It had been three days more than a year since the day that I took this boy home. I was never good at leaving my kids; I prefer to have them with me all the time. I think that’s just because I always want to know that they are okay. What if I hadn’t had my spot on the hot metal bleachers in Wasco on the day Sam broke his ankle on his way back to first base? What if he had needed me, and I had not been there?
I needed Kara, and she was there. Her whole family was there. When you learn that your little son, who really isn’t wholly, completely, only your son, since he was born to another mother, has a baby sibling that will enter the foster care system, something happens inside of you. You need your son to know that sibling, and you need to be able to raise that sibling, that baby boy, with your little son if that baby cannot be with his birth family. The very thought of what has transpired during this recent space of time, a space that hollowed me with a depth of sadness that I could not have fathomed, and then lifted me to a joy that has no barriers, sends forth a river of tears. The tears are for the grief of the mother of these little boys, for the loss to my friend and her family, for the boys who have a connection that could only have been forged by a higher power, for other siblings to these boys that they may never really know, and for our creator who certainly knows the meaning in the brokenness, and the gifts in the rebuilding.
He is so busy these days: a typical, active toddler, skilled at scaling boxes in the mud room and at emptying library shelves in record time. I knew when I dropped him at Kara’s house while I took my daughter to a couple of appointments, he would be in the most capable of hands, the hands that held and embraced him on that fateful day one year and three days ago when he needed a home.
The state has rules. The state wants the brothers to be together, but when the house is already full, the rules loom first and foremost. There are many papers to sign, many workers to look over the papers, and even more stamps to be applied to these papers. Sometimes, all of these things need to happen all over again. These are people, precious lives. But there are many rules.
I was shaking when the call came. Of course we will take the baby. I stopped at Walgreens on the way to the DCFS office to get some formula and nursery water; the other essentials were already at home from the many little ones who had come before. I had a sinking feeling that I would be leaving empty-handed that afternoon, because of the rules.
“You came for your baby!”
A familiar investigator offered the tiny bundle. I tried not to allow myself to melt as I held the sleeping angel and waited for the placement to clear, because I knew about the rules.
“I’m sorry. They can’t place him with you now.”
Before the tears could fall, I thought of Kara. Her young family was just recovering from a winter sickness, and I knew that she must be exhausted. But there was never the slightest hesitation. The paperwork was completed, and my son’s baby brother was on his way to my friend’s house.
To give fully of yourself, knowing quite well that this act will end in deep loss, that is the ultimate gift of self that can neither be repaid nor replaced.
To appreciate and to celebrate the bond of siblings in the true spirit of child welfare, in the spirit of true friendship, is to answer a call that holds no promises, in this moment or ever.
For two long months, Kara held this baby through the night. She and her family gave him what he needed, and she loved him with her whole self, because, in that moment of time, he was her baby.
The papers were stamped and signed, and the rules were satisfied. One year and three days ago, he came home. And with this new beginning, he left the family that had truly answered the call. It was late when I arrived. Kara and Mark were quiet, though still welcoming. Their eyes bore the sadness of loss as their hearts ushered forth what was to come: their baby, my baby, but not wholly mine or theirs…was going home, to my home with his brother, at least for now.
If I hadn’t been at the game that day long ago, still Sam’s ankle would have healed. But I’m glad I was by his side through the fear. Kara did not have to answer the call. Had she not, our Baby M would have been cared for in another home until the work was done. Our friends put their fears aside, though, in the true spirit of foster care…and friendship…and made a big difference in the lives of two boys, and two families.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she said. And I know she really meant that.
When my daughter’s appointments were done and I had dropped her back at school, I drove through downtown, across the railroad tracks, and on to Kara’s house to get my little one. I could see him through the porch window, playing alongside the little boy very near to his own age that joined Kara and Mark’s family, curiously, just short of a year ago, and just weeks after Baby M had left.
There were no tears this time when I took Baby M home. Kara reminded me that he is where he is supposed to be. And when I watch my two littlest boys roll about and chase each other until sunset, both with the same sideways sparkle in their eyes, I know that this must be true.
Through all of the stamps and paperwork, even through the loss and the grief, this is about honoring the bond of siblings. It’s about putting your dreams aside in favor of something that surely must be sacred.
Thank you, my friends, for celebrating with us, for being part of our journey, and for being able to see, even with your eyes closed, the deepest meaning.