Baby S was our third placement. We had quick goodbyes with the other two babies - quick, but not easy.
When Baby S arrived, I was pretty convinced that every placement was going to be short-term. It seemed like we would never reach a new normal. It seemed like things were going to be constantly changing. (Which, by the way, is pretty accurate, even with a long-term placement. Things barely settle into a normal before they are changed again, often suddenly and outside of our control. Such is foster care!)
Still, Josh and I found that we were able to bond with Baby S despite the uncertainty. He was able to bond with us, too, after a lot of prayer, hard work, and tears. He had to learn how to love us and he had to learn how to let us love him. He learned how to be nurtured and snuggled and hugged. He learned it well and he is now a beautiful, joyful, BUSY toddler!
I don't know if Baby S has changed drastically since his arrival or if he's just become able to be the happy, determined, enthusiastic person he always should have been. He's an amazing little guy. We're so proud of him!
In the last year, I've learned that it was okay to mourn our other two babies, despite their short placement. I've learned that I have as much right to mourn Baby S if he leaves today as I will two years from now. I've learned that a child's age and length of stay do not determine how long I'm allowed to miss my child after they go. I've learned that the potential for a forever family member is an equal loss no matter how long the stay. I hope this will help me to process and cope the next time I have a short-term placement.
I've learned that it's possible to work with birth families. I've learned that it's incredibly rewarding and incredibly difficult, sometimes in turns but often both at once. I've learned that I still have some growing to do in creating and sticking to healthy boundaries. I've grown a little more confident in my role as a foster mom and in my ability to speak on Baby S's behalf, even if my voice isn't heard. I've learned that I can and should advocate, even when no one is asking, in case someone eventually listens.
I've learned a lot about poverty. I've learned that it goes way beyond just money. Poverty is not having the transportation to get to high-quality food, not just the inability to buy it. Poverty is never having been taught how to feed your child healthy foods, not just the lack of money to purchase good things for them to eat. It's a mindset. It's an upbringing. It's a lack of information and a confusing muddle of misinformation. It's a cycle that is difficult to escape. It's trying to help people and realizing you've enabled them, or trying to keep from enabling and realizing you've missed a God-sent opportunity. It's messy.
I was thinking about all that I've learned in the last year and almost all of it revolves around my role as a foster mom. I don't know what the last year would have been like without foster care. A lot of the pain of the past year was a direct result of foster care. A lot of the busyness was because of foster care. A lot of the tough issues with Baby S were because of his struggles as part of the system. Foster care has changed everything. Love hurts more than it ever has before.
But this difficulty and pain and sadness cannot help but result in growth. I'm stronger than I was a year ago. I'm learning to find joy in every circumstance. I'm learning to love God more now that some of the people I love most are no longer permanent fixtures in my life. I'm learning to depend on God for my future more as the amount of control I feel over my life lessens.
I wouldn't trade the last year for a year of wholeness as a family of three, or even for a year of joy welcoming a second forever-baby into our home. I don't say that lightly. Every day is a struggle as I learn and relearn how to trust and have joy and obey God even when my circumstances - well - stink.
I wouldn't trade what I've learned about God or the amount of growth I've seen in my faith. I wouldn't trade the increase in my ability to stay emotionally stable through stressful and unpredictable situations. And I wouldn't trade my son for any other.
I love you to the moon and back, Baby S. I love you no matter where you are. I love you no matter where you go to bed at night. I will love you always. Happy one year with our family, little man.