I’ve talked before about how easily my heart jumped into loving Baby A when my daughter began fostering, and how I tried to hold back at first with Baby B.
There are people whose jobs involve working with lots of little people, and I’ve often wondered how they manage to balance their professional duties with their hearts. Although I’m not the preschool teacher kind of person, I know lots of them, and I marvel at how much love it is possible for them to feel for so many children at once.
But even so, a school year ends or a child ages out of a daycare or preschool class, and their time with them ends.
In fostering, if and when there may be an end is never something you know. At least not with much warning.
Baby B actually helped a little in my attempt to keep my head in control of my heart. When I arrived at my daughter’s house to care for her for a few hours that first evening, this child was a totally different personality from Baby A.
The earliest pictures of her show her classic stink-eye looks. She was not happy. She was not shy about letting you know that. She looked ready to fight the world.
Ah. A challenge. I could take a breath and focus on the tasks at hand, figure out the things that may bring a more calm, chill expression to her face.
My younger daughter was with me that first evening, and had the first turn holding her while I got a bottle ready. And unlike Baby A, who tended to lose little streams of formula out the side of her mouth, this child sucked that first bottle down in a heartbeat. She was all business, and intent on getting her stomach filled.
But even then, the scowl remained. Maybe it was just her newborn face. Maybe there was no connection to any unease in her body, or maybe she was just tired of being messed with and moved from one place to another.
So we passed her back and forth, changed her diaper, looked her over, noticed differences in the way her little hands and fingers, feet and toes looked from Baby A’s. Tried to figure out what her birth parents may look like, marveled at the richness of her skin color and her hair.
Very soon she was ready for more milk, and the second bottle went down as quickly as the first. Even burping didn’t relax the lines in her forehead.
For that first evening anyway I was able to concentrate on the baby’s comfort, on getting her to relax and open her eyes and be willing to take in her new world. Deciding how I felt about it could come later.
Just like with Baby A, the first five weeks of her life I took care of Baby B, at my daughter’s and sometimes at my house. The routine was less of a challenge for me, but for my teens at home it was a stressful time.
We were still fresh from the loss we all felt at Baby A moving to a different home, and there was a long time of aloofness before everyone was able to handle new feelings, fresh love for another foster baby.
Added to the schedule were visits with the birth mom, which was a first, one I had no frame of reference to show me how to navigate.
Here I was, grandfostering another newborn, love growing by leaps and bounds in my heart, despite my caution, and now needing to develop a relationship with the woman who gave her life.
Should I let on how deeply I was falling in love with Baby B? Should I put on a front of being just a caregiver with no strong attachment? Should I not communicate anything about my relationship to this child?
There were no classes for extended family to learn these ropes.
So here’s how I had to look at this.
No matter what the reasons might be for this baby being removed from her birth mom, there were some undeniable positives. This baby had no evidence of drug or alcohol exposure. Her mom had carried her to term without using anything that affected her negatively, that could be detected.
She chose to let this little girl live.
Mom did a great job carrying her and caring for her throughout her pregnancy, and every time I changed or bathed or dressed or fed B, I marveled at what a beautiful, spunky baby she was.
I do not know any of this for fact, but the proof was in my lap or held up on my shoulder or cradled in my arms day after day.
I am forever grateful to her birth mom for the healthy baby my daughter was caring for, from just a few days after her birth.
And love for the woman who bore this child also grew in my heart.
Baby B’s response to us changed quickly, and soon we were getting full-face smiles from the little charmer. She loved being held and looking into our eyes more than about anything.
And when I looked into her birth mom’s face, I could see some of the same expressions. I must admit, more of the furrowed brow mad at the world looks than the smiles, but nonetheless I could see the physical resemblance that will always be a part of her.
Reminding us that this child, like all of us, is a unique combination of her physical parents, and of the way she will be raised. And the tricky part is to bring out the best of all she is made of.