“It was 2014 when my husband, Jason, and I started trying to conceive. We had just gone off all birth control measures and expected to have a positive pregnancy test within 3 to 6 months, perfectly planned into our lives. Month after month, it was negative test after negative test. My doctor assured me it often took healthy couples up to one year to become pregnant, so I tried not to worry too much. It’s funny, your doctor tells you not to worry and it feels like a prescription for the worry, doesn’t it?
As the years passed by, I planned multiple baby showers for the same friends. My circle all had one, two, and even three pregnancies per person, five years into our journey of trying to conceive. Month after month, I sobbed to my husband, feeling so alone, like God had decided I would be an unfit mother and took care of the situation. We did manage to get pregnant twice. However, both pregnancies were ripped away before I knew they existed. Miscarriage was never supposed to be a part of my story. Infertility was never supposed to be weaved into my life.
However, these were the cards I had been given and I needed to play the hand dealt. My husband and I toyed with the idea of becoming foster parents, not to adopt or to ‘build’ a family, but we have an empty room in our home and space in our hearts. We wanted to help stand in the gap while families took care of the things they needed. Jason and I sat on this idea for months until God was very clear to my husband, foster care is the journey to take, and now is the time to do so.
We put in our application in November, excited and ready to start the process. However, it dragged on and on. Other friends also jumping into becoming foster parents had already been certified two months later, yet we were still waiting. I’ve become so accustomed to waiting but this felt like salt in a wound. While waiting, I did some retail therapy and ordered an ‘unknown’ necklace. I didn’t know what would be stamped on the piece of metal and I thought it would be a fun, random gift to myself. The necklace came mid-January 2019, and it simply said, ‘lovely.’ Lovely is a word I use sarcastically, so you can imagine my eye roll when I saw it. It always sounded so condescending. I immediately started thinking of someone who would enjoy it more than I would. Later that week, I got a phone call that would change our lives. Suddenly, ‘lovely’ made sense.
It was a family friend on my husband’s side, someone I had only met once, reaching out about a child in her class who was in foster care in our town and needed a new home. She heard we were planning to become foster parents and wondered if we were open, certified, available. She was desperate to help find someone she trusted. She had so much love for this fourth-grade boy. I asked her to describe what she was allowed to about the situation and about him, and her response? You guessed it. She called this 9-year-old boy ‘lovely.’ Four times, in fact. She couldn’t think of another adjective. I was expecting wild, rambunctious, hyper, even maybe shy or withdrawn. Lovely was the only word she could come up with.
I was in immediate tears. I knew this had to be a yes. The call took place on a Thursday, we officially said yes on Friday, were emergency certified on Monday, and suddenly, we had a child in our home on Tuesday afternoon. If you know anything about foster care, you know sometimes it’s quick and wild and weird.
We’ve had this sweet and yes, lovely, boy in our care for over a year and a half now, and the ride has been one of the best and most challenging rides I’ve ever been on. I had no idea the ways parenting a child in care would bring up my own childhood traumas I thought had healed. I have spent years in therapy, sorting through my own hurts and challenges. Yet, this kid was able to nail every single one, unintentionally of course, that caused me to spiral into a hole.
Becoming a foster parent is a rewarding job but it’s incredibly lonely. I was enough of a mom to have the responsibilities, but not enough to get any of the benefits. Immediately, I was welcomed into the ‘mom’ club, the club women swore wasn’t a thing to my infertile heart. It was very apparent I was given extra grace and more room to fall apart the moment I began caring for a child. Many of my biggest fears were confirmed, and it left me at odds with some relationships in my life. Foster parents need support, and the system is not set up for their support. The system is set up to rightfully partner with parents and children, making sure the resources are there and the needs are met while they work toward reunification. Foster parents are the ones who signed up for the rollercoaster, and while physical resources are there, I quickly realized I needed more emotional support.
As I was witnessing some of my relationships deteriorating when I needed people more than ever, I knew I needed help. I didn’t want to sit with other foster parents who complained about the system or even the trauma the kids were experiencing. I wanted fun and relief and space to breathe.
Thank God for amazing friends who heard my cries loud and clear. They stood by me when I was at the messiest moment of life. Women who didn’t understand what I was going through listened to me and didn’t make me fix anything or feel like a monster for whispering the things most people feel guilty for thinking. Parenting a child who isn’t yours with trauma you can’t understand and likely don’t even know the depth of is just plain hard, and it’s okay to agree with that. When we know we are capable of sitting with people in their pain and not attempting to solve the world’s problems in one hour in a living room, real relief settles into your heart. This is the gift my friends gave to me, one hour at a time.
There is a stigma attached to foster parenting I wasn’t ready for. No one warned me about the ache surrounding foster parents. I was threatened by strangers online, told I was trying to steal babies from families, and don’t forget, I’m not a ‘real mom.’ Messages from people I know and those I’d never meet filled with hatred and their own pain and trauma letting me know I cannot replace this boy’s family. Walking into foster parenting, it was necessary for my husband and me to remember the goal of foster care is always reunification when it’s a safe option for the family. We have always supported reunification for this family, and we are now on the brink of them reuniting within mere weeks. I had never wanted to replace his mom. As someone with a strained relationship with her own mother, I knew there was no replacement possible, it wasn’t even a desire. Our hope, prayers, and goal were always for this moment to come, and we are so proud of this family for the hard work they’ve put in to reunify.
Not everyone has this story, and it breaks my heart. I can say, with certainty, I have overwhelming joy and proud tears for this mom who fought for her child. This boy, now 11, gets to know his mama fought for him, and Jason and I cheered and rallied and supported them along the way. The saying goes, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ and I am honored to be allowed in this community.
Fostering has been the most challenging role I’ve ever held, for so many reasons, but it’s been a gift to recognize none of this has been about me. The insults hurled from a hurting kiddo and strangers may sting, but God has opened my eyes to an ache in this world and given me handfuls of compassion and grace. Hurting people hurt people, and as we work through our own hurt and grief, my prayer is we will also carry hope to those who feel hopeless. Life has its own challenges and pain. We get to be hope-bringers and let them know by our love, grace, and example, it can be different. Without the community who carried hope to my weary heart, I don’t know where I would be.
This next season involves multiple transitions, physical and emotional. I know once I become an empty nester from our lovely boy, that guard will fall down and my grief can hit. People say they could never become a foster parent because they’d get too attached, but that’s exactly what these kids need. They need people who love them and their families, who will advocate for them even when it feels like we are heard 2% of the time. These children need someone to stand in the gap, hold the line, and fight for them and their families.
God gave us a front-row view of transformation and redemption and we are celebrating alongside this family, even as we empty his bedroom. This family is now a part of our family, and our stories will be weaved together forever. What a beautiful gift to be a part of it.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Brittney Closner from Molalla, Oregon. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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