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“‘Yes,’ I said confidently as my heart raced, knowing what that yes meant. I was sitting in my hotel room in Grand Cayman on an overnight layover when the phone rang. I had just escorted a baby and his mama to Grand Cayman from Bolivia so he could have lifesaving heart surgery. I was both physically and mentally exhausted from flying for 2 days.
My heart immediately started racing as I looked at my phone. It was the placement specialist with my foster care agency. I knew because I had already received other calls from her, said some ‘no’s’ and said some ‘yes’s’ and for various reasons, after 2 months, I still didn’t have my first foster placement. But for some reason, when I saw the placing specialist’s name appear on my phone, I knew this was it. This was the call I had been waiting for.
I answered, and she proceeded to tell me about a little girl, and before she was even done talking, I knew I had to say yes. This was the child God was placing in my home for me to love for only he knows how long. My heart raced, my palms grew sweaty, and she asked if I could take this placement, and I said the best ‘yes’ I have ever said in my life!
From an early age, I knew I wanted to be a mom. It’s all I ever wanted, really. I can remember caring for my baby dolls as if they were really my children; rocking them, feeding them, and tucking them in. I even went dressed as a ‘mommy’ one year for Halloween. It was when I was a teenager I started feeling drawn to adoption. I would watch the TV show ‘Adoption Stories’ almost every afternoon, and it was not uncommon for me to be moved to tears by the end of an episode. Watching a family meeting their child for the first time, or being legally and forever declared a family tugged on my heartstrings every time. It was during these episodes and moments of my heart being tugged on I began to wonder if adoption would someday be in my future.
In 2012, I went on a mission trip to Uganda, Africa, which would change my life forever. I had read a book called ‘Kisses from Katie,’ by Katie Davis. The book is the story of her leaving her life as an 18-year-old headed to college, and instead, moving to Uganda after she had fallen in love with the country and the people on a summer mission trip. She moved there, started a ministry serving orphans and vulnerable families and children, and ended up adopting 13 girls in the span of a couple years.
Her story and the descriptions of Uganda and the people there sparked something inside me I did not know existed. Before I knew it, I had signed up for a 16-day mission trip to Uganda in the area where Katie worked and lived. While I was in Africa, we had the opportunity to visit a baby home, and that is where I learned how easily I could fully love a child who wasn’t my own. I met Bobby, my sponsor ‘son’ on that trip when he was just 2.5 months old. The moment they placed that baby in my arms, my heart swelled to a size I never knew possible until that moment.
It is because of that trip I developed a passion for orphan care and decided I wanted to pursue that passion more. I began sponsoring Bobby as soon as I returned home, and then I started sponsoring Norah about 6 months later. But sponsoring alone didn’t feel like enough. I thought perhaps adopting internationally might be what I was meant to do. In fact, for a while, I longed and prayed I might be able to adopt Bobby, however, it became clear eventually adopting him was not going to be an option for me. I was heartbroken at that realization. I cried for weeks every time I thought about Bobby. I can remember burying my head in my pillow and sobbing because I loved that baby and longed for him to be in my arms. I grieved the idea of becoming his mom. I didn’t understand it at the time, but God had other plans for both Bobby and me!
After a while, it became more and more clear international adoption probably wasn’t going to be an option for me at all. I was in my late thirties, still very single, and I was beginning to question and wonder how my dream of becoming a mom would ever come true. I began to lose hope and faith. I stopped attending church for a couple years other than an occasional online service. I just could not bring myself to go to church when I felt so abandoned by God. I struggled to understand why God would place all these passions and longings in my heart if they were never going to be part of my story.
I began to grieve the idea of ever becoming a mom. I would watch friends start families and go to baby showers and bravely put on a happy face, while inside I was aching because of that unquenched longing to become a mom myself. The longer I waited, the more bitter I became. When would it be my turn? When would I get to experience the joy of being a mom? What was wrong with me that I hadn’t married or started a family yet?
I don’t really remember a specific turning point, but at some point, my outlook started to shift. Maybe I had just grown tired of putting so much energy into being bitter, or maybe I just realized there was nothing I could do to change things, but eventually, I grew to be quite content in my independent, single state. I was happy being able to go and do just about anything I wanted to, whenever I wanted to.
But while I had grown quite content in my singleness, there was still the deep desire to be a mother. It was like that one missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle that you just cannot find. I could see the picture, but there was still something missing. The idea of becoming a mom on my own began to surface more and more. I had seen and read about some single foster moms and started wondering if maybe that could be an option for me someday. However, at the time, I was a night-shift NICU nurse, so I knew if I were ever going to be able to have a child as a single woman, I would probably need a different job.
In 2018, after lots of searching and praying, I was able to change jobs and I became a full-time school nurse. It was during those first few months of school I started to meet and get to know some kids in my school who were in foster care. Each time those kids would come to my clinic, I wished there was something more I could do for them. I remember the first time I came across a quote by Josh Shipp that says, ‘Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story,’ and it hit me like a hard slap in the face. Maybe I couldn’t help all the kids I wanted to help, but maybe I could be that one caring adult for a few.
I started my job at the school at the end of July, and by December, I had scheduled my first foster care informational meeting. I began doing research, learning about foster care, and intentionally seeking out other single foster moms I could learn from and get advice from. I went to that first informational meeting at what would eventually become the agency I would get licensed with, and I knew foster care was what I was supposed to do.
I eagerly started the process to become licensed in February of 2019. I remember sitting in my first training class with this huge binder of paperwork and PowerPoint print outs thinking I must be crazy but feeling extremely excited at the same time. I felt like a sponge, ready to absorb every ounce possible. I wanted to soak up as much information as I could. I knew from some of my training as a school nurse that kids from hard places (i.e. foster care) have experienced trauma, and that trauma-informed approaches would be important to my success as a foster parent. I wanted to learn so I could be the best parent I possibly could for my future children. I sat in those first foster care training classes and would think about the future child or children who would be in my home and those thoughts would both excite me and terrify me.
As I finished the training classes, I began the home study part of the licensing process. This was the part of the process I feared the most. What if I said the wrong thing in response to one of the interview questions? What if my house wasn’t clean enough, or new enough, or ‘homey’ enough? What if they ask me things about my past, and I have to be honest and vulnerable? I was so relieved after my first home study visit, and the licensing worker was friendly, and down to earth, and not out to find any little thing wrong with me or my home. She made it feel like I was talking to an old friend during the interview questions.
I started setting up the rooms for the children who would one day be in my home, and each time I bought something new or completed another project, I got more excited. I set up one room for a baby, bought a crib and a changer, and set my other room up for a ‘big kid.’ The closer to the end of the process I got, the more my emotions started to feel bigger and bigger. My excitement grew to that of a child on Christmas morning. My fears grew to the point of self-doubt and second-guessing if I could really do this.
I began telling more people I was in the foster care licensing process. At times, I was met with some of the most encouraging words I’ve ever heard. Other times, I was met with skepticism and reluctance. Having people question something I felt so sure about and so excited about was extremely defeating. At times, I questioned whether I was making the wrong decision. I wondered if choosing to be a single mom was selfish, or if I were being naïve to think I could handle being a single mom. Every time I was ready to give up, God would send me reassurance in the form of a Bible verse or a text from a friend, so I continued on the journey.
My licensing worker submitted my home study to the state on April 30th. That is when the waiting started… the never-ending waiting that foster care brings. I did not realize then just how much waiting was involved, but I would soon (or not so soon) find out. I waited the entire month of May with no word from the state. Then June came, and I still waited. At the time, waiting for my license to be approved felt like torture. I just wanted to know if I was approved so I could move forward one way or the other.
Finally, on June 21st, my licensing worker texted me with the best news I had ever received: ‘You are officially a licensed foster parent! Congratulations!!’ My eyes flooded with tears and I immediately started sobbing the happiest tears I have ever cried. In that moment, I felt like my heart was going to explode with joy. I started texting my family through tear-filled eyes. I sat in my nursery that night with happy tears streaming down my face as I thought about the reality of being a mom.
I waited nearly two more, long, excruciating months before I got that phone call as I sat in that muggy hotel room in the Caribbean. The waiting was hard. Those first few phone calls when I had to say ‘no’ for various reasons were even harder. But then, August 7th came, and I anxiously waited for a knock on my door. It was around 4 p.m. when that knock happened. My heart raced, my hands grew sweaty, and I opened the door to see the sweetest, most adorable little girl standing there before me! ‘Hi, Kristin!’ she said and bounced through the door as if we were already best friends.
The DCS worker brought her things in as I took her up to see her bedroom. Her eyes grew wide as she saw the queen size bed set up for her in my ‘big kid’ room. ‘Is that BIG bed for ME?’ she asked excitedly. I told her yes, and she ran back down the stairs, said goodbye to the DCS caseworker, and plopped down on the couch. I sat down on the opposite end of the couch as she picked a TV show to watch, and the reality that this child was now my responsibility and would be staying for an indefinite amount of time started to set in. This was it. I was a mom! That night I cried happy tears once again as I watched a little girl sleep in the room next to mine.
Those first few weeks were a bit of a whirlwind with lots of fun activities and getting to know each other. I learned more about slime and the world of kids watching other kids play with toys on YouTube than I ever realized was possible. I learned she loves mac and cheese, honey buns, and spaghetti. I also learned that she hates broccoli, prefers Nutella on her waffles over syrup, and will not drink water without some sort of flavoring in it.
I was surprised by how easily I ‘felt’ like a mom. I thought the first few days or weeks might just feel like a long babysitting gig, but I really felt every part of being a mom almost from day one; the joy of loving a child, the full weight of the responsibility of keeping this child safe and cared for, and the complete 180-degree turn my life had done in a 24 hour period. The first time she had a ‘meltdown’ I felt completely lost and unqualified to be doing this. I cried myself to sleep that night, not out of joy, but out of despair and feeling completely overwhelmed. I realized very quickly that I really had no idea what I had ‘signed up for.’ Foster care is hard. Parenting a child with trauma is hard. There have been so many days and nights I have wondered what in the world I am doing. I have screamed into my pillow in frustration. I have felt more alone than I ever felt as a single woman with no children.
But through it all, God has been faithful to carry both me and my girl through many hard days and nights. Just when I think I can’t do it on my own, God gives me the strength I need to carry on. For every hard day, there have been many, many more days full of joy and laughter and so much love I don’t have words to describe it. Since those first few weeks in the beginning to now, I have felt the full gamut of emotions. I’ve walked through the first weeks of restarting visits with family, gone to court hearings, and been reminded in so many ways that his little girl isn’t really ‘mine,’ but it doesn’t matter. I couldn’t possibly love her any more if she had been born from my womb. To answer the question I often get as a foster parent, ‘Won’t you get too attached?’ Yes. I am most definitely ‘too attached,’ but that’s kind of the point of foster care. To provide a safe, loving home where a child can learn healthy attachment and form those bonds with a safe adult they so desperately need.
Earlier this month my girl and I celebrated 1 year together. This past year has been the hardest, most wonderful year of my life. Watching this little girl go from a somewhat shy, timid, easily triggered little girl to the happy, sassy, fun-loving, resilient little girl she is today has been the greatest honor and gift I could ever ask for. I have no idea how long she will be with me, but I do know my life will forever be better because of her. She is the one who made me a mom, after all!”
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