October 2016 Column Winner

My first tiny human job
Jennifer Pitts, Tri-County Herald

I recently got a phone call that has drastically changed my daily life.
The woman on the other end told me of a precious, newborn baby being released from the hospital and asked if I’d be willing to take him, “for a few days.”
I’d only recently been approved as a DHS foster parent and had focused on providing respite for families needing a little time away.
I never expected to get a call for a newborn, and had only a few hours to prepare, but thought surely I could tough out a few sleepless nights while a regular, foster home was set up for him.
Little did I know.
Now, I have two full-time jobs and the sleepless nights are hovering around 60, but I’m still smiling.
Somehow, I always knew I wanted to be a mom – to someone else’s child.
“Why go through the pain of childbirth when there are so many precious babies already in need homes and love,” I, a then high-schooler, said matter-of-factly to my grandmother.
I couldn’t understand why more people didn’t think the same way. While grandma agreed, she explained there’s just something about having a child that’s your own flesh and blood. Of course that made sense, but it didn’t seem a big enough reason to not even consider loving a child in need, regardless of whose.
Throughout my 20s and 30s, the idea continued to mill about in my thoughts. But, I never wanted to raise a child alone and hadn’t found a husband worthy of “forever.” So, I continued to focus on my passion at the time, my photojournalism career.
Then, a few years ago my bio clock started chirping at me. It was about the same time my roommate and best friend, Sandra, became a grandma.
I suddenly started noticing tiny humans everywhere! <3 <3 <3
And as her first, then second, grandchild was born, I relished every visit and milestone with love and delight, despite them not being my own “family.”
My silly clock stepped up its game. It began rendering a steady drum of awareness, constantly reminding me of what I was missing.
More and more I thought about how amazing and special children are and how lucky each parent is; and how sad it would be if I never got to have the very unique and basic human experience of being a parent.
My baby alarm began screaming at me. It kept punching my thoughts with an intenseness like that of a car alarm blaring while you scramble to find keys to shut it off.
“Tick-tock, TICK-TOCK!” Kids! Babies! WANT! WANT NOW!!”
What was I to do? I wasn’t about to conjure up some undeserving baby daddy, especially one willing to have a kid just for kicks. Not happening.
Then it struck me like a gong and must have shaken loose those relic memories of my surprising teenage wisdom.
Duh. I had always known the answer: parenting a nonbiological child – fostering.
I had no idea how to begin or what was involved.
Mostly, I questioned the likelihood that anyone would even approve a single, middle-aged, woman with workaholic tendencies who lived with a roommate and had been driving the same mess of a car since 2004.
Surely a person would have to be near perfection to be entrusted with someone else’s child. My heart still wanted to try and I knew it big enough to make up for my not being a perfect candidate.
Call it coincidence, fate, divine intervention or mystical cosmic alignment, but along came Tandi Mize, a long-time friend of my little sis, with a request to photograph some adorable kids last fall.
It just so happened to be for some foster families at a monthly support group meeting in Shawnee. Tandi, who also fosters and volunteers in numerous capacities, helped encourage me to apply.
After a couple of phone calls, the paperwork process began. And yes, there’s a lot of it, but I wasn’t in a hurry. Sandra agreed to cofoster with me and to be my back-up so we both had to complete a stack of forms as time allowed.
From beginning to end, oddly enough, it took about nine months to complete everything, including a 3-day class, fingerprinting, background checks, home study and basic health screenings. Both of us were approved.
After accepting the request to take the newborn, we both scrambled to hunt down baby basics, then waited to meet him.
The investigator brought him to the door in a new carseat, generously donated by a local business. Other than that, he had the clothes he was wearing from the hospital, one blanket, a pacifier and just enough formula and diapers to last until morning.
We signed a few papers and I was officially clocked into my new, temporary (so I thought) job.
It wasn’t until about a month later when I learned I could continue fostering the little angel, full-time. Of course I’d already become totally attached. I was both ecstatic and scared of such a commitment to the most precious tiny human I’ve ever met.
So, he may not be my flesh and blood, but he will be loved just the same – for however long or short his stay with me will be (plus forever)!
Each day we spend together he gives me the biggest gift I could ever ask for – the experience that comes with the job title of “mom.”

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