Tuesday, April 2, 2019
Then the phone rings. Do you have room for another baby, CPS wonders. Or a set of siblings. Or a teenager. Well, do you? Can you take them?
Your heart constricts, the unforgiving fingers of all your responsibilities squeezing it tight. Your life is already full as it is. You already have three kids. Their parents were sent to jail, CPS says. Or rehab. Or worse. Please can you take them?
Everyone always says, "I could never do that." "I would get too attached." You know exactly what they mean. You can't do it. You do get too attached. And there go your chances of eating ice cream in peace, because you tell CPS yes.
A bag of clothes that smells like cigarettes sits on the floor of your house while you set up a crib or put sheets on a bed. A child watches, afraid. The CPS worker is long gone. You offer a snack or a smile or a hug. You wonder what you've gotten yourself into. But the day goes by, as days do, and all things seem possible in the light of day. You will love this child, you say. Your family will pitch in and make sacrifices. Everything will be fine.
Then night falls. The two-year-old who hasn't spoken a word starts screaming "Baby! Baby!" and reaching for his little sister when you try to put him to bed. He's never once asked for his mom or dad. But he refuses to be separated from his "baby." Or the seven-year-old huddles under her sheets, rocking back and forth for hours until she eventually wets the bed. Or the fifteen-year-old sneaks a knife from the kitchen to keep under his pillow, terrified of who might come for him while everyone else is asleep.
You want to lay down and rest, but you can't. Every muscle is poised to jump up and run to this new child in your home in case they need you. Your ears are strained to hear the slightest sound that tells you something is wrong. You stare into the darkness, praying to God and re-playing the question you've been asked a hundred times: "How do you do it?" You don't know. You add more questions: "How did I get myself into this?" "What if something terrible happens?" You begin to wonder if there are any answers. The darkness presses in.
Then something amazing occurs.
Something beautiful...and full of grace.
You see your new child's consumption of a few bites of eggs as a victory. You learn their middle name or their favorite color. You coax from them the smallest of smiles. You adjust. And all those questions kind of fade into the background as you find yourself once again trudging through your day--doing laundry, packing lunches, taking meat out to thaw for dinner--dreaming about putting the kids to bed early and eating ice cream straight from the carton. And you put one foot in front of the other and soldier on.
And that's how you do it.
One night at a time.