Tag Archives: Journey

First Foster Placement, Week One

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.

Why I Love My Sister

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Growing up, we did not always get along. As with all our siblings, we fought. One time, when we were about 14 and 11, I pushed the wrong pre-teen button and she got so mad she literally grabbed my head, threw me to the ground, and proceeded to bash my skull into the glass of the sliding back door. Yeah, I guess you could say my sister and me never really could see eye-to-eye…

But, we were kids. The two girls in a brood full of boys, there were times we were forced to form an alliance; those guys never saw it coming when we cocked our rubber band guns and shot them down like Clint Eastwood in a cheesy Western film. One thing always rang true, no matter if we were duking it out or joining forces – I always loved my little sister unlike I loved anyone in my life.

When I was 21, shortly after our mom died, I moved away from our hometown in Washington to the sunny beaches of San Diego. Amanda was a new graduate and on her way to University of Washington to pursue a Mathematics degree and me, well, I just wanted to get the hell out of town. We lost touch for the next few years, but eventually got better at using that crazy invention called the telephone; our relationship, as adults, was just beginning.

I became a mother at the age of 24 and suddenly realized how much I needed my sister. Always the more maternal one by nature, I sought out her years of nanny training and demanded she tell me the secret to raising a good child. She was by my side soon after Layla was born, and I can honestly say there were times I thought I would lose my mind, a crying baby on my hip with no clue how to soothe her, but my faithful sissy was always there to help me through… And this was well before she ever had kids of her own.

As I have gone through my adult life, with as many trials and heartaches as I have endured, she was always a constant force of encouragement, and occasionally that hard dose of humility and, well, reality that a woman needs once in a while. She never said things just to get her word in, but instead, she was kind, compassionate, and truthful – and as I have become a mother, twice now, and grown so much, there is a great deal of that wisdom that came from a young woman I have been lucky enough to call my sister.

Now, she is a mother herself. After a surprise double-visit from the stork, Amanda and Jennie now hold two precious baby girls, and Lexie and Vienna are the sunshine they had been craving for years. I was blessed to get to travel to Boston just a month after their birth and meet my two precious nieces, and I got to watch my sister perform the wondrous dance of motherhood for the first time.

It was… amazing. She is everything I want to be, as a woman – a mom, a passionate pursuer of knowledge, and just as the kind of friend anyone is lucky to have – and I just loved the opportunity to watch her in motion.

I am home now, and tonight I got to thinking how fast life moves. These moments we have with the people we love are often for some and few for others; her and me are hundreds of miles apart, as I am from my entire family, and the time we get together is precious and too-few. When I think about the fact that I am almost thirty, and realizing there is still so much I have yet to experience and do, I am grateful that as I live my life, I know I have a loyal, loving companion whom accompanies me on this journey even from miles apart. She is the reason I am still in college, frankly, because she’s all but forced me not to throw in the towel. She is my inspiration and I am so lucky to have her for my math classes (Lord knows I wouldn’t have passed them without my genius math-whiz sister!)

I think of Amanda and realize how much bravery she has. I admire her strength of conviction, and the tenacity she had to face who she was, and face this life, and instead of cowering to the pressure to be like everyone else, my sister is blazing a trail and making her life beautiful.

If I could have even have of her courage, I would consider myself beyond blessed; when I am fearful about the choices I face, or when I am down and exhausted with life, I think of her and I realize how much more I have to give. Because she never gives up on pursuing her dreams. I want to be more like that.

We all have a journey to travel, and for the most part we do this alone. But there are reasons for the people we know, and the people we meet. Some of us get lucky to meet several great people in this life. Some of us are lucky to call them family…
I know several people, and I love many, but none so have my heart quite like the girl who was raised beside me. None so much as the one whom helps me marvel at life, and see things a little clearer. Because I’ve known her since her birth, and I believe our relationship is a testament to what real family looks like; we were destined to be sisters.

Please, cherish the time you have with your family. Appreciate the phone calls, the conversations, and the embrace of a loved-one… We are here and then we are gone, and it happens in a blink. Do not take the moments lightly, but instead, cherish them, because, after all, that is what life should be about.

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