Sickness

Sickness. Interesting how, of all things, illness has suddenly been this thing that has made what we're doing in foster-care very visible. Last week, little foster baby got sick. Nothing serious. A common cold. His nose dripped, he ran a moderately high fever, and he cried easily. He slept well, though, and ate like food would never come again. He tossed his water cup far from him but devoured milk.

Two days ago the middle brother caught the same cold. High-ish fever, many nose tissues and lots of naps. He, too, ate as much as an adult at meals. He seemed tired and glossy eyed. Nothing scary or abnormal.

What I found interesting, though, was how the cold impacted our girls in comparison. All three girls got sick over the last week. The weren't very hungry at all and had stuffy noses. No drips. They had just as much energy as ever, with low fevers and coughs. The only wanted water - no milk.

Isn't it bizarre? I know they must have all shared the same sickness, brought home from preschool or elsewhere. Yet, the display between siblings was so different. I watched over the week, realizing that somewhere in their bodies, the genetics had dealt with the germs differently. Though they all look similar on the outside, they really are from different mothers and fathers.

I think it struck me, mostly, because I've spent the last month caring for them all as my own. Bathing, diapering, feeding, laughing, snuggling, reading, re-directing, encouraging...I look the same and carry the same amount of love and care with each interaction. Funny, then, to be reminded that these boys are such a gift. Their history is different than my girls', and needs to be taken care of delicately. It's a reminder that, while life begins to find a new normal, these are two worlds colliding.

Once when I was young, it must have been before my brother was born, I spent several days with my Grandma Sonya. My parents went away together on a trip, whose details I can't remember. What I do remember is that while they were away I got sick. Like the boys, it was a simple cold. But I had chills and sweats. My body ached to the bones. Laying in bed trying to sleep, I recall Grandma coming in to see how I was. As she approached, I anticipated her hand tucking my hair behind my ears - it's what my mother always did. Her heavy pat on my shoulder was jarring. I immediately felt uncomforted. My sick body yearned for the touch it had grown to know from infancy.

Though they are only young boys, I remember this and am sure that their little bodies crave the accustomed comfort of home. Maybe it's a kiss, or a tuck of hair, or a lullaby. When we're sick we crave home and I won't ever, ever be able to replicate that for them. I feel sad for them - coping and yearning in ways they don't have words for. This is yet another loss. This is what is asked of us in foster care and adoption - to be the ones that stand in spaces where we will never replace or fill the void, but step into the void anyway. 

These are the types of moments that pull at my heart strings the most. People have asked us 'If they are good boys and behave, what makes foster care so hard'? They find it hard to believe that even days-old infants suffer separation anxiety when removed from their homes. When you live it, you see that it's true. Even the simple fact that we smell different is enough to change the value of a hug.

While we help our family to health, we are reminded of the task at hand.