In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, Portrait of an Adoption is hosting the fourth annual acclaimed series, 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days. Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.
By Jennifer Muscato
On June 6, 2011, I became a foster parent for a seven-week-old baby boy. It was a dream of mine to be a mother and I finally got the opportunity to care for a baby. It was beyond scary. One minute, I was only responsible for myself. The next minute, the baby arrived, and I knew nothing about him.
A social worker handed the baby to me on the front lawn of my house and said "the county will contact you." To be honest, I do not remember much of the first seventy-two hours, except that I was so frightened. I wanted to love this tiny colicky baby with everything in me, but I had no idea what was going to happen. I knew nothing about where this baby would end up.
I strapped my heart on my sleeve and dove in. I loved this baby so much from the moment I held him.
I met his biological mom and dad at the seventy-two-hour meeting. Both of his biological parents were accompanied by their mothers. I finally started to come alive after this meeting (the first three days with the baby, I felt paralyzed with fear). When I met his parents, I found out why the baby had been put into foster care: both his mom and dad had serious addiction problems.
I had grown up and lived a very sheltered life with no exposure to anyone suffering from addiction...this was like a whole new world I had to learn.
The parents started to take the baby for visits. During every visit, I shook like a leaf when he was away from me. Everything was so uncertain. Caseworkers would tell me what happened in the visits and fill me in on the court dates, but everything remained a big huge world of unknown secrets.
I loved this baby as my own. I also started to love his birth mom. I stepped out of my selfishness as the baby’s "momma" and constantly reminded myself of how his birth mother must be feeling. I was rigid with fear when he left me for a one-hour visit twice a week; how the heck must she feel?
I started to write to her in a communication book that I sent along for baby visits. I held off and let his mother give the baby his first foods, and I bought her a recordable book so she could record her voice. I played it for him every night. I remembered daily that I loved the baby with all my heart...and I loved his birth mother, too.
She and I developed a relationship strictly about the love we shared for baby. We called him "our baby". Dad was in and out of the picture, but I shared just as much information with him as I did with the mom.
Before I knew it, that seven-week-old baby was a year old! Still, I knew nothing about what would happen with him in his future.
But unfortunately, visits with his parents became fewer and farther between. It got to the point where I had no contact with his birth mom. I feared the worst. I had developed a bond with her, and I was worried. I actually worried myself like a crazy person. I probably drove the caseworker crazy calling to see if she had heard from them. Nothing.
Finally, I heard from them. Both his mom and dad had unfortunately fallen back into the world of addiction. They decided that they were going to surrender their parental rights.
I still remember that phone call...it was my birthday (for real) and it was like the wish I made when blowing my candles out magically came true right in front of my eyes. I was actually a mother.
However, it was not that easy...and yes, I still had many questions. Due to the nature of addiction, getting his mom and dad into court for the surrender was a challenge. It all eventually worked out, and both parents surrendered voluntarily. The surrender, however, doesn't change how invested I felt in loving them as well as the baby.
They gave me the gift of life.
I went into this process blindfolded. I became scared and vulnerable. I became a mother overnight...but I didn’t know if I would be able to keep my baby through foster adoption. I fell in love in more ways than one. I took a chance. I took a chance and my seven-week-old baby boy is now three and he's adopted!
I have an amazing relationship with his birth mom to date. I am true to her. I share milestones with her, and we share the love of our little guy. He's fully adopted now, and sadly, I don't have that relationship with his dad, but I hope to one day.
We have one very happy little boy, and I am so glad I took that chance. People often say how happy they are that I saved my little guy. But the truth is, he saved both me and his birth mom. We are both better people because of him.
Our adoption story isn't one about struggle but more about how selfless both sides need to be for a true and healthy relationship. Foster care isn't about the foster parents -- it shouldn’t focus on the parents -- it should only be about the children. I couldn't be more in love, and I am constantly reminded that dreams do come true.
You just need to step up to the challenge and take the risk...
Put your heart out on your sleeve and remember why you signed up...
If you are not willing to love where your child came from, you are not ready for this challenge.
Jennifer Muscato is 32 years old and now a proud single momma! She works full time in customer service and she loves being a kid again with her little guy!
This year's Adoption Portraits series is filled. You may send a submission for next year's series to Carrie Goldman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Portrait of an Adoption on Twitter and Facebook
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Check out Carrie Goldman's award-winning book Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear.