He would scream when it was time for a bath, he would scream when his bottle was finished; he would scream when we laid him down for bed; he would scream when we sat him down; when we walked two feet away, when we were in the car, when we sat in church services, when we were in the store. He was hurting, he was scared, and he had trauma. He obviously couldn’t communicate and tell us what he was feeling, why he was scared. At only 10 months old this little boy who should have been shielded and protected from even knowing what fear was had been thrust into a very scary situation that even an adult would struggle with. His world was rocked and he had landed in a house full of strangers. Different smells, different faces, different schedules. Displaced again, and he was expected to completely trust these people who he had never met.
This is not a scenario that is rare or an extreme case. Many may think that a baby, a child so young, wouldn’t have trauma. They can’t possibly remember what they’ve went through or what they’ve seen-right? I often tell people-that while my children may not remember exact moments, words spoken, or situations that they were in, I have no doubt in my mind that they remember the *feeling." They remember *feeling* afraid, hurt, sad, upset, unsafe. Unfortunately, those feelings stay with them and often times those memories and feelings are not easily discarded. They have to be worked through, you have to prove yourself (yes even to an infant) that you can and will take care of them, that you will protect them, and you are not going to just leave them. That takes a lot of time, effort, persistence, and for me-a lot of tears.
Sometimes bonding will come natural & with ease and other times it will be more trying and emotionally exhausting. I think it is safe to say that if you are in the foster care world or plan to be for any length of time you will most likely experience both of these to some extent. Regardless of which one of these categories you may fall in at this time, the key for me has always been the mindset. With every time you say ‘yes’ you must have your mind made up that you will love this child with as much love and care as you would if they were born to you. You must make up your mind that you will be their mom--their *real* mom--as long as they need you to be, no matter if it’s just a day, a week, a year, or forever. The mindset is everything.
With all the uncertainty of foster care and the horrendous havoc that the system can cause in the lives of children it’s easy to see why many are afraid to truly bond with foster children. Sometimes we may think about the future and fall into the trap of thinking ‘I need to hold back at least a small piece of my heart-they could leave and then what…’ It’s natural to think about the future, to let our mind go down the ‘what if’ road. But, I must be careful that I don’t let these ‘what if’s’ run my life. The truth is-what happens in the future doesn’t change the fact that my kids need a mom right now. They need all of me all the time. They need my heart, my love, my courage (even when I feel like I have none), they need my kisses, my safety. They need it all and when I said ‘yes’-I agreed to give it to them-and not hold back. The length of time they are with us means absolutely nothing in relation to the love the and dedication they deserve from us. When we really peal back all the layers and reasons for not wanting to attach to a foster child I think that we’ll see that they are mostly selfish. We sometimes are too concerned with how we will feel if they leave, if we will ever recover from the heartache of losing a child. What about the child? How will they ever grow to have healthy relationships if no one ever had the guts to truly give them their heart? If we don’t give them our all then will anyone?
The day we adopted our daughter was one of the most overwhelmingly happy days of my life. There are so many feelings I remember about that day and so many sweet comments said in congratulations to us. But, the only words that stand out in my mind from that day happen when the judge was talking to me in the court room. “Have you love and cared for this child as if she were your ow?” That's it. All the emotions and the tears that I had been trying to hold back to keep my composure just rushed up and rolled down my cheeks. Because she was mine, she is mine. I didn’t t love her ‘as if’ she were my own-she always had been and my heart always knew it.
Shelby is a Christian, wife, and mother. She and her husband have been foster parents for going on two years & it has been the most wonderful & difficult experience of their lives. They are passionate about adoption & caring for children in needs. They plan on being apart of the foster care world as long as they are able.