There was a time, it almost seems like a lifetime ago, when I was a foster mother. We lived in a small two bedroom house. Kai was barely two and Arielle was six. I had seen a news program about orphans in Eastern Europe and knew I had to do something because the thought of a child having no-one in this world was unbearable. It wasn’t an option for us to adopt but I knew there were children in our community who also needed to find loving homes. Eric and I became a foster shelter home for infants.
She was three weeks old, chubby cheeks, dark hair, and she cried and cried. If she wasn’t in our arms, she was crying. One day the doorbell rang and I put her in her car-seat which sat on top of the dining room table. She screamed. I signed for my package, closed the door, and when I turned around saw Kai sitting on the table holding a bottle up to her mouth. There’s magic in seeing a toddler show compassion, that memory has been etched in my mind more vivid than a photograph.
We took trips to the park, mall, Discovery Zone, and at least once a week to Shell Point, my grandmother’s retirement village where we swam in the pool, ate in the Crystal dining room and rode the village train.
In every way, like all the other children, she was part of our family. Then came the phone call. The one that left me numb. An adoptive mother was found and she would be leaving to go live with her brother and sister. Breathe, I told myself. It’s for the best. Breathe. In my mind a tug of war between….you’re not taking my baby!… to….Look at the big picture. This is what I wanted to do-help-I did and now it’s time for her to go to her forever family. The sadness was deep. She was only three months old. It was December. I remember the Christmas tree and me placing my baby girl into another woman’s arms. We said good-bye. I was building a wall of good-byes and each brick had a different child’s name. My tears hid behind the wall. I said good-bye.
Three months later I received a call from her social worker. The woman could not handle three small children, she had changed her mind and no longer wanted to adopt. I was furious. How could our system let this happen? It was a wake-up call for me. I had to be a stronger advocate for the children who came into our home.
When I opened the door I couldn’t believe my eyes. I didn’t recognize her. Wisps of dark hair had turned to a head-full of gorgeous black curls. She was six months old and absolutely beautiful. She cried. Arielle ran into the room to see her and Kai could now say her name. She was back but it took days before she would smile.
A few months later I received another call. Her brother, two years old and her sister, three years old, were going to be moved to yet another foster home. This would be their fifth move since being in the foster care system. Eric and I were outraged.
We decided they needed to be with us until a true adoptive family was found and this time I would be their voice.
Five children, Arielle was the oldest at six and a half, her big sister was three, Kai and her big brother were two and she was nine months. Seven of us, a greyhound, three cats and a guinea pig, in a two bedroom home. It was crazy! Eric and I quickly became a team and worked together to make sure all of their needs were met. Our house was full of love and noise.
After three months and careful checking and many phone calls, a young couple with no children, wanting to adopt, came to our house. They fell in love.
It was September a few days from her first b-day and we met at the park. This time there were three good-byes. Nothing can describe the loss I felt, mixed with the joy of watching the instant birth of a family. I watched them pull away in their minivan, hugged Arielle and Kai and hid my tears behind my wall of good-byes.
Every Christmas a new card gets placed on my fridge and it stays there all year.