A younger Victoria Leith
When I was nine-months old, I was fostered for a year. I grew up with this knowledge and didn't really give it a second thought. It wasn't a big deal... I had lovely foster parents who I still keep in touch with today (although I must write them an update!) I was the baby of the family and there were other children there and their own children who apparently loved me very much.
I obviously cannot remember anything about this experience but whilst growing up, we talked about it openly in my family and it was part of regular conversations, all positive. When I was about ten or so, I started to write to my foster mother. She started to send me presents. I felt such a connection with her and whilst I didn't 'know' her, I did! It never made sense to me back then and I am still trying to make sense of it now.
I remember lying on the bed with my first born child when she was nine months old and thinking wow! This is when I went to live with different people! I can't imagine being without my baby. It must have been so hard for everyone.
Of course, growing up as a child, I didn't give circumstances any thought. There was no blame, there was no 'why me' as I was too young.
I invited my foster parents to my wedding - I felt it was so important for them to be there. They came and again, when I saw them, it felt so strange as I only recognised them from photos, not having proper physical memories... yet the connection was so strong.
When I was pregnant, I wanted a bit of my foster mother's name for my girl... I am not sure why. It just seemed like a lovely thing to do.
All my mothers are special to me and I love them all so much. I have different relationships with them. I grew up with my step-mother and father. My mother was always present with phone calls and letters and yearly or twice-yearly visits. They are both in my life now and although I could think differently about it all, all I feel is grateful for everything they have taught me.
But every now and then, I think of my foster parents. I have cried over being fostered now that I realise how much pain must have been attached to the process. One of the boys who lived there cried when I left. I used to lie under the water at bath-time and look up at my foster mother and smile at her, eyes wide open. I didn't know this until a few years back, but they used to pray too. They were loving and amazing. It is strange to think I cannot remember yet they have always been part of my life.
I look at my second baby girl now as she approaches that age of nine months. She is so wonderful as is my first. It crosses my mind from time-to-time that if I was to not exist, I would soon be forgotten in their living memory (best not to dwell on that!). But memories are kept alive through talking openly, consulting, listening to the real feelings that children who have been fostered have. To honour that even if they were a baby, that the experience they had is valued and given attention.
I still see myself as 'a foster child' and 'someone who has been fostered'. And that is ok. As a family, we also fostered children whilst growing up and they still see my parents as a huge part of their upbringing, because it wasn't only for the six months they lived with us. The nurturing continued way beyond that and still continues today as my parents attend their weddings, funerals, parties and keep in touch.
It is an amazing service to offer, to bring other children into your home and treat them as well as your own. To give them love during difficult times. But also, keeping in contact and to honour them as a person - to be interested in their progress because not only did I have foster parents, they had a foster child.
Would you like to share your experiences of being fostered? Are you thinking of fostering? I would love you comment below! Thank you for reading x