Thinking of 10 years ago when September 11th was a fresh event. The loss was incomprehensible at that point. I truly could not wrap my mind around that many people just gone. 10 years later the stories of those people's lives and those who loved them is all around. It’s amazing. We talk about 3 degrees of separation. Ripples in a pond. The number of people impacted by the ones who died that day is what is incomprehensible now. 1 life well-lived, loved by many, mourned by thousands. Multiply that times the many lives lost that day. Wow.
It makes me think back to other lives I’ve mourned. A college friend who felt so alone that a couple years later he took his own precious life. He had a fiance, a loving brother, friends. Yet he felt alone. His funeral was packed with people he impacted.
A miscarriage. A life not even born yet. And both our families’ mourned.
And Alyssa. The pain of the day she left us is still tucked into my heart. I think of her less but always remember. It’s been almost 12 years since we met her. We were finished with our adoption class and all the paperwork and we waited. We had requested a girl under age 3. After what seemed like forever we got a call that they had a 6 week baby girl if we were interested. Just as the pain is still close, so is the euphoria from that moment! We could pick her up the next day!
We could not sleep that night. We ended up at Walmart about 11:30 pm shopping for a crib mattress and asking some kind, white-haired grandmother what a 6 week old baby needed! We were elated and terrified at the same time.
The next day was a Friday in mid-October. Almost Halloween. We went to pick her up after work and I just stared at her in amazement! She was precious from her bouffant of black hair to the fattest checks I’ve ever seen! She had a swollen eye from an eye infection that made it look like she was winking at us. J We took her home after the foster mother made sure we both knew how to change a diaper and gave us the run down on her eating/sleeping habits.
Neither of us slept much that night nor did we eat the next day (I think around 5pm we realized it and had carrots for dinner. Why I remember the carrots is beyond me but they stick out in my mind!). We just watched Alyssa and tried to make her smile. What a smile! It was like the sun. And her laugh was such a belly laugh! I could always get her to laugh.
We were like a kid at Christmas! We bought her 2 Halloween outfits because they were too cute and changed her ½ way thru the night of answering the door! We were pretty ridiculous! That kid had more cute baby clothes!
We had 6 amazing, carefree weeks before the social workers told us that despite the fact that mom had abandoned her and didn’t want her, things were not the 99% done deal we’d been led to believe. Mom changed her mind. Wanted her back. She had 6 other kids by 3 other dads. Would we keep Alyssa while mom tried to prove she was a good mom and get her back. Turns out the social workers didn’t have her sign the papers to relinquish her rights when they should have. In the beginning. It would have been a done deal.
What would you do? We agonized. How to be the “foster parent” to a child I was imagining sending off to Kindergarten in a few years and envisioning in a wedding dress by Tony’s side one day. Could I take her for visits with this woman who lived in abject poverty and drop “my baby” off there? A woman who we were pretty sure was doing drugs? Whose children all were sick all the time?
But what if we said no and they decided not to return her. Would they allow us to adopt her still or would they feel we were too selfish? It was the hardest decision I’d ever made. Little did I know, harder ones were still to come.
We chose to keep her. From December to February we took her for visits and nursed her back to health when she came back sick. Fended off social workers who did not believe us that she came back to us sick because the birth mom said she’d been fine with her. Spent the time she was away from us, sick to my stomach with fear for her. There was no heat in their house and winter nights in the desert are very cold. Called anyone we could think of to see if there was any way we could stop her going home and made every social worker in town mad at us for trying.
Then they gave us a date. She was to be returned. I managed to sit through the court hearing then fled the court room racked with sobs. Tony just hardened himself and fussed at me for making a scene. I could not breathe or function. She would be gone in just a few days.
Then a co-worker approached me. She had a friend who worked for the government chasing down people who kidnap children and non-custodial parents who take their children. She had heard our story and asked my co-worker to let me know that if I chose to take this child and go to Mexico, no one would come to get me.
Then I knew the hardest decision I’d ever faced. Could I “steal” a child for its own good? Could I go to a country to live where I did not speak the language and leave all I knew behind, including my husband who was military and would have been chased if he went AWOL? What would I tell Alyssa if I did that? It was “for her own good”? She would have hated me, I think. And yet what fate was I leaving her to if I didn’t. Would she one day hate me for leaving her to her fate?
Fear of the unknown is probably what stopped me. I still question what would have happened had I chosen to take her and run. Life as I know it would certainly not exist. Nor would my family. Sometimes I wish life was like one of those books where you can choose the ending and if you didn’t like it, you could go back and choose a different one. Just to see where that choice would have led.
If Alyssa’s life had turned out beautifully, I probably would not question that decision. Especially because I would not have the 4 wonderful children I have today. But it did not.
Her return home was put on hold for 2 weeks while a small issue was sorted out. Drugs were found in the home by the CASA worker. For a couple days it looked like things would change. But on March 12, I was summoned to the school office for a phone call. Alyssa’s social worker wanted to know how soon we could bring her to the office. The judge decided she could go home. I told her not until after work. I promptly went into the restroom and almost threw up. I was going to have to give my baby away.
I left work within minutes and picked her up from the sitter and took her home. Tony came home and we had about 2 hours to spend with her. I cried the whole time and Tony just watched her play. It was the worst day of my entire life, bar none. I don’t think I have ever felt that depth of sadness and anger. It consumed me to the point that I could not function.
|Yes, we really dressed the |
child up like a cow!
The next month or so was like a child died. I sat up nights in her room smelling her blanket. I would not wash anything because it had her scent. Have you ever imagined seeing your child in someone else’s arms and not being allowed to touch her? That was what it was like. We were in a small town and would randomly run into them in the store. The shock was always the same. I’d try to act normal and hope to get to hold Alyssa. Then I’d cry all the way home.
We saw her from time to time around town and her mom let us come visit for a couple months. But it became too painful to see our precious baby so dirty, never smiling, and too soon looking at us like complete strangers. She forgot us. We did not see her for a month or 2. Then we got news about her. The social worker felt we deserved to know in person so she came to our house.
All 8 kids (new baby had been born) were now in foster care. Alyssa had been left, at 8 months old, in the bathtub with 2 of her siblings aged 3 and 4. They got out and left her in the tub. No one knew how long she was under the water. Or how long it had been since she had been breathing.
They managed to resuscitate her. She was not the same. She had sustained brain damage from how long she’d been under water. Her personality had changed from joyful to belligerent. She was described as“difficult to control”. Her foster home was just 2 blocks from our house (small town). We were reeling.
The next sentence out of the social workers mouth were, “We have a little girl for you”. Her name is Gabby.
Had we made the right choice? Why did this happen to an innocent child? Why did we experience this pain? So many unanswered questions.
Some people believe in “Karma”. That something that child did in a past life condemned her to pain in this life. That something we had done caused us to have this experience. I could never quite wrap my head around the validity of that argument. How do you learn from a past life you don’t remember. At the time I had a vague belief in “God” but absolutely no understanding of God at all.
Along the way in the past 12 years I met someone who told me He understood my pain from that day. He could empathize with seeing your child far from you, out of your reach. The child He was speaking of was me. Neither Alyssa, nor Tony and I, were paying for a past life when all that happened. We were simply living in a fallen world full of creatures far from their creator. It’s a world full of pain.
I heard a speaker once describing the abuse she suffered as a child and I wondered at her peace. She said that when she had been struggling early in adulthood to cope with what had happened to her, people had described Jesus as crying as she was hurt. What an impotent, and wrong image she thought. Who wants that kind of savior?
God later communicated to her that Jesus and His angels were fighting a battle in the heaven-lies for her very soul while Satan used men to hurt her body and mind. And God won her soul! What a conquering image! That is my Savior!!
I will not have answers to my questions until I get to heaven I’m sure. But until then, each day I will pray that God will send his angels to fight for Alyssa’s soul and that they will win the day! That He will be victorious over Satan for her heart and soul.