And here is the last of my three posts on my “to-do list” from way back. It has taken me longer than I thought to write these posts. And I have been avoiding writing this one for some time. This post is a letter to my foster daughter who we have had since we took her home from the hospital almost a year ago.
Dear Baby Girl,
Last May your foster parents were busy being quietly devastated. We had just found out that most likely our only hope for having biological children was to do IVF (in-vitro-fertilization) a very costly and invasive procedure. We had also been told we had no insurance coverage for this (which turned out to be wrong). So we spent most of May 2010 sad, isolated, scared.
We had been licensed foster parents since April 2010 but had only taken one child in, and he only stayed for a day before he was placed with family. That all changed in early July. We got a call asking if we would consider being “respite” parents for a baby in the hospital. She had a foster family lined up but they couldn’t take her for a few more days and this baby needed someone to hold her and love her while she was in the hospital. Of course, we agreed to be what is called a “snuggler” or “cuddler” which are people who volunteer to hold and care for infants in the hospital that are sick and for a variety of reasons can’t be held by their parents.
We got that call late on a Thursday and so couldn’t go right then to the hospital. Friday morning, as we were planning to head out to the hospital, we got another call. The original foster family had backed out, would we be willing to take a preemie, days old infant?
It was all I could do to not scream into the phone. I calmly said yes and we headed to the hospital.
To meet you. You were so tiny when we met you, your Foster Dad was a little nervous to hold you for fear you might break. We met you while you were getting your diaper changed by a nurse, which you were protesting loudly about. You sounded like a chicken being plucked. Squawking and fussing about the audacity that it was that you had to get your diaper changed. After that you were handed to me to be fed.
And then I died kiddo. The ‘old me’ was gone and I was now a Mom. However temporary it might be, I was a Mom. We spent the entire day holding you. It was awful to have to leave you for the night. We went back Saturday and did the same.
We were told you couldn’t be released until you were back up to your birth weight. The nurses stated you were a great eater, but you still weren’t gaining enough. So I decided I would do what I would have done if you were my own biological child. I asked the nurse if she had heard of “Kangaroo Care.” Luckily she had and I informed her that we would be doing that. So we held you, skin to skin, all day Saturday.
Sunday we arrived to find the nurses singing your praises as you had slept better than ever before and you had gained 6 ounces! Score one for Kangaroo Care!
We took you home on Tuesday. We did all the typical ‘new parent’ stuff. We cranked the monitor, afraid we might miss you cry, we jumped at the slightest peep from you and raced to make sure you were ok, we stumbled in the darkness for late night feedings, we got peed on, pooped on, and tried to put your diaper on backwards in our sleep deprivation. Since it was the summer we had the AC on and it made your crib sheet feel cold compared to being held in our arms. So we would go to lay you down and you would grimace and squawk at the touch of the cold sheet. So I started laying a heat pack in your crib for a few minutes before we would lay you down. You loved it. Some might say I was spoiling you, but I don’t care.
I tell people now I’m not sure how we survived the first three months of your life. You were an utter joy, but we lived on 3-4 hours sleep a night, and it wasn’t all consecutive sleep. There is no ‘maternity’ or ‘paternity’ leave for foster parents. So you just went everywhere with us, even to work.
Now it is a year later. Looking back on how devastated we were a year ago, I could have never guessed that this May we would fill our days with a busy, healthy, amazing, almost 1-year-old.
You now have six teeth which you use to chew on everything, including your crib. I just discovered the other day that you have used your new teeth to take the finish off the wood railing of your crib. Par for the course baby girl. You have always had this ‘gusto’ for life about everything. You know no fear, and try to get into, eat, rip, throw, anything you can get your hands on. You clap your hands and squeal with delight when we come to get you in the morning. Pure joy.
You started crawling around 9 months and haven’t stopped moving. You now pull up on everything and can walk holding on to us or one of your push toys. You love music and like to play the piano and guitar with your Foster Dad’s help. You ‘sing’ along with me when I sing your goodnight song to you.
Your growth has been steady and you are in the 75th percentile for height and 45th percentile for weight. We have taught you sign language and you now sign back to us. You absolutely love the water and when we took you to a splash park you shrieked with joy, clapped your hands, and tried to devour the water spouting out of the spigot. As much as you love the water you are absolutely terrified of the grass. It’s pretty funny kiddo. You are slowly getting used to it but you would much rather not touch it.
You have come so far my tiny little peanut. And while we don’t know yet your future, we won’t dwell on it. You are in our life now, and it has so utterly transformed us. You may not be ours forever, but we are yours forever.
Since we have had you I have sung you the same song, every night. And this is how I end most of my days now. Not out at a restaurant eating dinner, not going to the latest movie, not reading some old theology book from school, but doing a nighttime routine with you.
We make a bottle, head upstairs and get into your jammies. We look out the window as we close the curtain and say ‘goodnight’ to the garden, trees, grass, sky, etc. We sit in the rocker and you drink you bottle and I sing you nursery rhymes. When you are finished I say to you “ok let’s do some snuggles.” You have gotten so used to hearing that phrase that the instant I say it you stick your thumb in you mouth and turn to put your other arm around my neck. And then I rub you back and sing you ‘our’ song:
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy, when skies are grey
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away…
And you lay there, sucking your thumb, sometimes ‘singing’ along with me. And I think to myself, “How could I have ever wanted to end my day any other way?” Because NOTHING beats those moments kiddo.
Sure we’ve had our moments when we were tired and frustrated. When you wouldn’t sleep for more than an hour at a time, when for two days you decided you no longer wanted to eat solid food, your ability to find the tiniest piece of lint or paper on the floor and immediately try to eat it. But it all fades away. Because ultimately we know what this past year has really been.
A blessing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, people constantly tell us what a “blessing” we are for you. That God must have sent us to you to help you and care for you. But we know that is not how it is. You are a blessing for us. You have blessed us. God blessed us with you. There is a line in scripture that says
This is love: not that we loved God, but that God loved us..
And that is how we feel about you being our foster daughter. It is not that you are ‘ours’, it is that we are ‘yours’. And it is not just us who feel that way. You have so many people who love you, who pray for you. And that is the other part of our bedtime routine.
As I go to put you in your crib I ask you, “who loves this baby?” And I say, “I love you, Pappa loves you…” And then I go on to name all our relatives who love you, “Auntie Cherie loves you, Grandma Donna loves you…” and then I name a few more people who love you, people from our church, our neighbors, friends from school and work. Every night it is different, because there are just that many people who love and adore you.
And I hope you know this someday. That countless numbers of people loved you, prayed for you. And that you, this little tiny baby girl, stole all our hearts and were a blessing to us all.
Your Foster Parents