We have a brand new 18-month-old baby. How is 18-months brand new you ask? Because although our little guy has been around for all 18 months of his little life, he’s only landed at home with us for the last four months. Such is the surprise joy of foster and soon-to-be-adoptive parenting.
Let me tell you something. 18-month foster new is so different than brand new. Our now 10-year-old son landed in our arms at two days old but news of him came three months before his birth. His arrival came with 8 – yes, 8 – baby showers, nursery planning and design, and giddy anticipation.
In contrast, this new one came with so much uncertainty, drama, and desperate calls that began, “can I borrow your crib?” and ended with, “well, we really don’t know yet.” And even though he has been with us for four months, most conversations about him still end with, “well, we really don’t know yet.”
We knew about him when he was 7 months old but it took 7 more months for him to find his way to us. But from that 7 month second, we have adored him. We didn’t have to wait to meet him to love him.
Before we loved him, others loved him: his first mommy and daddy; the very best grandma, grandpa, and big sisters in the world; the most compassionate, kind, and capable foster family where he was for 12 of his most brand new months; and caseworkers who intervened and sought the very best for him.
Let me be clear about this. He was loved. It was not unlove that got him where is now. It was something else. But he was loved. I know it because of how clearly capable of love he is. The kind of love he shows is only learned by being marinated in it. He was loved before us.
For my part, I love him with a fierce, protective, tethered, anchored, soul-deep love–even as I struggle with the growing-backward pains of relearning to parent a toddler and shoving aside the big life I had before he came to make room for him. Butterfly kisses with him make all of the relearning and shoving aside worth it.
Sometimes, I see a picture of him from before he was in my heart and I feel a stab. How could I not have known and loved him then? It has to be enough that others knew and loved him. As big as my love is, it doesn’t get to be selfish. Still. I envy the one who held him inside, who swaddled him. I envy the one who watched him learn to crawl, who rejoiced when he first slept through the night.
But here we are. Now I am the one to envy.