From my perspective there are two types of parents in the world (Disclaimer: this is not a fact, this is my opinion): The Turtle and the Hare. Some parents love immediately: They fall in love with this little being that they gave birth to, adopted, a spouse gave birth to, they co-parent with... you get the picture (I'm trying to be inclusive here). These parents feel a connection right away. Their life changes in that moment and that is a beautiful thing. But what if you're not a Hare?
Let's talk about the Turtles. These parents are slower to adjust, slower to fall completely. Whether it's self protection, walls built though the years, personality traits... Whatever the reason, these types of parents don't feel all the gushy, in-love feelings that some parents feel, and perhaps post about on social media. I am in NO way judging or mocking the Hares.. I WISH I was a Hare parent, I really do. But if you're not made that way, you see these posts and feel inadequate.
(I don't differentiate between moms and dads in this next sentence, or post, because both parents have feelings, you know).. So, you see these posts and you feel inadequate; at least I did, and I'll speak for my wife too... Neither of us fell in love with our first son immediately... There was no rush of the heart or life altering epiphanies. He arrived, we loved him, we kissed him, we were so happy he was healthy, and then we proceeded to survive, adjust, and keep him alive. That's how it went for both of us. One that birthed him and shares DNA and the other parent (me). I am so grateful that we had the same experience or I would have felt like an evil cold-hearted person. I didn't cry when he was born, although, when they pulled him out of Jen's belly I did squeal with excitement (I'm not a robot y'all). Maybe because I became a mom, maybe because they said he had red hair... We'll never know! ;)
We felt that way for quite a while.. Like about 6 months or so, and then that lack of feely feels gradually dissipated. Now, you may be thinking, "OMG, I can't believe they didn't love their baby for the first 6 months."
>Can you see my eyes rolling?<
In that 6 months we both independently, and together, went to therapy. We thought for sure we were the worst parents on the planet. We loved and cared for him, but we didn't feel like what we thought we were supposed to feel. TAKE THAT AND REWIND IT BACK (if you get that reference, I love you)...
THOUGHT we were supposed to feel. How stupid is that?! In any other circumstance you don't expect yourself to feel what everyone else feels. When I go to the DMV I don't expect to feel pissed off just because other people hate it there. I don't exercise every day and expect to get some fucking runner's high (umm, no). Ya dig?! I'm not other people, I'm me. Jen is Jen. So why would we ever think that we would react like anyone else in any situation? Well I'll tell you one reason: it's a PERSON we're talking about. I guess we all assume that when you're told and shown all your life that parenting is what you do, and when you do it it goes like this.... So no one talks much about the reality, or how people feel differently and in their own way. Let me clarify too that neither of us had post-partum depression. You can guess why I didn't (hehe).
Here's the thing... The nurse hands you this baby.. just flops him or her onto your chest (or however you get the kid - social worker drops them, yada yada) and everyone thinks your mind has a button. Like an EASY button... BAM - you're a parent now, so go ahead and forget that just a few days ago you were eating an amazing Italian dinner with your wife, drinking wine, and leisurely walking around town, waiting for your little bundle of 'joy', not a care in the world! Your life will never be the same again.
How is someone just supposed to adjust to that right away? I'll admit we were in it for the first couple of days at the hospital until we got home and got into routine. The it hit us, mainly when we went back to work.. This is IT!!! We are no longer responsible for just ourselves. We cannot go on vacation as we please. We can't go to the store and stroll calmly down the aisles browsing for snacks. We can't go to dinner and have a continuous conversation. I'm not bitching, please keep reminding yourself of that as you read, or you may start to inappropriately judge us. Do you know what this is you guys?! It's called mourning!! As happy as we were to FINALLY after this little dude after the infertility and such, we were beginning to mourn our old life.
Now, maybe the Hares don't go through this, maybe they do... But what I want you all to know is that either way, no matter your reaction to this new life, YOU'RE RIGHT. It's the right way for you. I think anyone on our IG or Facebook can see that we adore Atticus and love him more than our minds even comprehend. But it did not happen overnight. And after all these years, I do not feel one ounce of guilt for how we felt in the beginning, and how perhaps, just a tad, we still mourn our old life of vacations, one-on-one time, and sleeping in. AND that is OKAY!! News flash: That in no way means you don't love your kids.
What that process taught me, and what I never really knew about myself, was that I am capable of love. And I don't mean loving a girlfriend or spouse (I did and do, duh)... but I mean that unconditional, jump in front of a train, sick to your stomach if you even think about never seeing them again sort of love. I really didn't think I had it in me. I was especially concerned because Atticus has no biological relation to me. I tried to get pregnant; it wasn't in the cards for me. Could I love a baby that was not related to me?? I mean, like, REALLY love it as if I gave birth to it. Welp, HELL YEAH! Now I know, but it was risky for a while you guys. I was nervous. I talked to my therapist constantly (even before he was born) in hopes that I could will myself to feel more than I did at first. I was so scared that Jen would be madly in love with him right away and I would just be sitting there, reacting all typical Meghan and she'd hate me. I don't always think realistically...
SPOILER ALERT: They BOTH, the Turtle and the Hare, finish the race.
No matter how you receive a child, no matter what the process of getting and loving looks like, you get there. You're a parent and you love your kids and make mistakes and the best decisions you know how to make.. So if you ever stumble across a mom or dad posting about how wonderful parenting is how their kids puke rainbows, well, slap the shit out of yourself, go get another coffee, and carry the fuck on!!! You are just the perfect parent for your kid and you love them just the way you were meant to.
This brings me to the point of this post, albeit the semi shorter portion... What do you think happened when we were given a foster baby? Mhm, ding ding...I knew you were bright!
It's a challenge. Not only are you given a baby that is not related to you, you are then bombarded with paperwork, birth parents visits and drama, home inspections, social workers visits, training hours, and don't you dare leave knives or tylenol on the kitchen counter or go out of town without the state of California's permission! .. Oh, and the potential that you could love this baby and then he gets taken away..
Mix that shit together in your fancy Ninja blender and WHAM - potential disaster.. Did I mention a baby that was exposed to drugs, which may or may not be the cause of sporadic sleeping the first six months and who the hell knows what other issues may arise??
Aye Yi Yi.
I am NOT advocating for people NOT to foster or foster-to-adopt... DO IT!! PLEASE! The system needs loving parents... But I am just warning you that if you are, or think you are a Turtle, then proceed with caution and an open mind and heart! This is a tricky system to navigate even if you are smart, hare-like, patient, loving, and non-judgmental. IF you're missing any of those pieces it could get rocky. It certainly has for us. We are always honest when people ask us about parenting and/or fostering... I'm sure some parents think we are heartless, but 1.) I don't give rat's ass, and 2.) That's not accurate.
Also, Aero is becoming part of our family. There will always be this mini wall in our hearts until we can officially adopt him. We cannot love him fully yet... We cannot handle the potential heartbreak. More importantly we can't handle it for our first son.. You know, the one that we now cannot face life without...
We can't watch his heart break into a million little kiddo pieces. So we tread lightly and we love slowly, and that's ok. We adore him, we get pissed when he doesn't sleep, we kiss him endlessly, and we provide the best life we can... and then we get annoyed again. So what I'm saying is we are the same parents and people that we've always been... just trying to make better decisions and take things one day at a time in life and with parenting.
See the end of this post for the actual definition and synonyms, but here is what fostering means... By the way, you are fostering as a parent.. no matter what. You are fostering love. You are fostering self-love. You are fostering intelligence. You are fostering stability. You are fostering positive decision making. You are FOSTERING all that it takes to CREATE a happy healthy person. Isn't that fucking HEAVY?!?!? So cut yourself some slack!
Here's something real for you to maybe help you sleep at night and know you're never alone in this parenting game: There have been moments with Atticus when we thought we made a mistake having a kid. There are moments with Aero that we thought we made a mistake in fostering a child. You may not feel that way EVER, or you maybe you have or will. All I'm saying is, it doesn't mean you are a soulless piece of shit. Because I feel that's how parents are conditioned to think when we don't all feel the same way.. That's all!!
gerund or present participle: fostering
encourage or promote the development of (something, typically something regarded as good).
encourage, promote, further, stimulate, advance, forward, cultivate,
nurture, strengthen, enrich