Dear Mama M,
People often stare when they see our family. They stare because our son looks like you and not like us. Sometimes observational comments will be made such as “your daughter has fair skin and your son has darker skin”. Sometimes we simply reply, “yes they do”, and other times it will lead to a conversation. During these conversations about foster care, adoption and blended families, when people ask what it is like….what is hard….we will respond that there are cumbersome things such as obtaining permission to leave the state overnight but the only truly hard thing has been our grieving for you.
On a September day you endured labor pains to give strangers a most incredible gift. For the nine months prior to that moment your body formed each finger nail and cell as you carried the growing weight of his body. As your own body was still healing from the delivery of a child, you experienced a different type of pain as you were told that your child would not remain with you.
A few days after this, I learned of him from the system that removed him from you, and said yes to bringing him home. While he lived in his first foster home, you and I waited separately for several months to see what would happen next. When he came to live with us, I was nervous to meet you. I had always wanted an open adoption for your sake and for his, but I assumed you would hate me and wouldn’t have blamed you if you did. Instead you have always been kind to me, because from your perspective I have been the person caring for your son until you can have him back.
I don’t take offense when you look his body over for marks of abuse during a visit or remind me to put sunscreen on him, because I am a Mama too and I would do the same if my child was in the care of a woman I did not know well.
Our son will always have two Mamas, there is no reversing the fact that you carried him and birthed him into this world. He will always have your eyes, your skin and some of your wonderful internal traits that I don’t know you well enough to know are yours. You have given our family and the world an exceptional gift. I want you to know you have a place of honor as a member of our family. I wish you knew that you will only be spoken of with the highest regard in our home.
I grieve for you because life has not been easy up to this point and it is hard for me to fathom how it might become less hard. There are people who blame you and become angry with how you have lived. They fail to appreciate what happens inside your mind and the unjust advantages taken by people who should have been trustworthy. How an illness has taken hold and the ways in which paranoia has wrecked havoc.
My daughter and our son each started their lives in very different circumstances, so did you and I, and none of us chose or deserved the good or the bad of what we encountered when we were born.
I don’t understand why you have to live with schizophrenia, in a similar way that I don’t understand why my father had to die prematurely from cancer. You didn’t choose it or deserve it. I do believe that you have worth and that your life is purposeful and has produced goodness.
Our first languages are not the same, but one time you looked at me with desperation in your eyes and said, “I cannot lose my son”. I looked right at you and said, “My hope is that you never do”. And my prayer is that for the rest of your life our son can remain in contact with you.
I don’t know what the future holds for any of us, as we await an October court date, but I do know I am grateful to you and will be for as long as I live.
About the Family
Liz and Josh have a four year old daughter by birth and an almost two year old son through foster care. Josh is a healthcare and welfare policy analyst. Liz is a social worker and coordinator of the South Shore Foster Care Closet.
This piece was originally posted at the Justice Resource Institute and has been re-posted here with the author’s consent.