‘We’ve dealt with lice, super lice, lies, fighting, suspension, sexting, smoking, vaping, and drugs. It wasn’t our plan, but God had other plans.’: After infertility, mom fosters 10 kids

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“My husband Josh and I always knew we wanted children. At least two. Maybe four. We agreed to have our two, then reassess.

That’s when we thought we had control over what would happen.

Courtesy of Peter Ringenberg

We had no problem getting pregnant with Catherine, who was born in 2011.

Courtesy of Jennifer Hren
Courtesy of Jennifer Hren

But it was a traumatic delivery and a traumatic recovery from a C-section, and I was scared to try again. Eventually, we started trying and tried some more. Each month, I would be certain I was pregnant. I’d pee on the stick, feeling positive it would read positive. One time, I even let my husband be the first to read it because I was so confident I was pregnant, and I thought it would be fun if he knew before I officially did.

Courtesy of Jennifer Hren

Bad idea. It turned into him being the first to be emotionally crushed, instead of me.

I got to the point where I was taking the tests without even telling him because I didn’t want to get his hopes up.

Month after month, test after test. Doctor’s visit after doctor’s visit. Eventually, additional medical issues became severe enough that a hysterectomy was the best option, sadly.

This wasn’t the plan. I remember bawling and yelling at God in my minivan after another depressing doctor’s appointment. This wasn’t our plan. I hated that I had to be the one to choose a surgery that would forever solidify we were having only one child. I hated that I didn’t know my first pregnancy would also be my last pregnancy. I swear I would have cherished it more, remembered it more, held it more closely to my heart. But I remind myself that, among the army of infertility warriors, I am fortunate to have been pregnant once and birthed a child once.

Courtesy of Jennifer Hren

Adoption and foster care were always on the back burner. I think we had to first grieve the loss of future biological kids and grieve the loss of control and truly let go of our plans for whatever God had planned for us. At various times, one of us would be thinking about adoption or foster care, but the other person wasn’t on board. Finally, in the summer of 2018, we were both ready. We started researching and discovered the average cost for private adoption in Indiana was $20,000-$30,000. With me being a stay-at-home mom and Josh being a teacher, we knew that wasn’t a possibility for us. So, we started looking into foster care.

We agreed to attend an orientation class with a foster agency and keep moving forward in the process unless we felt it wasn’t for us. So, after the orientation class, we attended two full weekends of intense training, got fingerprinted and background checked, submitted references, had interviews, and filled out a ton of paperwork. We said we could take more than one child (we had spare bedrooms) and our age preference was 0-6 so they would be younger than Catherine.

Courtesy of Jennifer Hren

One day, we got a call from the agency, and I was just assuming they needed additional paperwork or something of that nature. Our home study (the complete report on us) wasn’t finished yet, so we weren’t even state-approved with our license yet. Instead, they told us about a sibling set of teen boys in need of a home. They were in emergency shelter care with literally no place to go. Our agency asked if we would be willing to take them if our home study was completed and our license expedited.

Wow. Not at all what we expected. Not at all what our plans were. But God clearly had other plans for us. We knew we had space, and we knew they needed a place. We said yes, just three months after starting the process.

Courtesy of Jennifer Hren

Since then we have had, in addition to Catherine, a total of ten different children living in our home, ranging from age two to 17. It’s been an absolute roller coaster, quite honestly! We’ve dealt with lice, super lice (did you even know that was a thing?!), lies, fighting, school suspension, night terrors, sexting, smoking, vaping, and drugs. There were probably other vices we never even knew about – or have been blocked out of our memory!

We’ve dealt with endless appointments with service providers (therapists, tutors, skill trainers, etc.), doctors, dentists, teachers, guidance counselors, social workers. And believe me, we’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some days, it’s hard to keep going. Some days, it’s really hard to keep going. There are three things that have kept me going: 1) remembering these kids are in this situation through no fault of their own; 2) remembering God doesn’t always call the equipped, but He equips the called and believing He will help us; and 3) receiving a plethora of support from others.

I cannot express enough how much we needed the support of others to help us along this journey. We have been blessed through meals, gift cards, babysitters, mentors, diapers, cash, our local food pantry, listening ears, shoulders to cry on, people doing our laundry, people buying off our online wish list, parents nights out provided by local churches, and local foster closets providing car seats, clothes, toys, books, and school supplies. Some of this help came anonymously. Some came from family. Some from friends and even some from strangers. There are so many ways people can use their own unique gifts to be involved in assisting foster families.

I have heard many people say they could never do foster care. I even said it myself! But I’ve learned as much as I try to plan, God’s plans will prevail. And I believe His plans are better than I could ever attempt to plan.

That first foster placement of three teen boys caused us to take our second, another teen boy. Then after the three brothers went home, the second placement caused us to say yes to our third placement, another teen boy. We learned a lot from our third placement, though his stay was brief.

Courtesy of Jennifer Hren
Courtesy of Heathyr Harkless

Our fourth placement was an easy yes, as it was a sibling set of young children – what we thought we wanted from the beginning. Except, there were four, ages 2-5, and it was basically like we got quadruplet toddlers. I nicknamed them the Quad Todds, and I could barely survive that season. I remember going in for a dental cleaning during that time. I was so excited because I got to leave the house. Granted, I hadn’t even gotten out of my pajamas before I left the house, but I didn’t care. I made it out of the house, and it was bliss. I think I had three adults helping at home while I was gone. I have a great dentist, but I’m pretty sure that will be the only time I’m ever that excited to visit him.

Courtesy of Jennifer Hren
Courtesy of Jennifer Hren

After that madness, we needed a break, and I was reevaluating everything. We got a call about a teen a couple of hours away in need of long-term care. I was hesitant. His needs were great, and I wondered if they were greater than we could handle. But I also knew the situation he was in and knew our third placement had taught us a lot about these needs.

We met him at a residential facility. We had to go through four sets of locked doors to meet him. He had no one and nowhere to go. His room was concrete blocks, no outlets, and a window so high you couldn’t see out of it. After an hour of nonstop talking, an unspoken question hung in the air: ‘Are you going to take me? Do you want me?’ There was no doubt in my mind when I said, ‘Let’s get you out of here and get you home.’

Courtesy of Jennifer Hren

He was our first teen placement who actually wanted a relationship. He wanted to hug us. He wanted us to hug him. He wanted to call us ‘mom’ and ‘dad.’ When he came to us, it was like a puzzle piece we didn’t know was missing was suddenly here, and our family was complete. We are hoping to adopt him once the courts allow it. Then, I can post pictures online of his actual face, instead of having to cover it up with an emoji!

Courtesy of Jennifer Hren
Courtesy of Jennifer Hren

This wasn’t our plan. None of this was. But because we said yes to that first placement, it led to a second, third, and fourth, until finally, our son came to us.

Courtesy of Peter Ringenberg

We’re not heroes. In fact, it makes me very uncomfortable when people praise what we’re doing. We’re just two people doing one thing. And we rely on a lot of other people to do one thing too. We can’t all foster, but we can all do something. If you’re feeling a nudge to help but don’t know how, I encourage you to reach out to a foster family and ask.

I often describe foster care as, ‘Hard. But a good hard.’ It will stretch you and grow you. It will grow your heart, rip your heart out of your chest, stomp all over it, and then try to put it back in your body. But it’s different. It doesn’t quite fit the same. It’s messy. It’s forever changed. I’m forever changed by this foster care journey God has led us on. Has it been hard? Yes. Has it been worth it? Yes! It wasn’t our plan, but God had other plans. And for that I am grateful.”

Courtesy of Peter Ringenberg

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jennifer Hren from Northern Indiana. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories like this:

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‘Will you take a 2-year-old little girl?’ I didn’t sign up to foster 5 kids under 5!’: Since mom adopts 5 kids from foster care, ‘Once I saw their faces, I couldn’t say no’

‘We ‘couldn’t handle’ being foster parents. We had just packed up our house and were moving in a week. ‘Do you have room for a placement?’: Family seeking adoption welcomes foster baby, ‘There is never a perfect time’

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