‘I wiped away tears and quit ignoring the calls from CPS. 30 minutes after I told my 1st grade students goodbye, I had a 4-week-old baby placed in my arms.’: Mom says fostering journey is ‘nothing like I imagined’

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“I forgot to send my kid to school with shoes…. again. To make matters worse, he’s in physical therapy and his shoes have nice little inserts in them to help him walk. I search frantically in my bag and car, knowing the truth the entire time. The shoes are at home on the counter. I’m not sure who I hope to see me looking around as if I’m shocked, but I make a pretty big show of it. Nevertheless, I take him inside and do what any God fearing, morally upstanding mother would do. I blame his father and act very annoyed. They assure me it’s okay. Give me the standard, ‘dads are so forgetful’, tell me how good of a mom I am, and send me on my way.

Then, I get to work and realize I forgot to order my kids lunch for school. They will be fed an overpriced lunchable and fruit…. again. Soon after, my oldest calls and forgot to pack his uniform shirt after cross country……. again. All I want to do at this point is crawl into my office, cover up the window, and hide. But I can’t. So instead, I email the teachers to let them know my kids need an emergency lunch and trek home to grab my son a shirt.

I cry the entire way home. I throw myself a pity party on what my life was supposed to look like. I tell myself I have no one to blame but me. I do too much, say yes too often, procrastinate far too long, crawl into bed way too early and ignore what needs done around me. However, something happened as I started crying. I realized I could actually see clearer through my tears. The more I cried, the clearer it became. I realized that through my crying and self-pity, was a life I really did love. A life I really did desire. A life I was blessed to lead.

You see, we didn’t start on the path to have more kids than a standard breakfast table will hold (that’s 4 for anyone curious). But, in 2013 we started down the unknown path of foster care and eventually adoption. It’s nothing we ever considered doing and quite frankly, nothing we knew much about. We had 2 kids, 2 good jobs, and a plan to retire early and travel. After all, we deserved that. Path to the American Dream, right? Work hard early, relax later. Not to mention, I didn’t even really like kids that much. I had 2 and that was plenty.

Man, I would eat those words. I began to see the heartbreak around me in our city and hear of others taking in children from awful situations. I was content to watch them from a distance until I realized God was calling our family to take this unknown path ourselves. I can’t say I was thrilled, or understood why, but my husband and I decided we would step out in a leap of faith.

We opened our home on the last day I would ever step foot in the classroom as an educator. I told my 1st grade students goodbye, and 30 minutes later I had a 4-week-old baby placed in my arms. This baby was child number 7 and the family was simply exhausted. They just couldn’t do it any longer, so we decided to fill in the gap. I will never forget my husband walking in the door and seeing me holding a tiny baby. I was in the middle of trying to remember how to cook dinner while feeding a child and I was already in love. I was convinced he would feel the same immediate spark too, so imagine my shock when he was standoffish. He was staring at this child as if he couldn’t figure out what to do. This was the first night foster care became this unspoken source of contention between us. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the last.

You see, I was already in love with this sweet baby, but my husband was scared to death. This baby was the reality of our saying yes, being brought to life. As a mom, I already had feelings for this sweet boy that he could never understand. I will never forget him telling me he just needed some time and to me, that felt like rejection. Rejection of this baby, rejection of this journey, and rejection of the path we were currently on. I had no patience for his much needed ‘time.’

Needless to say, he eventually fell in love with this precious baby too, and after 7 months we helped him transition home to a family member. We all cried, mourned, and prayed a lot but were ultimately thrilled he could be with family. It was also the first time I started to hear from people, ‘I could never do this’, ‘I would get way too attached’, ‘How do you let them go?’

They were unknowingly telling me I could only do this because I was heartless and had no feelings for these kids. I would hear these words play out over and over in my head as I was sobbing at his crib. Maybe my friends were right. Maybe this was too much. Maybe I was not strong enough to handle this. Maybe I was just too attached.

But I also knew that was completely wrong. It was a lie straight from Hell that would try to keep me from helping kids in our community. So, I wiped away my tears and quit ignoring the familiar calls from child protective services. We quickly said yes to 2 little girls and our life would never be the same.

These girls had experienced so much loss already. Their world around them was crumbling and everything was out of their control. The 2-year-old was mad at the world and had every right to be. She hated sleeping, she hated eating, she hated me, she hated her siblings, she just hated life. She was always one step away from exploding and I never knew why or what may cause it. The 1-year-old sister could not be more opposite. She was quiet, never showed emotion, and could do without ever being touched or held. She would cry anytime she had to return back to us after a visit with her biological mom. It was heartbreaking, and somewhat hurtful, to say the least. I will never forget standing over her crib one-night crying because I had no idea what to do. I felt equal parts sorry for her, and sorry for me at the same time. It’s a place I never hope to return.

We found ourselves thrown into a family of 6 with no preparation or training. It was the hardest our life had ever been, and there were so many days I just wanted to run away. My 2 older kids were being neglected, my marriage was hard, and friends and family couldn’t understand why we chose such a life of chaos. I spent my days alternating between how quickly I could get away from this life of foster care; and weeping over the alternative of my girls leaving me.

All of that changed on December 23, 2014. It was effectively the happiest, yet saddest day of my life. I watched the state of Arkansas, with one stroke of the pen, declare these girls were our children forever. However, I couldn’t ignore that with that same pen stroke, a woman was also on the other side grieving her children. My biggest gain was her deepest loss.

Our family would stay an open foster home for a total of 6 ½ years and be a safe place to more than 20 children. On January 31, 2019 we adopted again and this time to a precious boy who completes our family of 7. His story is another one of heartache and loss, but one also of promise and hope.

This journey has been nothing like I originally imagined. We started thinking this would be a nice little addition to an already full life. We would help children out, send them on their way, and mark off a good deed done. We could rest easily at night knowing we loved hard and taught our children valuable lessons along the way.

Man, we couldn’t have been more wrong. Instead, I will have a son graduating high school and a son starting kindergarten with 3 girls in between. I have accepted the fact that I will never be the room mom who has it all together. I will never be the first phone call my friends make when they need help, because they will assume my plate is already too full. I won’t be able to take spur of the moment vacations, or relish in a girl’s night without tons of planning.

You can also rest assured; I will forget my son’s shoes again. I will mess up and always be the mom that forgets picture day. I won’t be in the background of every picture looking fit and put together. BUT…. I will throw caution to the wind and love fiercely the little girl who is mad at the world. The little boy who has been handed a very hard life. The teenage mom who has nowhere to turn, and the drug addicted mother who lives a life of regret. I will get too attached every single time. And that’s definitely a good thing.”

Courtesy Tamra Norman

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tamra Norman. Follow her on Instagram 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.

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