J. O. and I are a great team. We really are. We have been an open foster family for almost 5 years now and we know the age that works great with our family. The age that is slightly younger than Grace, but older than teeny, tiny, baby. That age. We never really settled on the exact age, but we both have it in our heads.
In these 5 years, we have probably had around 4 infants and 10 or 11 toddlers. The youngest infant was 4 weeks old (if you will remember, we had him for 7 months and I was awake the entire time) and the oldest infant was Grace at 10 months. We would probably call this age range our "sweet spot." Anything from the 6-9 month range. These babies typically sleep through the night, they take bottles on a schedule, they are old enough for child care, they smile, laugh, and are beginning to move, they are just more fun. They have graduated from the "oh my goodness is the baby breathing" stage, to the " oh wow...that's a real smile and not just gas pains" stage. They are fun. If you are lucky, you can even teach these infants token words like "mama" "dada" "ball" "dog" and so much more.
But unfortunately, we have only had a handful of these. We get mostly toddlers. You know these kids.....they are ages 1-3. They are opinionated. They can't really talk. They are learning to walk so they are dangerous. They are trying to decide if everything they see is food. They are basically a literal, walking, time bomb. One minute they are happy, one minute they are sad, one minute they are ready to punch you in the face. Toddlerville. This is where we have lived for 4 1/2 years of our fostering. I have changed more diapers that should've resulted in a toilet being flushed than I care to think about. You know these diapers. The ones that are on the cusp of potty training, but they don't quite care.
Then, last night I got THE call. The call for a newborn being discharged from the hospital. They had a foster family lined up for today, but they needed a stand in. So I did it. I knew what this call meant. It meant I would be up all night. I knew it meant a baby who might spit up all over me and my bed. I knew it meant a baby who would be more shriveled than cute. But I was excited. Addison and I started mentally pumping each other up and we started the waiting game. DHS pulled in around 8:30 and Addison and I started chest bumping, high fiving, and running out to meet the car. We could do this. And then little baby girl Adams was dropped off. She was tiny. She was So. Brand. New.
And I got something I have never gotten before. The hospital discharge papers. And it told every little thing. It told about how many times mom had given birth before. It told about the strongholds that were gripping mom by way of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. It told a story that was so very different than any discharge papers I had ever seen before. And I slowly felt my love of sleep roll out the window. I settled in for a night of holding, feeding, rocking, cuddling. But....I wasn't expecting the other emotions that would accompany this baby. Around midnight I turned off my alarm that I had set to wake the baby to eat. I knew it wouldn't be necessary. I got her out of the pack-n-play that she was in and laid her on my chest. She started moving closer to my chin, and I let her settle in and I prayed for her, and her mom, for the next umpteen hours. Between feedings, diaper changes, and her grunting, I just prayed. I prayed that I would never get in my "sweet spot" and quit seeing the hurt. I prayed that I would never become so complacent that I didn't think this was hard anymore. I prayed that as we enter our 5th year of fostering it would be my most memorable yet. Not because we add more kids in and out. Not because more people see what we do. But because we bring kids in from circumstances that we can't imagine and we put them under our chin and we physically hurt too.