04 Apr Falling in Love and Opening their Hearts to Preemies
The fragility of a newborn baby can be intimidating, but the vulnerability of a preemie can be downright frightening. Brenda and Antonio Aguilar don’t see it that way, though. The veteran foster parents don’t just rise to the challenge of caring for pre-term infants – they welcome it.
Brenda confidently holds week-old, four-pound baby “Nina,” who has been with their family since she was released from the hospital. Antonio smiles lovingly at the baby girl as he gets their two sons settled in for the evening. There’s 11-year-old Alejandro, the couple’s biological son, and three-year-old Leonardo, who was adopted after being fostered by the Aguilars. He was their first placement with Angels Foster Family Network. Nina is their fourth.
The parents explain that Alejandro was born two months premature, even smaller than Baby Nina. He didn’t tip the scale at four pounds. “Alex is a miracle,” Antonio explains, listing some of the complications surrounding their oldest son’s early days. The couple knew they wanted more children, but Brenda was unable to become pregnant again so they started thinking about different ways to grow their family. They knew it was time to get serious about their family planning when Alejandro started asking Santa for a baby brother and including the request in his evening prayers.
At first, the Aguilars considered adoption. Then they met a couple who was fostering infants and toddlers and started looking into this option. Brenda found Angels Foster Family Network and loved what she saw. She appreciated how much support and education foster parents were given as they navigated the world of caring for young children while working toward their reunification with their biological families. There was continuing education, support groups, and clinical case managers. Angels was truly a network that made fostering seem not just possible, but rewarding and fun. Sure, the idea of falling in love with a child then having to say goodbye seemed tough, but Angels offered support for this too. Quietly, Brenda started seriously considering fostering.
Brenda approached Antonio about the idea of fostering, expecting him to say he would think about it. She was pleasantly surprised by his immediate excitement about it. The two attended an Angels Foster Family Network information session and knew it was the right choice for their family. “We wanted to set an example for Alex, and this is a noble cause,” says Antonio. At the info session, the couple had the chance to meet foster parents as well as biological parents who shared their experiences. “I remember one foster father said he fell in love with this baby, but would never regret it because that baby gave him the opportunity to be a dad,” says Antonio.
Although the vast majority of infants and toddlers in foster care are reunified with their biological families, the Aguilars were able to adopt Leo. They have since fostered three infant girls, including their latest placement. One little girl stayed with the family for five days, another nine months. The Aguilars formed a strong bond with the biological family of their long-term placement and still have regular visits with the little girl. It is difficult to say goodbye, but it can also be very gratifying to see biological parents turn around their lives, Brenda says. “You see the mom working hard and making progress and you feel proud of her,” she adds, her eyes filling with tears.
The Aguilars ask Angels for opportunities to foster preemies, just like some people request toddlers because they feel better-equipped to manage their needs. The nonprofit organization does its best to accommodate these requests.
“The Aguilars have a special gift for working with preemies”, said Candice Molavi, Angels Clinical Case Manager, who offers ongoing support to the family. “They have a natural ability and innate strength to provide the extra care and love these vulnerable babies need to thrive.”