20 Mar The Network Matters
The beauty of working with Angels is having a supportive environment in which to do all of this work we find so crazy-and-difficult-and-yet-fulfilling-and-completely-worthwhile. This entry is an extended thank you note to everyone who has helped us to (and through) this place in our lives.
As positive and smooth an experience as our first reunification was, Beloved Spouse and I needed help recuperating. Grief is the flip side of Love’s coin, so we knew we would grieve just as deeply as we loved LAD– and we loved LAD a lot. We also knew we wanted to continue fostering, and in order to be ready to give the next child the same level of care and devotion as we gave the first, we needed to take time to grieve properly. To be sure we channeled our grief appropriately, we reached out.
The emails went a-flying: What’s normal? What do we do next? Is it always like this? How was your experience? Who wants to meet for coffee?
The day after we reunified LAD, an Angels parent was at our door with a plate of cookies, as well as her own children and a string of stories to tell us about her previous experiences with reunification. We had never met before that moment, but we connected instantly and talked for hours. While making a new friend would have been nice under any circumstances, it was particularly marvelous that day because there is so much guardedness that comes with the territory of keeping various things confidential, and that guardedness frequently gets in the way of fully expressing our feelings. After all, if I can’t tell you about The Situation, I also can’t explain why I feel This or That Way *about* The Situation, and when The Situation changes, as it frequently does in foster care, what difference could that possibly make to a conversation partner who never knew what came before?
I had woken up that morning determined not to be triggered by something random (like finding a baby sock in the laundry basket), so I had thrown myself into cleaning the house. Similarly, Beloved Spouse hadn’t wanted to be in or near the nursery for fear of missing LAD and becoming overwhelmed by grief. But we had stocked that nursery with things that would be useful and enticing to the whole range of Angels’ target demographic, so it did not take long before our New Friend’s kids saw something they wanted to read, play with, know more about, etc. Surrounded by such enthusiasm and curiosity, Beloved Spouse almost instantly moved beyond the emotional hurdle, leading the kids in, helping them with their interests, and enjoying their company. By the time they left, the laundry was all finished and I discovered, to my relief, that folding baby things was not a hardship.
The grapevine alerted us that one of the Angels parents we had trained with was reunifying her first placement that afternoon, twenty-four hours after our own reunification, so we sent support before and after and arranged to meet later that evening. After many hours of tears and laughter (and music and food and everything else), we went home feeling a little lighter, a little less raw, a little more ourselves.
Over the next few weeks, a stream of Angels parents we might have only met once or twice before sought us out: “I heard you just reunified. How are you doing?” Their concern was genuine, touching, and more helpful than they can know; having the opportunity to talk it out helped us work through the emotions and forced us to flesh out our perspective even as it was still developing.
By far, though, the moment of healing that meant the most to us was a text message from Bio-Mom three days after reunification: “You wanna come see the baby tomorrow?”