We had an 11 day visit with the kids. Some moments were pure joy. Most moments were pure hell.
We had more time with them this visit than we had combined with the previous visits. It was devastating to watch the 4 year old girl get out of her honeymoon stage with us. She started wrecking havoc quickly. We were expecting it - poor behavior is "text book" behavior for children who are in this position.
And understandably so. We have been confused and scared over the past almost 6 months as we emotionally sort through this. Are these our children? Would their mom change her mind? It was hard for Joe and I as adults to process all this. How much harder it must be for a child.
We had first hand experience with this text book behavior. We adopted Luke when he was 3. We witnessed a lot with Luke when we first adopted him. So we were expecting it this time as well.
But not to this extent.
She punched Emma in the face, kicked her in her mouth, and shoved her into her into her closet with so much brute force that toys came flying off the shelves. She kicked the dogs. She'd scream any time Luke and Emma tried to communicate with the baby, "He hates you, stop talking to him!" We told our kids to walk away when she started screaming and crying. It didn't work. She'd chase them with her arms flailing - still screaming - to try to tackle them down to get them to do what she wanted.
We were exhausted.
There was always someone crying. We couldn't pull her out of her fits because we had to do damage control instead. We couldn't give anyone what they needed because we felt spread way too thin.
It was devastating.
We really wanted to do it - and we tried. Wow, did we try. We tried until we exhausted ourselves. We prayed. We talked with each other and with friends and family we trust. We talked with our pastor. We talked with another adoption agency who adopts kids out of the foster system and then works with them post-adoption. And then we prayed some more.
Joe's answer was clear. Mine was not.
He knew we couldn't adopt these kids. He knew we had to protect our exisiting family. He knew she needed more than we could give her. He knew that our kids needed more than we were giving them. He knew we needed to protect our marriage.
I knew all that too. But my emotions couldn't kick off.
We have grown to love these kids. We were imagining our lives with them, as a part of our family. I saw glimpses of normal that melted my heart. I took all 4 kids shopping - by myself! - I could handle this logistics stuff. The baby was a gem, and even the 4 year old had her moments of joy. I knew that when we got past her transition period that everything would be okay, just like it was with Luke.
Except sometimes, everything doesn't turn out okay.
Right in the middle of all this, I received an e-mail from a friend who is STILL struggling with post-adoption issues with her son 3 1/2 years later. He never "got over it". Love hasn't been enough for their family, and I couldn't help but wonder if it wouldn't be enough for our family either.
"At what cost?" I started asking myself. A quick look around our home showed me what this visit had done to all of us. We had lost our joy. Luke and Emma were crying and stressed out. Joe looked more exhausted than I had ever seen him before. And when I looked in the mirror, I saw an emotional wreck.
So while poor behavior is expected in this situation, we could not handle the phsyical or emotional harm. We had to protect what has already been given to us - we had to protect Luke and Emma. And our marriage. And our family.
And so we called the adoption agency and told them we could not adopt them.
At what cost? I have guilt about what will happen to them. All I can do is pray that God will protect them. That wasn't meant to be my job. I was not meant to be their mom.
It really was devastating to admit that. We really were in love with the idea of it all. But we are thankful that this visit was so telling, that God was able to guide us so clearly to a decision that is best for our family.
I don't know why we have been on this road for so many months to end up here - at the end of this road, surrendering the kids back to the adoption agency. (No, they weren't legally ours yet.) But I do know that we were called to just a moment with these children... and not a lifetime. And whatever reason that moment was for - well, we are trusting that God had a purpose and that purpose was fulfilled by our obedience to His call. Even if we don't know what that purpose was - He does.
And that takes away the hurt. That hurt is replaced with His peace, the peace that passes all understanding.
We don't often know where we're going - but we know Who we are following. We place our trust in His promises in His Word as we allow Him to guide our steps:
...Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.
This road might not have been easy or what we expected. But we thank God that He never left us to navigate this journey on our own.
Thank you, Jesus. Joy and peace are already back in our home.