‘I vividly remember. My right arm held the new baby I birthed less than 24-hours ago. My left held my foster son, patting his new sister on the foot. I felt so much joy and so much pain.’

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“I can still remember squirming in the hospital bed trying to get comfortable. I held our day old baby girl in my right arm as my husband helped our 15 month-old foster son crawl into my lap. I vividly remember the moment. I looked to my right arm at the brand new baby I had birthed less than 24-hours ago. And then I looked to my left as my foster son inquisitively patted his new sister on the foot. In that moment I felt so much joy and so much pain. An overwhelming amount of brokenness and wholeness. I felt broken as I reflected over my son’s journey that led him to foster care. I felt broken as I imagined his birth story and the trials he had endured in just one short year of life.  I felt broken as I rested with him in my lap unsure of what his future would hold, knowing one day I might be asked to surrender my job of protecting him. In that same moment, I simultaneously felt whole. My daughter was here. I felt whole as I held her in the forever protection and safety of my arms. She was beautiful and the love I felt for her was palpable. I felt whole as I held them both in the security of my arms. I felt whole in the brokenness because I had faith there was a beautiful story being written. I was experiencing two loves I didn’t know existed or were possible. The love for a baby that grew within my womb; and the love for a baby that had been born from the depths of my heart.

Days later we arrived home from the hospital. I learned how to breast feed while managing trauma tantrums. I learned how to pack for court dates with a busy toddler and a newborn. I learned how to push two babies in a single stroller. I learned how to love fiercely and how to advocate for justice. I learned to love another woman’s child as my own while loving the child whom I had birthed. I often struggled with feeling I wasn’t enough to care for these two babies 15 months apart. I often believed the lie I wasn’t doing it right or well enough. I fought postpartum depression. I fought sleepless nights and anxiety. I battled fear of what the future held for my son.

Courtesy of Kate Rivera

Weeks turned to months, and the months to years. Our babies quickly grew and so did our tenacious love for them. On one particular afternoon in the stillness of our home I watched the two of them giggle and laugh at each other. As I watched my daughter admire her big brother I felt the need to protect her well up deep within my momma heart. What if he leaves us?  What if we don’t get to love him forever? What if he goes back to a life where danger daily creeps at the door? I watched them play for a few more minutes. He squeezed her cheeks and she responded with a reverberant giggle. In that moment those toddlers taught me one of our biggest lessons thus far in our foster care journey. I learned they had the best kind of love. A love that wasn’t fearful. A love that wasn’t angry or anxious. It was a pure love. A right here, right now, fierce, and beautiful love.  A love that was patient and kind. A love that kept no record of wrongs. They did not love with fear of the future. They simply loved. What a beautiful and profound way to love so fully.

Courtesy of Katie Rivera

Though I worked to love simply and love presently we still longed for permanency as a family. In October of 2017 we headed to court for the termination of parental rights hearing. We prayed the Lord’s Will would be done for our son’s life.  We exhaled in knowing before he was knit together in the womb of his biological mother, His plan for our son’s life was good. We sat in the courtroom that day and we listened to the story of lives that had been destroyed. We watched as the judge decided our son could no longer live with his biological parents. I’d be lying if I said a part of me wasn’t relieved. But I’d also be lying if I didn’t say what a heavy weight of judgement and consequence that sentence bore. There were angry words shared in the courtroom that day as one family disintegrated and a new one formed. I remember praying through the duration of the trial justice would be granted, truth would be seen and the Lord’s will for my son’s life would come to fruition. Tears streamed down my face as termination of parental rights was granted by the juvenile judge. It was ugly and painful, broken and whole.

Our adoption was scheduled for January 2018. We waited with great anticipation to officially become a family of four. To no longer wait in wonder. Four weeks prior to our adoption we learned there was an appeal for no reason other than retaliation in anger. My heart sank. Tears of frustration and anger burned my face. We would again wait.  A familiar theme of our foster care journey. We would wait for court documents to be prepared. We would wait for the case to be heard in court again by the appeals court. We waited…for 11 months, we waited. I tried to love fully and simply through the lens that my children had shown me. It was hard. I again fought the fears and anxiety of what if his case is overturned? What if we start all over with permanency plans and goals for reunification? It was almost more than my heart could bear.

Courtesy of Katie Rivera

It was a painful and broken season of waiting. One in which the Lord offered so much grace for my anxious ridden heart. For I was being broken…only to be made whole. In September of 2018 we were finally notified our son’s case had been upheld in appeals court. That he was, indeed, freed for adoption. We held our breath as our December 2018 court date rolled around. For 1,104 days we waited to see how our beloved son’s story would end. Adoption is beautiful because it is broken. Adoption means other lives were shattered and broken. Though there is pain in the brokenness the re-mending and redemption from those broken pieces bring forth something even more glorious. Much like the sin in our own lives and how Christ says, I love you too much to leave you here. You are broken but take heart, for I am making something beautiful. Though we are broken, we are simultaneously being made whole.

Courtesy of Katie Rivera

Our son will one day read his court records (details we will always keep private because it is his story).  He will see the brokenness of his story. We hope it is in brokenness he is able to see beauty. That he is able to see he was chosen and wanted.  That there were no mistakes in his story, just a story that was again being made whole.  That his life is a beautiful testimony of the gospel. We hope his story and our journey will give others hope.  Hope in what is to come. Hope in the waiting. And hope in that nothing is ever broken beyond mending.”

Courtesy of Katie Rivera

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Katie Rivera of Iowa City. Follow her on Instagram here. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our free newsletter for our best stories.

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Read other beautiful stories about fostering here: 

‘A couple sat in the courtroom, anxious if there was any update to the case of a baby they loved dearly. This crying woman wasn’t just a stranger, she was my soon-to-be-daughter’s foster mother.’

‘I called my dad. I was afraid to tell him. ‘WHAT DID I JUST SIGN MYSELF UP FOR?’ I made a mistake saying I could foster by myself. What was I thinking?’

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