He turned one today. I just sent a picture to his birth mom. It was one of those classic, first birthday pictures of the baby in the highchair eating cake. He had the cutest smile, but I sent the text with some trepidation because I also let her know about yesterday's adoption.
I began to wonder how his birth mom might feel about not being here for is first birthday, or any of his firsts. Would me reminding her make her feel bad all over again? Would she like to see that he is happy and well loved? She has told me that she likes it when I send her photos, and I have always done so without thinking twice about it. However, today's message was different. The information about his adoption that I slipped into the text made it so.
I remember back to almost a year ago when I scheduled his first doctor appointment for just days after we had picked him up from the hospital. Since he was a born a month early and was down 11 ounces from his birth weight of 6'3, I had to bring him in for weight checks right away. The social worker on the case gave me his birth mom's number and told me that I could invite her to his appointments. I considered her offer and, in light of how well things turned out for my foster baby girl the year before, I decided I should give this mom a good chance to. What better way to support her than to let her have as much baby time as possible?
My offer for her to come to the appointment turned into me driving to pick her up and bringing her there. I guess that was to be expected. Yes, it was awkward driving up to her place of residence, with her baby in my 15-passenger van. It felt weird trying to make small talk during the 20 minute drive, too. She didn't open up at all, but merely answered my questions with as much brevity as possible.
In the doctor's office, I was careful to give her, the birth mom, as much dignity as I could. I let her undress him, hold him, feed him, and answer as many questions as possible. The question part was the difficult part. Some questions, like how the labor and pregnancy went, she was obviously capable of answering. Others, though, like how he was sleeping, feeding, and pooping/peeing, were questions I had to answer. I always felt bad having to answer these details when the birth mom is in the room, and this time was no different. On the way home from the appointment, I handed her a communication book and told her that I would write a weekly update for her to know about her son's progress. I asked her if she would like pictures throughout the week too, and she said "yes." I am glad when I can do whatever I can to make it a little less traumatic for the parent. And, I do mean little.
She seemed like she would be a great mom with what I observed over the course of the next few appointments and visits. However, after 3 months she decided to give her parental rights over to us at the 90-day hearing. Her reason? She didn't feel like she had the support to raise him. Honestly, I was sad and happy. I was sad that she didn't allow me to help her get the support she needed. I offered, but she was too stuck, in too deep, or something. I don't know, but I wish I really did. On the other end, I was happy because I had fallen in love with this little guy. I know we aren't supposed to as foster parents, but I can't help it. He was such a great baby- our easiest so far- and that is saying something! I continued to send pictures out of my own volition, but she didn't ask for them. She has sometimes responded that she appreciates my text updates, so I keep doing it whenever I think about it. However, I still can't get over what she said about needing support to keep him. I had specifically offered to help, but I think she needed someone outside of the equation. I wonder how often this happens...
I can't do anything about her situation now, but I can share with others about Foster the Love MN and hope and pray that birth parents reach out to us so we can connect them with people who can walk them through their dark journeys. I hope that in sharing this, other foster families will think about ways to help support their foster kid's birth parents, too. You can let them know about us. We want to serve foster kids, foster families, AND birth families!