*Warning: This is going to be a raw (unedited), emotional post.
After almost an entire year, our first foster placement left yesterday. We knew it was going to be hard, but knowing something in the abstract and actually experiencing it are never the same thing – NOTHING can prepare a heart for this…
We knew this day was coming
It’s not that we didn’t have time to prepare or anything. We’ve been boxing up their things and sending a little bit at a time for weeks now. With every box that was closed and sent away, a piece of my heart went with it, and I had to face a hard truth I’d been steadily denying for months…
These were never my kids.
I never lost sight of that fact, really. I thought of and prayed for their mom every single day. I imagined myself in her situation and cried myself to sleep, hurting for her and for her kids who were sleeping so far away from her. I couldn’t imagine not knowing where my kids were spending the first year of their lives. I asked God over and over again to help her stay strong through this time, to give her the skills she needed to be reunited with her babies.
But in my heart, I wasn’t praying for “her” babies. I was praying for “ours.” Hers and mine.
I was there when the one year old met her brother and sister for the first time – the day we brought them to our home from the hospital. We threw a Minnie Mouse themed party for her 2nd birthday, waited for her favorite swing to open up at the park, sung silly songs, and laughed and cried together so many times over the last year. She’s grown so much and learned so much. And I was there for all of that, holding her hand through most of it.
We brought the twins to our home from the hospital after spending days visiting them there. I quit my job to stay home with them because they couldn’t be out in public until they were 3 months old. I got up with them in the middle of the night, heard their first laughs, fed them for the first time, watched them learn to crawl, saw their first steps, and so many more firsts… and I was as proud as any other parent would be.
But I was also hurting. Because every first I saw, meant she didn’t. And no amount of pictures can fix that.
So I prayed that they be reunited. That she not miss out on all the firsts.
The more I prayed, the more guilty I felt. Because I loved them so much and a part of me didn’t want to let them go.
No, they weren’t mine. But they felt like mine. They shared my home, my life, my everything. They were my daughters’ sisters and brother. They were every bit a part of my family as my husband and daughters are.
But only for a time.
We knew that going in. We knew it towards the end, as we sent box after box away. We weren’t prepared.
Why did we do this?
I remember when we first talked to my girls about us fostering. They were entirely on board and eager to start. But fostering wasn’t mine and my husband’s first choice.
We were well on the road to international adoption a year ago. Our home study was completed, our information had been sent away, all the background checks and everything had been done… we were excited.
But we couldn’t move forward.
When I was growing up, two of my best friends were sisters. They had been placed in the foster care system and honestly, it wasn’t the best situation for them. One of them died not too long ago and since then I catch myself thinking “if only she’d had a better chance…” way too often.
My oldest daughter has a friend who also spent some time in foster care. She was separated from her brothers during that time. When I found out about it, it haunted me.
And then it happened… my youngest daughter came to me in tears. Her friend was gone. She didn’t know where. They’d put her with a foster family with her sister and she didn’t know where her two brothers were. They had no idea when they’d talk again or if they’d ever see each other.
The guilt was too much for me to bear. How could we, knowing what we knew, continue down a road so much easier for us when families were being ripped apart? These kids weren’t just being taken out of their homes and away from their parents, but away from their brothers and sisters!
There’s no way to ease the pain of being separated from their parents, but we could take in siblings so they could still have each other. And we could give them a safe place through a difficult, awful time.
We could do better. We could help them. We would do what we could.
Basically, we did this because we had to.
We called the social worker and switched from international adoption to foster care one day and got a call for our first placement the day after the change was finalized.
My family mourns.
I remember my husband and I talking to another couple when we were about 6 months into the foster care experience. We loved the kids so completely and there was no difference between the foster kids and the other kids. We knew we were setting ourselves up for a pain beyond our comprehension, and yet, we couldn’t stop ourselves.
The response from them was one that will probably always stick with me and that is helping me process the pain I feel today. They basically told us that if we didn’t hurt this way, that means we weren’t doing it right.
The moment the kids drove away yesterday, a piece of my chest went away went them.
I keep reaching up and touching my breastbone to make sure it’s still there – because I need to be reminded that it is. The feeling of it though, is gone. I have no idea when it’ll be back again.
So we packed up our things and drove.
My husband, my daughters, myself. We left the home we shared with our foster family for the last year and came to a cabin in the woods for a few days, where we can’t escape each other and can face our pain and process it all together.
Because as happy an occasion as it is for a family to be reunited, our family has been gutted. We mourn as though we’ve lost three children, because we have.
There is a part of me that feels selfish for that and there is a part of me that does not. Right now, the selfish me is winning. And I’m letting her win because I need that. Maybe tomorrow I’ll celebrate for them, but probably not… it’s going to take me some time. It’s going to take my girls some time. It’s going to take my husband a lifetime.
The truth is…
We may never get over this pain.
We’ll do it again.
Not today or tomorrow, but when we’re ready to love another group just as much as the first. When we can give our hearts without holding back for fear of the pain to come…
But today, we cry and we hurt and we pray.