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Thinking about Becoming a Foster Parent?
This is the 5th in a series of six blog posts about the Emotions a Foster Parent experiences during their fostering journey. My husband and I were foster parents for nine years, and I write from our experiences. (Scroll to the bottom for links to the other posts in this series.)
You know, many of the emotions you expect to feel as a foster parent, atleast in a general sense. Love, Sadness, Loss, maybe even Anger when you learn about the terrible things that may have happened to your foster child or when decisions are made that don’t seem to be in their best interest. In your training before being licensed, they try their best to prepare you for all sorts of scenarios.
But I encountered atleast a few emotions that I did not expect.
I have been surprised by my own jealous feelings. I have felt jealous of birth mothers and previous foster mothers who got to take “my” kids home from the hospital, rock them to sleep when they were little, teach them to walk, be called “Mommy” first. Or when a child would leave my care and the birth or adopted mom then reaped the rewards of my hard work in helping the child heal.
I know in a way, that’s irrational. But my heart already belonged to these kids, even before I knew they existed. And it’s especially difficult with regard to the ones that ended up being my children forever. Because it means we might not have any newborn pictures of them. No sweet story about when we brought them home from the hospital, or funny tale about what their first word was. I didn’t get to be part of those special moments. Somebody else did. Somebody who, for whatever reason, didn’t keep the child who is now mine.
This is just part of the pain that comes along with being part of the foster/adoption system. I really wish there weren’t a need for it, and all families were healthy. And I know that the pain felt by birth mothers who watch ME having all the special moments they don’t get to have, is much worse. I’m not minimizing their feelings – just being really honest with you about my own. I didn’t expect to be jealous of the hurting mamas whose tragic circumstances became the reason I have the family that I do.
(I’m only talking about MY emotions here – the effect of this same set of circumstances on the children is enormous, and definitely a subject for a whole ‘nother blog post. Or 10.)
Boy, this one has been a doozy. I have always prided myself on being smart, resourceful, hard working, and pretty much able to accomplish whatever I want (I do skew those results by not wanting to do things I probably couldn’t do, like climb Mt. Everest, lol). But I basically expect to be strong enough to handle just about anything, solve all the problems, and come out on top. I don’t know that that’s always true, but that’s how I perceive myself.
My fostering and adoption journey has really challenged that perception. There are things I can’t fix. They’re just too big, and I am not as strong or smart or amazing as I thought, in the face of certain things. Ultimately that’s ok, because it’s reality. But this has been SO hard for me to accept. I still struggle, almost every day.
I’m a fixer. A solver. If there’s a problem, my brain kicks in to Solution Mode and stays there until it’s fixed. Or until it breaks me and I have to admit defeat, which usually sends me several steps down the path toward depression, masked by frustration and anger. I want to fix the problems. I want to make everybody better. I want to have a happy smiling family all the time. I want there to be no limitations on my children’s futures.
But sometimes that’s just not how it’s going to be. And I need to adjust my expectations – of myself, my kids, pretty much everything. And that’s really hard, especially since being a strong, capable problem-solver has always been part of how I define myself. You know, fostering and adoption is not really about rescuing the hurting babies. Oh to an extent it is, but it ends up being so much more of a journey toward healing. For everyone. Healing the hurting kids, healing yourself from the baggage you bring to the table, even occasionally healing whole families.
The journey is very personal, it’s lifelong, and it will rock your world. I don’t remember that being part of our training.
As I mentioned, pride has been a part of my self-definition, for good or bad. But some things knock me right off my own pedestal every time. I am humbled every time I see a birth mother show up to fight one more day to try to conquer her addiction, so she can love on her babies. I am humbled when I see the incredible strength it takes to choose adoption for her child if she loses that fight. For all the pride I typically have in myself, I have been incredibly humbled each time the role of Mother needed to be filled, and I was chosen.
Most of all, I am humbled when I think about all these sweet, innocent kids who struggle with so many things, who were born behind the 8-ball, who carry so much pain in their hearts…and watch them get up and go on, day after day. Every day they get up knowing life will still be hard. Losses will still be real. The future will still be uncertain. The past still can’t be changed. Some damage still can’t be fixed. But they continue to get up and try their hardest again and again.
They’re why I don’t regret an ounce of the pain or difficulty I’ve experienced on this journey. I do wish I were stronger, could handle the hard moments better, solve more problems, fix more broken things. But like the kids, I will just keep getting up every day, keep showing up to this reality, and do the best I can. And someday I hope we can look back and say, “Yeah, we won, didn’t we? We did that, together. And it was worth it.”
There is ALWAYS a need for foster parents. ALWAYS.
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Books I recommend for Fostering & Adoption (affiliate link)
Read the rest of this series: