While teaching one of our families during MAPPS in recent weeks I had a new foster family ask if they would get to meet my husband. It was the first time I ever had this request and it surprised me. Would his perspective, words of wisdom or insight be different than mine? What would he say about how fostering has shaped our marriage? It caused me to reflect a great deal over the last nine years that we have been on this bumpy and challenging journey. I thought of the many children that have called us mom and dad. I thought of the arguments we have had regarding foster care, the intense moments of grief experienced together and the hard conversations we shared.
I was caught off guard as I processed our marriage through the lens of our foster journey because what repeatedly came to mind was the worst moments and memories. However, when I think about fostering from my perspective in isolation I don’t think of the hard moments. In fact, the opposite, I blur the hardest moments walked and I think of all the beautiful moments that have been gifts I have received along the way as a foster mom. I remember the first moment seeing each little placement and what they were wearing. I think of my son’s jubilee over helping their new sister. I think of the birthdays and the holidays and the moments of growth I have seen in our family, and I smile.
Marriage and foster care, what does that look like? What comes to mind is picturing my husband’s face buckling our little boy of almost 2 years into the social worker’s car seat, our final and most painful goodbye. I picture him holding another placement in the driveway as we got ready to take her to kinship and I remember his words. I think of the placement calls he said no to despite my pleading and the difficult exchanges over disagreeing about how to parent the trauma in our home. I think of the arguments, the agony, the tears involved with having a family that can become torn only to be mended with new pieces or placements.
Would my husband think of those same moments? How does his perspective alter or align with mine? Initially I felt consumed with fear and sadness when I thought of all the hard moments that fostering has forced our marriage to endure. Until I processed why those are the moments and memories that seem to be the freshest in my mind, no matter how ugly they are. Those moments I saw a man broken, a relationship struggling, and hearts broken over children that would never be ours again. The words exchanged, the tears shed all revealed to me the strength and grace in the man I married and an awareness of just how deeply rooted my appreciation and admiration are.
A man who took on fostering in his mid-twenties, who changed diapers, got up in the middle of the night, sat next to me in court, filled out stacks and stacks of paperwork and allowed our home to have an open door for children that were not biologically ours. My partner who knew that despite the difficulties fostering would bring continued to say yes, knowing he was the one who would have to be the leader in impossible situations. A man who has wept over little ones who only stayed weeks or months, a man who has given years of his life to put each of their needs before his own, regardless of whether or not he reaped the benefits of his investment in the future.
I realized that the broken moments and goodbyes are the ones that are the most present in my mind because it was in his brokenness that I felt the deepest connection to him. It was when I was most desperate for peace and comfort and I found it in the only person who understood exactly what I was thinking. Fostering has that unique ability, to create these one-of-a-kind experiences in which the only person who knows EXACTLY what you are enduring is your spouse. Friends or extended family, or even those who have fostered can also have a picture, but unless you have lived with that child, or sat in that courtroom, you cannot fully comprehend how it changes you and your family. After each child left I looked at my husband’s tear-brimmed eyes and I knew, no one else could understand my grief, no one but him.
I think of the arguments and the firm words in disagreement I wish were never exchanged and I realize what a fiercely selfless and passionate man I married. A man who advocated for me, my feelings, our boys, and the many children that have come and gone. I realize his words were said in protection and love of our family. I recognize now that those hard conversations where there was rupture and repair made us learn more about each other, about our communication, our strengths and our needs. It made us confront our fears, our insecurities and it made us come out on the other side stronger because of those heated moments.
My husband cares for the vulnerable the way Christ calls us to. I am privileged to call him my best friend and the head of our home. Fostering has brought the hardest moments in our journey as a couple, and I have absolute certainty he would be in agreement with that if asked. I don’t know what memories stand out to him the most. Maybe it’s the giggle of the daughters he has tickled, or seeing our son rock the baby girl we had last year, or hearing a new little one run towards him with arms open wide waiting for him to catch them. I hope he remembers the moment full of hope felt when they each entered our home instead of the grief felt when they left.
No matter the memory that highlights it, this truth remains: Our marriage has endured, has persevered, and has grown because of fostering. I get to watch my husband love and care for our sons that share his genetic makeup and his chocolate brown eyes. But I also have had the unique experience to see him parent children who come into our family through the front door and forever change his heart, even when they leave. He is the only one who completely understands each gain and loss the way I do. He is the only one who continues to walk this road with me, knowing it can and will be rocky with difficulties ahead. With weathered hearts and worn emotions we keep fostering together and I would rather be on this hard road with him than an easy one with anyone else. Looking down at the road can be discouraging. Knowing what the journey will take can feel defeating. However, knowing my spouse is strong enough to endure it makes the destination worth the trek. Looking at him and how far we have come is far better than looking down at the road. Ultimately it is all about our perspective. From my perspective, the sights to behold on the journey are a thing of beauty and completely worth it.