Monday, November 4, 2013

Be Careful What You Wish For

"Be careful what you wish for,
'Cause you just might get it all.
You just might get it all,
And then some you don't want."

In the three months since I last wrote (THREE MONTHS?!), I've started and stopped this particular post at least 3 times. First it was funny. Then ironic. And after that, a little melancholy. So.... here goes Round 4.

As summer was winding down, Brian and I had the opportunity to provide emergency placement for not one but two foster children - siblings actually. A little boy who stayed in our home and his newborn sister being cared for in a local NICU. I'm not sure what we were thinking when we (well, me) said yes to taking custody of two children, but everything happens sort of fast once you get the phone call. I would love to tell you more about them both, but they've had a rough start in life and deserve for some adult to want to protect them and their privacy. So - I'll say this - both were very sweet, easygoing and desperate for/responsive to snuggles. In situations like this, social workers try to keep siblings together and as it turned, there were more siblings in the picture than we knew at the start. So, rather that go from one child to three children 2 & under (or four or more!), the children were placed with a family able to do what we couldn't. I do have bouts of guilt over this, but let's be realistic for a minute - we don't even own a car that could fit three carseats. Talking about jumping into the fire......

Cameron did a great job with our foster. We explained to him that a little boy was coming to stay with us for a little bit. He was eager to "take care of my baby" and for the first few days, helped with meals and bathtime and did a great job of sharing. At some point, he realized that he wasn't getting all the attention, all the treats and all the toys. In what I recall being true-oldest-child-fashion, he embraced his inner brat and became very difficult. I think the whole thing was a positive experience for him though I worry that he wonders how a baby could just come and go from one day to the next. Yet - children are so freaking resilient.... in a way that few adults are. I wonder how/when we lose this tendency and become messy and over-analytical.

I haven't written about this because it's damn hard to write about.

Getting to be a foster parent is an incredible, overwhelming, terrifying experience. In my opinion, it is so different from becoming a parent to a child you've carried with you for nine months. Not better or worse- just totally different. And yes, becoming a parent to a child you carry is also incredible, overwhelming and terrifying.... just in a different way. Parenting a child that you don't know is as awkward as it sounds.  You don't know what their words/noises mean or what they like to eat or what will soothe them when they are sad. I can't even begin to imagine what it must have been like to be with you mom one minute and then be handed over to complete strangers in a strange home the next. There were lots of tears in my house while we had our foster.... I'm pretty sure Brian was the only one who could make it through the day without crying (that I know of!). 

But for me, what was even more heartbreaking/frustrating than learning to care for our fosters, was the way that having them made me feel. You see, fostering was supposed to be the answer. Two and a half years ago, I was in a hospital gown waddling up and down the hallway of the cardiac ICU waiting for my doctor to arrive with an update. Cameron was 9 days old and I hadn't seen him for 24 hours and all I wanted was for someone to tell me that I could go home. The doctor came with good news - my tests were good, my heart was stable, I was responding to all the meds. Great. Awesome. 

But. Getting pregnant again? Probably not a good idea. 

Ok. Fine. We'll adopt. We'll foster. Who can even think about that?! We have a newborn at home.

And the newborn became an infant and then a toddler and now a little boy. And fostering was the answer. It didn't occur to me (or perhaps, I ignored it?) that having a foster child(ren) would nag at the unsettled part of me - the part that dwells on what might have been, what could have been, what should have been. It didn't occur to me that having a foster child would be such a blunt, visible reminder of what is not. I desperately hoped and planned for fostering to be full of rainbows and sunshine and butterflies (though not a single soul has every described it that way) because it was THE ANSWER.

As it turns out, putting the eggs in one basket is foolish (I swear we already learned this lesson somewhere along the way!!!) This is what I know - in my life, on this journey - there isn't one answer. I think we'll be dipping our toes in a lot of water (or jumping into many fires) to find our next baby, our sibling for Cam. We're not going to stop doing what we're doing though. I spent a period of time wondering if he was an only child..... if maybe, just maybe we're only meant to do this once.  I can tell you for sure - this is NOT the answer.

"I guess when your heart gets broken, you sort of start to see the cracks in everything. I'm convinced that tragedy wants to harden us, and that our mission is to never let it." - Felicity