Tag Archives: foster mom

I don’t know how to say this…

I don’t know how to say this, and I know I need to just say it. I have wanted to get back here to write about my experiences as a first time mama of my very own baby, but I have not been able to bring myself to do it because I feel I have to close out the last chapter of my mommy-hood as a foster mama. Even though I have already somewhat written about my feelings and experiences of closure with the fostering part of my life, something new has come up.

Shortly after I gave birth to my son, I learned some news of my first foster baby, Little Dude. He tragically passed away at the age of two, likely due to parental neglect. Without revealing details, his mom and dad both broke some rules, knew they were breaking rules, and when Little Dude had an accident, they did not take him to the hospital as they should have since they were worried that all of their children would be taken away from them. When they finally took him several days later, it was too late.

I feel sad, mad, and afraid since hearing this news. I have not wanted to address those feelings or spend time grieving this loss because I am putting so much time and energy into my new role as a mom and all of the love, joy, hard work, tears, and anxieties that come with it.

I feel mad that the foster system failed Little Dude and his brothers. I feel mad that the decisions being made about his brothers are still not in their best interest. I feel mad that the parents did not make their childrens’ safety more important than their need to hold onto their children. I feel so sad that this sweet baby had to senselessly die because the adults in his life did not protect him. I feel sad that his brothers are having to deal with the grief of losing their little brother and the grief of being shifted from place to place to place with no sense of safety or home or family. I wonder if they worry that what has happened to Little Dude could happen to them. I worry that they are not getting what they need, especially since they all have some kind of a special need or medical need.

Part of me feels like my time with Little Dude, all of the love and care I put into him were for nothing. I know that is not true in my head. I know that the seven weeks he spent with me at the beginning of his life were so important, that he got invaluable love and security from my care, but my heart feels heavy that he is gone. I feel grateful that he is now in heaven where he can no longer feel pain. I continue to pray that his brothers will be reunited with the family that should be allowed to adopt them so that they can be together with a familiar and loving family that will take care of all of their special needs.

Musings

I was just speaking with a couple of co-workers about the progress of some shared students, and one of them mentioned that the two of them were both moms. I didn’t catch it at first, but then the other one spoke up and said, “and so is she,” pointing at me. Her comment made me happy to be included, but more than that, it made me remember that, yes, I still am a mom. I am grateful for the reminder.

Love is Like a Stream

When I get a little emotional, my right eye begins to “leak”.  It’s like a little stream, but just out of that one eye.  I’m not sure why it happens that way, but it does.  As I was sitting in my bedroom in the Ikea “rocking chair” that was given to me by a friend who was moving, long before I had any idea I would be a foster parent, my eye began to leak.  I wasn’t alone as I sat rocking, my eye stream activated; Baby Incredible was lying on my chest.  He’s almost getting to big to do that now.  His legs curl up under him, and his arms hang off of the side of me.  

The first time I put him down for his nap, he woke up as soon as I left the room.  When it was clear he wasn’t going to go back to sleep, I went in, cleared off the rocking chair that had clothes piled on top of it…after all, what’s the use of it when there’s no baby in the house…and plucked him out of his crib.  He lay on me as I rocked, his ear against my chest, listening to my heartbeat.  We were both quiet.  I played with his hair, a little buzz cut now, his “jewish curls” gone.  His eyes fluttered, and my right eye leaked.  

I thought about how God knows just what we need, how he made the ultimate sacrifice for us, sending his Son to die on the cross, how all of my “sacrifices” for Baby Incredible pale in comparison to that.  I thought about how God knew exactly what I needed in that moment, and God is so amazing that it was actually what Baby Incredible needed, too.  We both needed each other, to have that skin to skin contact, for him to hear my heartbeat and for me to hear his breathing and smooth his hair and skin.  I don’t know if his mom rocks him when he is at home.  I know they don’t have a rocking chair.  I can’t imagine on her doting on him as much as I do when he’s here.  This is a gift for both of us.  

Everyone always tells new moms to sleep while the baby sleeps.  It is advice that seems to make sense.  New moms are sleep deprived and have a very demanding little human whose needs come before their own; moms need sleep.  This advice that sounds great in theory, doesn’t work out so practically.  There is laundry to be done and dishes to do and floors to be swept or mopped.  A lot of times, laundry or dishes or floors trump sleep.  Sometimes, though, holding your sleeping baby trumps all of that.  It is true for all moms that you never get that time back, but for this former foster mom, it is truer than true. I will never get back that opportunity to hold him a little longer while he sleeps, and I only get that opportunity once in a while.  

When I was a little girl, I had a lot of ideas about how my life would go.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be a “co-parent”.  Never did I picture sharing my little boy with another family, one who gets to call the shots.  That’s really what I have become.  Where I once was a foster parent, now I am a “co-parent”.  That said, I am grateful beyond words that I still get to be in this little boy’s life.  Actually, it is a miracle of God that I am able to be a co-parent of sorts.  This kind of thing virtually never happens.  God is definitely working in this situation.  I am grateful for all of my friends who have prayed for Baby Incredible and me and his family.  I am grateful for those who continue to pray.  This is one amazing little boy.

It’s interesting to think about the way I once pictured my life in comparison to the story God has written.  When I was a little girl, I thought I would be married by the time I was in my twenties.  That’s when my mom and dad got married, in their young twenties: my mom was 20, and my dad was 21.  I thought it would be easy to meet my “prince charming” and that we would have a fairytale wedding and have a few years to enjoy some time together before we started having babies.  I thought I would begin having kids when I was in my mid to late twenties, and I thought I would be well into the rhythm of being a mom by the time I was in my thirties.  None of the messy realities of adult life ever entered my consciousness.  I never thought about not meeting my prince charming or not having kids before I turned thirty or of foster care or adoption or co-parenting.  My picture was that so many things were difficult for me during the kid part of my life that things had to go easier in the adult part of my life…easier, no.  Better with God, yes.  

God has given me an amazing man to live the rest of my life with, and I get to marry him in 77 days.  Although fairy tales are not real, God has given me such a phenomenal story that it feels just as good to me as if it were a fairy tale.  Erick, my incredible beyond words fiancé, and I have been through more than most engaged couples and have learned and grown so much through it.  We have each been on a journey that has been tying us closer and closer together.  None of that would have happened the way it has without fostering being in our lives.  God knew.  Every time I am fearful of what lies ahead for us, I think about God’s plan being bigger and better than I could ever ask for or imagine.  Even in all of my ideas of what my adult life would be like, I never pictured that I would get to marry my best friend, that he would propose to me in such a well planned, well thought out, and romantic way, singing a song to me before he asked me to marry him.  Never did I think that we would get to have the courtship and dating relationship and engaged relationship that we get to have.  Never did I think that I would have such amazing friends and family around me during such an important time.  I am truly blessed.  

God is never finished working until Jesus comes.  “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 1:6

Vulnerability

To write well in this true life, journal, memoir, autobiographical, blogging genre, you need to be vulnerable.  I have not been ready or willing to do that since Baby Incredible left my care.  Today, amidst a vast array of feelings, I began to experience these little “nudges” I always feel just before I write an entry, so here I am, messy and emotional and not at all sure that anything worth reading will come out of this exercise in transparency and vulnerability.  

Baby Incredible left a lot behind at my house and in my heart.  I have constant reminders of him.  The stroller is still in my car.  His pack and play is still set up in my living room.  The boppy hangs from it, looking sad.  His crib and changing table are still in my bedroom.  The changing table is still stocked with diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream.  I find pacifiers everywhere: in old purses, in my car, in my garbage disposal, under the couch, or in my silverware drawer.  Every once in a while I will find a baby cereal puff on my floor.  The jogging stroller peeks out from behind the big comfy chair in my living room, one I used to sit in all the time with him and with Little Dude.  Funny that I never sit in it anymore; I didn’t realize that until just now.  His diaper bag sits on a small ottoman near the door, still filled with some of his stuff but also now with some of my things piled carelessly on top of it.  The foam mats I used to put on the floor for him to sit and play on are leaning against a piece of furniture in my living room.  His high chair is used for practical things like a small table fan that I can point at myself while I do the dishes in my hot kitchen.  The baby swing that I’m not sure what to do with swings the slightest bit when I have the swamp cooler on or a breeze comes in from outside.  There are ice cube trays of frozen pureed baby food still in my freezer and a smattering of bottles still up in my cabinet.  There is a box of baby oatmeal on top of my refrigerator.  Sometimes I swear I hear him crying from the other room.  

Baby Incredible left his little fingerprints all over my heart.  Am I sad?  Yes.  Do I miss him? Yes.  Do I understand God’s plan in all of this?  No.  But I do know that he has a plan.  Knowing what I know now, would I go back and change my mind about fostering Baby Incredible?  No.  Not in a million years.  I gave him all of the love I could give in the first eight months of his life, and I would do it all over again.  I pray so much that God will watch over him and give him a wonderful life in which he gets to have a relationship with God.  

I am learning so much in all of this.  As I am trying to learn to grieve this loss, I am learning that I am sad not just about Baby Incredible.  This loss has brought up other things for me…truths that have deep roots in my heart.  Babies and young children have always a source of comfort for me.  I have loved them and felt really at peace when around them.  I used to think I felt that way because I was “in my element”.  It is in more than that.  Babies have been a peace, a comfort for me, in a social world that was very anxiety producing for me.  I felt the safety of acceptance and unconditional from them, something I didn’t often feel with people my own age.  In essence, I am grieving the loss of that as well.  I got to feel that while Baby Incredible was in my care, and it was wonderful.  Now I am trying to learn to get that acceptance, love, and worth from God.  

There are miracles in this story, too, for which I am so grateful.  Since I took Baby Incredible back to live with his parents , he has come to visit me a few times and vice versa.  (This is part of the reason why I keep his things out at my house.)  His parents see the value in me still being a part of his life.  Praise the Lord.  I love that I still get to see him and be a part of his life.  The plan is for him to be one of the ring bearers in my wedding.  God is good.  

Five Months

It’s been five months.  It’s been 22 weeks.  It’s been 154 days.  That’s how long I’ve had Baby Incredible.  I expected to only have him for one or two months, although I knew there was a possibility it would be longer.  I don’t know for how much longer I will have him.  And that feels strange to say.  I’ve had him since he was so little that it feels like he is mine.  In many ways he is, which is what makes it so hard to think about him leaving me.  

Some think I’m crazy or even masochistic for doing this knowing that this is only a temporary situation…and an indefinite one at that.  Sometimes I think I’m crazy or masochistic for the very same reasons. I keep going back to the book “Middle Mom: How to Grow Your Heart by Giving it Away” by Christie Erwin. One of the things she wrote that really stuck with me was that people always ask her how she does it. How she takes in children and loves them as her own, only to ultimately give them up. They often say that they could never do something like that. I have had people ask me the very same thing. I have had people tell me the very same thing.  What has stayed with me is her response. Christie says that if you are a person who says you could never do it, you are precisely the kind of person who is needed. She goes on to explain that in order to be a good foster parent, you have to give your whole heart to the baby or child, even though you know you are eventually going to be faced with the pain of loss. Talk about sacrifice. Being a foster parent is the closest I’ve ever come to loving like Jesus. And I certainly couldn’t do it without God. He is the one who led me to foster, and I have to keep reminding myself to go to Him when I am feeling the strain of being a single working foster mom. This is God’s plan, so I know He has my back.

Looking ahead, anticipating when Baby Incredible might go, worrying about what problems may arise between now and then (because this time around it seems that there is a “crisis” every time I turn around), wondering how this is going to play out, is only hurting me. It’s causing me to take my eyes off of God, to lose my hope and my faith and my trust in Him. God has an amazing plan for Baby Incredible’s life and an amazing plan for my life. My prayers need to be centered on those truths. I need to cherish the moments that I have now, for where I am right now is exactly where God wants me to be, even though I don’t understand it. He wants me to basque in every smile and giggle and coo. He wants me to enjoy every moment: every bottle I make, every cry I soothe, every diaper I change, every smile I induce, every song I sing, every time I rock him to sleep. I know that when he is gone, I will miss everything…even the sleepless nights and long commutes and things that I can’t do because I am providing love and care for a little baby who is so very special.

Is it going to hurt when he goes? Absolutely. Will I always wonder how he is doing or if he is in pain or what he is learning in school or who he is becoming? Yes. He has left an indelible mark on my heart. And for that, I am honored and grateful.

Trust Your Role

I was sitting here rocking Baby Incredible to sleep, thinking about all that has transpires today. Thinking about how I should be less defensive and less reactive in my heart, how I should be more loving and compassionate towards the birthparents and social workers. I was feeling down and sad about the reality of this situation and wishing I could do more, wishing that I could be more in the situation that I have been given.

This is when I heard God say to me: “Trust your role.” I didn’t hear him say it like an audible voice in the room but like a thought he placed in my head. I know it was from him because it is not something I would say to myself. It is full of grace and love and compassion like only God can give, and it was exactly what I needed to hear right in the moment. Trust your role. Keep doing what you’re doing, and God is handling the rest. Amen

Being Refined is Painful

Thoughts going through my head right now: 

  • This isn’t fair.
  • I’m just trying to help.
  • Why am I doing this?
  • What could I do differently to keep you from acting this way?  
  • I am sacrificing so much to help your child.  I would walk through fire for him.  I would do anything for his good, yet you treat me like I’m the enemy.
  • Flawed systems that hurt children…flawed people that hurt children…hurt people, hurting people.
  • Every time I turn around, there’s another issue…one that you have fabricated. 
  • You are a crazy maker.
  • You are only hurting this situation that you are supposed to be helping.  
  • Children trying to raise babies.
  • You care more about being right and being in control than you do about the kids.
  • Addicts need boundaries…so why are you enabling?
  • You repeat yourself five times, a statement that I already heard.  Would you please answer my question?

If none of these thoughts make sense to you, then you’ve never had much exposure to the foster care system.  These are all thoughts swimming in my head after the conversations I’ve had today.  Birthparents who are acting out, social workers who don’t understand what they are doing (and many times do more harm than good), and fellow foster parents who are in the battle with me.

I say that I am being refined because above all this is a spiritual battle.  As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.  We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”  I am feeling my humanness today.  Where are my scriptures about being above reproach and turning the other cheek?  

  • “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44
  • “That’s why I take pleasure in my weakness, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:10
  • “Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.” – 1 Timothy 3:2

It is so hard to be complained about, accused, and generally disliked by someone for whom you are doing so much.  As Anne Shirley says in Anne of Green Gables: “It is a terrible injustice to be falsely accused.”  It is even harder to face that person and treat them with love and respect like the Bible commands.  Jesus did it.  He did it when he was being falsely accused and mocked and flogged and spit at.  He endured all of those things for us.  I am doing what I am doing for Baby Incredible and for God.  I am being refined to be more like Jesus.  And it is painful.  I can feel very alone in it, but that is where I need to turn to God.  Only he can carry me through all of the feelings I have about what is being said and done.  Only he can help me to love all of these people like he loves them.  

In the meantime, I am still doing this for two reasons:

  1. I love Baby Incredible and want him to have the very best start possible.
  2. “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” – James 1:27

And refusing to let the world corrupt me.  If you are reading this and you pray, please pray for me.  I want to be more like Jesus even when I am faced with people who make that difficult.