*Thank you to Ashley Simpson for this guest article.
After nearly a dozen teenagers, I found myself becoming a mom in a brand-new way as I stared at the two pink lines on my pregnancy test. I knew that I was capable as a mother after the experience of parenting children from hard places through the foster care system.
But we specialized in teens and this would be our first baby, not to mention our first biological child. I wondered if there would be a difference between the love I felt for my foster children and my new son. Would I love him more than I loved my foster children?
I still remember the moment they first placed my son in my arms. It was an instant connection with the child I had grown in my womb for the past nine months. In many ways, it felt like I already knew him because I had those precious months during pregnancy to prepare for his arrival. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with his tiny fingers, those wide blue eyes, and his precious toes.
The love I felt for my biological child did not eclipse the love I had for my foster children, but it was markedly different.
When you foster a child, you don’t have months to get used to the idea of them. They show up, sometimes just hours after you learn that they exist. If you parent teenagers, as we did, they come with their own loud voices, opinions, and wants. They can express themselves clearly most of the time. You must learn to love them for who they are, who they can become, and let that love guide you through the healing process.
I fell in love with each of my foster children, regardless of how long they stayed with us. However, the process took more time than the moment they placed them in my arms or in our home.
The love I felt for my foster children was a choice: a choice to cherish them, guide them, and help them through the transition that would come next.
When it came to my biological child, I had those nine months during pregnancy to commit myself to do whatever he needed. The love I felt for him was equally a choice, but that choice started nine months before I held him in my arms. It made that first moment of snuggling him feel like I fell in love with him instantly, even though it was many months in the making.
I wondered: did I love my biological child more than my foster children?
The answer is complicated.
I think that I loved every one of my teens but it was a hard-won love forged in the fire. We struggled together for every ounce of love that filled my heart for them, whereas my biological son was easier because we didn’t have all of this hurt and vulnerability between us. There was no trauma, no drama, no conflict surrounding that first moment with my biological son.
In the end, I don’t think I love my biological child any more than I loved my foster children, but I can’t deny that the experience is different.
If you are thinking about fostering a child and aren’t sure if you can love them the way you need to, I can assure you that love will blossom in the most unlikely places. It will ache when they leave, and you will never stop wondering what happened to them when you lose touch with their families.
I have a deep affection for every child who came through my home, and I have an abiding love for my new son. It feels different, new, fresh — but ultimately there is something familiar about it. It is the desire to sacrifice for his best interest, to be with him in the good and the bad. This love is a blossoming and a becoming. I could never say who I loved more, just like I could never choose a favorite child. The relationship I had with each of my children is complicated and different — but ultimately beautiful.
About the Author
Ashley Simpson is a freelance writer and former foster parent. When she isn’t typing away, you can find her sipping a steaming mug of coffee, spending time with her husband, and snuggling her newborn son. She wasn’t born and raised in Charleston, but she has made this her forever home.