Opening our hearts to foster care

Opening our hearts to foster care

It all started one weekend in May 2019. Little did we know that a decision we would make on an impromptu weekend getaway would bring so much love, heartache, joy, sadness and fulfillment into our lives.

My husband Dan and I had been trying to have a baby for almost nine years and were nearing the end of our journey.

By that I mean we were nearing the end of our rope and weren’t sure how much more heartache, disappointments and waiting we could endure. During the past nine years we had experienced four early miscarriages, over a year at a fertility clinic with unsuccessful IUI cycles and had opted to not try IVF but instead move to adoption.

We had begun our adoption journey in 2016 and here we were three years later feeling more defeated and broken than we had thought possible.

We had been trying to adopt a baby through private adoption and were signed up with three different agencies. Our profile had been shown to six different birth mothers but we had never been chosen by any of them. While we knew this wasn’t a reflection on us, it was hard not to wonder what the heck was wrong with us. The constant cycle of getting our hopes up and wondering if this was the time, only to find out they had gone with a different family, was slowly breaking us. By May of 2019, we knew in our hearts that we were done with private adoption.

But the big question was, were we done completely? Were we ready to start a child free life?

We had recently become relief foster parents through our local Children’s Aid Society and had done a few weekends with some older kids over the past few months. While we were enjoying it and happy to help out in this way, I had been feeling a tug to do foster care on more of a full time basis. So on that fateful weekend in May, Dan and I discussed what our next steps would be.

We decided to give full time fostering a go, with the hopes of adopting in the future. Our local agency still had a foster with a view to adopt program in place and so we decided that is what we would sign up for. We knew the risks were high of a child placed with us not staying, but we had reached the point of being ready for that possibility. We of course still secretly hoped that we would never have to say goodbye to a baby/child.

We were in touch with our worker and started the process to update our file to move from relief foster parents to foster with a view to adopt parents. We expected it to take a few months and were thinking we might get a placement by the end of the summer. Fast forward a month, which brings us to the day that changed our lives forever.

It was a Tuesday afternoon when I got the call that there was a seven week old baby in the hospital and they needed someone to go stay with her full time.

I was told that they weren’t sure how long she would be in care for, that they had very little information on her case, that she was for sure going to be going home to family and that this situation would not lead to adoption. Our worker was very clear and open with us that this was not a foster with a view to adopt situation and she didn’t want us to say yes if we weren’t comfortable with it. But as soon as I picked up that phone and started hearing the little they did know, I knew that we would be saying yes. And so we did. I drove home like a crazy person, packed a bag of overnight stuff and rushed to the hospital to be there by 4pm.

In less than 3 hours, I became a mom. Not in the way I had imagined it, not her only mom and not forever, but I was a mom to that precious little baby for that moment.

I got to the hospital and looked at that tiny little bundle lying in the hospital bed and felt completely overwhelmed and unprepared. But she needed me and I didn’t know it then but I needed her too. I spent the first 48 hours alone with her in the hospital, as Dan was working out of town and couldn’t come until two days later. This was not how I had imagined our first placement going, by myself and in the hospital. It was a whirlwind time full of sleep deprivation, tracking bottles and diapers, constant nurse and doctor changeovers, and visits with social workers and bio parents. Looking back, I’m not really sure how I held it together as well as I did for those eight days we spent in the hospital with her, but I did and we were finally discharged and able to bring her home.

Foster care is such a weird mix of emotions. We had a beautiful little baby to care for and love on, but at the cost of her family not being able to do the same.

I felt like her mom in so many ways but I knew she already had a mom that was aching for her to come home. People would say congrats to us and I would smile awkwardly, because how do you respond to that? We were able to love on and have this baby with us because someone else lost that privilege. I get why people said it, it’s the normal thing to say when someone brings a baby home, but foster care just makes it that much more complicated. We were excited but sad, it was such a conflicting time. So.many.emotions.

But one thing I knew I could do was love on this little precious bundle for as long as we had her in our lives.

We threw ourselves into parenting her and loving her and taking care of her to the best of our abilities and just like we would any kid that came into our home. In some ways, we were like a normal family but in other ways not at all. We did bottles, diapers, rocking, night waking, playing, teaching and celebrating together, just like any family would. But we also had to bring her to access visits with her family three times a week, many doctors’ appointments, and a lot of social worker visits. I had to fill out forms for everything and document every little detail. It was a lot but I didn’t care. I had fallen in love with this little girl the moment I laid eyes on her and I was going to do everything I needed to do to make sure she was safe and loved and happy.

We had gone into foster care thinking about adopting and hoping beyond all hopes that we wouldn’t have to say goodbye to a child. And yet here we were, parenting a baby that we knew would be leaving and learning so much about foster care. Every case/situation is different but some things that I had the privilege of learning from this experience was that her parents loved her, wanted what was best for her and fought to get her back. They were her family and she deserved to be with them if that was the safe thing. Bio parents are real humans with feelings and problems, who have made mistakes and screwed up. It was so helpful for me to develop a relationship with them, to see that they were trying and be able to cheer them on. So while I kind of wanted to keep her forever because I loved her so much, I wanted her to go home and be able to grow up with her family.

Which is exactly what happened. Six months to the day of when we welcomed her into our lives, we said goodbye to her.

It was one of the hardest things we have ever done and it broke us in ways we didn’t know possible. But we have zero regrets and wouldn’t trade those six months for anything. She will always be our first baby, the one who taught us how to be parents and who changed our lives for the better.

We are continuing to foster, not knowing if babies/children will stay for a time or forever, but that’s a risk we’re willing to take right now.

We are taking it case by case and if we feel like we can’t do it any longer, then we will stop. We are currently on to our second placement, a baby girl who was placed with us at a day old. Actually, there was some overlap with the two which resulted in a super insane three weeks of us being parents to a newborn and a seven month old, but that’s a story for a different day. In the meantime, you can just find us over here loving on this baby, loving on her family and taking it one day at a time.

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