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My name is Leah. Seven years ago I was a young mom who was happily married with one child. As I parented my one son, my urge to grow our family became overwhelming, in a good way. That little boy I was raising was nothing short of amazing and my love for him overflowed and turned into a dream to love other children the same way.

My pregnancy with him had been hard. I had no real interest in getting pregnant again. I was sure that adoption was the next step for us. After looking into all of our options, we chose foster care. I wanted to be a family to a child who needed a family, not a name on a long list waiting for a ‘perfectly healthy white baby’, not that there is anything wrong with that.

Even though we signed up for foster care, the face of a little Asian girl consumed my dreams. Imagine my surprise when I went to meet my first foster daughter and her Asian features confirmed that God had been preparing my heart for her.

As we all know, foster care is foster care, it is not a guaranteed adoption. We fostered my little dream come true for 16 months and then she was returned to her biological mom. I was devastated. Not only had I fell in love with this little girl, but she was going back to what seemed to be a dangerous situation. I did not know how to reconcile this situation with my belief in God.

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Thankfully, God is strong enough to deal with our lack of faith. I did not have time to fall apart after my first little girl left because I already had said yes to fostering another little girl, Elee, before my first foster daughter left. Elee was my daily comfort, and she turned me into an official foster mom-the kind that already understands that this child might not stay forever. Elee came to me as a ‘pre-adoptive’ placement, but her case was quickly on its way to reunification as well. Elee and I went through so much together. Her case was a legal nightmare. She had to go do visits with a stranger, who was really her legal father, who she did not know at all. She would scream and cling to me as the social worker would try to coax her into her visit with this stranger. It was awful. She spent the visits hiding under the table from him. Eventually, I was able to get the judge to let me go into the visits with her so she did not have to be traumatized anymore than she already had been.

By the time Elee’s case hit the year mark, it still looked like she would be going to live with her biological mom. I had built a relationship with her biological mom and biological dad and was actually at peace with the thought of her going back to them. She really loved her biological (NOT LEGAL) dad. Despite being at peace with the thought of Elee leaving, I was still longing for a daughter of my own.

After two years in foster care, my husband and I became pregnant with our daughter, Kylee. Elee went to every doctor appointment with me. She was there for everything, including Kylee’s birth. Right around the time Kylee was born, Elee’s case did a complete 180 and she was freed for adoption. I will never forget sitting in a courtroom eight months pregnant and crying as the judge said, “Are you willing to adopt Elee?” right after she had terminated Elee’s legal parents’ rights. I nodded my head. I was finally going to adopt my daughter.

In 2012 I gave birth to Kylee, adopted Elee, but that was not all. I had a friend who was fostering a sibling group of three, a boy and two girls. I had been at my friend’s home the week they came to live with her and had met them…and fallen in love with them. As I left her house that day in November of 2010-two years before Kylee was born or Elee was adopted, my husband, who was with me said, “If they ever come up for adoption let us know!” I had been thinking the same thing. I could not help but feel like we had just left our kids at her house.

Two years later, after Kylee was born and Elee was adopted, we finally got the call…my friend’s sibling group of three was freed for adoption! I could not believe it. They needed a home. Even after everything that had gone on over the past two years, they still felt like they were our kids! So, we decided to go for it and we had our adoption worker contact the agency that held the kids’ file and let them know we were interested in adopting them. After a couple month and visits, we were chosen to adopt our kids! At the end of October of 2012, three more children moved into our home.

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As you can imagine, the adjustment was not easy. We had moved three little strangers into our home. As we tried to adjust to our new normal, I received a phone call that I will NEVER forget. The voice on the other end of the phone told me that the biological mom of my newest three children had just had a baby! They wanted to know if I wanted the baby as well! I immediately said yes! My exact words were, “Yes, I don’t know where we are going to put her, but we want her!” We were living in a three-bedroom home at the time. On December 22nd, 2012, our seventh child came home. We named her Sophie.

From December of 2012 to September of 2014, we worked on becoming a family. I have left out a lot of details, but those two years were quite hard. We had nine people in a three-bedroom house. We were all strangers trying to adjust and become a family. There was a lot of trust that had to be built, behaviors that had to be addressed, and NOT a lot of sleep happening. In a way, it was a recipe for disaster, but we made it. By September of 2014, things were just starting to turn a corner. Our little Sophie was walking and becoming less of a baby and more of a little girl. We had put in a lot of time to build a relationship with our older kids. Things were starting to get easier, not EASY-seven kids is never easy, but easier.

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Then, in early September, I received another call. Another baby had been born to the same mom. I had four of her children, now my children, living in my home. We were exhausted. We had no room. We weren’t sure we had anything left to give. The baby came into care and was placed in a foster home. I knew we had to make the decision quick. If this was my baby, I needed to get him home. Yes, it was a little boy this time. As I talked to God in the car one day, I told Him, “I am not sure we can do this. I’m not sure I want to do this. I want to do the right thing . I want the baby to be where YOU want him. I don’t even know what I would name him.” It was the ramblings of a woman who was truly at a loss. My husband was not sure we could handle another child, and quite frankly I wasn’t either. As my thoughts rambled to The Almighty, I heard the name “Joseph.” I thought, “Joseph?! I don’t even like the name Joseph.”

I arrived home and ended up in a conversation with a friend. She asked if I had been tossing around any names for this baby I had not even committed to taking yet. I told her, “Actually, yes. Joseph.” She started laughing and said, “Look up the meaning of Joseph.” I looked it up and this is what I saw: Joseph: means God will add (a son) That was the moment I knew I would have a son named Joseph. It took far longer than it should have. It took three months to move him from his foster home to our home. Ironically, or should I say miraculously, Joseph came home exactly two years after Sophie did. December 22nd is a pretty special date to us. That is the day that both Sophie and Joseph joined our family. It took another nine months, but Joseph’s adoption was finalized in August of 2015.

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Our family is complete. What started out as a plan to adopt one child has morphed into a family of ten that is wonderfully normal and totally crazy at the same time. We never would have dreamed that this, all of this, was the real plan-God’s plan, for us. Every day brings a new challenge along with lots of giggles and milestones. We are exactly where we are supposed to be. Our kids are safe and loved. We did what we set out to do. We wanted to share our wonderfully ordinary life with kids who needed it, and we are.

~ Leah blogs about foster care and her family over at mamafoster.blogspot.com. Recently she got together with 13 of her fellow foster moms (and dear friends!) and wrote “Welcome to the Roller Coaster”, a book filled with real life stories from foster care. A second book will be released soon entitled, “Finding Forever.” It will contain real life stories about children finding their forever homes while traveling through foster care.

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