When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a missionary to a foreign country. I wanted to adopt or work in an orphanage. I also wanted to be a teacher and then a veterinarian. I wanted to find my calling in life. Like most kids, my dreams grew and changed with time, experience, and opportunity. At 16, I started dating a guy that—I’m not kidding—I knew I was going to marry. And we did. At 19 and 20, after I had received my diploma in business management, we did get married. Two months into our marriage, I started a business from home that my mom would later take over for me after I’d had two biological children, one adoption, and one beautiful foster daughter who needed a feeding tube at two months of age.
I’m often fascinated by different jobs. I often think about the occupations different people have and try to place myself in their shoes, even just for a moment. I love jobs in the helping professions; I love jobs where the work is deep and meaningful. I have also learned that almost any work can be made meaningful by applying oneself, taking it all seriously, putting your best foot forward, and engaging in the work at hand.
After two medically disastrous pregnancies, Tyler and I felt our calling was to become foster parents. We had no idea how difficult yet rewarding and fulfilling this calling would be. I do know that I had observed a few foster and adoptive families and found them to be completely fascinating. I was borderline obsessed with the tangible element to it: the forever leaving of an impact on another person’s life. I felt the dark underside of this world; I sensed the ability to harm or cut someone to the core and also leave an impact. This is when I started to see that our choices as human beings have effects that ripple for generations. As a foster parent of almost a decade, I have seen a few things now, and I carry some things in my memory that I wish I didn’t. I’ve seen the generational trauma of abuse leading to the next two generations of children being raised in foster care. The future is looking quite grim for those now teens who are living in group homes and dabbling in the juvenile court system. While there is always hope, I see the path of least resistance for some of these kids is to keep chasing the pain with the same destructive measures they have used before. New pathways in the brain are hard to form, and it is plain scary to forge out and try something new.
The role of a foster or adoptive parent is not one to be taken lightly. Foster and adoptive parents are parenting some of the most marginalized and abused children in our society. Our words and actions today will play out in the minds and hearts of those we care about for the rest of their lives and on into generations to come. While no caregiver is perfect, I have felt the weight of knowing that I have precious little ones who have been through more than anyone ought to ask for their age. They are looking up to me to nurture, provide, and love.
As a stay-at-home parent and before becoming a foster parent, I would occasionally come across someone who looked down in disdain at my decision to stay home with my kids. Once at a birthday party, I had a very posh woman ask me what my career was. I paused, trying to sort out how to explain that I cleaned an office building for a few hours on weekends and was transitioning my mom to take over my in-home work of drafting legal agreements for the oil and gas sector. The kids were screaming in the background. I felt a little fatigued and out of sorts as I replied that I didn’t have a career. Her smug grin and quick tirade on how she would never just be a stay-at-home parent left me feeling sucker-punched. As it turned out, almost every woman in the room had felt that they weren’t fulfilled at home. They felt just a tiny bit sorry for me being stuck at home.
Though I never felt stuck at home. I was always the type of mom that would pack up the kids and go for a drive just for something to do. We would park downtown and watch construction. We would drive to a neighboring community to pick up chicks for the farm because we could. When we became foster parents, I reveled in the work. It truly was what I was meant to do. A curious thing happened, though. I had spent time thinking about how amazing it would feel to be a nurse, a veterinarian, a social worker, or a lawyer—but then I started on an amazing journey in which I would touch so many occupations and sample many worlds outside my own.
Saying yes is a choice, and I love to say yes. My mind floods with possibility. What might happen? What opportunities are created and where might this go? Fostering opened the door to adoption and so much more.
I was nervous. This was a first for me. My husband and I had been asked to go to the hospital to hold a newborn baby girl that would be released to our care when she was deemed healthy enough. We were asked to take photos of her and create a lifebook—she would not ever be returning home to her biological parents (and we would go on to adopt her). I’m rarely idle, even in my downtime, so I jumped at this opportunity and poured myself into it. I realized that foster care came with lots of sorrow and hard things. I imagined what the social workers knew about all these tough cases, and my heart then felt heavy. I also knew that I was hands-on and at ground level doing this. This was not a story that I heard as a girl, or the dream to make a real difference in this world. No, I was living it.
As time would go on, I would sit with birth parents in the hospital, knowing that their newborn baby would come home with me and that their hearts were breaking. Some parents were enmeshed in addictions and were hard to handle. I learned to joke and laugh to break the ice, and I learned that I was absolutely fascinated by everyone I met. I wanted to truly know them. I wanted to hear their stories, and I wanted to be their friend. I have now made lifelong friends this way and have gone on to adopt some of these children.
During a particularly challenging period of my life, I was 14 hours from home in Vancouver Children’s Hospital, awaiting training on how to insert a nasal-gastric feeding tube to be able to feed our foster daughter at home when she was discharged. Although her situation was heavy, I was quite excited to be able to care for her in this extraordinary way, and I was also excited to learn something new. Far from being a complete training in nursing, I still felt quite privileged and humbled to be the one who got to do this. I remember the nurse showing me how to lubricate the tube, how to snake it up the nostril, and how to keep pushing in just the right way. When it was my turn, I felt hot tears in my eyes as my foster daughter cried and squirmed because she didn’t like the feeling. I remember having to stop and try over, knowing that I was causing more discomfort by not getting it right on my first try. I remember my resolve: I will learn to do this for her, even if it is hard. I remember wiping sweaty palms on my jeans and letting out a huge, shaky breath once the tube was in. I still had to use a syringe to drawback fluids to expel onto a test strip to ensure the fluid was from the stomach and not the lung, but this part and learning to run a feeding pump were much easier. I came home from the hospital with new words, new knowledge, and new skills that were needed to nourish and protect a vulnerable child.
Going forward, I would later be trained to use a pediatric stethoscope to listen for gut sounds to determine the tube placement after our daughter started on medications that changed her stomach pH, making the test strips useless. We went through periods of not being able to get the correct supplies, and we ordered parts and used pumps off of eBay. We traveled around to neighboring communities to gather mismatched items and parts we could patch together to keep a cranky feeding pump ticking and beeping along. I learned to deflate, remove, insert, and inflate a new MIC-KEY g-tube abdominal feeding tube, and I learned to administer medications at home to prevent panic and discomfort in this child who had to endure all these medical interventions. I met amazing professionals who walked with our family in every step.
I fulfilled almost every childhood dream I could imagine. I became a homeschool mom. I doctored horses, sheep, and goats at home by administering needles, bottle feeding orphaned lambs, and gently tying the legs of spraddle-legged ducklings together until they could walk normally. I am a teacher, and I’ve been a bit of a veterinarian. I am a hairdresser to three boys and three girls currently. And, of course, I have been the chef, taxi, chauffeur, and maid that all other moms have been as well. All have served their purpose, and all are good. It is filling the calling that has been in me. Not all days are easy, and not all days are good, but combined, I feel lasting and deep happiness at making a difference and building the lives of our children, be they biological, adoptive, or foster.
I’ve sat in courtrooms and watched the trials of people who have become friends—friends I wouldn’t have known had we not said yes to fostering and adoption. I have been there for verdicts and felt the thrill it must be to be a lawyer taking on these cases. I remember when my dad thought that I would make a good lawyer. I think that a part of me would enjoy it. I follow cases I know, and I sit in the courtroom when I can. I probably always will. I have sat on the hard cement of a city sidewalk and talked with an addict about the devastating loss of their child to the system and how they used to draw and were good at soccer many years ago. I feel like I have dipped into the realms of a social worker, counselor, and advocate. And I love it all.
In this life, we only have so many days. I think that if I could live 100 lives, I would be something different in all of them: a doctor, a lawyer, a social worker, a police officer, a bus driver (they see some interesting things, in my opinion), a janitor, or a music teacher. I love the idea of learning all the different things, and I love the idea of doing all those different things. But then I realize that I have but one life to live and that I don’t want to miss one moment with my kids or with my husband—who is the love of my life—or away from our farm. Fostering and adopting is my calling, without a doubt. Saying yes to fostering and adopting was the best thing that I ever did, and it opened big, wide doors into a whole new world I never would have experienced otherwise. Fostering and adopting have helped me find my calling in this world. It is many-faceted and it comes with many elements and interests, but it is uniquely mine.