A woman was all too familiar with the struggles of foster parenting when she got the call about a newborn baby who needed constant care and support. She instantly agreed, not knowing what the future had in store for her and the little one.
Accepting someone into your life and heart is never easy. The dynamics of love might be beyond definition and comprehension, but they enable us to see the world in a new light.
Sometimes, life offers us the most worthwhile and life-altering experiences in the most unexpected ways. And something similar happened to a woman who didn't know what she was saying "yes" to when she decided to foster a child.
A CERTIFIED FOSTER PARENT
Julie Long and her family had been associated with foster parenting for eight years when she received another phone call. There was nothing new about the whole process because Long was accustomed to taking in kids, looking after them, and letting them go.
The call was about a newborn baby boy, Braelyn, who needed someone to care for him while his biological father tried to obtain his full custody.
Going to and fro amidst the custody battle and showing up at the court to fight for his son was extremely daunting for the man, and he needed someone reliable with whom he could leave Braelyn.
There might be no guarantees, promises, or confirmations for how long a temporary settlement can last, which hurts the most.
Fortunately, Long seemed like the perfect candidate for the role, and she couldn't be happier. She immediately agreed and welcomed Braelyn as her foster son. But what she didn't know at the time was how life-changing the experience would turn out to be.
As a foster mom, the most challenging part for Long was getting attached emotionally to the kids and not knowing how to say goodbye.
GOODBYES ARE THE HARDEST
She shared her struggles as a foster parent in an exclusive feature with LoveWhatMatters. She also expressed:
"The hardest part is saying goodbye – hands down. Every time I go through a grieving process. I feel like there are little pieces of my heart running around and they have no idea. All of our foster children have been under 4 years old so most of them don't remember us."
In a Facebook post, the foster mom from Vale, North Carolina, further shed light on how it felt to say goodbye to her foster babies. She described how people often wondered what she did to get detached so the farewell process wouldn't hurt her. She further added:
"You just do it. Then you cry. You hold them when they need it. You feed them. You play with them. You love them. Foster babies that come and go need the same things any baby needs. You can’t detach."
LOVING LITTLE BRAELYN
As was expected, Long invested herself emotionally while taking care of Braelyn, and the sweet boy valued her presence and love. However, a part of her knew that she would have to say goodbye to him one day, no matter how much it hurt.
In an Instagram post, Long shared how she was the only one Braelyn knew for the first six months of his life and that the knowledge haunted her that she would have to let him go one day.
AN UNEXPECTED TURN
But instead of worrying about the future, the North Carolina foster mom focused on her present and built a healthy relationship with Braelyn's birth father. He was a fluent Spanish speaker, and Long didn't know the language, but she tried to keep things afloat.
Luckily, it worked. Long revealed:
"But after a few months his [Braelyn's] dad asked if I’d babysit Braelyn while he worked full time. So of course I said YES!!!! This #babyboy came back to me in a way I never imagined. Two years later I’m still keeping him and beyond happy about it."
Having Braelyn in her life meant Long could watch him grow up and achieve his milestones. She stated that she was extremely grateful to his father for letting her be an integral part of his life. Long also shared:
"He [Braelyn] calls me Mama Julie, which I love. I'm not his mom but I'm like a mom to him. The only mom he knows. I have loved being a part of all of his 'firsts.' He has me kiss all his boo-boos and give him hugs."
Forging a relationship with Braelyn's biological father enabled Long to stay in his life, but a part of her still feared the day when she would have to bid farewell to the boy who meant the world to her.
A WORTHWHILE EXPERIENCE
Long became vocal about her ingrained fears as a foster mom in another Instagram post. She mentioned:
"I do still think sometimes of the day that will come where I’m not needed as a babysitter anymore. That will be hard all over again. But until then; I'll be his Mama Julie and love him like a mama should."
But despite the odds, Long expressed that fostering turned out to be an exciting experience for her and her family, and she was glad it offered her a chance to know Braelyn and be a part of his life.
THE STRUGGLES OF FOSTERING
Long's fostering experience talks about a pertinent issue — being a foster parent isn't easy at all. There might be no guarantees, promises, or confirmations for how long a temporary settlement can last, which hurts the most.
Nearly every foster parent has to endure the pain of drifting apart from their foster kids at some point, and only they know how emotionally consuming the entire process might be. With aching hearts and tear-filled eyes, they embrace the deafening silence that comes with reunification.
Undoubtedly, fostering is a beautiful phenomenon, but it comes with its fair share of struggles, as it did for Long. But we hope that eventually, every foster parent can find peace in knowing that their foster babies are loved, cared for, and protected.