I never had biological children. My son does not share my DNA. He and I did not experience the earliest bonding in the way that many mothers and children do. (But if you’d like to read about the journey that brought us to foster care adoption, I’ve posted about that, too.) So I lack a baseline of comparison for experiences in raising children who came into my life via biology and those who have come into my life by foster care or adoption.
For this reason, prior to becoming a foster mom, I had lingering, unanswered questions about what it would feel like to be caring for someone else’s child. One who you didn’t bring home from the hospital while in an exhausted and hormonal state, but instead, who came into your life through – let’s be honest – some pretty unfortunate circumstances. My worries were that it would be cold and distant … one step removed from real motherhood … missing out on a lot of “firsts”and somehow, perhaps, … less of a full-blown maternal experience than biological mothers feel.
And then, Mancub was placed with us. (You can read more about Mancub, our first foster placement, here.)
To be totally honest with you, picking Mancub up that first day was strange. Meeting him for the first time, the full impact of how much we would all grow up together had not even come close to hitting me. (That would happen much later.) And I would say that for the first week or so, Mr. Bean and I were pretty much drowning in all of the first-30-days-of-a-new-foster-placement insanity. For this reason, it is difficult to pinpoint what the defining moment was. But what I do know is that at some point very early on, I felt it: I felt so naturally maternal for this child. As if he had been with us for a lot longer than he really had. I felt the protective “Mama Bear” feelings, … in spades.
Our kitchen whiteboard, which had previously been a place for Mr. Bean and I to leave love notes to each other when the other one wasn’t looking, became the location of the list of all the new words that Mancub learned and used recently. Our street, which we had lived on and loved for several years prior, all of the sudden seemed way too busy to be raising kids on. (I would notice this, in Mama Bear fashion, on my first trip to the mailbox with Mancub in tow. We moved a year later.) And it was surreal when I became one of two women he would call “mommy” during his time with us. It shocked me, melted me and changed me. Somehow, I fell right in step, almost like I’d been doing it forever.
The love was so instant.
I know it may seem weird and awkward to spell this out so honestly, but my guess is that I am not the only woman out there who has ever had these questions. Wondered if she could fully open her heart to a child to whom she was the second mother. Wondered if things would somehow feel less special or slightly diminished. Less real. I’m here to tell you that has not been my experience at all. In fact, it is possible that I may even feel more love and more protectiveness … because of what they have been through prior.
True, my results may or may not be typical of all foster placements. I’m holding space for that reality. But after Mancub, I subsequently experienced the same phenomenon with Little Bean (placement #2) and Little Sissy (placement #3 … more on her at a later date), so I’m thinking its not outside of the realm of possibility that this could just be what happens.
Many of my foster mama friends have grown their families through a combination of adopted and biological children. As I have gotten to know them, and we have shared our experiences, I have asked them about how the experiences compare. What the similarities and differences are with their kids. Without exception, they concur with me on this point.