So.......in the last year and a half since we stopped fostering and trying to extend our family through adoption, I've avoided the Spokane Courthouse like the plague.
I guess it's because we were supposed to go there as a family to adopt our Liyah, and when the bottom fell out on our adoption, I couldn't really make myself step foot in there. Not even when our dear friends, the Gublers, adopted their son, Isaiah. I just couldn't make myself attend. I felt to fragile, like my emotions were just too raw, and way to close to the surface to watch someone else accomplish what we'd so epically failed at.
I know, I know. Self obsessive, much? Pity party, table for one! But that's the problem with failed adoptions, they feel like a death. You get all of this precious time with this amazing little person that you love as if they'd emerged from your own womb, and then--in one agonizingly brief moment--that child is gone. Vanished, as if they never existed at all, except their fingerprints on your heart, that refuse to wash away, no matter how hard you scrub and scrub and scrub.
There have been times when I've wished it'd been a death that'd taken our Liyah away (though I've always immediately regretted saying those words aloud) because at least with death, I would've had the comfort of knowing she were safe with my Heavenly Father, and not living in a dirty dangerous home with dirty, dangerous people who can, and likely will, treat her like vicious animals.
Yeah. Try living with that gem, and getting sleep every night. And that's why I have to take medication to bring on blessed REM cycles. Thanks, state of Washington. I appreciate it.
So you can see why going to the court house is sort of a...thing...for me.
But today, I decided to put myself on the back burner, and prioritize a friend. You see, in less than two weeks, my family and I are moving to Songdo, South Korea. And by some miracle, their adoption date fell BEFORE our departure date, which is fate...because honestly, the state of Washington moves at the pace of a snail in molasses in January, so the fact that she got an adoption date (FINALLY) was a big deal. They'd had their son for a year and a half, and it was starting to feel as though she'd never, ever get to make little McKade hers forever. Meeting them at the court house today felt so surreal. She'd put in the time, that's for sure, and she deserved today.
So when I was invited to attend the adoption, I committed to go. I was nervous. I won't lie. Walking into that building was daunting enough. I was petrified that I would run into a social worker, a guardian ad litem, or worse yet, a member of my daughter's family in that building. I knew it was a possibility. They frequent the court house, if you know what I mean. A thousand times I've gone over what I would say if I saw them in public. All of the swear words I would scream at them, and all of the insults I would hurl at their blank faces, and I've practiced the way I would hold my tears back, because I never wanted them to see how deeply they'd hurt me by taking Liyah away. I never wanted to give them the satisfaction of knowing how wholly they'd shattered me. I didn't want them to know that my children still woke up from nightmares about their little sister disappearing. I didn't want them to know that my husband couldn't look at her picture without his heart catching, so he avoided looking in certain corners of our house, because that's where her pictures sat. And I didn't want them to know that I still hear her calling for me in stores, and run through aisles to find her like a desperate mad woman....
I didn't want to give them the satisfaction. Because they seem like the kind of people who would be pleased with themselves about that. I just wanted them to know that I can cuss like a truck driver, and that I hoped they burned in h..... well, you get the drift. Not the most mature or Christ-like approach, but hey, I'm human. And transparent. So there it is.
But there was more that made me nervous.
Watching my friend achieving her adoption felt like it was going to be more than I could handle. Just watching that gavel come down, declaring McKade a part of their family forever was going to be like the final nail in the coffin that contains my own dreams of having more children. My uterus is no longer functional. International adoption is too expensive. Foster-to-adopt is so out of the question now that I literally throw up in my mouth when I even think about it...and frankly, my husband is 45 and simply doesn't want to put himself through this anymore. And well, I love my husband. So my family has to be complete, despite what my heart says.
The good news is, the adoption turned out to be way, way less traumatizing than I'd built it up in my head to be. It was lovely. They asked everyone to sit in the jury box, so that they could see the happy family's faces, but I chose to sit in the back row, near the door. Not because I didn't want to see their happy face, but because I was feeling really emotional, and when I feel that way, my face gets really red, and I didn't want everyone else to see my splotchy face.
Everyone present had to stand up and introduce themselves, and so at one point, I had to stand up and say my name and who I was. I spoke really quickly, then plopped back down. Then the lawyer (the same lawyer we had in the failed adoption--irony. It sucks.) asked me if I was "catholic", because I was sitting in the back, so I blurted, "I'm not catholic. I'm just emotional." I was embarrassed.
Then the lawyer said a few things, and then the audience was invited to say a few things, and so help me, I wanted to stand up and say so much! I wanted to say that my friend Jessica was such an incredible woman! She stuck with fostering for so much longer than I was able to, and that she has a tenacity and a drive that makes me envious. I wanted to say that little McKade was so loved. So, so loved and that his life, and future generations would be positively impacted by their decision to adopt him, and stop the chaos and madness he was born into. These are things that people needed to know. It's not just a "oh, he's a cute baby, let's adopt a cute little baby"....it's so much more. Jessica and her husband wanted to change a life. Change a life, people, this is BIG. Epic. And I'm so proud of them for making that decision. I am in awe of them.
But instead I just sat there, trying not to look at that lawyer, who was casting me odd looks the whole afternoon, because I am sure he knew who I was, though I've lost about 100 pounds since the last time he saw me, but still....I could see recognition. It was there. And it was awkward. And it sucked. I was just sitting there, counting the seconds until it was over, so that I could get out of there and have a long, much needed cry.
So then the lawyer talked to all of the kid's in my friend's family, and then talked to the judge, who was the happiest, smiliest judge I've ever seen (which was a nice change, as all of the judges or commissioners I've ever seen were bitter, cranky, rude beasts) and she signed the papers, and whacked her gavel down, and boom! McKade was theirs, and everybody clapped.
But here's what got to me: As everyone was clapping, my friend, who was holding this sweet little toddler in a slick pair of slacks and a matching tie, lowered her head so her face was close to McKade's ear, and amongst all the joy, they had a moment. This blissful, peaceful mother-to-child moment that was just between them, and it literally jolted my heart almost right out of my chest. I've been replaying this moment at least two dozen times since coming home this afternoon, and I've imagined so many scenarios. Maybe Jessica whispered to him I love you. Maybe she whispered you're mine now. Maybe she whispered some sort of sweet devotional, or promised never to stop loving him, or maybe she told him that he could get down and play now. I don't know!
Honestly, I imagine, if she were anything like me, she likely whispered we finally made it, baby. Because that's what I always envisioned whispering to Liyah after the gavel dropped. We made it. We're out of the woods. We're free. You're mine.
It was a really astounding moment to behold. Maybe everyone else noticed it, too. Maybe they didn't. Maybe I am the only one who noticed that split second of interaction between mother and son. Who knows. But I'm glad I saw it, even if it did make me break into a million pieces all over the floor.....
So as everyone was leaving the court room, I held the door open for the crowd (hey, might as well make myself useful) and the guardian ad litem for little McKade strolled past me, asking why I'd stopped fostering. I looked at her, and instead of using my brain, and saying that I just needed a break. I opened my mouth and heard myself say, "We had a failed adoption and it did a real number on me. I had to stop, or I was going to lose my grip." And whoosh! Her face dropped, and I got that look.....
You know the look.
The "I'm so sorry that happened to you, but I have no idea what to say because it's just so sh*tty, and I feel so bad for you" look.
I think all parents who have lost a child get that look often. Heck, I'll just bet I've given that look a few times. It's the only thing people know to do, frankly. Nothing we say can bring back that person's kid, so we just sit there staring at them like they're the victim of a disfigurement, or something. Nodding out heads and trying not to gawk. It's awful. I hate it. But it's part of life, and part of the way people look at me now that they know I've lost a child. I wouldn't want people to stop looking at me that way--despite as much as I loathe it--because that might erase my time with Liyah somehow, and I can't handle the thought of that.
And then all of the millions of pieces of me that'd fallen all over the floor in the courtroom split into a million MORE tiny pieces all over the hallway floor...and I started crying. Like...not pretty little "oh, I'm so happy for you during this beautiful time" tears. More like splotchy, hiccupy, snot and booger faced ugly cry.
Yeah. Not so attractive.
I was mortified. Not because I was crying. Because I expected to cry. But the level at which I was crying? Oh, Lord. Embarrassing. I hugged Jessica, telling her how happy I was, and I think I actually managed to tell her that I really was happy, even though my face told a different story. She was sweet. Just hugging me back and reassuring me, etc. Being a most excellent friend. Then I shuffled off with my head down, so that nobody would point out the obvious: she's a nut bag. I ran down the stairs to the second floor, where I promptly found the ladies room and cried--hard--for a solid five minutes, before emerging and speed walking to my car.
And then I went into classic Brooke Mode. If I've learned nothing else in 38 years on this planet, I've learned that I do NOT do well with idle time. In fact, I actually view idle time as the devil. It's true. I believe that when I have nothing to do, nothing to focus on, I simply start unraveling at the seams. I've always been that way. When I sit down to watch TV, I have to draw or write at the same time. When I read, I usually have music playing in the background, or the TV going. When I am sitting in the carpool line picking up the kids at school, I've got my phone and my laptop on in front of me. I do not do well with idle time...so I fill all of my time right to the brim, so that I won't ever have to stop, slow down, and think too much. Because thinking leads to....
A million tiny pieces on a court room floor.
So I locked myself into my car, picked up my phone and started calling doctors offices. I scheduled eight appointments total. Doctors and dentist appointments for all four of my children. Then I called my husband, twice, texted three people, and returned two emails. By the time I left the parking lot, I was nearly over the worst of my hissy fit, and could drive without swerving and killing an innocent bystander.
All in all, hissy fit aside, it was a wonderful experience, and I'm glad I went. Witnessing an adoption is like witnessing a birth, of sorts. Though the mother isn't torn apart physically, she is torn apart emotionally, her whole soul exposed, and then, in a rare moment of good judgment and heart from the government, she is sewn back up. The child is hers. She is complete. It's beautiful to witness, but heartbreaking to experience. And yet, when it's all over, you (much like childbirth) forget what a horrible, painful process it is...and the Lord blesses you with the ability to want to do it all again.
I'm honored to have been a part of today. I'm pleased and satisfied for my sweet friend. I'm relieved for McKade. And I'm aching for myself.
Selfish, yes. But honest.
And that's where I'm at tonight.