Foster Parenting: We Were Made For This


Last night I cried myself to sleep with my husband next to me telling me it would be ok. This morning I woke up, tissue still by my pillow, and pulled myself and my mental status back together.

I’m a mom. I was created to do this. I’ve got this.

Falling apart is something all moms do (I mean, I’m not the only one, right?!). We fall apart when things become too big, too scary, too heavy, too utterly exhausting…and then we pull our supermom cape out and carry on.

My family’s foster care journey began a year and a half ago.

I honestly can’t tell you why we dove into foster care when we did, other than a few divine movements in our life. We had just gotten settled in Richmond, having only lived here 2 years. We had just had our third child. We were both working 3-4 jobs between us. As I write this, I wonder, “what in the world were we thinking?”

But I knew the answer then, just as I know it now:

There are children and families in our community who desperately need a safe and loving home.

While we didn’t have much, we most certainly had a loving home and my mothering heart (while already feeling overwhelmed by my own three little people) knew it could stretch to nurture more little souls who needed mothering.

As soon as we were approved foster parents, we received our first placement. It was a daunting scenario. His case was in many ways unlike most foster cases (he is very medically fragile), but also in many ways very ordinary.

It was messy, terribly sad, not clear-cut, and there were a thousand scattered pieces to this tiny child’s story.

The beginning was, honestly, terrible. It was, looking back, a traumatic event in our family’s life. Each day wasn’t ALL bad. There were moments of hope as we watched him suddenly sail through milestones he had previously failed to meet. There were times of joy watching our biological children seamlessly take him under their wing. There were times of peace, knowing that no matter how things turned out in the long run, that he was better than he was, that he had experienced family and love.

But, there were SO many moments of frustration. So many times that hopelessness hung in the air. So many days where the exhaustion of caring for him turned into thoughts of doubt and regret.

We hung on though. We planted our feet firmly in our commitment to this child and his family and carried on.

As time passed, the trauma faded, a new normal took shape, and our identities slowly changed.

I am no longer a mom of three with a foster baby; I’m a mom of four. I’m no longer playing the role of pediatric nurse with my medically fragile foster child; I’m just a special needs mom. My kids now draw their family with two parents and four kiddos and if you ask my daughter she will tell you she has three crazy brothers, not two.

It’s been 14 months and the day he came home seems like a distant memory. I was warned that there was this milestone in foster care where enough time has passed and it becomes very difficult to return the children to their biological parents. I thought I understood this, because obviously, the more you bond to a child the harder it is to let them go.

But now I’m feeling this reality on a mother level.

You know that way mothers get with their own? That innate momma-bear thing that surpasses rational thinking? Last night it came over me like a wave.

What have I done? How can I let him go? How can I turn him over not knowing if he will be ok? How could I have done this to my children? How will my baby, who is the same age as our foster son, ever understand this? How will I show our foster son that we didn’t abandon him if he returns to his biological parents? How am I going to survive this?

I cried and cried.

But then, this morning when I woke up, I was able to remind myself of what I’ve known all along.

Mothering hearts stretch. Mothering hearts change. Mothering hearts are made to handle the unknown.

If I was able to adapt to mothering a child who isn’t mine, I will learn to adapt to returning him to his parents, if need be. It surely won’t be pretty, but I will get through it. I will mourn and I will keep on mothering.

Moms don’t usually get to pick the things they take on with their children or the realities their families will face. When that tiny baby is placed in our arms, their future is vastly unknown. We don’t know when we will have to parent a child with severe food allergies, or ADHD, or cognitive disabilities, or talents that exceed our wildest dreams. We just take them as they come and our mothering hearts adapt.

I happened to choose this child. I didn’t pick him out, but when he found our family, we chose to say yes, knowing that there was a strong possibility it would only be for a season. I chose to take in this child and all of the unknown with the faith that my mothering heart could be stretched and molded to meet his needs as well as my family’s.

Right now, as that unknown is staring me squarely in the face, I’m clinging tightly to that faith…as all mothers do.

When things are normal, when they are hard, when they are unexpected, when they seem endless, when they are joyous, when they are hopeless, when they are wild, and when they are easy; mothers are made to mold our love uniquely to our children…even the ones who aren’t our own.

And our mothering hearts are capable of adapting to whatever may lie ahead. Even in the midst of change or loss; we were made for this.