The time for the 7-day visit had finally arrived.  I paced in anticipation of sharing the news about the newly found lump on the 2-month old's chest.  It was the first time I would see the baby's dad and the social worker assigned to his case.  And, I had to let them all know what I had seen... and felt.  

          The meeting started off well with introductions and an outpouring of loving kisses for the baby I had in my care.  Then, the father asked if he could hold his son.  Of course he could, but what happened after that took me by surprise.  He started crying big heavy tears of relief under his big shaking shoulders.  He finally had the chance to hold his baby close for the first time since they had been separated.  Apparently, there had been few visits up until his son had come to my house, and none for him!  I will never forget his pain and his thankfulness to us for lovingly caring for his precious boy and helping him to gain weight.  It is sometimes hard to see parents for who they really are when we just hear bits and pieces of their sorted past, but this love and affection- I could not deny it.  And, I suddenly realized that I didn't want to break it up.

          The meeting went on as I waited for just the right moment to share the news with them, but when was it?  Ever?  I wanted things to just be as they were with the parents lovingly doting on their little son (who was growing chunkier by the day).  At some point, I couldn't hold it in any longer, and I took the mom aside when there was a lull in the conversation to show her and ask her if she had seen the lump before.  She hadn't.  Soon, everyone was surrounding the little one, and I heard myself say that I wanted to take him and his parents to the doctor as soon as our meeting was done.  I felt so worried for them that I knew, as a mom, I would have wanted the same offer.  I would have felt so helpless to have had to wait at home while some other person brought my son in for a very important appointment.  I was scheduled to work that evening, but I just knew I would have to call in.  The social workers were surprised by my offer.  Typically, parents are allowed a certain number of visits a week for a certain number of hours.   However, they agreed that we could give the parents a longer visit, supervised by me, if that was what I wished.  I did.

          Instead of going to work, I drove with the parents to the closest urgent care.  There were quite a few other patients before us, so I had plenty of time to hear their story.  As I listened to these parents share the details surrounding their son's scary birth and how horribly she was treated when she went in for an emergency surgery a few days afterwards (for excessive bleeding), my heart melted.  His placement in my care was a precautionary measure for previous drug use.  This couple had endured so much pain both physically and in being separated from the one they loved.  I just prayed that when their son's name was called, they wouldn't have to hear any more bad news.   

          I let the mom hold her son throughout the appointment.  The doctor was very understanding and actually had some surprising news for us.  He said that he thought it was a kind of birthmark that sometimes gets thick like this, but eventually fades after a few years.  We were all so ecstatic to hear this!  I had no idea birthmarks could present in such a manner!  The ride home was so much more relaxing, and even though it was quite late, I knew I would sleep much better too!  

          I have a very bad memory, but this night is etched in my mind so clearly because it changed me.  I saw birth parents in a new light.  I saw them as real and raw and... scared and vulnerable.  I think they were changed too.  They realized that a foster parent can care and help and be trusted.  After this night, her visits were much more relaxed- no more puking in my bathroom.  She watched me interact with my kids, playing ball in the back yard.  She noticed how we did life together, and she wanted to know why we did this thing called foster care.  Well, we have lots of reasons, but the most important one is because of my relationship with Jesus.  My relationship with Him has changed me to see people differently.  I had a need for someone to love me, regardless of how I had messed up in my past.  Someone did.  It was Jesus.  It was He who took my punishment on the cross so I wouldn't have to bear it.  I couldn't bear it.  In doing foster care, I want to share this hope that I have with people who desperately need to know that they can be changed by Jesus Christ and have a new life of forgiveness each day.  Just like me.


Katie O'Neil