For months leading up to last Tuesday, I mentally tried to prepare myself for the addition of another child. Carefully selected nursery room-décor, sweet and soft blankets folded neatly under the changing table, moseying about materially preparing for what was soon to come. We had long conversations with the girls, talking about what it means to be a foster family – asking them what excites them about having a baby brother – we made sure they understood, as best they could, just exactly what laid in wait.
Up until we matched with Baby Bear we had to try and imagine what these changes would look like. As the Real World would say, “you think you know, but you have no idea”…
Driving to the hospital, empty car seat at the ready, diaper bag full, we giggled at times, others sat in silence, hands tightly clasped. Steps towards the doors, elevators, nurse’s station. I wondered, “how will this feel?” anticipation coursing through my pulsing veins.
This moment, right here, might be the last, or it might have been the first of many like it; only God knows the end of this chapter –
We washed our hands, glancing back and forth at one another, nervous, excited. Unsure but so ready to dive in, finally.
John was the first to hold him, feed him. I helped the nurse with our part of discharge; she asked questions about our parenting experience, coached me on proper nutrition, watched as I drew up a syringe to the appointed dose. I switched my eyes from hers, so she knew I was paying attention, to this little bear in my husband’s arms, itching to have him in my own. “So this is him,” I mused to myself (and to God), nodding my head as I answered questions and returned my gaze to fill out yet another stack of paperwork.
Gown yanked past my wrists and pulled atop my shoulders. Back upright, gaze fixed, arms… full.
I had wondered, and even sometimes cried about, what this moment might feel like. I doubted the notion that this child would receive my love from the first moment we made contact; ‘surely it will not be like it was when I held my daughters for the first time – he is not mine’…
Funny, how we underestimate divine love. How we question its power…
God appointed this child to us. For this time and space. He chose him, turned the cogs, and a series of events transpired that, at last, we meet.
None of my children were born as small as this babe felt in my hands. I pulled him close to me, smelled his hair, and pressed my lips against his cheek. Primal, really, so natural. In an instant, I knew. THIS.
This is love.
The days pressed forward since he has been home, and my family has done a rather stellar job of getting along. Of adapting through these changes. We use words like, “boy, he, and his” – “brother…” “Son.”
Vocabulary changing our hearts every time spoken or heard. Changing the landscape of our family – forever.
I remember the day we officially became verified foster parents, signing papers and doing the final home walk-thru (who knew we had so many expired medications!?), one of the Directors of our agency mentioned, atop the mountain of paperwork still left, that we will not really let it sink in – the ongoing paperwork and process involved in being foster parents – until we get our first placement and all these things become relevant. He said it won’t sink in how many appointments, meetings, and drop-in visits we will have once we become custodians to a child of the State, until we are driving halfway across town to yet another required engagement. I sat and listened, intentionally engaged in their preparations for the coming weeks, but they were right – you can not “know” until you are thrust into it on top of the excitement and change of accepting a new child into your home.
We were prepared very well, and excited for the changes they said were to come once we became, officially, a “foster family” – 6 months of agency meetings and trainings, paperwork, inspections and the home study itself. Long, deep conversations between John and me until late hours of the night, pouring over the details of life as we know it with the girls, trying to imagine how this new adventure will shift our relationship with one another and our kids. We prayed a lot, read books, watched YouTube videos of other foster parent/child experiences. We continued adding on to an ongoing conversation with each of our daughters, talking out feelings and concerns, explaining the process of reunification, and what it might look and feel like if we have “brother” come, and then leave… We laughed about the love he will bring, and how even if it gets hard at times, and even if he eventually leaves our home, he is now inside our hearts, and he will always be treasured.
We thought we were… Prepared. I thought.
For the past 6 nights, I’ve been roused in the deep night by cries for cuddles, bottles, and burping. For changed diapers, re-swaddling, and kisses on chipmunk-cheeks. I’ve bathed him, dressed him, and strapped him against my chest in the carrier.
I’ve watched my girls, each attaching to him in her own unique manner, hold him tightly, smiling at his yawns, his smiles, his stretching hims muscles so big!
I’ve watched my husband become misty-eyed finally holding “his boy”. Today I crept downstairs to hear him telling baby bear, “You really are a part of this family now, come sit with daddy”.
He really is a part of this family now.
I am so grateful for his presence in our home. For his sounds, his neediness, and all the time it takes to figure out how he needs our love best. I am thankful that my daughters are in this, supporting us and loving on him every single chance they get. I am so amazed at the endurance, devotion, and sweet tenderness of my husband- how he picks up the slack when I need a nap with the baby, and does not mind missing a night of Jiu-Jitsu because the girls need someone to run outside with and I can’t do it because of the baby in my arms. I am humbled by the grace of God, that I have the energy to love and serve my family after long nights awake with a little bear, and we are finding joy and connection together as now a family of six.
Today, we got a visit from our case manager for our agency. She is bubbly, easy to talk to, and eager to help us navigate this process. I opened my heart to her quickly as to maximize our time together, she held him as I spoke, smiling down at this sweet little guy in her grasp. She understood my concerns, my feelings, and my fears – assuring me that what I was thinking, and how I feel, is a normal part of this experience.
(Every day I’ve been grateful we chose this agency. They have been exceptional; their heart for “their kids” – the energy and heart they put into this calling – is God-driven, and such an amazing display of God’s kingdom at work).
God has placed the right people beside us to navigate with. And he has placed the perfect child in our home. He is so wanted, adored, and loved – and really that is what we set out to do; bring love and light, and hold God’s healing in our arms.
I am trying to think of how to wrap this up. The hour is late, my eyelids are beginning to resent the light of this computer screen, and soon baby bear will need to have another round of sustenance, sweet cuddles, and belching. I will do my work, the work of a mother. . .
His Mama –
I could not have known what this was going to feel like. I prepared as best I could. But love knew, and rested in a single moment when all of this time, all these prayers, would be given a name.
It was that moment, when John placed him in my arms. When the months of planning, dreaming, waiting, and working became just the starting point of this amazing journey. I could not have anticipated that I would be “his mom” from the moment I placed my lips against his sweet-scented hair. A child not born from my womb but delivered to me from God in a brand new way. One not born from my body, born from my love, but instead born from tragedy, pain, and loss – but this will not be his story, for now he is mine. And I will do what he needs, no matter the cost to me, because he is worth it.
Love makes me do this. It is changing me, and I will take what comes as we walk forward in trust. Because God appointed this time, and this space, for me to be the Mama to baby bear, and I will ensure I am up to the task.