What is better—to continue to love but ache from the bitter slashes of hurt and betrayal or to build a wall of steel and never love deeply again?
Early in my life, like so many of us, I learned about the sting of rejection and careless words. That sting took a toll on my heart and affected me emotionally for many years. Eventually I built a wall, placing it between myself and meaningful relationships. Turning my back when things got rough seemed to be my safest option…or so I thought.
We are honored to have Natalie Brenner share her heart here on our community blog, The Quilt of Life. Natalie is a mother-by- adoption, biology, and foster care, photographer, and best-selling author. She is a fierce believer in the impossible and hopes to create safe spaces for every fractured soul. Welcome, Natalie. And thank you for sharing your voice!
What inspired you and Loren to become foster parents?
After we brought home our first two children, one through adoption and the next shortly after through biological birth, we knew we would eventually become foster parents. Our community was filled with foster families, the need in Portland is substantial, all we needed was a bigger home and for our babies to be a bit bigger. Essentially, the crisis was overwhelming: there are so many children who were ripped from their families and placed into hotels with DHS workers because the shortage of foster family resources is huge. These kids are the most vulnerable children of society, and they deserve a warm home, a stable routine, someone to call family in the most difficult time of their journey.
Almost four years ago, my husband Bryan and I sat in a classroom with several other terrified couples to complete our training to adopt through foster care. Unlike the other terrified couples, I was 7-months pregnant with our first biological child. It takes a special brand of crazy to pull off what we did, and apparently, Bryan and I fit the branding.
We had Grady in December of 2014, one month before our home officially opened for adoption. The two boys from the Heart Gallery we had our eyes on fell through, so we waited until the following August before getting our first adoptive placement. Clark had turned 14 the day before moving in with us, and he went by a different name back then. He moved in on a Sunday and started high school on Monday with a new school, new town, and new family. Although it didn’t feel like it at the time, this was the calm before the storm.
My life has been a seemingly endless road of change. Some of the changes were small, others were large. Some were for the better and others were for the worse. Through all the ups and downs though, there have always been two constants in my life: my mother, Amy, and my father, Mike.
I first met Mike and Amy in November of 1992. I was in the sixth grade at Sunnyslope Elementary School, where Amy was a social worker. At that time, I was living with my Aunt Cynthia where I had been for almost six months. Shortly after celebrating my twelfth birthday, my aunt decided she could no longer support me. She turned me over to Camelback Hospital for evaluation where I was examined and it was determined that my health, both physically and mentally, was too good to stay there.
I am Kylie Gray. I am a wife, a mother, an amateur farmsteader, and most of all, Jesus lover. A year and some change ago, we adopted our 3 boys out of the foster care system here in the U.S. This past year was the hardest, most beautiful year of my entire life. My husband, Trey, and I always knew we wanted to adopt. When I thought about it, I just assumed we would adopt from some far-off land like China or Africa, but God had other plans for our family.
We’re on our way to see a Hindu priest who lives in Chatsworth, a township outside of Durban where Indians, many whose ancestors were brought to South Africa during the Dutch colonial era as slaves, were again forcibly relocated in the 1950s by the apartheid government. The South Africans I am with have been visiting this priest for years, so they have little trouble finding his house and the one-room temple he has constructed in a small courtyard behind it. We roll up onto the curb that lines the narrow street, and six of us pile out, seeking—I can only speak for myself—a bit of light on the journey.
As I write, I am on holiday with my two children. They are playing outside in the sunshine, laughing and talking about the fun they will have in the outdoor pool later, jumping in off the side and diving for hoops.
This is the dream of parenthood. Summer holidays soaked in sunshine, family time, and long lazy days enjoying being together. Like many adoptive parents, though, I am also aware that this dream has been—and still is—somebody else’s nightmare.
Welcome to Parenthood! Here’s Some Pink Eye.
My husband, Sean, and I always dreamed of having kids. When we married in 2004, like any fresh-faced couple we planned out our future—we were going to make babies and start a family. Finding out that the traditional path to parenting was not possible caused us intense anguish. Since the desire for children still beat in our hearts, we started looking into other possibilities. Thus, began a twelve-year journey from Alaska through the Midwest to finally land at the bottom of Texas. On the way, we survived the pain of fertility treatments, explored the unpredictability of private and international adoptions, and when one door after another—mind-blowingly—closed, we turned to foster care.
I was born December 20th, 1974 at the Mobile Infirmary in Alabama. I was born without a name, without an identity. I do not know what kind of day it was, I do not know what time I was born, nor do I know how long I stayed at the Infirmary before going to a hospital in Mississippi where I awaited a family that would take me to a place that would become my home. Very old records reveal that the nurses in the hospital called me “Susan” and thankfully they kept a small journal regarding my 6-week stay. Sadly, they wrote that I was not a very happy baby. I cried a lot and was not soothed easily. I may have had colic, or maybe I was missing the warm touch of a mother and father. I have to believe that being born into a state of chaos can cause discontent, even in a baby who does not seem to know what is going on around her. The nurses, though, took very good care of me and gave me some stability. It was not long until the warm touch from a mother and father—and a brother—arrived! I may not have been born with a name or an identity but I was born with a purpose; I was adopted.
I was recently at a medical appointment, my toddler daughter in tow. The doctor was running late. Like an hour-and-half-late. My daughter, out of snacks and out of patience, was doing what we call “noodleing.” Basically, she had willed her body to become a wet noodle, and nothing could appease her.
The doctor finally came in, and as we were talking, my daughter doing what toddlers do, I said jokingly, “I know you can fix my orthopedic issue, but do you have anything for tired moms?”
And the doctor’s reply? She was totally serious and said, “Why did you have so many kids?”
I was shocked. But I shouldn’t have been.
Everywhere we go, especially during the summer when my four children are home, women (always women), usually over the age of sixty, come up to me and exclaim, “You have your hands full!”