This past Saturday, I held a baby. For the first time in four years. And I didn’t cry.
I haven’t held a baby since December 30, 2014. You might find it odd that I know the exact date, until I tell you that how I know is that this particular baby was the last of eight children who came through my then home as a foster child.
I and my partner at the time were foster parents for a little over a year. Originally, we thought that we would adopt from the foster care system. It’s funny how things change. And by funny, I mean sad.
After ten years of trying off and on to get pregnant again and that not happening, I thought I was ready to move on and have children in my life in other ways. I had considered fostering and adoption in a previous relationship, the one I lost a pregnancy in, but a funny thing happened (one of those things that’s not funny, but sad): I realized that the person I was with would not be a good parenting partner for me or with me.
Fast forward to a few years after that. I’m in a different relationship, plus have more failed attempts at having my own child, when my partner and I took the state-required foster care training and did allofthethings to make our home an acceptable abode for children in state custody.
Pretty immediately after we were licensed, we got the late-evening phone call that a baby needed placement. We scrambled to get together the things a teeny would need — we didn’t even have a crib up yet! I contacted a friend, who brought over everything baby that he had. The transporter brought the baby to our house at ten at night. I stayed up most of the night, marveling over the child.
I called in to work the next day to stay with the baby. That afternoon, I got a call: the child’s grandmother was going to take them. A few hours later, less than twenty-four in our care, I stood in our living room, while the social worker updated grandma on the situation. I handed the baby, who had been content in my arms, but then broke into copious tears, over to the grandma. They left the house, and I heard the baby crying until the car doors softly shut. Welcome to The System.
Some of them went back to their birth families and some of them went to another foster placement. A piece of my heart went out the door with that baby. Every child we cared for that year took a piece of my heart out the door with them when they left.
And so, until this past Saturday, I hadn’t held a baby since December, 2014.
This past Saturday, Stacy and I attended the Lawrence Brewers Guild Dwight Burnham Memorial Brewfest. We were invited by a business associate who is also a friend. An event dedicated to beer is a fairly safe place to avoid pregnant women, babies, and young children.
And it was. It was absolutely glorious. The weather was beyond beautiful. The bands were decent-to-good. Stacy tried many locally brewed beers that he liked (and a few he didn’t care for), and I sampled some locally made sodas that were tasty.
At one point, a couple came in with a baby. I didn’t think too much of it. There was plenty else to pay attention to. But then, it happened: the friend who invited us had the baby. I felt the familiar twinge of anxiety begin to well up and spread across my middle. I quickly busied myself with thoughts of other things, and the feeling subsided.
Just a little later, though, there was our friend, dancing toward us with the baby. Turns out it was his grandson; his first grandbaby. And before I knew it, there he was, dangling from his papa’s arms, practically in my face.
I did the only thing I could do at that moment: I reached my arms toward him, scooped him up, and took in all of the squooshy, baby goodness. Like me, he had a somewhat surly disposition; we were perfectly matched. After some time, I reluctantly handed him back over to his grandad.
Then I took stock — I was ok. A little sad, but ok. This is a major improvement over even just a few months ago, when I probably would have had to physically avoid the whole interaction, or, would have suffered through it and then shut down for hours afterward.
No matter how many unkind words I have for Hope, she is still there. And that’s a good thing.
This past Saturday, I held a baby for the first time in four years, and I didn’t cry.