Foster Series: 3

Today’s foster series post comes from a wonderful lady who has asked to remain anonymous.  I am very grateful for her entry and the heart wrenching openness that brought me to tears and kept me on the edge of my seat while I read her story.  Congratulations on the finalization of your wonderful son!  – Sarah

200353956-001Tomorrow is the adoption day for my youngest son. He is 22 mos old.   I have known of him since before he was born.  We had gotten a call during his birthmom’s pregnancy, telling us little, just that a mom may need her baby placed, and our name was brought up as a possibility.  Fast forward a few more months…and we were just ending an emotional, media frenzied placement.  My husband and I were discussing quitting foster care.  I was emotionally drained.  It had only been a week since the last placement had ended, when we got the call.  This mother was in labor, and the newborn would need to be placed.  My heart raced.  We were quitting!  But I was already thinking about baby supplies.  I asked for time to think.  I was offered an hour.  I texted my husband, who responded something like, he was in if I was sure…or something close to that.  It took only 5 minutes for me to reply to the worker that we wanted the baby.

I knew this was a foster care placement.  I also knew they thought it would be long term.  This scared me.  I knew it would be another hard, emotional case.  I tried to begin preparing myself.  I waited to hear that the baby was born, and found out it was a boy.  We had all girl things!!  We needed to shop!  And so we did!  My husband actually really got into shopping for a little boy, it was fantastic.  We went to see him in the hospital, and found he was being released to us.  I let my daughter, 12 at the time, hold him first, as I filled out the paperwork.  My husband was home with our other son (who we are also trying to adopt from foster care, he was almost 3 at the time).  I saw this baby, and I knew I was in trouble.  When I held him, and he wrapped his hand around my thumb, the wall I tried to build crumbled.  We became a team in that moment.  My son never took a pacifier, attached to a blanket, or a stuffed toy.  I have always been his comfort item.  We have an incredible bond.

My son’s birthmom has a mental illness.  Her inability to parent is not her fault.  This causes me great guilt.  Her illness also causes me fear.  She was given the opportunity, once stabilized with medication, to try to demonstrate the ability to parent.  The initial goal in foster care is always reunification.  Because of her illness, I was always afraid for this little boy.  I know she loves him, without a doubt.  I also know that what she does sometimes is not “her.”  I had to trust the social workers, and this was very difficult.  I cried a lot of tears.  I felt incredible guilt, because I was trying so hard to help his birth mom too, as is my role as a foster parent. I would give her tips, and prompts and help along the way. But, the reality was, I wanted to adopt more than I wanted air to breathe.  I could not imagine this child anywhere else.  I felt selfish.  I knew her illness was not her fault, and I felt horrible that this was happening.  But, I also knew what the right thing was…and it was for him to be safe, with us.

Suddenly, when our son was 15 mos old, his birth mom announced that she wanted to let us adopt.  It took me by surprise, and I don’t think I have ever sobbed the way I did in that moment.  When I left that visit, I tried to tell myself not to be too hopeful, that she may change her mind.  But, she never changed her mind.  This is what she wanted.  We never did another social worker visit after that.  I continued visiting with her family, and she came to those visits.  I am glad for that.  I want him to know her, and her family too.  I know she made the decision out of love.  They have a bond, and I want the bond to continue.  I think she recognized that the case wasn’t progressing, and I think she wanted it to be a choice, not something taken from her.  I think it was a healthy decision.  The birth father has never been in the picture. When he found out about the baby, he immediately wanted him adopted by us, citing the bond we had formed.

Nothing about foster care adoption has been easy.  Until the petition for adoption is signed, I will worry that someone can take him.  Family always has priority to foster care placement.  We have been fortunate to have a relationship with family who wants to be involved, but not take placement.  But, that involvement also gives me some fear until the date of adoption.  What if they changed their minds??  That fear seems irrational with no basis, but it is still there.  I don’t think its abnormal to have fear.  Its also such a long process.  But the end is worth it.  So very worth it.

I am blessed.

– Anonymous

Family Bonding

Family Bonding

Sarah Baker | July 01, 2013 | 02:45 PM

When adopting a child, the fear of bond is even greater than it is when it’s a biological child. I can remember when I was pregnant with Isaac and reading about women who failed to bond with their child after birth. That terrified me. If I had those fears with my biological son that I carried inside me for 9 months, how would it be with my adopted son? I feared it would take us longer to bond. That I couldn’t give him the maternal love he needed, that things would be “different”. The good news is… it was exactly the same. It was surreal, but it was the same. I saw that precious baby the moment he was born and was instantly in love with him. The first night we bonded so well that by the next day I knew him and he knew me. My husband was instantly smitten and I saw him cry just holding our newborn son.

With adoption it can be hard to bond with the unborn child. You bond with an idea of being a parent. You may have names picked out and a great relationship with the birth parents… but you still fear that adoption being disrupted. In our first match, we put ourselves fully into that match. When we saw family members treating us different from siblings that were also expecting; we were hurt. But, for them, the match wasn’t real. The baby wasn’t here yet, there was no guarantee. We wanted to celebrate our excitement, but they were afraid. We had to speak up. We now understand that it wasn’t their lack of excitement for us, but that they were protecting themselves in the chance it didn’t go through. Of course, our first match did fall through and we felt like that would just support their cause of not being excited if we got matched again. It’s like a miscarriage, in the sense that you don’t know what could happen. But should the “what if’s” cause you to avoid attachment? WHAT IF it does go through? Then you haven’t prepared or mentally bonded with that baby?

So when we did get matched again, we were terrified. But Ezra’s first mother knew about our first failed match, she understood my need to be up front about everything and clarify our expectations and us to understand her expectations so that the match could be a success. After we got that out of the way, I was able to cautiously bond. I was still scared, all the way up until he was born. But, I also was afraid for her. Afraid Ezra’s expecting mom was hurting. Afraid she would regret her decision. See, the beauty in bonding with Ezra before he was born, was that I also bonded with her. She is an amazing, strong woman that chose life for her son. She chose to be the best mom she could be to him and to her other 2 children by placing him for adoption. I am so glad I didn’t allow my first failed adoption to result in shutting my emotions down when we moved forward with trying again.

When Ezra was born, we stayed a couple days in the hospital with him and them. We did not invite family, but we were on the phone a lot, talking to family and texting pictures. When we got home, our immediate family came to visit in the days ahead. Those family members that struggled to bond and show excitement fell in love immediately. Their fear of the unknown vanished when they held our little 6 pounds of perfection.

The best part is seeing our older son, Isaac, with Ezra. When Ezra was about 2 or 3 months old, I was talking to Isaac and I said “I can’t believe he’s ours. He really feels like he is OURS.” Isaac said “duh, that’s because he is. He’s my brother.”