First 48 hours

“We have a baby born yesterday. Are you guys available to take him today?”

 I felt my pulse surge. Another call. Another baby. We’d had more than six calls over the six weeks since we’d been approved fostering, but other than a brief respite weekend, none of the placements ended up happening. So, week after week, call after call, we went through the intense rollercoaster ride of emotions as we rushed to clean the house (when’s the next time this toilet will get scrubbed?), go grocery shopping (stock up!), and then came the hours of waiting. Waiting, and waiting, and waiting. Sometimes we got a call back, but other times we weren’t so fortunate and the waiting would drag on for days, even. We wondered about the stories of these little people who were already victims of trauma. What happened to their parents? Why was the agency involved? Why weren’t they coming into care? Who was taking care of them instead?

“The baby is being discharged today. Can you meet us at the hospital so you can get his discharge instructions?”

 I dropped Tatiana off with a friend and drove to the hospital in our newly purchased mini-van. Since Lucas was at work, I was going to meet him there and we’d go up to the nursery together. I gripped the steering wheel, and tried slowing my breathing. This was it. A newborn baby coming home with us. It reminded me of our drive to the hospital less than a year ago, hours before Tatiana was delivered. The nerves, the racing thoughts. It was similar. But oh, so different. I had an expected due date with Tatiana. We were ready for one newborn baby girl sometime in July. But with fostering? We were “ready” for one or two (or more) children aged 0 to 5 and had absolutely no idea of when we’d bring them home. So ready was a term we used loosely.

We walked into the nursery and I was filled with deep sadness. A nurse was feeding him and two social workers stood at the doorway. I took a deep breath as I realized that everyone caring for him at this moment were paid staff. My eyes caught sight of a lone gift bag on the counter. A gift from family, I figured.

Family.

What a complex and multifaceted word that has become. The blood family, the biological family, the natural family. The family that wasn’t in the room. And here we were, the foster family. Would we ever drop that first word, or would it always be a prefix, wedging in a slight degree of separation?

He burped, and the nurse set him down.

“Alright, I’ll let you dress him so you can take him with you.”

I reached into my purse, grateful that I had thrown in a pair of pajamas, not knowing what he would have with him. Nothing but a hospital-supplied onesie and a matching soother. Oh, and the family’s gift. I held his wobbly head and gazed into those deep blue newborn eyes. I gently dressed him, picked him up, and headed for the door.

And just like that, I walked out of the hospital with another woman’s baby.

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