‘I handed her baby to her. ‘I’m so excited and proud of you.’ It was a precious moment between two mothers.’: Foster mom celebrates reunion, ‘It’s a blessing to see others heal’

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“We thought we were choosing him. Turns out, he chose us. The desire to foster babies for the Warm Springs Native American tribe was placed on our hearts four years before it ever happened. This is the part where we see God’s timing in our life, that ah-ha moment when all the pieces fit together.

I am a single mom with four children of my own. Almost 11 years ago, my oldest three children’s dad and I got a divorce. He struggled desperately with alcohol addiction and social anxiety from his time being a world-class wrestler and sergeant in the US army. Choosing to go it alone for the health and safety of my family was one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make. About six years after my divorce, I met a man with whom I had my youngest little love child, Letty Moon, who is now turning 7 next month. It was not an easy road but as my children have grown up, I have seen the fruits of my labor. The love and guidance we have received along the way paid off. Bellarae is 18, Lige is 16, and Lucky is 13. They are such wise and loving humans. I believe they had to grow up faster than we had ever wanted them to, but they hold a bond with each other and have such incredible confidence, something I believe they would not have had otherwise.

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On February 25, 2019, Isaac (the kids’ father) passed away from complications of liver and kidney failure from alcoholism. It was one of the most beautiful tragic times in mine and my children’s life. We were all able to care for him and be a family unit, a gift we were given by God at such a difficult time. My children were able to see the love we had for each other and spend precious moments with their dad, who left this earth entirely too soon at the age of 43.

Wondering where this all fits in? Along the way, I have always had a heart for Native Americans. I don’t even know what sparked the love in my heart. I believe it’s one of those things that is placed in our hearts for a purpose. We live about 60 miles from the Warm Springs Reservation and their life is completely different. I don’t know many facts, only what I have gathered from educators who work there, CPS workers, and other foster parents I have met before and during this journey. On the reservation, sadly, alcoholism, drug abuse, physical, and sexual abuse are entirely too common and untreated. My heart has broken for these people who have lost so much of their culture and hope. There are many people who are working towards change and hope for better for Native Americans. I am one of those people.

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You see, to me and my children, being able to come alongside parents and children who are struggling and suffering from addiction is our heart’s cry. Holding space for others while they are getting back on their feet is a simple pay-it-forward and blessing we believe more parents and kids need. Alcoholism left a mighty scar in our lives. If we in some way can help a parent get better by taking care of their child until reunification is possible, then that’s why I’m here doing this work, healing my family from the scars of losing a parent and hopefully preventing another child from the same loss. To me, fostering is just as much about the parent as it is about the child. I’m over here loving on your baby, cheering you on, praying for your healing, knowing, and trusting. Even though our home seems ‘better’ or ‘safer,’ children ultimately want and need their parent, right, wrong, or indifferent.

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Some major shifts came in my life just before our first baby M arrived. I sold my business, a global pandemic happened, I ended a relationship, and was trying to navigate sending Bellarae to college. I’m telling you, it was a hands-in-the-air, ‘Okay Lord, what do I do now’ moment. We have all been here, right? Like hey, the picture I have been painting is totally on fire. What the hell is next? Oh, I’ll tell you what came next: a phone call. ‘We have a little guy, would you be willing to take him tomorrow?’ I said, ‘Give me an hour and I will call you back.’ I already knew my answer, but I really try to include my kids in decisions such as these. I talked to my kids and of course, it was a greenlight! I made the phone call and we all anxiously awaited his arrival.

We were all so nervous and excited. So many questions were running through my head. Is he going to freak out? Are my other kids going to feel neglected? Can I handle this? All the things you can imagine were swirling around in my mind. We were all sitting out on our back porch staring down the driveway… waiting. One of my kids screamed, ‘They’re here!’ I will never forget the moment. He was dressed in baby overalls and had the most beautiful shiny, long black hair. He looked at us for a long while in the caseworker’s arms and then he allowed me to hold him. ‘No crying. Okay, this is good. Next move, take him on a tour of our house. Okay, he wants down.’ He started toddling around the house. ‘This is going great. He wants my boys to hold him, perfect.’

Courtesy of Micalene Stafford

The caseworker was there for 15 minutes and said, ‘Well, I think he’s doing great. I’m going to leave.’ She handed me a bag of clothes, a bottle, and a pack of diapers. Prior to her leaving, I got a short backstory about M. He has two older brothers and I think I heard her say two older sisters. They were all removed from their mom a few weeks before and placed at the center in Warm Springs, a place I’m imagining like an orphanage. Prior to him coming to us, his older siblings were playing a major part in taking care of him. I was praising God and instantly saw the connection he had with my boys. It’s been so heartwarming to see Lige and Lucky soften and love this little guy. It’s a vision of things you can see your children need but you’re not sure how to facilitate it. That’s why I say he chose us. We needed him just as much as he needed us.

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Two weeks fast forward and we got another phone call. ‘We have a baby born on 9-11-20. It’s an emergency placement. The baby will be discharged to you from the hospital. Can you help us out?’ I did my usual, ‘Let me call you back in an hour.’ I did the expected talk to kids, called back, and said, ‘When do I need to be there?’ I forgot how tiny newborns are and my heart was just breaking to pieces for her momma. I never saw her, just put her baby in my car and drove off. It was an awkward experience. I was feeling lots of different emotions than I had before.

Courtesy of Micalene Stafford

Baby O was only with us for 5 days. Can I get really real for a second? I was like, ‘Okay, 13-month-old, an infant, and four kids. I’m over my head.’ The call to reunite was a blessing for us as well. I gathered up her things and met her caseworker and her momma in the parking lot of a local store. Momma got out of the car, so sweet, extremely thankful, and excited to see her baby. It was a precious shared moment between two mothers. I looked at her and the exchange of our glances spoke a million words of thanks. I handed her baby to her and said, ‘I’m so excited and proud of you.’

Courtesy of Micalene Stafford

That was it. That was the moment that healed the question everyone asks when they find out I’m fostering. How can you give them back? Granted, she was not with us long but the exchange I was given showed me my place in all of this nonjudgment, encouragement, and hope. I could just as easily have been on the other side. I have been called to hold space and it’s just what I will continue to do. I know when M is reunited with his mom, it will be an entirely different emotional meltdown. Let’s be real, he has become a part of our tribe, The Dustbowl tribe.

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My heart’s desire through this journey is other parents and children don’t have to experience the finality my children had when they lost their beloved dad to addiction. Now we stand, my little warriors and I united together, doing our own healing and feeling so blessed to have been given the opportunity to see others heal and live a beautiful life. As others are healed, so are we. This is our story.”

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This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Micalene Stafford from Prineville, Oregon. 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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