Sunday, October 6, 2013

New Sister

The eyes truly are a window to the soul. A person may not be able to speak but a lot can be communicated through their expression. This is what we are beginning to get first hand experience with on the journey that began just 72 hours ago.
72 hours ago I had just finished my 2nd full day of guest teaching in the local school district where my kids are attending. I came home exhausted but happy that I had not only made it through a day filled with middle school students but I had enjoyed it. It had brought back fun memories of college days spent as a youth director's assistant to troubled teens. Middle Schoolers are still kids in over-sized gangly, out-of-control bodies. You can pretty much bluff your way through the day and maintain classroom control.
I was proud of myself for keeping my cool when 2 girls delightedly brought a fist-sized tarantula into the room with the expectation that I had all the zoo skills in the world to wrangle the thing from his applesauce jar home to his new aquarium. Ha!! Little did they know that I have a phobia of spiders that comes from walking face-first into one too many webs strung across my back door. I survived the transfer though and the continuous presence of 8 huge hairy legs that constantly crawled just feet from my desk the rest of the day.
That evening whole cooking dinner at home, God added another twist to our road. A road we've said yes too but have zero experience. A little girl needed a home and needed it NOW. They knew nothing about her except that she was special needs (the branch of DHS we have chosen to work in) and the case worker and a nurse would be at our house sometime that evening.
I'm sitting here now next to the crib of a curly, brown-haired little girl with beautiful eyes who is insisting on having a party at 1am. Luke and I have re-entered the world of newborn type exhaustion (that we do know). The room is dark except for the light of the porch shinning through her window and she is "singing" at the top of her sweet little lungs and laughing at whatever she is seeing here in the soft light of the room. I like to think she sees angels around her crib because I believe that little children like her have that gift to see what we cannot see and we can learn from them.
72 hours ago I went to bed in near tears not knowing what in the world we had gotten into and terrified I would break this little one. When they carried her into our house after dark that night with our own 4 sleepy but wide-eyed kids watching, our heart jumped to our throats. This was NOT what we had planned on. She was NOT what we had imagined when we said we'd take children with special needs. Sweet Precious Jewel never cracked a smile the whole evening the social worker and nurse were trying to show us how to care for her. I could see the tears threatening to spill out of her eyes and her biting her lip. This little girl was NOT what she had imagined either when we had talked about taking children into our home. We'd tried to prepare ourselves and our kids for being a foster home for special needs. Little did we know. This sweet little girl came with her own "hospital room" for a lack of better explanation. I have cared for several babies...all healthy. Neither of us had any experience with a child who needed constant monitoring and the sight of all her machines alone terrified us. As the tired and frazzled nurse explained how to work her various equipment and what it was for and as I furiously wrote "large gray oxygen box," "feeding tower," "pulse and oxygen monitor," and the list went on, my heart raced at the thought of them leaving her with us and how in God's green earth were we going to keep it all straight! The whole time she lay on the couch staring up at the kids with an occasion smile flitting across her tired little face and her eyes searching the faces and room around her.
Three days later I sit here in the dark of her room at 1am with a love that I didn't think I could possess for a child that is not mine and I do not now the future of. Do we know any of our children's futures or ours for that matter? I do know the verse that has become familiar to me over the years.
 Psalm 82:3
Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.

This child hasn't had someone to consistently care for her. I'm not sure she has ever been held much outside of her daily pre-school. She has already won our hearts though with her sweet smile and little giggle. She may not be able to speak but she certainly knows how to communicate with the waving of her arms and legs and with grunts and giggles.
She is almost 5 but like a baby. The whirring of the machines that help keep her little body comfortable, the soft light of monitors that tell us if she is getting enough oxygen and that her heart rhythm is good talk to us in the dark. Her voice and theirs have become another familiar sound in our house.
She is like any other little girl. She likes pretty things. She responds to affection. She likes to play.
Precious Jewel woke up the next morning in tears and running a low-grade fever. My heart sank thinking of trying to care for our delicate new member and a sick one of my own. God knew. God knew that Precious Jewel needed a day with me and our new family member. The social worker had recommended that we call her current pre-school and ask to see the nurse who could better explain sweet one's needs. She has been attending that place for some time and they would be very helpful in learning how to care for her. I brought her and several pieces of equipment that I wasn't sure what to do with and drove with her and Precious Jewel to the pre-k. The office staff met us and the nurse hurriedly ushered us into the building and we spent the next several hours learning about our new daughter/sister. I watched Precious Jewel as the nurse spoke lovingly to our new daughter, laughing with her, chastising her for pulling out her oxygen tubes, helping her to hold a soft toy and speaking to her as if she had not been born into the world broken. The worry and stress that lined Precious Jewel's face began to fade and she scooted closer to her new sister and started helping her bat at the toys dangling from the play gym in front of her. God knew she needed to see all of what she saw to be able to step outside of herself and begin to understand. She didn't need a lecture that handicap children need to be treated with the same love and respect that other children are afforded. She needed to see that ALL children are precious no matter what society deems as "normal" and that when they have no one to care for them that they need the same love and affection as all the other children that have walked, crawled or been carried in our front door the years I have babysat. 
Yesterday, I took Precious Jewel and Nater Mater with me to a "local" gently-used children's store to shop for clothes for our new daughter. (I need to come up with a name for her don't I? How about Little Mermaid? She loves bath time).
God was definitely with us in just our shopping experience. The owners of the store were so kind and helpful when I explained what I needed (she came with the clothes on her back plus one extra sun-dress and the temperature had plummeted that morning from the day before being a sweltering near-90 to 40-some degrees). The owners wife was a former Physical Therapist and as she patted her own baby wrapped in the Moby Wrap on her chest, she talked to Little Mermaid as if she could answer right back. Nater Mater ran to the little play center to play with the owner's child and Precious Jewel and I pushed Little Mermaid around in her wheelchair and got our shopping skills flowing. Precious Jewel can shop! She expertly sorted through hundreds of items pulling out cute, trendy girl clothes an held them up to Little Mermaid's face. "Na, not the right color," or "that goes perfect with your eyes." Meanwhile, Little Mermaid batted at the clothes and "talked" and giggled to herself. She seemed delighted at all the brightly colored clothes hanging around her. Precious Jewel didn't seem to mind at all the different people's reactions when they turned down our clothing row and started at the wheelchair and curly-headed little girl with monitors and an oxygen tank bag hanging from the handles. Some people turned and walked away with grim faces, others smiled, some simply stared and hurried past. Little Mermaid and Precious Jewel were absorbed in the rapidly growing pile of pretty clothes. One exclaiming at a cute outfit and one giggling as it was waved in front of her face awaiting approval.
While talking to my mom later that day, she reminded me of something I used to tell her over and over when I was worried about what I would do with my life. I was never the brightest student on the block. Think B and C average and only passing Math because teachers had pity on me. I wanted to be a nurse, but you have to be at least decent beyond 4th grade Math (I am not) to go to nursing school. I wanted to be a Physical Therapist (once again it requires some Math) and work with children. I wanted to be a Teacher or a Social Worker and then after a heart-breaking trip to Africa while in college near the end of my under-grad studies to be a Family Therapist, I begged God to send me overseas to work with at least a handful of the millions of children who have no families. Working in a hospital with children with Spina Bifida, Club Feet, Hydrocephalus, Scoliosis, Cleft Pallets, Burns, Broken Bones, etc...I fell in love with the dark little faces that just wanted someone to hold and speak tenderly to them. I came back with a broken heart and what I thought was a door slammed shut in my face. Little did I know that was just a piece of His preparation for what I needed for now.
Many times being a stay-at-home-babysitting-country-living American I have longed to do more. I've had reoccurring dreams of my time spent in Chicago working with under-privileged youth mingled with the dark and dusty faces of Africa orphans. None of the dreams have ever made much sense but they do always leave me with a desire to make a difference and a longing to teach my own 4 healthy and privileged kids that there is more to this world than I-pods and television and the latest fashion. Luke and I have talked since before we got married about being open to foster care and adoption. But when we were plunged into parent-hood 9 months after our wedding and then again just a year later, the though of simple daily survival took my driver's seat. Luke began looking into adopting and foster care not long after Mr. Smiles was born. I said "no." That was a naive girl's dream that had been over-shadowed with the icy fingers of post-partum depression. There was no way I was going to open that Pandora's box when I could hardly handle my own.
But in the last 2 years God has gently nudged the dreams back into the forefront. And this time both Luke and I were feeling the tug at the same time. I had prayed for a husband who had a heart for the orphan an Luke had prayed for a wife who would love children that were not born to her. But we needed to over-come some obstacles in our own marriage and chip away at some patterns of selfishness before handed what we were handed this week.
My mom reminded me of my dream of nursing neglected and fragile children over-seas. She pointed out that I never had to leave the farm in the South but that all the experiences that I have thought were just part-time jobs and random experiences were really preparing us for who was carried through our door just 72 hours ago. I didn't need to go to Africa or South America to love on a child that no one wants. I just needed to be patient with God and He would bring the children to us.
It's been an hour and a half now. Little Mermaid is slowly settling back down. The whirring of her machines are making us both sleepy. I can hear her breathing softly and grinding her teeth in the nasty little habit she has. She's bathed, dressed in Nater Mater's green Hulk pajamas (because I forgot to get that essential today in my excitement over cute clothes), her little probe-light on her big toe slowly lowering back to the crib mattress. She seems contented that I'm simply sitting next to her crib with her. It will take teamwork to make this household of now-5-kids to run.
Good night Little Mermaid. You get to meet your new church family in the morning.

1 comment:

Wendy Thibault Kane said...

Oh Melinda! How God has blessed you! You know they say that God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called. Sounds like he did some of both in your case. I'm so glad you're getting to realize some of your dreams without ever leaving home. :)