The Agony of Attaching to Foster Kids

FullSizeRender-6

Three weeks after I gave birth to my first child, I sat sobbing in a glider. I was sitting in a nursery where everything was new-cute crib, tiny clothes, fresh baby, new life. And with all of the unfamiliar came a surge of scary emotions. She had been screaming for what seemed like hours and my comfort measures weren’t working.

After nursing, hushing, bouncing, walking and changing diapers for this little life, my weary arms still held a screaming baby. I suddenly wanted to throw her out of our second-story window or shake her to stop. I was worn out and I didn’t know what else to do. I was at the end of my very short rope that was certainly nothing longer than a shoestring.

I didn’t throw her. Or hurt her. 

But the fact that I felt that way for a moment horrified me.

After birthing four kids, I became a foster mom.

Our fourth foster came to us from another home. We were family number four on his long list of transitions. Initially, I judged the other foster mom’s inability to care for him and his “behavior”.  I couldn’t imagine the hardships a human could dump on a mama. He carried with him gear filled with grief. Unbelievable grief. He had been abandoned and left to find his own way in the world…at only three years old.

I quickly found I wasn’t enough to meet his needs. This revelation caused my conscience to contend for an acceptable conclusion as to why I was having a hard time even liking this kid most days.

I didn’t even want to like him most moments.

He was stealing my time, my tender heart and my sanity. I was eager for him to leave because I simply couldn’t enjoy many moments where I wasn’t sobbing or lacing up my running shoes to flee from it all.

Was this the beauty of foster care? And motherhood? How could I feel this way about a child who had been through so much trauma? How did I feel that way about my biological kids sometimes?

Face to face with my flesh, I have been surprised as I traverse the tricky trails of foster care. I wrestle fiercely with my erratic emotions. Attaching to a child is expected but its not always immediate. I find myself annoyed, irritated, insulted, angry, disgusted, furious and fed up. Then my defeat turns to shame and guilt and agony. I wonder if I’m causing more trauma because I can’t find a way to connect and invest emotionally.

Then Jesus whispers. He reminds my heart that I’m broken too. I am flawed. As I flail in my attempts at attachment, my need for grace turns my eyes to the one that can meet me right where I am. He finds me sobbing in my recliner wondering if any of this is worth it. And he clearly reveals that it is, but its so very hard.

I have cared for twelve fosters and each one is different. My heart has fallen deeply in love with some-but not all. I have connected with a few in uncomplicated ways. My face lights up at the memory of them in my arms and I even long for them to return somehow. But with others, I have sat with suitcases packed, waiting for case workers to arrive and pick them up for a move. I have gladly hugged them one last time and sent them covered in prayer to their next home. My load lightened as they left because loving them was almost impossible.

As bystanders look on from their landing and compliment you on a job well done, your eyes widen and blink slowly. Your eyebrows raise as you fight back the truth of daily struggles because you don’t have the time or energy to share the pit you’re in. Many view kids in your home with adoration and even ask how they can get one. Amiright? But behind closed doors, you know a different kid-one that’s not so adorable.

If you’re in the trenches, praying for a phone call that would just take this kiddo to the next destination, you’re not alone. Find comfort in the words of a fellow foster mama that you can do this. You don’t have to force connection or fear condemnation. You are right where you need to be. In the hard. In the messy. In the confusing. In the relentless reeling. In all the behavior you learned about in foster parent classes but never imagined would smack you in the face. 

You are not enough but you don’t have to be.

Do the next right thing that’s right in front of you. Walk to the edge of your light…even if its just a twinkle. Press on. Let go of the shame and regret and fear. Find freedom in confessing this crapshoot may completely fracture your foothold.

Loving a kid from hard places and engaging in trauma invites in more than we anticipated. And that realization can bury you. Or you can keep holding on. Even if your hand is grasping onto a skinny little thread. The agony of attaching isn’t always desirable but the character developed in the darkness reveals a love that is beyond us. And that’s a love worth fighting for. 

 

 

8 COMMENTS

  1. Debbie Burgess | 16th Mar 16

    Love this…LOVE YOU❣ Not necessarily the part about throwing Evie out of the window? ?????

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. Melissa | 16th Mar 16

    Beautifully said, to truly need God, that is a gift, seeing He IS there.

  3. Carisa Ann Haven | 17th Mar 16

    Relying on Him at every turn, because He IS ENOUGH! And panting at the strength it takes…

  4. Johna | 21st Mar 16

    You have no idea how much I needed the brave honesty of this post at this exact moment. Thank you. I really have no other words because you took them all out of my mind and put them here, somehow validating my thoughts and feelings at this difficult time in life as a fairly new foster parent in a hard situation. You are an answer to a prayer.

    • Kristy | 13th Apr 16

      You are welcome. I’m so thankful for parents like you who say yes to the hard.

  5. Tina Troxell | 8th May 16

    Well here I am again:) I posted a bit ago on another post you had written.
    As I lose another night of sleep over a lost little one my guilt is overflowing. Did I love enough? Could I have been more caring when this tiny 28# toddler raged?
    Did she know she was special being tossed into a home with 8 other kids (ha! Gotcha! All but 2 are grown ?) now I add she had to also fight for her “mama” when the grandbabies came to visit-ALL 7 of them???
    Our agency says our home is “The seasoned home”
    Where they like to send the kids to see if they can make it in our home. If they can’t they’re therapeutic. Yup, heard that a lot!!
    But with this one, I truly feel like I failed her tiny soul.
    My heart is shredded into a zillion tiny pieces.
    I. Miss. Her. ??
    I know she misses me. ?
    And I can’t comfort her. Only Jesus can now.
    I pray the days she called our place home will carry her through until she finally finds her forever family.
    Thank you for blogging. It’s long sleepless nights like this when my heart is sad and missing my firecracker of a girl, scared I won’t be able to love another with such intense devotion.
    That I want to throw in the towel and scream out WHY?! Why was my family called into such a gut wrenching thing?!
    I am SO sick & tired of trauma.
    & drugs.
    & violence.
    & mental health.
    & this broken world.
    I just want my Ellie back. To sing songs with her & snuggle up with her & to calm her rages & dry her eyes & tell her how much she is special & loved.

    • Kristy | 8th May 16

      Oh Tina. I don’t have many words for you right now because sometimes you just need to be held in silence. Praying for you today. Praying for you to be free of guilt and the weight of the what ifs. You are loved and so is your precious baby girl.

  6. Jessica | 22nd Apr 17

    “I quickly found I wasn’t enough to meet his needs. This revelation caused my conscience to contend for an acceptable conclusion as to why I was having a hard time even liking this kid most days.

    I didn’t even want to like him most moments.

    He was stealing my time, my tender heart and my sanity. I was eager for him to leave because I simply couldn’t enjoy many moments….

    I find myself annoyed, irritated, insulted, angry, disgusted, furious and fed up. Then my defeat turns to shame and guilt and agony. I wonder if I’m causing more trauma because I can’t find a way to connect and invest emotionally.”

    These words spoke so exactly what I am feeling right now, and struggling to find a way to process that doesn’t leave me going in circles.

    “If you’re in the trenches, praying for a phone call that would just take this kiddo to the next destination, you’re not alone. Find comfort in the words of a fellow foster mama that you can do this. ” Thank you. That gives me some strength. But what if that call never comes? What if they are asking you to adopt this adorable little boy with the smile that can light up an entire room, but who also has an insatiable need to suck every single morsel of my ability to give to another human being, and leaves me feeling defeated and exhausted because no matter what I cannot give him enough attention and caring, and in my efforts to meet his needs, I constantly feel like I’m neglecting the needs of my other children, never mind my own needs.

    Do I go ahead because he needs us, and because I’ve always said I was fully committed to every child that comes into my home? Because I can’t feel sure that if I refuse he will end up in a better situation. Or do I say no to a helpless child and cause further trauma when he loses another primary caregiver in his short life? Because I worry that I will never be enough for him along with these other children, because I worry that I will end up resenting him and the chaos he brings, and he will know, and that will cause even more trauma to him.

    How do you know what is the right thing to do? How can I tell whether I’m being called to do something hard and scary and I just need to trust that I won’t be asked to do something I cannot handle. Or is this a situation where I need to set aside my ego and my fear of failure and fear of what others will think of me, and have the strength to make a decision that is better for everyone? I have been praying that I will have peace about one decision or another, but so far I don’t.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *