The day my sister became a mom was the day I learned I wouldn't be one anymore. I had the tremendous privilege of watching her oldest boy become hers. I watched him come out, swollen and bruised after a long labor, like a fighter after a battle in the ring, and I watched my sister, sweaty and bleeding, hold him and kiss him and love him, and I remember thinking to myself how lucky it was to know, with certainty, that she could claim him forever.
I received the news just hours before that my two babies would be taken from me to go and live again with their first mom. My husband and I were foster parents, but we just called ourselves parents. We had spent the last six months with our two beautiful foster children, but we just called them our children. The reality of foster care is that your children may leave you, and I wore that reality like a woman wears her date’s suit coat draped over her shoulders when it gets a little too chilly. It’s there, I feel it, but there’s no way I’m actually putting this thing on. No way am I buttoning this jacket up and allowing it to ruin my dress.
Then someone made me put on the coat.
We were a family, I experienced the love of motherhood, two babies called me mommy, but, soon, I would have nothing to show for it.
It’s a lonely feeling to be a mom without kids. It’s also really awkward. Like when a neighbor you don’t know all that well comes over and asks where the kids are. That’s awkward, and it happened. Or when a nursery worker at church sees you leaving without the loaded down stroller and says, “Where are your cuties today? We missed them!” I miss them too, and that happened. Or when you start a new job and your new coworkers ask if you have kids. That feels uncomfortable, and it happened.
I by no means blame the well-meaning people who ask. I mean, who could know that a simple “do you have kids?” could be such a loaded question? But this rarely gets spoken about. And I think mothers experience the discomfort and the clumsiness in answering that question far more than we realize. I’m not the only mother who doesn’t have children.
Mothers who have had a miscarriage, who know what it’s like to be expecting one day and empty the next, I see you. It’s oh-so lonely, and you can still call yourself a mom.
Mothers who are divorced and have to be a "weekends-only" parent, I see you. That is really hard. Sharing doesn’t get easier as you get older, especially not when you have to share your babies. But you’re still just as much of a mother as you were before.
Mommies who have a child in heaven, I see you too. You had to give your baby back forever, and I cannot imagine your grief. You’re still a mom.
Moms who are adopting and have a child waiting in a place much too far away, I see you. You know your baby’s face, but can’t hold them because of all that ridiculous red tape. It’s really awkward to explain that. You may feel alone. And you’re definitely sad. But you are a mom.
My fellow foster mommies who live with the reality that you may have to say goodbye one day, I see you. I know your fear, but no matter what, you can still call yourself a mother.
Those two babies who left me came back a year later, but I’ve recently decided they didn’t make me a mother again when they returned because I never stopped being one. Motherhood isn’t a switch you can flip on and off. Don’t you agree that it’s our resolve, our sacrifice, our steadfast love that makes us mothers after all? I’d say so.
Guest post written by Lindsey Wyllys. Lindsey is a foster mom to four children four and under. She lives in the Chicago suburbs and can often be found tripping over matchbox cars, lip syncing to Taylor Swift songs with her toddlers, and attempting to keep her house clean. She has been radically changed by adoption and loves how it demonstrates the redemptive power of love. She is sustained by cheap wine, a brave husband, solo trips to Target, and most of all, Jesus. You can find her on Instagram.
Photo by Kate De La Rosa.