First Foster Placement, Week Two

Another long night awaits, but not for me. The wonderful thing about not breastfeeding an infant is that I do not have to do all his feedings; the burden, the joy of this work, does not fall solely on me this time. This is a new experience for me, and I look forward to an uninterrupted night of sleep tonight.

We are all doing our best to adapt to this new little guy.

The girls have been restless and needy, I expected this. It makes for longer bedtimes, more cuddles and reassurance to my baby girl (who, by the way, is almost 3 – where does the time go?) I have to remind myself, and John, that things will need time to settle in; baby bear is a great blessing to us all, but it has surely changed the dynamics of our unit significantly.

As I reflect on these past several days – since the fateful July 3rd when we officially became foster parents, I am left in awe of what we are capable of. Of the way my family has been willing to change and grow to accommodate this new baby. None of us could have known quite what to expect as we have never ventured here before, but all the while, I find myself certain that this is the right path for all of us.

How could more love ever be a bad thing, anyway?

Though, at the end of the night, I am here wondering what is to come. The uncertainty strains my heart if I am not mindful of our role here, because I already see the looming fear in their eyes that this might not be permanent. We are all opening our hearts here, doing so while we have no control of the final outcome of this child’s experience in foster care.

Today I got all three girls and the baby in the van for the 35 minute drive downtown to the CPS office. There, we handed a carseat and its special cargo to a stranger with a badge. We said goodbye and went about our hour and 15 minutes wait until his return. I carefully and thoughtfully packed his diaper bag before we left. I made his formula and stored it in the bottle thermos, packed extra clothes and a blanket. I included a note that read,

“Hi! Your son is doing very well! He had a visit with the pediatrician yesterday and he is gaining weight, and doing very well! …”

The rest is for them to know… I wanted to be sure they knew if even only in some small way, I was in their corner. And I am taking care of their son as best as I can. I wanted to give them the opportunity to share in the joy of their child, even knowing it must be painful – what they are going through.

One thing I heard during our training for foster parenting was that it can be hard at times to support the birth family, when the end game for the foster parents is adoption (there is an entire segment of foster parents, like us, who are doing this to find their forever children and will foster until they adopt). It is hard to encourage them, and help them, because if they succeed and reunification takes place, you “lose” your child…

My heart went out to them today, even as it felt thick in my throat as I let my baby bear go, because it must be hell to be in their shoes, after all they are the reason this little child came into my care…

I just want, ultimately, for redemption to take place for my son’s parents, because whether or not we adopt him they will always be an integral part of his story.

After he was carried away to be with his mom and dad, I had to take a deep breathe and trust. Trust that this is all going to go according to a plan much more sound than anything I can conceive in my mind; trust that God knows this child’s future, and ours, and his parents’, and we will all be okay.

It is not always easy to believe it, but I feel with each passing day that there is a plan here and this precious son of God will be given exactly what is right for his story.

Right now, he is ours. He is our borrowed son, our most precious gift from the Lord, and exactly where he was supposed to be. I like to focus on the here and now, the reality of him being here is proof that this is in His hands… and He has entrusted him to us for a reason.

For me, it is love.

Last night, in the wee hours, I rocked him as he laid against my bare chest. I was exhausted, somewhat frustrated with the lack of sleep that I so desperately needed, and I felt moments wherein my love for this baby was so evident; I wear it in my eyes, I give it with my gentle touch stroking his hair, and in the way I can fight through little sleep to give him what he needs…

Am I afraid he will leave? I ask myself that a lot, actually. . . It is the most common question I get; the answer changes a lot, but deep down, yes – but I know that we will get through that if it happens, it just is not a very pleasant thought when we all really want him to stay forever.

I keep reminding myself that we signed up for all of this, though even in that knowledge, I could not have prepared for how much, and how deeply, I would love this baby boy. That makes it creep around in the shadows a lot, this fear of his departure, because I look at him and I see my son.

The son I have prayed for all my life… yet I have no idea how this will go, and whether or not he is, indeed, our forever son.

I am putting in the work, giving him my all, and it might be for a season and a day will come when he will leave and we might not ever see him again. That is the reality, the fine print, the work of a foster parent that keeps us so entangled in the here and now, because this may be it – the only time we have to love a child so desiring of the most basic human need.

So, we love him. While he is here. We love him. And we keep going. Despite the fear, through the fear, and on to a future that God knows while we wait to discover it.

Who knew I could do this.

“I could never do what you are doing,” they say, often. I hear this almost every single day. People hear the stakes… to love and maybe let go… and they tell us we are “so good” for doing this.

What I think, honestly, is that it really is just love. It is, indeed, the most basic human need – and if you can give love, if you can dig deep, educate yourself on the great need of loving foster parents in this country – if you can realize how much these children need something so vital that was robbed from them, then you too can do this.

We aren’t different, or special, or brave. We saw a need, a hole in our society that we need to shed light on, and we saw an opportunity to grow our family in a different kind of way. We said yes to someone who needs love. And everything else that comes with this: The fears, uncertainties, questions, doubts – they melt away when you finally hold that child. We held him, we hold him, and we just keep going, knowing that he needs this, and if we can give it to him, why would we not do it?

I am grateful to be here. It is a privilege to love this child, and I fall more in love with him each day; knowing what I know about him, his story, I believe any loss I might feel in the end, well, it will be a small price to pay in comparison to giving him what he needs.

He needed a mom, so I stepped in, and he became my son.

He will always by my first son. Hopefully my last – but that’s the thing about foster care, we won’t know until we know. Until then all I have to do is love him.

Please, I welcome your thoughts, perspective, and new ideas on anything I have written here!

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