Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fostering Attachment

It is easy to understand people who don’t love with all their hearts, because
the more you love the more you open yourself up to pain.

I hold my babies. I rock them. I cuddle them. I snuggle and kiss. I carry them in a sling. We dance together and laugh. We stare into each others' eyes. I teach them how to trust me; How to love me. I want them to know the world is a safe and wonderful place where someone who thinks you are the most amazing creature on earth will catch you when you fall, wipe your tears away and make sure you are safe and loved and warm and safe every single day of your life. I want them to feel how very, very deeply they are loved and valued and what an incredible blessing they are.

They need to attach to me, their primary caregiver, in order to become emotionally healthy children and then women and mothers themselves. And in that process, I also attach to them. They are my girls, and I love them. And now, over the last two months it has become apparent they also love me.

My actions promise them I will be here forever. My actions promise them their world is a safe place where everyone important to them will treat them well. My actions promise them I am here for them. My actions show them we are a family.

My actions lie. My heart breaks. Already.

How many children can one mother lose before she doesn't feel anymore? How many mothers can a child lose before the damage cannot be undone?

God forbid anyone imply that my love for the girls is any less because they are "foster kids". I am incapable of such distinction. Originally they were coming for 'the summer', now we realize that it will be longer, but God only knows how long. They could go home tomorrow and it wouldn't affect how much I love them. I want to protect my heart but the battle is long ago lost. They will be forever the daughters of my heart. It is what they need. They are NOT "just foster kids" they are MY babies and I will love them as they deserve, as I love my sons, all four.

Someone needs to be here to pick up the pieces of my heart when they go.


Di said...

and they will grow up to be the girls, and women that they are meant to be. ALL because you loved them with all your heart. They are so very fortunate to have felt this love, of a stranger who became their world, of a woman who loved with her whole heart.

Erin said...

What a beautiful post...they are so lucky to have you as their foster mom! :)

Kristie said...

i can try and help you pick up the pieces but I know that that wont be what you need

Julie K. said...

Hi Jen.
My name is Julie, and I know your very dear friend Shannon G., desperately fighting Lyme disease...and throughout her writings, you have been mentioned, as you were diagnosed with Cancer, and you were all together before your surgery....and so I began to pray for you, and read updates on how you are doing. I am glad that your surgery went well, and that you are on the road to recovery (although it does not sound like you had much of an opportunity to recover).
I am so amazed by you, your life, your love for so many, the way you write, and even though I do not know you personally, I look forward to reading your blog entries.
I don't know if you can tell who reads your blogs, but in case you are wondering, I am one of them.
Your family is so blessed to have someone so loving and so caring and so giving. And those precious little girls....God placed them into your home, because He knows what is best, and HE knows that you will love them as your own. Those little girls are blessed to be able to call you Mama, and have you love them and hold them.
Take care and God Bless you and your whole family!!!

Vanessa said...

I've always been told to love like I have never been hurt and it's not always the easy thing to do. God sent those baby girls to you for a special reason and He knew you would love them just as He loves you!

Regina said...


I witness every day in my life what happens when a child doesn't learn this most important emotional skill - one that they can only learn when very young. When parents fail then foster parents teach them how to walk and talk but never how to trust and bond.

I cannot say enough how completely it destroys a person not to learn this most valuable skill. To see a mother fail to attach to her own child. To watch them run through people, again and again, because to them love is all about manipulation and taking what you can get until they leave, then move on.

I'm not going to say how destructive it will be on these girls to leave once they're securely attached, because it will be extremely hard on them too. BUT, they will have the skill, they will have learned what it is to be safe and secure and how to be in a healthy relationship. That means literally the world. Because it changes their world in a way that is seminal.

As for you, m'dear, you are stronger than you believe, and you are surrounded by strength. I have faith in you as do so many others. We will all be there, are there, to pick up the pieces, because unlike the fragile egg man, those pieces will be put back together again.

How many times? As many as needed.

"I hope it will be said we taught them to stand tall & proud, even in the face of history & the future was made new & whole for us all, one child at a time." - Brian Andreas


Anonymous said...

Hugs Jen....I have been there!

Tudu said...

This really hits home for me. You described my feelings beautifully. It brought the fear of losing Kiera right up into my heart and I had to take a few deep breaths.

Kristie said...

soemthing else I wanted to mention, you are giving these girls an incredible gift. The clients I see in my practice more often than not have problems that stem from a lack of attachment or poor attachemnt. You have no concept of the pain that you are saving these girls from, I see the pain it causes time and time again

Anonymous said...

Hi Jen

You know me as xyz (I'm not entirely sure how this commenting thing works btw...). I just wanted to write because this post of yours has really touched me, especially now.

I think that it is amazing that you are loving them with all your heart and soul, and opening yourself up to having your heart broken again because you know that this is what they need, and the only thing that is worthy of them. I'm sure they will suffer when they leave you, but in loving them fully now, you are essentially taking upon yourself the burden of another broken heart so that their own burdens are less, and their lives more fulfilling.

I felt compelled to comment because I recently met up with my former foster parents (I will post about this elsewhere when I can) - and I cannot express what I feel for them, or the enormity of what they did for me. It broke my heart to leave them, and, as selfish as this sounds (and I realise that it is), something in me was made whole again when I realised - or rather, received confirmation - that they too had suffered hugely when I left. There was a moment - and I can't really speak of it because it's not the sort of thing that there are words for - where so much was communicated between my former foster-mother and I when we met. Not in words as such - but definitely so.

When you speak of them not "just" being your foster children, I think you have it exactly right, and I'm glad they've got you, as every child deserves to have at least one person willing to break their heart over them. I explained to my friend - crying - that everything was OK (although hurting) because they'd loved me in a proper way, and still did, and not just in a "temporary" way. I can't overstate how important this is to me; and whilst I'm older, and conscious of this, the same principal (and more so as you're setting them up for life) applies to these girls you're looking after.

What I'm trying to say is this: I am who I am because my foster parents loved me. Others have loved me too in their turn, and likewise I am who I am because of them. And whilst these girls are perhaps too young to consciously remember you when they're older, in their hearts and souls and in the depths of their minds they undoubtedly will. And whatever happens to them - and I hope that their lives work out well - if, when it comes for them to go, you are beyond consolation, then at least remember this: that whatever happens, you know that at least one person in their lives has allowed themselves to be destroyed because of love of them, and nothing can ever take this away, whether they remember it or not. Please remember this if you're ever sad. Also that the pain of separation is nothing compared never having learned to love and be loved. Children, babies, toddlers: they all know whether they're loved or not, however unconsciously. But you already totally know this!!!!

I don't think I can really conceive of the pain you're fearing or feeling or setting yourself up for; but I believe I might have seen something akin to it recently on my foster mother's face, and when I was younger on my birth mother's - and I myself feel the reward of this pain, and reap its gift. Therefore, I just want to say, on your girls' behalf because they're unable to: thank you. And God bless you, and send you comfort and strength whenever you need it.

And meanwhile - enjoy the girls!

Dawn said...

I was going to write something different, but when I read the comment by "XYZ", I was moved beyond words. What a beautiful testimony of the value of love.

rsbg said...

Jen!!!! That is absolutely beautiful and you have worded it perfectly. They aren't JUST foster kids. They are God's children, that deserve so much better than what they've been given thus far. I am thankful the girls are there with you. I am walking right along side you in the same path....I can sooooo relate to EVERY word you said.

Cathy said...

When I was growing up in the 50's and 60's, my parents did foster care. I had a foster sister from the time I was 11 mo old until I was 8 yrs old. "D" came to our house from the hospital, at birth, and left to go home to her bio mom when she was 7 yrs old (thank goodness they don't leave children in limbo like that nowadays). She also had brothers and sisters that were in other foster homes..they were also returned to the mother.
"D" and I were very close and I was devastated when she left. Over the years I was able to keep in touch with her and she recently told me that the reason that she did so well, as compared to her siblings, when she was returned to her mother and stepfather, was because of the quality of the care that she received from my mother and father in her first 7 yrs of life. Her siblings had major emotional problems stemming from the poor quality of foster care that they had received.

You may only be in your girls' lives for a season but with God's help, the love that you plant in their hearts will be a 'mustard seed' that will grow and grow.
God Bless you

Wenona said...

Hey Jen,

Those girls are so lucky to have you & Shelby take care of them with your whole heart...your an amazing woman ...your family is so lucky to have you caring for them :)