Saturday, February 26, 2011

Foster Diaries...Laying Your Heart On The Line

When I used to look forward to the future and wonder what my life would be like, one of the things I NEVER saw myself doing was foster parenting. First and foremost I was scared of having to face the way hurting kids can act out that hurt. I imagined kids having raging tantrums and screams of, "Your not my parents! I hate you!." I imagined kids who were sad and lost in a world of bewildering adult goings on, with hearts full of hurt and minds full of questions with no easy answers. If I am being totally honest, I need to admit that I was afraid....afraid to face the pain of others and all the emotional messiness that I knew would come with trying to help another hurting soul make their way through the world. I just did not feel I had what it took to do that....Yet here I am.

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.


Two hours later I was still trying to get him to go to sleep and he wasn't having it...not...at...all. I tried his pacifier, a bottle of milk, rubbing him to sleep...anything I could think of. He would just drift off to sleep and when I thought it was safe, I would sneak back into my own bed. No sooner had I pulled up the covers when  he would start in again. After a while I was reaching the end of my rope because I was running out of options. It was during this time when nothing was working...it was now 1:30am...I was alone and exhausted...when all the doubts I used to have about foster care came creeping out of my subconscious to taunt me from the shadows. "Can I really do this?"..."Do I have what it takes to be there for inconsolable babies or kids with emotional pain they can't even express?"...."What the heck was I thinking?".."Is this going to work out?" Doubt took over my mind and wouldn't let it go.

First..I need to say that the baby was truly in a state of need and I was going to be there for that need if my arm needed to fall off to get him to sleep. This poor little guy had come into our home with two ear infections, as well as teething pains. He may also have been having reactions for the antibiotics that the ER docs gave him for the infections...AND...here he was in a strange home with strange people. He had alot to be upset about. I don't blame him at all for being fussy and scared. But with my kids needing to sleep for school the next day and my husband needing sleep before a 16 hour work shift, letting him cry it out was just not gonna work either.

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.


When things had gotten tough, I had cracked. Maybe not in action, but inside I had. I had looked at baby boy and wondered what the next night would bring...now I looked at his smiles and giggles and began to to feel sad for the day when he would move on...either to a family member who could care for him or an adoptive home. I was ashamed that I had doubted so much even though I knew why....risk.

I had known about foster families when I was a kid, and when I thought about them I would think of them as being emotionally superhuman people. I imagined them to be emotionally invulnerable. I thought that it must take some kind of steel will to deal with all the pain and anger that foster kids would have to be feeling and directing at them. I knew that the kids were scared because I imagined that's how I would feel if I had to be taken away from my family. I was amazed that people took on that kind of challenge. When I looked inside myself I didn't see the ability to take that on...to take the risk of being there emotionally for a child who is just scared to death and needing your kindness and patience....sometimes just to be with them as they deal with the impossible. This fear..self doubt...prejudice...whatever it is, stayed with me, even through all my previous experiences with adoption and fostering.

Little by little...first through adopting my two kids..then by taking in niece and nephews I had been becoming one of those people. I just couldn't see it because it happened by degrees. So when I ask myself, "how did I get here?"...I know how. I may have had a crisis moment, but when the crisis passed I not only saw the situation more clearly...I saw myself a little more clearly. I was wrong about foster care. It doesn't take steel will or the emotional constitution of a saint. It just takes normal people and the patience to hold on while the pain works itself out. I didn't think I could be that person...but I have done it..and more than once. Before, I did it for myself in building a family. Then I did it for family. Now it's not about me...or so I thought.

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

22 comments:

  1. Bryan, you are an Angel. You and Jay are such good guys. Good Humans. Selena and Daniel are so blessed and so are the foster kids that you take into your home. You don't have to be perfect, but your kids, they surely do think you are. Blessings sweetie. Mindy xoxo

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  2. wow.. that really moved me.... that was beautiful .. yet i really could feel your pain as you went through your story.... I just want you to know Me and my Husband, maybe in Oklahoma, but i want to give thanks to men like you two! You two have so much love in your hearts and help so many not just your friends, family, fostering but you both help many people varying in age in either coming out, to describing situations ... you two men both deserve Father of the Year!!!! thanks so much for giving people in Oklahoma the bible belt faith that Gay families are possible and there are still good people in this world! hope your family has a blessed week!

    Robert and Ryan

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  3. A great insight into your life, thank you.

    I was approached a few months ago and asked if I would like to foster. I have said no so far, simply because I am unsure of how I would cope, not so much with the children, but with having to say goodbye to them.

    You are providing a great service to society and children in need. Very brave. And you have given me further food for thought.

    And I love the makeover you have given your blog. xx

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  4. i still say you guys walk on water...hugs

    KENNY

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  5. Bryan do not doubt your worth. You are an Earth Angel.

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  6. definitely still one of my heroes

    talentguynyc/matt

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  7. Courage is not the lack of fear.
    It is when you are scared out of your wits,
    questioning yourself and everything you believe in.
    Courage is when, despite all that, you keep going anyway. Because you see someone who's need is more pressing, who's fear is greater, than your own. Because you see what needs to be done, and you do it.
    Someone said that once, or something like part of it anyway.
    You and Jay, (and Daniel and Selena for that mater) are truly courageous. You say that to do what your family is doing does not require you to be super-human; but it is not for every one either. Society is forever in debt to your family and all others like you, for having the courage to take that leap of faith, betting that you have what it takes to be a parent to these kids for however long they need you.
    You are guardian angels who are there to watch over and support, not only the kids you foster, but all who need someone to look to.
    Thank you.

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  8. You really have empathy. You know the fear and pain (& frustration & anger) the child is experiencing because you've felt all those emotions - might even be feeling them in concert with the child (though for somewhat different reasons, perhaps). The Superhuman wouldn't feel pain or anger. Some people have lost the ability (if they ever had it) of recognizing their own feelings (especially negative ones) when manifested in others. Those people are probably not good parents.

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  9. It was a very honest "article". You inspire us all! Thank you so much.
    Judit

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  10. Artjommm from YouTubeFebruary 27, 2011 at 11:28 AM

    Bryan, I know I've written it before, but: You are one of the VERY BEST representatives of our planet. We should clone you and Jay. You both are a constant source of inspiration. Please just carry on eating, praying and loving! :)

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  11. Hi Bryan...this was very well written, open and honest. I have always wondered how fosterparents have the strength to do what they are doing. Take care of children they don´t know and being strangers to hurt and sometimes sick children. Reading this gives me a little idea of how it´s like...hard work with a lot love. Not to give up when it feels tough. I know how it feels just to babysit for a friend for a while...trying to comfort a child who doesn´t want to be with you and who misses mum and dad. How frustration that can be. So I must say you are doing a great job having foster kids. But remember to get some time for yourself too...to fill up the batteries:)

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  12. We used to watch your fabulous youtube videos...then we had a baby and have been out of the loop for a year 'cause sleep-deprivation will do that. I didn't know you had a blog! I have lots of reading and catching up to do!
    Your kids are just getting more and more beautiful. And now you guys are fostering - that's great (and scary and hard I'm sure, but wow, so great).

    Sounds like you had a really tough night with your little guy, but did what he needed. Our 13 month old recently had a bout of pneumonia and I hear you on the not-sleeping sick babe (and as you say, your little guy isn't only dealing with physical pain). Sounds like you're doing great with him.

    Congrats on starting to foster. (And yay on your blog).

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  13. Reading your words I can tell this little one taught YOU a great deal about love. I am proud to "know" you all - if only via the internet!

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  14. Amazing, thank you to sharing with us!!!

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  15. Wow...very good blog. I know for a fact that adoption will be an option for me. I always wondered about fostering too, but that's something Darryl and I would have to talk over. It's great to hear about it from someone involved.

    Lastly, how did you get the collage of pictures in the background? I tried to do that on mine and they kept saying the pics were too big.

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  16. Hey Bryan
    this was just wonderful....you & jay are so brave & strong for fostering children that truly need the help in their brief lives.... everything you touch upon is one of the reasons I couldn't foster children I'm not strong enough to give them back...Im not brave enough to try ... esp after the last 2 years... But you & Jay are just wonderful...& you dont have to be perfect no one is...just yourselves & from I have seen & read thats what you both are...
    so stay strong
    Hugs to all
    Bella

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  17. Wow. Another strong piece of writing. I hope that you eventually compile some of these lessons into a book. You've a talent for expressing hard-to-put-your-finger-on thoughts. Keep up the good work, Bryan.

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  18. You guys are amazing!!!!!! Thanks for inspiring me!!!!!

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  19. thank you for sharing this Bryan, one more drop of light in the ocean.. :)

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  20. In my mind you both are just-superhuman-maybe
    because you're into sci-fi!
    Saw the Nico-story on YT and came here.I must
    say I even like your writing!

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  21. Beautiful writing! Sometimes when you read something, you feel like ... "ALIVE" ... that's what i am feeling right now. No one is perfect..right. Thank you Bryan and Jay :)

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