WFYI Essay: “Fostering Home”

 

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By Elizabeth Friedland
Foster mother and Director of Communications at Appirio

As a single, childless woman, my home is a shrine to myself, built and designed around no one’s interests or tastes or preferences but mine. Or at least it was until recently when I decided to voluntarily launch myself into single parenthood and become a foster mother.

In the blink of an eye – or more specifically, the phone call of a caseworker – my space was forever and instantly changed. On that fateful afternoon in May, my immaculate and quiet retreat was suddenly filled with the cries of a two-month-old baby girl in desperate need of safe and stable home.

We’re a little ad hoc family, this tiny beautiful girl and I. There are no guarantees with a foster child. No firm timeline that outlines how long we might get to stay together, or when or if she might return to her biological family. While our home together may be temporary, our bond is surely permanent. Though she may not ever remember the home of her infancy – the cream rugs now splattered with applesauce and the hallway that smells of baby lotion – we’ve forever shaped each other. She is my daughter and I am her mother until she is no longer my daughter and I am no longer her mother.

As time passes, our hearts will continue to grow and swell with our strengthening bond, while the physical space around us becomes smaller and more cramped. Those applesauce-stained rugs will be imprinted with her first steps. The baby lotion scented hallway will become a runway for her to toddle down.

A small part of me will breathe a sigh of relief when my home returns to the way it was before a newborn first took over – when the living room looked more like a museum than a daycare. And yet I will be crushed when my home is no longer hers. When her giggles and coos and lopsided, one-dimpled smiles become ghosts that linger inside these walls.

I used to measure the completeness of my home by how closely it resembled my Pinterest inspiration boards or the West Elm catalogue. Now when I glance around the space at the end of the day, it isn’t the beauty of a new sofa or a prized art print that makes me feel satisfied. It’s knowing that, at least for one more day, Baby Girl and I are a family together in this perfectly imperfect yet totally priceless home.

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Each year Spirit & Place partners with WFYI on a series of essays on the annual theme. Listen to them here.

Before I die . . .

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I want to travel to Southeast Asia.

I want to know I’ve made a positive impact in my community.

I want to finally learn how to poach an egg properly.

Let’s be honest, if we’re going to think and talk about death, daydreaming about all the things we’d like to do be we die isn’t so rough and scary. Talking about wills, do not resuscitate (DNR) orders, advance directives, hospice care, and other end-of-life topics can be rough and scary though.

Although difficult, these are important conversations and Spirit & Place is proud to partner with the IU School of Nursing for Indy’s first ever Before I Die Festival (April 15—17, 2016) as a way to spark dialogue around end-of-life care.

Modeled off of past events in Wales and England, Indy’s Before I Die Festival (the first one to occur in the United States), will feature book discussions, cemetery tours, genealogy workshops, art exhibits, death cafes, and more at locations across the city. A little bit like the Spirit & Place Festival itself, the Before I Die Festival taps into the creative and thoughtful power of several arts, humanities, and faith-based organizations to help us talk about our end-of-life wishes.

At Spirit & Place, we believe in the power of meaningful conversation and in the vital role the arts, humanities, and religion play in helping us make sense of the world and our place in it. This community is filled with talented, smart, and caring people who are eager to help us explore tough issues, including death and dying.

Learn more at the Before I Die website and Facebook page.

By Erin Kelleyerin