You know when something happens in your life that completely shakes you. Like everything is going just fine, and then your world is rocked. Forever changed. Like you can never go back to the person who you were before because of a certain experience/person/place? Well that is exactly what happened to me 3 weeks ago. Foster parenting can be so hard, but so rewarding. I want to share my vulnerable emotions with you to maybe help you prepare to become a foster parent.
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After saying goodbye to our boys, who were with us for 6 months we took a month break to regroup as a core family. Pouring your heart, love, time, and energy into fixing other peoples children is physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining. Our boys had left me sad, weary, and to be honest relieved for the break. If you have been reading my blog or following along in our journey on youtube, then you know our foster sons had a lot of high needs behaviours, a lot of aggression and suppressed feelings that would burst out of their little bodies, with no warnings as to what would trigger the emotions. They damaged my house, my van, and even my heart. This really could be a whole other blog post, but for the first time in my fostering journey I felt like I failed. Big brother was just too much for me. I wasn’t ready for his trauma, aggression, and behaviour. I didn’t always know what to do, how to parent him, how to comfort him, how to calm him, how to redirect him when he was ripping by daughters dolls heads off. So many times I wanted to call my social worker and tell her “I can’t do it anymore”. I don’t know if it was my pride, or what but I just could not be another adult in their lives to let them down. They had already been through enough broken promises, and disappointments. If you want to read more of their story, there are posts about life with boys, transitioning home, and others here, and here.
In hindsight, I am truly not sure if I made the right decision by keeping them until the court ordered them home. It did some damage to our family. My husband and I would be disagreeing on how to parent him best, I was constantly breaking up fights with him and my one daughter. Often I would be putting bandaids on the boo boos of my daughters, and his little brother, then sending pictures of bruises to the social worker to document. Signs of his aggression. I second guessed my decisions a lot. I questioned myself, and him. I thought he would be better in a home without other kids, so that foster mom could solely focus on him and his needs.
During 5 months of the 6 they were here my husband changed to an evening shift. He was gone from 2pm to 2am and would nap for 2 hours before he went in, and then worked weekends as well! I was on my own to parent these 4 kids, 2 with some extreme behaviours. I started to feel really overwhelmed. I didn’t want to do anything that I normally love to do with the kids; bake, play games, do fun crafts. I just merely felt like I was surviving. My house could never stay clean, which may seem silly but that bothers me! Near the end I felt like I was just waking up, and getting through the day. Mild depression had crept into my life, and I didn’t know how to fix it, I just kept going and praying. I hid this from most people, and just coped on my own. I definitely was not my best version of myself.
All the weight I had lost in the fall came right back on, as I coped with emotional eating, something I have always struggled with. I questioned why we were even fostering if this is what my life was turning into. I wasn’t happy. I felt good that we were helping them, but it took its toll on me physically, and emotionally.
I finally could understand where people were coming from when they say “I could never do what you do, it must be so hard.” Up until the boys, I had a very optimistic attitude of “all you need is love” (my favourite quote). While I still find that true today, my opinion has slightly shifted. Sometimes I don’t know how I do what I do, and I wish life was just easy again. BUT that was not the life I was called to. God reminds me why I do what I do, why our family does this…..
Back to 3 weeks ago…
A month after giving us time to regroup, to catch our breath, and to slow down and enjoy peace in our household. I got a call.
Due to a passport delay, my hubby and I were in Illinois visiting family. As I was walking out of target with my sister in law, I checked my phone to see 2 missed calls from unknown number. I knew it was our agency calling with a placement. Tiana our lovely placement worker usually calls a couple times without leaving a voicemail when she is trying to place a child.
I called her back, and she wondered if I was open to accepting a 2 year old. I told her our trip had been delayed so we were actually not back for a few more days so unfortunately I couldn’t say yes to the placement. After hanging up, I kept thinking about who this 2 year old might be. A girl? A boy? what colour was their hair and eyes? What was their story? Where would they be going since I had to say no?
We enjoyed the rest of the long weekend with our family, and 4 days later we headed back to Canada at 5am Tuesday May 23rd. Just as we were about to cross the border, my phone rang. I silenced it and we exchanged a few words with our lovely Canadian border crossing guard. As soon as we were back on Canadian land, I anxiously called Tiana back. (name has been changed to protect identity)
Tiana told me about this 2 year old, and that it was the same one she called about on Friday but had just put her into short term emergency placement for the weekend. She told me she was a girl, and some limited details about her case. Truthfully, I was really hoping our next call would be a baby, and that they would for sure be under 24 months, so I found it strange to feel so strongly about saying yes to this 2 but closer to 3 year old little girl. I had a flashback of when I got called for the boys and I said yes even though something inside me was telling me to hold back, and wait for a different placement.
That is one thing I have definitely learned to follow my intuition more. When we first started fostering I was eager and open to saying to yes to whatever little one they called us with. As I have learned about how certain things will effect my family and I, I am more cautious about hearing the details before I jump in with both feet. Because as I learned sometimes jumping in with both feet, can leave you feeling like you are drowning. This was not the case with this little girl, the more she told me about her, the more I felt my heart filling with a fierce love, and urgency to protect her. I told hubby her story and he thought we should take her too.
Considering she was safe in another foster home, we asked if we could just get home from our trip, unpack and could she come first thing the next morning. She called me back with the details and we anxiously prepared for this little love to join our family.
I sat and waited by the window by myself for the social worker’s car to pull up. I prepared a snack and got out a stuffed animal, and a basket of age-appropriate toys.
Meeting your foster child for the first time is a mix of crazy emotions. I remember all of them vividly. This was no exception.
The van pulled up, and out came one of the most beautiful little girls I have ever seen. A head full of curls, and eyes with so much sadness, she cautiously came into my house. She sat there whimpering, taking it all in.
I tried to talk to her but she would not make eye contact. The social worker gave me a bit more information and then left.
She finally looked at me. I told her she was safe, and loved, and how much fun she was going to have living here.
I tried to give her a little tour of her room, and the rest of the house but she was terrified and just put her arms up pleading for a cuddle without saying any words. We just sat on the couch for 10 minutes and I held her as she whimpered. I offered her a snack, and she ate a bite and said she was done.
I asked her if she wanted to go to the park and she said yes. I took her hand and we walked to the park, she went down the slide twice and I could see how overwhelmed she was feeling. A feeling I recently had felt and guys I am not kidding when I say I fell head over heels in love right then and there.
I tried to hide my tears as we walked back from the park. This child had not been loved and cherished the way she deserves and my heart was shattered for her. Her story is sad, her eyes sadder.
Now that she has been here for 3 weeks, I have seen major changes in her. However that melancholy girl is still there, and then something triggers a mood shift that takes her right back to day one.
Part of foster care is trying to piece together the unknowns of her home life, through behaviours, actions, and her words. Passing this info onto the social workers to build their case, to support the birth family, and to try and right the wrongs in her life.
The more I get to know her and love her, the more tears I shed over her past life. I pray she will be here forever, or that major changes happen and she can be reunified.
Before she was here, she was terrified, depressed, alone, a shell of the child she should be.
Now that she is here, she is clean, she is loved, she is doted upon, she is safe.
Now that she is here, she smiles, she giggles, she plays.
Now that she is here, she has a mama, a dada, and 2 sisters that love her fiercely.
I remember why I do this. Why we go through the heartache. Kids like her. Baby number 7. You are so loved.
I want to thank all of you for reading and following our journey. A very unconventional way to build a family for some, but we truly feel called to this. Your support and love do not go unnoticed, and although I cannot share details, I see people rallying for my girl, and all of our previous foster loves. You help to fill my tank back up with your encouraging words, your prayers, and your love for our family. Foster care is not for everyone, but most people can help these kids in one way or another, even just by emotionally supporting the foster family. If you want any more information I am always available to chat.