10: 26 p.m. on Monday.
That’s when my life changed.
My husband and I were sitting in bed, routinely working on a crossword puzzle like the boring young couple we are, when my phone rang. The call I’d been praying for:
Our first foster child would arrive around midnight.
What a rush. Fear. Excitement. Sorrow. Overwhelming joy. Inexplicably contrasting feelings.
The baby—we’ll call him Mark Sinclair—arrived with few belongings, asleep in his car seat. As we signed the paperwork (wondering which day to put since it was 12:00 a.m.), he began to cry.
He reached up for me. And, I was hooked.
I took off work the next day and spent two hours making frantic calls to every DHS contracted day care in the city. About 30 calls in, I found an opening.
I (literally) dusted off our old diaper bag, comically attempted to install the baby car seat in the back of my SUV, and fumbled with bottle parts and formula scoops.
Mark and I went to the store together, where I bought diapers, formula, and food. We visited the day care and got him enrolled. We met my husband for lunch.
Only 12 hours into our lives together, I was in love with this sweet boy.
That’s when I got the other call. The one I knew was coming, deep down in my heart.
“Mark is going to live with another family.”
No matter how much you expect a call like that, you’re never prepared.
I’d only had him for 15 hours at that point. It was a flood of emotion. I felt cheated. Angry. Confused. Remorseful.
I sat on the floor of my son’s room and held Mark. I touched his soft hair, held his sweet hand, and let myself cry.
Folks, I want to be real with you.
I didn’t just cry. I sobbed. These were cries from some deep, guttural part of my motherhood I didn’t know existed. My shirt—covered in mashed banana and formula—was stained with tears now, too.
I don’t tell you this in search of pity. I signed up for this.
But, I want you to see this side of foster parenting. And, I want you to understand that we will continue to do this. We will continue to love and let go over and over and over again.
Because today is a new day.
After only one sunset, I’m already feeling better. The pain is now hope. It’s joy that Mark will get to live with a family member who loves him. That he will experience all the good there is in this life.
And, it’s the comfort of knowing he needed us for now, and we were there.
We are forever part of his journey—and there’s nothing better than that.
While we were shopping, I came across a shirt. It wasn’t where it was supposed to be, in an aisle filled with wipes and shampoo. Just hanging there.
It was Mark’s size, and it took my breath away:
So now, we wait for Mark’s new family to take him home. It could be tomorrow. It could be the next day. The longer we wait, the more it’s going to hurt.
But one thing is certain. Very soon, I’ll pack the mismatched clothing he came with, the half-empty formula can, the bottles, the blanket. And, I’ll send him to his next home with the shirt that so loudly represents his journey.
And while I wait for the next child to enter my home, I’ll keep an eye out for a “Brave Little Mamma” shirt. Because, I think I need one too.