Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Baby I'm Leaving Behind

This is the last night that Evie will curl up in my arms, her head nestled in the crook of my left elbow, her right hand clutching the underside of my left breast and pressing it to her cheek for dear life, while her left hand tugs at my right bra strap.

If I remember to put on a bra, that is.

As she burps loudly, she falls into a deeper sleep, and I begin to worry.

Will they read the letter I tuck in the diaper bag with all the little details about this precious baby?
Will they remember that she sleeps on her side due to her unfortunate habit of projectile vomiting?
Will they care that she prefers the "forest" setting of the sound machine?
Will they buy Huggies because the other diapers gave her a terrible rash?
Will they use the all-natural cornstarch baby powder I pack for her?
Will they dress her in ugly clothes or will they use the cute things I carefully washed and folded in her bag yesterday?
Will they let her sleep on her favorite blanket, with her stuffed toy that smells like me because I've had it on my pillow for 3 days?

Where will she sleep? Where will she be? Will it be calm and peaceful? Will they love her like I do? How long will she be there?

All of these thoughts race around in my mind, jostling for space with the other more rational thoughts like "this isn't your baby" and "you didn't really want to be on a 10 hour plane ride with a teething 7 week old who has a stuffy nose and poops her diaper all day long".

She looks delicate, but her poop explosions are legendary.

Because she's not my baby, and I look forward to taking a Tylenol PM and sleeping for at least 9 hours of that 10 hour flight. I do.

My conflict at this point is not about "caring too much" or "getting attached" because as I have mentioned, foster parents HAVE to care and children need to feel attached.

My conflict is that I feel guilty. Sarah tells me that she will not have this conversation with me - that my feeling guilty is absolutely ridiculous and that I have done nothing wrong. She worries too, says that I cannot continue to foster if it is going to crush me to part with these babies. And she is right. If I felt this way every time, if I felt helpless and powerless, if I felt like I was a part of something that was detrimental to a child, I wouldn't foster. But I have never felt like this before. I have been all manner of annoyed, angry, frustrated, tired, fed up, disgusted horrified and bewildered. But I have never once felt that I was doing less than the very best for the child in my care.

I don't feel that now. I feel as though I am abandoning Evie. I feel as though I am not following through on my commitment as her parent - the only custodial parent she has at the moment.

I am leaving, flying to New York with Max and Lucy for the summer, as we do every year. And I am not taking Evie with me.

I wanted to.
I asked, and then I pleaded.
I wrote emails and made phone calls, all for naught.

She is going to go live with a new foster family - strangers - for some unknown period of time, and then she will be moved to live with other strangers - ones to whom she has a biological connection but has only spent 3 or 4 hours with in an office downtown a month ago. She may stay with them forever, or not. She may eventually have a relationship with her biological mother, or not. They may eventually figure out who her father is, or not. The only thing that I know for sure is that she won't be with us.

This doesn't feel right, to me. I feel like children should be offered as much continuity as possible. Infants operate almost entirely on the most basic senses - the smell, the touch, the sound of their parent is what bonds them together. So tomorrow night, when someone else is tucking her in, I worry that her very little soul will wonder where her mother is. Who her mother is.

And if she is ever going home.

This is the first time we have found ourselves in our current situation - having a baby moved from our home to a new foster home - and I do not like it one little bit. I have thought a lot about the particulars, about how I came to be in this place at this time, and why it hurts so much. And it is because Evie is not going to her mother, or even her family, or a forever home. She is being shuffled around to another foster home because I am leaving. That is the bottom line. And I can't live with it. So. How do I make sure it never happens again, this terrible thing that feels so painfully wrong?

After a lot of contemplation, I have decided that if I am ever asked to take a case and if I know that I cannot make a long term commitment, then I will not accept the placement. Period. I cannot do it. I have found my line. I have to see each case through to the end.

I cannot do this to another child.
I cannot do this to my family.
I cannot do this to my heart.

Sleep well, my sweet Evie. Stay safe, my little one. Be loved, my darling girl.


Leslie said...

Oh, that is crushing!! I don't even know the whole story, but I wish that baby could travel with you and stay with you longer. I can't imagine what you are going through having to give up these babies you care for so well with all your heart. And I totally get your conflict and how complicated it all is. What's best for the baby, what's best for you and your family... Wow, nicely written for a complicated topic, and you are amazing for taking care of all those foster kids/babies.

50Peach said...

You know I think you're an angel. I'm so sorry you're hurting, friend. Sending you love and strength. xox

Nancy R said...

Prayers are with you and Evie! Will you send copies of your beautiful photos...with her or with her case manager? Those pictures will be such a treasure when she's older.