I see this beaming smile and for a brief moment I am back in that scary season of life. A time when I desperately searched for reasons to find joy. Like the silly hat and the jovial smile of my son looking back at me. That season of life when this photo was captured included frequent hospital stays and the fresh loss of sweet children we had fostered for nearly two years. In that season we heard various scary potential prognoses, some of which spoke of our son’s funeral before the age of ten. Four months ago we were a healthy, happy, family of five. Suddenly after a difficult court date and two prolonged hospital stays we were now a married couple with one potentially terminally ill child.
Six years later, I sit on my couch and I look at a chaotic, loud home with toys strewn about and I hear little feet running down the hall and I thank God for the ways that he chose redemptive pieces to help restore our story. Our prayers were answered, my son’s health restored, and we were blessed with more children by birth and through foster care.
My seven-year old’s triumphs all directly correlate to what he has overcome. I no longer feed my son through a feeding tube. Instead, I watch him try a new food and I celebrate with all the pride my heart can handle without making a public scene. Although those around me may not consider that something special, I do. I think of the countless hours, the endless therapy bills, the many diagnoses, the multiple prescriptions, and the pain he has endured over the years. I am his mother, I know his story, I don’t see what others see as mundane moments, instead I see triumphs.
When my son reaches a milestone, I feel as if he is performing on center stage. His story and the fact he not only survived but now thrives makes life with him much more precious. I appreciate my son more and I have a deeper love for him because of our journey.
I had the unique privilege of speaking with one of our adoptive families. He shared that one of his favorite things to do is spend time with his adoptive son, and he said to me, “There is still so much about him I am learning years later, and it’s how I deepen my love for him by getting to know him more.” I let that resonate with me for some time after.
That is what can make fostering and adopting so challenging at times. Sometimes, it is difficult to celebrate with our daughter, because unlike our son I do not fully know her story. I am not completely aware of what she has had to overcome, I don’t know the loneliness or the loss she has endured.
However, I do know what I feel for my son, I am able to appreciate his journey and think about the strength he needed to walk his road towards healing. I also know that the road my daughter has survived has been far worse than my son’s. Her path was filled with more pain, loss, and suffering than my son endured his early years of life. I believe in that there is an even greater aptitude for appreciation, love, and moments that make our life more precious.
My daughter’s story may be fragmented to me, with unfamiliar parts. However, just like you do with marriage or other relationships that come later in life, you take the time to be vulnerable and to invest in them. Deeping your love for another person is not an easy road. You have to be willing to be honest and allow that person to show you their imperfections without fear of judgement. The more we learn, the more we understand the insecurities, the imperfections, and the difficult parts of that person, the more potential we have for love.
When I think of fostering, it is easy to get wrapped up in my own perspective, my own moment in time, my own feelings. My husband and I are working hard to understand our daughter and deepen our love for her. More importantly, I have to remember she is desperately trying to do the same thing. The difference is, right now we are in a season where we have seen the redemption, the healing and the joy, and it is easier for us to arrive there. My daughter is coming out of seasons of loss and heartbreak. A time in her life when she endured pain, her family changed, and her future unknown. Her season resembles the circumstance I was in when the photograph was taken of our son. It is a scary season where she is searching for hope and joy in midst of tremendous loss.
I see the photo of my son and I can either remember the moments of fear and pain, or I can recognize it was a part of our journey that allowed incredible triumphs and healing to occur. This photo no longer represents pain and loss, it reminds me of my son’s story and what he has overcome. My prayer is that overtime I would understand my daughter’s journey more, love her more deeply, appreciate her triumphs like I do my son.
My hope for her is that someday she will look back and understand my love for her and appreciate that we walked this road with her through this scary season with her and didn’t give up. I hope that years from now she can look at her life and thank God for the ways that he chose redemptive pieces to help restore her story. I want her to see the journey we all walked as a family and know that part of our family’s path to restoration was not just Grant’s healing, but it was also God’s gift of more children, including HER.