Babes in Arms, Babes in Heaven
By Maria Riley
There was only one thing I was sure of from a very young age: I wanted to be a mother. I
scared off suitors numerous times by mentioning my desire to be a stay-at-home mom by the
second date. It was that important to me; there was no point wasting time dating someone who
wasn’t sure he wanted children or was more concerned with a second income than me
spending my days with our future children.
I even planned to adopt children if I reached thirty without a husband. I knew that
motherhood was in my future even if marriage was not. Thankfully, God brought an amazing
man into my life who loved Him, me, and the idea of me staying home with our kids-to-be. My
dreams were coming true.
We conceived our oldest daughter shortly after our wedding, and I was overcome with
joy as she tumbled and grew within me. I anticipated the day I would finally meet my child, and
when she arrived, my heart grew in a way I did not think was possible.
Just a few months later I found out I was pregnant again. This was sooner than I
expected (the due date was just 13 months after my oldest’s birth), but since I always wanted a
big family and kids close together, I rejoiced at another life growing inside me. Early ultrasounds
were good, and I heard that melodious sound of my child’s heartbeat.
When I was 15 weeks pregnant, though, I could feel something was wrong. I saw my
doctor who assured me everything was fine, but that night I delivered my son in my bathroom. I
wish I could say that my loss ended there, but that was not the journey I was on. I lost four more
children through three additional pregnancies.
Words cannot express what I felt. For those mothers who have experienced this pain, no
words are necessary – you know. For those mothers who have been spared this cross, no words
could begin to let you understand.
I prayed Psalm 22 with Jesus as he hung on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you
forsaken me?” I felt abandoned, forsaken, desolate. I could not understand why God would
continue to send me beautiful, perfect souls, whom I would love with my whole being, just for
them to be called back to heaven before I got to meet them.
All the while, my deep desire for more children and a large family was unfaltering. After I
suffered the second miscariage I looked into adoption, thinking that my old plan to adopt was
the path. However, a domestic adoption would cost about $20,000 and a foreign one twice that.
My husband and I could not imagine going that far into debt when we still believed that we
would have more of our own biological children. I had already had one perfectly healthy child, so
of course I could have more.
Instead my heart was drawn to foster care. I thought that if I was so busy as a foster
mom, when I could barely handle another child, that would be when my baby would live. I had
heard countless stories of women who were told they could never have children, and as soon as
they stopped trying, that was when their miracle happened. I prayed the same would happen for
me. I planned to stay busy fostering while growing my family naturally. But alas, God had a
different miracle in mind for me.
It took a year and a half to finally obtain our license to be foster parents, and just a few
months after I lost the twins from my womb (my third consecutive loss), we were placed with
10-month-old twin foster children. Saying it was shocking is putting it mildly. Not only did I go
from one child to three children literally overnight, but the twins were practically toddlers already!
It was quite an adjustment.
After a fourth early pregnancy loss, we decided to take a pause on trying to get pregnant
and let my body and soul heal from the losses. The three children in my care were keeping me
quite busy, and my days were filled with playdates, playdoh, and pampers for three! Then,
almost two years after we began to care for the twins we were notified that their father was
close to reunifying with the girls and having his parental rights reinstated.
Reunification is always the goal of foster care, and while my heart rejoiced that the twins’
father was being the man God wanted him to be, I was traumatized by the idea of returning to a
quiet life with one child. So I prayed. I clung to hope. I lived with a faith that at times seemed
unfounded. I knew I would have more children, even though my history told a different story.
I prayed a different prayer. Before, I had always prayed for a healthy, biological child.
Now, I turned my life over to God and prayed, “If, Lord, I am unable to carry a baby to term,
please, I beg of you, do not send me another child. Save me from the unbearable compounding
grief of another child dying before I get to meet her.”
My husband and I decided to simultaneously open our home up for another foster baby
and try to conceive again, trusting that the right baby would come to us. Less than a month later
we got a phone call that there was a two-month-old foster baby who needed a home, and she
was most likely going to be adopted. I knew in my heart that this baby was coming straight from
God. Even though we would have four kids four and under for a few months until the twins
reunified with their father, I figured anyone can handle anything for a few months, right?
Shortly after that the twins’ father discovered his girlfriend was pregnant and realized
that he would not be able to support three kids. He had come to know us, and through tears
asked me, “If I give up rights, will you adopt them, and will you let me stay in their lives?” I
answered yes without hesitating, my own tears mimicking his.
I am now the proud (though sometimes exhausted) mom of four amazing daughters,
who are less than four years apart. I am also the proud (though sometimes mournful) mother of
five children who have preceded me to heaven. I long for the day I get to join them in paradise.
Blessed are the mothers, like Mary, who have lived while their children died. What a joyful day
awaits us as we pass from this world to the next!
As I lived through that difficult time, I wished that God would remove my desire for more
children. Why couldn’t I have been happy with just the one I had? I know now that God put the
deep desire for children on my heart so I would not falter through the challenges of foster care.
He knew there were three other children for me. He just had a different plan for them to arrive
into my loving arms.