There are very few people in our lives that know about what I'm about to share. Not even the majority of my family. We kept it that way for a reason. We wanted it to be a surprise as well as not having to explain to everyone if it didn't work out. And now, I wish we'd just not shared with anyone at all so I wouldn't have to write this. I could just keep it bottled up inside. But, I know from going to years of therapy with the "other one" that keeping things bottled up inside doesn't help and it just makes things build and build until you can't take it anymore, so I've decided that I need to share and get this out there.
Meet Zaden. (He was a dog for Halloween.)
Zaden is my sister, Jennifer's, nephew. He is the son of Shane's brother E and his girlfriend C (names abbreviated to protect their privacy). Both E and C have some severe issues in their lives - drugs, homelessness, prison, etc. C is living in her car. Her child had no socks, no coat. She couldn't keep him fed. He was malnurished. He screamed at the sight of a playpen. He'd been living with his maternal grandmother who was soon being evicted and no longer wanted to take care of Zaden so she was moving to Las Vegas. C wants nothing to do with Zaden anymore. She wants to live her own life.
E is in prison (again) for the next 3 years. He doesn't know for sure if Zaden is his, but doesn't want to take a paternity test to prove that he is because E doesn't want child support to accrue while he's in prison. However, he SAYS he wants to be Zaden's father after he's out of prison. (There is so much to this story that I may ramble on without things flowing very well, so please just bear with me.) However, E is not really able to be a father to Zaden because he is too involved in drugs and other things that keep landing him in prison. Each time he ends up there, he changes just enough to get others to believe that he's changed, but then he goes right back to his ways. Like I said, E wants to be Zaden's dad when he's finally out, but he obviously can't take care of him while he's in prison. So, Eric is asking his family to take Zaden in until he's out but nobody is really able to. They all have their own lives and families and there are particular obstacles in each one.
Enter Jennifer and a phone call to Clint and me. About a month before Christmas, Jennifer called us and told us all about Zaden. At first, my mind said "This is the chance you've been waiting for." Then, it said, "You're happy in your life. You can get up and go wherever, whenever." And, it continued on like that for a couple of days...mostly the latter, selfish part. Here I had tried for years and years and years to have a child and nothing ever happened. I was barren. Neither husband and I were able to produce a child of our own. How devastating that was. All the years that I would sit there on Mother's Day, crying, sobbing, tears pouring down my cheeks...and here I was now, being presented with an opportunity to have a child of my own...an opportunity on a silver platter...being handed to me for the taking, and I was being selfish. Jennifer called day in and day out with updates about Zaden. Clint was all gung-ho about taking him from the get-go. But not me. I think I was afraid too. Finally, I prayed to Heavenly Father about my selfishness. I asked him to forgive me and to open my heart to this gift and this precious little boy who needed our help so desperately. And He did. I told Jennifer that we would gladly take him as our son. She said there was going to be a family meeting to discuss the options and a schedule, etc. During the meeting, there was no consensus about what to do. Jennifer then spoke up about us and that we definitely wanted him. There was a lot more discussion and the grandparents said they would think about it. In the meantime, the goal of the family was to get Zaden out of the environment he was in. They called the other grandmother and made arrangements to come get him. Z's Paternal Grandmother (PGM) and Jennifer went over and got him. In the meantime, C came to her mom's place and was still okay with giving him up. Later that day or the next, PGM went back to C's mother's apartment and took a release form for C to sign that she was relinquishing all custody of Zaden on a temporary basis to PGM and PGF. We were on our way to having our son!
We bought him a bunch of clothes, some small toys for Christmas, his own set of Christmas Eve jammmies, and some books, etc. Enough for him to enjoy on Christmas with the rest of the kids, yet not too much that we'd have to rent a van to bring it all home rather than on the plane. As we were in Walmart one day looking at some other items, Jen called me on my cell phone. I always could tell by the tone in her voice what direction the update was going to take. This time, I knew it wasn't good. E had learned from his mom what was happening. He said no. No, because we wanted him permanently. (E only wanted someone to take care of Zaden for the 3 years he would be in prison...not permanently. How could anyone let their child go live with someone for 3 years and then rip them out of that environment - especially when the child is so young and wouldn't be able to comprehend that?!?! I guess that's what drugs, etc. will do to you though - make you unable to truly comprehend the consequences of your actions.) Anyhow, PGM kept trying to convince E that it was for the best that Z come be with us. He kept saying no. So now, Jen was calling to tell us this. Here I was in the middle of WM crying. I talked to Clint and we agreed that we would take him for the 3 years then - that this child needed to have a mom and a dad, be raised in the Gospel, and be shown love and affection, even if it was only for the next 3 years. At least maybe that would help start him off on the right foot rather than down a path of foster home to foster home to jail too like his father. Deep in my heart, I knew Heavenly Father would work it out that whatever was best for Zaden would happen at the end of that 3 year period. I told Jen that we would take him anyway and she started crying too. She said that was what she needed to hear. She hung up and called PGM back to tell her what we had said. PGM started crying too. She said she and PGF had been praying and praying to know what to do and they both felt we were supposed to be Z's parents. So...it seemed like it was all back on track and good. Clint was excited and just kept saying "I want to go get my son." We could barely wait for Christmas to get here so we could bring him home.
Well, a few more days went by and all of a sudden, bad news. The worst news of all. PGM had spoken to E again and when he found out we lived out of state, that was it. He was unwilling to budge. His child (?) was not leaving the state. And that's when it ended. We were no longer even an option. In the blink of an eye, it was over. I couldn't believe it. I knew I had let this child into my heart and it would backfire. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. Yet, I had still opened my heart and let him in. I was so heartbroken. I cried and cried. I didn't know how else to feel. I was numb. I didn't feel like doing anything else. One moment I was going to be a mom sharing her son's first Christmas with him, enjoying the beauty of the moment; the next, nothing. Within an hour or so, Zaden was picked up from Jen's house and delivered to E's ex-wife's sister's house...someone not even related to the family. I couldn't believe it.
About a week before Christmas, I was packing all of the presents to ship them to Utah. Clint told me to be sure to pack Zaden's things too. I didn't want to. I wanted to keep them. I wanted to return them to the store. I wanted to store them away in case the situation changed. But, he said no and to pack them - the little boy needed them whether we were his parents or not. I took each one out of the bags and folded each shirt and each pair of pants with care and love. I started sobbing. I held each piece near to my heart and cried. Then I came to a special outfit that Clint had picked out himself. He had wanted them to dress the same the day we brought him home. It was a pair of jean overalls, a red flannel plaid shirt, and a Levi jacket. I broke down. I felt like a mother who had been pregnant for 9 months and had gone to the hospital to have her child, but then the child died and I was having to come home empty-handed to an empty nursery and put everything away. I was truly heartbroken. Clint heard me crying and came to comfort me. He was sad too.
The Sunday before Christmas, Clint and I had to speak in Sacrament Meeting. We had to speak about the true gifts of Christmas. I struggled with my talk - I wanted it to be about the Savior and to leave the congregation with a fully-spiritual feeling. Little did I know that Clint - Mr. I Don't Have to Write Anything Down - would take care of that part. He ended up sharing our whole saga with the entire ward. There were tears-a-plenty as I looked out over the congregation as he spoke. At one point, I wondered if he would join in, but he didn't. He was just there pouring his heart out about how children are a gift of Christmas and how he had wished he could have had his son finally. We left church on such a wonderful spiritual note that day.
When we arrived in Utah on Christmas Eve, I had to unpack the boxes we had shipped and there were all the things I had packed for Zaden. I started to tear up again. I borrowed a large basket from Jen and put all of his things in it and asked her to put them away somewhere while we were there and then give them to PGM another time. On Christmas Day, PGM and PGF came to give Jen's family their presents. Jen started to show PGM the things we had bought for Zaden and PGM started to cry. She told her to put them away - that she couldn't look at them - that she knew they had made a mistake in giving Zaden to the other couple, but that they had to follow their son's wishes. (That actually made me feel good that she cried and knew she'd made a mistake - but I guess I shouldn't feel that way.)
I wonder, just about every day, what Zaden is doing and how things are going with him. I hope he is okay. I hope he is happy. And I hope that his little life turns out right and good for him. I would have truly loved being his mom and I know Clint was so looking forward to being his dad. But, I guess it just wasn't meant to be...