You didn’t sign up to have your heart broken, I know. You didn’t volunteer to have your space invaded and doled out to strangers. You didn’t want to halve your time and affection. You didn’t give your opinion because we didn’t ask. As we muscle our way through this transition and a thousand more I hope you know I am with you always. Hard stuff can be good stuff, too. I hope when it breaks, your heart heals bigger.
nothing is heavier than air
that fills an empty crib
hollow and crushing
hush little nothing
It is incredible how much Rosalyn has to say, and how well she expresses herself when I just slow. down. and listen – when I can get on her level and speak her language. Today I said yes to (almost) everything she asked. We went for a walk and practiced riding her tricycle. We drew colorful shapes outside with chalk. She got chocolate almond milk instead of regular unsweetened. We played with her penguin coin bank and funfetti playdough. She ate her lunch in my lap. After nap time we got chocolate chip cake pops and ran all over an indoor play place for two hours. While in the Starbucks drive thru she clapped and exclaimed, “Mommy, I am so excited!”
Our house has been hectic the last two months as we work to get certified for foster care. It’s taking its toll on all of us, including or maybe even especially Rosalyn. Her eating, sleeping, digestion – it’s all out of wack. She’s a little extra sensitive and grumpy, though being two and a half it’s difficult to discern what’s age or circumstance. An entirely new development for her is the way she clings to me when we enter a new place or see new people. She’s always been a quiet observer before launching into insatiable energy and volume levels. But now she’s made a safe space tucked behind my legs and burrowed between my neck and shoulder. Her house is changing, her parents are shushing her while having Serious Conversations, the air is thrumming with nervous-happy-anxious energy, and (it bears repeating) she’s two and a half years old. It’s so much, it’s all so much. I worry with the deep guilt of a tired mother if I didn’t consider her needs enough before making this enormous, invasive, heavy choice for our lives. Should we have waited? Shoulds are suffocating.
Today, I said yes without hesitation.
“Will you play with me?” Yes, darling. “You play with me! We play! We do it together!” Her eyes lit up like Christmas and it is a joy burned into my chest.
I followed her exact instructions while molding the playdough. We made three ducks. We made a blanket. She tucked them into bed and named them. “Mommy duck. Daddy duck. Baby duck. They snuggle.” She looked down at them and cradled dimpled toddler hands to her cheeks. “Ohhh they’re so sweet, Mommy!” We fed them carrots and veggie burgers. They exchanged kisses and hugs. She had me make a fourth duck. “Mommy duck. Daddy duck. Baby duck. Baby duck.” They all snuggled again.
I’m not sleeping or eating well these days, either. As she wakes through the night and refuses to eat dinner and screams until her face is dark I just want to curl up and cry. What do you need from me? Ok. I hear you. I’m so sorry. I’m here.
We can’t have cake pops and trampolines every time she feels upset. And the number of times I have to divide my attention is just going to grow, exponentially. But maybe we can have yes days – and yes minutes. You and me, kid. We do it together.
I don’t know. I don’t know their names or their faces. Or why or what home they come from. I don’t know what they’ve been through or when or if they’ll go from here. I honestly don’t even know how we’ll do this at all. All I know is that we have to.
The day I found out I was pregnant with Margo I knew something was wrong. Hand to God the very second I looked down at those devastatingly blue lines, these words scrolled across my mind: “Something bad is going to happen.” But I swallowed them down and opened the bathroom door and on shaky feet brought the test to my husband. Five months later when we went to the hospital because I was leaking, the midwife tested the fluid and looked up at me. Not a breath passed by before once again, I knew. “We’re going to lose her. She’s not going to make it.” I knew, I knew, I knew and it did nothing. Knowing does nothing.
Two days later I sat empty and sad, hollow and soft in the thin, starchy, pink gown. The one with buttons for nursing your alive and well newborn. Hours before I sat crying alone in the dark, my arms wrapped around myself like a prayer. Like maybe if I held on tight enough I could stop my backstabbing uterus from contracting around my fragile daughter. Eventually my ever so steadfast crisis mode clicked on, the tears stopped, and I stood to pack my things for Labor and Delivery. And somehow my heart kept beating. Ever since that day it has been a whisper and an ache in my bones – foster.
I don’t know how, but I know I have to. There have been things in my life that I wanted to do. In fact, my anxiety makes anything I want to do something I want to do badly; I don’t like waiting. Even with all that urgency in my veins I have never felt anything like this. This is not a “thing I want to do”. I mean, it is. But, it’s not a thing. It is a calling. I like that word. Calling. I use it a lot in regards to my faith. We are called. We are called to do that, and that, and that. I am called to do this.
Call. It has become a heavy and fervent word.
Since beginning the process to get our license I have second guessed myself a thousand times daily. Save for the days when everything is magical and easy and I think to myself, “Oh hell yeah I’ve got this. Look at me – parenting the shit out of this tough cookie. Well done, Rachel.” Very quickly however, the universe realigns itself back into chaos and I wonder as minutes and routines pass by, “Where is a stranger’s baby going to fit into any of this?” At 8pm when my toddler is running naked through the house, being chased by her father wielding a toothbrush, I look inward and upward to ask, “How?” Faithfully the answer always comes, “Just show up.”
And you know what? Thats exactly what I am capable of doing. I don’t get it perfectly. A lot of the time I don’t even get it well. I curse and I shop at Target too much. Our house could use some new carpet and we have frozen pizza every week. But I can show up. Ragged, but here. This has become my mantra when I can’t possibly understand how my meager offerings will be enough. Just. Show. Up.
Just show up. With your store bought muffins and your dying plants. With your endless fatigue and no bra. Bring your OCD, your anxiety, your depression. Come with your car on it’s last legs and your walls with peeling paint. Bring your debt and your yoga pants. Show up and watch God feed the multitudes with your tiny townhome pantry.
They are here now – right now. They don’t have the time to wait around for perfect people. But they can make do with me.
“Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the case of the fatherless;
Plead the case of the widow.”