In a few days, our little family will recognize a significant milestone. An anniversary, if you will. Five years ago we changed from a family of four into a family of five. Not through the birth or adoption of a newborn, though.
Instead, our family grew one person larger through a foster care match that eventually became permanent. Jocelyn, our smart, beautiful, enthusiastic, and complicated little bundle of life, has blessed our family with her love for five years now. Five years.
I can still visualize the moment I saw my daughter for the first time. Her little pink coat and striped hat. Her worn pajamas. The doll, the blanket, and the car seat. These six items were all that she had in the whole world.
She was in my front porch, clinging to her social worker. She was cold and scared. Only fourteen months old. And I was totally unprepared for her, in more ways than one. We had been told three times in three months that this little girl, named Jocelyn, might be placed with us. Each time, she had remained with her birth family.
So this day, when she was actually there, staring at me with her enormous blue eyes, I panicked. Why? Because we already knew that this child was legally free, meaning her birth parents’ rights had been terminated. Her extended family members were still being reviewed as adoptive placements, but there was a possibility that this little stranger, the one who showed up unannounced, would become my daughter. Six months later, she did.
In the beginning, I was scared and overwhelmed. She was too. Some days we still are.
I did not give birth to Jocelyn, but I spent our first two months together counting to “one thousand Mississippi” in my head every night while rubbing her back so that she could fall asleep. I did not carry her developing body inside my own, but I comforted her 24/7 that first week while she cut eight (that’s right, eight) teeth.
I did not hear her first word, see her first smile, or watch her first steps, but I did help her overcome her fear of baths. I taught her to feed herself. I kept her safe, well-fed, clean, comforted, and healthy. I still do.
I was the one that changed and washed her nasty cloth diapers when we discovered she was allergic to the disposable variety. I am the one who kisses injuries and applies Sesame Street bandages when she falls down. And I will be the one who finally figures out, someday, how to teach her to read.
Jocelyn has two mothers. I am one of them. We both love Jocelyn. That is a good thing.
The last five years have been filled with lots of ups and downs. Occasionally the downs are really big, but the ups are even bigger. I absolutely love being Jocelyn’s mom, but it is hard. I would be lying if I did not admit that sometimes I wonder whether or not I am really cut out for this job.
Jocelyn did not have many material possessions when she became a member of our family, but she brought along a great deal of emotional baggage. Helping her work through the grief of losing her birth family, while guiding her toward a childhood filled with normalcy and joy, is challenging. Jocelyn and I are very loyal to one another, but we also have some extremely intense battles of the will.
Our road ahead, as mother and daughter, will be filled with potholes, bumps, and the occasional flat tire. Thankfully, we do not have to travel down it alone. We have the loving encouragement and support of her dad and sisters. Not to mention our extended family, friends, teachers, and professionals who want nothing more than for this amazing little girl to become someone truly outstanding.
And she will. Because in addition to the whole host of people that are rooting for her, Jocelyn has God in her corner. He has her story all written out. He intended for her to be more than a toddler without permanency, behind in most of her developmental milestones, and unable to comprehend why her life started out so messed up.
God also intended for me to be more than the person I once was. He wanted me to have more compassion. More patience. More love. And a lot less sleep. I am grateful that he did.
November is Adoption Awareness Month. This Sunday, November 8, is Orphan Sunday. The number of kids in our country who need foster and adoptive homes is staggering.
I will not lie. Being a foster or adoptive parent is tough work. But it is worth it.
I encourage you, if you have ever thought about opening your home and your heart to a kid in need of permanency, please reach out. Make the call. Send the email. Find out how you can impact someone’s life for the better.
Do you have room in your heart for another family member? Please contact your local foster or adoption agency.