Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Baby We Already Have

My husband and I were childless when we took our first foster placement so it was just "us" left to deal with the heartache of welcoming a child into our lives and having to say goodbye a short time later.  Each time we passed by Justin's vacant bedroom after he left it was a torturous reminder of what we didn't have: namely, a child of our own.  But we're adults- we can deal with it. 

Just two weeks after we took a baby girl as our second placement we welcomed another baby girl into our lives "for keeps" as M's birthmother chose us to be the parents of her baby.  The fact that we had a baby of our own when Molly left made her leaving bearable.  Of course M. was just six months old when Molly left our home so although she has seen plenty of pictures of her with another baby girl who we call her foster sister she doesn't remember when Molly lived with us.

Five months ago when we got the call from DCFS and I went to pick up Christian I told M, "We're going to go pick up a little baby boy and bring him home to stay with us. Does that sound fun?"

She was excited and just took it matter-of-factly as if I had just mentioned that we were going to the store to pick up a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk.  And overnight she went from being an only child to sharing her home and mommy and daddy's time and attention with a baby foster brother.  For the most part she's done remarkably well, but this placement has brought us some new challenges and is different from our first two placements since it's the first placement we've had where our daughter is old enough to understand what's going on and because of this it won't be just Jared and I that are affected by the change of reunification, but M will be affected as well. 

One day after Christian had been with us for a couple of months I took him to his weekly supervised visit with his dad.  That particular day M. insisted on coming with me to the DCFS Office rather than staying behind at a play date I had scheduled for her.  When we got to the DCFS building and I handed the baby over to his dad M. became a little confused and turned to me and asked out loud, "Who's THAT Guy?"  I smiled and casually explained that it was the baby's daddy and left it at that until we went outside and got back in the car. 

"This is going to be tricky" I thought. "How do I explain foster care to a 2 year old?"    I knew that I had to have a talk with M. right then and there so while we were in our car I explained  "M, we're just babysitting the baby for his daddy- he's not our baby.  But we get to love him and take care of him and then when we're done he'll go back to live with his daddy" (birthmom wasn't back in the picture at that point).  She responded to my explanation with a slightly confused look on her face which turned to disappointment.  And, of course, being the worry-wart that I am I immediately thought, "Oh no!  What if she's confused and thinks that she's not ours either and that she is going to get sent way or something."  So then I immediately piped up ,"But M, YOU are mommy and daddy's girl forever and you ALWAYS get to stay with us!"

I referred to weekly visits after that day as "taking the baby to see his daddy" and it has become as natural and normal to M. as telling her that we're going to the store or the park.  Recently, however, we've been trying to prepare M. for the fact that the baby won't be in our home forever and that soon he will be leaving and returning to his daddy permanently- not just for a visit.

Each time we try explaining things M. gets very sad- sometimes she will even cry and say, "But I don't want the baby to go back to his daddy!".  It's heartbreaking.  When she says that I remind her that we can keep praying for a baby brother or sister.  It's become almost a daily script.

A couple of nights ago as I was tucking her in bed we went through "the script" in reverse order: I reminded her to ask Heavenly Father for a baby brother or sister in her prayers and she immediately said, "But I don't want the baby to go back- I want the baby we already have!"  I was surprised at how articulate she was.

It's ironic- Our family wants a baby more than anything right now.  But "the baby we already have" is not ours.


jendoop said...

Oh, it's such a hard thing. It's confusing enough for adults to process. You're doing a great job of explaining it to your daughter.

Maggie said...

This is something I think about a lot - explaining to Sylvie and our adopted children that our foster children will leave. You sound like you are doing a great job though!

Karine said...

I have a lot of respect for foster parents! I am so happy you have been blessed with a child to call yours and that won't go away! :) But it says a lot about you as a couple that you can love other children and know they will leave... still do all you can and help them. Thank you for that!