He’s not coming back today, tomorrow, or the day after. He’s gone.
Thirteen months ago, the phone rang. “It’s a boy!” A brother, a son, a new baby is coming to our home! Could it really be number 13? A bakers dozen is very fitting for our family. Picking up our 7 lb 11 oz bundle of joy from the hospital was all a little surreal. But this time the cards were laid differently. The State would be pursuing an adoption in this case — something that the State wouldn’t dare venture to do from the get-go with our other nine adoptions, and this little monkey would be a part of our forever family!
My “littlest baby” is a little ray of sunshine that peeks through even on the darkest day. But now he’s gone.
Everywhere I turn there is a thought of you: the empty crib in my room; the carseat in the van; the toys on the floor; the little socks I find lost in the laundry; and your two-year-old brother wandering around with your shoes, confused because he can’t find you. But my days are no longer filled with you following me around, waiting at the window to see me come in from outside, standing on the side of your crib in the morning to wake me up, your smile, your laugh, your cute little jabbering, and your little “toddle waddle.”
The life of a foster parent is more than anyone can understand without living it. It’s an emotional roller coaster with twists and turns in directions you never would have thought. Yes, we hear you when you say, “You are so amazing. I don’t know how you can do it. I couldn’t imagine giving them back. There’s a special place in heaven for people like you.” But guess what? I’m not feeling very amazing. I’m not feeling like I can go on. I’m not wanting to give him back. I’m not feeling like there is a special place in heaven for me. I’m no stronger than you are. I’m a mother, just like any other.
I’m feeling broken, confused, sad, uncertain, and like I just lost my baby, because I did.
What I really want you to know is that the life of a foster parent is hard. It’s emotional. It’s demanding. It’s frustrating. And many times we are left without understanding.
What I really want you to know is that the life of a foster parent is wonderful, amazing, rewarding, and an honor.
It’s a double-edged sword, a balancing act to speak. Love them as your own. Raise them as you would. Provide them a place they are safe, a place where they can grow. But be prepared to return them “back.” Every case is so different that you can never know or prepare for what lies ahead. The dynamics are never the same and everything is unpredictable. Even with years of doing this, it doesn’t get easier.
So many times I get asked right from the beginning, “Are you going to keep them?” I’d love to blurt out in every case, “YES!” But that’s just not the way this works. They have other parents, and in most cases parents that love them. Me saying their parents love them may blow your mind. You get stuck on the situation, on the evidence that brought the child into my home. But good or bad lifestyle doesn’t change the fact that they tend to love their children and may just be not so good at being a parent. And I want the parents to get their lives together. I want them to be successful. Often I find my heart breaking for the life the parents were raised in. They didn’t really have a shot at being a good parent given their own personal history.
I’m not a foster parent to be a hero. I’m a foster parent to help change lives, to be a safe haven, a calm in the storm, to influence for good, to lift up when needed, to love unconditionally.
While much is unpredictable in each case, there is much that keeps us going.
What I do know… I know that each child that has been part of our family has come for a reason. Some children stay, some go, and some are just what we need in our lives at that time. And for some, we are just what they need in their lives. I do know that we will build memories, have good times and bad, and provide a fresh start for many. I do know that it is possible to love unconditionally. I do know that it is possible for people to change. I do know that each child will make it where they belong according to God’s plan.
I do know that nothing is final until all is said and done. I do know that plans change. I do know that even though he is gone, there is still hope. There is hope that he may find his way back into our family. There is hope that the written plan of adoption may stay intact. There is hope for my littlest baby to be in our forever family.
While others will call us his foster parents, to him, I am his mother; to him, David is his father. To us, he is our son. And while it is hard to get through each day, in the words of my dad, “While I breathe, I hope.”