Anyway, this is about more than a TV show. This is about a more important contact... a moment when "everything happens!"
As an adoptive parent, contact is a word that I have rolled around in my mind more than most people. Contact plays an important role in adoption and fostering. Specifically, I'm talking about contact with first-parents.
I used to think that I would have trouble keeping in contact with a first-parent, because of my own jealousy and need to feel important. Wow, did those feelings change over time. In fact, I am convinced more than ever that contact is super important in adoption.
I'm often encountered with extreme surprise or disbelief, when I tell people that we keep in touch with Meerkat's first mom. They seem to be afraid that talking to A will make Meerkat want to go live with her, or feel like she's missing out on that life. And, I used to feel the same way. Now, though, I feel the exact opposite. By maintaining contact, we are helping her to feel connected to her story. She will have the opportunity to have a relationship with two families who love her. It doesn't have to be us or them... It's just all of us! Meerkat is lucky, because she just has more people to love on her than most! A has become a very special person to all of us, and we're anxious to visit her this summer so she can hold Meerkat for the first time ever!
When it comes to fostering, the contact is different. It's a requirement, not a choice. But it's still something important. Through this contact, we (all of the people involved in the care of the child) get to know what type of relationship little Mr. has with his parents. But, we also get to keep their relationship strong. Little Mr. loves his visitation days. He runs to put his shoes on when we say he's going to see Daddy and Mommy. Through our own contact with Little Mr's parents, we have built trust and goodwill. It makes it infinitely easier to imagine letting go when it's time. Knowing that they are working on themselves and seeing their love for him every time they say hello and goodbye to him both breaks my heart and strengthens it. I know that when he leaves, I will mourn him to some extent. But, I also know that it will be a joy filled day for him and his parents, and to think that I had a role in keeping their relationship strong, and in enabling them to care for themselves, gives me peace.
I'm sure every scenario is different, and there are times when contact has to be minimal or non-existant. But, for the time being, I'm thankful that I have the opportunity to communicate with the people who gave life to two of the most beautiful, hilarious, imaginitive human beings I've ever known. :)
This post is probably going to be all over the place. I just need to get some thoughts out, and this is the place. I will ramble, and it may become "pep-talky" but it must be said. And, if someone else fostering, or someone considering it, is having these feelings, maybe my thoughts will help them feel less alone.
Albeit cheesy/punny, I think the title of this post is quite appropriate when it comes to attachment in foster care. It is something that must be fostered/encouraged/cultivated in order to grow.
Don't get me wrong, I feel an attachment to little Mr. In fact, when he first joined our family, I felt such a strong love for him that I was surprised. He immediately felt like a member of the family, despite knowing that he wouldn't be staying long. But over time, I've come to question my level of attachment... and this is, in part, due to his age (I think).
He's two. As a result, he throws tantrums (and toys) when he doesn't get his way. He screams "Iowannit" (I don't want it) to EVERYTHING. And recently, he's started adding to this phrase "Iowanpotty" (I don't want potty) "Iowantookie" (I don't want cookie) "Iowandobet" (I don't want go bed). He hits Meerkat. He tattles. He pushes boundaries and smiles while he's doing it.
It drives me absolutely insane. And I find myself lashing out (yelling) when I shouldn't. It's not like we're yelling all the time, but if you know us personally, you know it's very unlike us to yell at all. We're quite peaceful people. So, when I see my husband about to tear his own hair out because little Mr. has just forced himself to throw up so he wouldn't have to eat pasta, it makes me question things.
The first thought was, "maybe we're not attaching. Maybe because he's going home, we're not feeling the connection we need in order to be patient during a vomitfest." I guess to some extent that makes sense. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that's just not it. Despite knowing that Mr. is going to go back to his parents someday, I would do anything for him. The connection is there. There's no doubt about it. When he cries, it breaks my heart. When he's sick, I want to snuggle him forever. When he goes to daycare, and I creep out the front door and watch him wander into the other room to play, I feel so proud and happy that he's beginning to like it there. When he says something new or does something smart (which is A LOT of the time), I am so proud I could burst.
But maybe the attachment is different than the attachment I have with Meerkat, to some extent. And I don't know if that's a bad thing.
We are learning as we go. So is Mr. He has never been in foster care before. He goes back and forth between here, his parents, and daycare. How could we ever expect him to behave 100% of the time? It's insane! He loves us; it's obvious. We love him; there's no doubt about it. But we have to cultivate the attachment and keep it strong. It's very important to keep that doubt... those little clouds of "what if" and "what's wrong with me" from taking over. If those thoughts take over, it will drive a wedge into the attachment that's already there. I believe that wholeheartedly.
This isn't the attachment post I planned to write. I still have things to say about attachment in foster care, and the parents role in that. I will compose that post in a little while... for now, I need to mush around in my thoughts for awhile. :)
Wow. I have so much to catch you up on. It's been a whirlwind around here for a while, and I've been busier than I've ever been in my life, but I finally found a moment to steal away and write.
Our family has grown by one... but not in the way you are thinking. We recently became foster parents to a beautiful little boy. He's very bright, in fact, I think he's the smartest two year old I've ever met. He's only here for a short time, but we are cherishing every moment we get to spend with this special little man. I'll call him "Little Mr." here, as I can't/won't reveal his real name for his privacy's sake. But, I'm getting ahead of myself, and I'm sure you all want some background... so let me go back in time a little bit:
I was never truly interested in foster care, when we started our adoption journey. I know how emotional I am, and I feared that I would develop too strong an attachment (my new thoughts on this are a post for another time) to these children, and that a little piece of me would die each time they left, until finally there would be nothing left of me to give to other children. After taking the foster/adopt classes during our homestudy, we felt even more conflicted about foster care, since the ultimate goal is always reunification, even in some of the most serious removal circumstances. It broke my heart to think of returning a child to a potentially abusive situation. (Please don't judge me too critically for these thoughts; they were my own, and I am making myself quite vulnerable by sharing them.)
Our social worker asked us to be open to the possibility of fostering, and we said we'd think about it. Eventually, we decided that we would foster, if and only if the child was eligible for adoption. We thought this was a nice, happy medium. And then our phone rang...
and it rang...
Over and over again, we were getting called with potential situations: A _ week old child with broken bones and possible molestation. A _ year old child who was left in the car while mom shopped. A _ year old and a newborn with drug addiction. A _ year old who's mom just left town. The list goes on and on. The information was always minimal.
[Tangent] I think this is one of the hardest parts of getting into fostering. When you get that referral call, your heart races, just like with an adoption match. But, the information is severely limited. We were constantly told: "It's an emergency placement." or "We don't even know his/her name yet." or "No clue if this will turn into an adoptable case or not." or "Can you pick him/her up right now?" It's hard to have to make a decision in literally 5 minutes. And that's truly all you get in some of these cases. For instance, in the first case mentioned above, we said we'd do it. We gave our confirmation about 10 minutes after receiving the call. Our social worker called us back to tell us she/he was already placed with someone else. Obviously, our main concern was that the child was in a safe place, so we were fine with that. But, it's silly to not be realistic... our hearts were chipped. [End Tangent]
It seemed like there was never any clue as to whether these children were adoptable or not... we soon learned foster care doesn't work like that. Usually, it's not known until late in the game if the child will be adoptable, and at that point, the current foster parents will (sometimes) adopt the child.
But suddenly, that whole "adoptable" thing didn't matter as much anymore. Don't get me wrong, we ultimately want to adopt again, and our preference would be to have a child in our home who is adoptable. But, the phone calls about these children were wrenching our hearts right out of our bodies, so we changed our minds and began considering fostering non-adoptable children. We said no to some; we just weren't ready (housewise and emotionally in some instances). We said yes to some, but we were always too late.
Then, the day before my birthday, the phone rang again. A little boy was ready to be picked up at that moment. He would most likely be returned to his parents, as their offenses were somewhat minor compared to other cases. But still, we didn't have much knowledge and weren't sure what his name was or even what the particulars of the case were. So, we said yes immediately and went to get him.
Wow. The moment that door swung open and that smudge-faced little boy hobbled in in his PJs was a moment I will remember all my life. He was so adorable. We played and got to know each other for a little while, and then we took him home. He's been with us now for a couple months, and in that time we've grown VERY attached to him. However, I've learned that I'm stronger than I thought I was, because all I want is for this darling little boy to find his way back to his parents. It's quite clear how much they love him, and that they've taken excellent care of him prior to all this. He talks like a 3 year old. He helps clean up. He puts himself to sleep. He is potty trained. He gets along with Meerkat and treats her nice 90% of the time. Etc. Etc. Etc. Visitations have been wonderful. We've met his parents. I think that's an important part of fostering (as I'll write in my attachment post later). He'll probably be with us for a few more weeks (though we still don't know particulars... it could be days or months).
I'm cherishing every moment we have with him. He will forever be a part of our lives and family, even after he returns to his own family. We love him dearly.
Stay tuned. I am still confused and conflicted about parts of the fostering process, and as I'm working through all my feelings and thoughts, I plan to write more posts about things like foster-loss, attachment, visitations, etc.
Here I sit, on a lonely Saturday night, missing my husband who is away working for the weekend. I pick him up bright and early in the morning, meaning I should be sleeping so I can wake up and get meerkat ready and head out the door. But, I can't sleep...
I've had a headache all day, and when I get these headaches, it usually affects my mood and makes me feel a bit down in the dumps. Combine that with a sleeping baby, quiet house, tons of work to do, and a list of things that need doing that will never end, and you have one rattled woman. I'm not rattled in the sense that I'm depressed or unnerved... I just contemplate a lot in times like these. A lot a lot...
I tend to think about the future when I'm in these moods. In the past, I would ponder whether or not I would ever be a mommy. I would question God and the Universe about why exactly I was "cursed" with this horrible condition that causes me to be infertile. I would wonder if we would ever have enough money to afford adoption. I wondered if we would ever be chosen. I wondered if we would be happy. Would we make it? Would our baby love us and think of us as her parents? Would we want an open adoption? Would we want a foster/adopt scenario? Would we want an infant? Would we do international adoption? Would we try to get a surrogate? What would we do? Would I be an "old" mother? Would I have a big family, like I've always dreamed of? Where would the money come from? If we found a way to afford one, how would we afford another? If we found a way to afford two, how would we afford three? etc. You can see, my brain gets carried away when left to itself.
Now, so many of those questions have been answered - I have a daughter. We managed to afford it. We're still paying for the adoption, and will be for some time, but we're able to do it. My daughter loves me; I have no doubt. We're happy. We've made it this far. ... And yet, so many other questions have yet to be answered.
Tonight, my mind wanders to our future children -- children who may very well be here soon... children who may be far away. Tonight, I wish I had a crystal ball.
We are two, happily married teachers/writers journaling our journey to build our family through the adoption process.
We are unable to conceive a child due to infertility. Though painful, it has grown us closer together, strengthened our desire to build our family through adoption, and brought us our beautiful little girl. We are journaling the excitement, fears, ins and outs of our adoption process so that others can learn from our experience.