‘The woman next to me in this photo is the birth mother to 2 of our 3 children. Our relationship is unconventional and odd to most.’

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“The woman next to me in this photo is the birth mother to 2 of our 3 children, all of whom have come to us through foster care.

Courtesy Amanda Ogden

This photo, and this moment are not something that came quickly, or easily. It did not start out with smiles, a cup of coffee, or an eagerness to get to know one another. However, through a trying, and at times painful process, we learned how incredibly lucky (yes, lucky!) we are to have had our stories intertwine. Our relationship is unconventional and rather odd to most, but it is one that continues to be built upon a mutual understanding for one another. Truth be told, we are better versions of ourselves because we know her.

I remember sitting in our foster care classes to be able to receive our license, long before children were ever placed in our home, and hearing story after story from a social worker’s 20 plus career in child welfare. At the end, she told us to always place a positive light around any child’s parent and try our best to connect with them if it is safe to do so. My immediate response to that? ‘Pffft. You are effing crazy if you think I’m going to do that. I absolutely will NOT befriend them. It’s unforgivable, inhumane, and downright impossible to forgive ADULTS who do the sort of things that put them in the situations that they are in. They don’t deserve my empathy.’ While I never actually said those words out loud, I was convinced people could certainly hear what I was thinking. If not, I’m sure my facial expressions were a dead giveaway.

That kind of negative mindset is where we as foster parents fail. Learning to genuinely care about a biological parent was the most difficult lesson I have ever had to learn. It is also the most rewarding. Accepting her didn’t just come to me in the form of an epiphany one day. I didn’t just wake up and decide that I wanted to understand her perspective.  It took two years of God shifting the tectonic plates of my brain to get to this point. I had to be stripped of judgement, anger, pain, and disappointment to see her with fresh set of eyes.

As a society, we are ‘trained’ to associate children in foster care as troubled, and their parents? Total deadbeats who couldn’t possibly love their children after what they’ve done. It’s unfortunately easy to cast shade onto those parents. I myself once strongly harbored this very same belief. But after 2.5 years what I can tell you is this: I am deeply ashamed of that mindset. Shame on me. Shame on my ignorant, close-minded self for asking and praying many times for God to forgive me and love me in all my various forms of sin, but not them.

Now hear me out, because I in no way believe there are exceptions or excuses for anyone’s actions or behaviors that place children in the system. But, we shun the thought of realizing that ‘these parents’ may very well be just as broken as the children who enter our homes. Speaking in general terms, not necessarily specific to our story, I am well aware that some of these children’s circumstances will perpetually pierce their hearts like a dagger. Some are left with decades of damage that we are left to repair. Trust me when I say that I have fostered immense anger, and disappointment throughout this process. However, if I’m being completely honest with myself, a lot of my emotions have stemmed from being unaware of the other side of the story, the one that had been written long before we, or our children came into the picture. When their birth mother revealed her childhood to us, my husband and I could no longer allow anger to fester in our hearts. Anger was quickly replaced with empathy, and on that day, we were able to finally see her for more than who we thought she had been this whole time.

Throughout this journey, I’ve been reminded that my husband, myself, and our children are not the only ones whose lives have changed for the better. Amidst everything life has thrown this woman, this I am certain of: She has the kindest heart, her love for her children runs deep, she continues to willingly play a role in their lives, and she is a fighter who has persevered through tragedies she wouldn’t wish upon even her worst enemy. If I could give foster parents one single piece of advice, it is this: If you are to ever find yourself being given the opportunity to know a birth parent – TAKE IT! Give them the benefit of the doubt. Give yourself permission to love them, flaws and all. You’ll be surprised by the magic that can take place when you don’t confine your thoughts and your mind to the parameter’s society sets for you.

I also want to be clear that when I refer to ‘our children’, for the most part I am referencing just my husband and myself. But, there will always be more than just the two of us. The beautiful thing about that though, is it means together we get to alter our children’s perception of what foster care and adoption represent to them so that they may walk confidently in their truth. They will be given the truth when it’s appropriate for them to comprehend, and they will be given the tools to show others what it SHOULD be, not what society claims it to be.

I know that not every foster care experience will end this way, but I believe the opportunity presents itself more often than most of us are willing to realize. If you would have asked me 2 years ago if I ever imagined us continuing a relationship with her even after everything was said and done I most certainly would have told you something along the lines of ‘Over my dead body.’, or ‘When hell freezes over’. But the truth is, this is much bigger than us.

Courtesy Amanda Ogden

In fact, this isn’t about us at all. My husband and I will need their birth mother in the years to come. THEY will need her. To answers questions. To affirm her love for them and show them that she wanted what was best for them. Because God has allowed us to have a healthy connection with her, our children will know that ADOPTED is not a word that defines them as different, unwanted, or unloved, and at the end of the day that is a whole hell of a lot to be thankful for.”

Courtesy Amanda Ogden

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Amanda Ogden, 29, of Great Falls, Montana. You can follow her on Instagram here. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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