While following the lives of my siblings’ families and children as a young girl, I dreamed of a family of my own. But the Heavenly Father had different plans for me.
I went on living my life, and as I grew older, my dream began to seem more and more elusive. I shared my thoughts with other people in the same life situation. For myself as well as for many of my friends, especially the happiness and joy of families celebrating Mothers’ Day seemed to accentuate our painful awareness of childlessness.
I was over 40 years old when I met my husband and moved to a new locality. Ever since the beginning of our marriage, we knew we could not have children. Despite that knowledge, we had to process the disappointment of our childlessness. At first it seemed difficult to find a place among the new brothers and sisters and to feel equal to the local large families.
But we have trusted in God’s care and wisdom in all things. God created us unique and valuable and gave us a life that is good for us.
Both while living single and after getting married, my husband and I have appreciated our godchildren and our siblings’ children. We have traveled together with my nieces and nephews and later even with my siblings’ grandchildren. Many of them have stayed with us during their school holidays. We have been able to show love and caring to others, but have also experienced abundant love and care ourselves.
We gradually began to consider foster parenting. At summer services and other gatherings I found myself observing friends and acquaintances who had foster children. The very idea seemed appealing. Once during a workday, when I was scanning through the city officials’ phone numbers, I noticed an ad that said, “The city is looking for foster families. Would you like to become a foster parent?”.
That heading occupied my mind for a long time, until I finally read some more about the topic and emailed to the family care social worker. She soon responded and encouraged us to sign up for a preparatory course on adoptive and foster parenting that was due to begin that fall.
My husband and I discussed the idea, exchanging many kinds of thoughts. There were times when we felt we were taking a step into the great unknown and could not decide what to do. But when the course started, we found ourselves sitting at a large table together with people who probably shared our feelings.
During that introductory course, we discussed our life histories, our spousal relationship and our ability and willingness to serve as foster or support families. During and after the course, the family care workers helped us appraise our notion of foster parenthood from both our own viewpoint and that of a child. After all those stages and evaluations, we heard we had been accepted to serve as foster parents.
A few weeks after the end of the course, a social worker called us about their need for a support family. We met some family care workers as well as a toddler and his mother in our home. The child walked around in the house and seemed to feel familiar with the surroundings. Soon after that meeting, we started as their support family and still continue to meet that toddler, who is now in his teens.
A few months later there was another phone call from the family worker. She asked if we could start fostering a teenager who needed family care. After some negotiations and meetings, we remained to consider the offer. Other people’s reactions varied, and one even said, ”Are you in your right mind? Think about it seriously.”
We continued to think until the spring and then began to decorate a room for the teenager who came to live with us. By now, this young boy has moved out and is living independently. But we are still part of his life, meeting him regularly.
We also opened the doors of our home to siblings who needed a support family as well as children in need of placements of various durations. We are now a short-term foster family, which means that we take in a child without much preparation for just a few days or months. About once a month, a child that was already in our care as a baby comes for an overnight visit.
As foster parents, we have often been told that we are doing “valuable work”. While doing this, we have felt the burden of great responsibility and experienced moments of joy and happiness as well as failure. We have been able to share the daily life of school children, sit at meetings and meet “our” children’s biological parents and relatives. As a short-term foster family, we have even taken care of babies, learning about night feeds and diaper changes.
The foster parents’ courses provided by Opistos have given us answers to many questions as well as peer support and advice. The support of believing foster families and family care providers has been indispensable in difficult situations. When I was standing at the altar with my new husband, whom I had promised to love at good and bad times, I could not have imagined life as a foster mother. I can therefore say with conviction: ”The ways of God are wonderful.”
I could never
put on a maternity dress
have a school picture on the bookshelf,
play with my grandchild
but I was surrounded
by maternal love
that taught me
to carry in my arms
and care for a child
who stayed with me
for a fleeting moment
to see the child’s joy
the stable and the manger
to trust and love
like the mothers
who shine forth the light
of their children’s eyes.
Text: Vaula Eskeli
Translation: Sirkka-Liisa Leinonen
You will find the original blog post here.
Kansainvälistä ja valtakunnallista muistiviikkoa vietetään ensi viikolla. Ihmisten eläessä yhä pidempään muistisairauksia sairastavien lukumäärä kasvaa joka puolella maailmaa. Muistisairaus liittyy myös yhä useamman suomalaisen elämään joko läheisen tai oman sairastumisen muodossa.