“It’s a fierce kind of love. The love I’ve felt sitting up late at night, holding another mama’s babies as they quietly cried in my arms. Crying for their mama who, in spite of her own shortcomings, loved her babies so much that in that moment, they wanted her more than anything in this life. The first time I experienced it was just over nine years ago. It was so unexpected and has been both times.
It was just an ordinary day at the beginning of summer when I got a Facebook message from a woman whose children attended our Sunday school. She told me her sister had just delivered a baby and CPS was called. She asked if I knew anyone at all who could help their family by taking care of the two oldest children. She would keep the three middle kids and her sister (the mom) could have the newborn in a rehab facility with her. After talking to my husband we decided, ‘What’s two more for the summer?’ We could bring them home with us, add them to our four, and make it a summer to remember. We did just that. We had six kids that summer. It was what they called a voluntary placement. They lived with us for 3 months while their mama got back on her feet, and then they went home. I will never forget holding them and crying with them that very first night. I promised I would try to love them twice as much, enough for me and enough for their mama, who was unable to be there.
Fast forward a few years and another call came. It was the same mama and a similar situation. This time, I had a baby myself and we just weren’t ready to have another, so my best friend took the beautiful baby girl. I actually got to name her. We called her Grace and my best friend eventually adopted her. Grace is one of Paisley’s, our youngest daughter, lifelong best friends. They have always called each other cousins; her mama and I have been friends for so long we are actually like sisters. It’s amazing to me how God is at work in our lives for so long before we are even aware of what He is up to. He always has a plan.
Little did we know there would be another sweet baby girl, from that same mama, on the way. I had a dream a few years ago I was holding a new baby like she was my own, but I didn’t give birth to her. The dream was so surreal because I was so bonded to the baby, yet I hadn’t carried her in my womb. When I woke up, I told my family about the dream because it was so sweet. That detail of not giving birth seemed so odd, but so marked in my dream. We didn’t think much of it and actually mostly forgot about it. Our kids would occasionally say they wanted a new baby, but we knew we were very much done. No more pregnancies for this mama of five!
Then, what seemed like randomly, on October 23 last year, we were pulling up in front of our home around 9 p.m. and my daughter mentioned the dreams I have had and how sometimes they have happened. She casually said, ‘I guess that means we are getting a foster baby soon. You had that dream, remember?’ We all just laughed it off and went inside. We weren’t even foster parents.
The very next morning, I woke up and saw a picture of a newborn on Facebook and I knew it was the baby. We hadn’t seen her mom in many months and had no idea she was expecting. Yet, here was this very tiny newborn who had just been born that morning. I commented to her auntie, who had shared her photo, and I knew in my heart it would only be a matter of time before they called me. I also knew, without a shadow of a doubt, what our answer would be. Because of the conversation the night before, how could we even have any reservations? Before the end of the day, we were in contact. They asked if I could take their baby girl for 4 to 6 weeks, while they completed a few requirements to get her back. I headed down to the hospital to complete the basic paperwork for temporary placement. I bawled most of the way there.
Her mama told me when I arrived, ‘Don’t get too attached, Tiffany. It’s only temporary, I’m going to get her back.’ It seemed so easy at the time, to reply that I wouldn’t. ‘We already have five kiddos. I will just love her while I have her, for you.’ Little did I realize how very strong that fierce love is. She also told me her water had broken the night before around 9 p.m., which was right when my daughter made her announcement about a foster baby. The story continues to amaze me every time I tell it.
After her mom was discharged, the baby was moved to NICU overnight for jaundice. My husband and I went late that night, and then early the next day. I was naive in thinking I wouldn’t get attached because as soon as I sat with her in my arms, with the sweet NICU nurse beside me, the tears began to flow. I realized it wouldn’t be normal to not be attached. It was like the Lord had placed her right in my lap. I’m responsible for this precious, tiny, helpless life. I will be her main security and provider. I will be the one up with her at night, the one feeding her and making sure all of her needs are met.
Sitting there with her in my arms, it hit me. She is ours. This little babe is ours. She is only 3 days old, and I’m taking her home with me and I was SO attached. Just as if I had given birth to her. Every baby deserves to have someone ‘too attached.’ Every child deserves to experience the deep love of a mama. I decided if and when the time came to give her back, God would hold my heart, just as I’ve held her tiny hands in mine. He would keep me just as He has kept her. Until then, I will give myself completely to her.
The weeks quickly turned into months, and the months will soon be one year. Every day with this precious little one is a miracle to me. An unexpected gift of pure joy. She has been a sweet distraction during the long months of quarantine. There have been many painful moments along the way and the fostering experience has felt, at times, like the craziest rollercoaster I have ever been on. Court dates, postponed hearings, social worker visits, missed visits, and then even unexpected visits. There are things about foster care you never think about until you are experiencing it. You have to be willing to lay your whole heart on the table. This includes facing your own fears and even your own past traumas if you have them. I always say we didn’t sign up for this, because we literally didn’t. We weren’t foster parents. We became certified after we already had her in our home.
One of the most beautiful things has been watching her biological sister Grace, fall in love with her, and know she is her sister that grew in the same mama’s tummy. Also, Grace and Paisley are no longer cousins. Now they say they are sisters because they both have the same baby sister.
I have tried to connect with all of her siblings from her mom and also from her dad. There are a lot. I’ve managed to get her together with ten out of eleven of them! Add that to our seven (two of them are grown) and this little one has 18 siblings!
At this point, the circumstances are leading us to adoption. When that happens, we will keep the doors open for her to know her biological parents and all of her siblings. Family is a beautiful thing and I feel strongly these connections should be intentionally fostered, whenever it is safely possible. I am forever indebted to her parents for calling us and entrusting us with this beautiful life they created. Before she was ever ours, she was theirs. I’m very thankful in spite of their hardships and circumstances, we have been able to maintain a good relationship with them. They know we will always do our best to keep her connected to her roots.
Yes, it’s a fierce kind of love. I’m loving this tiny one for myself, and I’m also loving her for her mom. I’m loving this baby in all the ways she would, if she could, and at the same time, I’m loving her in all the ways I love my own. I have always known God has called me to love people… their souls, their hearts, and now, even their tiny little babies. I will answer that call and I will answer it fiercely, with a mother’s love. I will pour all I can, for however long I can, knowing HIS grace is sufficient. When I’ve done it unto the least of these, I’ve done it unto Him.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tiffany Tempke from Rancho Cordova, CA. You can follow their journey on Instagram and Facebook. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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