One of my biggest pet peeves throughout this pregnancy has been when people refer to me as a “first-time mom.” I don’t feel like mom labels should be so cookie cutter. I was a foster mother for many years (pre-marriage) and have had dozens of kids through my home over the years. While I haven’t physically birthed a child (yet), I’ve already got my “mom card”. Some may disagree, but those people have clearly never been foster parents. That would be like an orange telling a tomato it isn’t a fruit!
I saw a posting on a foster parent support page the other day in which the woman was inquiring if she is still a mom even though she is just a foster mom. It really got my blood boiling!
It’s bad enough that there is mom shaming for having a non-natural childbirth or for not breastfeeding or even for not cloth diapering, but now there is mom shaming towards foster parents who selflessly raise children who aren’t biologically theirs at a time when the birth family is unable to do so? So much mom shaming, in fact, that this woman felt it was necessary to ask other foster parents if she was a mom? Are you kidding me?
No, I haven’t earned my “mom stripes” from pregnancy (yet), or experienced the blessing of childbirth (yet), or finally seen my newborn baby for the first time after hours of labor and burst into tears from exhaustion and pure joy (yet), and I haven’t nursed a baby (yet), but I have had a lot of mom moments!
I have brought a premature baby home from the hospital, I have had sleepless nights worrying that the baby isn’t breathing, I have had to wake up every 2 hours to wake a baby and feed her (doctors’ orders), I have cried crocodile tears when I watched my babies get shots (usually I cried more than they did), I have had trouble dropping them off at daycare when they are clinging to my leg and crying, I have read the same book 5 times in a row because that’s what they wanted, I have given hundreds of breathing treatments, I have changed thousands of diapers, I have wiped countless noses, I have been called “mom,” I have kissed lots of boo boo’s, I have had three under the age of 3, I have potty trained many children, I am a swaddle pro, I have age appropriate toys (and clothes) available for various ages, I have done more research on SIDS/carseat safety than I care to admit, and I still cringe every time I hear the theme songs to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Bubble Guppies, and Yo Gabba Gabba!
Most importantly, I have experienced the unconditional love that a parent has for their child; and with that, I have experienced a truly broken heart. No matter how happy the homecoming is for that child when they are returned to their biological parents after jumping through so many hoops and turning their lives upside down to get the child back, the foster parents are always left with holes in their hearts.
I used to always joke that our job, as foster parents, was to “love the children while we have them and then let them go when the time comes.” But that implies that you stop loving the child when they leave your home and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I have been blessed by the biological families of a handful of my old kids to remain in contact with them, but there are so many others that I constantly worry about. I fear that the “mom worry” will never go away, especially when it comes to the babies who the system failed. It breaks my heart all over again to think about what that child might be going through right now.
So yes, this is my first pregnancy but I am definitely not a first-time mom!
*This same logic can also be applied to Step Parents*