Our first meeting was completely unexpected, at least for me. I had hoped I would at least have some warning prior to meeting you. I drove to the super-secret-foster-parent-only back entrance of the Department of Health and Human Services office and waited for Jackson to be brought out at the conclusion of your weekly visit together. Just a few days earlier, as hot tears stung my face, I read the court order that detailed the reasons for removal. My heart broke for him. I was angry with you. Before I ever met you, I held a strong, negative opinion of you. I was ready to assume the role of the protective mother.
I now sat, watching the back door, waiting for Jackson to be brought to my car. Then you appeared, with him in your arms, accompanied by a social worker. Several less-than-stellar possibilities began to race through my mind, flooding me with fear and anxiety. I was suddenly regretting the giant Texas decal plastered to the back of my car in the middle of Michigan. What if you followed me, or saw my car out again in the future? I stepped out of my car and walked toward you, mind still racing. You seemed anxious, too. Our conversation was brief and a little awkward. I was not unkind to you, but I sat quietly on my high horse and judged you. I hate to admit it, but the truth is I wished for you to fail.
I don’t recall exactly when my heart began to soften toward you. Maybe it was at the doctor’s office when you said you were glad Jackson had both mommies there. Maybe it was Mother’s Day when we picked him up from an overnight visit with you. You gave me a handmade craft with Jackson’s handprints and a poem. On the back, you attached a pocket to hold a lock of hair from his haircut that weekend. It could have been any of the numerous occasions when you acknowledged that I, too, was his mom.
Maybe it was during those times that I began to see you with fresh eyes. I saw a mom in need of grace — someone not too dissimilar to me. Once I reached that point, it didn’t take long to realize I might be only a few circumstances away from a life that looked like yours. Yes, you probably made some poor choices along the way, but we all do from time to time. The difference between us may just be you didn’t have anyone to bail you out when your world started to crumble. I finally understood you simply needed a support system, and I was determined to become your friend and your biggest cheerleader.
When the deck was stacked against you, I watched you respond with bravery, kindness, and thoughtfulness. I watched you make sacrifices for your children while you fought to get them back. I admire you. I can only imagine the stress and the fear that came with having your children removed from your care and placed in the homes of strangers. Rather than viewing me as a threat, you embraced me. You acknowledged my motherhood, understanding your motherhood was not diminished by mine. You saw enough room for both of us to exist in the same space, and that may be the greatest gift I have ever received.
As time went on, reunification became a more likely outcome. We started to spend less time with Jackson as his visit time with you increased. This was a difficult reality for us, made easier by knowing how hard you worked to create a safe home for your kids. We were comforted to know how much you love and care for Jackson. We were sad to lose him, but we were so happy for his reunification with you and his siblings. I continue to pray for all of you . . . for your safety and wellbeing, and that you always have the support you need. Thank you for all you have taught me. Thank you for sharing your son.