This week, my baby girl celebrated her 2nd birthday! She is such a ray of sunshine, full of personality and spunk, and an absolute bundle of joy. But her birthday is not the only day that is special to me. In fact, it is the day after her birthday that holds the most memories for me.
Two years ago, I received a call from my husband that would change my life forever. He told me that his niece was in jail again, that she was pregnant when she was arrested and that she had given birth to a baby girl. The baby was taken into protective custody and the state was looking for someone to take her in. The first words out of my mouth were, "Can we adopt?" We discussed the options that were available to us, whether or not we could afford to take her in, how we would care for her, what would happen if/when she had to go home to her birth mom? We were torn.
On one hand, we wanted to help; we wanted to do the right thing, after all, she is family. But how could we take in this child knowing that when it is time for her to go back to her biological mother, it will break our hearts? You see, my husband and I had been trying to have another baby for 5 1/2 years. We had almost reached the point of giving up. When we found out that the baby was born, we both wanted to step in and help, but we were scared.
We knew that the decision to take in a child and raise her as our own is not to be taken lightly. There are so many things to consider: how will we feed, clothe, nurture and care for her? How long will she stay with us? Are we willing to open our hearts and love this child the way she deserves to be loved and cared for? Are we willing to let our hearts be broken if/when she has to go home with her birth mom? It is a huge decision that we made with a lot of intense prayer. We sought counsel from people that we respect, and ultimately we decided to do what was best for her. For me, it wasn't simply about "doing the right thing". It wasn't just because she was family, and it wasn't just because we didn't want her to be another kid in "the system." For me, it is about integrity.
I am a Christian, and I work for a non-profit that helps children and families in need. In my work, we hope that children will stay with their families, because we believe that children need the love and support of their family in order to thrive. For me, the decision is a matter of integrity. If I say that I believe in the work that I do, and if I agree that children should be with family, and if I believe in the words of the Bible that says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress..." (James 1:27 NIV) and if I say that I live by the words of Jesus, but don't practice it in my life, then I am a hypocrite. For me, taking her in was not just the right thing to do; it was what I was compelled to do. It was about putting my faith into action. I could not walk away for this child because I knew that my decision would affect her life. Whether we said yes or no to caring for her, she would be affected by our decision, because we knew that she exists, and no one else was stepping in to care for her. I imagined what her life could be like growing up in foster care, bouncing from home to home. She could be loved or she could be abused. She could be adopted or she could be lost in the system. We wanted what was best for her. We knew that we would give her a good, safe, loving home, and that she would be with family, close to her other siblings (also living with family members) and she could stay for as long or as short of a time. We wanted her to have the bet start possible. It would break our hearts to let her go, but it was up to us to keep her out of foster care.
It was a difficult decision to make. We had never had any sort of contact with CPS or social workers. We were very blind going into this process, and simply believed that we were making the right decision and the Lord would guide us through it - and He did. There were a few bumps along the way though - not everyone, including family, agreed with what we were doing. It was difficult to hear that not everyone supported us, but we knew it was because of their love for us, that they were so strong in their disapproval. It also showed us that, again, the decisions we make don't just affect us, but everyone close to us. Afterall, we were asking them accept this child as their own as well - to be adopted into their hearts as family as well. This decision did not come as easy to some as it did for others.
At 3 days old, she was placed in a foster home for a month while we went through background checks and all the other necessary steps and preparations, until she came home with us 4 weeks later. She was a beautiful baby girl, with dark curly hair and blue eyes. She was the answer to my prayers for a daughter. My son took to her immediately and loved being her older brother. She captured our hearts instantly and were all smitten.
And wouldn't you know, 10 days after we brought her home, we found out I was pregnant. I remember wondering why the Lord would choose this time, of all times, for me to get pregnant. After all, my heart's desire for a baby had been fulfilled, and I was happy to care for her for as long as I could. Why would He choose now, of all times, to give us another baby? Did this mean that we wouldn't get to keep my daughter? I wrestled with thoughts of fear, overwhelming emotions, and even allowing myself to love the baby that I held in my arms, while another grew in my belly. I prayed that the Lord would give me strength to endure what was to come and savored every moment that I held this precious little one in my arms.
After 2 months, the visits with her birth mom ended due to a series of events and over time, we began to feel more hope that she would be permanently be ours. But it was 6 months after she had been born that I knew deep in my heart that she was intended to be ours. I was sitting in a courtroom, listening to testimony being given about her birth mother and father, and my heart was breaking as they said, in short, they have no interest in this child. In my heart I said, "I want her. I love her. I have always loved her and I have always wanted her." In that moment, I knew that she was always meant to be my daughter and I gave myself permission to be her mother. We are counting down the days until her adoption is final.
By now, I'm sure I have offended someone; someone is wondering why God would allow this to happen. I don't know why things happen the way that they do. I don't know why I get to be her mother, and the woman that she was born to does not. But I do believe that the Lord allows things to happen for a reason. And I am grateful that He intervened in my daughter's life. I can only imagine how different things would have turned out if we had decided not to take her in-if we had said no. After all, we didn't have to take her in. In fact if you had asked me 2 weeks before she was born if I would consider adoption, I would have said no and given you a dozen reasons why it would not be possible. But I know and have seen, that all things are possible with God (Matthew 19:25-27 NIV).
As I sat in that court room, listening to the list of reasons why the state should terminate parental rights, I wondered how many children have gone through this same process but there was no one to speak up for them; no one who was willing to say, "I want them. I am willing to love them, and care for them, and raise them as my own." I think that we should not be asking "Why does God allow this? Why doesn't He do something?" We should be saying, "Why am I not willing? Why won't I do something?" The answer to the question, "Where is God?" is us. We can be the answer to so many prayers, if we would just be willing to say yes.
After 5 1/2 years of trying to have a baby, I was not willing to adopt. But when faced with the knowledge of a child who needed my help, I could not look away. Many times I asked the questions, "Lord where are you? Why won't you give us another child?" I think that the answer for us, is that we needed to get to a place where we were willing to say yes to what He wanted us to do, so that we could receive the blessing that we had been praying for for so long.
If you have or are considering adoption or foster care, I encourage you to pray about it, seek counsel, and seriously consider the sacrifices and the rewards of taking in and caring for a child. Here are a few websites that I have found helpful in my journey: