Miracles and Consolations
The toddler arrived a few weeks after baby J left. When the time felt right, we went on the vacancy list — which indicated to our agency and DCS that we were ready for a new placement. I received three calls on September 9th for available children. Our agency gave us a brief summary of each one and their situation and I consented to take any of them.
I sent a text to Joe that we’d likely have another child by the time he got home from work and laughed at the thought of it. DCS takes a look at their pool of consenting families in each case and decides where the child should be placed based on location, family fit, etc. That afternoon the DCS investigator called and said he’d be by with the baby in a couple of hours.
The race was on then to collect things he might wear, lower the crib mattress, wash down the high chair, and borrow diapers from the neighbor who had a son his age. “He’s here!” Vivian yelled, and I raised the garage door like a stage curtain to a new chapter in our lives.
“Who are you little one?" I thought as I stared at the pair. And there they were in the driveway both looking at me.
“Hello,” I said as I covertly assessed the baby. The investigator gave me the run down, handed me a backpack with a tiny t-shirt and 5 diapers. “I’ll set you up with a clothing allowance” he said. We chatted a bit about what had happened and I looked into those eyes and thought “What color is that anyway?”
Joe picked up the kids from school and they were gleeful to find a new small family member roaming the house. “He’s adorable!” everyone exclaimed and I thought “Oh, how true”.
We bathed him, found him some fresh clothes from a small accumulation in my foster bin and let him play with whatever he wanted. I tried handing him a small bit of strawberry only to find it immediately ejected and at my feet. “He might still be on baby food,” I thought and decided to make him some.
He didn’t come with a bottle or a pacifier but that didn’t mean that he didn’t need them. I sent my oldest daughter off to the drug store to buy some, and fortunately, he took both. The early days were about discovering what he wanted (and didn’t), calming his fears, and play. His sleep schedule was unpredictable and we just decided to meet him where he needed us. I’d rock him and stare at those wide eyes and still could not pinpoint their color. Olive? Hazel? Light brown?
We eventually fell into a new normal. I’d fold laundry with the back door open while he toddled around the yard, fed the chickens, and filled the baby pool with the hose. I’d take breaks from chores to read him stories and push him on the swing. Eventually he became comfortable and, like the others, called me “mama.” We started to get bits and pieces of his story and put them together like a puzzle. The call came that he was to be placed with another member of his family intent on adopting him, and my heart sank once again. The transfer would take some time, as a pool fence needed to be erected, they needed to pass home inspection, and the judge needed to sign the papers. This process took a month.
It was during this transition time that I took him to a noon All Saints Day Mass at our church. He was active and busy as usual and needed to be taken outside. I met a mother in the courtyard who had a son similar in age, and the babies began to share stares and goldfish and hugs. She quietly asked how old he was and confirmed his name. “We use his middle name when he’s in trouble,” my five year old, Vivian, announced, and we both chuckled a bit.Eventually I escorted her back in the church with the toddler on my hip — intent on receiving communion.
And then I felt hands on me. Adult hands on the backs of my arms. I turned around to see a familiar face, one I’ve known for years. “Hello,” I whispered. “Are you a foster mom?” she asked. “Yes,” I said. “And this baby, his name is X, born on X, his mom’s name is X?”
My mouth dropped open at her knowledge of private information. “Yes” I answered warily. Since becoming a foster mom, I always had a latent fear of the baby being recognized in public and the potential for chaos it could cause. “You are holding my brother’s son,” she said. “This is my brother’s son,” she repeated touching him. “He is my nephew,” she added as confirmation.
My hand flew up to my mouth as did hers. The woman I had just chatted with on the patio joined us and there we stood — a trinity of women in complete shock. I looked over at her. “This is my mom,” she said, motioning to the one in front of me. “I thought I recognized the baby, especially when your daughter used his middle name, but wanted to be sure, so I called her over from the school,” she said. “He is my cousin.” “That would make your son his second cousin,” I mused.
They began to explain that the older woman’s brother, the baby’s father, hadn’t signed the birth certificate and so they had no rights — no rights to any information. They had heard through the family that he had been taken by DCS but had no idea where he was. “I’ve been praying,” she cried, “I’ve been praying to find him”.
“We’ve been calling and looking and didn’t know where he was, and now you’re standing here with him.” She touched the baby’s head, emboldened, she wrapped her arms around both of us, squeezed and whispered in my ear. “Thank you,” she said, still shaking. “Thank you for taking care of him.”
“My brother is a good man. He’s just an addict,” she wept. I realized in that moment the enormity of pain their family had been through, all that they had lost, and now had fleetingly found, the consolation God had given them. Given me. My heart softened and found some mercy for the man who had mistreated this child.
I called my oldest daughter that afternoon to tell her what had happened. “God used you, mom. You were an answer to her prayers.”
And I was deeply humbled. I am deeply humbled. I think back on how I very nearly had a different baby on that September day, how I almost went to a different church for Mass, at a different time, how if he was sleeping I wouldn’t have gone out to the courtyard, how I considered going to an evening Mass. I think about how if the foster system was more efficient, and the judge more timely, the baby would have already been gone. I thought about the hard days and how I had the privilege to take care of this precious child who is so longed for by so many. “You have a lot of people who love you, baby,” I said to him buckling him into his car seat leaving the church. And he just looked at me with those mesmerizing, pools-of-green eyes. “God’s got you, little one.”
I gave the aunt all of the contact information for the case manager and her supervisor and told everyone what had happened, including the family member with whom he was about to be placed.
“It’s a miracle,” I said. “It’s a miracle,” everyone agreed.
The father’s family was finally able to find their place in his life and are now entitled to monthly visits with him. He’s gone from us now, and the grief is deep — deeper than the baby before him. But as in all trials we look for the consolation, we look and find that amazing moment that we can cling to and remember that no matter what happens, God is so very good.