“My journey into motherhood did not look traditional. Instead of pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, baby showers, and prenatal appointments, my 9 months of preparation were filled with finger printing, multiple classes on how to care for children who have been abused and neglected, background checks, and intrusive examinations of my home. You see, my journey into motherhood began with me caring for a child born not of my own body but to that of another woman.
Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be a mom. Babysitting, nannying, working in Sunday School classes…kids were just always a part of my life. I met and started dating my husband when we were just 18 years old. One of the things I loved most about him, was that he too wanted a big family. In fact, at our engagement party when asked how many kids we thought we would one day have, we both looked at each other and naively exclaimed ‘8!’
The difference though between my husband and I was timing. After a year of dating, I was ‘ready’ to get married; he firmly believed we should finish school first. After a year of marriage, I was ‘ready’ to have babies; he believed we should get established in our jobs and save up a little first. Turns out those were all very good decisions, but I was so impatient in the waiting.
I wanted to have a baby so badly! All throughout the day, I would think about what it would be like to be a mom, to hold my baby in my arms, to see my husband as a daddy.
One day, I distinctly remember sitting in a public restroom stall, tears in my eyes, and I silently prayed, ‘God you know my desire to have a baby. I submit my plans to you.’ Shortly after this, one Sunday, we were introduced to the topic of foster care for the very first time. The need was presented to us and we were blown away. We had never heard the statistics before. We had never known the need. We had no idea that in our very city there were children (hundreds of children) in need of loving families to care for them while their parents did what they needed to do to get them back. We thought, we can do this! After much thought and prayer, we decided to foster ‘for just a little while first’ (famous last words) before starting a family of ‘our own.’
Flash forward 9 months later. After all those classes, fingerprints, home evaluations and conversations explaining our decision to our families and friends we were finally licensed and had just received a call asking us to take in our first foster child. As we sat at our dining room table that night, eating our pizza bagels, we awaited his arrival. Soon a knock on the door sounded. We looked at each other with deer in headlight looks and answered the door. Standing there was the chubbiest, cutest curly headed boy I’ve ever laid eyes on. His emergency placement foster mom walked in holding him and bluntly (but with a twinkle in her eye) stated, ‘sit down and finish your dinner together while I say goodbye to him…it’s the last meal you will ever get to sit down and finish together.’ We quietly obeyed and in a few minutes, she was gone. And just like that I stepped into my new role as a mom.
Nothing could have prepared me for the whirlwind we entered into that night. Our life as we knew it was never the same. It’s impossible to hold a young child in your arms, knowing the story of what brought them to you and what they have endured, and not be forever changed. To give a piece of your heart to that child you know you will never get back. Over the next 9 years we welcomed close to 20 children in to our home. Some just for the weekend, some for a year, some for forever. Every so often my husband and I would look at each other and say, ‘so do you want to try for a baby?’ But our answer was always the same: No. There were so many children that needed loving families, and our hearts had never felt fuller. We had the absolute privilege of adopting four amazing children out of foster care! We were so blessed, so thankful for how God had knitted together our family and frankly so tired.
But then once again our world was turned upside down in just a matter of minutes. The moment that the pregnancy test showed a big fat blue plus sign in the bathroom stall at Target. The minute I realized our family that was made up entirely of children brought to us through adoption, was now going to be made up of a biological child as well. My heart stopped, a million things ran through my head at that moment: Why? But our family is already complete! What will our children think? Will they lose their sense of security in our family? Will they wonder if we love our biological child more than we love them? In that moment I cried tears deep from my soul, thankful for this surprise blessing, but so worried for my children whom I loved so deeply and was so protective of.
Finally, the moment came we were ready to tell our kids mommy was expecting a baby from her tummy. Much to our surprise their first question immediately was ‘will we be able to adopt him?!’ My husband and I carefully tried to navigate the answer and explain that this child did not actually need to be adopted. The kids were still concerned and kept asking if we could still just adopt him. And then it clicked: to them adoption means forever. Adoption means safety and security and not ever having to say goodbye. For each of them, their adoption day was just as significant as their birthday. So, we said, ‘You know what guys, yes we will adopt him. And you can give him an adoption bear too’ (something they all received on their adoption day). Immediately they all were appeased and relaxed and started celebrating that they were getting a new sibling.
So the day after their little brother was born, we had our own little ‘adoption’ ceremony right there in our hospital room. Each one of our children gave a little statement out loud of their choosing and agreed to be a big brother/sister to their new brother. Then each of them prayed a short prayer over him and thanked God for placing him into our family (our youngest prayed ‘please help my little brother to like me’). They then presented him with his adoption bear. There are no words to describe the profoundness of this moment and what it meant to our family.
There’s a saying that goes, ‘Family is more than blood.’ Yes, yes it is. We can attest to that. God has been so good to us.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Shannon Henson, 35, of Los Angeles, California, You can follow their journey on Instagram here. Submit your story here, and be sure to subscribe to our best love stories here.
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