I had a stomach bug this weekend, but that’s not all I was feeling bad about. Being an empath I not only take on other people’s feelings when I’m with them, but I pick up the same types of emotions from TV or reading.
I’m currently working on a non-fiction book about our time as foster parents. I want to tell others thinking about becoming foster parents the stuff that we wish we knew going in. As research, I downloaded a wonderful book written by foster parents called Welcome to the Rollercoaster. There was story after story about their children and their cases. I found myself crying and nodding along to so many of the stories. I got it. I remembered it well. After ten years and 40 kids, how could I forget? Our kids will be etched in my soul for the rest of my life.
I cried for their children and cases, and for our own. For not knowing what happened to any of our kids, and knowing we probably never will.
We started fostering in December 2004. Our first baby came in February 2005 and we almost quit. Two adoptions and 37 kids later, we quit in the summer of 2015. We had been doing emergency foster care for the last two years and were completely burned out. Our last little girl who left broke our hearts. Add that to the stress of being on call 24 hours a day and not allowed to say no, we were done.
But I didn’t think for good. I never thought for good.
Over the past six months I’ve brought up opening our home up again to my husband. Each time our conversation ended quickly with a reminder of what we went through when our little girl left. I still had hope, though, because he hadn’t said no.
As long as we reopened our home before the summer of 2017, we wouldn’t lose our license. They give foster parents two years to take a break and decided if they want to come back. After that, they have to do training all over again.
I imagined us calling foster care in the spring to get the ball rolling again. I imagined us telling them we’d take a baby and wanted to adopt again. Possibly two babies. I didn’t let myself think about losing them or going though what we’d been through time after time.
As I finished reading the foster care book, it hit me. We were done. I knew, deep in my soul, we couldn’t go through it again. The pain of losing a child we loved. The frustration of our foster care and court system, not to mention the overworked and underpaid caseworkers who barely had time to return our phone calls.
I had known all along my husband wouldn’t handle another baby leaving well. But I thought I could do it. I’d be strong enough for the both of us. Again.
Realizing that we wouldn’t foster again was a crushing blow to me. There would be no new babies in the house. There would be no more adoptions. No daughters for us, sisters or brothers for my boys. It goes without saying how much gratitude we have for our having our boys. I don’t know where we’d be if we hadn’t been able to adopt them. We love them more than life. But just like parents who want to have their own kids, we wanted more.
Since I was home sick all weekend anyway, my plan was to do a fast first draft of my book on foster care. But it didn’t work out that way. I was in a deep depression and funk all weekend. It was like the stomach bug I had was a minor side effect compared to how I felt. I grieved the loss of the babies we’ll never have. My husband said to me today, “I think when Isabella left, I knew for certain we’d never foster again. But you’re just realizing it.” It’s amazing how I saw only what I wanted to see.
I didn’t beat myself up for feeling the way I felt this weekend. I cried a lot and today I laid around for hours binge-watching Mad Men, and I’m starting to feel better. I realized it’s okay to feel the pain and sorrow I’m feeling. Feeling this way takes nothing away from the extreme joy and gratefulness I have for my boys. The best thing I could have done for myself these past few days is take care of myself.
And that’s just what I did.