Before Mai Ling( Losing Mai Ling), there was another little girl who might have become ours. It happened in the spring of 2014. A couple we knew were temporarily providing foster care to a little girl from a tough family situation. They wondered if we would consider fostering her if the need became long-term and to maybe even adopt her. This came completely out of the blue for us. Having known about the roller coaster-like foster situations of other people, I never believed I would pursue anything resembling foster care. Not even on my radar. I was dead-set against it. Until “Isabelle.”
When you get a call like this, having wanted a little girl as long and as much as I have, you find that your life long “No” quickly comes out of your mouth as a “Yes.” When my husband, Mike told me about this possibility, I was lying on the bed talking on the phone with him. It didn’t matter that we had no idea what was going to happen in Isabelle’s biological family’s situation. I knew that I had to be open to the possibility that this might be the path God planned for us all along.
I was cautious at first. I was so careful not to plan too much on this working out. At first. Listening to the sad situation of Isabelle’s birth mother, “Maria,” and what she was going through made me think Isabelle could end up with us. Don’t get me wrong, if the biological family is able to reunify with the child in a healthy way, then by all means it should happen. So I always knew that would be the end goal for the birth mom, social workers and the little girl herself. As time went on, I just didn’t think that would happen. I knew little about the foster system. And for the first several months, I figured we just did not have enough information to gauge how it would end up. All we could do was wait.
A few months into this wait, we went to a gathering of some of the family members, including the birth mom. I only knew whatever Mike relayed to me, so I didn’t know I was also going to meet Isabelle for the first time. When we walked in, my eyes grew huge as I saw this little whippersnapper running around.
I tried not to get my hopes up too high as I saw her dancing around the living room. She kept us all entertained as she put her favorite DVD, “Frozen” in the player and turned it on. I was mesmerized by dozens of fancy twirls as her sparkly skirt spun around with her while she sung “let it go, let it goooooo!” This was a far cry from the talk of tanks and battleships that dominate our moments at home with our son. I could surely get used to this (Disclaimer: Yes, of course I know raising a girl is more than dress up and dancing. Sorry if that stereotype offends you).
We had a good time and enjoyed seeing our old friends again. I had hoped, too that Maria would feel more secure in seeing us again and knowing we were still the same people we were so many years ago…that she could trust us.
After that meeting, I was browsing through a store and saw a pretty blue sparkly dress, much like you would see a little girl wear who loved to play “dress up,” or who loved Elsa from the movie, “Frozen.” I bought it. We were going to send it to our friend for Isabelle. But I decided to hang on to it. “I will give it to her myself,” I reasoned. Someday. I hung it in my closet, still in the little garment bag, in front, right where I could see it.
In the months that followed, we didn’t hear much. I badgered Mike from time to time to call his friend and see how things were going. I knew that Maria had several steps to follow in order to be reunified with Isabelle. I had no idea how this was going. We didn’t hear anything for months at a time, and I didn’t know how hard to push. Then we heard that Maria was following the required steps to reunify with her daughter, such as attending parenting classes and remaining drug free. I was impressed that she was working to be a better parent, yet I was angry too. I wished I hadn’t gotten so wrapped up in hoping for something that never materialized. I sort of moved on. Like Elsa in “Frozen,” I tried to “let it go.” After awhile I just figured it was not meant to be for us. One day, still heartbroken over the whole situation, I put the princess dress in a drawer as tears streamed down my face. I didn’t want to have to see that thing every time I opened my closet: Another cruel reminder of a dream dangled in front of me and then ripped away. Why bother dreaming, I wondered.
In March of 2016, right after we made the difficult decision not to adopt “Mai Ling, ” we suddenly heard that things were not as rosy as they seemed in Isabelle’s world. Several of the steps to reunification had not been happening as previously thought. Maria seemed close to losing her daughter. Once again, I wanted to make myself available to be her mom, should her home situation not work out. I felt sad for the little girl. What she had witnessed, what her life had been like at home was just not a good situation for her. I would be here waiting…should she need me. I decided to set aside my fear, anger, and all that stuff. For her.
The problem is that we were also supposed to be in process to adopt from China. But that got pushed to the back burner as we waited to see how this would play out. Even as we weren’t getting any younger. Our son wasn’t getting any younger either. Speaking of Liu, he even got to meet Isabelle. While our friend was fostering her, we brought Liu over for a couple of play dates. I couldn’t believe how well the two got along. I saw them chasing each other around and playing together, and couldn’t help but think it was a match made in heaven. Of course, we see what we want to see.
The matter came to an abrupt end, or so it seems. In the fall of 2016 after what seemed to us like only a few weeks of truly following the “rules,” Maria and Isabelle were fully reunified. Their situation, from what I knew, was still less than ideal. But they are together and that is good.
I learned a lot during those couple of years about foster care. And I know enough to know that my instincts were correct: I believe that I am wired more for an international adoption type situation. But, never say never. God knows His plan for me. I do not yet know His plan on this. The need is great for orphans near and far. I would love a child regardless of where they are from.
Somehow, last year we got going again on the China paperwork. One day, a few months ago I took the princess dress out of the drawer. I reasoned that as long as there are children in the world that need a mom, maybe one of them would find their way to me. I bet they won’t care that I’m a little older, or that my son is a little older. For some little girl we might be just the family she has been hoping for! And just maybe they would like a sparkly blue princess dress and its accompanying tiara that I never saw before. I took it out of the bag, and I hung it up. Not in the front…but a few rows back. I’m still a little afraid to dream after all that has happened, but I’m not giving up just yet.