“I am so sorry to have to leave this as a voice message, but during the visit this morning she took the kids and we don’t know where they are. Call me as soon as you can.”

I don’t think I will ever forget those words. Or where I was when I heard them. It was October 19, 2012. I was at the local extension of the state university I was attending, working on a project for grad school. My two older boys were with me, just hanging out in the sitting area because they were out of school for Fall Break. The ringer on my phone had been turned off because phones were not allowed to be used in the computer lab where I was working. I had dropped my little ones off at daycare that morning with the goal of completing my project and then hanging out with my older boys for awhile, so I was trying to focus and get the needed work finished.

I didn’t know the caseworker had tried calling me, then my parents, before leaving that message for me. I didn’t know my grandma had talked to him when he called my parents’ house and that she had tried to call me, too, and then had called my oldest son’s cell phone. It was only when he came in to get me and told me to call my grandmother because “something was wrong” that I saw the missed call.

I called my grandma first, thinking something had happened to one of my parents. She just told me that the caseworker had called trying to get ahold of me and that I needed to call him immediately. I hung up and listened to the voice mail message from the caseworker.

My mind immediately went into emergency mode when I heard what he said. I called him back and got the information that during a supervised visit with their biological mom, the little boys were taken, by biological mom and uncle–they had grabbed the children and run to a waiting car and sped off. The police were there but were refusing to issue an Amber alert. Even though I was the one with custody of the boys through foster care and she was not to have any unsupervised visits. Even though the case aide who worked for DHS transporting the boys to and from their supervised visits and the DHS caseworker were there telling them that this was an abduction. Even though DHS provided written proof. By then they had been gone almost 2 hours.

I hung up the phone and told my older boys all I knew. And then I sank to the floor, shaking, with tears steaming down my face. These boys were 2 years old and 3 months old. They had both been with me since birth. I was the mom they knew. We were the family they knew. A connection had never been made between them and biological mom. The older boy cried every time he was taken for visits.

I prayed. Then I got up and began to gather our things so we could head to the apartments where the caseworker and police were gathered. Or to drive around and look for them. Something. Anything. I couldn’t just sit there and wait.

As I was packing my bags so we could leave, I called my parents to let them know what was happening and as soon as I hung up my phone rang again. The caseworker told me that a cousin of biological mom had come by and had agreed to try to help find them. She had been able to get ahold of mom and was trying to talk her into returning with the boys. By the time we got down to our car I got another call that the cousin was on her way to meet mom and had gotten her to agree to give the kids to her to bring back as long as no police came. The police had agreed. I was told to wait for another call so they could tell me what happened next and where to go.

Waiting felt like torture. Every second that passed I wondered if the boys were ok. If mom took them she must have been desperate. Just how desperate was she? What if she decided if she couldn’t have them, no one could? She had said that to me once in a phone conversation. Did she mean it? I prayed for her to release them unharmed.

The minutes passed…my body was shaking from fear and adrenaline. These babies were as much a part of my family as my older biological boys, who sat silent and worried in the car with me. These were their baby brothers who they played with and held and helped feed. At 12 and 14 they knew this was a serious thing and they were mad and scared and in shock, just like I was.

Finally the phone rang. The cousin had the kids. She was taking them there to the apartments where the police and DHS workers were gathered. . I could meet them there. She was close so she would probably beat me there.

When I pulled in to the apartments several police cars were parked with their lights on. Their car doors were open. My heart caught in my chest fearing the worst. I pulled up and the counselor who had been working with us and who had been supervising the visit before the abduction happened, came to me immediately.

“They are ok. They are here,” she said. Everything else seemed to fade into the background as I exhaled in relief.

I got out of the car quickly and went to the boys. I don’t even remember now where they were or who was holding them All I remember is neither of them were reacting to my voice as I talked to them. My usually sweet, bubbly 2 year old, who chased me around saying, “Mommy! Mommy!” all day wouldn’t even make eye contact with me. The baby, who we had just found out was completely blind a few weeks before, just laid there, too, not interacting. I asked the counselor and police if they knew if they had been given anything that would make them so out of it. And then was told to take them to the emergency room to have them checked out. To see if they had been given drugs of any kind. To see if they had any injuries or any kind. It all felt so unreal.

The next couple of hours were a blur. I think i remember the counselor coming with us when I took them to the children’s ER, but memories are funny when you have gone through something traumatic and there are holes in my memory. I remember at the hospital tests were run to rule out drug exposure. The children were checked for any signs of physical or sexual abuse. No drugs were in their system. There were no obvious places of injury. They said the children were lethargic from exhaustion and they had probably been scared and crying during all or most of the almost 4 hours of the ordeal. I was told they were fine to go home. There wasn’t anything wrong that they could see. I was so thankful.

But what I soon discovered was it’s what you can’t see that effects you the most. Now, 6 years later, there are still invisible scars. For the little boys, for the older boys, and for me, and even for biological mom, those scars may fade but they will never fully go away. I have learned, though, that even in those scars, there is beauty. God has continued to show us His goodness as we have moved forward from that day. And He has worked true miracles, even through that scary experience.

(Image from pexels.com)

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