‘She’s been exposed to drugs.’ The last thing we needed was MORE kids. I accepted the challenge’: Mom of 4 opens home to foster kids, ‘It’s who we are now’

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“’I have something I really need to talk to you about.’ I approached my husband with tears in my eyes. He knew I was serious. In hindsight, I probably scared him to death! I wanted to talk to him about my burning desire to become a foster family. I had been putting it off for way too long.

My husband and I are high school sweethearts. We had been married for 10 years at this point with four happy and healthy children of our own. I knew the last thing we needed was MORE kids, but for some reason, this feeling wouldn’t leave me no matter how much I tried to talk myself out of it. There were babies out there that needed homes, and I had to help.

For years and years, this had been on my mind, but I told myself it was something I would take on when my kids got older and life was less difficult. We had 8-year-old twins, a 5-year-old, and a 2-year-old at the time. I ran a business from home, and my husband worked like crazy and traveled often. Life was busy in every way possible and I often found myself overwhelmed and drowning in life… and laundry. The truth is, I needed another kid like I needed a hole in the head, but the feeling was there, running through my head every day, over and over again.

Catherine King Photography

It was a single thought I simply could not shake. I NEVER talked about it, but I thought about it so much. It made me SO nervous my heart would race, and I’d lose many hours of sleep. My husband knew this was something I wanted to eventually do. We had talked about it way before we even got married. I had this need to help children in this way because it just seemed too unfair to be brought into the world with already so much working against you.

My life hadn’t been like that. I was brought up with an abundance of love, knowing at all times I was wanted and cherished. I couldn’t fathom life being any other way. I couldn’t comprehend not feeling like my parents wanted me, or not feeling as if they couldn’t quite get it together enough to take care of me. I realize now as an adult what a blessing my childhood was and felt this unbelievable need to give that blessing to others.

Yet, I hesitated because let’s face it, I just had so many fears and reasons not to do this! Why or how could we ever take this on? What would people say? What would our families think? They’d think I had officially lost it! How on earth could I ever give a baby back after caring for and loving it for so long? I couldn’t. That was my answer! How would my kids deal with this? Would I be robbing them of much-needed attention? How would my husband deal with this? Could we do bottles, diapers, waking up in the night all over again? I’ve already gotten rid of all my baby things! I simply cannot do this.

Courtesy of Mary Beth Henry

Then it started to happen… what I like to call the ‘God winks.’ It seemed every place I looked I would see something about foster care. I met families just like mine who were fostering babies. Foster parenting was constantly coming up in books I was reading and podcasts I was listening to. I’d see families with foster kids all over the place and I just knew this was God trying to tell me something. He was telling me to trust Him. He would provide for me if I did this work for Him. Why? I have no idea. I just knew I would obsess over this until I tried it. I had to do it and as scared and unsure as I was, I was somehow also 100% positive this would all work out and everything would be fine. I can’t explain it. I’ve never had this type of ‘knowing’ before. It was a sense of calm. I knew my plate was full already, but God was about to gift me a bigger plate to hold all my new responsibilities.

When I finally couldn’t take it anymore, I went to my husband and just cried. I explained how I felt. Although I knew this was the last thing he wanted for himself at the time, he trusted me and knew this was the right thing to do. He hugged me really hard and said yes to become a foster family without hesitation. That was a God wink too. In hindsight, I now know I accepted God’s challenge and He was clearing the path for me. He helped my husband open his heart and opened countless doors for us along the way, making this experience come together seamlessly. He helped my family open their hearts as well. They were apprehensive and protective over our hearts and our children of course, but our honest desire to help and give this a chance was all they needed to hear to be on board and give us their support.

We took the classes, became licensed, and shortly after, got our first placement. A sweet newborn baby girl. The love and connection were immediate for me, just as they were with my own babies. I squealed with giddiness at the sight of her face when she’d wake in the night. I loved her as I loved my own, I kissed her as my own, I cared for her day and night as my own. But she wasn’t mine to keep. The goal for these children is always reunification with their biological family. We knew this going in and we had no intention of ever adopting a child. That didn’t ever change my love for her. I knew my job was to bond with her and to get ‘too attached.’ This is what she needed from me and a sacrifice I was willing to make, and although the anticipation of her leaving was more than I could bear some days, I was able to put it out of my mind and we enjoyed her so much.

Courtesy of Mary Beth Henry

We had our struggles. This sweet baby had been drug-exposed and with that came fussiness, shakiness, and extra check-ins with the doctor. We had ‘mom visits’ every week, where the baby would leave for a few hours with a social worker to visit and bond with her bio mom. Bio-mom came to all the pediatrician visits and I’d sob in the car on my way home from every single one. I have to say the most unexpected turn of events was my feelings towards the baby’s mother. I had always thought these parents must be awful people, so selfishly addicted to drugs and alcohol they didn’t even care about their own children. What I’ve found is some of these parents are mentally ill with no support at all in their lives. Can you imagine a life where you had absolutely no support or healthy people to count on? It’s truly devastating and as mad as I’d get at her bio-mom sometimes, I found myself having sympathy for her. There was no doubt to me she loved her daughter. She just couldn’t get well, and that type of situation is tragic.

Courtesy of Mary Beth Henry

Knowing this sweet baby girl was going to eventually leave was a fear haunting me throughout our time together. What if her next family couldn’t figure out how to calm her down? What if they didn’t love her as much as we did? What if she wasn’t happy? I could hardly bear the thought. As the day of her departure drew closer, I decided I could do nothing but surrender my heart and let it all happen as it was supposed to. I needed to just trust in the system and God. I had to believe she would be taken care of as she deserved.

On my 39th birthday, this sweet baby left us to go live with her mother’s cousin. This was the day I dreaded even before we even made the decision to become a foster family. The day that almost kept me from going through with it. The day so many people talk about and worry about when it comes to fostering. My heart was at ease about her future because she was going to an unbelievable family. They were people who opened up their hearts and home, promising to adopt this sweet baby should her biological mother be unable to get well. Talk about an inspiration! My heart ached over the fact she would no longer be ours. We grieved, we cried. The empty crib and putting away the little clothes nearly broke me… but we survived.

This was a ROLLERCOASTER of emotion, but I am certain the gift foster care has given us as a family is far greater than the amount of work this takes. What I have witnessed with my own kids is the exact opposite of all my worries. I have never seen their hearts open up like this, and I have never felt this much pride in my entire life. This sweet baby left our house, but she will never leave our hearts. This is part of the journey, and God has taken care of us during each and every step of the way. Our 5 months with this sweet baby gave us courage, strength, and more love than you could ever imagine.

Courtesy of Mary Beth Henry

We have since fostered another baby that stayed with us for 3 months. Through the pandemic, we’ve been providing respite care for foster families in our area. This work is now a part of who we are. There is still sadness, pain, and worry when babies leave, but we trust in God to protect them and know they will always be a part of our family. A gift indeed.

I want to encourage you to pay close attention to your God winks. If foster care is something on your heart, know you can do it. I strongly believe God wouldn’t plant a desire in your heart if he wasn’t going to provide the means for you to get there. It will not be easy. It will be worth it and potentially one of your greatest blessings. Growing and contributing in this way will provide you with a tremendous amount of fulfillment. Don’t ignore your God winks. I am so happy I listened to mine.”

Courtesy of Mary Beth Henry

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Mary Beth Henry. You can follow her journey on Instagram and on her website. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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