I sat there on the floor of the doctor’s office coloring with my son in complete shock. Trying to wrap my brain around what was happening here. The social worker who came in to see us to see if she could offer our family any assistance sat in a chair… asking clarifying questions, asking personal questions, doing everything but asking me if I was intentionally starving my child and if I had purposefully broken 3 bones in his precious, tiny body. I told myself to breathe… reminded myself that defensiveness was a sign of lying… but I wasn’t lying and I was feeling mighty defensive. Minutes earlier I had been relieved to hear that the tests on his nutrition absorption and bones came back normal and now because they were normal I was being accused of… what?!?
I started the 50 minute drive home phrases still ringing in my ears making my blood boil and my heart sink. “We just want to make sure there’s nothing else going on at home.” “Did he have these issues with his real mom?”… I am his real mom I had said, pushing the desire to scream waaaaay down. But on that drive home I did scream. I was angry. How could ANYONE think that I hurt my son? How could ANYONE think that after the hours of feeding therapy, the frustratingly exhausting meal times, the miles and miles of driving to doctors that I would be starving him? I was angry. I was looking for help and instead I got… this!
I was angry… and then the anger turned to fear… complete and utter fear. What if the new tests they run come back normal? Will they have even more reason to suspect that I am hurting him? Are they going to call CPS and report just to be on the safe side? Oh my gosh… They are going to take my kids away. My anxieties were leading me down a deadly spiral of conclusion jumping and catastrophic thinking- all ready in my anxious mind they had taken my children and ripped them from me.
It’s amazing what our anxiety can do to us if we let it. My mind drifted continuously to that dark and dreaded place. Singing to my son before bedtime now became filled with thoughts of – Who will sing to him? They don’t know what 3 songs he wants every single night. Tucking my daughter in led to thoughts of- They won’t know that she likes the top of her blanket folded down. Dealing with various obsessions of my son led to thoughts of- They won’t know that he has to open the door. They won’t know that he needs his bedtime music turned to just the right volume. They won’t know that he loves the previews almost more than the actual video. Who “they” are, I had no idea… but I had all ready allowed my anxieties to convict me and remove my children from our home.
A week later, a long talk with the head doctor at the clinic and my kids are obviously still here, safe in their own beds, safe in their own home. There was never any real threat… they were doing their job- making sure my son was safe.
I have asked myself a lot where all this debilitating fear came from and why- when I know I have never hurt my son- I would be so terrified that someone would think otherwise. The easy answer of course is that I know that children are removed from homes. I have seen CPS in action. I am a foster mom– I take in children who have been reportedly abused. So, I know it’s a real thing. I know that sometimes mistakes are made and children are removed for the wrong reasons or where no true threat of abuse is happening. And I know that not all foster homes should be foster homes.
But besides that I think that I was for the first time feeling what every mother of my children has felt. At one time before I held their child for the first time they were being questioned, being examined, being accused. But their story did not end with an assuring conversation with their doctor. Their story ended with their child being taken from their arms and led out of their home. And for most of those mothers it was the worst day of their lives. On a day of excitement and anticipation for me their world was crumbling and their fears were become a reality.
Most biological mothers love their children. Their love may be hidden under layers of dysfunction and brokeness, but it’s there. No mother wants their child to be taken from them. And that is where I have learned that life is not black and white. My human nature wants to put things in categories of absolutes– You hurt your child, you are evil. You use drugs while pregnant, you are evil. You neglect your child, you are evil.
Is there evil in the world- absolutely. I have seen the effects of it. I have held a baby with 26 broken bones. I have fed a toddler whose stomach was distended from starvation. I have swaddled a rocked a screaming baby whose body is hurting from detox.
But it’s not as black and white as that. I have also seen and heard the heartbreaking stories of years of bondage to sin, to a lifetime of abuse and neglect that went unnoticed, to a world that is so bogged down by oppression and anger there seems no way out.
And so in my own anxieties I saw and felt what could be the worst day of a mother’s life. I heard my mind asking the questions they may be asking as they sit in their empty home– “Who will rock them to sleep? Who will hug them and love them? How will they know what they like to eat? Will they understand and comfort them if they are scared?”
As a foster mom, it is so easy to let the anger I feel for a child become anger towards the parent. But it is not my job to condemn and sentence… it is my job to love. But where does that love stop?- at the child? Or can it be extended towards the parent who deserves grace just as much as the next person… just as much as me.
Can I approach them with kindness and love?
Can I encourage their journey?
Can I take every opportunity to let them know how much their child is cared for and loved?
Can I write them notes of God’s grace and mercy?
Can I allow myself- while advocating and protecting their child- to be a light in the darkness of their life?
Children deserve to be safe- black and white. Children should not be intentionally hurt- black and white.
Parents whose children are hurt or neglected deserve… what?- Is that a grey area? OR could the black and white answer be GRACE.
Because I know that if I was going through the worst moment of my life I could only hope that grace be extended to me.