October 14, 2013. 10:30pm. I was laying in bed with my sleeping husband beside me, flipping through Parents magazine after placing an order for a car seat cover from a coupon I found. I picked up my phone and took a photo of that coupon, clicked on my Instagram app to post about how we had reached our three-week mark since becoming licensed foster parents. I was discouraged. I had been pouring time and energy into preparing a room and our hearts for children I’d never met. Our agency had us licensed for three children, ages 0-5. My heart was ready. I loved children that had been growing in my heart, and I couldn’t understand why they weren’t in my arms yet.
Before I could hit “post” at the bottom of my screen with my message of discouragement under that photo, my phone rang. “UNKNOWN CALLER” was suddenly in the place of the photo. My hands started shaking, I smacked my husband, and pressed that little green button. Our first placement call. A two and a half year old boy and his baby brother who was just hours old. Big brother was to come tonight, baby brother would be here later in the week. My.head.was.spinning. The excitement and sorrow we feel all at the same time during a placement call is confusing and gut-wrenching. We’d been waiting for this—for this very moment. I was able to love these kids, but at the same time, I was broken because we were needed. Because these babies had suffered in some way, they needed our home for refuge.
At midnight, the placement worker pulled up in front of our house. Josh met them at the car to help her carry in that sweet boy and “all” his belongings. As soon as I saw him, I melted. He reached for me and wrapped those tiny little arms tightly around my neck. I’ll never forget that feeling. He was suddenly a piece of me and no matter what happened, that piece would always belong to him.
Our home had been walked through by three different social workers. All the information they had on him had been given to us and all those workers left with one piece of advice, “He really loves his green blanket. His mom told us he has to sleep with it every night.” They were gone as quickly as they came and we were left with this sweet child to try to figure out his quirks. It didn’t take long to realize he couldn’t talk, he liked to run, and Disney movies were a win in his book. That night was one of the roughest of my life. He finally passed out from exhaustion a little after 4am, curled up on the end of the couch, not in the comfy bed we had prepared for him.
The next day was spent chasing him around (literally, he would run if his feet hit the floor), trying to keep him calm while shopping to fill his closet with clothes and shoes that would actually fit him, and trying to figure out some sort of new normal for our family. And just when things couldn’t have been more hectic, we got a call that CPS would be dropping off baby brother before 6pm. We thought we would have days to adjust with big brother, but instead we had less than 24 hours. This set the tone for what we now know is almost always true in the system: timing is never as they describe.
At 5:30pm, we were again smitten by another child. Thirty-six-hour-old baby brother was perfect. Another piece of my heart was given away, never to be returned.
The following days and weeks were chaotic in a way I’d never experienced before in my life. It’s something that can’t be understood unless you’ve been a part of it. My body went into survival mode. I did what we needed to make things work, shutting out others, and focusing solely on these little lives that were suddenly dropped in our laps. We thought we were ready, but nothing could have prepared us for the insanity that was to follow our first placement and shove into the world of foster care. Those weeks were filled with so many appointments, tears, visits, forms, smiles, snuggles, sleepless nights, and mending hearts. It was hard. Really, really hard.
Those first weeks were the hardest weeks I’d ever experienced in my life. But they were so worth it. Without those weeks I’d never be able to appreciate how far big brother has come in every single aspect —physically, mentally and emotionally. He’s changed so much. Without those weeks I wouldn’t be able to appreciate how much baby brother loves, how big his smile can be, and how fantastic he is at lighting up a room. Their hugs mean more because of those weeks. Their smiles change my life daily because once upon a time, we had to work so hard to see their little grins.
No matter what happens from here, I know it was worth every second of every day. Each of our lives are better because we happened to each other. Love wins. Love always wins.