May 22nd, 2012 by Kristi Stephens
This week Focus on the Family, the Cry of the Orphan, and Show Hope are calling for a prayer vigil for children in the foster care system. I am asking you to join with me in prayer for God to move in amazing ways in the lives of those 400,000 children. It is my privilege today to introduce my friend Mandy and share the story of her journey over the past few months with Sadie* and Gus* (names have been changed for privacy)- I am deeply grateful to her for sharing her heart so honestly with us today.
- Can you overview for us how the past few months have unfolded? How did you meet the kids, how did God confirm to you what your role should be in their lives, what did the process look like, etc?
I am a pediatric registered nurse and on July 28, 2011 I was sitting in report and heard about the “non-accidental trauma” case (aka child abuse) we had on the unit. It was such an awful description that I just had to go see the poor child. Laying in the crib was a two and a half year old girl with a shaved and massively swollen head, a black eye and a casted leg. I wasn’t her nurse that day but she needed so much TLC and I felt such a strong pull to her plight that I put myself in charge of keeping her pain under control so that her nurse was free to just sit and love on her.
I distinctly remember her eyes- they looked right through you. I also remember the day Sadie finally made eye contact, smiled and giggled. It was after I devised a turban to hold up her massively still swollen head and Tucker the therapy dog patiently sat nose to nose with her. Little by little, she came out of her trauma fog and soon had everyone jumping to do her bidding. One day I said to our unit social worker, “I want her” and she handed me a phone number and told me to call Child Protective Services and keep putting myself out there.
I had been a nurse for nine years at that point and although I had fallen in love with many a child, I was enjoying single life and the freedom that came with it and children were the farthest thing from my mind at the time. But when I thought of that little girl in ten, fifteen years I knew some of the questions that she was going to have and I could relate to the hearts cry of “What was wrong with me that my parent would do something like that to me?” and I knew that I didn’t want her to have to spend twenty-some odd years trying to find the answer; dealing with anger and low self-esteem the whole way.
So, the Department of Child and Family Services did their thing looking for suitable family members to take her while I did my thing of seeking Godly counsel from my pastor and my family. I wanted to make sure bringing this child into a single parent household truly was the best for her; my dad wanted to make sure I wasn’t having a Sarai and Abram moment where I was “giving up” on God’s timing and making things happen for myself while yet others wanted to make sure I knew I would “never find a man” if I had kids.
I discharged Sadie into medical foster care at the end of August and I slipped the medical foster care mom a note (because I knew I wouldn’t be able to speak past the tears) telling her how much I cared for Sadie and what my intentions were for the future and asked if we could keep in touch. She was a wonderful person and would let me know when they would be at the clinic so I could “bump into them” and because of that Sadie and I were able to maintain a relationship.
Around the beginning of November I was told that I wouldn’t be hearing any news until January because they had some out of state family members to look into and that could take awhile, so I just sat back and continued to pray for and bump into Sadie.
About a week and a half later I received a phone call from the social worker while I was at work and she told me she had good news. She went on to say that the out of state family members had passed the background check (I was puzzled as to how that was good news)- but that a relative living with them did not pass and they refused to moved, so “Sadie is yours if you still want her. And oh, yah, she comes with a brother. The judge wants to keep them together. THEY are yours if you want them.” Obviously my head was spinning- all I could say was, “The more the merrier”.
I moved into a two bedroom apartment on December 13th, my Home Inspection was the 15th and on December 16th both kids moved in with me. Sadie was 32 months old and Gus was 18 months old. Every door along the way that should have been closed was wide open. Every circumstance that led up to the kids being placed with me speaks of God and only God orchestrating the events. Even looking back on it now, I am still amazed with how quickly it all happened and how seamlessly it transpired.
2. Has this journey been different from what you had expected? If so, how?
The biggest unexpected thing on this journey for me was that it took me weeks before I even liked the kids. I wondered what in the world had I gotten myself into and I feared I didn’t have a maternal bone in my body. I cried for about two weeks straight, I think.
The kids came to me very sick and I often played night nurse with breathing treatments several times a night. So I was sleep deprived and worried that I was void of emotions or the ability to love. I remember two weeks in when I first walked into the kids new pediatrician’s office and he looked at me and said, “How’s it going and its ok to cry.” And for an hour and a half, I did. And then he examined the kids.
That was a turning point where I realized I was normal. I may not have had the pregnancy/postpartum hormones to deal with but I was going through some very real emotions and ups and downs. Then as I talked with other moms, they all said the same thing: “I conceived, carried and birthed that child and I didn’t even love them at first” or “I loved them at first sight but then they turned two and its hard to like them…”. Nobody looked down on me for my lack of warm fuzzies but instead encouraged me to give it time. Some suggested giving myself nine months like natural birth mothers get. Others with adoption stories of their own said it was a year for them.
To steal the title of a book and movie, love does come softly. But for me love was a choice long before any feelings were there to back it up.
3. What have the past few months taught you about yourself? About the Lord?
The last few months have taught me that I am not a very patient person, I am a control freak and I don’t like messes! I have also learned that you can be stretched way beyond your limits and still not break if you have a good support system and if you know that this was God-orchestrated. Knowing you are where God wants you to be is very stabilizing and comforting.
4. If you had known during last year’s foster care prayer vigil how these months were going to unfold, how would you have asked us to pray for the kids? How can we pray specifically for you now?
Until my last name is legally theirs, this will be a tumultuous time. Four days ago, I had a different outlook than I do today. We were celebrating a milestone and now we have a road block looming up ahead. So it is when “your” kids are wards of the state. I’m glad I didn’t know how things were going to unfold. I don’t think I would have let God be God.
So maybe that it how I should ask for you to pray. That I will love these precious kids with everything I have while I still have them. And if that is for the rest if this lifetime, praise God! And if that is only for the next 30 days, pray that these kids know they are loved not only by the person they called Mommy but by the One they will hopefully call Lord one day.
This week, would you commit to praying for the 400,000 precious children like Sadie and Gus? Download the official prayer guide here.