Last summer, of course at the very beginning, Luke had an accident and broke his foot. We went from, “I really hope that isn’t broken,” to “I think that might be broken,” and then finally, “I’ll be surprised if it isn’t broken” over the course of hours as it started to bruise and swell up. The x-rays the next morning were sickening. It is definitely bad when even I can tell that it’s broken since my expertise in radiology is limited to, “yep, that’s a foot”- it was really broken.
As we were pulling out of the doctor’s office parking lot, One Republic’s I Lived came on in the car.
“With every broken bone I swear I lived”
Luke earned his theme song.
We listen to this all the time; it’s known as Luke’s song around our house. Ethan asked me what it means and I explained that it’s about sucking life dry and living like we were meant to, instead of just having life happen to us.
It takes courage.
I really don’t feel all that brave. I’ve always felt convicted by the line, “Hope if everybody runs, you choose to stay,” because I’m not sure I would. I’d like to think I would, but…
Just once, I did stay, though. And it didn’t look anything like I thought it would.
Up until this point, I have only shared it with a few friends. It’s how our precious foster daughter came to us.
The story begins before she was born. She wasn’t the first little one to come to us; our first placement was a precious 11-month-old little girl. I loved with my whole heart and called her Ladybug. She was calling me “mama” within a week. When we had her for two months, her social worker called me after court with an update. We were expecting the judge to grant three more months in care and schedule another review. It didn’t happen.
“When can you bring her back?”
That question took my breath away. It was goodbye that very day. No warning.
I’ve been told that this pretty much never happens, but we were the exception. I, along with the rest of our family, plunged into grief. It made no sense and our hearts felt as if they had been ripped out.
But God had a plan.
That was the week of the infamous government shut down. Budgets were frozen and whole programs temporarily shuttered. Usually, CPS is able to pay for their foster kids’ daycare expenses, but this expense was a shutdown casualty. Because I was at home with the kids, CPS needed me desperately as we didn’t need daycare. In the following week, I got four calls asking me to take kids. The first little one didn’t end up needing us since she thankfully found a home with her grandma.
The second one was Emily.
The voice on the other end of the phone warmly supposed, “I am trying to decide between three families and I see that you have three boys. I think you need a little girl!” She was five weeks old and still in the NICU. Her stay was because she had difficulty eating, but was ready to go home and needed a place to go.
I said, “Yes.”
After the state took legal custody, I went to meet her that frigid and rainy night. It took an hour to feed her and she needed to eat every two to three hours. It would be tiring, but I figured I could do it. She melted into me as I snuggled her.
I went to the hospital the next morning to pick her up. As I was taking care of her, the nurses started her discharge paperwork.
“By the way, you need her cardiologist’s information so you can follow up with them about her heart. We made her appointment for you.”
I double blinked. “Cardiologist?”
Emily had a congenital heart defect. I looked at the little girl in my arms and swallowed. It was more than I had planned on doing, but I wanted to make it work for her. But, I was scared…
We did more paperwork, I picked up her medication, and we figured a way out to get formula (there is a program that helps out with infant formula since the kids’ board checks won’t come close to covering all of those expenses, but the shutdown meant it wasn’t functioning).
I asked the nurses about her personality. Any info about that sweet little girl to help me be a better parent to her…
“She’s difficult. She screams all the time and has huge fits.”
My jaw and heart dropped. Not only was I going to be spending one-third of my time feeding her, she needed care for her heart, and she was needy.
Okay then. I’d figure it out… Somehow…
I got her a car seat and started to dress her in the outfit I had bought that morning en route to the hospital since she had nothing. She, like all babies, deserved to look cute for going home.
The nurse pulled me over and pointed to the card on her crib with her name.
“That dot means she hasn’t passed her hearing test.”
My eyes were huge. “You mean she can’t hear?”
“No. She’s deaf. You’ll need to follow up with her ENT,” she answered, so matter-of-factly.
I needed to sit down so I was glad it was time to feed her again.
“Terrified” didn’t even cover it. “Petrified” is still too mild. I wanted to run. I mulled it over the next hour: deaf, difficult, and heart defect.
I had no idea how to give this five-week-old girl what she needed, and still be some semblance of a mother to our other three boys. I debated calling the social workers and telling them this was too much. I really wanted to run. I doubted I would ever sleep again…
But she had nowhere else to go. This precious little girl had barely cried in my arms- she hadn’t asked for any of this. And if I wouldn’t take her because it was “too much” who would I be willing to take? I missed my Ladybug. But Emily needed me.
I brought her home.
I decided if it wasn’t working and I couldn’t meet her needs, I’d let the social workers find another home. I figured I could at least hold out two weeks. When I talked with the social workers the next day, they were in shock; the hospital had withheld Emily’s medical information. We thought they might have been trying to get rid of her faster…
We prepared for the crying fits, but they never came. She was so angelic, Brian and I whispered to each other, “I think they gave us the wrong baby…”
She had surgeries so she could hear. I was in tears when her face lit up as she listened to music for the first time- I’ve never seen someone smile like that.
A year later, we sat in shock at the cardiologists. I snuggled her when the doctor came in looking stunned.
“This doesn’t happen… We didn’t expect this… I’ve been doing this a long time… The hole in her heart is closed. She won’t need surgery. We have no idea how this happened.”
But I knew.
It was all God.
Last month, we found out that we are officially adopting her.
I’m ashamed that I almost ran from one of the best things that has ever happened to us. It made sense at the time, but sometimes doing the right thing doesn’t make sense. The darkness we had to walk through, saying goodbye unexpectedly, was needed for God’s plan. He placed her with us; if the hospital had given her full history, social workers would have placed her in a therapeutic home instead of ours. I’m even thankful for the government shut down because no daycare meant they needed me immediately, despite usually trying to give a break between placements to grieve.
We’ve been singing Luke’s theme song lately since a summer without a cast is a beautiful thing, but it’s hilarious hearing all four kids sing I Lived together. I would never say I’m brave; I spent months terrified, but God is always bigger than our fears. God is just looking for us to be willing to say “yes” even when it hurts and be willing to let things end badly. However, if we don’t say yes at some point, things just may end badly anyway.
I still want to run some days. Just now, it’s usually away from my four kids toting squirt guns this cast-free summer. Luke is leading the way now that his foot has healed.
Read more about where we are today with our adoption.