‘The morning of her adoption, as the sun crept into our room, I watched her sleep. I studied the curve of her lips, the fullness of her perfect cheeks. This is the moment everything changes.’

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“People asked me often that day if I felt different, if suddenly I felt more like her mom. For 347 mostly sleepless nights, a painful RSV diagnosis and nearly one year of big milestones, I have been there soaking her in. In that regard, I am her mother. She did not grow inside my womb, I did not give her my eyes, hair color or genetics, but I have been here everyday, teaching, loving and cherishing her. What I did feel that day was love. A very tangible thing – a picture of love, a love I could see, feel, and almost touch.

Foster mother sits outside on steps of adoption court with adopted daughter on her lap
Melissa Pennington Photography

As a foster parent I am prepared for the losses. It is the gains that take me by surprise. They are a sweet gift that sometimes I feel unworthy of. This past weekend I welcomed forever into my ever-changing family, Olive Leonie, my beautiful baby girl, my forever number 5.

Little girl sitting on ground outside of adoption court holding sign that announces her adoption
Melissa Pennington Photography

Adoption is always bittersweet, my heart feels divided on these days. My families overwhelming joy at the proclamation – we celebrate, dream and cherish the announcement of a new forever name. However, these days always come with a price tag. A hidden cost one that will show later as they get older and understand more of their story. My older children have fought much of that battle already, they were old enough to remember before. The two babies have only ever known me as Mama. I have the honor of bringing them home from the hospital. While I cherish these moments, I cannot completely ignore the bitter reality that even with adoption there will always be a bitter element.

The reality and tragedy of brokenness, the loss and grief overpowered by the joy of redemption and security. The fact that birth mom is out there not knowing her children. Yet, I am the woman that was chosen to raise her. I answered the call and gave my yes and that choice got us here today.

Woman sits on bench outside of adoption court with her five adopted children
Melissa Pennington Photography

The morning of her adoption, as the sun crept into our room, I watched her sleep. I studied the curve of her lips, the fullness of her perfect cheeks, features that seem so familiar to me now. For 11 months we have known each other, we have studied, learned and fallen in love. I know her cries and her laugh. She can pick me out of a room.

The judge pulled me aside to thank me, one less little person in the system. He was the judge who followed our entire case, he understood the cost. He heard the testimonies and read all about the choices made. There is a refreshing light-hearted joy in the courthouse on days like today. A day where balloons bounce, smiles are had and celebration is the rhythm of the day. For a moment the cycle of dysfunction is broken.

There is a moment for me – it is when they announce their names – that I find a sigh of relief and a wave of freedom. As a foster parent, it is the moment when I can let down the guards down and freely love my child. The fear is gone, she will not leave. No more medicine logs and incident reports, no more documentation and phone calls. I get her, just her, I get to know her, and watch her grow. I get to learn her likes and dislikes. I get to see what subjects she loves in school and how tall she will be.

This is the moment everything changes. Her path has changed, the road she travels now so different from the one before. The weight of these days are felt, I carry them around forever, seeing the gift I have and aching over the loss she will one day feel.”

Woman stands in adoption court with judge and five adopted children
Melissa Pennington Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Julianna Klepfer, a 30 something, single, foster/adoptive mama. She lives with her crew of seven, ages 11, 9, 7, 4, 3, 18 months and 6 months, their two dogs and 6 chickens in the hills of Iowa. You can follow along with her ever changing family at My Joyful Broken Heart.

Read more of Julianna’s stories here:

‘At the performance, my baby boy blew out his diaper. I scooped him up, rushing to the bathroom. This was at our fancy playhouse, which apparently meant no changing table.’

‘Today was Mommy day and she didn’t come’: Foster mom recounts heartbreaking moment ‘little one’ feels ‘broken’ over bio mom’s addiction

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