She was my Mother’s Day present.
My husband, Jordan, had planned to send me away for a whole day to myself. Our three very young boys, one adopted through foster care and two biological, were a constant joy, but they kept me constantly running. Most years, I wanted nothing more than to spend Mother’s Day with them, but this year I felt desperate enough for a break that I loved the idea of having the day alone and coming back to them refreshed.
Two days before Mother’s Day, we were heading out to run errands, toddlers in tow. We had one foot out the door when my husband’s phone rang. It started out the same as every other call we had gotten since our son’s adoption several months earlier. Even though we had asked to be on a no-call list except for respite care, the fact remained that there were more medically needy children coming into foster care than there were trained treatment foster care parents available to care for them. Each time, we asked for the details on the child, then talked and prayed briefly about it before giving our answer. We just couldn’t. We were too overwhelmed, and it wouldn’t be fair to our sons or to the child in question. Each time, our hearts broke as we said no. But each time, we knew it was the right thing to do.
That Friday, something was different. Nothing had changed in our circumstances, but things had begun to change in our hearts. We could feel it — the preparation. The unexplainable desire to help someone … someone we could feel was out there, but we didn’t know who or when or how we would make it all work. Still, when Jordan answered the phone and greeted our licensing worker, my first thought was, “Oh, goodness. We have to say no again.”
“It’s a little girl,” Jordan mouthed to me. We got in the car and started driving, while he asked the licensing worker question after question. When he hung up 15 minutes later, I must have been wide-eyed. I could tell from his side of the conversation that something was different. He told me what he had learned about this little one who needed a home. And we knew. Even though we spent the morning discussing it in detail and trying to talk ourselves out of doing something so wildly impractical and poorly timed, we both already knew the truth.
She needed us.
All the other calls that we had turned down, hearts breaking in the process, had been for children that needed homes and families. We prayed for each child, that they would find good ones, and be happy and loved, even as we knew that our home wasn’t the right one for them. But this time, there was not a doubt in our minds that this little one needed exactly what we could give her. And even though it seemed impossible and we were secretly terrified of failing, we felt steady. Peaceful. Ready.
An hour after the call came, before we had even made our decision, Jordan picked up a tiny pink onesie at the rummage sale we were browsing through and paid the 50 cents it cost. It was more symbolic than anything. By that afternoon, our licensing worker had arranged for us to meet the little girl. We held her and kissed her, marveling at every detail. It still felt surreal. When asked what our final decision was, I don’t think we had even said it to each other, but Jordan and I both responded with complete assurance. YES.
When would be a good time for her to move in?
Sunday. Sunday would be good.
I didn’t get a day to myself after all. We were awake well past midnight the night before, getting her room ready and folding the tiny pink outfits and blankets we had bought for her. I spent Mother’s Day holding her, breathing in her scent and letting her breath in mine, trying to comfort the fear that must have come with being in a stranger’s arms.
I was exhausted by the end of the day, but there was more work to do, more sleep to give up, weeks and months and years ahead that were now filled with the unknown that is foster care. But as we laid that beautiful cherub down in her crib, my heart was so full. It is a common misconception that by saying yes to taking in a child, we are somehow doing the child a favor. The truth is, saying yes is actually a gift to us — a hard, painful, wonderful, exhausting, beautiful gift. The chance to love a child, no matter if it’s for a week or for the rest of their lifetime, is something for which to be deeply, eternally grateful. That day, there was nothing more I could possibly want.
Mother’s Day is coming up again. Maybe this year I’ll get that day to myself. But on Mother’s Day, I want to do exactly what I was doing last year, spending time with my beautiful children. I want to hold our little girl, breathing in her scent and letting her breath in mine. Only now I’m no longer a stranger.
She will always be the sweetest Mother’s Day gift I have ever been given.
– Charlotte Schneider, licensed foster parent
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Community Services recruits, trains and provides support services for foster families. The need for foster parents in Wisconsin is great. Contact us to receive information about becoming a foster or adoptive parent, or visit our website to learn more.