Saturday, February 14, 2009

while I was wallowing

a few months before Christmas last year, I re-discovered Reece's Rainbow. Immediately my heart became heavy, the weight of so many children with Down syndrome and other disabilities with so much need was tremendous. I have a heart that doesn't do well leaving things alone, and so I found myself sucked in, desperate to help. One little boy grabbed my heart so tightly, his name was Aleksa, and oh, how I wanted to make him mine.

Aleksa had the softest little smile, I imagined teaching him to ride a bike and dressing him in warm jammies, snuggling in with him and loving him so much that he would never even remember that he had been an orphan once. For months, I poured my soul into RR, wanting to make a difference for these precious children. I helped spread the word, and in some tiny ways maybe made a difference. I was heartened to see several of the kids on the list coming home, and grateful to be closely involved when one family went to bring their children home and helping from a bit further away when another came home needing some help with feeding. I loved being a part of RR in my small way. But it was never enough.

Children were still dying, bureaucracy was still costing these children families, costs were exorbitant. I was thrilled to see so many coming home, but at the same time growing more and more sad because I couldn't resolve my own desires with reality. I wanted Aleksa, and he needed a family. But he needed a mother who was absolutely sure she wanted him for him, and that the ghosts of another little boy named Alex weren't playing a part in the overwhelming desire to bring him home. Aleksa was not Alex, and I still needed to get my own head screwed on straight. There was also the matter of a promise we had made to one another, that we would never foster or adopt again, because of the pain of losing our Alex. It was unfair for any child to be brought into a family that weren't all committed to him 100%, and we couldn't be, that was just the truth. We also didn't have enough money, enough space, and frankly the time needed to do this right. Owning our own business means long hours, and I would not go into this unless I could give this child everything they needed, having a frazzled, emotional mom would have been the last thing he needed.

I felt like adopting was something my heart desired, but my mind knew better. And I also felt like we had been drug through a war once before, and I was terrified to bring any chance of that same hurt to my family again. I let go of the dream of adopting, but my heart was still in RR. I could be, as they said, a cheerleader on the sidelines. I could live with that.

Aleksa eventually was adopted by a wonderful family that could meet his needs much better than we could have. His smiling face on their blog was precious to me, he was home. It still hurt a little, I had imagined him in my house, in my arms. But he was alive, and he was thriving, and his new mom loved him so much, and the decision to bring him home was one they all made, together. I felt a sense of relief, but also an overwhelming sense of being so useless and ineffective for these children. I wondered if my friends and family were sick of me shoving pictures in their faces, asking for just one more dollar.

When the children Iknew by name started to die, I started to fall apart. I took it personally, I couldn't save them, and it was eating me alive. It was incredibly egotistical to think *I* could. I was just a tiny piece of a huge movement to bring these kids home. I would never be "Mom" to any of them, I would never have enough money to make any kind of big difference. My heart was being broken. I began to pull back, and to just go to the sites of the families who had brought children home already, to celebrate the ones that were saved, Ava, Alex, Micah and Emma, Evan, Xander & Grifyn, Owen, Vitya, Katie and David, beautiful Caleb. And I tried to forget those haunting faces left behind. This year's Christmas angel program went off without a word from me. I saw the requests for money on the blogs, "another one". I chose to look away, to spare myself that kind of agony. I didn't want to see any more children die. I didn't want to see another adoption fall through at the last minute because some overblown ego somewhere decided to play God with a child's life. I wanted to protect myself. It was one of the most selfish things I have ever done.

The little girl pictured above died this week. Her name was Margarita, and she died waiting for a family to come for her. Through RR, I had seen how many people had desperately wanted her, but been unable to get her because of money. I thought what a wonderful sister she would make for Ciarra, but she never felt like "mine". She did feel like "one of ours" though. I saw her precious face and knew her days were numbered, but I always believed she would come home, because so many people wanted to make her theirs. She would come home like the others before her, be doted on and adored, taught what it means to be loved unconditionally. Soon, we would see her dancing in her tutu with her sisters, cradled by her new daddy, loved...home.

In the months of me turning my back because it was too painful to look, she died, alone, never knowing the love of a family. I am ashamed of myself in a way you cannot understand unless you have been here, too. Have you? Have you gotten so you are afraid to look, afraid to love? Have you allowed yourself to think "another one" and move on with your day? Do you, as I do, feel a great sense of selfishness, that maybe if you had kept trying, she would have had a chance? We CANNOT save every child. We will always have to face losing some of them. But that can't stop us from saving some of them.

In the time when I was too busy worrying about my own emotional comfort level, Katerina died. she shared Ciarra's crazy eyebrows, clear skin, and genetic makeup. She had a chance, but she needed people like me (and you?) to keep caring. Katerina, nobody's daughter, died this week, alone. Where was I when she passed into her Father's arms? Where were you?

It hurts, and it is going to keep on hurting, to care about these children. andrea runs Reece's rainbow, and she lives with it every day. More importantly, the children live with it every day. They don't have the option of turning away. They are dying hungry and unloved, sick and needing us. Maybe we cannot save them all. But we can try. Or we can live with the face we see in the mirror every day.

TODAY, choose to do something. Don't turn away. They need us.


Heather said...

I stumbled upon you .... don't know how but I am glad I did.I too am called to Reece'e Rainbow.We have tried to do our part and have donated to a few different families on their journey to adopt.2 little loves are home and one,with a major heart defect, is still waiting.I pray she can hold on for her mommy and daddy to get her.Till then we continue to pray and do what we can.I wish it were more.News of the latest loss of these sweet lives has hit me hard.I often wonder where my attachment to RR is leading.Our little Zoey was born with major issues and is now battling Leukemia.It is my dream when we see her healthy once more, that I will finally be able to do more.Beautiful and heartbreaking post.By the way ...Ciarra is darling.

Valerie said...

Thank you so much for this post Michelle! It is a great reminder that there is ALWAYS something that we CAN do for these children.

Little Miss E said...

Your words are a reflection of what is written on my own heart. I adopted Em through the foster care system, but ache to save a child on RR. Dasha, one of the children you posted a picture of, has called to me many, many times. Some of them just speak to you, to someone...and it is so sad that the only thing preventing them from being saved is the money factor. That, I think, makes the pain even more burning.