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Fostering In Spite of heartache and loss

When Mandy Marburger asked me to share our story, I honestly didn’t know where to start. I am not a writer and for sure not a blogger, but here goes nothing. My name is Jessie Barbee. My husband Tad Barbee and I grew up in two very different types of homes. I had the benefit of a Christian home with both parents. By no means was it perfect, but I can honestly say we had a good childhood. My husband, on the other hand, grew up in a home where his dad physically abused his mother. Before he was out of elementary school his parents separated. He lived with his dad and rarely saw his mother. He started spending a lot of time with a wrestling teammate and his family. Anyone who wanted to find him knew where to look. Pam and Sandy Allen’s house is where he was most of the time. When he was still in high school his dad died unexpectedly. He was instantly an orphan. Father gone and Mother nowhere to be found. His world was falling apart and his future was so uncertain.

He was at Pam and Sandy’s when he got the news his father had died. He kept saying, “I’m homeless, I have nowhere to go.” Sandy Allen wasted no time. After assuring Tad he had a home with them, they went to the courthouse to make it legal. I have always admired them for that. I truly believe he is the husband and father he is today because of their influence. The impact they had and still have today is immeasurable.

I look back at both our lives and think how we ever managed to find each other, fall in love and stay (for the most part) happily married with children is a miracle.

No one ever said being a parent would be easy, BUT I think we have no clue what we are in for until that bundle of joy is screaming their head off at 3 am. Any parent will testify that all the sleepless nights, runny noses, and years spent being a chauffeur are worth it. That’s exactly how Tad and I feel times 1,000. We are the proud parents of Alyssa, Knox and Bryce Barbee.

Some of you may know our “story” or have heard of us. Bryce was born with 7 different congenital heart defects. All of his defects individually are treatable with high success rates, except usually they are not all in one heart. To say Bryce was a special case was putting it mildly. From the moment his heart started to beat he was in heart failure. We knew he had something going on and a possible hole or two in his heart, but we had no idea of how complicated and rare his conditions were going to be. The simple fact that he survived his delivery is a miracle in itself. I could tell you countless stories of how he defied the odds against him. I could go on to tell you how many times God proved to us He is faithful and still a God of miracles. I could also tell you of how I struggled with my faith in God and how Bryce ministered to my heart to bring me back, but this time that’s not what this story is about.

After undergoing 28 operations on his heart, his body couldn’t take anymore. On March 31, 2011, after 2 years, 8 months and 3 weeks of fighting for his life Bryce passed away and moved to heaven. We were beyond devastated. There is nothing that can prepare you for the loss of a child. It’s not like any other loss I have ever experienced before or since. It is the first time in my life loss and depression manifested itself in a real physical pain. This year makes 8 years he has been gone from our arms and the grief at times is still so very raw. I don’t know that I will ever stop grieving for my baby. I doubt I will, BUT…and it’s a very big “but” I still have joy. God is still the God of miracles. His plan and timing is still perfect. How can I say this? How can we be ok? I know you are probably thinking to yourself, “They must be so strong, I could never handle going through something like that.” Or, “God knew they could handle that…” Look, we are not your super holy Christians that never waiver in their faith, kind of people. If that is what you think or are expecting, we are going to seriously disappoint you. It is only the supernatural strength given by Christ that gets me out of bed every day.

About four years ago a sermon was given about fostering and adopting. That day on the way home Tad grabs my hand and said he felt God calling us to foster and adopt. I’m pretty sure I had one eyebrow raised as I uttered, “Pfft. Really? Why?!” His response was, “Well if not us, then who? Are we or are we not Christians? Don’t you think we can provide a good home to a child who has no one to love and care for him or her?” Talk about being put on the spot. Alyssa and Knox are in the back seat cheering daddy on with the hopes of growing our family. Everyone is on board except me. My heart ached so much for my Bryce, I couldn’t say yes. All I could think was I cannot handle getting attached to a child only to lose them to the system. The loss of one child is too much, why would I knowingly put myself in a position to possibly go through this again? Uh, no thank you.

I just kept hoping he would forget about this crazy idea and move on.

After several months had passed Alyssa came to me asking whether or not we made a decision about becoming foster parents. I told her I didn’t think we were ready for something like that. I thought she would hug me and tell me she understood and then let it go. She did not. She looked me in the eye and said, “You know Momma, I know you are worried about how all this will play out. I get you want to protect us from any kind of loss. But here’s the thing, I refuse to believe we went through everything we went through with Bryce for it to mean nothing now that he’s gone. You always tell me God has a plan and purpose we can’t always understand. You tell me all the time that God’s will doesn’t always go with my will but that I should trust Him. I really think we should do this as a family.” Then came the “please, please, pleases.” I said maybe and we will see, but in my mind I kept thinking, “dang, I really didn’t expect that to come back and bite me in the butt.” More time went by and still I kept dragging my feet. Then two years ago Tad told me he signed us up for the spring classes at DSS. I asked him why he felt so strongly about this. He said it wasn’t just one thing or reason, but many. Bryce, of course, but also because of Pam and Sandy. I didn’t get it, why would Pam and Sandy have anything to do with this? He said, “Pam and Sandy didn’t hesitate for a second when it came to giving me a home. They saw the need and filled it. They adopted a kid from the wrong side of the tracks with no money and no help. They took me in as if I was always theirs. We may get a child and only have them for a short time or maybe we get to adopt. We may never know what the impact our home will have on a child, but we have to trust that God brought them to us intentionally and for His purpose, not ours. I know you are afraid of more loss, but it’s not about us. If you really don’t want to do this we won’t, but I feel like God has been preparing us for this.” What could I say to that? I just cried. I agreed to do the class and just see how that went.

It has been a long emotional road, but I am so glad we decided to go forward with this decision. We are actively fostering a child now with the hopes adoption will become available. We know there is a chance this precious child could be with us temporarily, but I wouldn’t trade a moment of that for anything in the world.

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