March 19, 2017

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.