I’ve mentioned on this blog several times that The Husband and I are licensed foster parents. It’s something that we really enjoy doing and we hope to get back into it some day, in some way.
October 18th was the one year anniversary since our Little Lady B left us and went to live with relatives. I wanted to share (some) of her story (edited for confidentiality’s sake) and the story of our little family. We’ve fostered several other children, but B has been the one who lived with us the longest. All of our kids made an impression on us, but B changed our lives.
The pictures in this post are purposely obscure to protect her (and our) identities. I apologize for any roughness in this post, but I doubt that I’ll do much editing (other than spelling errors) because I want it to feel as real as it can be…
February 26, 2013 was a cold and dreary day. I had struggled with insomnia the night/morning before, drifting in and out of sleep as Friends played on the television. It was about 2:00pm when I felt my phone vibrate. Through foggy eyes I could see the name of the Foster Care Agency on the display. I knew that this phone call could mean only one thing: a child was in need of a safe place to stay.
I pulled my wits together and mustered the most awake sounding greeting that I could (who wants to sound like they were just waking up at 2pm?). I listened intently as I pieced together what was known about the child and their circumstances.
It was an 11 month old girl. Hispanic. Her name was B [for confidentiality we have only referred to her as B on the internet]. Could I be at the agency to pick her up at 4pm?
I sent The Husband a message over Google Talk telling him that I had accepted the placement and that he would need to come directly to the agency once he got off of work.
We needed baby stuff (we had a few items, but not everything) so I dashed off to Walmart to get a few items before I had to be at the agency. I picked up a pack ‘n’ play, a diaper bag, and a few toys. I figured that it was a good bet she’d be on solid foods, so I grabbed a few jars of baby food. I hoped that she would have a few diapers and wipes so we could see what size she was because I had no idea what to get. We didn’t need a car seat because I’d gone through a course at the beginning of the year that allowed us to take a free car seat with our child.
I ran through the drizzle and threw the shopping bags in the back of Bertha. I realized that I had eaten nothing and that Bertha was almost out of gas. By the time I’d finished my Wendy’s burger and put gas in Bertha, it was time for me to make the trip to the agency.
As I drove to the agency, I was a mixture of excited and sad. I almost always shed a few tears and say a prayer at some point after we receive a call. It’s usually after the reality of why the kid is in care hits me. It’s exciting to bring a new child into the family, but what that means is that the s*** hit the fan for that child and his or her family. A foster child is functionally, if not literally, an orphan. Taking in an orphan is serious business.
When I stepped out of the elevator onto the floor of the building where the Foster Care Agency is housed, I heard a baby crying and knew that it was probably B. Much later I would realize that this moment paralleled the birth of The Girl. Those first moments leading up to their arrival into your life is much like being in the delivery room. I couldn’t see her, but I could hear her cry. I knew that it was my child crying, and there was a sense of excitement in that moment. The difference, though, is that The Girl’s cry was one of new life being brought into the world. This cry was a cry of fear and loss.
I walked to where the crying was coming from and knocked on the door to be let in. I saw a mop of black hair sticking to a chubby, tear-streaked face. She was being held by the Child Protective Services worker who was working her case. Several of the Social Workers were standing around trying to console her, get paper work together, and find her something to eat or drink. It was a pitiful sight.
I was herded into a visitation room and given all kinds of paperwork to review and sign. The CPS worker brought B in and sat with her on the sofa. I met B’s case worker and she filled me in on some of the details of the case as we waited for The Husband.
B started to calm down after a worker brought her some applesauce. She was hungry. The CPS worker started to feed her, and then asked if I had wanted to. Up until this point I had kept my distance, not wanting to be another stranger that would upset her.
I took her into my arms briefly, and sat her in front of me on the floor, feeding her the apple sauce with a plastic spoon. The Husband came in not very long afterward and filled out the rest of the paperwork. We took B, her belongings (a back pack and a laundry bag with a few clothes in it), and the car seat and loaded them in to Bertha. B was placid. Not overly happy, but not entirely sad either.
The Husband went to the store to pick up a few more things and I stayed at the house to get acquainted with B.
We spent the rest of that first evening getting to know her. Then bedtime came. We put the pack ‘n’ play in our room at the foot of our bed. We put her in a onesie and laid her down to sleep. She started crying almost immediately and continued to cry for several minutes. The Husband rubbed her little back and eventually she drifted off to sleep. We went to bed sometime after that.
I had an okay amount of sleep that first night, but I kept waking anytime I heard her stir. I would listen to make sure she was okay and try to catch a glimpse of her in the dark and listen for her breathing.
The sun rose the next morning, and B’s new life began. Our new life began.
I always say that B and I bonded within the first 72 hours, but really it was more like the very next day.
The next week or so was a blur. We took her to urgent care the day after she arrived because I suspected, correctly, that she had an ear infection. I was updated on what was happening with her case. Some relatives came forward and wanted to pursue custody of her. I learned quickly how to parent an infant.
The following eight months were filled with lots of happy memories.B’s first words were ‘mama,’ and her vocabulary became huge.
She loved to eat. She was always pointing to her mouth and saying, “Muh! Muh! (More! More).”
She loved books. Throughout the day she would ask me to read to her. Usually the same two or three books. “Booh,” she’d say. “Mama. Booh? Ree? Ree booh?”We would babble together. Our favorite thing to say was, “P’dupee dupee dupee.” When she was feeling sad, or uncertain, or insecure, and good ‘dupee’ would lift her spirits.
She loved to dance. She straight jammed anytime she heard music. Her favorite song was the theme to The Golden Girls. She would stop whatever she was doing and dance when she heard it.
B and I had a lot of fun, happy, tender moments together…
….but she was absolutely a daddy’s girl. When The Husband came home. ‘Mama’ ceased to exist, and it was all about her ‘Dada.’
She loved to laugh and play and meddle in EVERYTHING.
She used to point out the back window at our dog. “Dah. Maa (Max)!” She would make barking noises. Dada liked to do silly things with her. She wowed everyone everywhere she went.
Our neighbors loved her. They’d call to her and watched as The Husband played with her and pushed her around in her pink princess car in the front yard. She loved to run around and play near the tree in their yard.
She loved to play with her electric blue ball.We built countless memories with her.
We taught her how to walk. We taught her how to talk. She taught us how to love without boundaries.
Then the time came for B to leave us…
We’d wondered if/when the day would come. There was supposed to be a hearing that July to determine if she would go to one of the relatives who petitioned for custody, but a clerical error caused the case to be continued. In late August, it became clear that she would more than likely get to go with the relatives, so we began to transition her to more visits with them and then eventually weekend visits.
Then the date was set for her to go with her relatives.
On October 18, 2013, we said our goodbyes to B. It was a sunny Friday. I wanted her day to be like any other day, so she woke up with Dada and went to daycare (I wish I had kept her at home with me. I was 15 weeks pregnant, very sick, and not totally thinking straight). The Husband took off work early and picked her up from daycare, also.
We’d packed most of her stuff the night before, but there were a few more of her things that needed to be put in boxes. When the boxes were full, we took pictures of her with each of us and then tried to take a family selfie.The Husband loaded everything up in Bertha except for the pink princess car. We were silent as Dada put his girl in her car for the last time. He pushed her to either end of the sidewalk along our street as he had a hundred times before. I walked beside them. We were a silent, sad parade marching to either end of the concrete strip. The Husband didn’t chatter with her as he normally would have. I had a lump in my throat.
Dada took her out of her car. I watched as he took her to say goodbye to ‘her’ tree in the neighbor’s yard.
Dada put B on his shoulders and they waved goodbye to our dogs. We waved bye to the house.The things that we did in those final moments with her were more for us than they were for her. Taking her to do some of her favorite things was a way for us to get closure I think. We didn’t plan to push her around in the car, or to say goodbye to the tree…those things just kind of happened.
The Husband is always so good at creating ‘moments’ with our kids. I’m happy that we have these final, happy memories with her that he helped create. As heartbreaking as the imagery may be, I hold the memories of that day close to my heart.
I was thankful that the neighborhood was quiet and no one was outdoors so that we didn’t have to share these moments with anyone else.
We put her in the car seat and she took her last ride in Bertha.We met her relatives at the agency. The Husband helped pack everything into their vehicle. Even the princess car. I gave her relatives some pictures that I had printed. There was a picture of her with me and one of her with The Husband. I wrote our names and the occasion on the back with the hopes that maybe someday she would see it. We said our final goodbyes and drove off into the setting sun. B had come to us in the cold and rain, and left us in warmth and sunshine.
When we returned home, our house had never felt so empty. Except for her crib, there was no sign that B had ever been here. Our ears were full of promises of continued contact and visits, and, for awhile, it kept the emptiness from feeling too empty. We took comfort in the hope of another child arriving in 25 weeks, but we knew that B would always be special to us and she could never be replaced.
We waited a month before we reached out to B’s family. We made several calls and left messages but the calls were never returned. We sent B an outfit for her birthday, but we never heard anything from them.
We haven’t seen B since that day except in our dreams. I choose to think of it as a blessing. She was 19 months when she left us. Who knows when she would have stopped remembering our faces after she left us? It’s very unlikely that she’d even remember us today, though she spent almost half of her life up until that point with us.
B was our girl. She was our first baby. She made a great impact on our lives. When I see kids that are close to her age, I find myself trying to imagine what she would look like now. When I’m out and about, I find myself searching the Hispanic faces that I see in the crowd…somehow hoping that we would run into her or one of her relatives (they live in our area) and get some information on how she is.
At this point, I doubt that we’ll ever hear from her relatives or see her again. But, being her Mommy, I’ve never stopped looking and hoping.