My first experiences of motherhood and foster care all rolled into one...Maybe I should alternately title this, "The Road Less Traveled."
I seriously laugh at all the things I thought I was prepared for, (although deep down I know you are really never fully prepared).
Take for instance months of mental preparation for a docile, little baby sleeping in the corner of my attic/office space while I answer e-mails, read books and drink coffee all day. Now replace "docile, little baby" with "active, sneaky, big, strong-willed, toddler who hates to nap" and you can see how very little e-mailing, book reading, or even drinking my own coffee without hiding where he cannot find me, is going on in this place.
This is motherhood, and being inserted into the role of a mother at this age, in this stage, that is no joke. Add in the learning curve of my role as a foster parent, and completely uncharted territory is the perfect phrase to sum up this season.
That night we brought him home I sat in the dark of our little nursery, trying to rock him, trying to love him, trying to be a safe place. He kicked and screamed and flailed, and I cried so hard. This is not my baby. This is a big, strange boy who doesn't know me or like me. Finally, he fell asleep. I laid him down, left the room, and cried some more.
Foster care is a complex thing. This little boy came to us with 16 months of unknowns behind him. Hurts from the past, emotional disconnect, struggles with attachment. My first taste of motherhood involves some things I didn't account for. Our relationship still feels fragile, and we spend as much time as we can together to strengthen attachment, and heal the fear of abandonment. All this while living in my own fragile state, wondering what the future holds.
My first encounter with his birth mom, two weeks into placement, wrecked me again. Just when "normalcy" is sort of sinking in, a wild and new wave of emotion comes. When I met her, I just wanted to hug her and tell her I believe in her. One of the things that drew me to foster care was advocacy, championing of. Because who I am right now is a mother, but I am also a support system. I am blessing, and teaching, and pouring into the sweetest little boy because I get to be that in his life. Do I hope that it's forever? Yes, I do. But strangely, and equally, I don't want to see her fail. I want to see her succeed, and if she can succeed in ways that allow for her to care for him, then I have been an advocate for their success. This is what foster care means. At the end of the day, he may be with us forever, but at the end of the day, he may not.
It's just not easy. But we didn't choose this because we wanted easy. We had a strong sense that loving him [and any other babies we say yes to] would be worth it, and I can honestly say that I end each day feeling fulfilled in a way that trumps anything else.