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Waiting on a foster child is a lot like being pregnant

Mary is a writer living in the Midwest with her husband, Chris, and her two daughters. Mary loves to write about all of the things she loves the most: motherhood, marriage, food, current events and really great books.

Here's what no one tells you about the wait for a foster child

Every soon-to-be parent has felt it, the anticipation mixed with overwhelming anxiety.

For me, my nervousness shows up in really small ways. I am obsessing over which curtains are gender-neutral enough, without being totally boring. I am stuck deciding between two bedspreads, wondering which is durable enough to withstand wear and tear, but is also comfortable enough for sleeping. Some moms rearrange furniture and sort through baby clothes for the one hundredth time, while other moms read every book written that has anything to do with parenting or childbirth.

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Bringing a new child into your home is overwhelming and exciting. I know, because I have been feeling it for weeks now. But here’s the thing — I am not pregnant, or even trying to get pregnant.

My husband and I are adding children to our home in a less conventional way: We are becoming foster parents. In our family, we have two toddler girls, both of whom I gave birth to. During those pregnancies, I experienced all the ups and downs of waiting for my due date, and going crazy with anticipation, wondering what each new life would mean for our family. Now that we have completed our home visits and stacks of paperwork, we are waiting for our very first foster care placement. I have been surprised by how similar all of this waiting feels to how I felt while I waited for my two daughters to be born.

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What sits on the surface is how I feel as I prepare a room for our new child. I know there is a good chance our first placement, and any other placements that follow, will only be a part of our family for a little while. But I want to do everything I can to make our child feel safe, I want him to feel he belongs with us, and I want our home to feel as close as possible to his home. This isn’t unlike preparing a nursery, really. Why did I obsess so much over buying the right crib and perfectly decorating the nursery before my daughters were born? For all the same reasons — I wanted them to feel safe and at home with us.

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Underneath all of my nervous preparation are bigger feelings. The real driving force behind my to-do lists and furniture rearranging is quite honestly a fear of the unknown. Sure, I have been a parent before, but I have never been this kind of parent before. Foster parenting, for all intents and purposes, is essentially like becoming a brand-new mom for the very first time (all over again). I find myself experiencing all the excitement and nervousness I felt during my very first pregnancy. I catch myself worrying that I won’t be good at this, that I don’t have the skills to parent well. And as each day passes, I know I am one day closer to having our worlds turned upside down, all over again.

This is what waiting for a foster care placement is really like. It is a lot of emotion and a whole lot of worrying. It is complicated, becoming a foster parent, because you are excited to be making a difference and meeting a need, but you are mostly heartbroken that there is a need in the first place. Maybe that is why I find myself worrying about each detail of his life in our home, because I know I have no control over what is bringing him into our home.

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