So a little more than two years ago, my daughter accepted her second newborn foster baby, just one month after the first moved to a new home with her older brother. I’ve already shared some of the similarities and differences in my experience with each baby, but this second placement came with a brand new addition to the routine.
Visits with mom.
While my daughter had Baby A, the birth mom never arranged for any visitation time, so I didn’t need to learn the ropes of taking a child to children’s services. In fact, other than going downtown for my background check, I had avoided driving in town for years. It wasn’t that I never had, or that I didn’t know where anything was, I just don’t care for busy city traffic. With Baby A I think there was one time I was needed to pick her up from daycare downtown, and the day my daughter had to turn her over, but both times I was a passenger.
Baby B’s birth mom was different. She wanted visitation very soon, and it was scheduled twice a week in the middle of the day under supervision at the agency. While the downtown daycare was operating it made it convenient for my daughter to transport her, but she had the occasional meeting or training scheduled, and I was available to ferry the baby around. Bringing her there involved a parking garage and carrying her in a car seat or stroller, getting her signed in and transferred to mom. If I was also picking her up after the visit, there was a coffee shop nearby to hang out, and then return to sign her out and pack her up to go back to daycare or home with me on occasion. And validating multiple parking tickets.
After her daycare location changed and the drive was farther from my daughter’s work, there were more times it helped to get her into town and let my daughter pick her up when the visit was over, so my presence at the visits became more frequent.
The biggest difference was that I got to know Baby B’s birth mom.
I didn’t need to know background details about her. And likewise I feel I shouldn’t say much of what I did learn, at least nothing identifying. But I’m a mom. I’ve felt five babies moving within me for the last six months or so of every pregnancy. I found myself knowing these little people I carried more deeply than I ever thought possible, before they were ever born. I couldn’t assume that she felt any less of a connection with the child that she had given birth to, who had to be removed from her arms and given to another person to love and care for.
I remember not wanting to offend or intimidate her in any way. If she didn’t make eye contact, I wouldn’t force it. If she didn’t talk, I was polite but didn’t ask a lot of questions. But I did feel for her. Because I knew how it felt to lose a baby.
I always smiled at her, tried to place Baby B from my arms into hers, or transfer the stroller right to her hands, and give her some reassuring thing to notice about the baby.
My daughter had shared her desire to see moms reunited with their child in her fostering adventure, and I was looking for the same outcome. So as a mom, I tried to encourage any good thing I saw her do or heard her say. There were a lot of long stays at the coffee shop, praying for mom, and returning to hear her tell Baby B that she loved her as I took her back.
There was hope for their reunion. For a long time.
I won’t go into detail, but in my understanding, when a baby is taken away from the birth mom, there are serious reasons that could be any number of things. And in order to regain custody, each mom would have her own set of requirements to meet, goals to be working toward and achieving, before the system would consider reuniting mother and baby.
The passage of time would be the only way to know if Baby B’s mom was able or willing to successfully meet her requirements. Time, and official meetings and hearings and I’m not sure all the hoops to be jumped through. But this was a process, and it had to be lived out, before a day would eventually come when either the birth mom could try to regain custody, or the door would be shut on Baby B ever being with her birth mom.
So until that day came, I had those occasional chances to make an impression on a young woman I grew to love and care for, who is still in my prayers, whose face I looked into as much as I could, seeing what Baby B might be like as she grows.
And I wanted her to see the love of God in me. I wanted her to see joy and peace and contentment, with the world, with the situation she was in, with her baby passed back and forth between us. I wanted her to know some of the love her baby was getting. I wanted her to feel it.
It took a long time, but she started looking me in the eye.
I can’t tell you what she saw, why she was finally willing to look. But what I wanted her to see was hope. Hope for herself, that I would be happy for her if she were able to do all she needed to do and someday take her baby home. Hope that even if she didn’t, she would know I still cared about her. And mostly that Baby B’s birth mom could always count on her baby being loved by people who also took time to see and love her.