When E came to us, she barely made noises. She never cried, and she slept most of the day and night.
The baby we’ve grown to love is not the same baby who was dropped off at our house two months ago. She’s engaged in her world—bright eyed and loud. She lets us know when her diaper is wet or she’s hungry. In fact, she lets the whole neighborhood know. But when she is dry and fed, she is the happiest baby in the omniverse.
To say that we are collectively in love with her is a colossal understatement. Will changed his rubber bands at his last orthodontist appointment to pink because he thought E would like it. Ben ordered a book from Scholastic because it came with a tiny stuffed pink owl.
Almost without exception, when I run into people, they automatically ask how life with an infant is, and I have to honestly reply that it’s not that hard. At the risk of rubbing salt in the wounds of some of my friends living life as newborn parent zombies, the adjustment has been really smooth. It helps that she sleeps through the night.
Believe me—I know what it’s like to not sleep. Will didn’t sleep through the night a single time until he was 2 1/2 years old. NOT ONE NIGHT. Ben was much better, but he wasn’t truly sleeping through the night until eight months.
So, to have an almost three month old show up sleeping twelve hours feels a little otherworldly. At first we thought it was a fluke, but she has continued to be a champion sleeper, which automatically makes me feel like I hit a home run in mothering when I wake up in the morning.
Here is what has been hard: E’s visitation schedule. E sees her mom a certain number of hours a week and sees her dad separately a certain number of hours a week. What that means is that for a segment of every week day, a case assistant picks her up for these supervised visits.
Pro: theoretically, I have 2-3 hours a day to take care of the rest of my life—fulfilling my obligations to Somebody’s Mama/ONE/cub scouts/the boys’ school/whatever else I’ve committed to that week, cleaning my house, and running errands.
Con: sometimes E’s parents cancel these visits for a variety of reasons, so my best laid plans go by the wayside as I don’t actually get those hours I’m counting on.
SUPER Con: when E does leave for those visits, I think about her the whole time she’s gone. I vacillate between being sad and frustrated. For one thing, I miss her (sad). And these visits are not based on what’s best for her—they are based on what is convenient for her parents, so that means her days go wonky (frustrated). She doesn’t get a nap she needs. She spends her day in a strange place that isn't comfortable and/or is overstimulating. And then the case assistant drops her back off at our house, and I am the one responsible for recalibrating an overtired, fussy, confused, and (sometimes) dirty baby.
That is what is actually hard about this.
I continue to count caring for her as one of the greatest joys of my life. I frequently look down at her while she’s sleeping and weep. I don’t cry. I weep as in “Jesus wept” because she is such a gift, and even though the piles of laundry are ever present, and we’ve had frozen pasta for dinner more times than I can count, there is literally nothing in the world more important than those moments when she’s in my arms and knows that she is safe and loved. Nothing.
In other news, on January 22, we got a call from our licensing agency asking if we could take a seven-year-old boy. My dad was in India. My mom was in the middle of a long-term sub job thus working every day, and Scott was leaving for a four-day trip the next day. It was 6:00 on a Sunday night, and I scrolled through the week in my head. The only reason I can stay sane (in reference to fostering and in life in general) is because of this tremendous support system, and none of them were going to be able to back me up if we agreed to bring this boy into our care. A small part of me wanted to say yes for all the obvious reasons, but I knew that it wasn’t the right timing. Scott agreed, so we said no.
There are two constant battles going on in my mind: first, I want to do the most good for the greatest number of people, and second, I want to be the best me.
I’ve found that I have to create boundaries to protect myself from doing too much, and in this instance, caring for another child was going to be too much. The call prompted a great conversation between me and Scott about how we want to approach the next time they call. We agreed that with both phone calls—the one for E and the one for the boy, we had an innate sense of what the answer should be.
Two days later we got a call about two sisters, aged 4 years and 11 months, and before I could even get ahold of Scott, they were placed with another family. As far as we know, our phone is going to continue ringing, and we have to be ready with an answer. A large part of being a successful foster family is trusting your gut and hoping for the best.
Two months down.