May is National Foster Care Month. Throughout the month, we will be featuring stories of individuals and families at River Valley Church involved in the foster care system.
Sometimes I forget that I did not give birth to either of my kids. Both of their adoptions happened fairly quickly. Each took less time than the typical pregnancy.
We started with the roller coaster ride of trying to get pregnant using every procedure medically available at that time. Infertility is a heart-wrenching, faith-questioning, relationship-testing, life-altering experience. Some days I could think of many reasons why God might be withholding the blessing of conception from me. Other days, I would be angry that I was being punished despite doing everything right in the right order…college, law school, marriage. Where was my baby?!
During this timeframe we also became licensed foster care parents. We were interviewed, background checked, fingerprinted and given countless hours of training to care for other people’s children. We were ready to parent children while we struggled to have one of our own. It gave me a purpose. As we started to have foster kids come into our home, a couple of conversations shifted my thoughts away from the constant disappointment of fertility treatments to the idea of growing our family through adoption.
Because both my husband and I worked full time, we did not do long-term foster care with the exception of a placement that lasted a year. We were only available for respite and emergency short-term placements. Respite care is generally a scheduled weekend that we have a child, or sibling group, who is either living with another foster family or whose parent(s) who need a break for a variety of reasons. Emergency placements usually entails getting a late night call from the county crisis team asking if we have an empty bed and the inclination to take in another child. The reasons for the placement range across the spectrum from complete family breakdown, Police Protection Orders, child abandonment, to truancy. In our experience, these placements could be for hours, days, weeks, months or possibly years.
I remember a conversation that happened with one of our respite kids. She and her sister had been coming to our house for one weekend a month for a few months. On one of these weekends, we were shopping and she decided to hold my hand. As we went through the checkout lane, she asked me a questions in her sweet, sincere little voice, “Jeannette, do you think people think that you are our mother?” She was clearly hoping for an affirmative answer which was cute considering that she and her sister were clearly not related to me. But the fact that we had provided a safe haven for them to just be kids was enough to qualify me to be their mom in her mind.
One of my favorite moments happened when another young girl was visiting our home for a weekend respite. Because Mother’s Day was approaching, she wanted to know what my husband had planned for me. When he responded that I was not a mother yet so he did not have to buy me anything, she got very indignant on my behalf and insisted that I was their mother when they were at our house. I had become a mother without realizing it.
From that moment on, I owned that title. I was indeed a mother!