They were, by all accounts a successful couple—not rich success, but happy, church-going and well-employed. They had all they needed and some to save for old age. Except for one thing. They had no children.
BB was the leader of a home fellowship group for his church. He and SS opened their home each week to worship, pray and counsel with fellow church members. BB was an elder, in leadership and close communion with others in his church’s leadership. Everyone around them was praying for a child for this wonderful couple.
Then BB was hit with a revelation from God: He had no children because there were so many of God’s children without homes! He went to SS and told her. Reluctantly she agreed to take the several-month program of instruction and counseling in order to become eligible to adopt from child protective services. As they went through the program, SS still had her doubts, but she wanted a child and BB said “Think of all we can offer a child from this situation. He or she would have a stable home, and we could show the love of God to children who otherwise have no love at all.” She capitulated and they moved from discussions of “whether or not” to “boy or girl?”
The social worker knew of their discussions and hit them with a new idea: one of the hardest placements was for siblings in one home. Why not adopt a brother and sister? That way, they could have one of each. They viewed profile after profile and finally agreed on a group of three siblings, two boys and a girl, ranging in age from 2 years to 6. These children had only recently been taken from their mother and were the subjects of terrible neglect and abuse. The new parents’ hearts broke thinking of all these children had been through and of the relief and love they could offer. They formally adopted all three children and moved them into their newly-decorated bedrooms.
A year went by, and it became very apparent that these children were damaged beyond all prior estimation. Even the youngest, who was assumed to have little memory of her former life, had all kinds of issues and seemed to take up the bizarre behaviors of her elder siblings. BB traveled with his work, so often it was SS who had to deal alone with school expulsions, teacher conferences over playground fights, children who had very abnormal toilet habits both at home and at school and bizarre nighttime behaviors marked by hysterical outbursts and middle-of-the-night threats.
In their second year of adoption, a miracle occurred. SS was pregnant! Even the stress of dealing with her damaged brood did not dampen her enthusiasm, and the baby arrived healthy and to great fanfare. To everyone except the older siblings who worried and threatened and pouted. The stress began to compound.
As time went on, the problems with the children only increased. They each had psychiatric treatment regularly. It was nip-and-tuck that all children could stay in school. There was constant danger that one or all of them would be permanently expelled, creating a crisis of where to put them next. Worst of all, resentment against the youngest member of the household grew. The elder children began turning their self-destructive behaviors outward, toward their mother and her youngest child.
Learning the system, the older children began to report abuse by their mother. Time after time SS had to meet with child protective services to fend off charges against her that she was cruel to these children. There were dozens of reports. Not a single one of them was substantiated. All understood that these children were not truthful but were acting out of their hurt and wounds. Still, having child protective services knock at your door repeatedly and being on the defensive all the time takes its toll. SS soon found herself basically held hostage, afraid to discipline these children in any meaningful way for fear that it would be turned into an abuse charge.
This family toiled through the mayhem, taking each day and challenge one at a time. Although BB’s job required him to travel, it also allowed for some flexibility and off days put together so he could be involved in his children’s lives. He could spell his wife, so she could get her breath before he had to be gone again, and he willingly did so. They were making it.
But, then, the unthinkable happened.
BB came home from four days on the road. He strode through the house wordlessly and grabbed another suitcase to augment the one he had left in the car. He began to pack it with more clothing and a few personal items. Upon her demand, he turned and spoke the first words to his wife since he had entered their home:
“I’m leaving. I am not happy here. I have not been happy for a long, long time, and my life is marching by me. This life is doing me no good and in the long run it won’t do you any good either. I’m leaving so that we both can get on with our lives.”
SS was stunned beyond belief. She had no idea this was coming. Dealing with her life with a loving husband at her back was one thing, but doing it alone and through a veil of tears of hurt and loss was another. Fear gripped her. She begged her husband not to do this to her, to their children. He went on out the door. He did not answer her calls to his cell phone; he did not return her desperate voice messages.
It took her over a week to come to see me because of shock. Over a week without any word from the father of their household.
I told her there was another woman involved. Fact of Life: Men rarely abandon one nest without having another one prepared. She disputed. “He says there is no one else,” she still defended him. “He says it’s just that he’s ‘unhappy.’ Besides, infidelity flies in the face of all that BB believes. It’s the stress with the kids causing this, I know.”
Right. Whatever you need to think to get you through…
Because BB traveled, getting him served with papers was a super challenge. It took us weeks. We tried everything. We called his employer, who was no help. BB”s mother either did not know where he was or would not tell. Finally, my resourceful client located him in a motel by sheer perseverance. We got him served. A month had gone by with no support from the major breadwinner in the home. Another month would go by before our court date.
And the stress in the household ratcheted up; it was reaching crescendo levels.
Even the most well-adjusted children feel the strain when one of their parents depart. Having Dad absent, having Mom heartbroken, having shoe-string budget with nothing extra for diversion was more than these little ones could take. The acting-out grew out of control. The eldest child was permanently expelled from school. The next two were on their way. Two of the children began talking about what they could do to Mom and her youngest in the middle of the night. Mom’s life turned into siege mode. I thought she would break. She had only her own devoted parents to help her. Who else would want to take these children off her hands, even for an afternoon?
And, don’t forget, Mom had to work each and every day. After all, she was now the sole breadwinner for her family. BB did not care even so much as to call and inquire or answer her calls, let alone send money their way.
Then SS did what would have been unimaginable to her in the past. She phoned the state agency and told them that she must return her adopted children. She did this without counsel from me because she had already spent her last nickel to hire me for her divorce. I stepped into the mix to find that she had made up her mind: she was going into survival mode, and she felt that the only one she could save was her youngest.
The three adopted children were returned to foster care. According to their therapists, they suffered unbelievable pain over this; really, I cannot begin to imagine. In most divorce cases, the children are damaged by fights over who gets to keep them. These children were tossed to the side: by one parent who felt she had no choice, by another to whom they mattered no longer. I am at a loss for words at this.
SS had to face the judge in this case alone—BB was nowhere to be found in these legal proceedings. He let her take the anger of the Court and the shame alone. The judge railed at her that you cannot reject children “just because there are problems—families struggle through…” He was furious with her. She agreed with all he said--she just could not do it.
Later we found that BB was, indeed, involved with another woman. We found them holed up together in a motel room—with the other woman’s two children.
I cannot believe the devastation that this man’s lustful selfishness has caused. These poor children: abused and rejected by their birth mother; now rejected again by their adoptive family. What, on earth, will happen to them?
For what? So that BB can be “happy?” To the extreme unhappiness of every single person for whom he is responsible? What gives???
SS gave me permission to print this, although I have disguised her somewhat. The facts are true, sad to say. The drama is not yet over.
SS wanted me to use this story. She wanted at least one slim silver lining to the cloud her life has become. She wants others to hear and, perhaps, learn.
Learn what? Maybe this, in the wise words of none other than Jon Bon Jovi:
Map out your life;
but do it in pencil.