That ten month old, curly haired bundle of joy left our home for a visit with her bio dad and never came back. Court happened in between and the judge made a ruling right before Tallie was to return. So she didn't. Though we have all been preparing ourselves as much as possible for this event. Apparently it wasn't enough. Maybe you cannot prepare yourself for such a loss. I know this for sure. You cannot withhold your heart from a sweet baby. We have had her in our home since she was eleven days old. Though it was thought at different points that she would be our forever baby, we knew there were risks, but we loved with reckless abandon. How could we do anything less?
The bio dad brought Tallie to the courtroom and she was delighted to see us as we were sitting behind her. Then her delight turned to confusion as she wondered why we did not swoop her up. She let us know that was not acceptable. She lunged toward us with her arms outstretched, and making a racket. Hubby and I were frozen, we did not know what to do. We knew the bio dad would be furious at us if we took her, but we could not reject her. I quickly asked the dad for permission and shockingly he granted it. Tallie dove into Hubby's arms and nuzzled her nose deep into his neck, then she came up for air and lunged towards me with her chubby little arms. She hugged me tightly, then turned to the front of the courtroom towards all watching, smiled her million dollar smile showing her two bottom teeth, and clapped her hands to show how pleased she was.
I don't even remember the beginning of court as I was just gazing at Tallie and drinking her in. I did not know this was the last time I was to see her, so I am so glad I had my smile fixed on her. We knew that DHS was recommending to the court that Tallie go live with her bio dad, so we knew that our time was short, we just did not know how short. We had asked Tallie's lawyer if we could address the court. The judge granted that.
My sweet husband, stood up, his voice shaky--still holding Tallie. He explained to the judge that Tallie still sees our family as her first attachment and even though she is learning to like her bio daddy, we feel that a longer transition time would be more beneficial as up to this point Tallie was spending more nights at our home in the week than at her bio-dads. Nick suggested that we increase the nights at bio-dads, and decrease the nights at our home to lessen the blow of the loss for this precious baby to not put her at risk for reactive attachment disorder.
I was so proud of my husband. He loves that little girl and to let her go to another daddy is so painful for him. He was so articulate in his words though I could hear the pain dripping behind each one.
Two days before court the bio dad had come to our home to pick up Tallie. She turned away from her bio dad and clung to Hubby's neck as if to say, "Please protect me daddy!". Hubby keeps replaying that in his mind and it churns his emotions.
So this brings us up to yesterday. I am recording all of this here as I print this blog off as a journal for our family and though painful, we never want to forget.
Hubby and I were both so hopeful after court. Surely the judge was certain from Tallie's actions that she was primarily attached to us. And shouldn't every judge dealing with these situations understand the importance of attachment? I guess not.. Apparently they should take the foster care classes.
I had nightmares all night that she would not be back. Then at 10am, those nightmares came true. I truly was in shock. I could not get a hold of my husband at work, but thankfully my mom had stopped in and I had someone to hold me up.
I had to tell the kids. How horrible that they did not get a proper goodbye. We thought she would be coming back for the weekend. I weep for them.
Mickey is really struggling as he is at the tender age of understanding so much yet not much experience. His heart is broken and I watch him try to cope and it is too much for this mama. I have always wondered how parents help their children through grief when they themselves are overwhelmed in grief. I am sad to say that I was not there for my children yesterday. I barely had enough presence of mind to breathe in and out. I got a text from a friend early on in the day saying she was bringing me a meal. I thought that was super nice but quite unnecessary. I was still in shock when I had gotten that text. By the time she brought me dinner, I peeled myself from the comfort of my bed, looking like the Lochness Monster and asked, "how did you know? I thought I was going to be fine. Apparently my friends know me better than I know me.
I hate being out of my room as every square inch of my house is covered in reminders of Tallie. It hurts so bad to see them as my heart longs for her. But I can't bear to remove them as I can't bear to have pieces of her gone.
I can't wipe off the little food splatters on her high chair.
I can't return her jumperoo to my friend who lent it to me as the memory of Tallie bouncing like a crazy Tigger is so vivid.
I can't wash the sheet on her crib because I can still smell her and know that she laid there.
Suddenly I don't want fresh and clean. I want her.
I am so upset that her little wubbanub paci (has the stuffed caterpillar on the end of it) is still at our house as I know she needs it, but I can't bear to let go of it. And her dolly she named Zsa Zsa that she would snatch up to her face and nuzzle her face. I was going to send that all along with her. I just did not know she was not coming back. I am making a box to mail, but it is so painful to put it in there, especially as I think there is a good chance her bio dad will throw it in the trash the moment he gets the package. He does not want any memories of us in her life. He does not want us at all in her life. This is so hard for me to process. My emotions, not just me--all of our emotions are on super high. Sadness, Anger, Disappointment, Frustration. I never know which one is going to pop up and render me useless.
Then Hubby came home last night. Poor man, he had to bear the news at work--did not tell a single soul as he was in meetings all day, then came home to face the reality. The same is happening to him. He sadly took her half-eaten baby food jars out of the refrigerator and threw them away, his heart heavy. He found the Ping-Pong ball lodge under the chair in the living room. Just two days ago, Tallie had been giggling and chasing that thing all over the kitchen.
Our home feels like a morgue. No longer a refuge. It is a place of pain. We know this is part of the process. We have heard others talk about it. We just have never felt it ourselves. Sorrow is such an oppressive and heavy feeling. I am so thankful that so many that have had deep loss in their life have come alongside us and we can see that God has restored joy in their life. We can see that Christ will keep his promise to bind up the broken-hearted as it says in Isaiah. God is using his people to bring us comfort, to share in our loss. Our friends have really recognized our loss, though it is not a death-- where we have customs in place to move along the grief process, they grieve with us and are seeing us through. Facebook-- though Social media has its downsides, has been a true blessing for us as hundreds of messages of prayers and love have been sent our way. Hubby and I read them outloud and thank God for the support. We don't feel alone.
But then there is my son. I am learning so quickly about children and grief. My son and my daughter are processing it so differently. My five year old daughter repeatedly tells me she is sad and that she wants Tallie to come back. But she has joy. My eight-year old boy has pain in his eyes. He feels alone in his sadness as most talk to us about our loss but forget that our children are experiencing great pain. I am so grateful when adults (like my amazing Aunt Cindy) let him know how very sorry she was that his little sister left our home. He is grateful too. He told me he wants to be around people who can share in his loss. He tells me the people that he knows that are sad that Tallie left. He counts his friends who were "in" to Tallie and swooned over her like he did.
Mickey revolted today when I went to take Tallie's car seat out of the car. "NO!", he cried. Don't take it out. I explained that we had to take it out, though it hurt my heart to do so. It feels like a rejection of her. Even though the car seat is gone, Mickey refuses to move from the back of the van to the middle row with his sister. "That's Tallie's place." Oh Lord, we need wisdom. Please grant us the wisdom to know how much to push and how much to let slide.
We have received cards in the mail and Solomon is quick to note that the person addresses each family member or "family". He reads them and re-reads them. He finds solace in words. Like his mama.
One of Mickey's good friends just came by and dropped off a letter to him. Mickey is out fishing with his Papa right now but I know that when he comes home and reads this letter that it will be huge for him. My heart is so grateful for the helps that Jesus sends our way.
On the day that Tallie left, our family went to a family counseling appointment to learn about leading our family through grief as we were concerned with the depth of Mickey's anger and sadness.
We learned so much! Wow! First, she told us that Mickey's was handling it in a very healthy way and because he was so open about his feelings with us that she felt all was well. She then told us not to teach during this time of grief. When he talks about being angry, don't give him scripture about anger. Which Hubby and I had totally been doing. She told us to affirm his feelings and let him vent. She said that when the heart is so full of emotion that teaching is ineffective and frustrating and to wait a few months when the dust has settled to go back and teach. She also told us that the children are so used to pouring their love out to Tallie and to not have a way to do that will be hard for them. She encouraged us to have them write letters often or buy little things and send them Tallie's way so that they feel like they can act on their feeling of love. Once again.. Brilliant.
Another piece of advice was to have the children talk about their favorite memories of being with Tallie and to write them in a journal or scrapbook.
So that is my hope with this blog. Not for readers, not even for me--though it is cathartic to have my own place to write--but for my children so that they don't have to worry about their special times slipping away to the forgotten places of their brain.
My great sadness is that I don't get to help Tallie through her pain. I know she is wondering where we are. I can't even think about that without losing it. I hate it that she doesn't know that we would do anything to be with her. We learned so much in Foster Care class about the trauma of babies when they are removed from their "attachment". It is terrible. I wish that I did not know all of that now as I long to hold her and comfort and give her the security that every baby deserves.
We are broken. And there is nothing to do but walk through this valley clinging to our Lord. There is no way to avoid the pain. There is no way to bypass the stages of grief. It is what it is because we are not in heaven yet where the Bible promises there will be no more tears and no more goodbyes. We are not home yet, but when we get there, what a sweet reprieve it will be to shed the sadness that life on earth can bring, and live in pure joy with our God