Going into this fostering process, we knew that there was a better than 50% chance that every child that came to our home would, eventually, be returned to their birth parents. As a foster parent, my job is to be A’s port in the storm. A calm place for her to be safe and happy while her parents get the help that they need. And they are doing just that. According to the letter of the law and the standards set forth by DCS, they are making progress.

We learned last night that it is expected that A will, indeed, go home this year. The timeline is uncertain right now and it is probably several months, at least, out in the future. We still have time to do fun things. Maybe take another trip to the beach in the spring. Have a birthday party. But in the coming months, the line between our family and the parents she is returning to will become more and more blurred. She will not always know for sure where she is resting her head at night. She may spend part of a week at their house and the rest with us.

Despite the fact that we KNEW this, that this is exactly what we signed up for, my heart is breaking in places that I didn’t know existed. I want her to be mine. I want someone to acknowledge that her life, her future, would be better and brighter with us. I want to not feel like I am losing to them. To her parents who lost her in the first place. I want to not feel like someone is putting the two sets of parents side by side and pointing to them and saying “Yes! Them! We pick YOU!” And I lose yet another baby. Numero eight if you are playing along at home.

I, of all people, should believe in the value of second, third, fourth and fifteenth chances. In the power of redemption and the fact that there is good in people if you just look hard enough. But I’ve never looked at it from the angle of a three year old. Sure. She’s three. And let me tell you one thing about her… she is GOOD at being three. She pushes me to limits that I’ve never seen before. The number of times I have to just get up, walk away, shut myself in the bathroom for a few minutes and fake explosive diarrhea have increased exponentially (from zero… which… if my vague math memory serves me, I think isn’t possible in the first place but whatever math police… it’s more than pre-kid, okay? Jesus.)

And yet… I have a hard time believing that her parents can change. There is a very definitive process for A to return to them. Step A then B then C and so on and so forth until the court and DCS decide that her parents have met whatever minimum threshold of competency they have established and boom… A goes home to them. And this is supposed to be a good thing. This is something that, allegedly, we are all wanting.

I call bullshit. I think. But maybe not? Maybe I miss my life sometimes. Maybe I enjoy no pants Thursday and all ice cream for dinner Tuesday. And wine for breakfast Saturday. And then also “Let’s spend all day going to open houses of places we can’t ever afford and then drink a late lunch at the Mexican restaurant” Sunday. I love that day most of all. And yet there is this little girl who I’m so afraid will have nobody is she doesn’t have me and Patrick. Do I cheer for her parents to succeed? Do I hope they fail miserably so she can come back to us? I sort of love when we cuddle on my bed and watch a movie while we brush each other’s hair and kiss each other’s cheeks. Patrick NEVER lets me braid his hair.

Or, when the time comes, do I wash all her little clothes, pack them in a suitcase (newly purchased, probably one of the worst purchases I’ll ever have to make), give her so many hugs and try to hide the fact that part of me is dying as I whisper in her ear that I will always, always be on her team and that I will always love the little person who taught me to be mama.

This isn’t even on the immediate horizon. It isn’t even decided. But yesterday was the first time someone looked at me and said “Yes, she will be going home. I am certain.” And I just wasn’t there yet and didn’t realize that anyone else was either.