I am a {foster} mom

i am a foster mom

I get a phone call every few days for weeks updating me on a child in the hospital who may or may not come to live with me. I do not know her name or her story or her parents and yet I love her already. I pray for her health and safety every day since the first call.

I am a foster mom.

I go to meet the nurses, to learn how to care for this fragile little bundle and am suddenly spending the night. I learn to chart her needs and coordinate home health care workers and bring her home the next day. I hold her and rock her and pace the floors as she screams and tremors. I sleep by her side on the couch, in a chair, on the floor or occasionally in a bed most every night for the next two years, ready at a moment’s notice to administer medications, breathing treatments, clean up vomit or drive to the emergency room. I fight for services and to be seen by specialists.

I am a nursemaid.

I am a foster mom

I take her to horrible places to visit her parents, places I would never go on my own, let alone with a baby. I go with a bag full to overflowing of fun and happy and clean activities and distractions. I intervene at every interaction with her parents when they fall short of being able to meet her needs. I teach and mentor and influence her parents to know more and do better.

I am her protector.

I am a foster mom.

I keep a daily journal of activities, milestones, likes and dislikes, health updates; I provide hundreds of pictures. I speak with doctors and lawyers, judges and advocates, caseworkers and counselors, they flip through files and charts and reports to try to keep up and yet my memory is a steel trap of information of every moment of her life.

I am the keeper of memories.

I am a foster mom.

I teach her the alphabet, how to count and sing and dance. I teach her to say please and thank you and excuse me. She knows her animals and what sounds they make, she walks, runs, throws and kicks balls. She eats with utensils, helps clean up, sings and talks all day every day. I am silly and laugh with her, I play peek a boo and tickle monster. I teach her how to be kind to others. I take her to music classes and children’s programs. I decipher her baby sign language and interpret her toddler speak. Yet her good manners, vocabulary, humor and intelligence are all attributed to her DNA.

I am a teacher.

I am a foster mom.

I hold her in one arm and hold her mother in the other and I pray over them both. I teach her to sing of Jesus and read her bible stories, I hold her tight as we sing songs of praise in church and at home and in the car. I drive hundreds of miles a week and many hours to visit her mother. I bring strollers and carriers, birthday cake and clothes for mom. I make soup and bring tools for baby proofing, I encourage and cheerlead. I celebrate mom’s achievements and cry with her over setbacks. I accept her calls and listen to her woes. I provide rides and wait while mom is late so visits can happen, I remind mom of appointments she’d otherwise miss. I receive lectures and disapproval at how far above and beyond my role I go.

I am a follower of Christ.

I am a foster mom.

I judge her mother’s actions, criticize her motives, I am angry and disappointed with her, I doubt her abilities. I often don’t believe her. I want to be happy for her, she has come so far and yet I am terrified.

I am a sinner.

I am a foster mom.

I change my schedule sometimes several times a day to accommodate her parents’ visits, I drive, I supervise. I put my life on hold, I miss trips and events, I cannot RSVP for anything, my life revolves around this case. I lose touch with my family, I lose friends. My other children suffer and act out and distance themselves from me and yet I can’t reach out through the fog. I sit in court and listen to all the things I’ve done be credited to social services and her parents. I do all of their jobs and yet am viewed as a babysitter and taxi service at best. Mom’s counselors and coaches view me as some kind of baby stealer, I receive dirty looks and am spoken about instead of spoken to. I am often not even acknowledged. I watch as the system lets her down, time and again, unable to do a thing.

I am nobody.

I am a foster mom.

I drop her off at her mother’s house, but first I stay until she’s comfortable being there with this virtual stranger to her. I tell her its going to be okay, I tell her not to be scared, I tell her she is safe.

I am a liar.

I am a foster mom.

I note changes in behaviors and document regressions in abilities. I comfort her through bad nights and I watch as she wakes confused. I hold her extra. I allow her mother to peel her clinging, tiny little fingers off me so I can slip away for their visit. I tell her it’s okay, I tell myself it’s for the best, that it’ll be okay in the long run. I do my best to comfort the other children in their grief as they miss her. I tell her she is loved.

I am heartbroken.

I am a foster mom.

I buy two of everything that is a favorite of hers so she can have one here and one there. I write out schedules and routines, likes and dislikes, tips that work, things that don’t. I pack up an embarrassing amount of clothes and toys and books and shoes and coats and blankets. I tell mom I’ll be here if she needs me, I will be her support system, daycare backup, whatever she needs. And I mean it. I don’t believe she’ll ever call. Two years almost to the day that I packed this precious baby up to come home from the hospital, I have to pack her up to leave at another mother’s house. I have to break her heart, I have to walk away, I have no choice.

Will she ever know how much I love her? Will she ever know that she was never abandoned? Will she ever know this was not my decision? Will I ever know if we’ve broken the cycle? Will I know where she is or how she is? Will I ever sleep again? Will the tears and pain ever stop? Can I keep smiling as I say goodbye, can I make her believe it’s a fun new adventure? Can I get to the car before my knees give out from the heaviness of the grief and before the uncontrollable sobs give way?

I am forever changed.

I am a {foster} mom.

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