Before becoming a foster parent I, as most do, had many preconceived notions about the “BioParents”. I assumed their children were removed because they’re drug addicts and criminals, they have no parenting skills, their pregnancy wasn’t planned, they didn’t want their kids to begin with and they certainly didn’t love them. After all, if they loved their children they wouldn’t abuse, neglect or otherwise endanger them, right? Throughout the fostering process most of our loving, well-intentioned and endlessly supportive friends and family repeated these feelings to us over and over again. Perhaps in some cases any of the aforementioned assumptions could be true.
We became his foster family and took him home from NICU when he was about 2 months old. He had fought through the “grumps”, was off all medications and clearly eager to head home. He was a 7 week old human, he had no idea or care to who’s home he was going. He just wanted to be happy. I was ready to fill my home with the sounds of crying, coo’ing and gigging. I was ready to smell baby powder, baby poop and baby formula (probably my least favorite smell of infancy). I loved and supported this boy fearlessly, like he was mine, like I had created him myself. I nested, we had a baby shower and everyone in our “tribe” and the case knew our hopes and intentions to adopt. Sure, there were all the fears associated with being an adoptive hopeful family but he didn’t know or care. He needed, more than anything in the world, to be loved and nurtured and I needed, more than anything in the world, a baby to love and nurture, so it was a win-win!
It’s easy to refer back to all those assumptions and make snide remarks about the woman who created but could not care for him. We learned her history and what we learned was the drugs came first. We learned that every time she got pregnant she thought, “This is the time. This is my chance. I’ll clean up. I can do this. For my baby.” But each time she fell victim to her illness(s). However, to me, she was still a woman who created a child (something I cannot do) and she still loved this child with all her heart. The fact that she had an illness shouldn’t strip away that fact. Our pride and ego tell us that we’re the best, we’re better and we can offer him more and that blinds us to the fact that her heart was still completely capable of love, affection and, most of all, heartache. I was now raising her child while she fought to keep him. While she struggled through her case plan to prove to the courts that she would keep him and raise him in a safe environment. She wrote notes to me in our communication binder letting me know that she changed his diaper, fed him and to please remember that he liked being swaddled. She did have maternal instincts, albeit limited and not the maternal instincts that keep you from doing drugs while you’re pregnant… but they were there. I respected her purely on the level that we were both woman who wanted a baby more than anything in the world. I respected the mere fact that she created this child and she had every god-given right do what she could to fight to keep him.
Being a foster parent who’s an adoptive hopeful is a constant struggle between wanting what you want and still wanting the best for others. By wanting to achieve my own personal goal of adopting this child I was, in turn, wanting his biological mother to fail at her own goal. This goes against every fiber of my PollyAnna Ray of Sunshine genetic makeup. My DNA wants the best for everyone in life. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt (to a fault) and I want everyone to be happy and successful. This was for me possibly the hardest struggle through the fostering process.
I loved him like he was mine, because that’s what he needed, but I never claimed him as mine. I referred to him as my “kid” but never as my “son” because he wasn’t. As more time passed, more paperwork was filed and more distance was wedged between he and her, I allowed myself to get more comfortable referring to myself as his mama and felt more confident that we were heading towards adoption. I still didn’t call him my “son” because there was still a woman, regardless of her current situation, who created a child and loved him endlessly fighting for her ability to keep and raise him. Until a Court of Law said otherwise I intended to respect that.
While I sit here on counting every blessing on my plate and thanking whoever-runs-this-show that life has worked out the way is has for us, I am not blind to the fact that our blessings have come at the cost of her loss. PSA: Hug your babies, make them smile and don’t do drugs.