Sometimes I feel trapped, not knowing how to respond. Oh, yes, smile and nod, smile and nod. Today, I picked Charlie up from a two-hour visit with his biological parents. His mother kept telling me about how well she took care of him during those two hours. She knew because she had learned from her previous children, so she said. She changed him, burped him, and she even soothed him.
“It’s a mother’s touch, you know.”
I was speechless. This was only his second visit, which meant that apart from the time at the hospital, Charlie had only been with his biological mother for four hours, while I had strapped him to my chest and worn him for hours on end, bathed him, cuddled him, sang to him, prayed over him, and cried over him over the last two weeks.
While my body wasn’t healing from the trauma of labour and delivery, my heart was still reeling from the vicarious trauma of knowing the painful bits and pieces of his story. I was still figuring out even how to understand and process the emotions that come with hearing about the pain and trauma in a child’s life—a child whom I did not know during this time, but have now come to love deeply, fiercely even.
I wasn’t angry that she’d call herself his mother because, in one sense, by one definition, she very much was Charlie’s mother. But in another sense, I felt defensive and protective because while she was his mother, she wasn’t mothering him. He was a week old; any warm body that would gently hold him, burp him, and change him would be soothing. I found myself getting angry that she would use the term mother so flippantly—so cheaply.
Maybe I was sleep-deprived from not sleeping more than 90 minutes at a time. Maybe I was feeling insecure, loving this baby like he was mine, but knowing that he wasn’t really mine. Maybe I was angry because I knew enough of her story to feel protective of this little boy.
I began to realize that not only would our hearts be making room for another baby to love, but our minds would have to expand to fit in the idea of a second mother, a second father. Foster care would not only force us to redefine family, but it would begin to expose ugly emotions within us, as our own personal world flipped on its head.