Our family has changed a lot in the past year. We went from a family of 3 to a family of 4 last May for about 7 months. Then back down to 3. In the past five months we gained two babies in our house so are hearts are expanding and our house it bustling with a family of 5. This journey is a challenge and a blessing in so many ways. The privilege and responsibility of caring for these babies, especially the newborn has gotten me thinking about the many differences between fostering and bringing up your own children.
When you have your own baby, you have 9 months to prepare and plan and fall in love with the little one growing inside you. You know that this child carries the genes of you and your spouse. You bring them home, maybe unsure of what the road will bring, but you are already planning your future with your little one.
When fostering, you have little or no time to prepare and plan. What planning you do is always contingent and filled with questions, “If” and “When”. You do quickly fall in love with the little one, but it is a love of choice at first that grows and blossoms in different ways then it does with your own baby. In addition, the future that you would start to envision and plan for your children is marked with uncertainty and filled with more questions that hope. Don’t get me wrong, there is hope but the anticipation is different and guarded in a sense. You think about the next year or even month and you don’t know if this child will be in your life or even if they will be safe and loved. I am getting used to life being up in the air. Also getting used to the fact that life doesn’t wait-we make plans and live life. If we have the kiddos when that activity or trip arrives-great we will make it work, if not we- will still have fun as a family.
When you have your own baby, people congratulate you and shower you with love. Fostering, people often don’t know what to say or do. They may say congratulations, but often the looks seem to come from pity and compassion as opposed to the admiring looks one gives a new mom and her baby. Similarly, when people say congratulations or offer words of admiration the “thanks” I give seems somewhat empty because I know this child is not “mine” in the same sense of a biological child. I find myself always second guessing how much information about the child(ren) to share with friends and family. We cannot post pics of foster kids on Facebook so I feel like we are only sharing half of our family story or sharing half of the truth. I want to be real an honest, yet respecting the privacy of the child and his/her family. This is a tough balance that I still have not figured out. I feel like I am hiding things from people.
In some ways it has been easier bringing a newborn home from the hospital this time. After all, I am not coming into it with 9 months of increasing discomfort and sleep deprivation. My body has no trauma from birth and physically I feel like myself. When I had Brandon I was in a haze for three months (literally-ask my family!).
When others find out we are fostering all sorts of questions about our intentions come up. Everyone seems to assume that our ultimate goal is adoption. A lot of this assumption is due to lack of understanding about what fostering really is. Adoption is often not possible, and we try not to think about it too much. We will cross that bridge when/if it comes.
Am I attached to these little loves? -ABSOLUTELY. Is it worth it even when we have to say Good-Bye?- YES-they are worth it. Investing in their lives is worth the inconvenience of dealing with drs visits, parenting time, court dates, administrative hassles, etc…It is also worth the pain of letting go and of living in a state of constant uncertainty.
I am so thankful for our family who as “rolled with us” on this journey and accepted, loved and babysat our foster kiddos as part of the family. Our church family as well has been so amazing and we certainly could not do this without their help, prayer and support.
The differences between fostering and raising your own child are great, yet each child, biological or not, is created in the Image of God. They are valuable and deserve a safe and loving home, and opportunities to grow and be nurtured.