One week ago, our little Fuzzy Bear was taken from our house and placed into the care of his new adoptive parents. But, I’m going to start my post ahead of that point.
Friday afternoon, on September 22nd, I had just finished teaching for the day. Thomas still had two three more periods before the day was over for him. I had 6th period off, and had gone upstairs to work on some grading. I checked my phone to see if the babysitter had sent any texts, to find that Fuzzy Bear’s caseworker had called and left a message. I called him back, only to hear the news that the Ad Lidem (who had never met Fuzzy Bear) and the CPS supervisor (who had also never met Fuzzy Bear) had decided to make a removal permanent before the 12 month mark. He would be leaving sometime the next week, either Wednesday or Thursday.
In tears, I found Thomas and told him the news. The school graciously found a substitute for him, and the two of us left to pick up our Bears together. We called our parents on the way, and my mom graciously agreed to catch the next flight down to be with us for the weekend.
We spent the evening trying to lead a normal Friday evening, but with little success. We were distraught. After putting the Bears to bed, we called a few attorneys to see if we had any chance of intervening. Afterall, we had been Fuzzy Bear’s only family since he was 10 days old, the people making the decision had never even met our little man, and we were only about 5 weeks shy of the 12 month mark. Surely, we had a chance! Each attorney told us that we could try, it would cost a ton of money, and the judge wouldn’t allow our case to prevail. In fact, the attorneys were the ones to explain that this decision was coming at this point in time for the express purpose of preventing us from intervening: they wanted to removal to be quick so that the transition to start as soon as possible. We went to bed, knowing that there was nothing we could do. That was one of the hardest evenings in my life.
We were heart-broken. My mom arrived late Friday night/early Saturday morning, and I think we would have fared far worse without her there. Saturday was spent doing every activity we could imagine. We went to the zoo, and got official pictures of Fuzzy Bear feeding the Giraffe at the zoo. We enjoyed the hippo exhibit (it’s air-conditioned in there) and took several phone pictures of our little family in its last weekend all together. We made sure to hold tight to nap-times, and to get every last bit of snuggles we could. While Bears slept, Thomas and I began writing out lists of all of the things we wanted Fuzzy Bear to take with him, and my mom and I ran errands to find good shoes, get laundry finished, etc. That Saturday night was another of the hardest nights of my life.
That night, I dreamt that Fuzzy Bear had already left, that I had not had the chance to finish packing for him, and I had forgotten to say goodbye. But, I also dreamt that Fuzzy Bear was in his new home, and the parents looked at times like my sister and brother-in-law, who have suffered through a miscarriage. At other times, the parents looked like my Aunt and Uncle, who always wanted children of their own, but could not. Fuzzy Bear was happy, even though I had forgotten to pack or say goodbye. And the parents looked thrilled with him.
On a typical Sunday, the Bears wake up at their usual time, eat breakfast, play, and then take a short nap before church. During their nap, the weather turned stormy. My mom volunteered to stay home so Thomas and I could go for a walk together. As the rain poured, we power-walked our way to the top of a local hill, stood under a gazebo in the rain, and then walked back, almost entirely in focused, determined, sad, but resilient silence.
Sunday, we went to church, where everyone hugged Fuzzy Bear, and our entire family multiple times. Even people who had only visited a couple times came to us and hugged us and told us they would keep us in their prayers. After the service, the church threw a goodbye/birthday party for our little man, complete with helium balloons, a special cupcake, little gifts, and decorations. While Fuzzy Bear might never remember this event, it will always be a treasure in my memory: so many people loving, celebrating, and mourning with us as we said goodbye.
After church, the Bears napped, and Thomas, mom, and I continued our preparations. When the Bears were awake, we spent time video-chatting all of the grandparents (my dad and sister, and my in-laws), and we prayed a lot. We ate Chipotle for dinner (one of our favorite restaurants), and started to draft letters to Fuzzy Bear’s new family. We had done everything in our power to keep him, and now we were determined to do everything in our power to ease his transition into his new family. We wrote our his typical feeding and sleeping schedule, medical history, likes, dislikes, and everything else we could think of. My mom graciously allowed us to distract her with questions even though she had mountains of school work of her own. Again, another incredibly difficult night.
Monday morning, Thomas left for school, and we all said goodbye to my mom. I dropped off all three Bears at the baby-sitters, where all three were spoiled and loved on and snuggled for the entire day. Again, at the end of the day, I found a message from the caseworker. The departure date had been moved up. Instead of leaving on Wednesday or Thursday, Fuzzy Bear would be leaving on Tuesday afternoon.
Again, I found Thomas and told him the news. We submitted lesson plans for the next day, since we had both decided that we would spend our last day together as a family. That evening, Thomas worked on the final drafts of the letter, and I went to Wal-Mart to find good solid luggage for Fuzzy Bear’s clothes, toys, books, and belongings.
That night was the absolute hardest night of my life. Every time I heard a noise from the Bear’s room, I had to fight the urge to rush in, grab Fuzzy Bear, and run away with him. I kept running through the lists of belongings still to gather, lists of more events and activities I had hoped to do with Fuzzy Bear as he grew up.
Monday morning and afternoon was spent packing that suitcase and duffel bag while Bears were asleep, and playing and crying while they were awake. The caseworker came around 3:00. For a split second, I considered locking the door and turning off the lights, and hoping that the caseworker would leave.
The caseworker came in, and asked how we were doing, as if our tear-stained eyes weren’t actually showing the world exactly what we felt. He then told us several pieces of news.
- Fuzzy Bear’s new parents had been pushing the CPS system in their state to move as quickly as possible, because they wanted to make the transition before an intervention could occur.
- They had wanted children all their lives, but couldn’t have their own, and had been hoping and fighting to adopt our Fuzzy Bear as soon as they found out about him.
- They were heart-broken at our pain, and hoped that we would be able to adopt our other two children.
- They asked if they could be in contact with us, to send us an update on Fuzzy Bear, and to send pictures so we could have closure.
- The new adoptive father had decided to fly to San Antonio on Tuesday as soon as he heard the news that they had been given permission to adopt, rather than wait for the caseworker to bring Fuzzy Bear on Saturday. He was staying in a hotel about 15 minutes away, anxiously waiting to meet his new son for the first time.
We were thrilled with all of this, and still are thrilled. Adoptive parents have no legal obligation to foster-parents, and so these sorts of steps mean the world to us who have to say goodbye.
We sang a hymn, kissed our little boy goodbye, strapped him into the carseat, and waved goodbye from our front porch. Baby Bear watched his little brother leave, and blew kisses as the car turned the corner.
That evening, we went to our pastor’s house (his wife is our babysitter), and they loved on us with good food, good conversation, and lots of hugs. That night, Thomas and I slept soundly. Wednesday morning, we went in to work, and began figuring out what life looked like as a normal family of four, rather than a crazy circus-family of five.
Someday, I will write about what actually helped us to come to peace with this change. Right now, it’s still a bit too close for me to feel like I can speak well on the subject. But I have to say this: grief is debilitating without a close network of loving, caring, godley relationships that have been developed over time. Without my mom there to help us laugh and cry and prepare all weekend, without our church to both weep and celebrate with us, without our school to shower us with affection and encouragement and time as a family, without our God and His only-begotten Son’s sacrifice, grief can only become despair.