A precious five-pound, three day-old baby girl was placed into foster care over Labor Day weekend. After almost three years in two different states’ child welfare/foster care systems, our daughter and her husband were asked and permitted to take this newborn from the hospital into their “safe and stable” home and to care for her because her birth mother could not.
Instant parenthood — well, except for the months of parenting classes and foster care instruction and home inspections and licensing and the waiting and hoping and praying, and the wrenching phone calls about other abandoned/available children with multiple strikes against them already whom they might have cared for if they thought or believed they could.
Like all others, the child was a miracle. Within hours, the couple became a family. And were so exceedingly happy about it, so heretofore unfathomably in love with their infant.
Even my misgivings about the process and the provenance of any child consigned to the foster care system — the ones I voiced and those I didn’t dare to — were momentarily forgiven (my daughter had been very, very upset with me) and, for that matter, forgotten as I fed and dressed and changed and cradled the baby in my arms. Suddenly, in that moment, all the complications and uncertainty were reduced to one simple, life-affirming opportunity: all I — all any of us — had to do was love this child. It’s all I could do, of course, but it was all that was being asked of me, too.
And, as most of us grandmothers know, that’s all any of our grandchildren, whatever their circumstance, needs from us. And it really is pretty easy. It can be exhausting if/when we are older than we thought we’d be when our children became parents themselves. But it is also absolutely blissful, an essentially sacred way to be totally present to another human being. The baby has immediate needs you’re fully equipped to meet; when’s the last time you knew that with any confidence? It’s intoxicating, isn’t it?
When I worry about the future, and, yes, I confess, the foregoing notwithstanding, I do, I worry about my adult child. My daughter says she’s prepared for the heartache of having to return the child to her birth mother if that happens and she and her husband cannot adopt her as they hope. She has the support of friends and family and professionals, she tells me, and she is loving the child unconditionally, holding back nothing for the what-ifs, that whatever time she has to love this child and meet her needs is a cosmic gift. I concur: she’s strong and she and her marriage will survive, and it is a blessing and a gift to all of them. She is also brave, both in the abstract, and in the face of grim realities such as a birth mother whose request for unsupervised visits with the infant was denied because she is considered a flight risk. She’s teaching me to be braver — and more loving — too.
Here’s the thing, though: No matter how much love we share, I can no more protect my daughter than she can protect hers. It’s the curse of motherhood we now share, too.
What to do? What a grandmother does: love even more radically. And, because, finally, I have a girl grandchild (Love my boys, but, hey!) , buy some pretty pink things for this beautiful little one!
by Ann Sentilles
October 29th, 2018