God, in his truly infinite wisdom, gives women a time to bear children for a season, and then we move on to another season. One of emptying nests, which in our house has involved helping kids navigate licenses and cars, college and jobs, and gradually the nest is getting emptier. We’re not going to be done with that whole season for years, thankfully, because we do enjoy having our children in our home.
Along with the independence of growing teens, at this stage of life I as a woman have gone through hormonal changes that have some interesting effects. I have become more patient. I am able to listen to and babble with kids for long periods of time, and not be frustrated by getting nothing done. This is an actual thing. It’s not just my personal laid back nature, but a way God designed us to be able to love unconditionally at a time when our children may be producing grandchildren for us to nurture.
I had read about this benefit of menopause before our daughter started fostering, and I was eager to see if I would actually have the patience to spend long periods of time with a newborn baby again. I remember those days so well, as busy as they were, of unending next things to do. Nursing, and cloth diapers, and spitting up, and changing outfits only to have another blowout diaper, and remembering that I needed to keep drinking water to make milk, and eat as well, and finding five minutes to fix food, and almost never getting a real dinner on the table. We won’t even talk about how many days I could go without a shower because I fell soundly asleep while getting the baby down at night.
Now it was my turn to watch my daughter rush around and make sure she got all her stuff done before starting her work day, while I was at her house holding the baby. And then she would leave, and our time would begin.
I didn’t know what to consider myself in relation to Baby A. Not only was this a whole new experience, but one with no known outcome. Would this baby be wanted by her birth mother? Would there be visits with mom, would she be able to work out whatever issues led to her child being placed in foster care and regain custody? My daughter had hopes that Baby A could be reunified with her mom, but in those early days we had no way of knowing if and when that might happen.
And what if it wasn’t going to work out, if mom wasn’t able to care for this child? What would happen to this baby? Our daughter was certified to foster to adopt as well as fostering. So when there was no contact with mom in those first few weeks, we held very high hopes that Baby A would someday be adopted by our daughter and be a permanent part of our family.
I don’t understand all the laws and rules and services that apply to fostering, but in our experience we learned that the approved day care wouldn’t take a foster baby until they were five weeks old. And after doing some research into short-term, in home care with a certified provider, my daughter was disappointed by the lack of choices and quality care out there. So that left her with very real needs to find someone to care for her newborn foster baby, since most employers also do not allow any paid leave while the foster parent adjusts to their new circumstances.
I am honestly amazed at how hard it is to have a successful fostering relationship. When I was expecting my children, I had nine months to anticipate, plan, rearrange my home and life to welcome a new member of the family. And while a certified foster parent knows they can get a call at any time asking them to drop everything and take in a child who needs a home, that doesn’t account for the fact that this child will be a true unknown. They have to learn everything, take the child where they are as far as age and health and life experiences, and accept them into their home and family with a couple of hours’ notice.
I couldn’t take in an overnight guest with that short a warning.
While my daughter had gathered all the equipment she needed on hand, put up gates and took safety measures to satisfy home inspections, she found the short-term care options available to her were not going to be adequate. And thankfully my work schedule was light and our homeschooled teens were able to keep up their schoolwork so that I could be with the new baby, giving her the attention and care she needed.
So what did that make me in those first weeks? If my daughter was the foster mom, was I the foster grandma? I didn’t like the sound of that. This grandfostering was going to be tougher than I thought. Long before my daughter started calling herself mom, I decided I wanted to be Mamaw, like my grandma was to me. I needed words to use as I cuddled and cooed with this tiny girl, a name for her to take in and know it meant safe and dry and fed and loved. Mamaw Becky. It sounded real. It sounded permanent. So be it.
So for the first five weeks I took advantage of all those hormone shifts and held that baby. In my arms, on my lap, lying next to her on the floor, sometimes putting her down in a rock and play while she slept. Talking to her, telling her story, telling her mine, singing and praying over her, pouring love all over her, sometimes with words. And so did she.