It took awhile for my family and me to figure out our place in the foster care world. We were newbies a year ago, which meant we were uber emotional, wanting to shield our foster children from any negativity and to keep every child that came in our home. My heart grew thicker walls after every goodbye, and finally I said to myself, Maybe we are just meant to foster and help as many kids as we can. It changed my perspective on things, and it helped me cope with the good byes. Or so I thought.
There were two things that I stopped asking my caseworker… 1} Is this child adoptable? 2} What is the child’s back story? I only wanted to know the basic information about the child, and how I could care for the child while she was in my home. I no longer wanted the detailed back story that usually consisted of drug abuse and neglect. These back stories are what keep me up at night, and when I looked into the faces of my foster kids, I said to myself, I’m not letting you go.
When “Sweet Pea” came into my life last December, I was still rebounding from a funk that I was going through. I felt overwhelmed and that things were slipping away from me. My heart still ached from losing one of my placements, and my son was in the hospital for a week. I made sure that my caseworker was aware of this in November, so I didn’t get any placements during that time. One day at work, she called and asked if I could take an emergency placement for one week. She was a newborn and needed a place to stay until they could make space for her at the group home. A week. Perfect. I will just meet her needs, and she will return to the agency. My heart can handle that.
Sweet Pea came to our home, then quickly returned to our agency, but about two days after that, another situation arose at the agency and Sweet Pea was back in our home. This time, they said that she would be with us only through the holidays. The holidays came and went and Sweet Pea was still there, looking up at me. I’m sure most moms will agree with me that the newborn stage is the toughest to get through — LOTS of sleepless nights, dealing with baby indigestion issues, and the dreaded colic. Sweet Pea also liked to scream her head off every time she was in the car seat, so we had to endure ear piercing shrills for the duration of every car ride. I was right by her side through it all, rocking her to sleep and singing You are My Sunshine softly into her ear to soothe her. I prayed that I could bear whatever discomfort she was enduring so that she could get some relief. I was falling in love with her.
Months passed and Sweet Pea blossomed into a thriving, happy, and chunky baby girl. She is truly a ray of sunshine and spreads happiness wherever she goes. My family and I held her as much as possible because we knew that our time with her was limited. This may be silly because she is only a baby, but we wanted her to get as many experiences as she could with us. She got to feel sunshine on her face, experience all the colors and sounds of a park, squeeze beach sand between her adorable baby toes, and absorb the love that my family had for her. I often heard my children telling each other that they never wanted to lose her. My mind started to wonder about when she would crawl or how the first day of school would be for her. STOP it, you’re doing it again!
When Sweet Pea was five months old, I received a message from our foster agency that I needed to call them back ASAP. My heart hit the floor, and I was in full panic mode. The day that we dreaded most was happening. Honestly, I was too afraid to call our caseworker back, so I texted her instead. She asked if I could call her when my husband was with me so that she could speak to both of us. She needed to hear from the both of us if we would be open to adopting Sweet Pea if there was a possibility. Why was she asking us this?
The day before my birthday, we got confirmation that both of Sweet Pea’s birth parents relinquished their rights to her and that we would be able to adopt her. I cried tears both of happiness and of sadness – for Sweet Pea and for her birth parents. This is a loss that Sweet Pea will not understand until she is older and will always carry with her. I knew that it wasn’t an easy decision for her birth mom and dad. They both saw how happy and well loved Sweet Pea was with us and they wanted her to have the life that they couldn’t give her. The caseworker told us that we were one of the reasons why they decided to do what they did. I wrote them a very emotional letter and put together a photobook for each of them to have of Sweet Pea at their last visit with her. Thank you so much for giving her the gift of life and for making this impossible decision!
Four more months passed before everything was legally finalized in the courthouse. On that day, we were surrounded by our family and friends who wanted to witness this joyous moment in our life. My kids keep exclaiming that it was the BEST day of their lives and exuding how much they love their baby sister. When I stepped out of that courtroom holding Sweet Pea in my arms that day, it felt just like I was leaving the hospital with my baby. I am hers and she is mine. I often times would forget that I didn’t carry her in my belly. There is nothing that I wouldn’t do for her. Sweet Pea has learned to clap her hands, crawl, pull herself up, and play peek-a-boo. She’s also eaten her first bite of food, gained two bottom teeth, and spoken her first words. For the first time in nine months, I can look towards the future with Sweet Pea and not be worried about losing her. I don’t know what life has in store for us, but I do know that she will be loved beyond measure. She will have opportunities to pursue her dreams, and she will have a place in our family forever.