I cradle her on my chest, her little hand resting on my neck. She’s so little for her age but she fits perfectly against me. I know my days with her are numbered as we have been told she will be going to live with her father— father she has never known and who has only met her a couple of times. I keep kissing her and taking deep breaths of her curly hair thinking I can memorize her smell yet I know as soon as she’s gone it will all start to fade.
Less than a week into her placement with us my husband told me, “You are getting too attached to her!” I laughed, as if it was something that I had control over.
Our other little one is asleep in her big girl bed. She sleeps so peacefully right now though her body looks like a broken rag doll tossed onto the bed. I always cover her back up before I stop for the night and she always wakes up tangled in the sheets or half out of the bed. As peaceful as she is now, it doesn’t last. I may never know what horrors her four-year-old mind replays in her sleep but I do hear her whimpers during the night.
She is fast to correct anyone when they call me Amanda. She makes sure they know I’m really momma, because that’s what she calls me. She’s been with us long enough that we have made traditions and we look forward to celebrating yet another birthday with her.
These are my babies. My little loves I like to call them. When someone tells me they are beautiful, I say thank you. When someone compliments her manners, I say thank you. When someone calls me their momma, I nod and smile. You see, I am their momma. Right now, in this moment, I am both these girl’s mommas.
I didn’t give birth to them, no. Yet like any other new mom – from the moment they were placed in my arms I have loved them. Deeply, painfully, joyously loved them. I’m not their foster mom; I am just mom. I wipe their tears away and kiss them to sleep each night. I scold them when they act up and reassure them that none of this is their fault. I cheer one on as she spells another word for me and repeats the life cycle of a frog proudly. I hold the others fingers as she tries to pull herself up and wave to her for the hundredth time in an hour because that’s her new-found talent.
“You must be a saint! I could never do that.” “Doesn’t your heart get broken over and over?” I promise you I am NO saint. I get to my wits end with harsh behavior from a toddler and sleepless nights from a detoxing baby. I want to scream when the adults involved don’t do what they say they will. I hide in the bathroom with my phone for just a moment of normal when it gets to be too much. If I can do this, anyone can. No really – you could do this.
“You must be a saint! I could never do that.” “Doesn’t your heart get broken over and over?”
I promise you I am NO saint. I get to my wits end with harsh behavior from a toddler and sleepless nights from a detoxing baby. I want to scream when the adults involved don’t do what they say they will. I hide in the bathroom with my phone for just a moment of normal when it gets to be too much. If I can do this, anyone can. No really – you could do this.
I know from the moment I say yes to a new placement it’s only a matter of time before my heart breaks from it. I know I will cry for a few days and look at photos of them more than I should for a while. I will sleep with one of her blankets when she leaves so when I wake up to check on her in the middle of the night I won’t panic, but remember her bed is empty. Then I will say yes when I get a call to pick up a little love who needs me.
Yet there is one question that is most often asked. It is asked by strangers and friends, by the looks that people give me in public. It is the question that is the simplest to answer. “Why do YOU do it?”
If not me, then who? These children, through no fault of their own, have been torn away from everything they know. It may be a horrible situation, yet it’s all they know. They are yanked from their life and they sit and wait – sometimes in a police car – sometimes in an office they have never seen. They wait for their mom or dad who isn’t coming. Then they wait for anyone to come for them. So, I do. I go to them and I make them safe.
I’m folding laundry at two in the morning, half asleep and half lost in thought. A little cry pulls me back to reality. She must be having a growth spurt because she’s woken up and is hungry. She can hold her bottle but she refuses to! That little ‘doodle’ is tired and wants me to hold it. She will never tell me thank you, she won’t remember the month I slept with her on the couch because she was in so much pain. She won’t remember her first Christmas was with us or how we yelled and cheered when she first crawled. That’s okay though, I will remember it for her. I look into her eyes and I will remember her always.
So yes, my heart will break each and every time that one of my babies leaves me. I welcome the broken heart. It means I loved them well enough to have it broken.