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A Tribute to the Hard

I spent December 30th making a sweet two year old birthday shirt for a special kiddo with another Foster Mama.  This Mama is fierce and crunchy in all the best ways.

I need to share about Crunchy Mama and her children because their story matters so very much.

We met at a support group meeting where she was holding her first foster child, JB.  A very medically complex baby with a G-Tube  who relied on machines and nursing care to survive.  I was seated next to her, her partner and this chubby bundle, with bright eyes, just in awe of how a machine would click and he would fuss and she would adjust and then he'd seem to settle in better. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't quite sure how she could possible know what to do, nor could I understand why she had chosen, on purpose, to take on such a hard placement the first go round.  In those first moments next to her, I had decided that this woman was a far better human than I could ever be. Either that, or she was too new to fostering to be jaded like me.

And then she took placement of JB's baby sister a year later. She was on the support pages looking for advice on how to support their Mom, a former foster youth herself. Asking all the right questions and trying at every turn to refrain from judgement and be supportive of the woman who birthed these beautiful babies.

Along the way, the babies' Birth Mom asked them to adopt JB.  She had recognized she couldn't meet his medical needs and the level of care he required. He had spent close to 300 days in the hospital in the previous year and needed an advocate who not only understood the medical jargon but would stand up to anyone, head doctors included, who wasn't going to fight alongside her to protect JB.

Then on New Year's Day, just shy of his 2nd birthday that sweet baby passed away. 

Crunchy Mama shared that after the emergency room team pronounced him dead she removed all of the medical tape, and tubes, and bathed him.  She wrapped him in a blanket and held him for hours until they came to take him to the morgue.  I understood instantly why that was important.  He was finally free of the tethers to the trauma. She was his mother, it was the last thing she could do. Because even though she had been the force keeping him alive as long as he had been, his birth mother had the right to plan his funeral.

I can't even begin to wrap my head around that kind of grief.
Not even two weeks later, another baby sibling was born and Crunchy Mama took placement of that baby too.

Another Foster Mom and I sourced a fancy baby seat that Crunchy Mama thought would help with two babies.  If this was something that could bring them just a bit of comfort in such a difficult time, celebrate this beautiful new baby, and make their life easier, then I was going to do it. We arranged for me to meet her just as she was arriving home from the hospital with the baby.

Due to the circumstances that are foster care, her partner wasn't home and she was coming home to the emptiest of houses. I wish I could say my presence at that moment was on purpose but I had no idea she was going to be alone when she got there.

I watched as she placed the baby carrier gently on the floor, knelt down and began to unwrap this teeny tiny, few day old baby from the pink fleece blanket she was bundled in.

Crunchy Mama looked into the baby's eyes and then up at me standing in the doorway. In a split second, I saw all of the fear, grief, love, joy, sadness, confusion, and fatigue of the previous 2 years wash over her face. I told it her it was ok to let go.

Her cry was primal.  It was guttural. We sobbed together on the living room floor about how unreal and unfair all of this was. How shattered their family was. How much love they had to give and how they will find a way through it all.

I tried to pour as much understanding and love as I could into that hug. It can never be enough though. How do you comfort a friend when their baby dies and they bring that baby's sibling home? The sibling they will never meet.  The sibling who's life will always be in the time "after JB".

As she got settled, I took pictures and held that sweet baby as her friends arrived with lunch and to help her until her partner arrived home.

A few weeks later the dual birthday party that had been planned was turned into Memorial and Birthday Party. Beautiful pictures and videos of JB were shared. As was a beautiful poem about two mothers each loving their prince until he laid down his sword.*

Even in the moment where she was entitled to claim him as all her own, she didn't.  Even after weeks of emotional hurt and turmoil from JB's Birth Mom she was steadfast in her vow to love their son and share him always. The Mother who was there for his first breath and the Mother who was there for his last.

I asked Crunchy Mama if I could share their story. She agreed without hesitation.  "What good is the love we pour into words if we don't share them?" 

I'm so glad I can share how even in the worst circumstances she could still find compassion for JB's birth family.  I am proud to have a friend so committed to the principals of the goals of foster care to support families and keep them together.  I'm honored to count her a friend and I feel privileged that I was trusted enough to share these moments with her.

*Poem by Crunch Mama

Once upon a time, there was a young woman carrying her first baby inside her belly. She was not a princess: she came from a hard place, not a palace. Oh, the hopes and dreams she had for this baby were that he would be a king, that she would make a life for him entirely opposite from her own childhood.  

As they do, however, a sneaky Trauma Goblin snuck into their life. The goblin hurt the young woman with a thousand small cuts; though they were invisible to a stranger's eye. The goblin tried to take her baby from this world: but was defeated by the strength the woman had used to protect him from her wounds. 

But the woman was wounded and she was tired and scared. She left the baby until she could she heal, but she promised she'd come back. 

And so a fresh faced warrior, untouched by the meanest of Trauma Goblins, was called upon to care for the special, fragile soul. "I'll take care of you for as long as you need" the warrior whispered. 

And alas, she soon went to war for him, because he had become a king in her heart, as well. And the boy was loved by the warrior every moment.  And his mother, the young woman, came back as she had promised her son, and was loved by the warrior. And slowly, the young woman grew to love the warrior as well, though she had despised her at first for taking her baby.

The Trauma Goblins were appalled. They shook their fists and they scratched their heads. This was not the way it was supposed to go! Their plan to divide and conquer backfired in the strangest of ways. 

Acceptance grew in place of anger. 
Love blossomed over what was once a desert terrain of resentment. And the young woman both feared and cherished these flowers because they were beautiful, but so easily plucked from her life, as she had seen done countless times before.  And so the warrior built a fence around a patch a special flowers and thought : I can't save them all for the young woman, but I can save these.  I am just a warrior, but I can learn how to garden. And so she did. It was hard work and it meant taking off her iron battle gloves and getting her bare hands dirty. And tentatively, the young woman started to trust that the flower patch would be safe. So she built a fence and tended to it from the other side. And the women could not see each other, as they were on opposite sides of the fence, but they each tended the garden. 

And one day, longer than expected, but shorter than they wanted, the baby boy laid down his tiny shield at their feet. And the women wept together because he was supposed to become their king. And when they thought all the world had gone and cold and dark, they each looked up and saw their flower patch in full bloom. And the fences were gone, for the baby boy knew they were no longer needed, so he took them with him. And all the women saw was the beauty of each other's flowers, but they could no longer tell which was whose. And the baby boy smiled, for that had been his plan all along.


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