I like dat one.
Picking out her first pumpkins!
My mom and E. She had a major crush on this pumpkin man. As in like, she didn’t want to walk around anywhere else but just sit there and hug him.
My sister, Ella, Me and Alyssa (BFF)
^ Leave it up to my BFF (remember the one in the accident?) to be her crazy self at the Pumpkin Patch. I may or may not have told her to pose for this.
Ella wanted her own “selfie” too.
On December 9, 2013 my family was blessed with our first ever foster baby, Ella. She was 4 months old and only weighted 9 pounds and basically acted like a newborn. She was physically starving, could not even hold her head up and had a severe bloody rash under her neck. All they told our family was that she was taken away due to failure to thrive (later we were told she never had a crib, and slept in a car seat for the first 4 months of her life) and that she was extremely malnourished. I can’t share much more for her protection but her home life was anything but ordinary. Fast forward to almost a year later and she is thriving, eats like a pig and looks and acts like a perfectly healthy 14 month old.
My parents and sister started the fostering process in the beginning of 2013. Michelle, my sister, at the time worked at a daycare and convinced my parents to begin taking foster classes. She had a lot of the foster children in the daycare classes with her and talked about them quite often, which is what ultimately led my parents to start the whole foster process. My mom, dad and sister attended classes for a few months and went through the whole process together. They were all super into it! And here I was. Not super into it. I was not against it by any means but I just didn’t feel that excitement for it as much as they did.
Those classes came and went, there was tons of paperwork, interviews, waiting, lots of waiting, more interviews, signatures, home visits, more waiting and then the time finally came for the foster parent approval. The paperwork was sent in and then it was up to the judge to approve or deny our family for fostering. The paperwork was sent in and that took a few months to get approval. On the day it was approved, my parents got a call asking them if they wanted a 4 month old baby girl, and she was “delivered” to us that night at 10:00 PM. That’s not the most caring word but it’s really what it felt like. A stork magically delivered this baby to our doorstep and there she was.
The first time we saw her face from the carseat, she had the hugest, gummiest smile. She couldn’t do much else and her cry was barely a whimper but she was adorable. My sister and mom were in heaven. This was the moment they both waited and dreamed about for a whole year. Must be kind of like a mom, when she gives birth to her first child (or so I imagine). They both hovered over her car-seat and didn’t seem to come up for air, they just stared at her cuteness and gave her all the love they possibly could just by looking at her. My dad, the patient man he is, and I were kind of background noise, carefully watching and observing. He didn’t say much , he’s a man of few words, but I could tell he was interested and excited because he loves my mom and he knew fostering was her dream, so he went along. Of course, I was excited a new little baby was in the house, who wouldn’t be? I took tons of pictures, held her and then, that was that. After an hour or so of playing and holding this new little human baby, my mom and sister took her upstairs to give her a bath and there it was, the start of life with a foster baby.
And there I was, not exactly sure how I felt. One minute it was just the 4 of us and the next minute, BAM, there’s a baby living at our house. My moms attention was now completely focused on this helpless little being. Typing this I sound like an only child who is meeting and seeing his/her new brother or sister for the first time. Was that jealousy I was experiencing? How could I, a 23 year old at the time, be jealous of a newborn baby who needed much love and care. Is this how a new father feels when his wife and newborn baby bond? Jealous that the precious time spent with his wife is now being replaced by a newborn baby. I remember telling my friend how I felt and asking her, “Will I ever get to do normal things with my mom again?” and “please tell me if I am acting like a 5 year old, I am 23 years old for goodness sake, I can surely handle a baby living with us.” That jealousy, if that’s the correct word, latest only a few days. It was more of an adjustment than anything. The only thing I really cared about and joked about with my mom was that I was fine with everything as long as I didn’t hear her cry and wake me up during the night.
Never in a million years could any of us have guessed we would have a new little addition to our family. That’s the funny thing about life. We can plan, plan, plan all we want but int he end, God has a much more brilliant and well thought out plan than we ever could have imagined. He shows me this everyday. I never pictured myself 24 and still living at home and let alone, living with a teeny babe. The first two weeks were strange, but after that, life became much more normal or our “new normal”. My dad, sister and I still woke up and went to work everyday, and my mom stayed home with the babe. In the first few months, Ella, was so small and colicky. I would help my mom a lot after work with dinner and Ella until my dad came home. The first few months were like a honeymoon phase. Everyone loved the little babe so much and my sister and mom were obsessed with her.
Then life really settled down, my sister became less fascinated and we both became busy with work, school (Michelle), church and life in general. My mom and dad are Ella’s primary caretakers. They feed, bathe, play and give her as much love as they can. Then there’s me and my sister. We’re adults, living our own lives (yes, still living at home…lol), yet we have this baby in our house. It’s strange to think about. I help out with Ella as much as I can but there are days I leave for work early, come home, run errands, go workout, see friends and then come back home and realize I haven’t seen her at all that day. I took a trip to Peru in the summer for 11 days, and it was so jam packed, I realized on the way home that I had not even thought much about missing Ella. It’s not that I didn’t miss her, I wanted to hug and squeeze her the moment my plane landed but I knew instantly I did not have those maternal instincts like my mom does. I love Ella to death but I don’t feel that same love for her as my mom does. She looks at her differently. Kind of how she looks at me and my sister…like one of her own daughters.
This is where the fears creep in. I live my own life, but yet there is this baby in the house. It’s kind of like I am looking back in time, watching how my parents raised me and my sister, except, it’s our foster baby their raising. I see how difficult it is to raise a kid, let alone one you did not give birth to and not being as young as they were the first time they raised kids. It’s funny, we walk in stores wiht Ella and I can see people starring. Some will ask personal questions and others will just stare. They are wondering who’s baby it is. I can just imagine the thought process that is going through their head, “is that a grandma, her daughter and grandchild?” or “is that a mom and her two kids”. The thing that scares me most though, is that Ella could very well be my own child and that freaks me out. I will hold her and look in the mirror, and I look back at myself and say, “man, I could totally be her mom” but more often it’s, “how in the world will I ever be a good mom, I feel and still want to be a kid”.
Having Ella live in the house brings out several fears. The main one is that I see Ella and my mom, and I think to myself, “this could be me and my own child in a few years”. Raising a kid is hard, my mom doesn’t sleep much (E still won’t sleep the night) and I see the toll it takes on her. I ask her all of the time, “is this how it was like to raise Michelle and I?” It just looks so terrible…just being honest here. Even though since I was little I’ve always wanted to have my own family and kids. She always remind me though that this is different, she comes with baggage, like visiting her mom every week. She screams and cries when they take her away to visit mom and already at such a young age has so much fear and worry. Her sleepless nights come as reminders that she is sometimes taken away from that loving and protected place where she feels safe in our home. My loving mom, still reminding her adult daughter that motherhood is not as terrible as it looks, even though it’s hard to see sometimes. But it’s that crippling fear that takes over.
The other fear is that I don’t want to loose my independence. I like being able to do my own thing, it’s all I’ve ever known. I leave the house whenever I want, go to work, church, workout, trips, beach, visit friends, stay out past 7 (lol) and just life life because I have the freedom to do whatever I want. I don’t want to be self-less just yet and I am not tied down by a baby. I am selfish. I want to use all my free time for me, myself and I. When I picture myself with a kid, the two words that comes to mind are: missing out. I see the self-less life my mom lives. She has given up everything in order to love and take care of this little babe. Having a baby you give up everything. Your life is forever changed. I often ask myself that, am I willing to give up my life and live selflessly for a little babe of my own. I do want that, eventually, but just not right now. Then I must remind myself, “whoa whoa, Katie. You are not even married, don’t get to far ahead of yourself”. Why am I living in fear of something that isn’t even happening and that I am not in control over at all.
Then there are days where I wake up, and I see Ella’s smiling face, dancing joyfully to Mickey Mouse Club House and stuffing her face with peanut butter toast for breakfast. Her joy and her adorable smile garb a hold of you, and you never want to let go. It becomes hard to leave for work. She will run full force to you and grab your legs and give you the tightest baby bear hug. I just want to squeeze her little face to death and play with her all day long but then life happens, and I must leave. It’s moments like these that I tell myself, “man parenthood doesn’t seem so bad” and all of the fears slowly start to fade.
Fostering is hard, it’s hard on our family. Living with a foster baby is different. It’s not like babysitting where you watch the kids and then drop them back off with their parents, or seeing my little nieces and nephew on the weekend. This is full time, all the time. They never said it would be this easy, but they also didn’t give any warning as to how difficult it is, especially on my parents. This is where I can choose to either look at the situation as half full or half empty. I can view it as the worst thing in the world to happen, or I can say it’s the hugest, unexpected blessing that our family has ever encountered. I can be selfish or I can be self-less.
Over the year, God has taught me so much about selfless love. I’m not going to lie and say that I never fear these things or have thoughts of doubt, but he put Ella into our lives for a reason and I still live at home for a reason. Maybe that reason is to love Ella endlessly and to be completely self-less. I haven’t 100% figured out that answer, but what I do know is that the future is unknown. We don’t know what will happen to this little babe. She could be sent back to live with her mom and siblings at any day and time, or she could be forever ours if she is placed up for adoption and my parents choose to adopt her. It’s extremely unknown but I have faith in something bigger. I have faith in a God who will take care of us and Ella now and in the future. He is much greater than us. His plan is more perfect and more well thought out than we can ever imagine. If it’s his will for Ella to return back to her mother, I know God will be there with her every step of the way taking care of her and keeping his watchful eye on her family, even it it seems like our love for her is better. And if she is placed up for adoption, weather my parents adopt her or a loving family adopts her and all of her siblings, God will still be there every step of the way. His plan is different than our own. He does not do things to harm us but to protect us. He is greater than us and I trust Him with everything I have. My job right now is not to fear about my own future, but to love on this little babe with every ounce of my being. Being present now because we are uncertain what the future holds.
My mom and dad love Ella like thier child. I love her like a sister. But most importantly, God shows us his perfect love and if we follow him, we will be able to love just like Him! That perfect love that was shown to us by His son, Jesus, dying on a cross for us. I pray everyday, fear or no fear, that God’s love can shine through me. There is really no other way than to live life striving to be like Jesus and to show his perfect, endless love. In the end, it’s all that matters. He will always remain greater than I ever am and I find so much peace in that. It’s selfless abandonment. And right now, that is to live life fully here and now and to love Ella with all I have because we do not know what the future holds. He will take care of us and Ella.
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26