It was only 8 days ago when we had to say goodbye to Holly, our foster daughter. It was heartbreaking and bitter. We waved goodbye and we prayed for a happy ever after for her.

Then yesterday the phone rang. The fostering placing team told us there was a chance Holly would have come back into care, and one hour later Holly was already running in our living room. When she arrived she looked tired, a bit absent, perhaps confused, but soon after that she got back into her old habits, and she returned to all her challenging behaviours.

She came in with nothing, just a shopping bag of dirty and mismatched clothes. She didn’t even have shoes on her feet! I just couldn’t understand how in a short week she could have lost all her belonging, and how no one seemed to care that she had no shoes on. When the social worker left, I panicked. I went hiding in the bathroom and cried. For a short while, I let it all out. I cried in sorrow and anger. I felt like I couldn’t breath, trapped. When I calmed down, all I knew was that I couldn’t run away from this, as much as I wanted to, and I had to be there for this little girl.

After Holly left us to be reunited with her mum, I tried to make sense to the prior six months spent with her. I felt like we went through hell, I was physically exhausted and emotionally drained. The endless defiance, aggression, meltdowns, and rejection took everything out of me and left me like an empty shell.

I wrote a letter to my husband Diego explaining to him how I felt during what has been the hardest period in my life, and to try to plan what to do next, and how to keep our son Ben safe.

Here it is, at least a part of it.

I knew that the experience we had with Holly was a stressful one, but only when she left I fully realised how bad it really was.

I felt a guilty sense of relief when she left, together with the sadness of seeing her go away. It was like being able to breathe again, relax after months of tensions, empty my mind. I knew how stressed and exhausted I was, but I didn’t understand the extent of it until she left and I (we) returned to normality.

I worry sick that the next placement will be as bad, or even harder, and I really don’t want to find myself in that position again. I didn’t like what I became while Holly was here, it was against all I think it’s good and right for a child (any child) but I couldn’t help myself. The exasperation and secondary trauma took over me, and I lost control of myself. I was left empty and hurt. What if this happens again? Not only I’ll end up being profoundly unhappy, but I can seriously impact on the child’s emotional wellbeing, and not in a good way! And I wouldn’t want to live with that.

During the entire permanency, I thought I protected Ben, I thought I stayed close to him, nurtured him and always put him first. Not surprising, that wasn’t the case. Now that I’m spending time alone with Ben, now that I’m calm and mentally/emotionally available, I realised how much I missed. He can do so many things I didn’t know he could, he got much more articulate in his speech, in the way he processes information and situations, and in his general knowledge. I didn’t see that happening, even if I was here with him every day.

Ben keeps telling us how much he loves us. My personal view is that he’s happy to have found us again, to have regained not only our full attention, but a loving relaxed family life. He told me few times “mum I love you, I don’t want to miss you again”. That broke my heart. It’s not different than any other emotional neglect. Now I can see him smiling again, be happy again, be nice, funny, silly, loving… I don’t want to lose that ever again.

Also, we as a couple have seen some hard times lately. At some point, I really thought we lost each other and I seriously thought we were breaking up. But now, I think we are happy again. I know you feel the same way!

Now Holly is back in our lives. Tension is already taking over our home. The kicking, spitting and screaming already made an appearance. Ben had nightmares last night and by 5am he was crawling silently in our bed. Everything seems to be falling apart again, and I’m not sure I can keep it all together.

A little voice inside me keeps saying “let her go”, but I don’t know if I’ll be able live with myself if I decide to do just that.

Full Time Tire supports MadLug, a charity that helps children in care carrying their life with diginity. Read about them.
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