People talk about hope like it’s a good thing.
Look, full disclosure right off the bat – this might be a post that makes some people be all like “OMG, Tee Emm Aiiii” and if that’s gonna be you, cool. Don’t tell me though, because despite certain appearances (or maybe not? I don’t know) I am kind of a thin-skinned little bugger underneath it all and I might cry for like days.
I mean probably not, but I’ll just be like “Ok, then don’t read my blog.”
I guess I just want to say, something I have learned and maybe you have too, except I also hope you haven’t, is that hope is expensive.
Three years ago this month was when we “pulled the goalie,” so to speak, in like a family planning sense. My last trip to CVS to fill a regular prescription. If you follow.
About eighteen months in, we went to a sweet doctor just to make sure nothing was scarily amiss. You know that scene in Baby Mama? It was like the opposite of that. This very nice doctor just beamed at us. Perfect age, perfect BMI, perfect conditions, “I’m certain it’s just a matter of time,” he said. [And no, smart Alecs, no jokes or tsk tsk thoughts about my husband’s cancer history please. Absolutely nothing awry there, seriously.]
That was all we needed to know. There were other possible options to explore, but we basically just wanted to make sure there wasn’t some horrible scary medical monster under the bed.
I had always been interested in adoption. We had talked about it, since we were first married. Not as an alternative if bio kids ended up not being possible, I don’t really see those as being an either/or, personally. And we were just miraculously, always, really on the same page. We’d want to know more about adopting anyway, even if we were headed in the bio kid direction. So we decided to start down that road, and just see what happened on the other front.
Look. I don’t regret that decision, ever. I don’t waffle on it. It’s the weirdest thing. But that’s now 36 new pages on the calendar, and with each one comes a varying degree of surprise. Usually it’s surprise that I’m even affected again.
And especially now, with this precious baby in our front room, whom I wouldn’t trade for the world… turns out you can not even be consciously aware that you have hope until it’s deflated.
We have a case worker who is so compassionate and hard-working and generous. She thinks the world of Dane and me. She also has a tendency to see in every circumstance a likelihood of permanent placement with us. She’s always telling us how this and that probably mean that we’ll end up being able to keep him, even though we know full well that X and Y circumstances are NOT definite indicators of anything at all.
We also have some friends who have been foster parents for a number of years. They share their experiences with us, most of which were actually incredibly difficult, and tell us like it is.
Let me just tell you – their black rain clouds on our parade are worth ten thousand baseless assurances.
Often I want to tell our caseworker, who is just trying to encourage, and even, I don’t know, to WILL that permanent placement into existence – sometimes I want to tell her “Thank you for appreciating us. Thank you for wanting a great outcome for us and for this baby. Thank you for trying to encourage us. But this kind of hope seems like the #1 most likely candidate in this process to be the thing that breaks us and burns us out forever. Please stop.”
Hope is expensive. It is heavy.
Hope is not something that is. It is not an event, or a possession, a specific point in time; it is nothing concrete. Giving it to someone can be a gift that adds to their life by making it possible to endure, or it can turn into an even bigger vacuum than was present before you gave it. The fact that it seems good when you give it does not mean it will stay that way.
I think about what it means for our friends, and others involved in foster care, who have been assured by well-intentioned case workers and others that “this placement is going to stay,” and that has not come to pass. Would they have been heartbroken to say goodbye even without those assurances, which turned out to be empty? Probably.
We learned in our classes about some of the psychology behind these foster children. They were born into a “forever family,” who turned out not to be forever. Maybe another family that they thought was forever, that turned out not to be. A “disrupted” foster placement. A “disrupted” adoption. A “forever” that turned out to be “but not any more.” [And when you are young enough, any parent that cares for you day in and day out is understood on some level to be “forever,” even if they never promised it to you out loud, and it tears a big hole when they are taken away.]
Every time, their hope gets shy-er. It gets more introverted and more meek. They might start to resent their hope, and if you are what their hope is in, they might resent you. If you adopt a child who has had four “forever” families before their sixth birthday, and every time the hope of stability and unconditional love was what blew up in their faces and scorched their skin when it fell apart, and you promise them “forever,” and they start to believe it…something might start to fight back. Something that is actually beautiful, an innate self-preservation instinct that the most brilliant psychologist couldn’t invent or teach, and yet these little persons all have it built in.
I am 100% confident in our “come what may” decision on the bio-kid front, and to pursue adoption. And to care for whatever kids are put temporarily in our care, the best we can. I’m not upset by it. It’s not what my identity or my purpose is wrapped up in. And yet, sometimes, without having the FAINTEST idea why, when it reaches a certain time, for some reason I feel like screaming out how much I don’t care, and how much it doesn’t bother me.
Now, it doesn’t take a poet laureate to see the irony in screaming about your apathy. It’s like the people that feel the need to tell God they don’t believe in him.
But so this kid, the 5th-family-by-6-yrs-old kid, maybe she tips your giant TV over until it smashes on the floor. Maybe he punches you in the mouth when you tell him you love him. Something he couldn’t possibly in a hundred years articulate says: “If you start to hope in this person, and it ends AGAIN, you will be shattered, AGAIN.” Look, I don’t know. But I’m starting to get a little understanding.
Of course I have hopes for this little man sleeping 20 feet away from me right now. I don’t know if this makes me a robot monster cylon, but I make it almost a discipline to have as much hope as substance and reason allow. And love, obviously.
Ok, now. Don’t WORRY about me (Mom). I’m just saying: hope is good, but it is expensive. We can’t go tossing it around like candy at a parade and think it’s always making life better. But we can’t live without it either. We couldn’t do this job without it. We couldn’t do much of anything of worth without it.