The other MOMMAS
As a Foster Momma, you’ll always remember your first foster baby. The last reflection I wrote about Mike was something I wrote this past summer, a few days after he left us. Writing about him was the best way for me to remember him, and to remember all of the beautiful things he taught us. I may never hold my boy again, or watch him take his first steps, or hold his hand into his first kindergarten classroom, but I can write these lessons of hope and love, all given to me as gifts from my son.
Mike completely changed the way we love our foster littles.
Mike changed the way people viewed and accepted us as a foster family.
And Mike continues to change people’s hearts when they read about him and the many wonderful ways he shaped our hearts to love.
But Mike’s story didn’t begin with him, it actually began with his Momma.
Mike came to us after being released from the NICU, four days old, head full of curly hair, with nothing but a plastic bag filled with diapers and formula. Y’all, things got real when Mike showed up! As I learned more about the nine months in his mother's womb, I cringed at the thought of ever meeting her. In fact, I hoped that I never would. To be honest, I didn’t trust myself to be kind to her. In my mind, I could not understand why she would ever choose some of the things she did.
Did she not know what effects this would have on him?
Did she care?
Did she understand her choices were not just about her?
I thought of her, and I thought of nothing but selfishness. I had passed my Momma judgment, and in finding her GUILTY, I would never ever EVER want to meet her.
The funny thing, is that although I never wanted to meet her, I couldn’t stop thinking about her either. God’s kinda funny like that, isn’t he? And although my thoughts and feelings included being so angry with her, frustrated by her choices, and feeling bitter towards her, I felt like the world’s worst hypocrite by loving her son. Her son, tiny and precious, beautifully made, who lived in her womb, and came from her flesh. And this felt wrong. By being angry at her, even hating her, I was clouding my ability to truly and freely love her son. If I stayed angry at her, then loving Mike became about me;
ME being a better mother,
ME doing things in a better way,
ME growing my family,
Me, Me, and more about Me.
Y’all, the reality about fostering...it's NOT ABOUT ME!
So, I prayed, I sought help from a good priest, and after about a month, I did what I felt I needed to do...I met her in person. Now, most people told me this was a mistake, and that I should keep my boundaries. Thankfully, I didn't listen. (P.S., I’m probably not ever gonna listen!) I met her on a Tuesday late afternoon while she was fifteen minutes late to a visit, flying into the room and scooping Mike out of my arms, not making eye contact or validating my presence in any way, and then instantly walking away from me. I walked out of the visitation center confused. This was the part where I was supposed to tell her I forgave her, and that God loved her. This was the part where we cried and said sorry and moved on as Momma friends.
Why wouldn't she want to meet me?
It's me who's loving her son?
It’s me that's holding and changing and nurturing him?
See the “ME” pattern again?
Even in the best of intentions, does our human nature tend to drift us apart from the goodness of God. For the next hour waiting to return to the center, I spent thinking, and praying, and analyzing what would happen when I picked him up. When I returned and faced her again, she looked directly into my eyes, holding Mike against her, and said, "Thank you for what you're doing for my family." And with that, she quickly turned around, buckled her other babies into a separate car, placed Mike in my arms and walked away.
You see, in my mind I had this whole notion that I needed to hold her hand, tell her God loved her, tell her how much her son needed her, and how much I forgave her for the horrible things that had happened. What she actually needed, was for me to be kind, to smile at her and recognize HER existence. She needed me to respond, “You’re welcome,” as I did that Fall evening. In this brief exchange of words, God was finally able to start His work.
As the months continued, I came to have many conversations with her, about her son, about feedings and sleepings, about formula, and yes, even about God. When she stopped showing up for visits, I knew she had fallen. When she showed up for the beginning of the severence trial, I knew she wanted what was best for him. We spoke right after her rights were severed, she cried on my shoulder and said God was punishing her. It was then I realized my whole purpose in fostering.
As much as people think it is, fostering isn't just about the super cute babies. It's about the human beings who brought them into this world. For many, like Mike’s Momma, they are victims of horrible cycles of abuse and never knowing or feeling worthy of love. They cannot climb out of the chaos and tragedy they put themselves in, because they don’t know anything but the chaos and tragedy in the first place. Now let me be clear, I know that something like staying clean and sober is a choice, and I am not condoning Mike’s Momma’s choices. What I am saying, is that her ability to choose has been forever tainted by the fact she has never known how to be a productive citizen in society, much less a mother. Mike’s Momma was homeless and parentless, all at the ripe old age of eight, so bouncing from home to home and couch to couch became the norm. How does she know how to get a job, find an apartment, pay bills, or care for a newborn baby, when the majority of her life has been mere survival.
It's easy to love these babies like Mike. They're cuddly, and smell good (most of the time), and have soft skin and just about everything about them is perfect. They look at you and hang their tiny arms around your neck and say “I love you, Momma." But this is just the surface.
I choose to love their Mommas.
They may not like me, and it will always be easier to turn away from me and pretend I’m not even there.
They make it difficult sometimes, okay, a lot of times, to love them.
But guess what, y’all? That's how I know it’s right!