First Foster Placement, Week Eleven

I have only as long as he sleeps…

The acorns are falling from the trees. We call them ‘carns, after Delaney’s adorable mispronunciation; I am not sure if indeed they are acorns. Every couple of minutes you hear one hit the earth, bounce off the wooden deck, land with a loud thud in the empty plastic pool. Birds are happy today, chirping loudly, and the squirrels squabble and chatter atop the fence. The only hazard to being outside are the buzzing cicadas which have leapt forth from their tree branches deciding collectively to reign hell onto the earth below. They’re huge, ugly, and do not seem afraid of darting towards an unsuspecting human. The only reason I am braving this taste of the forthcoming apocalypse is that I know these mornings will soon be gone, and I will want for warm air against my skin in place of the cold, quiet winter.

I’ve stepped away from this computer twice since beginning – the baby is restless and would prefer to lay against his Mama’s chest, but he will do just fine for an hour while I tend to my soul. I do anticipate at least two more trips to the nursery to return paci to lips, but I do hope he endures his nap – I have much work to do here.

Oh, what a ride! Several weeks ago we laughed with nervous yet obedient anticipation at the unknown child soon to be in our home. We stayed up late talking about the reality that soon a brand new baby would be ours to care for…

This journey … a deep sigh just flowed from my lips … This child.

He has brought so much light and purpose to our family. Each day we grow more in love with him. My daughters each with their own tenderness for their baby brother. Delaney has taken to “hug” him while he is strapped in the carseat, hanging from my arm. She yanks on the seat bottom, secures his legs in her grasp, and smooshes her face closely into his. Most of the time he whines with disapproval because I’m pretty sure Delaney has the hardest noggin on the planet (it’s all that milk!) but I think it is sweet that she calls him her baby. “No, he is my baby, not yers!” Jemma will hold him all day, every day (unless her friends are playing outside in which case she is out the door). If he is not where I left him, Jem has him cradled up next to her, or he is laying against her tummy while they laugh on the floor. She cried when it hit her that he might not stay forever – sometimes, she still asks if we know yet that baby brother will stay forever. I am honest with her, with them, and no matter what, I will believe and think that this is good for all my children – whether he leaves or not. One can never go wrong giving love where love is needed. Layla is particular about when she holds the baby – I think still getting accustomed to the feeling and routine of a new baby – as the oldest child she has the greatest capacity to decide for herself how attached she becomes; she loves him for sure, but prefers still to kind of let me lead her with him. If I ask her to make a bottle or feed him, she will do it, but then easily sets him in the swing and goes about her business. It has been so wonderful to watch them all grow, give, and love on this child.

This new role, this facet of the journey – I am constantly amazed at the capacity I have to adapt to this, and surely I know that is from the Lord. It was not easy to go from normal nights of sleep to up every two to three hours; not having prepared for 9 months which culminates in a birth – all of which primes you for the little sleep you get when baby comes – I’ve never been handed a newborn for 24 hour caretaking who was not born from my belly. More than just the practical aspect of a new baby but I’ve had to emotionally process all the aspects of this reality, some all in one go, but learning that some of this will have to evolve as we go forth and experience this unique path of fostering. About two weeks after he was placed with us, I sort of broke down for about a good day or two – struck with the love I felt for this brand new human and the reality that my heart will break if he goes. I could not back out, give him back, say no. He became my responsibility, with all the details, appointments, doctors’ visits, paperwork, drives to parent visits 40 minutes each way once a week, CPS visits to my house, court hearings, oh, and the intentional giving of my heart, my sleep, my patience, and my faith to a baby I have no legal guardianship over. He is mine, but he belongs to another mother and father. It hit me what it means to do what we are doing.

We love him so hopefully he can feel it and learn to receive it, and to give it back to others. We meet his needs, so hopefully he can learn that he can trust his caretakers and form bonds with those around him. We decided to change everything about our life – Our home, the day-to-day of life here now forever altered. Our minds – we have stretched outside our comfort zone, had our world opened to some pretty dark places in society, and we are being asked to love, forgive, and pray for perhaps the most broken among us. Do this while we step forward to parent their child. Our hearts – we feel the contradiction of emotion pulling us two ways: As foster-to-adopt parents, we desire to raise this child if God gives us that chance, yet we also see a place for deep compassion, and prayer for redemption in their lives – and in that way, if God wills it that they can find true healing, we would love to see their son get to grow up with his true parents. Such a place as this – to dream that he might be my forever son, and start to imagine him as a toddler, as a little boy (oh, my heart swells with affection even now to imagine it; tears begin to form in my eyes…) I have dreamed of having a son my entire life, and I would love for Baby Bear to answer that prayer forever. Then, to meet his parents and look into their eyes. To shake their hands and have the only words I could get out besides hello be, ‘we are praying for you’ because that is the one thing I could think to say before tears welled up behind my eyes and the lump in my throat made it impossible to talk. The exchange was swollen with emotional tension, and my husband said all the right things as we stood there all together. I heard a bit about my son’s father’s story – from his own mouth, ‘they have the same hair,’ I thought. I searched my son’s mother’s face for physical connections – her eye shape, her nose, her lips (Baby Bear has the most smoochable sweet baby lips ever!) trying to divert my head quickly in case she noticed me studying her. It was no more than three minutes of time together – but enough to embed in my very soul a desire for their redemption. After all, I love their son; they chose life for him – and God chose us.

One thing I’ve had to learn through is what to say to people about our journey, and our son. Not meaning whether I say his “story” or make it obvious he is my “foster son” (I do not tell his story, and if anyone asks, I simply say, “that’s my son” unless they press further in which case sometimes it is appropriate to say it). What I mean is, when I write something like the previous paragraph – or I talk about this journey to friends, I hear often things like, “That is amazing what you are doing, you guys are awesome!” I hear, “Oh, I could never do that – good for you!”
I honestly do not know what to say to these things. Because while it may seem amazing or different or hard, when it comes down to it, I really do not feel like we are special because we are foster parents! We simply chose to meet two needs: The community around us, because once you realize the sad and prevalent need of your neighborhood orphans, the abused, the neglected – it becomes PRETTY HARD to turn your back from it – and the second need is one that makes it very hard for me to feel like “I am doing something so amazing”… I want my son! I want to help raise a little boy into a man. I want to teach him about Jesus and how to treat a woman and watch him learn from his daddy because he is always holding mama’s hand. I want to sit in the stands at sports games and paint his number on my cheek and be that obnoxious mom taking way too many pictures. I want to teach him how to drive a stick and make sure his dad helps him change the oil and tires. I want to be the arm he holds escorting me to my front row seat as he marries the love of his life – knowing I will always be his Mama, his first important girl.

My son. Need number two, in my mind, pulls harder – gets the most mental attention. Therefore, I do not often feel like we are deserving of praise for being foster parents, because the need is my own.
I guess too it is a strong belief of mine that a lot of families could do what we are doing… that, specifically, because I know how we are as a family – we are not scheduled and lack consistency in certain areas (see: Laundry), and I lose my temper sometimes and tell the kids if they don’t stop arguing I’ll pull the car over and make them walk home (which, come to think of it, I should probably not say that specific empty threat anymore – sort of a “foster care language” rule! Man…) The point is, we are not superheroes, we do not have our entire lives figured out, and this CAN BE REALLY CHALLENGING at times trying to make it all fit – BUT we simply said yes. We said we would give it a go – and it really was that, just that, the desire to act that sets us apart. We chose to meet a need, a local, important, meetable need, and in the process of meeting that need, we get to raise a son! We get to give more love, feel more love, and yes do a bit more driving than previous days, but seriously if someone like me can do this…

The sun has come out again after two weeks (maybe more) of continuous rain. It began with a boisterous, colorful thunder and lightning storm a few weeks back and the sky has remained grey ever since. Today I can see great swaths of blue – I think that is partially what makes the birds so happy, otherwise it’s eating cicadas midflight (which I hope to God they’re doing because I swear these bugs are minions from Satan).

I know that soon my baby will actually rouse and not fall back to sleep, thus I should wrap this up while I have the chance. I am grateful for this easy morning. For the simple moments that make breathing easy.

Funny how God has written our stories as they are. Right now – presently. We all are in the midst of a divine weaving, and I see each thread to my tapestry with great clarity and gratitude, if only in this exact moment. Perhaps I will walk away from this computer screen, back into my house, and the dog will have peed on the floor, I’ll remember that I have to buy a tiny plastic piece to fix the dishwasher but I’m pretty sure they don’t manufacture it, and the toilets need to be bleached. I will zoom back into the reality of being a mother while my husband is on a business trip – the sole caretaker to 4 children after school bells ring. I’ll need to run errands today – make appointments, update paperwork that’s due every month. . .

Such a delicate balance, this moment, but I am really good on my toes.

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

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