My youngest child will probably not have concrete memories of her birth mother. Today we are 9 1/2 months into a lifetime of making memories together with me as her forever mother. And while I'm the one she will have permanent memories of, I will do all I can to help her keep memories of the one that came between the woman who gave her life and me alive.
Not so long ago though, this relationship would have intimidated me.
Or actually, it did intimidate me. Take for instance the very first time foster mommy was mentioned as language skills developed.
"I miss foster mommy. I want her."
There it was. Spoken in tears. I was just getting to the point that I felt we were really making progress in our developing mother/daughter relationship and she was asking for someone else. What was I going to do with it?
Pretend I didn't hear? Deny my daughter one part of her past that she actually does remember?
Or do what was harder and encourage her remember? Do my part to help make foster mommy a part of who my little girl is?
There was likely a time that I would have swept discussions about a foster mother under the rug and forgotten about them. Even at that time I was uncertain what approach to take. But I could see in my little girl's eyes that she truly loved this woman who cared for her from the time she was four months old until just shy of her third birthday. I felt that for her, I needed to honor that love.
Then about four months after we came home, I comprehended the depths of her love for her foster mother for the first time one day at rest. Of my three children, she is the only one that needs you to be out of the room in order to fall asleep. A few minutes after I had kissed her forehead, I heard muffled crying and went back to check on her. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, "I no find foster mommy!" and burst into sobs. I stood for a second, glued to my spot, unsure of how to respond. But then I looked at her pitiful, tear stained face and it was enough to kick me into action. We searched high and low for her pink photo album that has several treasured pictures of her foster mother.
When I finally found the coveted book under her bed, she smiled, hugged the book tight, closed her beautiful little eyes, and fell asleep without even opening the book. It was as if simply the presence of those pictures were enough.
That sealed the deal. I vowed then and there to help my little one remember the woman that had raised her in her tender years.
After all, I will forever be grateful for the start foster mommy gave my daughter. Because of her consistent care, my daughter was able to experience love and began to trust and grow. Foster mommy is not someone to be viewed as competition, but rather someone that helped shape my precious girl into the loving, considerate person she is.
And from that time on, when she randomly has a 'foster mommy moment' as we call them, I stop and try to jog her memory. I ask questions. I listen. I don't change the subject. Even when she tells me that she misses foster mommy and that she loves her very much.
Because our last conversation about foster mommy ended something like this.
D ~ "I really miss foster mommy."
Me ~ "I know you do honey."
D ~ "I love foster mommy. I always love foster mommy."
Me ~ "I'm glad that you loved her. And it is okay for you to always love her sweetie."
D ~ "Thank-a-you Mommy"
(big smile. pause, almost long enough that I thought the conversation was over)
D ~ "And Mommy?"
Me ~ "Yes?"
D ~ "I love you too Mommy."
From now on, I'll continue to encourage my girl to talk about her foster mother, because in doing so, I've learned a very important lesson. There's room in her heart for both of us...