May is considered Fostercare Awareness Month in the United States. Kinda crazy that it follows infertility awareness, but that’s how it was ordered in our life too.
I won’t tell you that we always knew we would adopt or that we would be foster parents. We were selfish. Our motivation to foster care was originally seated in our desire to build a family. I will tell you that very quickly those plans transformed and our hearts softened for what the world needs not just our wants.
After our 2nd failed IVF cycle, I was done putting all my eggs in one basket. (Pun intended – you gotta laugh somewhere!) I wanted to be a mother more than anything on earth. I was tired of waiting and I was exhausted from the physical and emotional ride of IVF.
We looked into private adoption and after spending a small fortune trying to conceive, we had a hard time swallowing another astronomical invoice. A couple of agencies required a certain age range and we fell outside that requirement at the time. I kept thinking about the wait and just couldn’t stand it. At the time, we had been trying for over 2 years. Private adoption never settled in our hearts and so we started researching foster care.
In the midst of my infertility grief, I was being encouraged by my boss to seek out an upper level manager within our organization that had also experienced infertility. I was very intimidated by the thought of sharing such private details of my life, but I knew this manager had this beautiful family grown via foster care adoption. I set a meeting with her on her very last day at our company. She shared her story, she offered perfect encouragement and vulnerability and she prayed for me and my husband. That meeting was a pivotal moment in the trajectory of my life.
I came home telling my husband about all the things she shared. I knew my husband had a brief experience in foster care as a 10-year-old boy and eventually spent the rest of his adolescence in a children’s home where he graduated with top honors. He always had a soft heart towards children in hard places. We spent time in prayer and discussion making sure this was the best choice for us.
I remember concluding that to be a mother was a greater desire than to be a forever mom at that moment. I thought I knew what being a foster parent would take and how it would feel. I was oblivious.
The first thing we ever bought for the nursery.
My perfect scenario was to get a call for a baby at the hospital and somehow push to adoption quickly and we could have our family. This thought wasn’t actually spoken or even perfectly formulated but it had the best of intentions but none of reality…
Reality was a 9 pm phone call after being certified for over 3 months and a 1 am delivery of an 18 month old boy wearing nothing but a too small tank top and brown shorts. It was one of those random Texas Panhandle nights that had us running in flip-flops that day but looking for a parka that night. The wind gusts that night caused the temperature to drop below freezing. The case worker came in holding him wrapped in a dirty blanket smelling of smoke. He transferred the blue-eyed babe to me and the first thing he said in a quiet scared and unsure voice, “Mommy?”
I knew he wasn’t referring to me. He had no idea that day was the last time he would see his biological mother while in my care. He had been removed from his mothers care at 1 pm that day and had spent his afternoon and evening sitting on the linoleum floor of the case workers office 2 hours away.
We didn’t sleep that night and I know my first baby didn’t either. Jeff and I stayed up playing legos with him until 3 am just to try to make him feel safe. He was very quiet but gave us sweet smiles when Jeff did something funny.
They told us he was allergic to cow’s milk. We had no idea how allergic, so we gave him soy for 2 days straight, until he projectile vomited in the middle of a restaurant. Come to find out, he wasn’t allergic at all.
We spent the next 8 weeks together. He was the first child to ever call me “mama.” I have it on video. He was in his high chair eating spaghetti, and he would crinkle this smile every time he would see the camera. We hoped he would be forever and thought it so ironic that he looked so similarly to my husband. We had no idea that he would be leaving so quickly. Being first time foster parents, we didn’t ask all the best questions and we failed to find out if there was family that was capable of caring for him. At 6 weeks, we were told there was an aunt trying to get her home study completed but that CPS would not allow visits with her until the home study was approved. Looking back, had I been a more seasoned foster parent, I know I would have pushed for those visits in the beginning.
Nothing like a baby in footie pajamas.
I received a call soon after while at work one Tuesday during my lunch hour. I had to pull over. They were moving the little boy with no transition that following Friday. My heart sank. I didn’t question the ability of his new caretaker. I knew she was fully capable and that he would be loved. I was so heartbroken over the loss of this “plan” and this precious boy who we had fallen in love with, the little boy that made us parents.
8 weeks felt like a lifetime to us. We were finally parents, so when the veil came down, we were crushed. It was so strange to return to the quiet house that once was filled with joyful laughter from our tiny tot.
His hand and mine – one of my favorite kid art projects I have ever painted. It’s framed in the boy’s room now.
The story of our first doesn’t end there, and it gets so much better! When our first little love left, we had never met his new caretakers. We knew their names and where they worked and that was it. I assumed that our first goodbye was also our last but my husband had other plans.
He tracked down the aunt that took custody and asked if they would like to come to our house for a visit. I had no idea until they knocked on our door and a familiar little face walked in hiding behind his uncle’s legs.
We spent the evening together sharing stories and playing with the boy who made us parents. A relationship began and we keep in touch today. We were even invited to his adoption the following year.
This first experience honestly shaped how I view foster care today. Being able to see the story, in its brokenness and in its redemption was so eye-opening. I now know that even though our babies don’t stay with us forever, the Lord has a hope and a future for them.
I have prayed Jeremiah 29:11 over every single one of our children. I know that even when they are not in my care, the Lord carries them in the palm of His hand.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11