Saturday, February 21, 2009

Epiphany #43--Why I Do Foster Care

I've wrestled with the idea of posting these ideas and feelings. I've talked to Brad about blogging, and although he hasn't commented in a while, I know he reads every post. He's devoted to me like that. His opinion of blogging is sharing family stories and pictures and leaving it at that. I don't know what he will think of this post.
I can't decipher my compulsion to write this experience. But it was so raw yesterday, and I spent the entire day thinking about it and analyzing it.

Here goes:
I found a new cyber friend--Snarky Belle, aka Natalie. I love to read her evaluations of politics and society. I enjoy her biting sense of humor. But I feel such a bond to her after reading her essays on losing her daughter Victoria. You see, I too, have an invisible daughter. It was the most excruciating, life-changing, spirit-stretching experience of my existence. And it was supposed to be her birthday on February 13. Her sixth birthday, to be exact.
Through Natalie's blog, I found another mother, Carly, who lost her son, Christian, and after doing so, she began to memorialize lost children by writing their names on a sandy Australian beach at sunset, photographing them, and posting a memorial to these lost, invisible children. Although I consider my daughter's name almost sacred and share it with very few people, I thought that it would be appropriate to ask Carly to write my daughter's name in the sand, and then maybe post it and the letter I wrote on February 13, 2003--her due date--on my blog. So I sent her a request, hoping that she would be able to get to the name before last Friday.
I checked the site faithfully every day, but the name never came up. I know Carly has been inundated with hundreds of requests, and I had no reason to believe that mine would be done on time, so after checking and rechecking the site dozens of times a day, I realized I'd have to wait.
Yesterday, I assumed my now-familiar pose at the computer and checked all my regular places. Last of all, I looked at the beach, hoping to maybe see the post meant for me.
And there it was. Clear back on February 13th, just like I had asked her to do. How had I missed it? I was mad at myself, wondering how I could have been so careless. So I clicked on it. And I was completely unprepared for what happened next. The flood of emotion and tears was one I hadn't experienced in years. I thought that the pain was gone, permanently replaced with a scar that would always remind me where I had been but would never sear me again. How wrong I was. It brought me back to that place, a painful, empty place.
I spent some time in my room, pulling out that tiny box of mementos and a small photo album, racked with sobs and memories, aching for my child. Wishing with all my might that she was here.
And that's when it hit me.
The epiphany of all epiphanies.

That's why I do foster care. Why had I never seen it before? Of course she was the reason. I've taken child after child into my home, hoping to fill that void that she left--in my family pictures on the wall, in my nightly homework rituals, in my place settings on the table, in my soul. And nothing--no one--will ever fill it.

The pain of losing a child haunts you at the strangest, most unpredictable times.
When I talk to my friend's darling daughter--white-blond hair, blue eyes, freckly nose--I try to see her and what her face might look like. And in my mind I try to picture how the two girls would have been buddies, dressing up, giggling, fighting. Then I push the image away, before the pain is too great.
When I see a kindergarten class walk by at the school and think that their ranks are down by one, I see her.
When September 10th rolls around and no one, not even Brad, really remembers what day it is and why I might be melancholy, I see her.
Now, when I look into the faces of these neglected, abused children that I've been bringing into my home, I will see her too. And I don't think my perspective on foster care will ever be the same. I'm not one of those people that grew up knowing my calling in life would be to shepherd and save the world's masses from pain and neglect. My journey just led me there, trying to fill the hole in my family. It will never be filled.

I know there are blessings I've enjoyed in my life that I never would have had if I had not lost her. One painful memory is this: When I was pregnant, I remember telling a friend that this was the last time. If she had stayed with us, would I have my funny, handsome, sweet Micah? Or my stubborn, energetic, darling Hyrum?

Would I ever have gotten to the place inside myself where I could care for another woman's child?

Would I have ever developed empathy? Or compassion? Or eternal perspective?

I'll never know.
All I have are those few mementos and two dates--one when she should have been here and one when she came and left.
Now I can add this beautiful image. Thank you, Carly. I'll never forget you.
Click here to access Carly's site.


  1. Dear Jen, I consider you my friend. Because of our precious babies, we are given the gift of a connection. A bond so strong, it is irrelevant that we have never met. We know each other's hearts.

    What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing it with us. I know it isn't always an easy thing to do. I have told you before that I see you as an absolutely amazing woman! You have so much to share with others,of course foster children, but also those of us who have found you through this strange blogging world.

    Yes, Carly is a wonder, isn't she. Just like you. You have both taken your pain and turned it into action, giving gifts to others. Thank you.

  2. Jenny your post has brought me to tears. I am so grateful you would share your story with us. I am beginning to understand a glimpse only a glimpse of the pain and fear a mother can have for the lose of a child. I finally understand the bond between a mother and a child before they are even born. What an amazing feeling it is. Again, thank you for sharing this part of you.

  3. Bless your heart.

    I know that was painful to write, but beautiful to read.

  4. My friend, I thank you for this post. I have said it before, and I am sure I will say it again, but I adore you, and am so thankful to have the opportunity to have you in my life. What a wonderful blessing you are. Jamie

  5. That was beautiful Jen, and I thank you for sharing it.

  6. I remember this time and trying to find some way to help ease your pain and of course I couldn't, such beautiful words for such an awful experience. I thank Heavenly Father for the knowledge of forever families and the peace that comes with that knowledge. Carly is one of the angels on this earth as (of course) are you!

    Love ya

  7. Thank you Jenny for sharing that. It was beautiful and brave. It gives me a whole new level of love and respect for you too. I too think you're amazing and awesome and wonderful and did I say amazing? For all you do as a parent, as a friend and now as an advocate for these poor little children being given the crappy end of the stick in life. Any and all who come through your home will forever be blessed. Love you!

  8. Hi Jen, Thanks for sharing that story and your beautiful picture.

  9. Dear Jen,
    What an inspiring post. You are so strong and such an inspiration. Thanks for sharing your strength and that beautiful story.
    Jenn C.

  10. My mother lost two babies at birth or shortly after, in the days before prenatal transfusions. Our family has never forgotten our sister and brother - angels in heaven, watching out for us. It's lovely that you and your family remember little Ella - and that site is just a beautiful place.

  11. that was the most beautiful sunset and the most beautiful name in the sand! what an incredible and treasured photo!

  12. Such a beautiful post. Many (many) years ago, I thought we were pregnant. When I went to the doctor and the tests came back negative, she casually responded, "Oh you probably just miscarried. It happens all the time."

    My heart hurt with her flippant response ... thank you for showing it's okay to feel longing for the baby I have not yet met.