Happy 5th Birthday Austin!

Happy 5th Birthday Austin!

Each year I write a birthday letter to my sweet boy.  This year’s letter is a bit late in coming, but it has finally arrived!

To my favorite boy in the whole wide world,

I am so in love with you, and I am so proud of you!  You are such a compassionate, helpful, funny boy and I’m so glad you are my son.  I have watched you take such care of those who are smaller than you—helping out babies and toddlers, being an amazing friend and trying to care for them.  I have watched you show concern and care for others—stoping to pray for people we see who need help, kissing my “boo boos,” and offering hugs to everyone.  I have watched you blossom into a funny and fun loving boy—telling jokes, laughing with others, and including others.  I have watched you stick up for yourself—asking for help when needed and talking out conflicts that arise.  I have watched as you have learned to talk about your feelings and how  to cope with them—even when doing so exasperates you.  (“I don’t have any more deep breaths!” you’ve been known to say on more than one occasion.)  I have watched you learn empathy and compassion for others.  I have watched you face tough transitions this year and handle them like a champ.  I am so thankful that I get to be your mommy!

This year was a year of so many changes and big events in our lives.  Only a few months into your fourth year we celebrated your adoption!  We had been together for over 2 years, but I am so happy that we are “officially” a forever family.  You are truly a gift from God, and I am so thankful he brought us together.  It is not lost on me that the joy of your adoption also comes with a significant loss.  My heart breaks for that loss, for the pain that it brings with it, both now and in the future.  I want you to know that it’s ok to feel that pain and grief, that it doesn’t threaten the bonds of our family.  It’s ok to be sad and angry about that loss, know that those feelings are normal and natural.  Know also that I will always love you.  There is nothing that could ever change that.  Nothing.  I will love you when you are sweet and adorable and hilarious.  I will love you when you are tired and overwhelmed and confused.  I will love you when you are angry and raging and lashing out at the world.  I will love you when you are silly and wild and scaring me to death with your latest dare-devil stunt.  I will love you when you are scared and confused and frustrated.  I will love you when you have soaked me with water or shaving cream or food.  I will love you forever.

Less than a week after your adoption we headed out of New York and moved to Illinois!  A whole  avalanche of changes was headed your way.  You went to a new school and a new daycare.  You moved into a new home with new neighbors.  You discovered the joy of living in a house instead of an apartment and began exploring the backyard and the neighborhood.  You spent time with family you had barely met before and learned about the joys of aunts and uncles and cousins and grandma.  You learned of new parks and lakes and discovered the joys of Dairy Queen ice cream cones.  Throughout all these changes you were a champ.  You showed such resilience and grew so much closer as you began to trust in our relationship in a brand new way.

It has been so incredible to see your personality emerge even more this year as you became more confident, comfortable, and verbal.  I have loved watching you pretend and be creative.  One of my favorite times is when you decided to put on a show for us—you pushed back an imaginary curtain while you said “curtain open, curtain open,” then you picked up your microphone and Bible and pretended to read us a story, then you sang a few songs, pushed the imaginary curtain closed, and said “curtain closed, curtain closed.”  You love playing with blocks and have developed a talent for building car washes and gas stations for your toy cars.  You LOVE stuffed animals and have a collection of probably a hundred different bears, dogs, cats, bunnies, and various other creatures.  You try to take as many of them to daycare with you as possible, much to the chagrin of the daycare staff.  Two of your stuffed animals are as big as you —Big Doggy and Big Teddy.  I joke that Big Doggy is your therapy dog because you always want him when you are upset.  You are an amazing helper and love to clean.  You have made good friends and begun to interact with other kids in new, exciting ways.  You have a great memory and often want to talk through things that happened months ago.  You have been doing so well in swim lessons—after we moved they had your class go to the diving board and jump off.  Most kids were scared and needed someone to pick them up and drop them in.  Not you.  You are fearless.  You just leaped off that diving board and ran back for more!  You love reading books and riding your bike or pulling a wagon.  You love cooking—you can bake cupcakes all by yourself (apart from using the oven) and love to help cook whatever is for dinner. And iPad—you love watching iPad a little too much.  You are the cutest boy ever—you’re so adorable with your sparkling eyes and one dimple.  When you laugh your joy is infectious.  Unless of course you’re laughing because you just soaked me with the garden hose.  Then your joy is not so infectious.  But I still love you.

I am so amazed at how far you have come—you are learning and growing and impressing me with new skills all the time.  I know it’s hard sometimes.  Being a little kid is hard sometimes.  Being a little kid who struggles with the weight of trauma, special needs, and delays is incredibly hard.  I know we grown ups don’t get it all the time.  But you have so many people who love you and are cheering for you!  And you have a mommy who will fight for you like a crazy, scary momma-bear every day.  Because you matter.  You are important and valuable.  You are brave and strong.  You are helpful and caring.  You are loving and smart.  You are funny and sweet.  And I love you.  I pray that God will give you the confidence to know these things about yourself, to be confident in who you are, to be confident in my love for you, and especially in his love and care for you.

Here are a few pictures of our amazing year together.

Each year I interview you for your birthday and celebrate all the special, unique things about you.  Here is your time capsule from 2016!

Mommy: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Austin:  A school bus driver or a school bus.

Mommy:  Do you want to get married when you grow up?

Austin: Yes, I like married.

Mommy:  Do you want to have kids one day?

Austin: (Puts his hand on his face) No!

Mommy:  What is your favorite thing about yourself?

Austin:  I’m a boy.

Mommy: What is your favorite thing to do at school?

Austin: Play.

Mommy: What do you like to play with?

Austin: A train.

Mommy:  What do you like to do for fun?

Austin:  Watch iPad. Play with Play Doh.

Mommy:  What is your favorite thing about mommy?

Austin:  I love you.

Mommy:  I love you too.

Austin:  I like to eat with you.

Mommy:  Who are your best friends?

Austin: Donald Duck

Mommy: What is your favorite holiday?

Austin:  Family night

Mommy: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Austin:  To get that racetrack (a toy he’s been asking for)

Mommy:  Anywhere you want to visit?

Austin: Church, but I’ll be too big for it.

Mommy:  You won’t be too big for church.

Austin: Yeah, because I’ll get too big for my class one day.

Mommy: Oh, ok.  Is there anywhere you’d like to go on vacation?

Austin: To visit Nana.

Mommy: What is your favorite memory of last year?

Austin:  Going to the airport to get Nana.  Moving to our new house.

Mommy: What is one thing you really want to do this year?

Austin: Get that race track.

Mommy:  What is something else you want to do?

Austin: (proceeds with a 15 minute conversation about the race track, the number of cars included with the race track, the elevator on the race track, the potential for someone stealing the race track, the amount of money he has saved up to buy the race track, etc.)

Mommy: What is something you want to do, not a toy you want to have?

Austin: Go to a pool party.


What is your favorite . . .

Toy:  Cars, my airplane

Drink: Root beer floats

Food: Cheeseburger and french fries and apple sauce

Activity: Going to the water park

Song: “Tooty Ta” and “Wheels on the Bus”

TV Show: Paw Patrol

Movie: Despicable Me

Book: Paw Patrol books

Sport: Swimming

Ice Cream: Twist

Color: White and Brown

Candy: Peanut M-n-M’s and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups

Stuffed Animal: Skye

Game: “The Elsa Game” aka Frozen Slides

The Problem With Trusting God



I’m an ordained elder.  For 13 years I was a pastor.  And if you test my spiritual gifts, one of them will be faith.  So it might surprise you to learn that trusting God is something I struggle with.

Perhaps the seeds of this struggle were planted when I was 11 and my father died from brain cancer.  I grew up going to church and when my father was diagnosed with cancer it was unreal.  Everyone I knew was praying for him to recover.  Yet, despite all the prayers and Bible verses that were quoted, my family watched him slip away from us.  I struggled, I grieved, but somehow my faith remained intact.

Then, the summer after my junior year in college I went on my first mission trip.  I went with an amazing group called YIM that did a fantastic job preparing us for the world beyond our borders.  During that summer I was confronted with the reality of the third world.  I learned about people who lived on less than a dollar a day.  I learned of people who were literally starving to death.  I heard the stories of those who were sick and dying from illnesses that could be prevented by a simple mosquito net or treated with drugs that were readily available to all Americans.

As an American Christian I had always been taught that God provides for his children.  I had memorized verses about God knowing exactly what we need and promising to care for us.  I had studied the passages about not worrying about what we would eat or drink.  I shook my head in agreement when I heard someone say “God always provides, right on time,” or “God didn’t bring you this far to leave you now.”  I accepted these things as truth.

But how could I look in the face of brave Christian brothers and sisters who were facing death and recite those familiar platitudes?  How could I say “don’t worry” to the mother who had no food to feed her children?  Or tell the young man dying for lack of basic medicines, “trust God, he will provide.”?  Suddenly, it wasn’t so easy to “just trust God.”

If God’s children were dying of hunger or sick and suffering in third world countries, what did that mean for me and my struggles?  Surely it wasn’t as easy as just “trusting God to provide.”  I’m not saying that I don’t believe God provides.  Or that I don’t believe God is good, loving, and cares about us and our problems.  I just believe that the way God works is more complicated than easy platitudes allow for.

Over the years I have found myself in many difficult circumstances which have tested my ability to hold onto my faith and trust God.  I have cried with friends who have lost loved ones.  I have faced incredibly difficult challenges in the ministry.  I have struggled as my son fights to overcome the trauma he experienced before he entered foster care.  I have faced extreme financial hardships.  And I have faced the loss of my daughter.  Life has not always been easy, and often I find myself struggling with the question of how to trust God in the midst of suffering.

Ultimately, I believe that God provides through us—the church.  When someone is praying for food to feed their children, clean water, or medicine for their loved one in a third world country, we as a church are designed to be the answer to that prayer.  When a mother admits she can’t buy milk, a man is homeless and eating from a trash can, a refugee is seeking shelter, or a friend asks us to pray for them, we are created to help. It’s not enough to tell those who are struggling to rely on God, or not to worry.  We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

So the next time you’re tempted to tell someone to “just trust God,” consider whether or not God may be trusting you to be the answer to their prayer.

Toto, I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas Anymore!

Toto, I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas Anymore!

Have you ever woken up and no longer recognized the life you were living?  I mentioned in my last post that there were lots of changes in my life.  Some changes have been amazing and exciting, others are incredibly frightening and have left me feeling lost and unsure.  As a result, my entire life has been turned upside down and though I’ve wanted to blog about it, I’ve been a bit unsure about how much to reveal.  I’m still not sure about that.  So this is a beginning of a conversation I hope to continue one day.  I hope you will have patience with me as a struggle through this.

My trip down the rabbit hole began last December.  Life was pretty good.  I was working at a church I loved, with people I respected.  Little Man and I were progressing well, moving toward adoption, and enjoying our first Christmas season together.  I was expecting Baby Amaia to arrive in a few short months, and had been stocking up on the most adorable baby clothes and tiny little diapers.

Then the tornado hit.  Three weeks before Christmas I lost my job.  The job that I loved and was so passionate about.  And although I was beginning to struggle with the 60-80 hour work weeks I was putting in as a single mom, the news caught me completely off-guard.  There is a lot about that situation that I would like to share.  There’s a lot that I feel needs to be heard and understood.  But when you work in the church, things are complicated.  A whole-other-universe kind of complicated.  I was heartbroken, and angry, and insanely stressed.  Because apart from every other thing I was feeling, I was a single mom without a job, and when you work in pastoral ministry you can’t just find another job in town.  Continuing to work in my field would mean moving, probably out of state.  And moving would mean giving up my son and soon-to-be-born daughter, who were still in the foster care system.  And that was not an option.  So I went into full-on panic mode.

I applied for close to a thousand jobs.  I only got three interviews and no job offers.  Then on January 29 I got a call that taught me fear.  Baby Amaia’s bio mother was going into labor almost three weeks early and they had discovered multiple problems with the baby.  They didn’t expect her to survive the delivery.  As the foster parent I had no legal rights, and no way of knowing what was going on.  I waited and prayed all night.  Sometime the next day I learned she had survived the birth.  For two weeks I waited each day for news, hoping for miracles.  I was able to go see her in the NICU and was blown away by how tiny she was.  She was hooked up to dozens of monitors and IV tubes.  Then on February 12 I received the phone call that changed our lives.  Baby Amaia would only live a few more hours.  They had decided to take her off life support and she would not survive.  I rushed to the hospital and held my sweet girl for the first and last time, as I watched the life ebb from her body.  There are no words for the pain I felt that day, the pain that still haunts me.  I miss her every day.

After months of looking for jobs I decided to become a substitute teacher until I could find full-time work.  Subbing in an inner city school district was an eye-opening experience.  I have worked professionally with kids for 13 years but I had never experienced anything like that.  The challenges were incredible.  After a few weeks I was hired to stay at one elementary school where I rotated between all types of classrooms, from pre-k through 6th, from standard, to special needs, to emotionally disturbed.  The students pushed me to new levels of frustration and I came home with more than one injury.  But they also broke my heart and made me fall in love with them.

In March an unexpected blessing came.  Little Man’s biological mother suddenly and unexpectedly signed over her parental rights, naming me as the adoptive parent.  This cleared the path for us to begin moving forward with his adoption.  It’s a humbling experience sitting in the courtroom as a parent signs away their parental rights to make way for you to become the mother of their child.  To sit and listen as the judge asks “Are you sure?” in a hundred different ways.  At the end of the day I was free to adopt my Little Man and his case was officially transferred to the adoption department.

Then began months of waiting, bureaucracy, and frustration.  It seemed like everything was moving at a snail’s pace.  In the meantime I began to explore the possibility of moving back to Illinois to be near my family.  Being a single mom is hard without any family around.  With no family in New York I was at a bit of a disadvantage.  I’d always had a great network of friends and church members who served as my support system, but when I lost my job I lost about 95% of those people.  I had not only lost my job, I had lost my church and most of my friends.  Since I’d been exploring the possibility of going back to school and getting a second masters in teaching, school counseling, or speech therapy, having family around would be really nice.  Now that I was looking at adoption, moving to be closer to family was a possibility.

Finally, just a few short weeks ago, we finalized our adoption!  After 588 days in foster care, Little Man became part of his Forever Family!  I can now officially introduce you to Austin!

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After a year and a half, I can finally show you my adorable Little Man’s face!  Officially becoming a family is definitely the highlight of my year, and the best thing that has ever happened to me.  It makes all the struggles and pain of the past year worthwhile.  I am so blessed to call him mine, and so thankful God brought him into my life.

Austin’s adoption day was August 26.  I had decided it was best to move to Illinois, and we had been making plans prior to the adoption.  So a mere two days after the adoption we loaded up a truck full of stuff and the next day we pulled out of town.  We’ve been in Illinois for a few weeks now and everything has been a huge adjustment.  I’ve been living in large cities since I left home at 17.  Now I’ve moved to a small town where everyone knows everything about each other.  I’m coming to terms with the fact that there are no stand-alone Starbucks (although, thank God, there is one in a grocery store), big shopping areas, or fun attractions.  I’m also starting my job search all over again, this time in a small town with far less opportunities.  I’m renting a house for the first time and purchasing appliances, dealing with spiders and cockroaches, and discovering the [insert sarcasm] joys of living in a home that’s over a 100 years old.  I’m struggling with a school district that has been very frustrating to get registered with and just decreased Austin’s services significantly–from 10 times a week in a 5 hour program to 4 times a week in a 2 1/2 hour program.  And on top of all that I’m trying to unpack, make new friends, cook without a stove (going on 2 weeks now), acclimate Austin, and try not to freak out about how I’m going to survive until I find a job.

This is my life now, and I’m definitely not in Kansas anymore.  So much of the past year has been overwhelmingly heartbreaking.  It has challenged my faith and left me in an emotional blackhole.  And yet, there are glimpses of beauty and hope.  Becoming a forever family is the best thing in my life.  Even painful things, like losing my job, have taught me to trust God and allowed me to see the beauty in spending time as a family–which was something we seriously lacked when I worked in the church.  I don’t know where this yellow brick road will lead me.  I have no idea what my life will be like five years from now–what I will be doing as my next career, where we’ll be living (because houses with cockroaches and zero storage space are not my cup of tea), or how far Austin will have progressed on his journey.  But I have hope.  The wonders of Oz await!

Happy 4th Birthday, Little Man!

Happy 4th Birthday, Little Man!

It’s been a crazy seven months.  Unfortunately that has led to not much blogging lately.  So, I’m a bit behind.  I promise lots more updates to come, but today I want to rewind about a month, and celebrate Little Man’s birthday!  Here is my annual letter, interview, and some adorable photos!  Enjoy!!

Dear Sweet Boy,

I can’t believe you are four!  You are growing by leaps and bounds, in so many ways.  In the past few months you have grown two inches and gone from being able to wear 24 month clothes to wearing a 4T.  You are growing in so many other ways as well!  A year ago you had only been speaking for a few months.  Now you are talking up a storm.  You say the most adorable and funny things.  You make up songs, tell stories, and love to “read” all your books out loud.  It’s so adorable— you insist on always reading it yourself, and you open the book and retell the story for us.  You have learned to count, identify colors, and match.  I recently received your last school report and you had met several goals that you’ve been working on all year.  I am so proud of you!!

You are such a sweet boy.  I love seeing your heart and compassion.  Saying goodbye for you is always a big hug fest.  Every morning when you get on the bus we spend several minutes giving lots of hugs, kisses, and high fives.  When I pick you up from daycare, you always have a hug for your teachers, and all of your classmates won’t let you go until they’ve gotten their “Little Man hug.”  I love seeing how you cared for “Baby Sarah” when she visited.  You gave her your favorite toys when she would cry, hug her, hold her hand when she needed to go somewhere, and genuinely loved on her.  I pray one day I get to see you take care of your own baby sister.  We’ve been working on apologizing when you hurt someone and you’ve taken to initiating your own apologies when you make a mistake.  If you’re mad and intentionally hurt me, you hate to apologize, but when you’ve made a mistake or had an accident—even the smallest of things — you break out into this huge smile, run and hug my legs, and yell “I’m sorry, Mommy.”  It is the most adorable thing ever.

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This year you have tried so many new things.  You started your new school and have absolutely loved it.  You have such an amazing team of teachers, and you are absolutely in love with “Miss Carrie.”  She is so fantastic with you and I wish she could stay with you as your grow and change classes.  You tried soccer, and spent more time laying on the ground than playing, but you enjoyed being outside.  And you showed me you’re more of a football kind of kid— every time the ball (or a player with the ball) came near you, you felt the need to tackle them to the ground.  You took swim classes and have loved being in the water.  You took a dance class and loved it.  The week after it ended, you ran to the empty classroom because you didn’t want it to be over.  You got glasses for the first time, and we’ve gone through what feels like a million pairs, but you’re getting better with them all the time!  We have gone on some fantastic adventures together — apple picking, visiting Sesame Place, blueberry picking, exploring the Strong Museum of Play, meeting your new extended family for the first time, feeding animals at The Wild Animal Park, running around at Billy Beez, and so many other fun experiences.  I have loved watching you experience new things and places—you are always full of so much joy and excitement.

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You love music—when you love a song you always sing it at the top of your lungs, dancing around, and smiling with such joy.  You love to sing “Let it Go,” and whenever “Happy” comes out, you scream “That’s my song!” and start dancing.  It’s the cutest thing ever.  You have discovered imaginative play and I love watching you interact with your trains, Little People, Daniel the Tiger toys, and Elmo figures.  You have about a million stuffed animals which you absolutely love.  Over the past year I have watched as you’ve moved from reenacting violent scenes with them, to caring for them, patting their backs, taking care of them when they’re sick, and putting them in time out when they make bad choices.  Not only is it completely adorable, it is so beautiful watching you transform into a loving caregiver of all your toys.  It speaks so much about how far you’ve come, and how you are beginning to understand the role of family.  This makes me so happy for you, and so proud of your growth.

I am so proud of how far you’ve come this year.  During this year you received seven different diagnoses of special needs.  On top of all that, you were struggling to understand what was going on in your world and your family, and process the trauma you had experienced.  It’s hard to imaging have deal with just one of things—most kids with special needs only have one or two things they’re dealing with.  I’ve never met anyone who is struggling to overcome so much.  But you, my love, you are a warrior.  You are beating the odds, you are fighting to overcome the challenges you are faced with, and I am so proud of you.  So much of the time you are doing so well at fighting this fight that the people around you don’t even realize how my challenges you are facing.  And we forget sometimes how hard this is for you.  But you are amazing, and I pray that you keep up the fight and that you realize what an amazing, sweet, and lovable boy you are!

I am so very blessed that you are in my life and that I get to be your mommy.  You make everything worth it.  Over the past year we have faced some big challenges and tough times.  But you, my love, make everything worthwhile.  I can’t wait to experience the journey of your fourth year!  I can’t wait till next year when we’re celebrating that you are forever a family.  I love you forever, I like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be!

Happy 4th Birthday!!

Each year I interview you on your birthday and celebrate all the special, unique things about you.  Last year I had share what my thoughts were, because you couldn’t yet communicate them.  This year we’re celebrating because you have come so far and can speak for yourself!!  ;o)

Mommy:  Do you want to get married when you grow up?

Little Man:  No.

Mommy:  Why not?

Little Man:  ‘Cause I don’t like it.

Mommy:  Like what?

Little Man:  Married.  I like Santa Clause.

Mommy:  Do you want to have kids one day?

LIttle Man:  Yeah!

Mommy:  How many?

LIttle Man:  Five!

Mommy:  What is your favorite thing about yourself?

LIttle Man:  I’m smart.

Mommy: What is your favorite thing to do at school?

Little Man:  Read books.

Mommy:  What do you like to do in your free time?

Little Man:  Play with choo choo trains.

Mommy:  What is your favorite thing about mommy?

Little Man:  That you play with me.

Mommy:  Who are your best friends?

Little Man: You’re my best friend.

Mommy: What is your favorite holiday?

Little Man:  Santa Clause

Mommy: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Little Man:  On a boat.

Mommy:  Where on a boat?

Little Man: All around the world.

Mommy: What is your favorite memory of last year?

Little Man:  Going to Sesame Street.

Mommy: What is one thing you really want to do this year?

Little Man: Go on vacation.

What is your favorite . . .

Toy:  My kitchen

Drink: Milk and Root beer floats

Food: Cheeseburger and McDonalds

Activity: Painting

Song: “Let It Go”

TV Show: Daniel Tiger

Movie: Frozen

Book: Pete the Cat, Rockin’ My School Shoes

Sport: Swimming

Ice Cream: Vanilla

Color: Red

Candy: M-n-M’s

Stuffed Animal: Minion

Game: Candy Land

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Kind of a big deal . . . maybe


It’s hard to manage expectations when you work in the foster care system.  Nothing is certain.  You make plans, but you can’t count on them to work out because so much of your life is placed in the hands of caseworkers and judges and other people you don’t even know.  That being said . . .

Thursday may be a big day for Little Man and I.  He has a new caseworker, and she recently left me a message regarding our court date on Thursday.  She told me that bio mom is ready to sign a conditional surrender, with the stipulations that we send a letter and picture each year.  This condition is fairly normal for foster adoptions.  If this happens it would greatly speed up the process of adoption and help us avoid a long set of court dates to approve a TPR (or termination of parental rights).  She also said it may happen at court on Thursday.

I don’t want to get my hopes up too much, because this could fall apart.  There are a million factors that could get in the way. But, if not . . . this is a big deal, and some really good news.  And after the past few months I’ve had, I could really use some good news in my life.  So let’s all cross our fingers, say our prayers, and wish on stars that this works out this week!

I Chose Loss


I chose loss. I volunteered for it. Signed up and waited for my turn. I chose loss; but I never thought it would feel like this.

Four days ago I lost my daughter. My beautiful baby girl, who had only ever known life in a NICU incubator. Four days ago I held her in my arms as she lay dying, trying to choke back the sobs as I whispered my love to her. It was the first time she had been cuddled to my side. Four days ago I lost the sweet child I’d been planning and preparing for during the past eight months. And I walked into an empty home filled with baby things I had hoped to fill with loving memories.

I kissed my baby goodbye and walked out of the small, dark room they use for these things, trying to hold it together long enough to get to my car. Long enough to get out before I completely lost it. But I couldn’t make it. Walking through the NICU halls I could see all these other beautiful smiling babies—success stories who had once fought for their lives in this same place. And I lost it, right there in front of the elevators, as I ran to find a bathroom where my sobs choked me until they turned out my breakfast. And I lost it again in the elevator. And the car. And pulling into my garage with its stores of baby goods. And when I finally climbed into bed and pulled the comforter over my head in a useless attempt to shut out the world.

I’ve lived in hiding for the past four days. Barely leaving my front door, other than a trip to the ER when the grief translated itself into physical illness. Today I had to get out. Not for me, but my sweet three-year-old son who doesn’t understand any of this. For my rambunctious love who has been trapped inside our small home for days as the wind chill dropped to -40 outside.   It seems a fitting temperature for death. But not for little boys. So we bundled up and drove to the mall playground. I didn’t want to go. I knew what would happen. But I chose this, and so I held his small hands as he jumped and played. And then the inevitable—we rounded the giant tree to find an adorable little baby girl sitting in her mother’s lap. I couldn’t breathe at first. I needed to look away, but that sweet little boy’s voice kept telling me “Over here, Mommy” as he ran right towards her. I tried to turn my back on them, to hold my son’s hand while looking in another direction. I kept catching glimpses of her mother—looking bored as she held this sweet baby in one hand and texted with the other. I wanted to run up to her and scream, “Don’t take this for granted! Pay attention for all of us who can no longer hold our babies!” But this would only make me look like a mad woman—reveal all the cracks that are breaking into my carefully held together mask.

I wander through purposeless days–throwing away baby shower checklists and registry cards, opening letters that were sent while she was still with us, hiding baby toys in a now forbidden closet. I try to focus on my sweet little boy and hold things together so he can experience some sense of normalcy. And I wait. I wait to find out the funeral arrangements, to learn if she will be buried or cremated, to find out if I will be allowed some small memento from her brief life. Just like I waited sleepless nights to find out if she made it through delivery and her first night, waited to meet her for the first time, waited to be allowed in the NICU.

I wait because this was my choice. My sweet girl is not my biological daughter. And although I have anxiously awaited and prepared her arrival for the past 8 months, I have no legal rights to her—to see her in the hospital, to make the choice to end life support, or to plan her funeral.

I am a foster mom, and I chose this.

I chose to love children who were not my own. Children to whom I have no legal rights. Children whose futures lay in others’ hands. Children I could not love any more had I been their biological mother.

I met my son when he was two and a half—all questioning eyes and nervous giggles, as he tried to stow away toys and hide behind curtains. Over the past 11 months we have learned together what love and trust and family mean. I may have to get permission to take him out of the county or change his hairstyle, but he is my son. And we are moving towards adoption.

The precious little baby I lost was my son’s half-sister. From the time that the biological mom knew she was pregnant, I knew she would be my daughter. Nothing is ever certain in foster care, but according to the case worker, there was a 99.9% chance she would be placed in foster care. And because they strive to keep siblings together, as long as I wanted her, this beautiful girl would become a part of our family.

And I did want her. I knew from the time they told me that my son was on the track for adoption that one day I would want to adopt a little sister for him. Most people doubted my choice. I’m single and my son is overcoming a truckload of special needs as a result of his trauma. People questioned whether or not I could parent two kids. They asked if it was wise for me to take on more “work.” They wondered if it was in the best interest of my son to live with his sister. They doubted that the baby would be safe with a special needs kid in the home.

Once the time came for her birth, we realized the severity of her health problems and were told that she probably wouldn’t survive the delivery. A therapist told me it was better this way. And then she did survive delivery . . . and the first night . . . and the first week . . . and I finally confided to a neighbor what was going on. She told me to leave the baby at the hospital. That she wasn’t worth all the work and I had my hands full already. The doctors felt she’d never survive, that it wasn’t worth using extreme measures on a hopeless case. And since I wasn’t even the foster mother yet, I got to hear the news without any of the obligatory “we’re sorry” or caring bedside manner.

They meant well. They just didn’t understand that she was already my daughter. So I continued to fight for her and pray for her and stay awake nights hoping for a miracle. One week turned into two weeks. And just when I thought things might be more hopeful, I got a call from the caseworker—they expected her to die in the next few hours. I’d only seen her once, I’d never held her, and I had no rights to go visit her; but my baby was about to die. The sweet little girl I had loved and prayed for and stocked a nursery for only had a few precious hours left.

I lost my daughter. The sadness is unimaginable, and every day my thoughts are filled with her and the future that we were robbed of. I remember all the plans I had for our family, and it’s sometimes more than I can bear.

But I remind myself that I chose loss. I chose to be a parent whose child could be torn away from them at any moment. I am a part of a system where kids are moved on to different foster homes, placed with family members, returned to parents, and then come back into the system again. I am a parent in a system that asks me to love each child with every part of me—just as if they were my own—and then be willing to lose them. That’s what I signed up for. That’s what I wanted. And though I never imagined one of those children would be lost this way, I knew there was every possibility that my heart would be broken. This is what I chose.

But I also choose love. I choose hope. I choose to believe she is in a place where her tiny little body is no longer filled with pain. I choose to believe that God will bring healing to our family. I choose to believe that this pain, and loneliness, and suffocating sadness won’t last forever. And I choose to carry her heart in my heart forever. I chose loss, yes. But more importantly, I am choosing love.

photo amaia

Your job, Mommy.


I am working with Little Man to help him understand the proper role of a parent. This is an important job in foster care. So I have been teaching him that “mommy’s job is to take care of you.” Tonight at dinner I asked him to take something to the sink. “No,” he said, “Mommy’s job.” Well played Little Man, well played.

In other news, Little Man got glasses. He started wearing them about two months ago. His prescription is stronger than mine. A lot stronger. He is now on pair 6 or 7. Medicare won’t pay for flexible glasses, because they’re too expensive, but apparently replacing them about once a week is fiscally responsible. He’s been without glasses more than he’s been with them.

On one of our recent trips to get new glasses, the optometrist asked if he was an only child. When I said yes, he said “I can tell, only children always have such advanced speech.” Look at that, ladies and gents! That’s my non-verbal baby!!! Needless to say, I’m super proud!