What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. This guest post is by Kristen B.
I had never experienced the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) before. This was my first time. While enjoying a trip out of town I received a phone call for a 2 week old baby that needed a temporary home. 48 hours later, there I was; washing my hands for the required 2 minutes before I could meet my new foster daughter. Those two minutes felt far more like 30. I glanced around each bed scanning the faces of all the babies around me wondering which child I was about to surrender my heart to regardless of our future together. For the babies not being held by their loved ones, they were swaddled in blankets from home, adorned in clothes that indicated more attention than what a NICU outfit could provide.
Before the nurse pointed in the direction of my new baby, I had already picked her out of a sea of beds. She was still in a hospital assigned gown, wrapped in a hospital baby blanket. No pictures adorned her bed with loved ones who couldn’t be there at every moment. In fact, she hadn’t a single visitor since her mother had delivered her high on Methamphetamines and left her at the hospital. She was, in every sense of the word, “Homeless”.
It was difficult to make out her face right away as my alligator tears robbed me of my perfect vision, yet I found myself not caring what she looked like, or how difficult she might be considering the amount of drugs she was coming off of. All I cared about was giving this baby a place to call home, an opportunity to bond with someone, a family, which every baby rightfully deserves. My heart belonged to her, every fiber of my being wanted to give her everything she had been robbed of her first two weeks of life (and in utero). From that point forward, either my husband or myself visited the NICU every day. Holding, loving and learning to feed our new daughter.
She was released from the hospital one week earlier than anticipated. In the next year she sailed through her therapy classes that she needed once a week for the effects the Meth had on her little body. She crawled earlier than expected, walked earlier than expected. In short: She thrived. All because of the love and attention she received in her first year of life. This particular child is no longer living with our family. After a year she went to a family member who was willing and able to raise her. She is one of five remarkable children we have loved in our home.
Of course we are devastated with each loss and all too often we hear, “I don’t know how you do it! I could never do that!” Our response: “We don’t know how we couldn’t do it.” Yes, being a foster parent is difficult, the hardest work we’ve ever encountered, yet the most selfless act we have ever done with our lives. We have more wrinkles and gray hairs from stressing about the future of our babies, and we’ve had more heartache than we could have ever expected. Yet we’ve had five children who have felt love, who have been the center of our world, who have become healthily attached and will be more successful human beings because of it. Bottom line: It’s not about us; it’s about them.
Currently we foster through an amazing, private, non-profit organization called Angels Foster Family Network out of San Diego. According to Angels’ there are currently over 4,500 foster children in San Diego County. At least 1,000 of those children are between birth and three years old. Most are bounced from foster home to foster home, never finding a permanent placement. This instability can cause permanent damage to infants and toddlers who are just learning to bond and attach. My husband and are one family, our goal was to make a difference in one life. We’ve beyond succeeded our goal and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. We are also in the process of adopting our very first placement through Angels and hope to add more children who need permanent or temporary homes with open arms.