This post comes after a very hard week of fostering. I started my kitten fostering journey in August. At the time, it seemed like the next step on my path to animal rescue. Since August, I’ve had the pleasure of fostering over 25 animals (short term/long term). To be honest, this has been an eye opening experience. The reality of animal rescue has been quite different from the expectation. I’ve been tested in ways I never thought possible.
As I write this, I’m laying in my bed feeling defeated due to a weekend full of adoption paperwork, clinic visits, saying goodbye, and sick kittens. I’m someone who has lived avoiding feelings. It’s easier to be on autopilot than to feel every little thing. That has not been an option during this journey.
My first experience fostering involved 6 infant kittens that needed to be bottle fed and stimulated to use the bathroom ever 2 hours. I got home, and no one wanted to eat. I sat up all night in angst thinking they wouldn’t make the night. They did and I learned that I needed boundaries. From that point on, I decided I was a beginner, and would only take on beginner level kittens. I was on the lookout for kittens I could handle that needed a foster. Thing is, it’s hard to know what you’re dealing with until they’re home.
Fast forward a few weeks later, I picked up the most perfect kittens to long term foster. Shirley, Shawn, and Shannon. They would later become Sebastian, Helios, and Diana. As I write this, two are sleeping in the other room while Sebastian is in his new home. In the 4 months they’ve been with me we’ve dealt with fleas, ringworm, lameness, high fevers, viruses, and routine visits to the clinic. Most of these things have been new for me, but we got through it. As we speak, Diana and Helios are looking for their forever home. Hershey, a singleton, has also joined as a long term foster.
Yesterday, I processed my first adoption. I got lucky enough and found an amazing home for Sebastian. As I woke up, I felt the dread of goodbye. I found myself projecting onto Sebastian. “What if he feels abandoned?” “Will he miss his siblings?” “Will he feel unloved by me?” A lot of other questions. Once the paperwork was signed, I said goodbye. By the time they left, I was in tears. My own abandonment issues playing out through this adoption and through Sebastian.
When I got home, I had to deal with new kittens that were sick. There was no time to process saying goodbye. My exhaustion and hidden emotions began to creep up slowly. By today, the kittens were declining. I did the best I could and decided they would need someone more experienced and with more time. A retired foster reached out and took these kittens. Once the transfer was complete. I was faced with feelings of shame and anger. “Why couldn’t I be good enough?” “What will people say of my ability to foster?” As I lay down writing this, I’m realizing just how engraved other people’s voices are in my head. I’m trying to be ok with “I did my best,” but it’s so hard. My best has never felt like enough. I’m trying to remind myself of my human imperfections.
I’m not sure where else I’ll go on this journey. I’m not sure how I’ll continue to say goodbye. I do know that I feel a responsibility to continue to try, because I can’t imagine not trying. I also know that I’ll need to respect my boundaries. I’ll need to know my limits. I’ll need to work through my mental health issues. I’ll need days off and self-care. I’ll need to extend compassion and kindness to myself.