Tomorrow will be six months since our second foster son was placed with us. And in about 58 hours, we will adopt.
The truth is, my relationship with my son started out shall we say…less than idyllic.
I don’t want to be romanticizing things here. We had a little boy dropped in our living room, four days after the first time we ever heard his (first only) name, by two social workers who barely knew him, with two rather impressive ear infections and five changes of clothes and pretty significantly behind on sleep.
We didn’t know a nap schedule, didn’t know what he ate, didn’t know his bedtime routine, didn’t even know how to interpret the sign language he knew.
This little boy was delivered to our house mere days after we learned that our first long-term foster son would be leaving.
I don’t know exactly how to unpack the mourning process of that period, but what I can tell you is that there were TWO people in this house for a good bit of time that were busted up messes. Two people with extremely short fuses and two people prone to temper tantrums. Two people who wanted to love each other but didn’t really know how.
I thought of it for a long time as HIS transition issues, and sometimes I thought about MY difficulties with sending home our baby, but the truth is we kind of went through the wars together.
I tried so hard to be the grown-up, the one with tools to use to process and to behave correctly, even when I didn’t want to. And sometimes I actually managed it.
I comforted him in the middle of the night, when he would wake up, or half-wake up, just sobbing. Not baby-crying, not wailing, often not even out loud. I don’t know if you realize this but this is not something you hear very often – a two-year-old crying in a way that really isn’t intended for someone to hear or respond.
I went in often, even when I wasn’t sure my presence was comforting; when he’d jerk his head up every few minutes off of my shoulder and look confusedly at my face with his deep brown eyes, and I would just think neither of us even know each other. What are we doing here? and then he’d put his head back down, and then do it again a few minutes later.
I did go to him…until sometimes I just couldn’t.
Sometimes I knew we both just needed actual rest and sleep, and when I went in, he never ever slept.
Sometimes I knew I was just a reminder that the Mama he actually wanted wasn’t there. Sometimes I would think of my baby doing this exact same thing in a few weeks at someone else’s house. And so I said to myself, “I will be here tomorrow, his tummy will be full, he will be warm and dry, and we will have fun tomorrow. He will have to just go through enough nights where the morning comes and we are there, that he will eventually not be afraid.”
The truth is, this poor little guy got a broken Mommy, the not-first-but-final Mommy he knew.
We lashed out at each other sometimes. We both cried. I wasn’t a rock and I wasn’t a perfect refuge, like I thought I’d always be able to be for foster kids. But I was a human, and I think that we now have a sort of deeper respect for each other than we would have if he met me at my “best” and I thought I knew what I was doing.
I feel like I can say this now because truthfully, I look at that one or two months where we were just a hot mess held graciously but barely together by God.
I want to say I’m sorry to my son that he had such a hard time and I’m sorry that I had such a hard time, but we suffered together.
We’re us now, and we couldn’t be us the way we are without having been through what we’ve been through, together.
You know what though?
We’re not all done. I am not all done mourning my baby and he is not all done mourning his biological family, not by a long shot.
But now we mourn as a family, not alone.
He is my sweet, brilliant, hilarious, precious son and when he hurts for his first family, I hurt with him.
Also, in just a couple of days, you will be my son forever. For the actual rest of our lives.
What I learned as a foster mom
• Every single human life, no matter how seemingly arbitrary or bizarre or tenuous their connection to you is, how unfamiliar or even completely unknown their background; every single person has the potential to be an irreplaceable, essential part of your family, if you can humble yourself and learn about them.
• Marriages are intended to be places where you honor and uphold each other. You can survive more than you ever thought, and you can love more than you ever thought if you just keep your promises and consider the other person more important than yourself.
• I am not a strong or gracious or patient person. I am a person who up until now has had a relatively trial-lite life, and I now know better than to think I am better at coping or managing or being compassionate than anyone else out there.
• I would go through that (most likely) difficult first month or two (or six even, or more) of transition over again, even just for the 4 months that have come after. I would do that month or two of the deepest mourning over again a million times in exchange for the 10 months we got to spend with our baby.
When I look at that month or two, the hardest of my whole life, in comparison with the rest of our lives with my son? You look at me and say that month or two is not worth it? I look at you and say you’re crazy.
Six months. The first six months. Of many, many six-monthses. My sweet boy, you are so, so worth every single minute of it.
Abbey Daniels is a stay at home mom who has been irrevocably changed by foster care and adoption. She also leads missions efforts at her church and works for clean water in South Sudan. She blogs occasionally (who has the time?) at thefamilydaniels.wordpress.com