Letting MIKE go
Hi y’all. This is a new type of writing today, a personal reflection for Momma. I’m often asked about what happened to my beautiful baby boy Mike. The smiley faced, dark skinned, usually flirting with girls, super cutie, most commonly found attached to Momma’s hip! This is HIS story. Real, raw, and honest. I’m writing this one for him.
There’s a very beautiful side of fostering that I get to see and experience with each new baby that God sends our way. It’s filled with moments of comfort, peace and hope, and a whole lot of love. Those are the easy parts to talk about. But I would be lying, y’all, if I said that every side of fostering was good. In fact, there’s plenty of difficult and tiring moments, the times you want to give up and eat cake for breakfast (which Momma totally has), and the harsh realities of a broken system which reveal themselves within every tiny face.
These are the moments that break people.
These are the moments that bring about the hurt.
These are the moments that people don’t want to talk about. Which is exactly why I’m choosing to talk about it.
Talking about them has proven to be the place where Jesus makes Himself completely present, completely known, and completely in control. Fostering, after all, is about love…God’s love. And it’s also about God, not me, being in complete control. We learned this lesson with Mike.
Mike was four days old when he was placed with us and he was our first foster baby. He was absolutely perfect! He cried, he screamed, he shook vehemently if he wasn't swaddled just right. He was the reason why we wanted to foster; to preserve and defend life, especially, the most vulnerable and innocent. We raised Mike for eight months. Every nap, every bottle, every difficulty, every fever, every milestone, every discovery…he was my son. As adoption seemed almost certain, we were completely blind-sighted by a last-minute decision to send Mike to a family member instead of remaining with us. My heart broke into a billion pieces that morning outside the courtroom when all of a sudden, I was being asked to let my baby go. I don't remember the car ride home, because I bawled, I screamed, I questioned and yelled at God, I yelled at my husband on the phone, and I cursed my way all the way home. Y'all, it was ugly, but not as ugly as the conversation I had to have with my daughters, in telling them that Mike would be leaving us. It was, and has been, one of the hardest days of my foster Momma journey.
Mike left us the week after the 4th of July. One day we were celebrating America's birthday with swimming and hot dogs and fireworks, and the following week, we were packing all his belongings knowing we would never see him again. Looking at his innocent face that morning, knowing he had no clue what was happening as he grinned with that beautiful smile, his first two teeth finally cutting through. He reached for me from his crib, and I knew it was the last time he would wake up and see me, his Momma. This broke me to my core.
This was my son.
I was the only Momma he ever knew.
Why, God? WHY would you let this happen?
I calmed my emotions to prepare for what has been the hardest day of our foster life, when we put our son in a car and let him be driven away. My daughters were broken, crying in hysterics about their brother leaving. My youngest, Marissa, looked at me square in the face through a sea of tears and said, "Momma, he was my brother, and I will never see him again." She shoved her whole body on top of me, and I used every ounce of Mom strength to keep myself in check so that I could comfort her. Now, I believe I am a strong woman and I have a super high pain tolerance. But this kind of pain…it completely crippled me.
The next few days were quiet. I could see when one of my girls was thinking about Mike, wondering what he was doing, or if he was alright. Mia, my oldest, would stare off into Jesus' image hanging in our dining room, the same image Mike liked to laugh with and touch, and I could see the tears constantly swell up in her eyes. I'm not going to lie, I was downright angry for a couple of days. Angry at the system, angry at the judge, angry at DCS, angry at Mike's family, angry at just about everyone. I coped by not talking about it, pushing all my hurt way down deep so that I didn't have to talk about it. It was too painful, and I wasn't ready.
Five days after Mike left, I had a nitty gritty conversation with God. The kind of conversation in which you’re desperately seeking answers, but don’t feel like you’re finding any. I just wanted to know WHY?
Maybe fostering wasn’t meant for us.
Maybe this was too hard.
Why would God allow this to happen?
I pleaded with God for clarity, for answers, for some kind of sign to let me know He was there. I was met with silence. And while at first that silence made me wrestle with these very questions, that same silence also flooded my heart with overwhelming love for my Mike. I loved that boy, with my whole heart. I didn’t birth him, and I didn’t know what it was like to feel him kick or move in my womb. But I loved him, and I gave him a home full of love, when the world couldn’t. In fact, this same love, the love of a family rooted in Christ, the self-less love Jesus asks of us, had transformed Mike right before our eyes. His frightful, broken and insecure little body had grown into this ball of joy and discovery and even mischief. He had met milestones that he was not expected to meet, he grew strong and healthy, and he became the true image of what healing and love looks like. He brought hope to my family, and to so many people that walked this journey with us, that Jesus is alive and present and heals. This was my family’s role in loving Mike. I had found my answers.
We began talking about our Mike again shortly after this day. About the goofy smile he would give when he was doing something naughty and got caught red handed, how he loved to dance in the car to Justin Bieber with his big booty and all, how he fought sleep like a champ, and how we all truly and deeply loved him. I heard the joy in my daughter’s stories, and although their love had been pierced with great sadness in his departure, I know that loving Mike, for the eight months he was with us, what was we had really been called to do. One evening James and I asked all three of them, “Do we stop fostering? Is this too hard?” They looked at each other, almost giving each other the sisterly nod, and Mia spoke for the threesome and said, “We’ve already talked about this Momma. We need to keep going. We keep going for Mike.” I knew in that moment, Jesus was in control of our ministry, and with our babies, especially Mike.
About a month after Mike left, while praying the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary over a crib with our second foster baby, Mike's face and his story came to mind while meditating on the Ascension. I imagined Mary seeing her only Son, the Son she raised, fed, bathed, clothed, and loved, be brutally beaten and then die on the cross. And what did she do? She let Him go. She let Him go into Eternity to Heaven with His Father, and spent the rest of her time here on Earth without Him. She let Him go, rejoicing in knowing He was going to a place full of joy, with the company of all the angels and saints. She let Him go, for He was never truly hers to begin with. I loved Mike, and he was my son. I raised, fed, bathed, clothed, and loved him. Add on July 10th, I let him go. But I choose to rejoice, like Mary, knowing that he was never truly mine, he was, and is God's. And I find comfort, like Mary, knowing that the angels and saints are protecting him and keeping him safe as we pray for him every day. We will always love our Mike, even from afar, for this is what God asks us to do. This is true love. This is how this Momma knew it was okay to let Mike go.