Anyway. In addition to all the gifts from my family, Shae also got gifts from her former foster family. They're really cool that way, remembering her on her birthday and at Christmas, even though she's been with us twice as long now as she was with them. They sent her a Build-A-Dinosaur, which is AWESOME, especially because she is at that age where she is heavily into dinosaurs. She also got something more personal: a set of adorable, hand-me-down winter accessories.
There are two kids in that family, a boy and a girl. These things obviously belonged to the daughter. They came in the mail about a week after Christmas with a nice note, apologizing for the condition since these items were worn and well-loved, but that the daughter really wanted Shae to have them. It wrecked me, tore my heart out and cut it into little pieces.
Our relationship with that family is awkward to say the least, even though it probably shouldn't be -- but I have to admit, until the adoption was final, I was terrified that someone at the agency would review the paperwork, change their minds, and send Shae back with them. It wouldn't happen, of course, because they chose to give her up to another family, to us -- but still, I had nightmares.
And of course I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that they would have been able to provide her with a very different life than the one we are giving her. Maybe even a better one, even, but definitely different. For one thing, there are other children in the family. They have horses, and they used to have a pool in their backyard. The mom was mostly stay-at-home, and when she wasn't, she was a teacher's aide at the other kids' school. Their home and their life seemed very serene and organized to us, not like the clang and clamor of living with us.
Oh yes, I was jealous of them, more than a little bit, and intimidated -- and also very, very sad. From the very first second that I got to hold Shae in my arms, I knew that it would take nothing short of an Act of God or Congress to separate her from me. My protective maternal instincts, such as they are, kicked in right away. There was no way I would ever give her up, not even if I had to die fighting.
And yet -- this family did. There were special circumstances, as there always are, and they had to make the agonizing choice to help find Shae a "forever family" rather than a temporary foster home while they took care of their personal business. And I know that they did what they did because they wanted to do the best thing for Shae. I understand it. But -- when we visit with them, talk to them, all I can see and hear and feel is their palpable heartbreak at having given up their little girl.
So you can imagine that visiting with them has been awkward, to say the least. Sometimes uncomfortable. We're able to be friendly, and the kids always have a good time together, but I always feel so miserable around them because I'm afraid of ... what, I'm not sure. Judgement, maybe? Although honestly, most of the judgement would come from me -- making unfair comparisons of her life with us against her life with them, when it's really like comparing organic apples and generic Froot Loops. Worlds apart. (They'd win.)
But I do really want to work on having a relationship with this family, because they are very nice people, and also because hopefully one day they will be able to help fill in answers to questions I will be asked. They've actually met Shae's biological mother; by the time we became her foster family, mom had stopped coming to visits. They've met at least one of Shae's biological siblings. Even though their connection to her past is tenuous at best, it is still more of a connection than what we have.
And also: they loved her once, and they love her now. How awesome is that? Shae's been spared a lot of really horrible stuff because of this family's capacity for compassion, kindness, and love. If not for them, and the really hard decision they needed to make, G and I would not have Shae right now. We owe them everything, and they expect nothing. They deserve better than that. And so we keep in touch.