So on June 15th, we officially received our license and were officially a foster home. Six hours later I was about to get my hair cut when my cell phone rang and they needed a place for a baby for one night. It was a fast haircut, let me tell you! I rushed home and we met him and he stayed for one night and was picked up the next morning to start a new life.
Then we did respite care for the rest of the summer, it was the one condition placed on us to get our license. I have OCD and have struggled with depression and anxiety most of my adult life, but really kicked it in the ass three years ago when I began cognitive behavioral therapy where we realized the core issue was the OCD. I say “we” like I was on board with it. It took a few sessions! But given the tools to keep that under control has greatly reduced the anxiety and depression. This was all on the table from the beginning of our licensing process. I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time or have any surprises, so all of my stuff was out there in the open the whole time. My mental health team wrote letters on my behalf and my agency had a staffing to discuss what, if any, restrictions they should place on me with the license. And you know, I am glad they did. Sure, I didn’t love it, but I get it. So, they wanted us to complete some respite experiences so we knew what we were getting into. So we did.
Respite care is really babysitting. It’s short term care for a child who is in out of home care, it might be a few hours or it might be a few days or weeks. It’s all set up ahead of time and it’s an easy way to get care that is state approved. So we got some practice. Including a weekend with a pair of one year and three year old siblings that taught us we are soooooo not ready for two at once yet! We have been called for placement a few times, but with multiple kids, or way outside of our age range and we had to say no. But we kept on waiting.
And then our phone started ringing at six AM on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. And there was a kiddo who needed a home, a real placement. So we took a leap and said yes. And they brought him over in an hour. So sweet, soft curly hair, cheeks for days, two tiny teeth.
The first few days were tough, my husband pretty much fell in love immediately. I was so focused on the work of caring for him that I was kind of holding back, I guess. I mean, there was so much to do. Get clothes. Wash clothes. run to appointments. Make phone calls. Freak out. Get food, figure out what he ate, how he ate, if he could feed himself at all, clean up. Bathe him. Clean up some more. Change diapers. Clean up even more mess. Repeat forever. I was overwhelmed. And then at some point after a couple days something slid into place and it didn’t get easier, but it got better. You have to do this with all of your heart to do it right. You know it’s going to hurt like hell when you have to let go, but you do it because this kid? Is hurting like hell right now and needs you. So you open your arms and your heart and you just love them.
The husband and I did have a come to Jesus talk on Thursday night after I dropped the expensive temporal thermometer and it stopped working (kiddo was teething and had vaccines so was running a fever) and i just fell apart crying. And my husband had emptied the dishwasher, but left all the dirty dishes behind in the sink and it was just all too much. But for real, who even does that? You empty, you LOAD. Also, I saved the thermometer, dropping it bent one of the battery contacts a bit and I just needed to adjust it. Sweet, it was $50. Damn.
But I woke up Friday and we finally had a rhythm going. He didn’t wake up screaming, he woke up gurgling and happy for the first time. There were lots of giggles during his morning stretch while I changed his diaper. We were on time for a nine AM appt for me to have some blood drawn (just routine annual stuff) and there was no crying or fussing. And then my husband called before we pulled out of the parking lot to say he would be leaving us in a few hours to be placed with family. We both cried all the way home. He was crying because stoplights are horrible, though. Anything that made the car slow down or stop while he was awake was unacceptable. He liked to go go go!
And just as fast, he was gone. He was asleep when the transportation worker arrived, my hard won efforts to get the kiddo on a schedule were starting to shape up, and it was fast. No time to change soaked diapers or say goodbye. She was here and gone in a flash and he wasn’t even fully awake when she walked out of the house with him. And pieces of our hearts.
All of a sudden just being the two of us again was so weird. Everything was so quiet. The cats came back downstairs to hang out with us again. They are both fourteen years old and they don’t like babies. There was no way to know that until we realized it, but they are gonna have to suck it up. We have an entire second floor they get all to themselves. They don’t like being grabbed (of course) and they don’t like screaming. Marge was sitting with us when things were quiet after a few days, but Erma was way too offended to deal with any of it. She stopped coming down for her yogurt treat twice a day so we had to go chase her and carry her to the kitchen. Her yogurt treat is also her hyperthyroid medication crushed into some plain yogurt and without it, she’ll die. She LOVES it. She goes crazy for plain yogurt until she is mad at us and then she won’t grace us with her presence.
So here we are, we are now bonafide foster parents, and we are once again waiting for placement. I don’t mind waiting, because it means kids are safe. But I know the phone will ring again and we’ll be ready to open our hearts and step onto the roller coaster once more.