This month, we will feature nine adoptive moms who prove that love transcends a biological connection. Read their stories and become inspired to make a difference in the lives of foster kids.
Carol and Jen Kraemer Straub, the mothers of Marina
What is your fondest memory of being Marina’s mom?
I recall often the first moments we met Marina. She now asks to hear this story regularly.
We went to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to meet her. As we walked in her room we could hear her crying. The nurse was holding and attempting to comfort her. In a seamless movement, she turned to place Marina in my arms. She immediately stopped crying and gazed at us with her wonder-filled, deep brown eyes. Instantaneously our hearts fell in sync. Becoming her mom was not a legal move, it was a heart shift which occurred in that one simple, life altering exchange.
How has this experience changed you?
In too many ways to name for sure.
There is a way of being that was immediately accessible within me that I didn’t know was there. There are so many things I do as Marina’s mom that I don’t think about or feel – I just do it.
From the sometimes monotonous daily meal prep, seemingly endless care appointments, to hopping to the bathtub like a bunny rabbit to feeling tears well up as I listen to her sing a song I’ve never heard her sing – and she knows all of the words!
I sometimes feel too old, too ill equipped, too (fill in the blank). But there is always the “and yet.” “And yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” “And yet, being Marina’s mom is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever gotten to do.” I am given the gift through mothering Marina that nudges me, somedays more insistently than others, to authentically cherish each moment in ways I’ve never known prior to being her “mommy.”
What has motherhood taught you about yourself?
I can pull from some of the skills and resources I’ve gleaned through the years in my work and family relationships. I don’t have to understand the system to be able to advocate effectively for my child. Trusting in that invisible aspect of our being some people call your “Mother Bear” or “gut instinct” really is a thing, and it serves my child and my family well to listen to it. It is also so humbling to continuously experience the generosity of people and places like St. Joe’s who have poured out so many resources and love on Marina and our family.
What would you like for new foster/adopt moms to know? Is there any advice you would like to give?
The system that children, agencies like St. Joe’s, and foster/adoptive families are part of is difficult to navigate. However, advocacy, collaboration with the right people, and deep trust in the power of love helps.
St. Joe’s does a comprehensive job of asking the important questions and offering essential resources. When they ask you to consider” who are the people you can count on to be family and support you no matter what?” As you take stock, be real with yourself. This fostering is no joke! You will need people in ways you never imagined. Those people and resources may shift along the way, but it is imperative to have some people who are committed to you. For us, that has been both biological and chosen family, church, the occasional radically kind stranger, and always St. Joe’s.
Because we met Marina in the hospital, there were so many times of distress for her. So, I think my strongest and earliest memory of parenting her was the first time I was able to comfort her, holding, rocking, singing to her until she fell asleep.
When we became Marina’s parents, I knew I didn’t want to be the mama or mom to Jen’s mommy. There’s such societal pressure in a name/title, but I knew I didn’t feel like a mama or a mom. Until this year, I was simply Marina’s Bapi or Bapa…that’s what she calls me. But this year, she has begun to think and speak, in her way, about gender roles and family structure, so now she will say she has two moms, or she’ll say “Bapi, you’re my other mommy” and I say,” Well, yes I am!”
Ultimately, for me and I hope for her, the titles and the genders and the roles really don’t make much difference. What matters is that I am a loving parent and that I do everything I can to ensure she can feel that love – I surely hope she does.
There is a saying, “Love is Love,” and I think that is at the core of this fostering/adopting community we share. Marina is our daughter and will be forever, but she doesn’t belong to us – it is so much bigger than that – we belong to each other, she belongs to her ancestors and to our big and beautiful community. We are along on her journey, hopefully providing guidance, foundation, and especially, so much love – creating family and community around her to support her for all her days.
Thanks for sharing your story Jen and Carol!
P.S. Making a difference in the lives of our SJ families and kids is simple: donate, become a respite provider, or a foster parent.
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