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     Things change so quickly. In a moment's time, you can be given everything you've ever wanted.... and in the very next moment, feel as if you can't catch your breath because your world is being shattered. And in a word, that's how I feel. Shattered.
     Within 36 hours of baby Isaac's father confirming that he would sign his rights over to us, he sent our lives into a tailspin. He informed us that he "might as well just take the baby". This man went from being pleasant and jovial to irritable and near-hostile. We have no idea what happened, all we know is that he has now decided to keep Isaac. Our caseworkers were unable to confirm nor deny what was going on, leaving us to simply wait for a phone call for an indefinite amount of time. Wait.  And as the days grew closer to Isaac's adoption, my husband and I realized that we would never make it to that last moment with the judge... the happy one where he shakes our hands, congratulates us, and we take a family photo. No. Our last day with the judge will be one of two grief-stricken parents, broken and shattered, saying goodbye to the baby they had planned to know and love the rest of their lives. And then finally, the wait was over and the call came.
     The worst news in the world was confirmed to me as I sat at a rest stop in the middle of Ohio, alone with my three, soon to be two, children. I rolled up the windows and screamed until I couldn't make anymore sound. Isaac slept through my wailing and the older two stared at me with large eyes until I could formulate the words to tell them that their baby brother was being taken away. Cameron cried instantly... a cry that comes from deep down and isn't intended to be muffled. A cry that breaks your heart. Taylor stared and questioned our sadness, later processing that she can't be sad until he leaves. He's still here now, and she doesn't want to waste a second being sad until she has to be. In a way, I envy her ability to experience emotions in this way. But I have a feeling the dam will break and, when it does, it will take a mighty force to stop it's flow.
     I drove the rest of the way to my parents' house in Michigan and used every last ounce of my energy to focus on pressing pedals, using turn signals, and breathing. I'm not sure that I did any of them well. I spent the next few days trying to remind myself that this man could change his mind again... he could realize he's too old, not in great shape, and has too many kids for his two-bedroom home as it is. I spent time begging God, rationalizing, and analyzing every word of every conversation to give myself any amount of hope I could to get to the end of each day.
     When I finally returned home, after leaving the older kids with my parents for the rest of the week, I met my husband and we hugged with a tiredness I couldn't believe. I watched my big, strong man sink to the floor, unable to speak past the sobs. We both knew it was over. There is no more begging to be done. There is no more praying for a change in this man and in this situation. There are only prayers that we survive it. That somehow, each day, we can get out of bed and feel proud of the love and life we gave to Isaac, even though he will never remember our names, nor will he recognize our faces if he sees us in the future. He's too young to remember that he loves us. And we're too old to forget.
     My emotions take turns appearing in unexpected waves. Anger. Despair. Rage. Disbelief. Gut-wrenching pain and sobs. Frantically seeking out countries without extradition. These moments cycle rapidly and frequently. If I see a child in a stroller, I dissolve into breathless tears. If people ask me about my baby, I try to not throw up, sometimes more successfully than others. If I see a dad holding the hand of a toddler as they walk down the street, I feel bitterness at the thought that I will never get to see Isaac's first steps and my husband will never get to walk with him hand in hand like this stranger in front of me. These moments have been stolen from me by a man that shares nothing more with my baby than his DNA. I held him when he was sick, I rocked him to sleep. I suffered his colic and fell in love with his smile. I have every inch of this perfect child memorized.... and I have to graciously hand him over to a man that can't even find it within himself to thank us for taking care of his child. My mind races like this constantly and then my emotions cycle all over again. I find myself having these moments while I'm working... while I'm at the store... while I'm in the shower... while I'm sleeping.  I haven't yet found a way to escape emotion.
     But I have strong moments, too. In those moments, I'm able to recognize that Isaac will be raised by his biological father, who seems to have a lot of family that are interested in helping with Isaac, and three other sons that live with him. Isaac will get to share his laughter and his incredible loving personality with those in a town that is in desperate need of God's love. He will get the opportunity to be a light to his new family and to his community, and he may experience a rougher life than had he lived with us, but maybe this is what God needs him to live in order to be who he is to become.
     In my strong moments, I feel like I can go to work and still be a good therapist, maybe even a better one, because I have experienced something that many of my clients have also endured... loss. I feel like I can continue to lead worship at my church and bless those around me. I feel like I can parent my remaining two children with just enough grace to get me through to the next moment.
     But my strong moments keep fading in and out. They get gray. Cloudy. I sometimes can't find them through tear-blurred eyes. I can't find the strength to grab at them as I'm clutching my heart at the same time. I know God's strength is still there.... even when it's hiding. And I know that the love of our family, friends, and all who have shared with us in this journey is still there as well. Please excuse my insensitivity when I forget to ask you how your job interview went or if your visit with your family was pleasant... I simply can't keep track of everything right now on top of keeping my emotions from getting the best of me, and I hope to get updates on all that I've missed when I'm in a better place to be a good friend and family member once again. I don't know when I'll feel "normal" again... I don't seem to have the energy to pick up my raw emotions from the floor every day, so if I seem fine one day and I accidentally bite your head off the next, please forgive me.... and know that I love you too much to have done it on purpose.
     Our last day with our little boy is August 12th. He has three day visits and an overnight visit between now and then, and we still have to attend the dreaded court hearing on the 16th, just to make it final. Each of those days are going to be the new hardest day of my life. And then each day after that will be a process to figure out how to grieve a child that didn't die, but died to me. I don't know how to do it and I won't pretend to have it all together. I won't tell you I'm "fine" when you ask, and I won't put a sugary spin on it, because that's not who I am. I need honesty and transparency in order to start processing my new life, so I can't pretend that everything is OK until I actually feel that it is. Those of you that know me would want nothing else from me and I love you for that. Thank you so very much for each prayer, each song, each letter/email/text/call/post. Even in the middle of being shattered, I am so incredibly blessed to have people willing to help put me and my family back together again.