We were asked on Instagram about our thoughts on fostering siblings, so I thought I'd weigh in here on the blog, then ask you all to do the same in the comments here or IG should you feel inclined.
For context, Tiny moved in first, when he was 6 weeks old. (We knew he had 3 older siblings, but hadn't lived with them). Mr. Toddler came about a month later at age 2. We hadn't intended to foster any kids long-term. At that point, we were a hotline home for emergency placements, which worked better for our schedules. We also thought of it as a way to get our feet wet.
Challenges for Us
Here were some of the challenges for us. Developmentally, the boys are in separate worlds. Not only because of their chronological ages, but because of their trauma history & the amount of time each had spent in their original home before being placed in protective care. This poses a variety of challenges; work schedules, daycare pick-up/drop off, appointments (we essentially doubled the number of appointments with doctors & providers & the boys were very sick all winter), food and sleep. Tiny slept on & off, as one does when they're a newborn. Mr. Toddler had night terrors & was up 1-2 times an hour every night for a few months. Sleep deprivation was (and still is!) a real challenge. It has certainly taken an unexpected toll on our professional lives & has challenged our relationship in unforeseen ways. We've also grown in remarkable ways.
A couple other things. Tiny had straightforward baby needs for a long while like eating, sleeping, snuggling & pooping. Mr. Toddler was behind developmentally & had some catching up to do. He had also experienced some big transitions in various homes & daycares & was separated from his older siblings. A number of our earliest photos on Instagram capture this period of time. Very sad. Very tough. Visits with bio mom & siblings were emotionally difficult, uncomfortable & kinda generally heartbreaking. We blogged about them as well. We were quick to put rituals & routines together for consistency & he slept in our room with us until he slept solidly through the night. We also changed his diet over time to help heal some hair & skin issues & to give his guts a chance to loosen up. Little man was in rough shape. So sharp. So sweet. So earnest. So precious. We weren't sure if we were a good match for him at first & initially thought he might do better as the youngest kiddo in a 2 parent home with older kids or zero kids. Now, we wouldn't have it any other way. Mostly, for the pros.
It is a sacred & beautiful thing to witness two young brothers getting to know each other. These two are inseparable now. It took Mr. Toddler about a month of being in our home to even acknowledge Tiny. It was as if he just didn't see him. He was so confused. Still is, but in different ways. About 3-4 months into his new life with us, he started nurturing Tiny by mimicking what we would do. If Tiny cried, he'd yell, "Bottle!" And demand of us that we take care of Tiny straight away. He'd say "Bee-bee cry! Bee-bee cry!" And watch us help Tiny. He would bring him toys & coo & eventually rub his face & arms in a soothing, albeit toddler, kind of way. He also started to really let us hold him. Like, his weight would drop in that only-a-toddler-weighs-this-much kinda way. Heavy. Soft. Vulnerable. Beautiful. And he has been able to move his little mind & body & heart forward in healing ways that allow for him to continue catching up developmentally, but not rush into the world of "big boy" just yet. He missed a lot of his own baby time and having Tiny around is a great opportunity for all of us to appreciate this once-in-a-lifetime period.
And Tiny has benefitted in immeasurable ways. He has an older sibling around to be silly with, to learn from, to wrestle with, to share toys with. They are keen to where the other is when they're both in the same room. Sometimes doing their own thing, always doting on each other. Our hope in the near future is to arrange sibling visits with their older two siblings, when the time is right for them & when the time is right for us.
When you commit to raising 2 kids under 2 until further notice you become, what I now refer to as, a pop-up family. You don't get 9 months to prepare your body or your house or your friends & family. Everything changes. There is no real way to fully prepare for it emotionally, financially, spiritually or otherwise. If we could change a couple things we would have talked more with our support system about our plans so it wasn't such a shock across the board. We would have started couples therapy earlier in order to have a place to talk about this new life & lifestyle. We would have identified people who could help with watching the boys on occasion to give us breaks & to allow for us to keep some consistency for our two dogs, who've equally made the ultimate sacrifice for us as new moms. And. We would have probably put together a baby shower (x2!) to help us acquire the things you need to properly care for babes when you're a family of 4.
If I could offer one slice of advice, follow your gut. If you're not ready, say that. If you're unsure, say that. Don't be pressured into taking more than one kid if you and your partner don't feel ready. Or, at least, mostly ready.
What about you? If you're a foster parent(s), what say you on this topic for inquiring minds?
-Foster Mom (the artist)