Baby B had arrived. It was March of 2017, and once again, I had the joy of taking care of this second foster for much of her first five weeks. But this time I had the routine down from the beginning. And she came over to my house more than Baby A had, which made it easier to keep up with my own life.
If you’ve had more than one child added to your family, you may remember the novelty of everything the first one did, how you wrote down every milestone, took tons of pictures, told everyone the new things they were doing. And when the second came along, you noticed things, but didn’t take time to write them all down because for you they were no longer as surprising, and you were too tired.
With my daughter’s foster babies, I also felt changes from the first one to the second. With the first foster it was like having our first child: a totally new experience that I had no working knowledge of how it might go. But with the second, even though I was savvy about bottles and car seats and various gadgets to lay her in and use to keep her clean and comfy, it didn’t fully equate to the feeling of having a second child.
An obvious difference with Baby B is that Baby A was no longer in the home, so there wasn’t the need to divide time and energy between two babies like when we had our second child. There was still the newness of getting to know another unique person, learning her noises and cries, watching for any signs of feeding problems, getting adjusted to her sleeping and eating schedules, all the things any family has to learn about a new baby.
The biggest difference was that I knew all too well the possibility that this child may not be with us for very long.
And I have to admit, I felt myself guarding my heart a little, not with the love I showed her, but with the love I allowed myself to feel.
This was not new to me. Nineteen years before I felt the same dilemma. Our third child died and was miscarried in December 1997, and unknown to us we were pregnant again only seventeen days later. We were grieving the loss of our much-loved, much-wanted, tried-for-seven-years-to-conceive child. The whole family went on a scrapbooking weekend where the kids played around with Dad while I recorded our brief one month of having this child living inside me. It was a necessary exercise, giving thanks and remembering and recording all our joy and sorrow. It helped us all, me especially, be able to move on.
And after that early January scrapbooking weekend, it seemed we were able to look up from our hurt and timidly ask God what was next.
Just weeks later I was feeling hesitantly sure that we might be pregnant again, so at the end of a very busy day I managed to take a pregnancy test at our favorite coffee shop hang-out, where we all crowded into the bathroom to watch the lines appear, and then celebrated with the baristas who knew our struggles. And as we waited for our drinks to be made we decided to nickname this baby “Joy” while he or she was growing inside me.
In case it’s rubbing you the wrong way, whenever we were expecting, we always talked about how WE were pregnant. There were two people involved, both committed to raising any children God chose to bless us with. And the meaning of pregnant that I always loved was “full of expectation!” My husband and kids were as full of expectation as I was! I was just the one full of baby as well.
So in that season all those years ago I knew what it was to be deeply in love with a baby I had just learned existed, and then to have to commit that baby completely into the hands of God, trusting the plan of the one who created us all.
And then the joy filled reality that I was carrying another unique person that God was forming in my womb moment by moment! I was truly feeling all the feelings. When you know the finality of loss in this world, it tempers joy. It doesn’t eclipse it, but it lets you remember the sting that is possible.
It was time to put aside my sorrow and focus on taking care of myself and this new baby. God had allowed me that oblivious time of mourning to process my hurt and gratefulness for being allowed to carry our little one even for a short time, to feel that connection again. And I was back at the midwife’s office, arguing with her backup doctor that no, this wasn’t a twin of the baby I lost, I was sure this was a new pregnancy, and taking daily blood tests for a while to prove it, and then we were all amazed at how quickly I had been able to conceive again. After seven long years of infertility. It was truly two miracles in a row, and I was able to feel joy again.
Still I felt myself guarding my heart a little. I was already past the time when I’d miscarried, but to ease my mind that I was doing all I could I waited for various milestones to come and go, letting more and more of my heart be captured with hope that all would go well this time.
So two years ago, being immersed into life with Baby B felt much the same. I knew the possibility of loss after Baby A moved on so quickly. The circumstances were not ever in my control, but I could watch and see, could try to understand the system and how it all worked, and little by little I let myself begin to hope that we might be able to care for this child longer than the first foster baby. Beyond a couple of months, I had no experience or knowledge.
And my heart, I know my heart wanted so badly to be all in.