When I was a little girl, God planted a two-fold dream in my heart. It was a HUGE dream. I wanted to have a lot of kids, and I wanted to adopt. I didn’t outgrow the dream. By age twenty I was married and hopeful. By age twenty-four I had been three years infertile.
My then-husband and I signed up for foster parenting classes and began our journey toward parenthood. I sat in the week-long training sessions hearing lots of inspirational stories, buckets of great advice, and an occasional warning. “You would be surprised, but becoming foster parents can really take a toll on marriages. It’s not uncommon to see couples end up divorced. You need to know what you’re getting into ahead of time,” said the no-nonsense social worker. I sat back in my chair, naïve and perhaps a little smug and thought Oh that would never happen to us; we don’t even believe in the “D” word. Remember my first sentence in this paragraph where I said “then-husband?” Uh huh.
Once parenting classes were complete, we filled out questionnaires about the kinds of kids we were willing to bring into our home. Since I had never been a mama before, I made a couple of stipulations. I didn’t feel I could manage teenagers or special needs kids. Also, I only wanted two at first. I needed to get this mothering thing down before I could consider more than two. I was adamant about that.
A couple of weeks later we got a phone call for our first placement. And they kept calling…and kept calling. When faced with the possibility of actual children who needed a home, it was impossible to say no. By the end of six weeks, we found ourselves parents to SIX children. So much for being adamant. The two oldest were in school, and had been placed with us to see if we might become their forever family. And we did. The four youngest were all ages four and under. They were placed with us temporarily, but we became their forever family too.
I can assure you my own frailty became painfully apparent in those early days. I got more wrong than I got right. That’s still true on most days. Being a mom filled me with some of the greatest earthly joy I’ve ever known. It also scared me to death, and wore me out. In those first few weeks I was in pure ecstasy, doing their laundry (yes, you read that right), fixing their meals, giving them baths, and hugging their little necks. The hardest thing? Knowing the commitment to raise and love these kids was monumental, and the uncertainty of how it would all turn out someday. But the best thing? Hearing the word Mom a hundred times a day.
As the first few weeks pressed on I became increasingly tired, until I began to feel sick. I started to have all kinds of ailments, but didn’t have time to stop and figure out what was wrong. A friend slyly suggested that I might be pregnant and do you know what? I was! God has a sense of humor, folks.
After the arrival of that baby I became pregnant again, and then once more after that. That brought our grand total to nine kids. Then somewhere around the birth of our ninth child the crap hit the fan. It kept hitting the fan for a lot of years. It was a long and painful journey for all of us, but God was ever faithful.
That journey has afforded us a huge milestone this week. The youngest of my adopted children is turning eighteen. All six of my chosen children are now legal adults. All those years ago I couldn’t have even begun to fathom that might look like, and now here we are, on the other side. Oh my goodness! I’ve been on this adventure with them for seventeen and a half years. We’ve reached the end. Only it’s not the end. Heavens no.
I try to still be available for my grown up kids, but I’m attempting to give them space to be adults. I’m struggling to balance keeping my distance so I don’t seem meddling, and risking that they’ll interpret this as not being interested in their lives. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I realize that because they are grown they don’t need me as often anymore. I’m OK with that most days. I wish I could say that I have close and wonderful relationships with all six of them. That would be a fairytale ending, but it’s not my reality. As with a great many kids, the transformation from child to adult is just awkward and painful at times. While I have wonderful relationships with some of them, others are still exploring who they are and trying to prove to their mama that they can “make it on their own, thank you very much.”
What I’ve learned is that adoption and parenting is not for the faint of heart. Kids know how to twist your guts inside out. They can sometimes pull at you so hard you don’t know who you are anymore. It was a profound moment for me when I finally learned to place my identity in Christ, and not in my motherhood. If I’m being honest, in some deep part of my soul I might have started the journey looking for some form of significance, but not anymore. Mama is simply a costume I wear, but it’s not who I am. My self-worth is not wrapped up in the strength of my children’s love of, respect for, nor opinion about me.
I love all ten of my youngins desperately (My now-husband and I had another baby 19 months ago). I never stop being amazed that God gave me a BIG dream all those years ago and He’s allowed me to continue living it. All the good things about our story, it is Christ. All the bad things, He used for our good and His glory.