In the world of foster care there are so many moments of mixed emotions. It seems as if each moment we have with our littles is bittersweet. The sweetness of many moments are usually tainted by the enemy’s reminder that these times will soon be fleeting because we are not guaranteed any amount of time with our little ones. It is in these moments that we as foster parents have no idea how to feel. We are so utterly confused on what emotions should be filling our hearts that many times we choose to not feel anything, as it makes the roller coaster of fostering a little easier (so we tell ourselves at least).
Feeling nothing is a cop out I’ve realized I’ve begun to take, especially the closer we get to finding out baby E’s future with our family. I’ve told myself over and over that when I let myself feel it’s only going to make things worse, that the pain is going to hurt too much, or the love is going to feel too real. And truthfully I’m scared. I’m scared to really feel throughout this journey, for fear of my own heart. I’ve managed to go through most of my college and adult years without too much turmoil and I’m afraid of putting myself in such a vulnerable position that could cause so much heartache and grief.
The really tough thing with not allowing yourself to feel anything is that as much as you block out the bad feelings you also block out the good feelings as well. When E cackles from us blowing on his belly or he gives us that big toothy grin when we pick him up from daycare I don’t allow myself to feel those heart melting moments. When he rests his head on my chest as I rock him to sleep every night or coos in his crib in the mornings, my heart feels nothing. The only reason it feels nothing is because of my own selfish desires, because I don’t want to have to feel the pain of what might happen.
The more I write the words onto the page before me, the more ridiculous I truly sound, and I know that. I know that my logic is beyond skewed. I know I’m robbing myself of beautiful moments, but it’s hard opening a closed heart, especially one that’s been cemented shut with no instructions on how to open it.
Although I haven’t managed to feel much throughout the past month and a half, I have allowed myself a few moments to really feel. One of those moments was a few weeks ago at E’s first birthday bash. My in-laws threw a beautiful first birthday party with Josh’s entire side of the family. There was just so much love poured out for E. He was showered with hugs, kisses, and an insane amount of gifts right upon walking in the front door. As he sat there opening his presents I looked around at everyone and realized how much support and love we had been given by these selfless family members. They accepted our decision to foster with open arms and loved E as one of their own, without hesitation. This was the moment that my heart began to really open up to those feelings I had been suppressing for so long.
Later on that night it finally came time to sing “Happy Birthday” to E. As the entire room gathered around us and him they belted out the words to the traditional birthday song we all know so well. E was mesmerized with the cake and candle in my hands and just stared at me with those big, brown eyes throughout the whole song. Half way through singing I looked around the room and saw these beautiful, loving faces pouring out their energy and time on a Sunday evening just to celebrate this child that isn’t even biologically or legally ours. As I looked around I began to get overly emotional and started to tear up. I began to think what if I would’ve thrown in the towel weeks ago? What if I would’ve listened to the enemy’s lies that told me I was incapable of being a mother? What if E never would’ve gotten the joy of having a first birthday party? Those thoughts that raced through my mind created the most real feeling in me that I’ve had this entire journey. It was the feeling of unconditional love.
The thing with unconditional love is that it isn’t easy. It’s messy, painful, and down right hard. It is the choice to love no matter the circumstances. Unconditional love isn’t something that comes easy for me, as anything that includes pain and heartache are clearly something I don’t readily welcome. That feeling that rushed through my heart the night we sat singing to sweet E is something I so desperately want to feel again. In moments when I’m doubting if I can even keep going with fostering I tune back into the feeling that captivated my entire self and it is what keeps me moving forward. Because I have experienced the joy of unconditional love I now know that the pain isn’t something that should scare me away, because even the worst heartache is still a joyful heartache.