I have recently become a mother. I am crying (with joy) daily. I am chronically forgetful. I wake at the slightest baby snort – my insides are somehow tethered to this little wonder and her every heartbeat.
But post-birth hormones are not drowning my system. I am not delirious with exhaustion from breast feeding. And my child doesn’t look anything like me, having not actually come out of my insides. My daughter is a foster kid. I do not know how long I will get to be her mother. It could be days. Weeks. Months. Or forever.
“I do not know how long I will get to be her mother. It could be days. Weeks. Months. Or forever”.
In the daily dayness of our days, this fact is completely forgotten. Life is normal. We feed. We sleep. We cuddle like it’s an Olympic sport I am training for. We make appointments, and catch up with friends, and juggle child care. We are parents. This is our daughter. We love her. We would happily take a bullet for her. Day over. Good night.
Now and then, a little bubble of The Unknown rises through this normal, threatening to pop and flick soapy suds in our eyeballs. It is the dreams I cannot indulge in. The plans we cannot make. The future dates I dare not mark in my diary…just in case they are days that promise hollow grief instead of first birthday parties, holidays and Christmas magic.
The first goal of foster care is to reunify the child with their biological family. The BFG and I chose to became foster parents because we believe passionately in the rights of all children to have their needs met, in a loving, attached environment, free of trauma and too much transition. We think that it really should be on the grown-ups in a legal case (e.g. us) to wear the emotional turmoil of any impact the flawed foster system foists upon a family. It should not be children bearing multiple moves, attachment disorders and the feeling of not being wanted.
We knew we could be those grown ups.
If our daughter is “reunified” (the official term for a foster child returning to biological family), then we will be delighted for her. Genuinely pleased and happy. Because if someone related to her can love her as deeply as we do, then that is, in fact, the best case outcome for her (and look, without us, she probably won’t be forced to see as much theater, ski as many mountains, or suffer a fate filled with two tall harmonising goof balls throwing raspberry blowing competitions. I’m told children can thrive without these qualities dominating their youth).
It doesn’t mean that reunification won’t hurt like hell for us. It’s the contradictory emotional contract we entered into, and one we are determined to weather with grace if need be. It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t feel grief and fear and sadness to lose her. That would mean we failed as parents. We didn’t attach.
“It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t feel grief and fear and sadness to lose her. That would mean we failed as parents. We didn’t attach”
Perhaps it is naïve of me – too much Pollyanna as a girl I admit – but the tremendously positive and precious way I look at life as a parent of a foster kid, is that each day, each giggle that bursts out, each little milestone reached…well, none of it is taken for granted. It’s like we are living with a (benign & mythical) illness hovering in the background. Like any unknown prognosis, each day is lived more in the moment. With deeper appreciation. With finer awareness. With colossal joy.
I refuse to worry about a future outcome that hasn’t happened yet. I also don’t know very much about my daughter’s past life before she landed unexpectedly in my lap at 11.35pm one winter evening several weeks ago. All I can do is get up and continue to blow raspberries. It is my honour to do so. For however long I have the privilege of being her Mum.