I always relish the chance to get to tell others about our family. For one, adoption through foster care is an admittedly unique way to go about creating a family, one that has definitely worked for us. Secondly, I appreciate the opportunity it gives me to dispel some myths that often go with creating a family this way. Currently, we have ten kids, wait let me go count that again and make sure, yep still ten. I admit it is more my husband who loses count, but that is only because I have been known to “sneak” kids in while he is sleeping.
I gave birth to two of those rug rats, eight were adopted from foster care. Our numbers grew quite rapidly because we adopted a sibling group of three and then two more biological brothers. Three of our kiddos are severely disabled. Two were shaken by their birthparents and another weighed in at little over a pound when he was born prematurely. Two of our other boys struggle a little because of fetal alcohol syndrome. Three in the crowd are Native American and we are thankful to have two girls in the bunch. Most of our children who are adopted have struggled with some sort of attachment issue. All of them have other issues (yes, even the ones by birth) that are just not officially labeled.
When I look at my mix matched, loud, crazy brood I know it was that only way to go for us, despite the bumpy road at times. Yes, adopting from foster care has come with some difficulties and challenges, but then I am told nothing worth doing is ever easy. I assume this includes being a parent. Having had the privilege both to give birth and to adopt, I can tell you that there is no difference in the strength of my love for any of my children. Like most parents, I do love my children differently, for their personalities are vastly distinctive from one another. However, for each one I would gladly sacrifice anything that was asked of me to protect and care for them.
When one decides to add to their family through adoption it dramatically changes your life forever. You realize how incredibly mistaken people are when they say, “blood is thicker than water”. Your impact on the world and on one particular child is life altering. You gain admittance into an elite group of people who fully comprehend what it means to love a child completely, even one not biologically connected to them. And yet, nothing will ever mean as much to you as when your child throws his arms around your neck and says, “I love you Mama.”
Choosing to become a foster parent and then taking the next step to make that relationship a permanent one is not something that should be done lightly. However, it is not something that should be avoided simply out of fear. The children that come into foster care are no different than the children in your home, those that go to school with your children and even yourself. All of these kids need, deserve and will thrive with love and stability.
In sharing our story I hope that people will see the children in need of homes, not just the numbers. They will see the charming, yet in no way perfect, smiles of my amazing children and want to know more about how to create such a unique but truly beautiful family of their own. Although to make it clear…these kids are very permanently, lovingly, forever taken!
How many are yours?
Is how the conversation starts.
Spotlighting the confusion of how our family was formed.
The inquiry daring to define the children standing around me
I politely smile at the offensive question and then begin to ask my own,
How many do I feed? Cloth? Drive around?
Do they count if I have been awaken by them more than once during the night?
Or only if the number reaches double digits?
Can I start claiming them when the days turn into months and months into years?
Is it only Christmas present that count or can Easter baskets do the trick?
Does the amount of money I pay to care for them come into the equation?
How many times the tooth fairy has visited them?
Trips to the ER? The amount of band-aids I have applied?
Parent teacher conferences? Remembering how to do 4th grade math again?
Cheering at soccer games? Basketball? Dance recitals?
Clapping as they play “Twinkle, Twinkle” for the twentieth time?
Are they mine when I start to fight for the life they deserve?
When I take a stand and demand more for them?
Must I be there for that amazing moment when breath is first taken?
Am I only allowed the miraculously blessing of becoming their mother through giving birth?
The clarity for the silly phrase does not come in deeds performed or in words said,
It goes so much further than knowing where I was on the day they came into this world.
It came when looking into their eyes I discovered I could not imagine my life without them in it.
Magically their heart reached out to mine confirming, undeniably, we were always meant to find one another.
How many are mine?
The answer is so simple its stunning…all of them.
IS IT WORTH IT?
“Is it worth it?” she asks.
Sleepless nights, endless to do list, judgment from people who have no right,
Loss of time with friends, husband, children…self.
Lack of money as you add another to the table and in line at the amusement park.
“Tell me please, I have only just begun. Is it worth all this? Do you help anyone?”
The question weighs on me
“Sure it is,” is what I want to quickly reply.
You are helping a loss soul, a child who has no one.
The need for parents like you is immense.
The answer stills on my tongue as I pause to respond.
Looking back over the years I had to consider, is it really worth it?
Interacting with parents who rarely appreciate your commitment to their child.
The idea that somehow drugs, violence, neglect are not to blame for you stealing their children.
Demands insisted upon seem silly when compared to reasons the children were removed.
You become the enemy, an easy target for resentment and hate.
The “system” can also be difficult to work with at times.
Caseworkers who can’t be bothered to return calls to you, a simple babysitter.
Judges who make decisions endangering the children you love.
Always living in a glass house, where every mistake is discussed around a table as a “team”.
Being told help, but don’t interfere. Love, but not too much.
Then I think of the children,
all of the little ones who could finally stop being mom to their younger siblings and just be a kid.
The sweet angels continually crying as they go through withdrawals.
Each of them who marveled at the amount of food in the cupboards,
The meaning of full, taking a long time to understand.
Christmas gifts that get to stay,
spilling milk, waiting for the blow that never comes,
new clothes, a bed of their own, and a room to keep it all in.
Birthday cakes, full belly, homework, parks, rules, bedtime stories, traditions.
Regardless of age, these are some the first experienced in my home.
My mind then wanders to earlier in the day when one of “my” kids burst through the door.
“Coming to play,” he says and I know this is true.
The reasons however, go deeper than that,
Opening our door again cause he is hunger, tired of the fighting, needs a getaway.
He comes because he knows…here is calm, peace, love.
Our family gives him the ability to visualize a different future for himself.
Knowing he has us in his corner, cheering him on, hoping, praying for his success,
Time spent with our family gave him something valuable, which can never be taken away.
The difference in his life and others who have passed through our house is real.
Making all other sacrifices seems insignificant, small, worthless.
“Yes” I reply.
(Video created by Tim Berry with Dogtag Digital Media)
Story and poems written by: Amy Bates
This story was seen first on Real Imprints.