like most things in life, it's not as scary as I had projected it to be. BUT...sometimes a crisis can make us stand back and reevaluate our lives and how we got were we are. I was having one such crisis the other night in the form of one very cranky baby...
At the end of last year our family had ended nine months of fostering our baby niece and her two older brothers. This had swelled our family from having two kids to five, and pushed us to our parenting limits. From the experience we had with them, we learned alot about what we could do and not do. Overall, our experience had been a positive one and from that, we decided that perhaps we could do foster care for other children. Our kids had gotten along well with there cousins over the nine months and had seemed to enjoy having other kids around to play with. So...while five may have been to much...we thought that perhaps having one or two extra kids around was doable for our family. And so we made the decision to become emergency foster care parents.
For those who don't know what that is...emergency foster homes receive kids who have been newly removed from their parents..for whatever reason. First, they often go to a hospital emergency room to be checked out for health and signs of abuse. Then, the emergency foster family would get the call to come pick them up....that's us. The kids are often scared and completely bewildered about what's going on so it takes a very soft touch and alot of understanding to help them get through it. We don't get to chose who comes or even know much about their background. That's just the nature of emergency fostering.
Not long after we made the decision, we received a six year old boy and things had been going really well. Then...shortly after, a thirteen month old baby boy came to be with us. It was our second day with the baby when I hit an emotional wall I had not expected to encounter...
Around 11:30 the baby woke up and began to cry. Everyone in the house needed to be up early the next day including my husband who had to get up at 4:30am for a 16 hour work shift and the kids who had school the next day. So..It was up to me to help sooth baby boy back to sleep. No biggy...I've done this before and didn't think too much of it beyond being half asleep myself.
However, I had done this before...more than once. Why was I freaking out? I could not figure out what was different about this time...and then I got it. When we fostered Daniel and Selena, it was on the way to adoption. From the first day they came home with us I saw them as my son and daughter. Any trials we went through were just part of becoming a family and learning to be parents. From day one I had thought of them as mine. Years later, we fostered our baby niece and her two older brothers, who were quite a handful and pushed us to our parenting limits We spent quite a few nights trying to get the baby to sleep when her new teeth made sleep impossible for any of us. But again...they were family. There was a sense of connection there....a belief that we were doing what family should do in these circumstances...stepping up and taking care of each other.
Finally, when both the baby and I were exhausted, he went to sleep...both of us passed out from sheer exhaustion. A new day did not bring a new outlook however, and I found myself with all of last nights doubts still there. It was all the preconcieved fears I had from long ago...long before taking care of my own kids and fostering my nieces and nephews should have taught me not to be afraid. I began to dread the night...it's silly...I know that...but I did. I slept with one ear open and waited for the inevitable. The doubts of the night before had taken hold and I found myself wondering if I had what it took to do this long term. Just having that doubt made me feel like a monster. How could I think this? It's not the babies fault he got a raw deal in life. He's as cute as a button and otherwise very well behaved for a thirteen month old. He was just in pain....physically and emotionally. It was everything that had scared me about foster care before I had adopted....messy, scary, and uncertain.
Days went by...and with the medicine his ear infections cleared up. Then the most amazing thing happened....this very serious little boy who was all tears suddenly blossomed into a playful baby with smiles and sometimes giggles. He also began to sleep more regularly and on his first night of sleeping all night long I did my own little happy dance the next morning. Little by little screaming gave way to giggles and my fears gave way with them.
So this is my confessional. I am not a perfect person..or a perfect parent. I am not the superhuman person I imagined a foster parent would have to be. I know that there will be more challenges in store and I hope that when I have to face them I will remember what I learned and become not only a better foster parent...but a better parent...and human being.
Until next time dear readers