Three hours after I signed the papers to be officially licensed, I was almost given a placement. Unfortunately, it was a pretty complicated situation, so the agency decided to pass on it since I was so new.
I expected a phone call with a new placement later that week. I kept my phone on hand 24/7- just in case. But things stayed quiet. I kept going through my standard routine- trying to take advantage of my my pre-placement free-time but mostly just hoping my I'd get a phone call.
(I wrote a post about the waiting period in those first few days, but haven't posted it yet; I wasn't sure it accurately articulated the complexity of what I was feeling. I'll probably re-visit and share it soon, but essentially it touched on how hard it is to hope for something that- deep down- you hope won't happen. The ideal is that foster families wouldn't be needed, but at the same time I felt so ready (emotionally) to welcome a child into my home. And it was sometimes hard to reconcile those two desires.)
One week later I received another call. It was for a second potential placement- this time for two children under the age of two.
The agency I work with is incredibly supportive, and they want foster parents to make thoughtful and informed decisions about accepting placements. They encourage them to be honest about what they're thinking and feeling, and want them to only accept placements they feel confident they can really care for and support.
When I received this second phone call, I was in the midst of a miserable cold. As I answered, I was typing a message to a friend about my plans to take NyQuil and go to bed the moment I got home.
When this opportunity came up, I immediately called my mom and sister to get their perspectives, and ultimately decided I didn't feel confident at that moment to accept two young children. I wasn't sure I'd be able to adjust so quickly to life with two youngsters while feeling awful, struggling to breathe normally, and battling a fever.
So I told them I wasn't ready. Which was incredibly difficult.
After that, my phone went silent again. I kept it close- again, expecting it to ring at any moment. (I mean, I almost got a placement within three hours of signing papers- why was it taking so long??)
On Monday night I was sitting with a new friend, drinking tea and sharing my frustration with the waiting. "I thought I'd have a placement by now," I lamented. "I thought the difficult part was over when I finished the licensure process, but waiting seems just as challenging in a lot of ways." She encouraged me to trust that, whenever a placement came, the timing and fit would be perfect. I agreed, really believing she was right, but still feeling exhausted with the process.
The next day- less than 24 hours later- my phone rang again.
I picked it up- thinking it would just be a request for more information to complete babysitter background checks. (I'd had to provide a few rounds of information earlier in the week.)
But it wasn't.
I was told there was a new potential placement. There was an expecting mom was set to be induced later in the week, but she wasn't ready to take care of her new baby at that time. So she was asking to have him placed.
And they thought I'd be a good fit.
"Of course, we'll have to figure out childcare. Most places won't take kids under 6 weeks of age. But if we're able to work that out, do you think you'd be interested?"
I didn't even have to think about this one. I felt ready (again- emotionally) and confident as I said, "Yes, I definitely would."
So I made some phone calls and the agency made some phone calls, and we kept hitting walls. I talked to several day cares, all of which stated they couldn't take in an infant so young. The one I found that could accept newborns was full.
So I started to feel discouraged again; I began to think this placement would't work out, after all.
The next day- on Wednesday- the agency told me they were working on a few possibilities.
That evening, they told me they'd figured out an option that would work.
They didn't have information about the mom/baby yet, so I still wasn't sure if things would pan out, but I was trying to remain hopeful.
On Thursday morning I got a text. "It's a boy!"
I may or may not have cried in my office.
I felt such a strange mix of emotions. On the one hand, I was so excited to welcome this new life into my home. I felt humbled at the thought of accepting such an significant role in the life of this child and his family.
At the same time, my heart broke for his mom. I couldn't image what she was feeling. I was so thankful for the way she was choosing to care for her child, but so devastated at the thought of the pain she was feeling.
I cannot even fathom what she was- and is- going through.
But I felt very ready to love that new baby boy.
We weren't sure when he would be released from the hospital, but- expecting it to be sometime over the weekend- I made a Target run that night to pick up the essentials. Diapers, wipes, etc.
As I stood in the baby aisle- overwhelmed by the sheer number of various bottles (how do I know what to choose?!), my phone rang again.
"He's being released tomorrow! Do you want to go with the case manager to pick him up?"
After frantic and frazzled phone calls to my employers, I excitedly agreed to go.
Twelve hours later- after a somewhat sleepless night- I was heading down to Galveston to meet my first foster child.
As we made the trip, everything felt surreal. I kept expecting to wake up and realize it was a dream. I stared at passengers in the cars passing by, thinking about how we were (probably) heading to such different places. They were just going about their day-to-day lives.
I was going to pick up a child.
My heart was racing when we pulled up to the hospital. We checked in at the nursery, and I stood awkwardly behind the case manager as he filled out paperwork. I kept glancing around- trying to figure out which crying baby would be coming home with me in just a few hours.
After signing a few forms, the nurse waved me over to a few infants lying in portable hospital cribs.
She pointed to the one closest to me, and I met my new foster son.
"I'm sorry- we're really busy today," the nurse explained. "Let me try to find you a room." She asked her co-workers if there was an empty room nearby. We were directed to the circumcision room.
Not an ideal location for our first moments together, but still.
I followed her as she wheeled this sweet little boy- less than 48 hours old- into the room. She told me he was probably ready to eat, handed me a bottle, and left to take care of her other patients. "Am I allowed to pick him up?" I asked as she left, but she didn't hear me.
There are really no words that can do justice to everything I felt in that moment.
And so, so full of love.
I stared at him for a moment- completely unable to process so many distinct thoughts and emotions- and then, very nervously, pulled him into my arms.
I cried as I sat there holding him.
I whispered to him while he slept in my arms- terrified I would wake him up. I told him how happy I was to meet, hold, and care for him. I told him about how loved he was- by me, by his mother, and by the countless people who had called and texted me over the past 24 hours to offer support, baby clothes, meals, etc. (I have amazing people in my life, guys.)
Despite the noise and chaos around us, it felt so quiet in that room. He lay there sleeping (and- based on the adorable faces he made- dreaming some crazy thing); I stared in awe and silently thanked God for the life in my arms.
About 15 minutes later, his case manager joined us as we waited for the nurse to return. We sat together for two hours before she came back into the room carrying a bag of supplies and papers. "Okay, I'm just going to give you a really quick crash course on caring for newborns," she told me. She quickly flipped through a booklet, reminding me to put him on his back to sleep, make sure he was buckled up in the car, and stick to short sponge baths until his umbilical cord fell off. You know, the highlights of infant care.
She probably said a few other things, too, but she was talking quickly. It's all kind of a blur now.
"Well, any questions?" she asked.
"Umm... I don't... not that I can think of right now?"
"Okay, well- you can go ahead and change his diaper and then head out! Good luck!"
Five minutes later, we were carrying this tiny boy out to the car.
I was expecting someone to chase me into the elevator and stop us. Surely someone knew I didn't know what I was doing?!
But we made it to the car without anyone saying another word.
We buckled him into his carseat ("Is this right? Should this be at a different angle? He looks so scrunched up- can he breathe?!") and left.
About 4 hours later, I was pulling into my driveway, trying to comprehend the ways my life had changed in the past 24 hours.
I'm a foster a foster mom.
To a perfect little boy.
And I am so, so happy.
And sleep deprived.
But mostly happy. And unbelievably grateful.
I'll share more about the past few days later, but for now I have a sweet little baby to hold.
I'm not allowed to show his face or use his name, but here are some photos of our first days together:
|He held my finger for most of the ride home. He knows how to melt hearts, guys.|
|Right after we arrived home (I look exhausted and like I just gave birth, but I love this photo.)|
|RG is still trying to figure out what to think about him.|