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Fostering FAQ: How Can You Say Goodbye?

It seems I finally have something(s) to say... Here's the first in a short (or maybe long?) series on Fostering FAQs. If you've got a question to add, feel free to comment/email/text/message me and maybe the next post will be in response.

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8:30 am on Day 4 of parenting. I woke up in a panic two hours ago because I remembered that there is a baby and I am responsible for her (at least at 6:30am, when the man beside me will snore through anything). Now, I have put on clothes and eaten breakfast. The dogs are walked, there is a loaf of banana bread in the oven. My tea is steeping. Most importantly, Dream Baby is already down for her first nap.

Despite my morning efficiency, I'm already beginning to see that even with the happiest, most easygoing, and smiliest baby, like we somehow managed to be given, parenting is a grind. On Friday night, I couldn't join friends for $5 pints at a local joint. Instead, I blearily washed the same 8 bottles again, and then made another batch of formula. I googled "baby eczema" and texted someone to ask if I should be worried that she hadn't pooped since Thursday morning.

Yes, Dream Baby is so good she hasn't even made us change a dirty diaper yet.

Of course, I am terrified of the poop-splosion that is on the horizon; maybe it will happen this morning while she's in the nursery at church, and we'll gain another 24 poop-free hours...
Oh, my heart.
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The other thing that really is true about parenting? You fall in love so fast.

It's a little bit scary. 

Dream Baby isn't ours forever. And one of the most frequent questions people ask me about fostering is, "How will you say goodbye? Won't your heart break?" 

Yes. It will break over and over, I imagine, with each child we welcome into our lives and then send off to a permanent home. 

But the point isn't to protect myself. 

The point is to love. To love and protect a tiny person who is utterly defenceless and, through no fault of their own, in need of care. 

As one friend commented, I am particularly struck by the notion that, as a foster parent, you have to acknowledge the child/children in your house are not extensions of yourself, but instead are unique individuals with their own histories and distinct connections etc. And they're not there to meet your needs (though they may) but instead, you are providing hospitality and safety for them. It's really quite striking.

My choices from here on out are what's best for her. And what's best for her might end up meaning heartbreak for me. And I have supports in place to help with that. I'm acknowledging the limitations of our reality up front. I'm learning to adjust my expectations, and to plan ahead for the best goodbye possible. I have a partner whose emotional intuition and capacity astounds me. I have friends, family, a faith community. I have pups to snuggle. And I have a therapist a phone call away.

So my heart will break, but it will mend. And four days in, I can already tell you: it's worth it.

Comments

Anonymous said…
I have the utmost respect for what you are doing. All the best to you xoxo. Andrea B
Christine said…
Thanks for writing, friend. It is always a gift, and I'm so glad you share it.
I love your writing Beth. You have a large heart and already a great capacity for love and care. Muscles, when they are pushed hard and worked out will tear. When the workout is finished, the body rests and repairs broken muscle tissue with additional muscle - this is how muscles grow. You have a beautiful muscle for a heart, and the love and care and stability you give to these babies at a most critical point in their lives will forever change them, making their heart and yours stronger. I hope you write a beautiful story of hope for each child who enters your home to give them hope and a future. I have a family friend who plants a tree for each child in their home, and watches them grow year by year. Each child my family had was there for a time and purpose, and we still remember each one. Love and prayers for you for each day! Berubs
Beth said…
Thanks, Andrea!
Beth said…
This means a lot, Christine. Thank you.
Beth, thank you so much for sharing - loving without self-protection is a lesson I'm trying constantly to learn. Thank you for modeling that.
I've passed your blog on to a friend of mine in Texas who is in the process of training to be a foster parent. I hope you keep posting.
Beth said…
Thanks so much, Karen! I think the system in Texas/the US is quite different from here...but I'm sure some of the same principles are important. :)

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