Foster care will wreck your biological kids...
“I have so many amazing foster/adoptive friends & when I stop to admire them, I remember ‘this is exactly where I came from’. I am the sister of one older adoptive sister, two older biological sisters & two younger medical foster sisters. I remember that I was once the child, just like my own, begging God to give her a baby sister; & just like my own children, God heard my prayer & answered it in the most beautiful way.
In 1996, while my mom was an intensive care nurse at the children’s hospital in our hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, she met the answer to my prayer. She was a gorgeous Inuit baby with black hair, black eyes & cheeks for days. She was an extremely high medical risk baby who had never seen past the four walls of her hospital unit, her life expectancy was nearing its end & no one seemed to think she would have any type of future. Her biological family loved her so much, but due to the remoteness of their town & lack of medical help, she would never be able to go home with them. This is where the mystery of God & his unique plan for our family came in. My mom noticed the longing in this baby’s eyes. The longing for a chance, for love, hope, a mom & a family. The mountains getting Carla out of the hospital seemed insurmountable. In fact, I can clearly remember the first time my mom convinced the hospital to let us take her outside. Then, only by the power of God, they let us take her in the car. When the short ride went well they said ‘yes’ to my Gramma’s house twenty minutes away. Every step was new for her. Although she was 2, It was her first time in a home & her first time being part of a family. While sitting in my Gramma’s living room & watching Carla take in all of her surroundings, I knew my prayer had been answered.
In 1998 God moved another mountain & my parents signed medical foster care placement papers. The following days, weeks & months after coming home were a never-ending experience of new & terrifying exposures for Carla. She was now 3 & had never sat at a table, heard a vacuum, watched a bath tub fill up with water or seen ducks at the park. The years that followed were filled with joy, trainings, accomplishments, tears & countless prayers. Carla had many medical setbacks yet many medical miracles. She recovered from a full spinal fusion in half the time predicted & was able to travel with us to the Caribbean.
In 2002 I went to visit my mom at work. Sitting on a little blue mat was a tiny beautiful baby attached to a feeding tube & ventilator. She had brown hair, deep brown eyes & all she wanted was my mom. I remember my mom squatting down next to me & whispering ‘What do you think?’ I knew exactly what she meant & that our lives would never be the same. My 15-year-old fear saw that this baby girl came with so much equipment & required so much attention, but I knew she needed love, she needed us. The answer was ‘Absolutely Yes’.
In 2003 Sharon came home & she flourished. Within a few months she was off of her ventilator, then walking & soon she appeared to the untrained eye completely healthy. She was fun, full of spunk & brought so much joy to our home. While she appeared to be healthy, she too dealt with large medical needs like Carla. We would spend countless nights with both girls at the hospital. While I was In high school, I would take the bus to school, then downtown to the hospital to relieve my mom & dad, then I’d head back to school in the morning. It didn’t seem unfair that my parents were constantly tending to my sisters, it just seemed right, God had prepared my heart. I found myself equally concerned & committed to them & to our family. I lacked nothing but rather gained everything from this love.
In 2009 I made a big move to Austin, Texas to help launch a new church. There I met Ken & a few months later we were engaged. The first call I made was to my mom & sisters. Sharon, who was now 7, had a big question for me. ‘Kat, can I be your flower girl?’ ‘Yes!’ Was the answer & Carla, now 15, would be my maid of honor.
Just a short two weeks later, in the middle of the night, my sister would change my life again. Sharon would suddenly, & very unexpectedly pass away. I was what seemed like a million miles away & this was the hardest loss of my life. She was only 7, full of life, my future flower girl & now she was gone. I chose to move back home with my mom & Carla, to be with my family & to maintain a long distance engagement. Each day I tried my best to help everyone face the next day.
Slowly, God’s peace & grace covered each of us & a year later I was married. Next to the guest book was Sharon’s bouquet in a beautiful vase that said ‘Our flower girl in Heaven’ & a picture of me holding her. Carla was beaming & with her electric chair, she wheeled down the aisle as my Maid of Honor, filled with pride.
That summer my family would drive all the way down to spend a few weeks exploring Texas with me in my new home. We made memories, laughed & laughed while enjoying every moment together.
The next spring, we welcomed our son Shepherd. In between labor & horrible contractions, Carla called to talk to me. I tried explaining to my mom that it was not the right time to talk but Carla was persistent. ‘Kat, Kat, listen to me…. Just breathe you can do this.’ My baby sister was coaching me a country away & just hours before her 16th birthday, something she would never let me live down. Our first son was born & she was so proud to be an aunt again, she loved our son dearly. We were blessed to be able to travel & visit my family several times that first year with Shep. Carla doted on him & loved showing him off at her high school.
Just after his first birthday I got an overwhelming feeling that we needed to go home. Within days we were home & enjoying being back with my mom, Carla & family. That week my mom happened to be working a lot, so Carla, Shep and I spent all of our time together. We went on dates & walks. We spent the evenings playing Yahtzee, laughing & cuddling.
Then, four days into our trip, while at school, my baby sister suffered a cardiac arrest.
We had four more days with her in the ICU. I spent time doing big sister things for her. Painting her nails, combing her hair, making foot prints & giving her all of our messages for Sharon. Then, right there, in that same hospital I had met her fifteen years before, God gave me the greatest privilege of my life. With our worship pastor behind us singing Amazing Grace, I was able to help hold my little sister as Jesus carried her away.
After my sister’s passing I knew without a doubt that God wanted to use us again. In 2016 my family signed our first foster placement paperwork. Since then we have experienced the logging, appointments, visits, the joys & pain of reunification. Even after loss we said ‘Absolutely Yes!’ when asked to try again. Then, this past June, God blessed us with the beautiful gift of adoption.
I miss my sisters every single day. I long for the day we will be together without separation, sadness, sickness or pain. As I reflect on my journey to becoming a big sister: all the appointments, workers, training, sacrifice, pain, & prayers, I’ll conclude with this-I would say ‘Absolutely Yes’ all over again to being a big sister, a foster sister & a foster mom. These are the greatest honors & joys of my life.”