I met my child’s mother when I was 21 and she was 22. After I got the courage to ask her out, we caught that instant connection. I had grown up in foster care, and she had come from drama, so we understood each other. Our relationship lasted for over four years and for a long time it was good.
In the last year, she became pregnant and we had a daughter. I really thought it was going to be this perfect thing. Family Matters or Full House.
Even though I didn’t live with my daughter and her mother, I was there every day after my daughter was born. Having my daughter in my arms was amazing. I fed her, changed her and would lay her on my chest every night, putting her to sleep. I enjoyed the things most parents find frustrating. I realized I could live through her—giving her all the things I’d lacked.
But pregnancy seemed to make my girlfriend feel worse. I noticed her slowly change until, by the time she gave birth, she had become a person I couldn’t recognize. At the hospital, the doctor said she had postpartum depression and the social worker called CPS.
A Painful Echo
At first CPS helped us connect to services.
Then one day my girlfriend’s mother criticized my girlfriend in front of the worker and my girlfriend attacked her mother. I closed the door to my daughter’s room and broke up the fight, but the damage was done. The next day we had to go to court.
I lived in a room in supportive housing and had no space to take my daughter, so I decided to let her live with my girlfriend’s mother. Eventually, though, CPS removed her and put her in a foster home. In the transfer, two weeks passed when I had no idea where my daughter was.
More than anything, I didn’t want what happened to me to happen to my daughter.
Too Many Losses
I was 6 when my brother, sister and I were taken from our mother. I really didn’t know what was going on. I just had memories of a woman (my mother) drawing in the park, gazing out the window to the night skies.
Then we moved to my aunt’s house. She and my brother argued a lot. When I was 9 my aunt let him go. Next my sister and aunt started getting into it. Soon she was packing and leaving. I continued to see my siblings every other week for a while. Then the visits stopped.
After that, I tried to do everything right, cleaning the house, catering to my aunt. I was so scared that I would get the same fate as my siblings.
After a while, my aunt and I actually grew close. We would play board games, watch TV, stay up late nights eating snacks. I had family again. But when I was 14, my aunt became unstable, and I was placed in a foster home.
All those losses were too much to handle, and I started to block every bad thing that happened to me out of my head. I felt I couldn’t relate to anything that didn’t involve destruction and chaos. I found myself in fights almost every day. I didn’t want to open myself to anyone anymore.
But amazingly, at 17, after I got kicked out my foster home, my brother found me and brought me to my mother’s house.
At first, it was such a shock I just walked around not knowing what to feel.
Then one day my mother and I were in the living room and she began to share memories. Finally, she explained that we’d ended up in care because she couldn’t handle her mental illness and four kids by herself. Knowing it wasn’t because she didn’t love us helped get rid of the bitterness in my heart.
During my 20s, I struggled with mental illness, like my mother and my aunt. But the year and a half I spent living with my mother and sharing memories of my childhood helped to ease my loneliness. Being with my brother, hanging out and laughing, was the icing on the cake.
I Needed Help
When my daughter went into foster care, the sense of hopelessness I’d had when I was a child in the system began to resurface.
The relationships I’ve found have given me faith that good things can happen. I have used that faith and the bond I feel with my daughter to remind myself it isn’t over.
The first time I visited my daughter after she was placed in a stranger’s home, I knelt down with my arms out and she ran to my arms. It was like a scene from a movie. Throughout the visit, though, I saw that she seemed held back and confused. I knew she and I needed help.
My brother had just gone through a divorce and I didn’t want to burden him. Besides, growing up in care, I’d gotten used to taking care of problems myself. But after that visit, I explained the situation to him. Immediately, he and his new wife told me they would be willing to be my daughter’s foster parents.
The Love and Security We Both Need
Things are so different now that my daughter is around people that love her. She’s herself again, only happier. And I have a sense of peace.
I see my daughter regularly, and I also get to learn about parenting from my brother and his wife. Now I’m just waiting for housing so that my daughter and I can be reunified. I want my daughter to always feel the love and security I finally found.