Ahh, if you have been around the trying to conceive world at all, my friend Elisha is no stranger to you. She writes over at Waiting for Baby Bird, runs a Facebook encouragement group that supports of 37,000 women, and loves on women in her in-home infertility support group, The Nest.
I have had the privilege of meeting this sweet friend in 2016 and am thrilled that we are speaking at the same conference together in a few weeks, The Hope Narrative. She’s funny, heart-felt, and an encouragement to this community. I am so honored to have her sharing her story as a foster parent today!
Elisha, thank you for sharing your time and story with us … and I can’t wait to hug you in less than 2 weeks! Whooohoooo!
Day 1: The doorbell rang and when I opened it, there she was, a beautiful three-year-old little princess who was barely 34 inches tall. She had a small white stuffed animal kitty tucked underneath your left arm; a thumb stuck tight in her mouth, and on top of her head was a pigtail that looked like a palm tree. Her smile warmed my heart as I said hello and showed her the room she would be sleeping in for the next 30 days while her Momma was trying to get back on her feet. Little did anyone know that the 30 days would turn into 90 days and 90 days would soon turn into 180 days and 180 days would somehow turn into 1,273.
So much happened between day 1 and day 1,273. So many fun memories, belly laughs, birthday parties, and vacations. I’ll never forget the time her toes touched the ocean for the first time and a wave knocked her to the ground. She giggled. I giggled. And then we chased the birds while stopping to pick up every single sea shell.
But as you might have already guessed, or perhaps already know through experience, foster parenting is not always tea parties and coloring books. And trying to explain the ups and downs and the battle that rages within is hard.
In fact for weeks I have sat at my computer desk trying to find the words to perfectly and neatly articulate what it is like to be a foster parent and care for another person’s child whom you love like your own. But after hours of typing and then deleting, I have given up on trying to articulate it in such a neat and tidy manner because the fact of the manner is…I can’t. Foster care is messy; therefore this article will probably be messy too. My thoughts might jump from one facet of foster care to the next and without warning; which honestly, that’s what fostering parenting is like. Everything is a mystery and nothing can be expected. Your whole world could change in the blink of an eye. The child you took to school that morning might not return to your home that evening. I believe this is why as a foster parent you are told so often to expect the unexpected; which I faithfully did, just not always in a healthy manner.
I can’t tell you how many times while tucking her into bed and getting her snug as a bug in a rug the reality of the situation would hit me like a freight train and I would begin to weep as I imagined it being the last time I would wish her sweet dreams as I blew her kisses goodnight.
With each court hearing I would pace the floor as I imagined the worst. What if the judge would announce that it’s time…time to pack her bags, box up her toys, and prepare her for a new life with a new normal? What if he would order her to a new home? It was highly unlikely they would ever move her anywhere else but back home to be with her Momma, however the thought and the fear was always still there, lurking.
And don’t get me started on the places my imaginations would take me each and every time the phone would ring or the case worker would show up unannounced. Talk about moments when your heart would stop and you would have to remind yourself to breathe again! Ay, yi, yi!
I would even subject myself to self-inflicted torment on a regular basis as I would allow my heart to feel what it would be like to strap her into the backseat of a state owned and operated vehicle, then shut the door and wave goodbye to her for the final time. Talk about a box of Kleenexes!
I once read a quote while in the midst of the 1,273 days of uncertainty that said, “Worry is a misuse of your imagination.” It was such a v8 slap in the forehead moment for me. God didn’t give us an imagination so that we could create scenarios that would cause our hearts to ache and fear to take root. Instead He gave it to us so that we could envision our life, see our situations, and even look at other people through hopeful eyes of faith; which is not always an easy choice to make when in the throes of foster care. Especially with that last one. Ya know, being able to see the biological parent as someone who deserves a chance, perhaps even a simple high-five of encouragement. Or a care package from their child letting them know they are not forgotten and loved.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw her mother. Our foster daughter had been living with us for a few months before I shook her hand and looked into her eyes. Eyes that…well…pierced my soul. I will never forget the emptiness I saw in her that day. She was hurting. Her life was in a hopeless state. I could see her heart was broken. Actually, shattered. And her mind seemed to be controlled by the pains of her past that I just couldn’t understand because I had never faced them.
I remember after the awkward greeting our foster daughter taking her five tiny fingers that were wrapped in mine and letting them fall to her side as she then went to grab her Momma’s so that they may sit on a bench and color like old times. I surprisingly wasn’t jealous. I didn’t even sense the need to try to compete. And despite thinking I would, I also didn’t have feelings of anger or thoughts that she didn’t deserve her. But I must admit, before I saw her for the first time that day, I did. Because in my eyes, she was the sinner and I was the saint. She was the one undeserving to be her mother.
But on that day, while walking up the steps to meet her, I asked the Lord to help me see her the way He saw her. I knew that if I was to get through this process without all the ugly emotions that often accompanies situations like this then I didn’t want to see her the way the investigators painted her. I didn’t want to look at her the way her past and present spoke of her. I didn’t want to see her as the sinner I had written her off to be. And I didn’t want to condemn her for the poor choices she had made. Or label her as a bad mom, sister, daughter, or friend. I wanted to see her the way He saw her.
I wanted to see her through the eyes of grace.
Because friends, who am I to judge? Her life could have easily been mine. It could have been me seeking the love my soul craved from men who didn’t care about my worth. It could have been me chasing friends who were chasing the world and the emptiness that worldly pleasures so often bring. It could have been me drowning in a sea of depression with no one to throw out a life preserver. It could have been me. And you might not want to admit it, but it could have also been you. I believe that we are all one bad decision away from losing our family’s, our homes, our money, our jobs, or our friendships. Just think about it.
When it comes to foster parenting and even life in general, you have to use your imagination for good. You have to believe for the best. Not always expecting the worst. Especially in people. It’s the only way to get through. Get through foster care. And ultimately get through life.
Many of you might be wondering what happened on day 1,274. Did she stay or did she go home? But because my word count is up, I’ll let a few pictures tell the story.
Elisha Kearns is the author behind the nationally known faith-based blog, Waiting for Baby Bird. She and her husband have been married for 11 amazing years and yearn to have a household full of children; however due to PCOS they have been challenged in the fertility department. Despite the facts, together they continue to put their faith in the Lord for a miracle. Her mission in life is to share her story in order to inspire and breathe hope into the lives of other women facing similar circumstances. Whether it is through her writing, standing behind the podium at infertility conferences, or leading her own support group in her small town of Southern Illinois, she inspires other women to never give up on their dreams and to believe for the impossible. She is witty, down to earth and transparent, always making every woman feel as though she is speaking directly to their heart. Aside from sharing her passion and love for Jesus, she is also a stay-at-home mom to their 7-year-old daughter who was newly adopted through foster care. For more of her story or to find hope and encouragement, visit her blog at waitingforbabybird.com, or connect with her and thousands of others @waitingforbabybird on Facebook or Instagram.
PPS – If you’re ever looking for a devotional on living life while in a waiting season, check out the devotional I co-authored called ‘In the Wait’!
PPPS – Check out the other contributions from this series, including What It’s Like: to experience multiple IVF cycles, raise a child with special needs, use an egg donor, be a DIY-er and home style blogger , be a NICU nurse, Live fully in singleness while still hoping for marriage, suffer with endometriosis. experience depression, start a company, have a micro preemie, lose a parent, be childless not by choice, have a spouse with a chronic illness, fund raise for fertility treatments, have a traumatic birthing experience, take a natural route with infertility, be on a reality show, go through the adoption process, have male factor infertility,be a stay at home mom, be an entertainer, be given a Down syndrome diagnosis for your child , experience multiple miscarriages, have a surrogate, experience a late pregnancy stillbirth, be a police officers wife, be a working mom , be a breastfeeding mother, have weight loss surgery, donate and adopt an embryo, and be on a reality show. Stay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!