“Everyone asks how we got here, how two unmarried twenty-somethings ended up choosing to pursue foster care together. How they simply came to the conclusion this was right, that they were equipped enough, that their lives were flexible enough, that they could co-parent similarly enough to say yes to something so life-altering.
Perhaps it was high school, where I officially met Amanda and her sister, Madison, after years of being raised in the same neighborhood and in similar circles, around several mutual friends. It was there we connected on our love for kids and a newfound interest in international adoption and special needs, as their family was in the process of adopting the most precious red-haired toddler with Down syndrome from Eastern Europe.
Or the fall of 2015, our friendship on solid ground, when their family, now having completed four international adoptions, had the opportunity to hire Personal Support Workers to be an extra set of hands in home with their four children with Down syndrome. I received the dream job I wasn’t looking for and the lines between my family and theirs began to blur.
Maybe it was my Social Work degree, its conclusion my year-long internship in Child Welfare working alongside the Protective Service’s unit. Standing in hospitals and courtrooms. School offices and countless front porches. Learning, interviewing, investigating, and advocating alongside seasoned caseworkers who, again and again, snatched me from my desk and graciously allowed me to get my feet wet. To see this side of our community. To see the gritty and the hard, the improving, and still trying. To grow my belief every child deserves a family who believes the sun rises and sets with them. Perhaps it was Amanda’s elementary education degree. Framed degrees on walls and two girls prepared for something so much greater than a career, who found an apartment together in the neighborhood that raised them.
Whatever it was, it landed us in my little Honda Civic on May 31st, 2019. It was a Friday morning and we had the day off, driving down the highway on the way to one of our favorite spots on the Oregon Coast. Somewhere along the drive, we poured our hearts out into the space between us. Career choices and hopes for someday, and a single, quiet want we had both unknowingly been considering — we wanted to pursue foster care. Not someday, then. Together. One of us dared to say it out loud and the other said, ‘What?!? Me too.’ The magnitude of both of us coming to such a unique conclusion was too overwhelming to ignore. We never looked back.
I will never get over the way that conversation felt in my body, like butterflies. Complete and total peace. A thousand yeses whispered in unison. A deep knowing the choices we had made to continue to work with her family after college had handed us both the flexibility to foster, our combined experience had prepared us, we understood the goal of foster care, and we were ready to fulfill it. It was as if everything had brought us here.
We quietly began our certification process that summer, slowly letting our friends and family in on our secret, sneaking into the baby clothes aisles in stores and picking through clearance racks for baby clothes, dreaming about the babies who would wear them. We moved furniture around in our 800 square foot apartment, assembled a crib, began training and our home study process, announced to the rest of our community our home would soon be open to infants under two. When I think back to that season, I can still feel the anticipation and the excitement that grew every morning when I woke up and saw a waiting crib, or when we would fold baby clothes into drawers. Though some had initial reservations of this dynamic, we were showered with support from so many in our community, which just reinforced what we already felt: our people were so ready to adore and rally around each and every child that came our way.
After a lengthy certification process, we were officially licensed on February 6th, 2020. On Valentine’s Day afternoon, we got the call we had pictured a hundred different ways. ‘We have a three-week-old baby boy waiting in the office, will you take him?’ Two hours after that phone call, a quick stop at Target for diapers and a few extra newborn outfits in-between, we met our first foster son in the parking lot of a county office. As we pulled out of the parking lot, I made eye contact with Amanda sitting beside him in the back seat — it felt like a dream. We were doing this thing.
Our eleven days with him changed us forever. The way our house shifted to accommodate this tiny being was unfathomably sweet. The mood mellowed, our days and nights were full of passing him back and forth to snuggle, breathing in that new baby smell, bath time, and rocking near the fireplace. He came to work with us, so he was never out of reach and we got to share him with our village, who had waited so long for a baby to pour into alongside us. Motherhood switched on in both of us, instincts loud and trustworthy as if there had always been an infant in our home. He made us mamas. Not forever, not a lifetime of getting to love him as ours, but eleven days where we gave him the best of us.
His goodbye was unexpected, fast, and brutal — filled with tears and whispered prayers over his sleeping body that last morning for all of the good the world has to offer to find its way to him. Prayers he would be adored, and somehow he would know he never went without. We packed up his clothes and kissed him one more time before I buckled him into the car and watched him head towards his forever. Our house was so quiet. Our arms were so empty. I woke up every three hours for weeks looking for him, worried he needed to eat and was once again met with an empty crib. But even still, minutes after he left, we looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s do it again.’ Because this is the call. To love them completely, to build a foundation that is strong and resilient, kind, and secure. To help set the stage for all of the wonderful things they will be so when they leave, they will know their ability to love and be loved back. We know now when they leave, a piece of us will leave too, but perhaps that’s the gift — pieces of you scattered but tucked into the hearts of many.
A month later, after weeks of false alarms and the COVID pandemic turning life upside down, Amanda and I were sitting at her parent’s dining room table, her siblings between us, workbooks out, all of us adjusting to distanced learning when my phone rang. I saw it was from our agency’s placement desk and stepped into the kitchen. Two-day-old baby girl ready to be discharged tomorrow, yes or no? Yes. Yes. Yes. The next day we met our girl, our connection deep and immediate. We walked into the hospital with an empty car seat and walked out with the tiniest being. Four months later while I was holding Baby Girl in one arm the phone rang again in my other and a few days later, we brought home a second little boy just ten weeks younger, handing us virtual twins and a life busier and fuller than I have time or energy to process most days.
This life. It’s washing endless bottles. Changing diapers on a loop. Racing to pick up the house with five minutes of peace. It’s late nights and early mornings. Two different formulas on the grocery store’s belt. Two caseworkers, two doctors, a lawyer, or two. Court dates and a visit schedule. This life is feeling like a superhero when you get a diaper bag and two car seats out the door solo. Shared looks of ‘I can’t believe we’re actually doing this.’
It’s wondering if you held him enough, even though his instinct is to fight it. It’s pacing the hardwood floors trying to soothe a tiny body overwhelmed by what it has already seen. It’s fitting as many memories as possible into numbered days without seeing the countdown. It’s trying to guess a hundred versions of the future and attempting to prepare yourself for all of them. It’s lying awake at night and wondering where their parents are missing them from, and why you were the one who got to see that sweet smile and rock them to sleep that night. It’s basking in the glow of her belly laugh. It’s watching the kids that first brought us together to fall in love with each baby we bring into their world. It’s fighting for the best, even though you may not see the outcome. It’s whispered wishes of stability and goodness. It’s exhausting and earth-shattering. It is terrifying and gritty. It’s full of grief for the way the world should be. And it’s the deepest privilege. It’s rare air. It’s joyful and sacred and fills me with such profound gratitude.
Though I wish a thousand factors different, though I wish deeply their parents were raising them, though I would take away the trauma their little bodies have experienced in a heartbeat, I am undeniably and hopelessly grateful we are the ones who wake up to their faces each morning. No matter how many more mornings we get.
Watching Amanda become a mama before my eyes continues to be like something out of a fairytale. I think back sometimes to those high school girls who had so many dreams for someday. Weddings and husbands and houses and babies — all in that order. I look at her with our babies in her arms and think about how overwhelmed those girls would be if they were given a peek into this world. They’d think it was too big, too early, too wild, too outside the norm. And it is all of those things, but more than it is too much, it is right. It is beautiful. And it is ours. Parenting in a platonic relationship, which sounds more like a sitcom than it does a real-life, is not a gift I knew to ask for, but sharing our first babies and watching the way she loves with no reservation is something I wish everyone could experience with their best friend. Someday, when this chapter of shared fostering is over and we’re each married and beginning our individual families, I cannot wait to look her babies in the eye and tell them how lucky they are to be hers — because I know exactly the kind of mama she is.
I never imagined this life. I never imagined, as someone who loves control, I’d willingly enter a space with none, all for the sake of loving babies who aren’t meant to stay. I didn’t picture spending the end of my twenty-fifth year looking a biological parent in the eye in a cold doctor’s office and promising we wanted the same thing: for her baby to be cared for and loved and make their way home where they belong. I didn’t imagine being the only family a baby not born to me knows. I certainly didn’t imagine doing any of it single, with a friend as my co-parent. But I also didn’t imagine life this full. I couldn’t have fathomed the way my heart would be cracked open, how content I would be in the unknown. I had no idea how effortlessly I could hold the grief that brings these little beings to us in one hand and the joy holding this place in their lives fills us with in the other.
Being a foster parent is nothing like I pictured — as hard as I feared, but everything I hoped. It’s changed me from the inside out. No going back. It’s unique, it’s a privilege I won’t forget. At the end of my days, when I look back on my life, I’ll remember each tiny face I was entrusted with, each family reunified. Wherever they come from and wherever they go, they’re adored here. Forever.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Caitlin Asher. You can follow Caitlin’s journey here and Amanda’s journey here. 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.
Read more stories about foster care and adoption here:
‘At 11, his adoptive parents abandoned him at a hospital, never to return. ‘Mr. Peter, can I call you my Dad?’ I began to cry uncontrollably.’: Single dad adopts 11-year-old boy from foster care after biological, adoptive family abandon him
‘Oh, are you babysitting?’ ‘They’re mine.’ I’m a 30-year-old single black woman with 3 white kids. Love has no color in my home.’: Woman adopts 1 boy, 2 siblings from foster care, ‘love is love, no matter the color’
Help us show compassion is contagious. SHARE this story on Facebook with family and friends.