We don’t talk, you and I. You asked for my number at the first visitation, and, at the encouragement of the case workers, I politely declined to give it to you. I left that first visit and started sobbing. We had only had your son for a little more than a month and the love I felt for him was so strong, the fear of losing him was so great and I couldn’t not verbalize that to someone. So I called the person who knows me best, my own mother.
When people ask me about him, I delicately dance around why he’s in foster care. I’m sure to emphasize that he was born perfectly healthy and it’s based on circumstances that happened well before his birth. But still, it’s easy for people to vilify you. And I’m sorry I haven’t done a better job of defending you.
It’s so easy for us to cast judgement.
“How could she?!”
“You shouldn’t have kids if you’re not responsible enough to take care of them.”
“Clearly, you can provide for him better than she can.” (Definitely guilty of thinking this one myself.)
“No one’s heard from her? How can you be a good mom if you’re not even following up about your kids?” (Yep, guilty of this too.)
“I hope he stays with you, he came into the foster system for a reason.”
But recently, I’ve realized the people who say these things (myself included) come from pretty supportive systems. They have family and dear friends to whom they can turn when the going gets tough. I can name at least 10 people Ian and I could move in with if things got really rough. If anything ever happened with our nieces or nephews, a number of people from our families would be stepping in to care for those children as their own. My mom drove eight hours to watch him for a day. My mother-in-law bought us a box of clothes and burp rags and always wants to know how she can provide for us. Friends brought us dinner and clothes. My coworkers threw me a foster care shower before we even had any children.
What I’m trying to say is our support system is strong. It’s fully intact. We have people in our lives who fill us up when we’re feeling empty. We have people who encourage us. We have people who love us and speak life into us.
I don’t know what you have, but I imagine if your newborn son went to the home of complete strangers, your support system isn’t fully intact. And I’m sorry. I wish you had people in your life who “stood in the gap” for you. I wish I knew how to be one of those people for you.
You’ll likely never read this, but if you do, I want you to know a few things:
1) He is loved. I know it wasn’t your choice, but it has been one of the single greatest joys of our lives to care for your son. He is healthy, he is so happy, and he is loved.
2) You are strong. Remember that visitation where we were both early and we chatted alone for a few minutes? You told him I was his “other mommy.” You are brave and understanding and filled with love. And in a moment where you could have made it known you were his mother, you instead made it known that I was also his mother. I wish you knew how much confidence that gave me in the first months of motherhood.
3) You are loved. I hope by your family and friends, but also by us. Whatever the outcome of this, I hope one day we’ll have a relationship where we have each other’s numbers.