Fostering is rough
And that can be said with no doubts. There’s the difficulties dealing with behaviors learned in their previous environments, sadness in hearing their stories, challenges with settling in, interaction with their families and just the addition of a new person to your home. And of course the sadness and grief that accompanies the loss of a member of your household when they go home or to a new placement. Even with all that, days like yesterday make it so worth it.
The second placement we had in our home was a baby girl that was born 4 months early, drug addicted and the doctors were sure she wouldn’t make it. Every day she survived was a miracle. Sadly, mom wouldn’t make the changes necessary to clean up her life and be safe for this poor baby she endangered by her dangerous behaviors, and the Children’s Division had to step in and take custody. I feel sad for the other people involved like her grandmother who now has no rights in the care of her granddaughter, but sadly she has unsafe behaviors that she wouldn’t change that kept her from getting custody (and that is another long story).
We got the call on this little girl when she was 4 1/2 months old, and I was 3 months pregnant. We went to see her at the hospital, and it was heartbreaking to hear the story that no one should go through, and see her hooked up to tubes and monitors. I visited her almost daily for 2 weeks before I was able to take her home with us. The doctors were so worried because they had repeatedly tried to lower her oxygen levels and decrease medications, but none of it was successful. But they knew she would improve in a loving home environment.
So home she came with us a day after she turned 5 months, when in reality this little 7 lb miracle should have just turned 1 month old. Along came the tube through her nose attached to an oxygen tank, and a heart and apnea monitor that was to be used 24/7. The first few nights were terrifying when the monitor would go off because she had stopped breathing and we had to startle her awake so she would start breathing again. The weeks of carting a tank and monitor everywhere we went, even around the house. The worry about tripping over cords, medication to ensure she took every day, that we weren’t doing things right. The twice weekly nurse visits to our home, the physical therapy appointments, the almost weekly trips to different doctors.
But within a week she was already doing better. For the first time in her life she had a consistent caregiver. She was being held regularly. She was eating more than 2 ounces per feeding without falling asleep, and she was growing! Her home health nurse was so helpful in giving me tips and encouraging me, and it was paying off!
Within 2-3 weeks, her nurse and I started lowering her oxygen levels. By 6 weeks, we were convinced that she no longer needed the oxygen or medications…what was hard was getting a doctor to take the time to agree! Each one wanted one of the other doctors to make the decision, how frustrating! But finally, after a little over 2 months with us, a doctor finally said “she should have been off this stuff weeks ago!”, and signed the orders, and after a week with the monitor to ensure that all was well, Baby E was free of everything and got to be a normal baby.
She was still way behind even her gestational age, but she was growing, and learning by leaps and bounds now that she wasn’t hindered by tubes and cords! And we were fully prepared and hoping and praying that we would be able to keep her forever (even though we were at the end of my second trimester).
It was a sad day, when I learned just before Christmas that a 3rd cousin (yes, they had to go that far out!), was not only safe for E to be with, but decided that she could give E what she needed and was willing. We had 2 more weeks with her, and it was wonderful and sad at the same time. I was trying hard to protect myself emotionally while also preparing her for a different caregiver. A time when I wanted to never put her down was when I was having to work the hardest on her learning to be happy with others holding her, feeding her, playing with her. I needed to teach her she could be happy playing independently.
And not for me to start crying as I type this. The hardest day ever was the 5th of January when a day early and without meeting her new family, she left my home. I cried so much those few days, and even harder because I didn’t know where she was! But I wrote her a letter telling her how much I loved her, and I did everything I could to prepare her new family for this special baby.
And wonderfully, her new “mommy” called me the next day. She had read my letter and cried, and promised me she would do everything in her power to keep E forever, that she would share my letter with her, and that E would know she had a family and a mommy when she was little that loved her so much. She sent me pictures and called occasionally.
And the best part (and really hard too) was yesterday. As her former foster placement, I am a member of her team that is involved with plans for her and gets updates. I got to go to a meeting, and got to hold her for an hour! When I was first given her, she looked at me, and I could tell she was so confused. There was some recognition and the start of a smile, but then a pout and the start of tears as you could tell this was hard for her too. I started crying a bit (and so were one or two of the ladies around me), as we were both struggling with emotions (and me hormones!). But it was beautiful. She was beautiful. She has grown 2 pounds in the month I haven’t seen her. She is so much stronger, and she looks so alert, aware, GROWN UP! She got her ears pierced.
She took a little nap while i was holding her, and I got to feed her during the meeting. The hardest part was learning that since her mom not only has made no changes to her lifestyle and has abandoned her daughter, the courts are moving forward with terminating her parental rights, and she will be open for adoption by her cousin. How I wish it could be me. But I am so thankful that I was able to be a part of her life, to help her learn to bond and heal, and that she is in a loving relationship with a family that is and will take care of her needs and do everything they can to shelter her from her hurtful past.
While I emotionally hurt, I wouldn’t trade anything for being a part of her life. I so wish she was a permanent part of my family, but she was and is a part of my family. And I’ll do it again, and I hope more people will become willing to do what I do by me sharing my story with her.