Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Is It Worth It?

“I am just not sure my heart can handle the journey of foster care.” 

This is the comment I hear often, regarding foster care. That is the dilemma, does the good that comes from that role, can it possibly outweigh the ache of that same role? For some, the answer is “yes,” others are brokenhearted leading them to respond with a heavy “no.”

Each experience is different, sometimes it is just the fact that a child is not a good match for your family or you lack the skills the child needs. Other times, it’s the reality that this system is broken and often the rulings and decisions are confusing. Each foster family can tell you a story or two that will cause your heart to question the worth of it all.

Here is the one constant truth I know and have seen, the system is broken. That is no one person’s fault, it is the reality, children are not created to be foster children, but to be raised in homes with their parents. When brokenness creeps in, the child is removed for a long road of reunification efforts. Often those efforts are confusing and unfortunately seem to go against what we have deemed in our hearts and minds as “best.’’

I want to share from my experience with foster parenting, to tell you about the moments I would have answered that questions with a bold yes, and the other times I am left heartbroken and don’t think I can keep going.

The moments when you see the child before you blossoming, the small daily victories. The wins and those sweet moments that bring happy tears to your eyes. Those seconds that all of the hurt and ache melt away, left is the joy of being their parent. Those moments show up in the quietest ways, the day to day moments.

The moments spent fighting for 9 months of therapy to get your girl to give you eye contact, resulting in the fact she finally “knows” you as her mama, not by name alone but in her heart. Realizing her three years of life have been confusing and over that time she has had 12 parental figures, who all at some point leave her.

The moment you are able to walk down to the car and get groceries without the screams of a melting down child, afraid you are not coming back. Which has now grown into the fact that I can leave on a trip and she knows I am coming back, no question.

The sweet moment when your son sleeps without his shirt on and covers crammed up to his neck, knowing he finally feels safe.

The nights gone by without nightmares, the days gone by without trauma triggers, the behaviors changed and coping skills used. The moments you see that your child’s brain is literally rewiring and new pathways are being created. You celebrate it all, those seemingly small victories and insignificant moments, that is what keeps you going. Parenting trauma kids is not harder that raising birth children, it is however, different. We not only wear the hat of mom/dad but also, detective, constantly looking past the behavior to the hurt behind it all.

Then are the moments that are much harder, they make you question everything.

The moments that leave you drained and crying outside the door of a child having another nuclear meltdown. Those moments that you question, what you are doing and wonder if it even matters or if the change will ever happen?

The moments you take one step forward towards healing, then for some unknown reason, three steps back. Where you are trying to figure what triggered the response and what is the best path towards healing.

The moments you are dealing with the unrealistic expectations, accusations and parenting advice by birth parents, state workers and strangers.

Years of court hearings with a verdict resulting in giving birth parents more time to try. When enough is enough, and the kids are the ones being affected. Watching your kids be put in situations, so everyone can see “how birth parents handle it.” Then watching the emotional toll that has on them.

The moments spent buckling your baby in her car seat while you say goodbye to her for second time and arms extended crying for you.

The system is broken and will forever be, don’t get me wrong improvements will happen over time. So, I have found my peace and joy in foster care from within my passion. I make a huge effort to notice the small things and wins in the day to day, they help me navigate the difficult days and moments and help me keep grounded in my purpose.

I have discovered when I am grounded in my purpose and passion, it helps me stay the course through the very real and very big ups and downs. Early on, in my journey, I remember the feeling of everyday riding the emotional roller coaster of the ups and downs. A worker’s phone call, something the birth parents promised they would do, the court hearings, would send me to cloud 9 or to the depths, it was exhausting.

Going back and forth between the crashing waves of information, I had to stay anchored, in order to stay the course. I had to focus literally on the fact that we had “today” one day, that is all we are ever given. Our life is lived one day at a time, knowing that tomorrow’s phone call could change it all.

When people share the phrase with me, “I am just not sure my heart can handle the journey of foster care.” I totally get that and over the years my response was “yes, that is the hard part.” More recently my answer has changed, it comes from a place of experience and perspective. A place that makes me realize, that is exactly the reason why we should do foster care. You see these kids need someone who cares enough to get their hearts involved. Many of these children are treated as disposable and insignificant, their thoughts and opinions are rarely considered. Choices constantly made for them, my oldest constantly cries to the fact that she never gets a choice in it all.

Stepping into this world is not an easy one, it is often cruel, beyond broken, lonely and heavy. Moments that you never thought could happen, do. You see and hear things that change you. I can’t look into the face of these babies and choose to not get involved. I can’t say that it may hurt me too much or that it will be too costly. These kids don’t get a say, they are thrown into the war, wounded and without the proper tools. Survival at all costs becomes their mantra, it’s messy and at times ugly.

Even on the battlefield the flowers bloom and grasses grow. The sun does rise after the long nights of battle and we are standing there given another day, one day. No one person or perspective can answer the question if it is worth it, that is putting a price-tag on their stories. The good will always outweigh the bad, it is just sometimes a lot harder to see. It is there, in the moments that give you hope, found in their smiles and peaceful sleeping faces.

Our hearts are far more capable than we give them credit for. These kiddos hearts heal and change in staggering ways. Our hearts can handle the ups and downs and aches of this journey, if no other reason than for the sake of them.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Being Cultivators and Creators: Part Three

I often think we are so blessed and truly have all that we really “need” in this life, that kind of experience creates in us comfort focused living. One in which the risks are few and our lives are comfortable. We found our happiness in a sense of security and routine, is that really where it should be? What if we stepped out more, took bigger risks and really lived lives fueled by passion? The result could be life changing, sharpened skills, greater awareness of the needs around us and huge character development. These are the building blocks, to leaving our world better than we found it.

What exactly does creating and cultivating look like in the day to day? How do we actively take a role in making our world a little better than we found it? Here are some of the thoughts I had, as I mulled over this topic, I will share a little more in depth on each point this week.

It starts from a place of passion.
It takes time and energy.
It works in your strengths.

Living a life creating and cultivating is something that often works within your natural strengths. When you embrace your passions and the things that you were created to do, put in that time and energy, the result is that you will find that you are working from a place of natural ability. When you press into the things that stir your heart you will discover that you possess what you need to get the job done. During the journey, through the process of it all, you will uncover some hidden gems as well, things that you didn’t know you were capable of. Uncovering those gems is one of the most beautiful things that happen when you are living a life that is geared towards cultivating and creating.

Often on my foster parenting journey, I come up short and feel like I am all out of tools. I would take a step back, assess and reevaluate. I realized that out of the depths of my soul, the answer would come and somehow the beginning of a new skill would be there. Often it was something that I didn’t even know I was capable of doing.

The character development that happens when your focus is to cultivate is life changing. I am not the same person I was two years ago, it has not been an easy journey. I am so thankful, for the all the moments I felt lost and empty. In those moments I discovered what I needed was right there, within me, for just a time as this. I just needed to be pressed and encouraged a bit for that skill to make it’s way to the top.

Resiliency is one of the greatest things we possess as humans. I have watched four children who have experienced awful, life altering events, use those experiences for good. We would never want our children or ourselves to go through the heartaches and hard things, but in those moments great things come out. We learn the skills we need to press on and keep going, we see what we are created to do and our passions come alive.

This kind of cultivating takes me back to the garden, it is hard work to make those spaces look good. Never ending and the greatest gift the gardener holds in their heart is the potential to see what is to come. To grab hold of the creator’s vision and to take the time pressing into it, breathing life into the dream.

When we take the steps in our lives, to pursue the passions, give the time and energy and then reap the harvest of skills, that is when real change happens. When we overcome the struggle and press in, we become better versions of ourselves. I desire greatly, to change my world. To make my space a little lighter and brighter, to sow seeds of love and encouragement. To build people up and to do good things. May we all find what we were created to do, thus we find the purpose in this life.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Being Cultivators and Creators: Part Two

I am again, processing through the sermon I heard earlier in the week. You can read part one of my blog post on being cultivators and creators. What exactly does creating and cultivating look like in the day to day? How do we actively take a role in making our world a little better than we found it? Here are some of the thoughts I had as I mulled over this topic: (I will share a little more in depth on each point this week.)

It starts from a place of passion.
It takes time and energy.
It works in your strengths.


It takes time and energy. Our days are filled with random thoughts throughout the day that often guide the decisions we make. True cultivation happens when we take those thoughts, add a little time and mental energy and press in. This is the hard part, the time to get dirty and actually do some labor.

Foster parenting is all cultivating parenting. Foster parents pick up after the creators and begin to cultivate, helping restore the purpose and removing the weeds that have overrun the space. They have to dig deep and work hard to get it out of there. It is time consuming and exhausting, much like gardening, you gotta get in there and get your hands dirty.

“I will not make room in my heart for them,” this is what one of my children said this week. We had a situation, that triggered some trauma and with our lack of healthy coping skills, my child is falling apart. In my two years of parenting, I have learned I have to take the time and energy to press into my child, to help make their world a little better.

Often, I am left scratching my head on what to do next, it’s kind of like doing a jigsaw puzzle without a picture. A puzzle that is all connected but you aren’t exactly sure how or where to even begin. You have little to no guidance but you know one thing for sure, the pieces do fit together.

This past week, I have done my fair share of cultivating and I must say, I am tired. Family meetings, loud disruptive tantrums and heart talks night after night. Pulling weeds often seems like for everyone weed I successfully pull, there are two more. Sometimes, it feels a little bit like we have made no progress. When I am sitting in the middle of the garden and all I see is the weeds and overgrown plants, it seems like no good has happened. However, I realized if I get up and take a step out of the heart of the garden, it actually looks pretty good and I can see the progress made.

My heart is heavy as I try to help my child heal. As I try to figure out what the source or which route of healing to take. It takes all of the time and energy, it takes hard work and lots of labor. I think gardening is one of those hobbies that takes a ton of work and a big commitment. It is a never ending job, you can’t just do it once, you have to constantly be back ripping out the weeds.

I suppose that is a pretty big reflection of our hearts. When we do heart work, whether we are evaluating wounds or pressing into dreams, we have to keep going back. Time and energy is what we have to do in order to cultivate and change our little worlds.

My prayer is that I may love well, during those moments where the thorns seem to be all I see. When I can’t seem to get that root out and those days when it feels so hard and it’s hot. May we love well my friends, this world needs it.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Being Cultivators and Creators: Part One

I heard a sermon this week on how we spend our time on Earth. The speaker stated that we are called to create and cultivate. The challenge was how can I leave this world better than I found it? How do we leave this place a lighter? The news and feeds are continually filled with tragedy and brokenness, we need a little more light. I believe it is our job to fight to make this place a little better, if we don’t than who?

When I hear the word cultivate, my mind jumps to gardening. Cultivating is hard work, the word means, to improve what has been created. The creation, or process of bringing something into existence has happened now you must breathe life into it. The cultivator only has what is before them, the creator has the vision, the things imagined. Both parts are essential in changing our world.

What exactly does creating and cultivating look like in the day to day? How do we actively take a role in making our world a little better than we found it?

Here are some of the thoughts I had as I mulled over this topic:
(I will share a little more in depth on each point this week.)

1) It starts from a place of passion.
2) It takes time and energy.
3) It works in your strengths.

It starts from a place of passion. What do you dream about? What are the issues that pull at your heartstrings? Where do you desire to see change? In my life there have been areas of passion rise up in me that have surprised me. Some of them I had no idea I cared about until I heard or saw something that caused me to want to see change.

My biggest passion driven pursuit, was my journey to foster parenting. The journey was a slow and gradual awareness, born from a desire to foster children “someday.” I knew my heart from a young age, was bent towards being a mom and adoption. I did not know that motherhood would find me while I was in my twenties and single through foster care.

Passion came a knocking, all in a week December 2013. She was not so subtle, in one week: I heard a speech on foster care, followed by a billboard and radio ads seeking foster parents, during my devotion time, a newspaper article on a local foster family, and finally an encounter with a foster parent. I could not escape it, always there, gnawing at me, I did what most people would do ignored it.

The following week I was catching up with a friend and casually brought up the fact that foster care was a topic that I could not escape, it seemed it was continually in my path. My friend, very lovingly said to me, “What are you going to do about it? You can do this, single, I know people who have.” So, I did assuming that I would find nothing but closed doors for this season of life, I was so wrong.

I went home that day and looked into the laws of my state only to discover not a closed door as I assumed but a very big, wide open door, with lovely arrows on the floor leading the way. Not what I expected, that is when the passion really got me going. I started reading statistics, articles and information on the foster care system. I realized I had just walked through a door I could no longer ignore, the need is great. After a few steps forward, I was enrolled in foster care classes and on my way to a license.

The first step is to find that passion, it is what overrides the doubts, fears and insecurities. The passion is what keeps you going when the road is scary and unknown. Very early in my journey I stumbled upon this quote and it kept me know going when the journey got tough and it has stuck with me from day one.

“I am not afraid to grieve. I am afraid of what will happen to these children, if no one took the risk to love them.”

My friends, living a passionate life does not mean an easy life. When you are tapping into your passions, you are diving in deep to the core of your heart and depths of your soul. That is where your being flows from, it will hurt. It will ache. It is worth it.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Paradox




par·a·dox
noun
a statement or proposition that, despite sound reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.

“It isn’t fair, it doesn’t make sense. She couldn’t take care of us, and we are big kids.” One of my sweet kiddos broke down this week, the first real breakdown since “Little One” left our home, now almost one month ago. This is the part of foster care I hate, it is the ultimate paradox and the place I struggle to find peace.

Some of you know first hand, the ache of foster care or the loss of a child. Some of you know the system is broken and in need of overhaul. Others, maybe you don’t know, much like me 3 years ago, blissfully unaware. We live in a culture that loves happy endings. We spend our whole lives, dreaming, reading and watching happily ever after happen. That is where we live, in the paradox, life is so good and yet, so hard at times. What do we do when we get to the end and the happy ending isn’t there? Our biggest paradox came into play on one of the happiest days of our lives, ADOPTION DAY, May 12th 2016. We had a whole day planned of festivities and an entourage that would rival any pop star. We laughed, cried happy tears, celebrated and soaked in all of the love.


As we finished up our last round of fun, I got a call. You can always tell by the first word, when the worker has bad news, she hesitated for a moment and asked what I was doing. I sent the kids ahead into the house, sensing this was not a good call. Little One was asleep in the back, tuckered out from a full day of fun. The worker told me that tomorrow Little One would be doing a five day visit with birth mom (a sign that meant return was just around the corner), her first night away from us in six months. In one day the paradox burned brightly, I would say hello to my three beautiful forever children and goodbye to the fourth of our family.

My heart sunk, the lump grew and the tears came, all I could do was sob on the phone. We had such an emotional day celebrating a happy ending and within the same day the reality of our situation came into light, I am still a foster mom.

My heart broke for my three babies that would have to grieve their sister for a second time, I grieved for my Little One who knew me as her mama and adored her siblings, I grieved for birth mom and the chains of addiction and I grieved for my mama heart that didn’t think I could say goodbye again. I sat in the car, feeling the weight of this broken system, pleading with God to fix it all. My mind raced as I struggled to believe if reunification is “always” best. How can we in one day feel such joy and sorrow. How can I prepare us to say goodbye again?

Two and half years into my journey with foster care, I have not been able to settle on the answers. I have have heard countless accounts of people with stories likes ours and some even worse, it doesn’t make sense, not to my children and not to me. The challenge is instead finding the peace in it all, the confusion and unfairness of it will most likely never go away. What we can do is struggle to find the purpose in it all. I had a friend ask, if knowing what I know now the fact that Little One would leave our home for a second time, did I wish I didn't take her in? Not for one second. You see those 6 months were not wasted, they had purpose and just because I don’t like the ending it doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable.

I wiped the tears away, took a deep breath and whispered, “it is well,” the mantra I claimed this year. I Opened the door and watched my Little One sleep. Her little chest rising and falling, her sweet little lips pursed and I ached. I didn’t want to move one step for I knew it would be one step closer to goodbye. So I stood there, soaking her in.

One of the struggles in parenting for me is when do you deliver bad news? When do I interrupt the giggles and pretend play to share the news that our baby is leaving...again? I wanted them to just have one day where they could not feel like foster kids, where they could just soak up all of the love. When I finally told them, they all looked at me and said “okay, will she be back?” My heart broke, “no, she won’t be.” They all just sat there and accepted what I said, I am afraid my babies are getting used to losing people they love, that is a great tragedy.

Foster care is broken, from the beginning, kids are supposed to be raised by their parents. It is not one person’s fault, the world is doing the best they can. It is hard to create health in something that is a born from a broken place.

I want to hope that the system will change and become better but I am skeptical. I have discovered that maybe it is less about the system changing and more about me changing? Life is filled with moments that show us what exactly we are capable of doing. In hindsight, we find that we are thankful for them, because no matter how hard they teach us something. My hard moments have taught me to love fully, without walls or guards. To fully expect the ache and hurt. I have discovered that loving these babies well, is what they deserve. So, I will continue to open my heart and my home to the ones who need love the most and expect it to hurt.

The Paradoxes I’ve found in my experience with foster care:


Children leave safe, loving homes and are placed in unfit homes.

Children at the end of the day are pawns in the game of getting parents to change.

Siblings are left to grieve the loss of each other.

The back and forth and emotional toll of these kids is great.

The desire to love fully, knowing it will hurt.

The expectation to love the children as your own but realize at the end of the day you have no control or say in what happens.

Explaining to your three older children why their birth mom gets the baby but not them.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Us.

My little family is incredible and I feel so #blessed to be their mama. I shared a bit about them in the paragraph and then asked each kid what ten things they wanted to share with you all. Enjoy, getting to know us.







Jules: I am the mama of this tribe











A few things you should know:
  1. I am left handed, I think I will die sooner but am more creative?!?
  2. I am a coffee roaster, I work for Hardy Coffee Co, based out of Omaha, NE we have been roasting coffee for about one year.
  3. I am vegan, five years, it has been an interesting and mind altering journey.
  4. I am an extrovert, when too many great people are around I get “drunk,” with all the greatness and excitement of FRIENDS!
  5. I love throwing parties and entertaining people at my house, on a normal week we have friends over to join us for dinner, one dinner party and brunch.
  6. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, pancakes for dinner anyone?
  7. I love being outdoors, camping, hiking, sitting around a fire.
  8. I love people, collecting stories and hearing hearts, when someone shares a piece of them it is a gift. Empowering people.
  9. I love learning new things, I am a bit of a hobbyist.
  10. I am an optimist to the core, it’s a bad day if I can’t see the silver lining.  




Charlotte: big sister


Charlie is big sister to the core, much of her early years forced into a parenting role. We have spent two years breaking her free from that “role.” During that time I have watched this beautiful girl blossom, she was created to do big things in this life. She has a beautiful smile with sparkly eyes, she knows how to get what she wants. She is quick to help and loves to be involved in the plans and details. For so long she carried it all, which has created in her a strong and guarded spirit. She hungers to hear praise and desires to know her value in the eyes of others. These past two years she found her confidence and when driven nothing will stop her. She has this ability to jump into any sport and just do it.


A few things she wants you to know:


  1. I love pets, she cares for, reads about and loves anything furry.
  2. I like to play hide and seek, she is committed to this game, even to the point of physical discomfort.
  3. I love to help other people learn new things, awesome big sister.   
  4. I love rubbing my mom’s feet, learned that she can make money doing this (both of us were happy about that discovery).
  5. I love being adopted because I have a new family.
  6. I like meeting new friends, I like being a good friend, quality time is my main love language.
  7. I love sports, I am naturally talented at any sport I try.  
  8. I love skateboarding, part of a all girl skateboarding league (girl power)!
  9. I like to play with Barbies and babies.
  10. When I grow up I want to be a doctor that helps people have babies.




Daniel: the man of the house


My sweet and only boy, is outnumbered by girls (even the dogs are girls) but takes it with stride. He loves to embrace his more sensitive side and is never too big or busy for a kiss and hug from mom. He feels everything deeply, his heart is on his sleeve and is easily bruised. He inspires me, he has continually pressed into the hard things. He is a kind soul, he thinks of others first and is quick to share with people around him. I love  when he does the things he loves, we talk a lot about not worrying about what others think, I learn so much from him on love.








A few things he wants you to know: 


  1. I like sharks, the story of Bethany Hamilton, created this obsession.
  2. My favorite thing to play is mermaids, I have a mermaid tail I love to wear and flop around the house in.
  3. I love swimming, takes me to my mermaid roots.
  4. I love to climb anything I can, challenge accepted.  
  5. I love doing flips, anywhere and anytime.  We now have a designated “flip” couch in the house.  
  6. I love to give hugs and kisses, physical touch is my main love language.  
  7. I love learning karate, and improv especially when mom is asking me to do something.  
  8. I can spin on my head, hopefully can pay for college with an awesome Youtube video.  
  9. I love to play tag with my friends.
  10. When I grow up I want to be a doctor for animals.








Kennedy: the girly girl


This girl, is a beautiful gift to the world, she may be small yet she is fierce. She has her own thoughts on things and lets you know. She is quick to crack a witty joke, she often leaves people speechless. She is quick to tell you how she is feeling, two years ago she hardly spoke a word. Her eyes are huge and I often wondered what they have seen. She is a thinker and strong willed, she does not let things go easily. I am excited to see, how she uses that skill to do incredible things in this life.






A few things she wants you to know:


  1. I love wearing dresses, pants are the worst, great punishment.
  2. I love kitties, mostly being one.
  3. I love swimming, miracle since last year mom didn’t catch me, right away, at the bottom of the water slide.  
  4. I like ice cream, any and all!  
  5. I love making my mama ‘’tea.” Best day ever, when Elsa came over for tea.
  6. I love puzzles.
  7. I love peanut butter spoons, frequent snack. Really easy: take spoon, dip in peanut butter, and enjoy!  
  8. I love to put things in my princess backpack.
  9. I love being a big sister, I love the role of being big sister.  
  10. When I grow up I want to be a “cooker.”




Little one: our little ray of sunshine and hope


She is our baby, we will talk of her often but I have to keep her identity secret . She left our home late May, 2016 for the second time, currently with birth mom in rehab. She has come and gone twice, which has lead to some very difficult seasons. I will share more on her in the blogs to come. These season in foster care are a balancing act a place of gratitude for the seasons had and hope for the ones yet to come.  


Hope for: healing and change, forever families and reunification, futures and seeds planted. May we never lose sight of HOPE.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Strangers


“Do you guys like pizza?” I looked in the rear view mirror, noting how big and nervous those six eyes were. It was a Thursday, by no means an ordinary day, the question was directed at the three littles I had just picked up. For them this was another move, a new home and yet again change, I would be their fifth home in one year. Most of their moves, they would say goodbye to strangers, for they didn’t live there long enough to really know anyone.

On the way home, I made small talk hoping to find something we could bond over, something that would show them I was a safe person. My mind was processing, I thought back to the moments before, I was met at the door, handed trash bags of clothing, toys and three children. My brave five year old son, clung to his “parent” who gave him a pat on the back and a brief “you will be fine, she seems nice.” He looked at me eyes wide with fear and bravely took my hand. Those steps to the car were long, he was quiet, holding on, his little heart needed something to cling to.

The five minute car ride seemed so much longer, as I wondered what this new season of life looked like. I watched in the mirror as my big girl, seven years old, comforted everyone with pats and words of encouragement. Much like a mama trying to calm her babies, whispering “it would be okay.” Her job was being the one person that kept them together and safe. She was the “oldest” seven year old I had ever seen, life had taught her she had to be in charge. I decided it would be different and maybe hard, I truly in that moment had no idea what was to come. My mind quickly and desperately tried to recall all I had learned in my classes. We pulled up to the house, I helped them unbuckle, they were so scared, eyes wide and filled with tears. I tried to comfort them, as much as a stranger can.

We climbed the stairs to the house, where we began unloading their things. We all sat down around the table for dinner, we ate pizza and carrots. Each of them slowly opening up, sharing a phrase here and there. After dinner we unpacked their tattered clothing, took baths and began our new bedtime routine. I tucked everyone in their new beds and whispered a goodnight. Praying over each of them as they slept, what a strange thing it is to tuck strangers into bed.

Once they were quiet, I sat down and began going through their clothing, feeling frustrated that they had been wearing this stained, tattered clothing, sorting things into piles. I wondered where had these babies been, what had they seen, where have they lived? They were 7,5 and 3, though their bodies were tiny, they were old souls, they had been through so much.

I did one final check on them and climbed into my bed, only to be awakened shortly there after by sobs. My sweet three year old, was sobbing, she had some kind of nightmare. I scooped her up and went into my living room and rocked her. I wondered what does it feel like to seek comfort in a stranger. She clung to me, she was sweaty and shaking, her little heart so heavy. I rocked her and the tears streamed down my face as I wondered what this soul carried. She eventually stopped and her breathing got deep and methodical, I laid her back in bed and tucked her in, this time with a kiss on the forehead.

I climbed back into my bed, heavy hearted and honestly unsure if I could do this, feeling so ill-equipped. That was our first night of forever. At 27, I had become a mom of three overnight... suddenly it was as if the instructions on my box read, “just add kids.”