The first night B came to us, he fell asleep on my lap, in the rocking chair, within minutes of me sitting down with him. His head heavy on my chest, his body quickly went slack, and his arms hung around me, surrendered, while I sang "Twinkle, Twinkle."
My first thought was "well that went well, how sweet", but was quickly replaced with concern. How is it that a child not yet two, can fall asleep swiftly in the lap of a near stranger?
I am not B's mother. I am no longer his foster mother. I lay no claim to him, and he is in no way mine. Yet, he stays with me.
You don't stop loving a foster child after they've left.
Around our house are pictures of B. In some of them he looks mostly happy, in most of them a wrinkle of concern, and apprehension remains around his eyes. It is as if he's saying "I'm happy?" as a question, rather than a definitive statement. In his hugs "I love you?" was often followed by a swipe or a scratch.
I am a mother with invisible children. They don't show up in the official family portrait. There are no pictures of them on my blog. When people see me walking my children into school, they can't see them. When I do the headcount to make sure I haven't lost anyone, they're not there.
But in my heart, I'm loving a crowd. There's M, the baby we lost, and A, the first baby we fostered, and the girls - sisters we had for only a few weeks, and B, who changed us.
Yesterday some acquaintances marveled at our decision to adopt again. Four they murmured, "oh you're brave." They couldn't have known that I was mother to four for years. Five, even. The family you see now doesn't show all of the children I love.
I wonder how A and B are doing? I think about how old they are, and wonder what developmental progress they've made? I wonder if their early hardships are beginning to fade into a dependable, stable future? I wonder how the people who love them are handling their challenges? I wonder if they speak? Will they ever look for me in the future, searching for answers about their beginnings? Most likely I won't be recalled in their adult memories, but they will always be in mine.
Today I sit in my chair, and I gaze out the window, taking some time to sit and wonder, and remember, and allow myself to continue loving out into the void.