Friday, April 11, 2014

An exercise in love and faith.

*This is lengthy, but I don't want to sum this experience up in a few sentences.  I'm sure many don't care about the details, but some have asked- and I needed to write to process some of this.

I was pretty content with my four children.  Four sounded like a good number and it didn't feel as though we were missing anyone.  Without realizing it, life had gotten easy.  Stella no longer needed bottles or formula and was sleeping great through the night.  She could walk and had a personality that left my days anything but dull.  The older kids were self-sufficient enough that they helped put together lunches in the morning and tied their own shoes.  Denten average arrival time each evening was still around 8:30, but somehow I managed it fine and enjoyed the time we had together.  It's a dangerous thing, that comfort zone.  Especially when it sneaks up on you and you have to be kicked out of it to realize it was there in the first place.

Wednesday morning I had dropped Stella off at Holly's and was on my way to the dentist.  Pulling in the parking lot, Denten calls.  I had a few minutes.  And they rocked my little comfortable world.  Joann had called.  There is a baby.  What??  We had our baby, remember?  We chose not to renew our adoption certification.  Is this for real?  So I took some deep breaths and went in to get my bite adjusted.  Through the morning thoughts of a new baby in our home floated in and out of my mind.  On one hand, I wanted to.  Really wanted to.  On the other, things were so good right now.  Would I be messing with a good thing?  Was saying no even an option?  Well, yes.  There are so many families out there who are waiting for that call.  The one saying there is a baby.  Some of these families don't even have any children yet.  Is it fair for me to take another one?  Why did they call us out of all the families they had waiting?  So many questions and not one single answer.  When Denten and I met for lunch we talked through it all and left without any clarification.  I continued to struggle with it through the afternoon and that evening D gave me a blessing that my answer would be clear and that I could feel the peace one way or another that I so desperately wanted.  The priesthood worked as it usually does and peace and calm took over the jumbled mess my head had been all day.  All of the things that pointed toward taking this baby clicked into place and it all made sense.  I slept well and felt great about it the next morning.

I had the best day Thursday.  I felt happy and peaceful and excited.  I rolled easily with things that might have normally rattled me.  It was a good day. I knew this was right and I was anxious to meet her.  We thought we'd be heading to New Mexico to pick her up Friday, so I began making arrangements for the kids, none of whom were coming with us.  I was disappointed when we learned we'd have to wait until Monday to pick her up- don't social workers know how long a weekend is?!  Friends helping with our kids were flexible and so willing to help.  So we pulled out what we had kept for babies (I had given a lot away) and made a run to Target for the essentials and let our children join our anticipation for a new little sister.

Monday came early and we flew to New Mexico.  We had time for breakfast, over which we talked through what we would name this little girl, and Denten took a work call.  I was tired of stalling and wanted our appointed time to meet to come already.  The longer we waited, the greater the butterflies in my stomach grew.  We arrived outside the birth parents home and waited for Joann, who was 30 minutes late.  I was dying.  When she arrived, we waited again outside their home a long time until they  came out to open the gate.  They had the baby strapped in her carseat and bags ready to just hand off to us but we needed to go in and sit down and visit a bit.  I don't think they were prepared for that.  The social worker had questions for them, we had a few questions and we wanted to share a little about our family with them.  Her birth father was very open to answering questions and sharing information about her.  Her birth mother was quiet and reserved and maybe a little teary, but didn't show much emotion.  We took a few pictures and then said good-bye.  Her birth father was so emotional- it broke my heart to see him cry when we were walking away.

Our drive back to Mesa took about seven hours.  This sweet baby was a champ when it came to feeding time- she had been nursing but took to the bottle smoothly and drank eagerly, like she was so hungry.  Between feedings, she slept and travelled so well.  We talked about her name.  We talked about whether we needed to think about a different vehicle for our family.  We talked about schedules and logistics and couldn't believe this was really happening.  We arrived home about 8 pm.  The kids had just gotten to bed and came out quickly to meet her.  They were immediately enamored.  She was so small, what was her name, can I hold her, can I give her a kiss?  When we let them hold her, Cooper started crying softly.  This little baby brought such a sweet spirit into our home immediately.  We were so grateful she was welcomed with so much love and excitement from her older siblings.

We spent the night trading shifts to feed her, not complaining or trying to negotiate with the other for more sleep.  It wasn't a trial.  We wanted to be with her so much that getting up to feed her every three hours wasn't a big deal.  When she fussed a little before going back to sleep, we just held her and loved her and it wasn't hard.  I was tired, but I was happy.

The next morning the kids cared only about spending time with her.  I had to keep reminding them to get ready for school.  Beckham skipped away saying, "I just wish I could take her with me in my backpack!"  Stella met her for the first time and was fascinated.  She would get excited every time the baby moved or made a sound. She was soft and gentle and while I knew jealousy might kick in eventually, I was glad her initial reaction was positive.  We all knelt around our new baby and said family prayer together before heading out for the day.  It was a sweet prayer and just after we finished, I picked up my phone to take a pic of the kids together and saw the email.

"I am so sorry for the inconvenience but the birth father and I had a change of heart. My family has found out about the birth of my daughter and they are willing to contest. My dad especially was against the decision and is willing to help financially with the needs of (baby). We had time to think about it and it's not in our best interest to let (baby) go. I was wondering when we could meet to get her back we apologize for the last minute decision and inconvenience. Please get back to us ASAP. I lost your number so you can contact me via email or cell number."

I couldn't breathe.  I was holding my chest and trying to breathe.  I held the phone out to denten and could feel my face crumpling.  This is not happening.  We didn't just introduce this little soul to our children and all love her so much to have her go.  No, no, no.  We quickly decided not to say anything to the kids until we knew more, so off they went to school, ready to tell their teachers and friends about their new sister.  Denten drafted an email back to her.

"Your email took us by surprise this morning.  We have only known (baby) for less than 24 hours but instantly we loved her and took her into our family as one of our own.  While we understand your position, and will respect it, we feel a need to express to you how we feel about the situation.  We received that call from (social worker) on Wednesday of last week.  What a surprise to hear from (social worker) with such unexpected news of a baby girl needing a home.  We asked questions about you and (birth father), but she didn't have much information.  (Social worker) reassured us of your decision every time we spoke to her.  We wanted to make sure that before we invested our hearts, time, effort and money that this was a go.  We understand that birth parents change their minds all the time, thus our hesitation of jumping in right away.  However, after such reassurance from (social worker) we jumped all in.  We made plans to bring baby (baby) into our family and home.  We made arrangements in our home and lives to welcome (baby)   We made arrangements to fly to (New Mexico) and drive home at the last minute.  We were all in and we continue to be all in.
Last night when we arrived home, (baby) was introduced and held by each of her new siblings.  It was a tender, emotional moment for all.  They instantly loved her.  (baby) has already been welcomed into our family by hundreds of family members and friends spread throughout the world as they have expressed their joy and love through phone calls, emails, and social media.  Not only does (baby) have us but she will have a team of hundreds of others cheering her on and loving her throughout her life (as she already does). 
We want you to know that we understand this is difficult for you and will respect whatever decision you make, but we also want you to understand that we are a part of this situation now and it is difficult for us.  We will offer her the best that we can provide in life.  We expect nothing less than the best for any of our children, (baby) included.    The opportunities for (baby) are endless and we would love to provide her with all the opportunities she desires. 
We have contacted (social worker), but we understand she is in a meeting all morning.  We will be taking (baby) to the doctor this morning for a 2 week check up.  As stated above, we will respect your decision but also want you to understand that we don't think we met by chance.  We love (baby) and would love to provide her with all that her big heart desires now and in the future.  Please consider your options.  We felt that a higher power led you to your original decision.  We prayed and pondered about (baby)  you and (birth father) and your families and the impact on us and our children before we made our final decision to bring (baby) into our home.  We felt at peace and assumed you did too after having her in your care for two weeks, thus our decision to move forward.  Now that (baby) is here we would love for her to stay. 
We respect your strength and courage to want what is best for (baby)   If you feel it is best for her to come back to you, we will respect your decision."  

She immediately responded that she was sorry, but this was their decision.  I think I was numb after that.  We took her to the doctor and got instructions on how to care for a few issues that were concerning.  We delivered sad news to our families.  We talked about how to tell the kids as they arrived home from school.  What a hard thing to understand and try to explain.  Beckham seemed the least invested but had a few questions.  Cooper quietly fell apart on the couch and that set Seneca off.  "But I don't want anyone to come and take her away!"  Me, neither, sweetheart.  Me, neither.  We combated a feeling of helplessness as Cooper felt we needed to do something and Seneca said, "can't you convince them to let her stay here?"  We tried, sis.  We explained and prayed that whatever Heavenly Father wanted to happen, would and pleaded with Him to watch over her.  

The social worker told them that they would have to come to Mesa to pick her up.  We set the meeting for the following day.  I wanted to judge.  I wanted to be mad.  They struggled to find a ride to work- they cancelled her dr. appt. because they couldn't get a ride, but now they can get all the way to Arizona?  I wanted them to know what a great life she would have here and that I would love her so, so much. But what I felt was the possibility that this baby needed to be gone, out of their home, for them to fully commit to her.  That she had to leave for them to realize that they could do this, they could make it work, they could figure it out and that she was worth it.  Why we had to be the ones to help them come to that conclusion I still don't know, but somewhere there was a greater plan at work.  

Denten gave her a sweet blessing before she left us.  He blessed her that she would be healthy and strong and that she would be happy.  He blessed her with a strong desire to find her Savior and understand His role in her life.  He blessed her that she would be a light to others and I have no doubt she will fulfill that mission.  Of all the things we were sending her away with, this seemed to be the most important and gave me a measure of peace.

They were late.  Late enough I had time to give her one more bath before she had to leave us.  I was putting on her little socks when they came in and her father was in her face immediately.  "Hi, baby!  Hi!  I missed you so much, did you miss daddy? Oh, Hi Honey!"  He was too close to me and I shook trying to get her little socks on and he just kept talking and I was trying so hard not to fall apart with him standing right there in her face.  I am glad he loves her, and I can appreciate his enthusiasm, but it seemed a little insensitive with Denten sitting right there, having believed that he was her dad.  I handed her to him and showed her mother some of the things we were sending home with them and instructions from the doctor.  Her mother seemed uncomfortable answering the social workers questions about what had changed and how she was going to take care of the baby.  Denten and her father loaded their car- we sent home the clothes they had given us as well as all of the diaper, bottles, and formula we had for her.  Denten had purchased more diapers, toys, books and a stroller for her.  He said that she should have everything we could give her.  If she had to go, at least she would have what she needed.  He was very, very close to letting them take our car.  For real.  Then he would know that she could at least get to the doctor and get what she needed.  We sent home the gifts that friends had left for her.  One of them said that it didn't matter now where she lived, she should have these things.  None of this is her fault.  So true.

Her mother let me hold the carseat she was strapped in before they left.  I started crying and asked her mother, "will she be okay?"  She just looked at me like she didn't understand.  I told her I just wanted to know that she would be okay, that she would be taken care of and have a great life.  "Yeah, she'll be ok."  She said they had support now.  She apologized again for the inconvenience.  I told her that it wasn't inconvenient.  It wasn't inconvenient at all.  I would do anything for this baby.  It was heartbreak.  It was the fact that we had fallen in love with her and were prepared to give her everything.  Inconvenience wasn't the issue.  They left and my heart broke.  The social worker apologized and I told her of my concerns about her being well-taken-care of.  She said she would follow up.  

This should be the end, but then we went through the motions of our day with stones strapped to our chests.  I have had so many thoughts the past few days, while at the same time trying not to think about it.  If I had known the situation would be temporary, I still would have done it, but I think I could have taken very good care of her without getting my heart so invested.  Because we believed she was our own, we loved her that way.  And then she was gone.  If it was temporary, we could have handled it differently with our kids, not introduced her as a new sister that was here to stay, a new member of our family.  But we didn't know better.  We didn't make a mistake and couldn't have done it differently.   We thought she needed our whole hearts and that's what we gave.  But that meant that when she left, there was a huge hole in our hearts, and it literally felt that way.  

I think after a few days I can say that I'm okay if she wasn't supposed to be mine.  It hurts like crazy, because I want her to be, but it's ok if she's not.  The hard part is that we aren't comfortable about the situation she is going back to.  It is too easy to let my mind wander and get carried away.  I believe her parents love each other and I believe they love her, and for that I am incredibly grateful.  I do not, however, believe they know how to be parents.  But if I'm honest, sometimes, neither do I.  She came with a few issues that were concerning and sending her back makes me scared, but I know that every first-time parent has to figure it out, they have to learn how to take care of another little human and I know they will figure things out- I just hope she isn't hurt in the process.  I can easily feel very helpless and let my emotions get the best of me but the fact is that I can't do anything else. I can't bring her back.  I can't provide for her.  So I exercise my faith and trust that Heavenly Father has her in His arms and is loving her for me.  

A few weeks ago we had a family home evening lesson on faith and broke down the principle to make it easy for our children to understand.  The equation we came up with is this: 

Belief + Action = Faith

I believe that my Father in Heaven will handle all the things that I physically can not.  I must believe this or I will go out of my mind.  I acted when I handed this sweet little child of God back to her parents.  One of our many supporters reminded me that she may not be my child, but she is His child and He will not forget about her.  As I was having one of a few breakdowns this week, I felt, through my sobs, that my Savior had felt this before.  I saw in my mind Him kneeling in the Garden and His body shaking with sobs as mine was.  I asked How on earth He got through this pain because that compiled with all of the other heartaches and sin in the world is simply too much.  I know that time is part of the answer.  Time heals most things of the heart and so I keep busy in the meantime.  

Life can't just stop.  I want it to sometimes, but I have responsibilities.  I have other children and they require that life keep moving, and therefore I will keep healing.  If I can be grateful that we were chosen to go through this, it is because an alternative might have been that one of the many families out there who have no children and have been waiting for one could have gotten that call.  Can you imagine the elation to know you finally had a baby?  The one you'd been praying and hoping and preparing for for so long?  I wondered about those families when we agreed to take this baby, feeling a little bit selfish, but now I'm so glad it wasn't them.  I'm so glad it was us because as devastating as this has been, I imagine it would be worse for them.  Shattering.  I understand why they say we "exercise" our faith.  It is exhausting.  I feel wiped out.  Faith is not something you just do in your head.  You do it with your whole soul.

Our support system is wide and strong and we have felt it.  Prayers, kind comments and notes, loved ones crying right along with us… while we wish none of them had to feel this pain with us, we're sure glad we have them.   I haven't used her name here because it hurts.  And because she is once again called what her parents intended.  


Wade said...

My heart breaks for you
Love ya,

tenacious d said...

That is so heartbreaking. I hardly know what to say, but when I read the part of Denten's letter to the birth parents about the people around the world who are willing to support and love this little girl, I could picture all of us in a stadium, cheering her on, as well as all of us one-on-one with you, giving you a hug and our support as you process this experience.

Jake n JoAnn Fowler said...

Dear sweet Amberly, thank you for sharing, my heart breaks with you, but I am so deeply touched by your love and faith.

Scrap Happy said...

Love you guys. No better family to handle this.

Kari said...

My heart is breaking as I read this. So painful, gut-wrenching, and unfair. I know your faith and devotion will carry you through this, but know I love you and pray for you, and the little one too. Hang in there, friend. (hugs)

Kelly said...

This was beautiful and heartbreaking to read. I'm I'm awe of your faith, perspective, and your ability to find the good in what seems unbearably tough.

Alisha said...

You are a family of true saints to have been chosen to be the ones who helped her birth parents decide she was worth it. Still, such a sad sad sad thing. Also I'm thinking she went to the place where she could get that beautiful priesthood blessing from your husband. Perhaps others wouldn't have thought of it. Wishing you pure love and grace to bind up your broken hearts.

Alisha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DaNae said...

Thank you for sharing the story & your sweet thoughts. I love that D gave her a blessing. You guys have the biggest hearts. My heart has been in my throat all week aching for you guys. We love you and we are here for you. Even though we didn't meet her, she will be in our thoughts & prayers for the rest of our lives. Sending big hugs xoxo

Lizzy said...

Heartbreaking. Ugh. Makes my heart so sad. I love that Denton gave her a blessing. She will be watched over, I am certain. You guys have been in my thoughts and prayers! xoxo

Debi said...

I am so, so proud of you and am continually amazed at your strength and faith. Each one of your children has been a hard to come by miracle. They are all blessed to have you and D as parents. Thank heaven we can turn our heartaches over to our Savior. How else could we endure?

Cathy said...

You blessed her life so much in such a short amount of time. So sorry for your loss. We'll pray for her and your family. Love you!

imjustsayin said...

What a beautiful and heartbreaking story. There should be more selfless loving people like you in this world. May peace comfort your family.

IronLawGirl said...

I've cried about this so much this week. Starting Monday night with how happy I was that she was going to your family. Thank you for sharing and helping us all to grow from this too. We will keep you guys and this sweet baby girl in our prayers!

Erin said...

Your grace, faith and bravery is inspiring. I'm so sorry for your heartache. I grieve with you!

Scrap Happy said...

In reading this post I couldn't help but think of the parallels between your family's experience with this sweet baby, and those of our heavenly parents. I am sure it is heart-wrenching for them to foresee and witness the physical and spiritual challenges that await each of their children. But, they know they end from the beginning. For some divine purpose, your family was part of our Heavenly Father's plan for this child. - Nick

Sean & Julia Johnson.... said...

Your family has been in my prayers. You are seriously one amazing woman Amberly!!

Tamra said...

I knew about this of course, but reading this, my heart aches for you and your family all over again. I'm so grateful for the gospel and that you understand enough to carry on. One of my favorite quotes is, "The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not insurance against pain. It is resource in event of pain." You've shown that through this experience. And what a great blessing Denton left with her. That in itself is hope for her future. Love you!

Annie said...

Oh my friend, I just checked your blog for the first time in months. Words can not express how much I admire you. I know that blog comment sentiment can ring hollow at times, but know that I would be physically smothering you in hugs and tears right now if I could. Your toughness and humility are an incredible combination of traits. And your faith, it is awesome. You and your family are in my prayers.

Mallory said...

I had no idea that this situation was even possible. I think the world of you and your family. Your faith and perspective are absolutely incredible. I love you guys very much.

Ann Le Yonce said...

Dearest Amberly,

I'm so sorry I didn't know about this sooner. Reading this, I couldn't stop crying. My heart aches with yours. I hope that these days your heart is feeling less burdened, and that the pain has been replaced with joy. Thank you for sharing all the details of what happened. While reading your story, a thought that occurred to me is that the things we do in the physical world, have a direct impact on the spiritual world. So I know without a doubt that the blessing that Denten gave baby girl will cover her and carry her throughout her life. The trajectory of her life is forever changed because of that blessing. I am confident of this. As you continue to pray for her, when ever she's brought to your heart, Heavenly Father will be listening and the Holy Spirit will be working. Heavenly Father chose you to be part of her life for a brief time because He knew of the powerful work that needed to be done in her life... the powerful work he knew your family would be able carry out, and the work you will continue to do in her life through your prayers for her.

Thank you for sharing something that is so deeply personal and painful. I am so privileged to know you. You encourage and inspire me with how you and your family live out your faith.

Sending you and your family All my love,

Alexander Blake said...

An instructive post. People to really know who they want to reach and why or else, they'll have no way to know what they're trying to achieve. People need to hear this and have it drilled in their brains..
Thanks for sharing this great article.
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