It Takes a Village, Right?

I almost feel guilty not devoting my words to a reflection on the recent Presidential election. But my focus in this blog has always been on my family and adoption. For the bigger picture, I recommend you read Marcus Patton’s recent writing, “Roll up your sleeves” at jmarcuspatton.wordpress.com. I encourage you to also read his post the day before the election, “Revolution of 1800,” to put the 2016 election in historical context.

In the midst of the fallout after the election, our family was experiencing its own emotional upheaval. Skye had been planning to leave Atlanta for North Carolina to attend a Marine Ball with her new boyfriend, Ben. She had asked her older sister, Emily, to take care of Kinsley overnight – Thursday to Friday – and Emily had agreed. The Falco parents did not think this was a good idea. However, since Emily and Skye had worked things out, we didn’t protest loudly. But then, Ben showed up early and took Skye away on Tuesday morning. Skye left us with only two servings of breast milk for Kinsley with four days of feedings stretching out ahead of us.

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On that first day, we discovered that Kinsley hated formula – would not eat it and spit it up when some managed to get into her system. And although Emily had agreed to care for Kinsley, it was clear that Skye had assumed “Truly” (my grandmother name) would attend to her while Emily was at work. I was not amused at the prospect of caring for a screaming 10-week-old who was hungry but wouldn’t eat the only food we had to give her.

Let me rephrase that: I was furious that Skye had put us in this position. I had a list of frustrations with Skye and these, no doubt, added to my anger about the immediate crisis. Skye had refused to work on getting her GED, despite my having helped her enroll in classes. She had put off getting paid work throughout her pregnancy and post-delivery. She had been inconsistent about showing up for the one 4 hour/week job she did have at our church. Skye was often not helpful with family chores, even though her siblings managed their chores as well as school or work. Skye had just recently secured a minimum wage job at a pizza store, but that required me to arrange my own schedule around getting her to and from work and taking care of Kinsley while Skye was at work. Most recently, Skye had been refusing to talk to her boss about taking time off. She had simply disappeared to North Carolina, and I was now sure she had lost that job. Skye had overburdened her good-hearted sister. Emily had agreed to one night and Skye had left her to face three nights of little sleep. I was also plagued with self-criticism: Here I was trapped in a dilemma of my own making, while the world outside – minorities of all kinds – faced enormous fear and challenges that I was doing nothing to alleviate.

Where did that leave us? Where was the light at the end of the tunnel? I had put my goals and dreams on hold to help keep my 19-year-old afloat. Yes, Skye was a good mother – when she was here.

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But Skye was nowhere nearer independence than she had been before she reached the age of majority. And I was changing diapers, feeding, and entertaining a fussy infant again while I still had two of my own children to raise – one of whom has time-consuming medical issues.

Yes, I was mad. But the caretaker in me kicked in and I got to work. I called Skye’s OB office, the lactation center at the hospital where she had delivered, and Kinsley’s pediatrician in search of donor breast milk. Then I posted our situation on the Facebook parents’ page of our church. Within minutes, responses came in from other mothers. It was suggested that I ask another nursing mother if she had extra milk. I did. Within a few hours, Kinsley was drinking Cynthia’s breast milk. Then came Rachel’s milk. Then came Lauren’s milk. Although I initially felt like an addict in pursuit of my next fix, as the offers of support and sustenance poured in, I began to think of the biblical parable about loaves and fishes. Jesus has five loaves of bread and two fishes to feed a crowd of 5000. He asks for God’s blessing, and when the food is shared, it multiplies until all are fed and there are baskets of leftovers. Through our church family’s gifts of milk and comfort, not only was Kinsley’s hunger satisfied, my anger was “miraculously” lifted and dissipated.

I’ve long been a fan of the saying “It Takes a Village.” I thought I knew what it meant: People working together get the job done while an individual, alone, often cannot. What I have learned these past few days is that the village is more than the sum of its parts. The village also raises spirits. It inspires further acts of kindness and love.

So, here I sit, the day after the Marine Ball, waiting to hear from Skye on the day of her anticipated return. We are unaware of how she plans to get back to us and to Kinsley. But I find myself at peace. I/we will handle whatever happens next – without anger, in a thoughtful and loving manner. I have my “village” to thank for that.

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