Mother’s Day this year was extremely hard for me. As I scrolled through social networks or watched as families took pictures with their littles before going to church, I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. Sara or I usually have at least one little one in our home on Mother’s Day but this year our home was empty, very empty. I cry because I have loved so many with all my heart but they do not need my mother’s love any more. I smile because I am thankful that all of the ones we have loved so fully are being loved by their own mothers on Mother’s Day. As I reflect on Mother’s Day, I want to remember all the ones I have loved with a mother’s heart over the last four years.
Mia – The itty-bitty princess in all the pictures on a stranger’s Facebook page. As I prepared to travel to Taiwan, her adoptive mom asked if I would give little Mia kisses from Mommy. I said “of course” but remember thinking that it might be a little weird. I was so new to the adoption world. Mia quickly captured my heart and she was my first little one to stay overnight at our house. I remember messaging with her mom at all hours of the day telling her things about little Mia. Princess Mia was the first one that I took on an outing, put bows in her hair, gave her a bath, woke up for the midnight feeding, etc. I didn’t have a lot of time to love on her before her parents came but I cried hard when she left. She was the first little one to take a small piece of my heart with her.
Kara – The sweet baby girl with a furrowed brow who was handed to me as her birth mom climbed out of the car. Little Karebear took a very special place in my heart. I started taking her out of the nursery at a very young age and spent most of my weekends with her. She had trouble eating her bottle in the nursery so I figured out how to get her to eat for me. As I left Taiwan when she was 4 months old, I begged Sara to continue to take her out of the nursery so I could still see her on Skype. Sara quickly fell in love with this little one and soon after started fostering her. When I returned to Taiwan after a few months, Kara was still here and I got to love on her for just a little longer. I still remember walking out of the airport after 24 hours of travel and breaking down seeing my baby again. She was the first baby to really become attached to Sara and me and we cried many tears the night before we took Kara to her parents. I will always think of her as my little Karebear.
Ava & Elijah – The twins who I took home with me from the hospital. Elijah was released from the hospital first and a few days later, his sister, Ava, was released. This was the first time I had a newborn in my home for an extended period of time…and double! They were the best little newborns and kept to the same schedule. I kept them together as much as I could…I would put them in the bouncy seat next to each other, sleep them in the same crib, carry them in each of my arms. I wanted them to know that they were brother and sister. For the next three months, if I wanted to take one out of the nursery, I made Sara take the other. I strongly believed they had to be together all the time. haha. Little Mr. Elijah was my little man. He plumped up from being the itty-bitty baby in the “His Hands” photo to being affectionately called “Chipmunk”. I left Taiwan when they were about three months old and their parents came to get them in the time that I was back in the States. I only spent a small amount of time with Ava and Elijah but being their ‘mom’ for the first few weeks made them take a special place in my heart.
‘Lily‘ – Our beautiful little ‘Lily’. This was a nickname we chose for the baby who came to us from an abusive family. I took Lily straight to my home from the hospital because she would be safer with me. I was leaving Taiwan in about 2 weeks so I hadn’t planned on taking a baby right before leaving but this was a great need. Lily was just 2 days old when she came home with me. I prayed over her many many times and cried so many tears over her. We all praised God when her mother signed the adoption papers. I had to leave Taiwan and leave Lily with another family. My heart broke a little when I handed her over because I knew her case was going to be hard. A few weeks after returning to the States I found out that her birth family took her back. It’s been 3 1/2 years since then and the last I heard was that she was taken into foster care because of continued abuse in the family. My heart hurts every time I think of her. I would adopt her in a second if I could.
Lena – My little Lena Lu. When I returned to Taiwan in April 2011, Lena was about 5 months old. Many of the other babies had people taking them out of the nursery, so I decided I would take Lena out. I didn’t have a specific moment when I fell in love with her and decided that I wanted to take her out; it was more a feeling of sadness that this little girl didn’t have a special auntie yet so I would step in and give her some extra special love. But she quickly stole my heart with her smiles, giggles, and cuddling. That girl could snuggle! We bonded very quickly and I had to spend every weekend taking her out. Sara and I stayed in Taiwan the summer that Lena’s parents came out to get her so I had the privilege of placing Lena in her mother’s arms.
Sam – Oh, little Sam Sam. Sam’s story is a long one. He is the first baby that I was around from before his birth until his parents went home with him. His birth mom stayed at the House of Hope and she was so sweet. Sara and I went to the hospital as she labored with Sam but she ended up having an emergency c-section. I was at the hospital when we picked Sam and the birth mom up and I sat next to her as she held him on the way to her home. She handed him to me as she got out of the car. That’s all it took for me to fall in love with him. He and Lena overlapped in their time at the nursery so I had to wait until Lena went home to take Sam out. I loved him for the next 7 months. He and Lila (who Sara took out) were close in age and we took them everywhere with us. Sam was the first baby I took to the beach and I loved every minute of it! He was the sweetest and snuggliest baby.
Anna – Busiest. Baby. EVER. Anna Banana was the first one I fostered full-time and she was busy busy busy. She came to us at 7 months and I begged to be able to foster her because she would be the oldest in the nursery. I fostered her for 3 months until her adoptive family came. She was the happiest and silliest little girl. You could just give her a look and she would start laughing. Our home was filled with many nights of laughter. She wasn’t interested in toys but loved all the electronics and valuables around the home. We watched her take her first steps and cracked up when she would cry as we sang Lady Gaga. She got to spend Christmas and New Years Eve with our whole family (including my parents). I had many sleepless nights as she was teething or was sick. Even though she made me realize I never want to be a single mom, I loved every moment with her.
Rocky – Our little rock star. Rocky was born with some physical deformities but the moment I laid eyes on him, I knew he was a fighter. I watched as his birth parents cuddled him and cried over the baby they loved so dearly but knew they couldn’t care for. As Holly and I drove home with Rocky, I knew he was a special little man with a big future. My mom was the one who thought of the name “Rocky” for him and even though he has a new name (Gabriel), I still can only think of him as Rocky. I prayed over him that he would join the perfect family and they would love him as much as I did (and they do!)
Cadence – Oh, my little Cadence bird. The day she came home from the hospital was the day I fell in love with her. She had the biggest cheeks and the highest, squeakiest cry. I started taking her as soon as Anna left (and for Christmas and New Years before then). She just captured my heart…my little Cadence bird. She quickly became attached to me and I think we both looked forward to the weekends when we could just cuddle together. That little bird stole my heart in a way that I can’t explain.
Audrey – Petite Audrey Bear with her enormous personality. Audrey was in the nursery during the time that Cadence was there and she was being loved by Holly a lot of the time. In the weeks leading up to Cadence going home, I spent a lot of time in the nursery. Audrey quickly became a favorite of mine as I hung out in the nursery. She followed Cadence around and wanted whatever Cadence wanted…which meant me! 🙂 After Cadence left, I had a few weeks to spend with Audrey Bear until her parents arrived. She became quickly attached to me and I with her. She would light up any room she was in with her smiles and giggles. She was a little thing but was a big drama queen!
Simeon – Little man Simeon who was scared of the world when I started taking him out but ready to conquer it by the time his parents came. Oh that little boy stole my heart. He was 4 months old when I started taking him out and it just about broke my heart with how fearful he was of EVERYTHING. For the first few weeks that I took him out of the nursery, I had to just hold him because he was afraid of my house and anything that wasn’t the nursery. He quickly started bonding with me but took longer to become comfortable in unfamiliar places. After he wasn’t so afraid of everything, his real personality started to show. He would laugh at just about anything and he wanted to be so much bigger and older than he actually was. His next milestone was never far away from the last because he flew through them. He started standing on his own and took his first steps with us cheering him on. He broke my heart the day his parents arrived in Taiwan and he was afraid of the new people in front of him. He very quickly started to bond with them as he let go of me. He was such a special little man in both Sara’s and my lives.
Leah – Our Sweetpea. What do you write about a child you fostered for a year? Leah will hold a very special place in both my heart and Sara’s. Her story is one that I will let her parents chose to tell if they want but I will tell the story of how she wiggled her way into my heart. Sara started taking her out on weekends while I was still taking Simeon. Soon after Simeon left, the ministry made the decision that Leah needed to be fostered because of special circumstances. I loved Leah but she was really “Sara’s baby”, but I stepped up and said that I could foster her until the summer. After about a day, she had me wrapped around her finger. She was about 7 months old at that time. We returned from our summer travels, and she was returned to us. Over the next 8 months, we cared for her and taught her many things. We watched as she reached new milestones that we had not experienced with any other babies. She was 18 1/2 months old when her parents arrived in Taiwan. I’ve never felt as much like a mother as with Leah. I loved her just as much as these other babies, but I was ‘mommy’ in so many more ways as she was growing. Leah has taken a big piece of my heart with her as she has transitioned into her forever family.
Elise – My little Cookie. She was just a few days old when I kept her overnight at my house. I only had her one night and then she went to another family for a bit of time, but that one night was enough to start my love for her. When I came back from the summer and started visiting the nursery with Leah, I quickly decided that I needed to start taking Elise out on the weekends. She was too chubby and cute to be left in the nursery. 🙂 As she got older and Leah got older, Leah started calling her “mei mei” which means ‘little sister’ in Chinese. On Christmas Eve, Holly told me that I could start fostering Elise full-time until her parents came to get her. I remember jumping up and down and hugging Holly so tight because I wanted to spend as much time with Elise as I could. She was my special little Cookie.
I don’t want all the other babies to be left out; I could honestly write a book about probably every baby that went through Xi En while I was there. There were so many others who were special to me (Sadie, Kerrigan, Beckett, Ruby, Max, Lily, Owen, Jonathan…the list goes on) but I didn’t take them on outings as much or someone else was their ‘special auntie’. All of the babies in the nursery had someone very special who loved them very much, we made sure of that. These are just some of the ones who left an extra special mark on my heart.
As I think of all these children, I just want to hug and hold them one more time. I know that I will see many of them in the future and I’ll be able to do just that, but it won’t be the same. When they were in Taiwan, I loved them like a mother because their mothers weren’t here to do that. Now they all have mothers to hug them, rock them to sleep, comfort them when they are sick or scared, and just love them unconditionally. I can’t wait for the day when I can do that with my own children. For now I will just hold onto the memories of all these little ones who I loved like my own.