not be there forever. It's loving knowing you will lose the one your heart loves.
And now the tracks converge back into one...
Is it that fear, then, that keeps us from giving our hearts over to love in the first place? If so, then I am up the creek without a paddle. You see, as of now, I am not called to adopt. Just typing the words makes tears spring to my eyes and my heart starts racing. Because knowing that means that I know I will lose my love... over and over again. I will continually pour my life and heart into children just to pack their bags and take them to another home, another family. Although I've known this for the almost two years I've been fostering, it's never been as real, as daunting, as poignant, and as crushing as it is now. Knowing this means that I know that Eyelashes belongs to someone else. He is not mine and he never will be. So every time I get asked if I'm going to adopt him, a lightening bolt of dread shoots through me and I feel like I might suffocate. I feel as if I may die right there on the spot. Because I LOVE this child. He means so much more to me than words can express. But he. is. not. mine.
I don't know when the day will come that I have to hand him over to another's arms. I don't know how I will survive. I don't know how I will make it through the heartbreak of losing the one I love so dearly, so deeply. I simply don't know.
But I do know that right now, my love is all his... and Skippy's, and Kobe Wan Kenobi's, and Big and Little Sis', and Little Man's... and countless more to come.
Because, my friends, love is a choice.
No matter how much loss may come, I still choose love.
Go, and choose to love.