The baby is in my office. With a grunt he sits up in his vibrating chair and touches the button. He is just getting to be too big and I’ll let him out in a few minutes.

“Ma-ma-ma-ma,” he says while pulling off his socks. He blows raspberries and flops back down, grabbing his bottle.

I open a book on his lap before going back to typing. “A is for Awesome,” is the title and his favorite pages today are B (is for Beyonce) and X and Y (are for extraordinary you). This last page has a mirror and he inspects this seven teeth.

He makes a face and I am sure that is exactly how he will look when he is older. But I have no way to verify this - I don’t know if I will be in his life when he is all grown up, making the same faces.

“He looks more like his father, everyday,” his mother told me this morning at court.

“I agree,” I said.

A few minutes later, Jerry and I sat behind our foster son’s biological mother in the small, Duluth courtroom. Within five minutes it was all over and the judge asked us how we felt about it- I didn’t fully understand but nodded my head.

The social workers had previously told us that overnight visits would be extending. But, I had nodded my head to a trial home visit.

Reunification is always the first goal of foster care. Everyone is always focused on bringing the child home with its biological parents.

A trial home visit is when the child is brought home but the county maintains custody and works closely with the family. After the next hearing, it is expected that if everything went well, custody will be given back to the biological parent.

The baby is leaving our home, our foster family, and is going home to his biological mother.

I remember looking at the judge and realizing I was nodding my head.

I stood, stunned in the small meeting room with the social worker, my baby’s mother and my husband after the short hearing, filled with mixed emotions.

I want this woman to succeed. I want her to be clean and healthy and make good, safe decisions. I see myself in her- another time, another place we could have switched roles.

I want this baby to stay right where he is- in our family. I want to be there in the coming years to see if he makes that face when he is all grown up.

But this isn’t about me.

My baby’s mama hugged me and I said “This sucks” into her ear. After we let go, I smiled at her- I am very proud of the work she has done.

But I am worried for her and the baby. He can be a handful and what if…

If reunification has been the goal and is what we’ve all been working towards then, why does it hurt so much?

He has crawled across the floor and reaches up to me.

These are very complex emotions to process. I more than love this baby.

He sits on my lap, watching my finger type and the letters appear on the screen.

1 NVZDFVXC kkhj b xz

He grunts in frustration as I put him back on the floor.

I wish he could understand when I try to explain what is happening. But, maybe it is best he can’t.

This baby will have similarly complex emotions after reunification happens. But slowly, he will come to terms with his new reality, he will forget this life he has filled with love.

He will forget me.

I will never forget him.

I will always be there for her, my baby’s mama.

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