by Heather Bock
On January 7, a one-week old sleeping baby girl, head tilted to the side as she lay dwarfed in her infant car seat, was gently set down in our entryway. We had been officially licensed to foster for a week and a half, and although this girl was the first to enter our home, she was already our second placement call, the first having been eventually given to someone living closer to his birth parents.
We had said yes to bringing her in our home that morning, but it was confirmed in the early afternoon, which began a whirlwind of preparation: finding and washing newborn baby clothes and blankets from the garage, setting up the crib in our room, and getting a baby rocker washed and ready. The laundry machine ran nonstop. All of this had to be completed before I went to work for the evening, and I wasn’t even sure if she would come before, during, or after work. Working until the last moment, desperately screwing the last bolts into the crib, I rushed off late to work, telling Greg to text me if I needed to return home early.
We knew little about this tiny person coming to live with us–the overtaxed CPS worker having told us the wrong time, the wrong name, the wrong birthday, and even the wrong race. Her beautiful dark chocolate-brown skin made it obvious that although one parent was Hispanic, the other was not Caucasian, as we had been told.
While she slumbered on in her seat by the kitchen table, we signed papers like we were buying a house, not reading a single one of them, and not learning much more than what we knew before, except her real birthday, name, race, and part of the reason she had to be taken away from her parents.
After we were finished, I was asked to take her out of her seat and check her for any signs of being in physical danger. As I lay the mini stranger on a blanket on the rug, her sleep was disturbed, causing her to give small protests. I felt the strangeness of it all–that we would be responsible to take care of this human we had never seen before, to love her in our home for no one knew how long: a week, a month, a year, forever? Having desired this for as long as I could remember, the reality of it brought joy, but it still overwhelmed.
In an hour or so, the workers closed the front door behind them, leaving us alone with this helpless baby, completely dependent on our love for her well-being. I held her close, waking up with her in the night to give her the sustenance she needed, doing everything I could possibly do for her so she wouldn’t feel a moment’s distress, putting her cheek on mine, all the while admiring her beauty, but the content little girl still felt like a stranger for whom I was caring.
A few days in, however, a shift happened. I leaned in and kissed her perfect, soft cheek. In that moment, I began to fall in love. I loved her with actions before, but it was that moment that I opened my heart to truly love her. It was at that time that I began to think of her as my own, my own who wasn’t truly my own.
Many people have told me that they couldn’t foster because they would get too attached, or that it would be too hard to let the child go back home. Yes. I am too attached. I don’t think I would be fostering the way I need to if I wasn’t too attached. Yes. It will be more hard than I can say when/if I get the call that it’s time for her to leave us. Every Friday afternoon, I’m relieved as I know it’s less likely anything will happen in her case on the weekend. Every Monday, I dread that this might be the week when she’s taken. I cry to God to keep her safe, to only place her where she will thrive, to redeem her family and bring healing.
I’ve heard it said that if you truly love someone, you have to be able to let that person go, but I’ve never actually had to practice this. I know I don’t have a choice in whether my sweet baby leaves or stays, but out of love for her, I have had to keep my mind open to her leaving. After all, only God knows where and with whom is best for her to be raised. I have had to keep my heart trusting in God, holding my sweetheart up to Him in surrender more than with anyone else I have ever loved. He reminds me how He loves her far more than I ever could.
No, the heartbreak of fostering is never easy, but it has brought me incredible joy, it has brought me closer to my Father God in a new way, and it has allowed me the absolute blessing of fully loving a child in a way I never did before.