Being a foster mom is a strange thing.  It feels completely natural to care for this child and yet I am reminded repeatedly how unnatural this situation actually is. 
 I am "just" a caregiver, but I am also a mother. 
I mother this child and yet I'm not.

She doesn't know the difference, and honestly neither does my own heart.

When I said goodbye to my first little foster newborn about 5 years ago (who was actually my fourth foster child) I wondered if I had done something wrong.  Was there some sort of foster parenting trick I hadn't learned, was there a secret that would shield me from the hurt? Was I just not cut out for this sort of thing? I was convinced I was a failure at fostering simply because I loved him, and I didn't want him to go.  I didn't want to send a tiny baby out into the unknown. It was a painful letting go.  

When something feels really bad it's natural to assume that it is bad, that we are doing something wrong.  I felt a little guilty...like I wasn't being "professional" enough. I thought maybe I was just doing it wrong. 

Over the years, a few more foster babies, a couple adoptions, and conversations with other foster parents, I've decided that "getting attached" just means that I'm doing what a foster mom is supposed to do.  Loving.  Grief is just part of the gig when you let go of someone you love.

It's hard though.  It's hard not to want to put up walls of self preservation and hide. Part of me wants to run far and fast. Every instinct I have tells me to jump from a train that's barreling towards certain disaster, to climb into a life boat and row away to safety while this ship flounders. 

This is where the gospel weaves it's way into my heart and realigns my thinking.  I am set aright, even when all seems wrong.  

I choose to walk with her in the mess. 
Press into the pain.
Double down.

The word "attached" often comes up when someone is asking or commenting about fostering.  

"I could never do that I would get too attached"

That's a fair assessment.  Most likely you would.

Getting "attached" is what we do.  I don't have a heart of steel that can care for a child like I would my own, and yet feel nothing but a vague fondness for them.  It also implies that I might be stronger than your average woman, or some sort of super saint...which is not only untrue but it encourages the idea that fostering isn't something more people could do.  I'm just a regular mom who said "yes".  "Attached" just means you have loved well. 

If an abandoned baby, or child in need, showed up on your door step you would do the same thing.  
I just volunteered to be that doorstep.  

That volunteering for it can create some confusion in my own heart and mind though. 
"This child is most certainly not yours, how dare you ever feel like she is".

 It can also give the illusion that because "she signed up for it" she has no right to feel actual genuine grief when that child leaves. 

The word "attached" can also be used in a head tilted condescendingly to the side, sympathetic  toned, "I guess you got attached, didn't you".  It generally implies that getting attached is a pitfall to be avoided, or an inherent weakness to be overcome.  My ability to bond with a child that needs a firm parental bond is not a liability but an asset. 

I will love her like she is my own, because for right now 
in this moment
she is.

I am woken multiple times a night to comfort and nourish. 
I stumble zombie eyed through the dark kitchen making a bottle.  
I pace the carpet waiting for little eyes to close. 
I sit and rock a fevered baby while carefully wetting her hair.
I hold her in my firm grasp, hold back tears, and whisper soothing sounds into her ear as she is vaccinated, and has blood drawn. 
I am filled with pride and joy with every "first".

I am warmth, comfort, security, and sustenance.
I am mother.

She gazes intently at my face as she feeds.
Her smiles break out as milk drips down the corners of her mouth.
She turns her head at the sound of my voice,
quiets and calms as she feels my arms.
Right now, in this moment, I'm mommy.  I am the foster mom...not a babysitter, an impostor, or a pretender.

Simply because that's what she needs. That's what God designed every new baby to need. 
I can be that for her. 
I know how to be a mom.
Even if its only for a while.

What is it like to foster parent a newborn?
Its just like parenting your own newborn...without the leaky boobs and stitches down under. 

What is it like to say goodbye?
I'll let you know when that day comes. 

One day at a time. 
Today I'm going to give her as much love as she needs. 

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."  Matthew 6:34


Lynnea Hameloth said...

Carla, thank you for sharing your heart. This was beautiful <3

Anonymous said...

Thank you for that. I have always wanted to foster but we can't for personal reasons. When I mention it to other people they always say what you mentioned, " Oh I could never do that, it would be to sad." Of course it would be sad. It's not something that you do to fill a void in ourselves, it is something you do to fill a void in someone else. It's costly. But for every ounce of love that is poured out, for every bit of pain endured, the reward is eternal. The love that we pour out in this life we get to take with us to the next. In the end we will fully understand that it is more blessed to give than to receive. And I know that she has already been such a blessing to you.

Nikki Geho said...

God bless you for sharing your heart!!! I too am a foster mom and you wrote my exact thoughts and feelings! Continue to love your baby❤️

Mrs.B said...

<3 Just what I needed to read today, as I sit snuggling my 14 week old foster daughter and dreading the day that may come sooner then it should...

Katie McBride said...

I know this is old but I just had to comment. I said goodbye to my foster child last week. The next day I had an unexplainable mini meltdown in the cell phone store while trying to make a decision on the new best phone for my needs. Why did I meltdown? I don’t exactly know, except that my brain just couldn’t do another thing. After you have nurtured a child every day for the first 2 years of their life, saying goodbye cannot be an easy thing. Even though I knew she was going to a good home, a safe situation, and a loving family, I am still insanely sad and even jealous that WE couldn’t be her family. All I can do is hold onto the fact that God knows why she needed this time with us and He will not allow it to be wasted. ❤️��