We lost a baby a week ago. Not to death, but to life. A new life-one without us in it.
With one last lingering kiss, my lips sank into his soft cheeks and his life with us was over. I closed my eyes and tried to breathe him in, knowing when I opened them again, the world would look and feel so very different. Every minute, every memory thus far was filled with me-with us.
I was still his mama for a few more fleeting moments and I found myself holding my breath as if the act of not breathing could stop the next steps dead in their tracks.
I opened my eyes and forced out a smile as I passed him back to his aunt. I turned to go, praying I would make it out the front door before the reality of the day hit like a tidal wave. With each step I took back to the car, I collapsed further into the arms of husband’s firm embrace.
And then the tears fell. They fell hard. That’s what tears do when you leave your heart in someone else’s hands. Pieces of my pain dripped down my face as the moment enveloped me fully. This was the ending I had prepared myself to experience for the last seven months.
Every fiber of my being had hoped and ached and longed for this very moment even though I knew it would cause my heart to shatter into one thousand tiny shards.
And that it did-my soul shattered.
Since the day we carried that six-pound baby home from the hospital, I prayed for paperwork to move swiftly so he could be somewhere permanent. I spoke up in court as I pushed for home studies and background checks to be completed in a timely fashion. I facilitated visitations on my own time hoping to make the final transition to relative caregivers smoother. I sent pictures and text messages to his biological family so they could watch him grow until he was theirs forever.
I was excited for his new life to begin. But the sting of saying goodbye is severe.
Truth is, we actually signed up for this torture. We said yes to a calling that is full of hurt and heartbreaks. And yet, we continue to say yes. It is impossible to go back to the way things were when your eyes have seen the truth of what IS. And what IS is closer than most of us care to admit.
So we look to the next one. The next baby to love. The next family to pray over. The next court dates to set on our already-full calendar. The next case worker visit. The next blue folder full of unraveling lives. There are cribs sheets to wash and clothes to pack away until the next one needs them. And in the waiting, there are biological kids to snuggle. There are emotions to process. And there is also a marriage of mine that needs a bit of nurturing and attention.
We are exhausted and relieved all in the same sigh.
We are back to the wait. Our world will change again with the ring of our phone and a caseworker on the other end. We will say yes and then say hello to our family’s next goodbye.