I don’t remember the phone ringing, but I remember pausing and looking at my husband with huge eyes when I realized who was calling. He paused, too, and then went back to making sandwiches. The friendly voice on the other end quickly introduced herself as someone from our foster care agency. Did I have a moment to hear about a possible placement? Was she right that this was our first time getting a call? I shot my husband another look of bewilderment and darted away to the quiet of the nursery. My young toddler banged his high chair tray in dismay, and I had to sternly point to the dining room to prevent his two rambunctious brothers from following me.
I walked past the toddler bed and gripped the edge of the empty crib. I listened while my thoughts raced. She told me about two little boys: full brothers, no known medical or developmental concerns. When she got to the part about the cops heading over soon to remove the boys from their home my hand left the crib and stifled a silent cry. Tears streamed down my face. Of course there would be court orders and police. How else did I think children came in to care? Did I think they skipped in happily like it was preschool drop off? Still, to hear about two children needing a safe place in that very moment… wow.
I tried to keep my voice level and not sound like the hot mess of inexperience that I was. What were those questions I was supposed to ask about possible placements? I threw out a couple halfheartedly. I put her on hold to consult with my husband. I rattled off the little I knew… more boys… their ages. 19 months and how old!? 4 months!? What do we say? We wanted to help right? How can we say no? This is what we signed up for, right? We echoed that last part back and forth to each other with a very nervous laugh.
Ok, we are doing this thing. We are saying yes.
The rest of the afternoon was a blur. We called our moms. We texted our friends and our pastor: please pray. We took turns watching our boys and wrestling to install more carseats. The big SUV that we had just brought home two days prior felt so big with 3 carseats… and amazingly crowded with 5! I drove to the agency. The same woman that called introduced me to a baby asleep in a carseat. His brother peered at me curiously from across the room. One pink cowboy boot swung gently, on the other foot there was just a sock. He clutched a bottle – was it the baby’s? The worker found me a can of donated formula, I signed a few papers, and she helped me carry the kids out.
It was very late when we got home. I gingerly undressed each boy and bathed him. Everything they had went straight to the washer to rid it of cigarette smoke and sour milk. Feeling awkward, I photographed the red marks in all the baby’s skin folds that showed how much he needed the bath. I rocked him and resisted the urge to nurse him when he screamed at the bottle – not knowing until 10 days later that it was the wrong brand of formula. I tucked the toddler in his new bed upstairs – having no clue if he was used to a bed or a crib, hoping he knew about stairs and didn’t know how to open baby gates.
And so began the craziest, most exhausting, most life-changing year of our lives so far. Foster care can be heart-wrenching and beautiful. We’ve seen both sides, and we are so glad that we answered the call. Is your phone ringing?