This story was selected as a winner during our 2018 Summer Story Contest. It was submitted by Tiffany Kafka (pictured above with her family), a foster parent with KVC Nebraska, a behavioral health organization providing child welfare, juvenile justice and developmental disability services. Tiffany tells the story of her family’s journey from foster family to forever family through adoption.
The dreaded day had come. I let you sleep in my bed that last evening. Staring down, I let you sleep in, and just gazed at you. I couldn’t help taking a picture of you so that I could remember this moment in time for always. The way you looked, so sweet and peaceful. I just wanted it to stay like that forever. For one year, I got to be your everything. There were millions of sweet kisses and hugs. The large lump in my throat felt permanently stuck there. We went through the day like normal, with breakfast and diaper changes. The only difference was the random tears that would slip out.
At noon, I took you and our other four daughters to have lunch with daddy Kafka at work one last time. He went around showing you off to his coworkers. Most people tried their best to smile at you while comforting us.
You were two days old when they first placed you in my arms and today could be the last day I ever see you. It feels so unfair that nothing is in place to secure that we will always have a relationship. Nothing to fix the hole in our family’s hearts.
Salt in the Wound
At 1 pm you had a visit. A plague of jealousy ran through my veins. “Why today?” and “It’s not fair,” were my sinful thoughts. I dedicated a year of my life loving you with all my being. Sleepless nights and poopy diapers, sickness and fussiness, all entangled in sweet hugs and whispers of “Mommy loves you.” Your daddy kisses you one last time then whispers, “I love you,” as he puts you in the caseworker’s car.
You return from your visit at 3 pm. I hold you tightly and you let me. I have so much anxiety that I put you in the wrap and wear you as I clean the house because I don’t want to put you down. Your forehead is filled with kisses between putting away dishes and sweeping the floor. Our other four daughters watch and linger around occasionally patting your back. I watch a silent tear slip down our middle daughter’s face and it sucks the air out of my lungs.
More than a Caseworker, a Superhero
It’s almost 4 pm, so I take you out and let the girls hold and kiss you. The caseworker is right on time, as I knew she would be. She isn’t your regular run of the mill caseworker and knows you like the back of her hand. She knows what foods you eat and when you started crawling and taking your first steps. This wonderful woman even knows the names of your sisters and where they all go to school. This woman knows everything. She’s more like a superhero in our book.
When our daughters open the door for her she hugs them. She knows just what to say to help their breaking hearts. She helps us load up your things and doesn’t rush us. I’ve made a book for you with pictures of all our faces. Your caseworker lets me go through it with her as I’m holding you and crying. You have remained calmly in my arms for the last 20 minutes. You know your caseworker, so when I finally place you in her arms, you are calm and smile at her.
This is nothing new to you. Most of your life, you were transported to this place or that by different people. This time though, you won’t be coming back. As she loaded you up, she turned and hugged me. I stood there with your four sisters and we all cried watching you drive away taking a piece of our hearts with you. Hugging each of my children, we prayed to God to keep you safe.
Your daddy came home from work soon after and retreated to the basement, trying his best to hide his tears. We left him alone to grieve in silence. You were daddy’s girl. When he walked through the door at home, you’d waddle to him yelling, “Daddy, Daddy!” Not today or tomorrow or ever again though. I knew that was like a dagger through the heart for him. One of the worst parts for me were the thoughts I knew you’d have. Thoughts that I’d abandoned you. If you fell, why wasn’t I there to pick you up? I knew your little brain couldn’t process the fact that I was gone or why. You’d look for me but wouldn’t find me. Were you mad that I left or just scared?
Moving Forward and Trusting in God
The days that followed were empty and painful. One morning, shortly after you left, a song played on the radio called Thy Will by Hilary Scott. I sobbed so hard that I had to pull over. The song ripped the wound wide open and yet also started my healing process. I was depressed but had a house of girls that needed me. As time passed, I began to fill my days with other things. I often said to myself, “Thy will be done, Lord.” I still daydream of you and the “what ifs,” but I know they can never be. You’d moved in with your grandparents and they stayed in contact with us. I cried myself to sleep for those first few weeks, but life kept going.
A New Relationship with Your Biological Family
It was the end of July, about two months after you left, that we got to see you. At first, you were confused but after about ten minutes you curled up into my arms and called me mama. My heart was so full it was bursting, and we got three wonderful days with you. Even with the knowledge that we would see you again in a month, letting you go wasn’t any easier. When I handed you back to your grandma, it still felt like a stab to the heart.
In August, I began to work again. I was thankful for the distraction. It was a wonderful environment, filled with the love of Jesus. The two women I worked with comforted my soul. They kept me on my toes and filled my heart with sweet smiles.
Our family got to see you about once a month. Your biological family was kind to us. We even got to meet and fall in love with your mom. Your caseworker stayed in contact with me to make sure we were alright. Things seemed to be settling in. However, I still had this emptiness inside me.
Trying to Fill the Emptiness
One afternoon at school, I was talking to a mom and my coworkers and I stated, “I think I’d like to have a baby, one that I can keep this time.” I’ll never forget the words the mom said. “Are you sure you’re not just wanting the baby you had?” The truth of her words hung in the air. She was right, but I couldn’t have you, and this seemed to be the next best option. My husband and I each have a child from a previous relationship and we adopted two young girls together. You were the first child we raised together since birth, and you were sent by God.
That night after dinner, I sat my husband down and said, “Honey, I’m ready to have a baby. One that can’t be taken from us.” I saw my husband’s jaw tighten as he digested the thought. He looked sad as he said no. He felt that it wasn’t good timing. That night I prayed and cried. I asked God to change my husband’s heart. I told him I wanted a baby, but I didn’t want to trick my husband into having a child. So I said, “God let your will be done.”
The Day Our Hope Reemerged
The next day at work, my watch started to vibrate with an incoming call. It was a caseworker from the state calling. The next words out of her mouth felt like a dream and I began to shake. I actually dropped the phone. When I picked it up, the caseworker asked how much I’d heard. I told her I thought she asked if we’d adopt you. She confirmed that this was true. Your grandparents decided we were a better fit for you. They saw how much we loved you and how much you loved us back. In shock, I began to cry. I told her “YES” and in all my excitement I forgot to ask any questions.
When I got home I didn’t tell your sisters, mostly because I really didn’t know much. It felt like it took forever for my husband to come home from work that evening and when I told him the news, he was joyfully skeptical. The following day, I called the caseworker and she told me you would come Monday. I thought about my prayer the night before and was still in disbelief that this was really happening. That was the longest weekend waiting to see and hold you. Monday came, and they placed you in my arms and we held each other.
Helping You Trust Us Again
The transition wasn’t perfect. You were scared I would leave you because, in your little world, I had before. You wouldn’t sleep at night unless you were touching me. If I walked outside to get the mail, you screamed until I came back. Then there was the time I left you with your daddy for a couple of hours. You were so mad at me when I came back. You wouldn’t let me hold you and the scowl on your face told me you did not approve of me being gone. The worse part was the “mine.” You claimed everything was yours, even the dog. Luckily, we’ve worked with a family therapist for the last five years who knows our family inside and out. She told us to use words like, “You are safe,” and “Mommy is always here.” We also introduced a stuffed animal as an attachment toy. When you would claim something, we would say, “No, but here is your toy.”
We bring the stuffed animal everywhere with us. It’s your constant. We also made sure we could reorder it on Amazon Prime, just in case we lost it! You are doing better every day and are less scared of us leaving. Your sisters are over the moon that you are back. They rush to your side to make you happy every time you are upset. I am so thankful you are here. It’s not permanent yet because you are still a ward of the state. Our family’s future rests in the hands of so many unknowns. For now, I’m soaking up every second I have with you. My anxiety is still there and sometimes I cry, but only for a moment because for right now you are safe in my arms.
Praying to be Your Forever Family
I still don’t know God’s plan for us all, but I can look back and see his hand at work. In the year you weren’t with us full time, we got to fall in love with your bio mom. I got to work with some amazing women and grow in my faith. I uttered, “Thy will be done,” thousands of times and leaned on God and his plan. We are still close to your bio mom and family and will continue to nurture that relationship. I still fumble, but I think I’m getting better. I pray, that this time, I will get to stay your mama forever.
Since submitting this story, the Kafka family’s adoption of their sweet youngest daughter has been finalized. They remain close with her biological family and have a wonderful relationship.