I will never forget the moment when my husband’s seven-year-old daughter was physically torn away from him on a September morning in 2017 at an elementary school in Missouri.
Time stopped. It actually slowed down with dramatic effect, as if I saw the whole scene happen in slow motion in Cinemax.
Saddie had to go back to school after the Baker family and I had spent a week with her on the property.
Matt and I were dropping her off to Katie, her mother, so she could walk Saddie into class. But Katie was late. We had arrived earlier than the time we agreed to meet her, just to be safe.
Students filed into their classrooms by 7:40am. We stepped out of the rental car we were waiting in and stood directly beside the flagpole. Matt received no text from Katie and had no clue of her whereabouts.
Ten minutes later, we spotted Katie darting across the parking lot towards us in her Army uniform, an E-7 rank on her chest. She had been promoted recently and re-married to her fourth husband.
I handed Saddie’s rolling backpack to Matt. He let go of Saddie’s hand to let her greet her mom who was walking towards us in anger. When her mom approached, she latched onto Saddie’s hand and yanked her backpack away from Matt.
“The drop-off zone is over there!” Katie scolded, pointing across the lot and cutting him off.
I stood in shock. Two seconds into the exchange and she was already making it seem as if we made Saddie late!
Matt and I watched Katie drag Saddie inside.
I realized this was it — this was our last time seeing her until the next visit and Katie wasn’t allowing us to say goodbye!
Matt knelt down, opened his arms and shouted, “Saddie! Come give me a hug!”
Saddie looked back at him with her sad brown eyes. Katie wouldn’t let go of Saddie’s hand, even though she was struggling to keep up with her mom.
That was the last time we saw Saddie. But that was not the last encounter we had with Katie’s cruelty.
On a day in April 2018, Katie e-mailed Matt the world’s worst words: There is no way possible that you are Saddie’s biological father.
Following a DNA test, this turned out to be true.
He could hardly breathe. He could hardly stand.
Although he was still the legal father and we had visitation rights with Saddie to be in our wedding, Katie didn’t allow it. Her reason was that Saddie would be spending time with her biological father. Katie refused to compromise with the parenting plan.
We missed Saddie greatly on our wedding day and every day beyond then.
I’ve grown angry. Out in the world exists such an evil. There are predators who thrive off of inflicting pain and getting what they want through lies and manipulation. Years of lies and manipulation.
It’s not justice.
I remember when I met Saddie for the very first time at the Arthur Murray dance studio in Tacoma.
Matt and Saddie stood in the doorway to the studio when they spotted me sitting in a chair by the window. Saddie darted across the dance floor with a big smile on her face and gave me a tight squeeze as if she knew me all her life.
We got along well that summer that she stayed with us in our small apartment. She called me Amanda Panda.
She loved to color. She loved playing with Titan. She loved my parents. She loved Matt.
One day, she was out playing with the kids at the apartment and one kid said something mean to her. She came inside crying and Matt immediately scooped her up into his arms and comforted her.
“Shhh,” he whispered to her. “It’s okay, baby girl. I’m here. No one is mean to my Saddie.”
I admired all of his parenting and hoped that one day I would be half as good of a parent as he was.
Matt shares the same fears and sorrows that any parent would have who discovers that the child they raised from birth to when they were eight-years-old is no longer theirs.
He fears the child will not be raised with her best interest in mind, that she is shown what manipulation and psychological warfare looks like, and the most scariest of all – that she will absorb the tactics and antics that she was subjected to as a child from the parent she resided with most.
He and I both feel a great deal of sadness for not being a part of Saddie’s upbringing and do not have the opportunity to see her grow. We will miss out on many moments that would allow her to feel a sense of love, belonging and stabilization.
No matter what, he will always be Dad to Saddie. Biological or not, we love her.
We always will.