Lauren Casper »

Living In-Between Africa

Today marks one year since a very painful “in between” phase finally ended for us. So, no, it isn’t about our current season of life, but then again isn’t it? How can we do well in our present and our future if we are unwilling to look back and learn from our past? Today I celebrate knowing that these seasons do end, but I am taking a moment to look back and would like for you to join me.

Without question, the most painful in between phases of my life were the two times I had to kiss my babies, lay them in a crib, and leave them in Africa. Both times broke me in a way I didn’t know was possible. We boarded our planes with no insight as to when we’d be back. It’s difficult to explain if you haven’t lived it. I try to liken it to having a child in the NICU, but that really isn’t accurate. It’s more like… imagine giving birth and your child needs to go to the NICU, so after a few days at the hospital with her you get discharged, but she doesn’t. But wait. You’re also not allowed to visit her. And you don’t get updates either. You’re just told that she’ll be there for about 4-12 weeks, possibly more, and they’ll call you when you can come get her. So go home and try to keep living life. Oh, and the NICU’s in Africa. And you’re here.

Can you imagine? I mean, really? Let me tell you how that goes from my experience.

We spent five beautiful days bonding with Mareto. For the first time in my life I had a beautiful baby boy in my arms. Not in heaven, in my arms. It was perfect. We loved him, got to know him, and then one sweet day a judge declared us his parents. But, just a couple days after that we had to say goodbye. We were upstairs in his transition home when someone came to tell me it was time to leave. There was no slow build up… I burst into tears immediately. These weren’t pretty tears either – these were gut wrenching, deep from my soul sobs. I couldn’t control it. My heart was breaking and everything about this moment felt unbelievably wrong. So after a hundred more kisses we lay his sleeping body in his crib and walked away. Other mamas hugged me when I got down stairs and just let me cry. On the bus back to the hotel one friend handed me tissue. Everyone was quiet and so respectful. They hadn’t had to say goodbye that day, but they would later in the week so they had an idea. We boarded our plane that night and got home the next day. Home. It didn’t quite feel that way anymore.

The weeks between leaving Africa without Mareto and returning to be reunited with him were awful. I felt like I was living in a fog. I couldn’t concentrate on anything and really didn’t care about much. My mind and my heart just weren’t in it … I forgot to put them on the plane with me when I left Africa. It was hard. I woke up each morning and sifted through pictures of Mareto. Every day started with tears and ended with tears. Looking back, those weeks are just one painful blur. In God’s grace it only lasted three weeks and we were back on a plane.

When we left Arsema last summer it felt just about the same as leaving Mareto. The actual act of leaving was much worse, though. Mareto had been asleep, but Arsema was awake. When a nanny came to tell us our taxi was ready we did what we’d done before: kissed her a hundred times through our tears. But this time when we placed her back in her crib she cried and reached for us but we had to walk away. I got halfway down the hall listening to her cries and I just couldn’t take it. So I turned back around and grabbed her out of her crib. For just a few more minutes we rocked and kissed and whispered into her ear. And then we really had to leave in spite of her tears… and it killed me.

When we got back home it really wasn’t an option to live in a fog. I had a little boy who needed me and I had missed him oh so much. I had just a couple days to recover from jet lag and then we jumped right back into our crazy pace. If you already know our story you know that it was in this in between time that Mareto was diagnosed with autism and we started therapy. There was a lot to keep my mind and life busy, which was good since this in between lasted eight weeks rather than the three we waited with Mareto. But still, every night and every morning and some of the in between parts of the day held tears. I cried as I rocked Mareto for naps and bedtime. I cried as I unpacked things for her closet and got things ready for her homecoming. I had one particularly awful Sunday morning as our pastor read an excerpt from Russel Moore’s book  Adopted For Life  – so awful, in fact, that my best friend and the pastor’s wife had to come sit with me and just hold me for awhile. I cried big fat happy tears when we finally got the email that we could get on a plane.

It’s encouraging to look back and see that I did grow a little from one season to the next. I look back and see that I did a little better in the in between for Arsema than I did with Mareto. The time was no less painful, but I did a better job of handling it.

Sometimes the in between seasons of life aren’t just uncomfortable or confusing. Sometimes it’s not just a mild relief when they’re over. Sometimes they are the most painful thing you’ll ever endure… and when they’re over the rejoicing is something you remember for the rest of your life.

Today we celebrate the end of that painful season. Today marks ONE YEAR since our sweet Arsema Joy came HOME.

click here to read the rest of the “living in between” posts

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