I missed out on having any grandparents. But I knew the kind of grandparents I wished for. Warm and loving, with lots of hugs and kisses to go around.
I grew up…married…and had children of my own. But I had to live by a strict moral code that had rigid rules and no wiggle room for “warm and loving”. By the time I had gone through my metamorphosis and became a person with my own set of values, my children were too old to cuddle on my lap.
So I waited for my first grandchild. I would be the grandparent I never had.
When I learned of a pending grandchild from my youngest daughter, it took me by surprise. The marriage took place, but the “father to be” was Canadian, so the new couple moved north of the border to live with his parents. Six months into the pregnancy, I got the phone call that my daughter was in labor. Sitting by the phone, crocheting on a baby afghan for my first grandchild, I waited all night.
Marie weighed 1120 grams at birth. I had no idea how much that was, so had to ask the nurse to convert it into pounds. 2 lbs. 7 oz. 12 inches long.
Tiny…and fighting for her life.
She was transferred to a children’s hospital in Vancouver, BC that specialized in preemies. That would be her home for the next 117 days.
Then came the phone call telling us they planned to give her up for adoption.
The trip north was made. Placing my hands through the rubber openings of the Isolette, I carefully touched my first grandchild. Would I ever see her again?
Raising the tiny preemie was just not a possibility for my husband and me. We had recently moved to a new town to start a business. I was working four jobs to make ends meet until we got on our feet.
Arriving back home, I called my brother to tell him the news. When he heard that we would not be taking the baby, he said he and his wife would.
They immediately made contact with my daughter and her husband and were given the go ahead. They kept in constant touch with the hospital, and then flew half way across the United States to get Marie when she was released.
Nine months later, the young couple decided they wanted her back. Thus began the saga of Marie and her travels. By the time she was six, she had lived in two provinces in Canada, in Washington, California, Texas and Florida. She had lived with her parents, my brother and his wife, my other daughter, Lyn, several times, her mother and new husband and then some unknown people in Florida.
But her journey was not over.
Unmarried again, her mother became pregnant. She asked me to be her labor coach. I agreed. My husband and I helped my daughter and Marie travel from Florida to Washington.
I was present at my second grandchild’s birth. I had high hopes.
And then my daughter placed Marie in a mental facility, took my grandson and moved…leaving no forwarding address.
My husband and I set aside an entire weekend to pray about the situation. Our finances had stabilized. But did we want to raise another child? Yet when we looked at Marie’s future, we felt we had no choice. We went to court to gain temporary custody of Marie. That process was costly and took about a year. A year after that, Lyn moved to town. She was granted permanent custody.
There was no “warm and loving”. Hugging Marie was just not an option. She was diagnosed with “Attachment Disorder”. She had never bonded with another person. The diagnoses just kept coming. Aspergers. Bipolar. ADHD…and on and on. She needed to be watched 24/7. Lyn and I “tag teamed”.
I acquired a medical library, trying to understand what we were dealing with. Various medicines were prescribed. Some made her lips turn blue and she became a zombie. Others only escalated her behaviors.
It’s the closest I have ever come to burnout.
Those were some of the roughest years of my life. I reached a whole new level of understanding about the wide scope of mental illnesses.
Today Marie is 21 and still struggles with life. She has moved to another town and rarely contacts us. We pray daily for her.
I think of those years…stress and heartbreak. But would we do it again? Yes.
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