I wake that morning with burning eyes and a slight headache. The journey of foster care has brought many, many sleepless nights. I start to get out of bed to the sound of a toddler, always the sound of a toddler this early, and my body aches. It’s an ache I’m used to feeling.
When you welcome a premature and unhealthy baby, separated from the only body she ever knew and was designed to be deeply bonded with, there isn’t much sleep. There’s just a lot of crying and rocking together. When the weight of court hearings and the unknowns of the foster system start to weigh you down, there isn’t a lot of sleep. For many reasons, there’s a lot less sleep than there used to be around here. And that particular night was a sleepless night for a reason I hadn’t yet experienced and couldn’t have predicted.
That morning was a day we’d long awaited. It was our adoption finalization for the amazing and exuberant little girl we’d fostered for two and half years. It would be a day surrounded by friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors, the people who supported us and prayed for us the entire journey. We couldn’t wait for this girlie to officially have the name that represents her true earthly family identity; she’d been as much a Diller as my biological boys for quite a long time.
As I climbed into bed the night before, it hit me. This girl becoming a Diller, officially, legally, and permanently my daughter, meant that someone else was going to bed experiencing tremendous loss. While I know and celebrate that I’ve always been this girl’s momma, there is another momma who, whether she fully knows it or not, is about to experience one of the greatest losses of her life.
This momma will wake up tomorrow and have her parental rights permanently terminated. I’m heartbroken for her loss, heartbroken for her story. You see, she was dealt a hand of extreme poverty: financial, emotional, relational, physical, and spiritual. She was born to an addicted and promiscuous mother. She lived in and out of homelessness, the victim of a generational cycle. Her perceived options in life were inherently limited. Her only hope rested in gaining street skills of survival. When I pause and look at all she was up against from the start, I realize how tremendous a miracle it would have been for her to have done anything different with her life. Without the resources that come from healthy relationships, and especially the hope that comes from a relationship with Jesus, how could she have made different choices? How could she have known a different way of living was even possible?
The night before our adoption, the tears flow heavily. I start thinking about this amazing girl that calls me momma. She’s exuberant in every way. She makes every day a party and lives life to the fullest. She’s fierce and daring, a top-of-the-playground-immediately kind of kid. She’s a lover of animals and cupcakes, the fastest kid I know on a balance bike, and the perfect middle sister in our family. There’s another momma who will never know these things. She won’t experience them. She won’t laugh until she cries when this girl tries her first soda and finds the fizz so fun in her mouth that she waves her arms and giggles for minutes at a time after each sip. There’s another momma who won’t hear her yell “Hi Meow!” to every feral cat in the neighborhood, who won’t hear her beg “Higher, higher!” as she’s about to fly off the back of a swing, who won’t hear her ask “Can you paint my finger-tails?” This other momma is missing out. And she doesn’t even know it. She has no idea how beautiful this little life is. And my heart grieves her loss on her behalf.
I know in my heart that our God is a God of justice and that justice for this little girl looks like a life with love and opportunity abounding, a life in our home. I believe it. But I feel the weight of the reality of foster care and adoption. It only comes as a result of brokenness and loss. There is no beauty and no justice without trauma and loss first. This reality breaks my heart. My only response is to let the tears flow and offer them as a prayer for hope, a plea for further redemption, and a promise to press into the challenge of parenting a child from a hard place.
I take my burning eyes and achy body into the celebration of another step of redemption in this girlie’s story. After all, she’s one of many kids who needs to know they’re worth it all, the heartache and the joy all at the same time. They need to know that there is an army of people willing to grieve on their behalf and actively fight for their redemption today. They need to know that we are worth it because Jesus has fought for our redemption. Joining that army of foster care and adoptive parents has been one of the best, if not the best, decision we’ve made in our lives. We’re better for it. We’re better for experiencing the complexity it brings to our everyday life. We’re better for the tears shed over a mother who will never truly know what she’s lost.
And I want that for even more people I know. I want that for you. I want you to join the army of foster care and adoptive parents, to walk through the heartbreaking and wildly joyful moments of parenting a child from a hard place, and to see God in ways you’ve never seen him before because of it. To personally play a role in healing a broken world is worth every tear and sleepless night it takes.