Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Finding Normal... Through the Fog

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog post. Then I re-read it. And then I cried over my own post.

All because of one little line: "We'll make it, and we'll fall into a rhythm eventually."

There are moments when I could almost forget that Baby S isn't ours. There aren't too many of them. I am working hard to stick to as many of his mother's preferences as possible. He goes on visits three days a week. There are the frequent phone calls, appointments and rounds of paperwork to manage. So there are plenty of things to remind me that he's probably not here forever - most of the time.

But those other moments sneak up. After all, he's a 2-1/2-month old who's been with us for a month. We've already seen him grow and change in so many ways. Big Bro wants to keep him forever.

Is it true that we'll get a chance to fall into a rhythm as a family? Will he be here long enough to work out sleeping schedules and room sharing with Big Brother A? Will we see him grow and develop into a bigger, happier boy who smiles and laughs and holds his arms out for us after a nap or when we pick him up from nursery? I don't know.

4-month-old Baby Z was with us just long enough for me to feel like I was coming out of the baby fog. He was with us long enough to smile at me like I was his Mommy, and to laugh hardest for me and Josh because we knew just exactly how to tickle him. We were reaching the tipping point where the baby's love and affection was its own reward. Then he left, and we started over again, back to a family of three and needing to readjust our family roles.

Baby S is 2 months younger than Baby Z was while he was in our home. (Baby Z is actually 7 months old now. I'd love to see him and snuggle him and exclaim at how beautifully chubby and tall he hopefully is now that he's been under the right kind of care and nourishment for months!) Although Baby S is surprisingly well scheduled already for his age (in my limited experience), our daily routine is a work in progress. It is, in fact, progressing; but we are so not there yet.

When Big Brother A was born, we had the same fogginess - for a while. But it eventually cleared up. The frustration with foster care is realizing that we may stay in that fog for a long, long time.

We knew it would be tough to fall in and out of baby land so rapidly and often unexpectedly. What I think I didn't realize was how much extra grace I would need for myself. When a new baby arrives, Josh doesn't take days off of work. We don't expect extended family to drive through the night to come meet the little one and help with laundry and grocery shopping. We set the standard that "life continues as normal and we can handle it", and that's pretty much how things roll out.

And that's where my struggle pops up. We're on kid #2 - or foster baby #3 - however you want to look at it. We've done 34 nights of late-night feedings since our foster journey started. We've said three hellos and two goodbyes (or four and three, if you count our little guy who was here for a weekend while his foster parents were on vacation).

My first problem is that I'm comparing myself to other people. My second is that I'm thinking (again) too much about what other people think of me. And my third problem is that I assign certain amounts of grace to each person depending on their stage of life. If I didn't do that, I wouldn't think everyone else was doing it to me. I think we all do it a little. The parent of a newborn isn't expected to get anywhere on time - just congratulated if they make it out at all! The mom of an infant is excused from a little spit-up on her shirt or from pulling out diapers, wipes and a snot sucker from her purse before finally fishing out her wallet.

But because we have set the "life moves as normal" standard, I do not assign myself the same amount of grace I would assign you, if you had a 2-month-old baby. Things do move differently in the foster world. They must. We cannot stop our lives every time a baby comes or goes - especially if they are going to keep coming and going at the rate we've seen so far!

But that baby fog is still there. My brain is just as foggy with 2-month-old Baby S as it was with 2-month-old Big Brother A. I can remember (usually) how long till the baby needs to eat or be changed or when Medical Motors is coming to pick him up for a visit. I can remember (usually) what Big Bro had for lunch and thus what not to feed him again for dinner.

But I can't remember any time commitment that is not on the calendar. (Let's hope everything made it on there...) I can't remember birthdays, because I don't really know what today's date is. I only know what my Google agenda told me I'm doing today and tomorrow! I can't seem to stick to a meal schedule for more than 2 days in a row. I can't keep on top of laundry and cleaning. I can't remember what I'm looking for 30% of the time I get up and cross the room to get something. (I made up that percentage, but you get the idea.)

I can't change the life-moves-on attitude entirely. We do need to move forward, after all. But I'm going to try to start giving myself more grace. I'm going to start trying to think of myself as the mom of a 2-month-old, not as a mom who signed up for this and ought to have it all figured out already. And anyway, since when is having everything figured out the same as being able to execute it on very little sleep?

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