I remember sitting on the couch crying and feeling utterly defeated. I mean I just wanted my kids to wear those cute matching dresses to church. How did I get here? Not on the couch crying over my spoiled efforts, I mean clearly a dress or two doused in Arby’s sauce may not be salvageable. It was more than that, in that moment. I was just plain exhausted. Just over one solid year ago, I was sitting on the same couch in a different house crying over yet another pregnancy lost. No one could tell me why I lost every baby. They did not have to sit in the silence of my childless home. I just wanted to be a mom. Family is very important to me.
I clearly remember sitting there reflecting on the past year. Oh, the irony of that moment! I was crying because I was surrounded by little people I had prayed and yearned for. I just wanted to keep their cute matching clothes clean for church. That didn’t work out so well. I realized as I sat there, I had just what I asked for and I had it in spades. That last loss led us to foster care. It was no small coincidence that our dear friends brought the possibility of foster care up to my husband. My broken heart could take no more. I told Layne, my husband, I was done with infertility treatments. We knew we could continue to be just us and be okay, but it didn’t feel right. We discussed traditional adoption and felt like we had a loving home to offer right now, to a child in need. Even if a child didn’t stay, we knew we were doing some good. That went both ways didn’t it? I lost the aching silence and a child in need found a safe place to call home if only for a while. We wasted no time and were in classes and licensed quickly. Our home grew by two, and then three, and then six. We went from zero to six kids in less than two years. No wonder I was crying on that couch, right?
I sat there reflecting on our journey. I mean what were we thinking? My thoughts went to my daughter, Kasidi. Kasidi came to our home at twelve months old. She came in an oversized kimono pants and an adult tee shirt. She needed a bath and she needed us. She was afraid a lot. She didn’t go to sleep without a secure touch. It took a few months, but she learned security and love, and my husband taught her to walk. They were inseparable. The bond was palatable.
We found out after three months her biological father had come forth and was ready to do what it took to be a dad. We knew heartbreak and loss would be our constant companion through foster care and hopefully, adoption. Somehow, I told myself, I could face this loss, but I couldn’t face the loss of another pregnancy. I was partially right. The loss was different, it wasn’t just about Layne and I, this time. I had warning, I had time to prepare. I could prepare my little girl for yet another change. I had other children we knew were ours and were headed to adoption. I could not shake the feeling that this girl was meant to be ours as well.
The time came to say our goodbyes. The judge on her case must have sensed something. We became our girls court appointed babysitters. Is that even a thing? It was in our world. We made sure we knew the people in her new environment. We got to see our girl five days a week. Then all of a sudden, not at all. Layne kept asking me if I could see it? Could I see the light fading in our little girls eyes? Could I see the fear coming back? Then, she was gone. No one answered our calls or texts. We were powerless.
One day, my phone rang and the worst was confirmed. This beautiful little one was in danger. Those who could support her biological family and keep her safe were shut out. Kasidi was living with a pedophile and drug abuser that was allowed to move into her home. The friend on the phone was begging me to help. I tried all sorts of avenues to no avail. I had one last shot with her previous court appointed lawyer. It worked. She told us just what to do. We did just that. Not long after, we found ourselves in court with the judge, ordering our girl back into our custody.
Minus the walking, the journey to healing started again. We chased doctors appointments for the unthinkable and gathered our girl in our arms whenever she needed it. She was over a year older and clearly more aware. She clung to us and slowly the light in her eyes returned. We celebrated every victory.
One night, about three months after her return home, as we were doing our bedtime routine, my older daughter was asking questions (I bet only a foster/adopted kiddo might think to ask). These amazing children find themselves with memories some of us will never relate to. It’s a daunting task at times to answer questions I can hardly wrap my own head around. Emmi asked that night about why her sister had left and returned. We talked about safety, family, and belonging. I will never forget the words that came next. My girl who struggled with speech, who had been through so many things a child should not ever have to experience said as clear as day, “I cried for you and you came.” I hugged that tiny girl dwarfed in her yellow bunk bed and cried. I reassured her I would always come when she called.
Having that vivid memory come to my mind was no accident, as I sat on that couch on Sunday morning, feeling exhausted with all three girls in matching, nearly destroyed dresses in front of me, watching me reach my wits end. I needed the reminder.
This experience often replays in my head with all my couch moments, as I call them. I still sit in that same place on the couch and do my best thinking, parenting, and yes some crying too. You see, I am currently a mom to twelve. You can cry with me if you want. We have adopted ten and foster two at a time. The problems to be solved are way bigger than dirty kids in matching clothes. There is no more aching silence waiting to be filled. There are now children calling for their mom to come and be present. I decided that day, on the couch, with the memory of Kasidi’s words etched in memory, that I could do this. I can be there for every child God brings to our home. I can be a small voice for the helpless and scared.
As foster/adoptive parents, we don’t get to decide what brings a child into our home. Our power lies in what we do once they are here. How we show up for them, how we support them through their struggles and fears. Do we give into fatigue and defeat or do we reach for resources deep within that help us answer the call of mothering? More importantly, are we the mother our kids need us to be? I realized that day in a profound way that Kasidi needed me. Not the mom next door, or my best friend (who is acing this mom thing by the way). My girl didn’t need the idea of the mom I hoped would do better, she simply needed me. Our kids want us, flaws and all. The beauty of motherhood is in the imperfections. Adoption is beautiful, fostering is beautiful, birth is beautiful. Whatever your path to motherhood, it’s an honor and a blessing that most days I mess up—but I always answer the call of my children and you can too.
To learn more about Jamie and her family’s journey, visit them on Instagram @tofosterlove.