Monday, February 23, 2015

the one where she comes home

A year and a half ago I heard some news that made me stop writing.  A record scratched, and there was a long silent pause, a flurry of activity while we all tried to fix the record, and then we lifted the arm on the record player while the record wobbled to a stop, and all was quiet.  Recently, out of the blue, the music started playing again.  Now we have a story to tell.  Because the song that started up was a really good one.  Today will be a synopsis, and then I will add a little more over time.  When you are dealing with a child or the grown ups in these situations you are not allowed to talk about it.  And if I couldn't talk about this particular situation I really didn't have much to say about anything.  This will probably release more words than people have a threshold for hearing.  You might roll your eyes and laugh thinking, "why does this lady think we all care about her story?" I will tell you exactly why.  The days and years of my life have taught me that life is hard, and life is beautiful.  And through it all we have a Mighty God.  And He is Good.  While bad things have happened, continue to happen, and will go on happening His goodness is unchanging.  And spoiler alert: out of this goodness He is the original author and creator of two of my favorite words.  I bet they are two of your favorite words as well. Redemption. Restoration. And those two things make for a pretty good story. Here is ours.

Some of my friends and I are on a group text that chimes all day.  One of these friends might come out of a meeting to find she has missed thirty texts.  Some days are quieter, but this is our form of communication.  Whenever my phone starts going off Jake brings me the phone without looking and says, "it's the girls." We say things all day long by text, but we never call or email.  This is our way.  One evening my friend called me.  Which was worrisome. I said, "hey; what's going on?' in a pleasant voice.  She said, "are you home?' in the way people talk to you when they know things that are about to Change Things.

Twenty minutes later this group of friends assembled in my living room.  I could not imagine what was coming since all of this group was in attendance. Had someone died? That impacted me more than them? I couldn't imagine what they knew that was so important to break to me as a unit.  My friend who had called took a breath and said she had gone to a soccer game that day.  And as she walked over to her son's assigned field she saw Waverley on the sidelines.  My heart started that hard, slow beat that makes it hard to hear over. My brain quickly scanned for a reasonable explanation.  She was there with a friend? To watch a family member? This was a big deal but not the kind of deal to make their faces look like this.  I couldn't find the right solution. I knew I was wrong, but I couldn't get there fast enough... My friend took another breath and said that Waverley was there with a family my friend knew well.  And they were Waverley's foster parents.

Physical reactions are odd.  Because I know it can't be true.  But I swear to you my heart slammed a few last erratic beats and then dropped in increments into the pit of my stomach where it laid heavy and hurting and weighing one hundred pounds.  I blinked and then I cried.  And we all cried. For a very long time.  Do you know? Do you know how much has to happen before a child will be removed from her home? Do you know? Do you know that every day after Waverley left our house (but never our family — she was always in my family) that this was what I feared? That there were things going on in that place that would make authorities forcibly pull a child from a house and give her to strangers?

Jake came into the room from putting the children to bed.  I said, "Wavy's in foster care." He hugged me tight as I cried and said, "we have to try to go get her." He assured me, "We will. We will. We will do everything we can.  We will go fight for her." And in that moment the man who loved me and our children claimed Waverley as his own too and became her father.

It was October of 2013. We called our lawyer who referred us on to someone more specialized in what we were needing.  Side note: there is no actual such person.  No one we encountered has handled or known of a situation like ours. A situation where parents fight to keep a child in the child's loving home, but then birth parents fight to have the child and then lose that child to the state because of their gross conduct, and then the adoptive family tries to parent again.  If you were wondering if this is common - the answer is no.

Now here is a topic for another post but an important detail to share at this time.  No one had contacted us about Waverley, and no one was going to.  We had raised her for two and a half years.  Brought her home from the hospital. Changed every one of her diapers, put her to bed every night, and loved her more than anything on this earth.  But we were not blood relatives so they did not approach us at all.  They did however, decide to contact Wave's birth mother and see if she would come back and get involved.  Her birth mother had not parented Waverley at all.  She did not live in the state of Kansas.  She had not kept in contact with the birth father or Waverley at any point.  But she was the state's one and only solution.  Now thank goodness she was a loving and capable person.  She is the actual representation of a birth parent in an adoption situation who is selfless and loving towards a child she knows she is not in a place, for whatever reason, to parent.  This is not a story where I glorify adoptive parents and slam birth parents.  If you take it as such you are mistaken.  That is not our opinion or position.  We are against a specific man and his mother who dragged a child to hell and back so that they could lay claim on a child they were unfit to love or parent in any way. 

Waverley's birth mother came into town to do whatever she needed to do to help Wave.  We were able to obtain Interested Party Status because of our history with Waverley.  This status allowed us to go to any and all court dates and have access to all information in the case.  It also positioned us to be considered to have custody of Waverley in the future depending on what happened in her case.  Whenever a child is taken into custody the parent is given a plan of tasks needed to accomplish for the child to reintegrate back into her parent's home.  The grievousness of the original cause for removal and the success with which the parent completes this plan determines the child's future. In the mean time some plans are worked on for what the state will do with the child should they not be able to reintegrate her back into her home.  From the beginning, it was clear that it was a long shot that Wavy would go back to live with her birth father.  She was in foster care, and despite how horrible that was, and despite all of the horror I knew she must have lived through, I slept better than I had since she had left knowing that she was safe.  I knew she was with someone my friend loved and trusted.  This gave me some measure of peace.  At the same time, poor Waverley.  My poor, sweet, innocent, little baby girl.  All that she had gone through.  All that she would continue to go through.  This broke me in a way I don't know that I will ever recover from.  I was so glad she was safe, but my darkest fears for her had been realized and confirmed.  I burn inside at the negligence of a court system that was desperate to protect the "rights" of a man who did not have to prove to even one person that he could safely care for a little girl.  I burn inside over a justice system that watches vigilantly over the needs of a grown man fully capable of making his own choices and living with their natural consequences but turns a blind eye to the needs of a vulnerable child who has no say in her own life.  For the moment, I knew Waverley's needs were being met, but was desperate before God to know that she would be able to overcome all of the grief and loss she had been dealt.

We were eager to talk to Waverley's birth mother and figure out what she was here to do.  Was she just in town to advocate for her birth daughter? Was she wanting to parent? If so would it change things for her to know that we wanted to parent?  We soon found out that Wave's birth mom did, in fact, want to parent.  When the court had ruled in favor of Waverley's birth father four years before it had nullified the birth mother's relinquishments of rights.  So this young woman had every legal right to parent.  In the eyes of the court blood trumps all.  Even if we protested and made a case for ourselves it was one hundred per cent clear to us: birth mom would parent at the end of the day, and all that we would have accomplished was dragging things out longer for Waverley.  She would be caught in the middle.  It would keep her from getting to her next, and last, forever family.  My hopes of parenting her again were painfully taken from me.  Again.  I kept thinking of the concept that we were made from dust and to dust we shall return.  It felt like I was just a paper shell over a heap of hot dust, blowing around inside of my empty body.  I wondered if this would be the loss that I was not able to come back from.  Even though I had a beautiful family — a loving husband who means the world to me and two of the dearest children the world has ever known, I couldn't be appropriately grateful for them.  Or present to them.  I was dust.  Just waiting to return to more dust.

I had one more conversation with Waverley's birth mom.  Did she know we wanted to parent? She said yes.  Did she know I was desperate to be Waverley's mom again and would love her with my whole heart? She did.  She wanted to parent.  That's all there was to it.  She was sympathetic to me, but her choice was unwavering.  There would be no changing her mind.  So we came along side of her and did any small thing we could to help her get to Wave faster.  It was still slow going.  Wave remained in foster care until the summer of 2014.  Then she came home to her birth mother.  Waverley loves her birth mother in a deep, deep way.  She refers to her lovingly as Mom.  Her birthmom was a mother to her by choice.  She wanted Wave and chose her when she didn't have to. She was committed to parenting her.  

At the exact same time that Waverley permanently joined her birthmother's family, that family began to unravel.  This young woman faced some serious losses that changed the pending plans they had made and the direction their family would take.  The birth mother began to struggle.  What had under previous circumstances been a family she was eager to have now seemed like more than she could manage.  We did not know this was going on.  One day my father in law felt compelled to reach out to the birth mother's mother.  They did not have an ongoing relationship but had met during the course of all that had happened several years before.  Waverley's birth grandmother said her daughter was not doing well and might want to talk to us.  She set up a time for her daughter and my father in law to meet to talk about talking to us.  I made that last sentence ridiculous on purpose.  If something was going on with Wave's family and they might need me I was cutting to the chase and reaching out.  I texted Wavy's birth mom to please call or text me when she could.  She called me and explained what was going on.  We asked her to come over that night after we had all put our kids to bed and talk more. She informed us that she no longer felt like she could adequately parent Waverley.  However, her lawyer had advised her that she couldn't really do anything about it for some reasons I won't get into here.  We loved our lawyer and asked if we could get him to weigh in on the matter.  She said yes.  

I just said we love our lawyer.  As you might imagine, the reason that we feel this way is because he had a solution.  I am not going to go into that part.  I don't think it would hold your interest.  Over the next few weeks we met with lawyers and counselors and professionals in both encouraging and ridiculous appointments.  Jake was in his element.  If you need someone to take care of something, you just call my husband.  He handles problems and overcomes issues like a super hero in a business suit.  We needed to be Waverley's parents again, and if someone was going to make it happen at this specific point in time it was him.  And then one day, just like that, on a day that was just a day, it was decided.  There was an official plan.  And that plan was for Waverley to come home.  To us.  She was Coming Home.

I saw Waverley for the first time since the worst day of my life in October of 2014. Four years had passed since we learned we were losing her.  That encounter produced more words than I have time for here.  So I will just say that I saw her.  Take a second and imagine how wild that was.  How dream-like that felt.  How amazing and how complicated.  How much I missed Matt.  In December she came home for good.  As of last week most things were wrapped up legally.  She has a room in my house.  She goes to school each weekday and comes straight home to me.  She has a booster seat in my car.  She has a place at our table.  I know her again and can tell you things she likes and doesn't like.  She calls Harper her sister and Everett her brother.  She asks Jake to pray for her each night.  She tells me she loves me.

Of all of the things I missed when we lost Waverley, it was the little things that cut the deepest.  One killer in particular was catching sight of my children in the back seat when I looked in the rear view mirror and feeling a sharp pain at not seeing her face.  I will tell you what I never take for granted these days.  Every time I look in that mirror and see three faces I remember to thank God and relief floods over me. Making something new happen inside of me.  The dust settles and a garden starts to grow in place of those ashes.  Interestingly, Wave reveals things from her time away from us the most often in the car.  She will say something that will make us catch our breath or cry hot tears and say, "Oh honey. No one should ever have that happen and we are so so sorry." Usually when we say that she looks at us with still, serious eyes and nods slightly.  She weighs our words and we don't  know how much she trusts what we say to be true yet.  The other day after church Harper was talking about our old red Volvo station wagon.  Waverley has hardly any memories of her life with us from before she left, but she remembers that car.  "That's the car you took me to (birthdad's name)'s house in." These words are accurate and they kill me.  That she remembers this is one of the worst truths in my life. 
"Wavy that's true," I said with the saddest sounding voice. "And I promise you that was the worst thing I have ever had to do.  I would never, never, never have done that if I had had a choice," I explain desperately again.  And what a shitty explanation for a kid.  Aren't parents' whole job protecting their children? How can this be? "I am so so sorry, Sweet Love."  She looks at me with huge, sad, brown eyes.  She smiles slightly. 

"Well.  I'm glad I'm home now."