Bug's adoption will be finalized in four days, and the excitement and anticipation are really taking hold. It's certainly to be expected. I've been "foster pregnant" for 5 YEARS, 4 months, 2 weeks, and 6 days!!! (Not that I'm counting or anything...)
Soon I will able to give my little guy a dose of Tylenol without having to report it. Soon I will be able to take my son out of the state without having to get permission from a judge. Heck! I can take him out of the country if I want to and don't have to tell a single person! Soon I won't have to panic every time Bug decides to be a stuntman and ends up taking a nosedive off of his rocking horse. No fear of CPS moving him because he has a bruise. I can give him a mohawk if I want to and no one can stop me! (For the record, that won't be happening. But it could, and that's what matters!) There are so many things that I have been looking forward to since I knew that Bug would be legally mine forever, and the anticipation of being able to have a "normal" family life without CPS hovering for a while is overwhelming in itself.
What I didn't expect was the near constant state of anxiety and numerous panic attacks complete with shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pains, overall shakiness, etc. Initially I thought it was because I would soon be solely responsible for the health, protection, education, spiritual growth, self esteem, and overall happiness of another human being for at least the next 16.5 years. I mean, I freaked out when I bought a washer and dryer for crying out loud! This is a CHILD we're talking about here! Then I realized, "No. That's not it."
I couldn't quite put my finger on what I was so nervous about until last week when I received Bug's case file from CPS. That's when it hit me. Reading page after page about my little guy's first two and a half months of life, the details of his birth, the facts surrounding his removal from his birth family, etc. broke my heart and left me wanting to wake him from a deep sleep and hold him for the rest of the night. That's when I realized where my anxiety about this adoption was coming from...
How do I give my son his full story without breaking his heart?
They don't teach you this part in your foster care training. The goal of foster care is to help heal and reunite families. I suppose they don't want to plan for alternatives. But that certainly doesn't help when you've adopted a child from a hard place and they want to know their stories when they are 5, 9, 13, 16 years old. How do you look into the eyes of a child you would give your life for and have to honestly answer their questions about where they came from and how they came to be "yours" and protect their heart from the pain and loss at the same time?
I have always believed in open adoption whenever possible. I have always believed that a child can never have too many people who love them. I know that Bug's birth family loves him. I saw that love firsthand, and I struggle with my decision not to allow contact with him at times. In Bug's case, however, an open adoption simply isn't safe, and our safety has to come before my desire for Bug to have his birth family play an active role in his life. My hope is that I can reach out to them using Bug's birth name and be able to have a semi open adoption. I want to be able to let them know he is okay and to be able to ask questions and get more information from them that can't be found in that thick black binder. I want Bug to be able to reach out when he turns 18 and have some idea of what he might be stepping into if that is what he chooses to do. But in the meantime, how do I make it okay for him?
I worry about school projects and family trees and all of the questions that will come up as he inevitably encounters situations that will bring up the feelings of loss that come with adoption. I worry that I won't have the words or the ability to help him through those hard times. Then I worry that I'll be so consumed with anticipating his emotions that I won't be cognizant of what he is actually feeling! Apparently, I worry a lot when it comes to my little guy's heart.
In the midst of one of my panic attacks, my foster mama BFF told me to remember to "join his story at his level, each moment and year, rather than having to tell him a big bad story. By the time you get to 'that part,' he will already be so aware of how God has written love into his life that it will be a thing to grieve, but not a monster to eat him." I pray that's true. I pray that I am able to show Bug how very loved he is by so many. I pray that when the questions come, I can find the words that will help my son. But most of all, I pray that Bug will grow up knowing that he was fearfully and wonderfully made by the Lord Himself and that his future is one filled with love and hope.