I laid my sweet boy down in the crib tonight. My shirt was damp from his drool and my left arm was tingling as sensation slowly returned. Seconds earlier, his sleepy head rested heavy in the sweet spot of my mama arm-that place that was made just for a baby’s noggin. As I stood from the rocker, his body was limp…so trusting and so at ease. For the flash of that moment, he was mine. Life felt routine and comfortable. I was just another mom effortlessly dancing to the light music of motherhood.
And just like that, the moment was gone. I felt it first in my gut. A physical churning in my mid section. A wave of doubt and fear and darkness almost took my breath. Before my hand cleared the rail of his crib, reality rushed in.
He wasn’t really mine.
And maybe not ever.
How do you love when you know you’ll lose?
Thousands of steps I’ve hiked on this path and I don’t have the answer. Not one that feels cozy and sets my heart at ease. The realization of what’s at stake here surfaces frequently. Almost all conversations lead to this baby in my arms. Everyone is asking if it’s hard and if I get attached and if we will adopt. I fight the urge to roll my eyes, so I often force the corners of my lips to turn upward, but inside I’m screaming “YES” to all of it.
Most kids in foster care go back. They go back to anywhere but here. They go back to a distant relative they’ve never met or a family friend trying to do the right thing or even to a destructive home. Sometimes there’s redemption, but that’s not the norm. The typical pattern of this system involves goodbye. And goodbye always shares a seat with grief.
Pain can catch us by surprise. Other times, we are obligated to walk steady steps of selection, choosing to protect the helpless and speak for those who don’t have a voice. You have to commit to loving when it hurts…or until it hurts, because time brings trouble and heartache is often closing in.
And the closing-in can suffocate you right there in the kitchen flipping flapjacks. You hear a giggle or a cry and suddenly you realize that a piece of your heart will leave and never return. You’ll be left picking up the pieces of a dream that disintegrated in your open palms.
Loving loosely while you hold on tight is an inconceivable notion that persistently demands to be reckoned with.
Sometimes I’m great at that. I can see the future through the lens of Jesus and I know he loves this baby more than I do. I know his promises of faithfulness are true and can be trusted. But my flesh is weak and and it longs for closeness and closure. When my baby’s tiny feet press into my legs, he stands strong, held firm in my grasp. I want to stare into his eyes and tell him his security is certain with me.
But I can’t.
So I don’t.
I just touch his cheek to mine and love him for now. For this moment, he’s mine and I am his. He is safe and wanted and that’s all I’m certain of today.