‘Can you pick him up right now?’ He was 2 months old with severe medical needs and no home. I had no idea what I was in for, but I was all in.’: Birth mother and foster mom ‘build lifelong friendship’

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“The phone call came on a cold January morning.  My head swam as the KVC worker rattled off the details. Bradley, a two-month-old baby boy who had severe medical needs that would require frequent doctor’s appointments, had been removed from his home and needed to be placed in a foster home. ‘Can you pick him up right now?,’ the KVC worker asked me. This is how our story began. We had no idea what I was in for or what might lie ahead, but I was all in.

When I met Bradley, the nurses had warned me he was not very interactive. He hadn’t smiled or cooed in the week he had been there, so I wasn’t ready for what happened when they put him in my arms. I looked down into his beautiful deep brown eyes and said, ‘Hello, baby boy.’ He broke into a huge grin that brought tears to my eyes and to the eyes of the caring nurses standing there in disbelief.

Erica Turner Photography

After five days of caring for Bradley, I was with a case worker in the lobby of a KVC office waiting to meet his mother for the first time. I was a bundle of nerves not knowing how she would react to me or to her baby. It’s difficult to put into words what it was like to meet Rose that morning. As she excitedly rushed in to see her son, I was amazed by her beauty and the depth of kindness in her eyes. She ran right up, pulled me into her arms and whispered, ‘Thank you for taking care of my baby. I have been praying that he would be safe and loved. Only God will ever repay you for what you are doing for my family.’ We both immediately started to cry.

I learned that Rose had been trying to support her four children for a very long time. However, an incident occurred in her home while she was at work that resulted in Bradley becoming injured. As a result, he was rushed to the hospital and soon all four of her children were removed from the home.

Those first few visits were difficult because Rose was only seeing her baby for one hour, twice a week in a small meeting room at a KVC office. However, with the wonderful help and support of her case worker, she had soon completed all the things she needed to move the visits to her home for longer periods of time. It was during these visits that Rose and I began to form a bond and to build a lifelong friendship.

Courtesy of Alissa Rieth

Twice a week I brought Bradley to Rose’s apartment for visits. She would have tea brewed and ready for us to share, and she couldn’t wait to hold her son. Over those cups of tea, I would fill her in on new things he was doing, like how he was sleeping and what he had been up to between visits. We also talked about what next step she was working on to get her children back and how her job was going. At times we even shared our feelings about the whole process and how these circumstances were shaping her faith as well as mine. I watched as KVC walked along side her to complete each step in the process. There were times when she was frustrated but also times when she was grateful for the help and knowledge she was receiving.

On the summer evening of the day that Bradley returned home to his mother, our families came together and shared a meal in celebration of their reunion. We ate, told stories and continued getting to know one another better. As the night drew to a close, we stood in a circle – two different families, two different cultures – and prayed for the future and also in gratitude of all God had accomplished through this little baby.

Courtesy of Alissa Rieth

I had Bradley in my home for almost seven months. He is now an extremely happy and social 19-month-old boy who loves to squeal and give kisses. He mastered walking and now runs to get anywhere he wants to go and all of his injuries have healed. He is a delight and a miracle – all rolled into one chubby package. He has brought so much joy and happiness to our family, and he brought two people together that otherwise may have never met. Because of this sweet little boy, Rose and I have forged a friendship built on trust, love and a shared faith in a God of beautiful miracles.

Rose honored me by asking me to be Bradley’s godmother. On the day of his dedication, I looked around me and my heart overflowed with emotion. Rose was beaming with joy and contentment knowing her family was finally back together, and fulfillment as her youngest child was dedicated to God. In that moment, I realized something important. Of course I was thankful for our families and the special occasion that brought us together, but I was most grateful for how God only revealed this journey to us one step at a time. We never would have followed through if we had seen the hard things that were ahead and we never would have believed the marvelous blessings He had in store for us. All was at it should be.

Courtesy of Alissa Rieth

We try not to let the busyness of life get in the way of connecting on a regular basis. We gathered at our home a few days before Christmas for an evening of celebration – we ate a big meal, exchanged gifts and Rose taught me how to make her native Kenyan bread. And once a month or so, our families share a meal and catch up. While our children play together, Rose and I continue to grow our friendship over cups of tea. Like so many other women, we are simply two mothers trying to raise our children to love God and care deeply for others.

I have the privilege of continuing to care for Bradley once a week while Rose attends evening classes toward her eventual nursing degree. For 24 hours a week our family gets to shower him with all our love and adoration. My children and husband often say that there is no baby as sweet and cute as him…I tend to agree!

Erica Turner Photography

Rose is a woman who exudes contagious strength and courage. Every time I am in her presence I feel as if she is pouring those things into me, which is a gift all its own. She insists that Bradley will always have two mamas and she refers to me as such. She is confident enough in who she is to not feel threatened by another woman caring for and loving her child. I am learning new and brave things from her all the time.

C.S. Lewis wrote,

‘To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.’

Our hearts are wrung but also joyful…and I wouldn’t change a single thing.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alissa Rieth via KVC KansasSubmit your story here, and subscribe to our best love stories here.

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