I love babies. I love the feel of their tiny hands wrapped around my finger. The smell of their hair and the smoothness of their skin. I even love the squeaky cries they make when they are merely weeks old, which grow lustier and more opinionated as weeks turn into months. I love it all. And that's one of the reasons we've chosen at this stage in our lives to only foster babies.
The trouble with babies is they do not know, when you hold them in your arms, that you are not forever. They have no memory of before, only of you, day after day, giving them food when they are hungry, changing them when they are dirty. Smiling down at them every morning to lift them from their cribs. Kissing their cheeks, one side then the other.
A baby can't understand the difference between temporary and permanent. Can't understand when you say, "Court is next week, and then someone other than me will decide your future." No child can truly understand such a thing, but a baby? A baby just watches your mouth form the words and babbles in reply, certain your words are just more of the love they have come to expect from you.
I love the way babies grow and change so fast their first year of life. Everything is new, everything is a first. They are astounded by the simplest things and clap their hands in delight when they try applesauce for the first time.
But the trouble with babies is they have no reason not to trust you. Many older children in foster care have been hurt before. Betrayed before. Maybe been in and out of care before. They are wary and streetwise beyond their years. But a baby has not yet learned the world is a difficult and unfair place. I love babies, but I don't love being the one to teach them that.
Whenever the time draws near that I will be sending another baby on his way to a new life, I start giving him extra kisses and praying that somehow--somehow--he won't miss me like I will miss him. That he will hardly notice when I suddenly disappear from his life. That instead of a memory of pain and loss and confusion about why I abandoned him he will have only a memory somewhere deep in his heart of a brown-haired woman glancing back at him from the driver's seat with a smile and saying, "Almost home."