When we adopted our first babies, it was for us. I admit it. At 37, I longed to become a mother. I’d learned of my infertility at age 20, so I’d always known I would form my family through adoption. What I did not know was that it would take me so many years to find the kind of stable relationship into which I could bring a child. Once in that relationship, motherhood suddenly became my priority.

I have always been child-centered. As a child, I could not wait to turn 11, the age in my family that was officially old enough for babysitting. When my mother had a baby that same year, I thought he was for me. I loved and cherished that baby the rest of my at-home years. In the 80′s, I took a job in children’s ministries and knew I’d found my calling. I was called to be an advocate for children. That call to advocacy is what brought me to foster care and then foster adoption.

We stood before the judge in late November, as we had done twice before, this time with our sibling group of three. I flashed back to our first two adoptions. I remember so clearly watching the judge signing the papers with a flourish each time and thinking, “She’s mine! She’s finally mine!” Each of those first two girls was my very own little baby, and I was a mommy: the star of diaper duty and Mother’s Day alike.

This time was different. The judge signed the papers and we moved into position around him for a family photo. As I looked out at the beaming faces I saw our three sets of grandparents, their conservatorship caseworker, her supervisor, our CASA worker and her supervisor, the kids’ very first caseworker, a previous foster mom, our agency worker, our attorney, and our CPS adoption caseworker. I remember thinking so clearly, “Now they have us. They finally have us.”

It’s a shift in perspective. This time, it’s not about having this tiny infant I can show off to the world and say, “She’s mine.” Not at all. It’s about doing the best I can to give these three little souls a fair shake. It’s about loving who they are, right this minute, and knowing it is their very best self. It’s about advocating for their health and educational needs and, perhaps more importantly, teaching them that they are lovable. It’s about helping them to overcome their past hurts and to grow into resilient and contributing adults. This time, it’s for them.