Yesterday marked one year since the day Zay’s case took a drastic turn. We had been waiting on results from an evaluation that would likely sway the case towards adoption. Case workers and attorneys communicated that there was no way this evaluation would ever recommend Zay be reunified with his mother. We were praying that by Christmas we would hear adoption would be the goal for 2017.
It was going to be the best Christmas ever.
It was around lunchtime and I had just broke away from the family to heat up food for everyone. We had spent the morning decorating our tree and home for Christmas. I saw the Department of Children and Families’s number pop up on my phone and I had a sick feeling it wasn’t the news we were hoping for.
I left the sound of Zay’s hungry squeals for the privacy of my office and sat down in disbelief at the news I was hearing.
“She passed the evaluation.”
“Reunification is the goal.”
“Four to six months.”
At the time of the phone call Zay’s case worker was also in disbelief. She agreed that this was not in Zay’s best interest, but she claimed there was nothing she could do.
Zay would likely leave our family right before he turned two years old, and that’s exactly what happened.
We later heard about the various (corrupt) agendas that were at play with Zay’s case. We hired a lawyer, “the best in the state” we were told, but didn’t get far with our advocacy. We fought to give Zay a voice and educate the professionals about trauma. Our attempts were met with polite smiles and nods to condescending comments in court in front of a brand-new-to-Zay’s-case judge who asked us not to let this experience “sour” our time as foster parents.
It truly felt like Adam and I were the only ones fighting for Zay’s best interest (because well, we most likely were).
For the next three months anxiety and depression settled in. The emotional turmoil was unbearable at times, and my health was at an all-time low. We prayed for a miracle, for Zay to stay, but I secretly sensed God was leading us to say goodbye.
When your life doesn’t revolve around case workers, birth parent visits, attorneys, and court dates, it’s hard to truly grasp the brokenness that encompasses the life of a foster family. Most people didn’t believe Zay would leave us. They sincerely believed God’s will was for him to stay with us, and that we were going to see a miracle happen, even if it happened at the very last second.
To me, this felt similar to the “you’ll surely get pregnant right after you adopt” comments we received early on in our adoption journey. Only God knows the plans He has for us. The commentary from well-meaning-loved-ones only unintentionally made us feel more lonely during this season.
But what if God is the one who allowed Zay to leave? What if God’s purpose was for Adam and I to submit to His plans and lay down the ones we were desperately trying to hold on to for our family?
I remember a day last fall when I picked up Zay from one of his two weekly visits with his mom. This particular day they had been meeting at the Watertown Public Library, about 20 minutes from our home. Zay’s case worker wanted to follow me home after the visit so she could check in with us, something she did once a month.
I drove with both boys in the back seat down a country road about a mile from our home. This particular day the leaves on the trees must have been at peak (a true sight to see in New England). The sun was shining through the oranges, yellows, and reds in such a way that it looked like heaven was coming down to earth. It was absolutely glorious. When we arrived at our home the first thing Zay’s case worker commented on was how beautiful the drive was. I will never forget that stunning Autumn day.
Since Zay’s departure I avoid that road if I can. It doesn’t matter the season, all it reminds me of are the visits I drove Zay to and from for the first eighteen months of his time with us. Jayda and Zay would be in the back together, singing along to Slugs and Bugs, sometimes holding hands, usually giggling and laughing together. A small cooler held a bottle and snacks for my son, along with a bag of toys, an extra outfit, and a blanket for him to play on with his mom.
For three years we had DCF intimately in our lives, dictating our weekly schedules, pediatrician, dentist, and NICU follow-up visits. The thought of it now still makes my heart race with anxiety. Driving past one of the various libraries Zay met with his mom at always enlists that same lump in my gut and brings me back to that season.
I don’t think I’ll ever not feel that sick feeling when I’m reminded of those years.
Almost three months after that phone call I stayed home from church one Sunday with sniffly kiddos. I had been grieving hard for the likely loss of my son. With no date set for reunification, and a handful of unknowns in the case still, the anxiety was crippling at times.
As I worked in the kitchen that morning I listened to an Eric Mason sermon on Psalm 4:1.
“Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. be gracious to me and hear my prayer.”
It was that morning that God gave me a sense of deliverance. In His kindness he gave me relief when I was in distress, and for the first time in three months peace and acceptance took the place of tears. It was in this space that I experienced joy again. Breathing room. God had “loosened the girdle of my circumstances” as Pastor Mason put it, and I was able to experience perspective in my suffering.
I began to accept the reality that Zay would only be with us for a short time. Part of that was driven by fear. Fear to pray that Zay would stay because the case seemed to be barreling towards reunification. My spirit sensed that we needed to submit to God’s plan for us on this foster-to-adopt (or not-adopt) journey, while still advocating for his best interest as long as we could.
Today I sit in my living room, looking at the Christmas tree, longing for my younger son to still be here. I’ve chosen to face my grief head-on these days. I’ve never been one to hide my feelings, so it’s been a sweet release to spend extended time working through this with God’s Word. Without a single case worker in our lives anymore I have the freedom right now to put nothing on the schedule (something I’m taking full advantage of these days).
I’m leaning-in and choosing to let grief do a work on my heart. I’m trusting (and have to trust over and over again every day) that God has a good purpose for my pain. For the pain our entire family is feeling.
I know that I’ll never experience full healing during my lifetime. Part of my heart left with Zay when I watched him leave through the back window of the case workers car on June 19th. The pain of this amputation will be felt forever.
I have moments where I’m able to recognize that everything I have is a gift. Gifts that I don’t deserve. Zay (and Jayda, for that matter) is a precious gift that God gave, and then chose to take away. Daily (hourly) I must pray for God to help me loosen my grip on the good gifts He’s given me. When my tightly clenched fist peels away, revealing *my* hopes and dreams, I can more easily submit to God’s plan for our family and more fully enjoy the gifts He has given me *today*.