This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

My foster parenting story

When my husband Gabe and I decided it was time to grow our family by trying to get pregnant, we had no idea what our journey would be or what our family would look like three years later. After over a year of not getting pregnant, we decided to take an orientation class that would train us to become foster parents. We had always pictured ourselves adopting, but were not sure how that would come about.

We were in shock after a “practice weekend” of giving other foster parents of two children a break for respite. We decided even though our house could fit two children at one time, we would definitely only be open to one. I don’t think either of us had ever been so tired.

When I got the call (I actually happened to be sitting in the infertility clinic for my first appointment at that moment) to pick up a newborn boy from the hospital, a rush of excitement and a frantic need to get ready filled us both. We were saddened, but not heartbroken, when an aunt came to take him into her care the day after we brought him home.

Exactly one week later, we got a call to take in a 2-year-old boy named Eliot*. Again came the rushed feeling of getting things ready and anticipation. Eliot truly became our son. He started calling me “Mommy” right away and my heart was at home. (He actually called everyone who showed care towards him “Mommy,” but my name stuck as his language developed.) We finally had a family. I remember getting my first Mother’s Day gift and attending a Sunday service at church celebrating mothers and thinking that — even though I felt like I had a child and he called me “Mommy” — I really wasn’t his mother.

Four-and-a-half months later, Eliot’s sister, Emily, was born. We had some forewarning that there was a referral made and a baby might coming, but we didn’t know until the day we picked her up from the hospital, only five days old, that she would be joining our family. We were both giddy with excitement to actually have a newborn in our home, and their birth mother was grateful that her two children could stay together.

Emily was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen and even though she wasn’t mine, she felt like it. We loved those children harder and more than we had ever loved anyone in our lives. They were our family that we had desired for so long. It had been two years since the time when we first began trying to have a family.

When Eliot and Emily went back with their mother 8.5 months later, we were heartbroken. I remember singing to Eliot as he went to sleep and quietly crying, thinking that I would never do it again. We had to keep telling ourselves the truth that children are better off with their biological parents if the parents can prove they are worthy of them, and their mother did. From what we saw, she grew a lot, but that did not ease the grief of letting them go. I cry as I write this now and as all those feelings come back to me. It was just five months ago.

Becoming parents of a toddler in the matter of a day put us into a new group at church (the group with kids) and morphed our house into one full of toys and booster seats, artwork on the wall and dirty diapers, plastic wear and kids’ music. A life I was very ready to be in. I truly love being a mom. Even if I didn’t birth these children or even if I will have to say goodbye, it was worth the heartbreak.

Since then, we have done respite care, 48-hour holds, and we took in a 9-month-old boy as a long-term placement. He also happens to be named Eliot. At least we can still call his bedroom “Eliot’s room.” He is full of giggles, smiles and energy.

And three weeks ago, we also took in a 2-year-old named Jordan who has made us think, “Can we truly handle this?” It’s easy to forget all the growth and transition that happened the first time with a 2-year-old who couldn’t yet communicate with words. I can tell that I am not letting myself get as attached to these two boys, but when they bounce up and down or run to you with a smile when you pick them up from daycare, how can my motherly desires not be filled for just that moment? If I just don’t think about the incredible unknown of the future, if I can simply be in the moment, I know that I am a mother.

*Names changed for privacy.

Bethany Bauman Baker is an elementary school teacher who lives and works in Albuquerque with her husband, Gabe. Her story first appeared on as part of a series on parenting.

Sign up to our newsletter for important updates and news!