When I was pregnant with CJ, I read all about attachment parenting. Breastfeed your baby until they go to kindergarten! Wear them in a wrap on you at all times! Respond to every whimper and cry!
I tried—my goodness did I try.
The first major roadblock I ran into was that I could not, of course, breastfeed my foster son. I couldn’t even wear him in a wrap because when he came home from the hospital, I was 6 months pregnant. Then when CJ was born and I had two infants to care for, responding to every one of their cries in a timely manner became a pipe dream. It just wasn’t possible. And I kept coming back to the same conclusion: I cannot be all things to all people. Even when those people are my children.
To be clear, I don’t blame the attachment parenting gurus for this. I blame only myself—I took a bit of well-meaning advice from a book and turned it into my standard for parenting. And if I do that, I’m always going to fall short.
Now that I’m back on Planet Newborn with Cece, I’m coming up against the same problems. I can’t breastfeed her. Responding to her cries immediately is only doable if the boys are playing quietly by themselves and not wanting or needing anything from me (lol). I try to wear her in a wrap as much as possible, but even that has its limits when wrangling toddlers.
More importantly, I’m having a hard time letting myself attach emotionally to Cece. I love her, yes. So much. But there is a part of me I’m always holding back. I don’t daydream about our future together the way I did with the boys when they were babies. Even making her two month pediatrician appointment created a flurry of anxiety in me. When I sent out Christmas lists for the kids I included a few small gift ideas for Cece and then qualified it by adding, “…if she’s still with us for Christmas!”
Does she feel it? Does she know that I’m not giving her my full self? I want to love her sacrificially, I really do. But there is a strong, stubborn part of me that is more worried about self-preservation. Worried about what it will do to both of us if we become like mother and daughter and then get ripped apart.
I know this is all part and parcel of foster care. I know it’s really Cece and her biological family who have been unfairly ripped apart. I’m not trying to play the victim here. I just can’t help but feel like my heart is on the line and that I should try to protect it, cushion it a bit so the fall won’t hurt as much.
When people find out we’re fostering, they usually say something along the lines of, “Wow, that’s amazing! I could never do that, I would get too attached.” And I paste on a smile (I know they mean well) but really I want to hide in a corner and cry because guess what? I’m getting “too attached” as we speak. Every day Cece feels more and more like my daughter. And every day I have to remind myself that she’s not.
I guess this post is part confession, part realization. The confession: I’m not that great at being a foster parent. I hold myself back, I don’t always give my all. The realization: I have limits because I’m human. But thankfully, God does not.
In these hazy baby days, I am thanking God for loving Cece fully and completely, in a way that I cannot. I’m asking him to protect her precious heart and soul. And I’m asking for the strength to keep attaching myself to her, little by little, no matter the final outcome.