I thought I would go through a few firsts that threw me for a loop in my foster parenting experience so far.
First Doctor's Appointment
One lesson I learned is that if you call to make a doctor's appointment for a newborn placement and the office says that there is already one scheduled, find out who scheduled it. If a birth parent scheduled it, and you can still make that appointment, make sure the office knows not to cancel the appointment, that you will be there. In our case, Pterodactyl's mom had made the appointment at the hospital, and so when I called to make an appointment, I learned there was already one scheduled and planned on that one. Soon afterward, Pterodactyl's mom called to cancel the appointment, thinking that since she didn't have the baby, she wouldn't have that appointment. Then the caseworker told her to go at that time. This caused a bit of a mess of both of us showing up to a cancelled appointment, though luckily we were able to reschedule for later in the day and both make it back there. Not the best start for foster parent/birth parent interactions that are already awkward. The awkwardness continued, but this was actually the best interaction we have had so far. She asked about my boys and why I was doing foster care. I gave her as much time to snuggle her baby as I could.
I also learned:
- having a birth parent there is very important for getting family history written down
- getting a Medicaid number takes awhile
- telling office staff about confidentiality is important, as a receptionist checked the address they had on file by saying it out loud, not realizing it was Pterodactyl's mom's address. I made sure they put a note so they wouldn't do the reverse (tell a birth mom my address).
This one caught me off-guard with sibling questions directed at me. "Can she come home with us?" I gave an answer that seemed appropriate to me, but wasn't cut-and-dry enough for a 4-year-old and the little guy thought I said yes. And the Grandma didn't understand English enough to intervene. IT was a moment of my heart sinking, wondering what I'd gotten myself into.
We did not intend to use respite, but when Pterodactyl was only about two months old, she stayed at another home for the weekend. We had hoped to bring her with us on a trip to Canada to visit B's family, but it got complicated when her birth mom did not give permission and no one could overrule it because the agency didn't have her birth certificate yet. The caseworker suggested a family for respite, whom we had met in our training for becoming licensed. I felt conflicted; I would never leave my biological babies with someone else for a weekend at two months old. At the same time, we don't know how long we're going to be fostering, and we will need to sometimes make sure our family life has a high enough priority. The way our agency set it up, we called the other foster parents and arranged the details, paying them our part of the stipend. They were a wonderful respite placement, happy to take care of Pterodactyl.
First Questions from Strangers
These started immediately. Pterodactyl has dark skin; we have light skin. I got everything from people wanting to know where she was adopted from to people complimenting me on bouncing back from childbirth so quickly. It was especially awkward with a newborn newborn, as most people know that you don't have an internationally adopted baby that young, nor would you be just babysitting such a young baby. I also worried about confidentiality and tried to dodge people's questions about exactly how old she was and her birth date. I felt oddly exposed with all the glances and questions, and this is coming from someone who doesn't mind attention when pregnant. I'm still not entirely over it, and my reaction is often to share more than I need to. A library employee asked me if she was adopted, and I could just say no and let them guess at the rest, but instead I say, "No, we're foster parents." I'm not really supposed to label her as a foster child more than I have to, though at least with a baby, it's not like she understands it.
So, we've navigated our family through some firsts. Coming up sometime soon will be our first good-bye. Pterodactyl's grandma had obstacles that prevented her from taking Pterodactyl as a foster placement, but we learned this week that those obstacles are gone. The caseworker expects she will move to be with Grandma, but it could be anywhere from immediately to weeks. This will be a very difficult first good-bye. I know it would be harder had she been here for years, but four months still seems long enough that it's hard to imagine her not being here. She is not the easiest baby and very attached to me, and I'm worried about what she'll go through when she's uprooted from the only home she has known in her life. I don't say that as someone opposing the change, but I say it for what it is. It sucks for me, but it also sucks for Pterodactyl. But, as I've known from the beginning, foster care sucks. It's an unnatural system that has frequent feelings of wrongness. But that doesn't mean that Pterodactyl didn't need a home. That doesn't mean that there aren't more kids that need us to love and lose and hurt once again.
It's all wrong, but it's happening. We will face it only by the strength that comes from our God.