I have six children.
That’s what I tell people most days.
But that number’s never solid. It can change before I finish sipping my satisfying cup of morning sanity. One phone call from licensing and I suddenly become the temporary mama of a few more. In the same call, I could find out I am losing a kid, dropping my digits once more in this restless ride of foster care.
The moments in my motherhood are complicated and I find myself calculating my responses to strangers before they utter their hello. How many kids do you have? My face is contorting even as I type these words. This always unravels a scroll of stories in my mama mind. Some days I’m honest, to the point, and quickly shrugging off the shock of my number so the conversation can move to more superficial subjects. But not before the faces of those I’ve loved flash across my mind.
I birthed four. One is almost adopted. And another foster baby calls me mama for today.
My motherhood story includes 27 other children who once lived under my roof. I haven’t seen most since the moment they left my home, but I still dream about them. I wonder where this life has taken them. Are they safe? Are they loved? Will they ever find an escape from the pain this life has poured on them?
This frolic in foster care was birthed after the arrival of our second child. The pain of postpartum anxiety and thyroid chaos threatened my everything. I thought my journey as a mom was going to end with two biological babies because I couldn’t bear another battle with the horrors of health issues.
But then I laid it all at the feet of Jesus — all of it.
And God grew our family in ways that were not my own. He led us to the dimmest spaces of our city where his love could shine the brightest and his hope could reach the farthest.
We hope our steps seem normal one day. My heart longs to live in a community where loving the least and welcoming the unwanted is commonplace. Because it’s not right now. Daily outings find this exhausted mama in the throes of complicated conversations as I attempt to explain how we ended up in this mess and why we keep saying yes.
The weight and emotions of Mother’s Day feel different than they used to when I was mama to one or two or three babies I brought into the world. I was naïve then. I didn’t know the tug of war I would feel when I held another mama’s child in my arms and celebrated the beauty of being a mom through the eyes of us both. Her struggles are shared with me and that’s a beautifully painful part of this celebration. I long to see her made whole and fully regain the precious moments of being a mom. But she may not this year, and maybe she never will. The milestones and memories may always belong to only me. I grieve what she cannot have for now. And I wrestle with what to do and how to convey the hope and heartache of the motherhood I’m living for her today.
This year, on a somber Sunday morning, I’ll open my hand to construction paper masterpieces and grin at the giggling faces staring back at me. I will pause to recount every hand I’ve held over the years and every toddler I’ve taken in. All of the middle of the night meetings on the threshold of my home play in my mind like a precious homemade video. Tears will slowly find their way down my face as every goodbye and final kiss find me again.
It all finds me again on this day, and I pray it always does.
Joy found in the mourning is the gift from a Savior whose love never fails. Your motherhood is held by a God that doesn’t waste a single moment. He holds every terrifying tear, every unsure moment, every laugh that eventually leaves you, every sorrow sobbed into the comforting curve of your mama shoulder and every precious soul that has ever whispered “mama” your way.
Happy Mother’s Day, mama to many — your beautifully broken motherhood is the bravest thing I know.