I’m a foster mom. I am happiest when my home is full of babies, and I can feel like I am truly making a difference. I have raised three children of my own, and I have been an infant-toddler teacher for over thirty years. I know about babies. I know how to take care of them, how to comfort them, and how to love them.
But each child is different. Each child has been through their own traumas, and therefore, has different needs. The first few days are always spent getting to know each other and learning new routines. Sometimes that can be rough.
I got a call the other day. Things at home were crazy. My daughter was leaving for the summer, and my toddler was climbing on everything and leaving tiny cars all over the house. I had just gone back to work and was struggling with my new schedule. I was overwhelmed and quite certain I could not deal with even one more thing. That is until I answered the phone.
I couldn’t hear very well, but the important words came through- baby, hurt, hospital, can you take him?
I scanned the room, took a deep breath, and said yes. Questions race through my mind- my daughter was leaving, who would help me? There is a pandemic going on, how will I shop for groceries with two medically fragile babies? How will I get dinner made or laundry done? How in the world will I be able to deal with two different daycares with different schedules??? Was I taking on more than I could handle?
For the first time, I wasn’t sure I could do this. I considered asking them to find someone else. Then, I went to see him. The nurse placed him in my arms, and I knew that somehow I would make this work.
A few days later, he was ready to come home. I buckled him in my car, and as I drove home I kept repeating to myself, “two babies, I have two babies.” What in the world was I going to do with two babies?!?!
Somehow I managed to get both boys in the house. It was late, and all three of us were hungry and tired. I looked at my toddler and then looked at my infant and tried to figure out where to begin.
Luckily I had the forethought to prepare dinner the night before. I strapped my three-year-old into his chair and watched as he began to throw spaghetti noodles in every direction. They hung from his ears and decorated his hair, marinara sauce dripped down the wall, and he was grinning wildly. I wanted to grin back at him, any other day I might have even laughed. But today was not any other day.
Today I held a hungry and tired newborn in my arms. Today I saw an overtired three-year-old who now was in desperate need of a bath. Today I saw a kitchen floor that needed to be washed. Today I was overwhelmed.
I couldn’t help but think that if I had given birth to this baby, my neighbors would have made me dinner. High school girls would come over to hold the baby or play with the toddler. Someone would ask if I needed anything from the store.
But this was a foster baby, and I have the reputation of someone who gives help, but rarely needs to ask for it. So nobody even thought about it. I needed to pull myself together and figure this out.
Suddenly I remembered the advice that I have given my daughter many times in the past- when a job seems too big, break it down, do one part at a time, and don’t worry about the big picture. So I cleaned up the toddler and stuck him in the tub. I sat down next to him and gave the baby his bottle while he played. I tucked both boys in bed, prepared my own dinner, and straightened up just a little.
The floor didn’t get washed, but I figured it would just get dirty again anyway. I made my way upstairs and checked in on these two sleeping babies. I took in the fresh, clean smell and listened to the sweet sounds of peaceful children.
All of the tension slipped away. These boys were safe, they were loved, and they were home. No one would hurt them anymore. They needed me, and I needed them. We would be a blessing to each other. And all of this happened because I answered a call.