I Am His Mother

I did not give birth to him, but I forget that part until someone asks me a question about my labor: I am his mother.

I never felt him move inside me, but I don’t even think about that unless someone asks me about my pregnancy (that I didn’t have): I am his mother.

I didn’t experience the wonder of hearing the heartbeat for the first time, but it beat within my own heart  so long, I have to tell myself that’s true: I am his mother.IMG_2560

Someone well-meaning told me that Leo was a “community baby”, when he was about three weeks old. Oh, how my head spun. I felt confused.

When I went home and processed that more, all I could think was that if my baby was a “community baby”, where was everyone at three o’clock in the morning? Where was everyone when I walked my house patting his bum, day after day? Why was my baby any more of a “community baby” than yours?

I remember the other time when someone was asking me about my little boy and a friend came up and promptly said, “Well, you know he’s a prison baby don’t you?”

The words burned.

There was truth to those words. My little boy’s loving, biological mother is serving a sentence in prison. This is true.

But my boy, my son Leo…the one I rock time after time, the one who dirties bottles I constantly have to wash out and sometimes creates more laundry than my husband and I together (well, almost); this child is my baby. IMG_2911

I thought I was being sensitive about it. Why did those words, “Well, you know he’s a prison baby don’t you?” eat a hole straight through my heart? It wasn’t a lie and it wasn’t said meanly.

One day we came home from visiting his mommy in prison and he just screamed. Screamed like I’d never heard before. The only thing that soothed him was being in my arms. He’d fall asleep and I’d carefully lay him down like I always do, but he’d almost instantly wake screaming…helpless, disoriented, insecure cries. I would lift him in my arms and hug him tight and tell him, “Leo. You’re okay. You’re safe. You are wanted. You are loved.”

I cried because my mother heart knew he was feeling confused and insecure. I had watched him stare into his mommy’s face and my heart had assented that Leo remembered her voice and knew that this was his mommy. I cried because my mother heart knew that Leo knew we had left his mommy. I cried because Leo still wanted me: his other mommy. 

And somewhere it clicked, why those words, “Well, you know he’s a prison baby don’t you?” had dug into my heart deep.

The words were spoken as a pronouncement over my son, as if it changed his identity or mine.

Leo’s mommy is in prison.

This is true.

But for now, it is also true –

that Leo is my son

and I am his mother.

And for as long as we get to cherish & nurture  his life and walk the hall sleepless and wash out his clothes and snap pictures of his smiles, this is true.

Even after that.

For I will always love him as the child of my heart and the labor of my love, and I know that he will always see me as his other mother.


– Stay tuned for more thoughts on fostering children. –




16 thoughts on “I Am His Mother

  1. Hi dear. Thank you so much for sharing this – somehow I missed this story though I saw many pictures of Leo. Thank you sooo much for sharing this with a girl whose longed to adopt and foster homeless children all her life. One thing I can’t get over is, “you know, he’s a prison baby?” – it’s the you know. Of course if there’s anything to know, you know. Why was it said that way? It doesn’t make sense. Why would you not know what this precious child’s start to life was? Thank you for this blog. Thank you for being Leo’s mother. He needs you. He loves you.

  2. Beautiful words, Renee!

    I remember having a conversation with you right before Leo’s birth, in which I worried that we as a community (specifically myself 🙂 ) would not know how to walk with you the delicate balance of Leo being your own and not your own… that we would either hurt you by saying “he’s not really yours” or build false hopes in you by saying “he’s totally yours.” Such a hard path. You are walking it with courage and faith, and I bless and affirm you for it! I freely call him your son, and know that it is true.

    I have a community child myself—one whose circumstances and needs are beyond me, one it will take a village to raise. Actually, at some level I have three of them. And I really hope that no matter how much that “community baby” comment stung (I can only imagine), perhaps what the speaker meant was nothing more or less than a pledge—a pledge from a village to take Leo to our hearts as our own village boy, like you have taken him to your heart as your own son.

    Love you.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. It is hard to put into words the way you can feel for your child. I am a stepmother of
    two little boys and have been since they were very very young. Many comment about this and for a long time I felt those same confused feelings. An answer came to me very clearly one day that they were given to me because the love I could give to them. I know God wanted us to be together. The circumstances are hard and confusing at times, but it is clear that God’s plan is simple. He gave me a choice to love these boys and their father and I accepted. Thank you for reminding me of this.

  4. We are adopting our 2 foster boys and someone from our church told us that is nice when the child fits in and looks just like the family. (We are adopting black brothers) Someone else stated “Well if you don’t get to keep these boys at least you can have more of your own.” I wanted to say these are my own. We fostered before my bio son was born. After he was born i had people ask me on more than one occasion what it felt like to be a “real mom”. I wanted to ask what I had been for three months to these sweet little children? I can definitely sympathize with this post in a big way!

  5. Rainy. Your words are beautiful, because they come from a beautiful heart. You are his mother–motherhood is so far beyond biology!! ❤

  6. You amaze me yet once again, you courageous woman. I am so grateful to have you as a friend, someone who is living and breathing Jesus “right next” to me. You really have a hold on truly loving people, something I am just developing. Your mother heart is so beautiful… I can’t wait to cry over him with you when I get home.

  7. Yes, You are his Mother, and a very good one. In a strange way, I know what you are experiencing. As a Mother of many, people feel sorry for my children because they can’t possibly be loved enough, get enough, or be trained right, (translated- their way). I know what it is like to be looked at scornfully, even by Christians, because I couldn’t possibly do this right. As a mother of many, I know what it is like to love each and every one with that deep, sometimes agonizing, unexplainable mother love. The love that wants to fix all the sadness in their lives, take away the pain, make everything all better. The love that doesn’t want to, because without those things, they may not have the growth they need, they might not need JESUS, they might not have the love and compassion for the Jenifers, or the Leos of this world.
    Yes, you are his Mother and a very good one. We are walking through this with you.
    I love you,

  8. you so totally are his mother, Renee. you and her both. not many women are courageous enough to be a mother to a child whose circumstances they have no control over. in your unselfish mothering, i can sense the heartbeat of Jesus. not many have the courage to love with this kind of reckless abandon. redemption is happening.

  9. It is amazing to hear all these stories that come from all of you…some of you women I know, some of you women I don’t…all of you, women with whom I feel a connection (as I hear back from you)

    How you encourage my heart.

  10. Hi, Renee, I haven’t followed your story but I will be praying for you and your precious family as you live & love together. You and Ryan are being challenged in many ways, no doubt, but keep leaning on the Father as you give this little one all the love & care he needs.

  11. First of all, your son is beautiful! A friend told me about your blog and I’ve been soaking up the inspiration since. Our journey is very similar altho four months ago our little girl left our home again. And while we have no children filling our days with noise and laughter right now I still feel like a mom in my heart cause- she’ll always be my little girl. I’ll always pray for her and love her. I can only thank God that we are one of the few who have been privileged to feel the love that burns fiercely for a child that does not have our genes. I’m sure you with me would say we truly are blessed!

  12. I tagged you in my post for the Sunshine Award. I am only telling you this if you WANT to do it (can’t remember if you did it already), and because I wrote beside each entry, why I chose that blog…although since I am newer to blogging, I am also newer to figuring out how to follow, so, yeah, some are more in-depth reasons, while others aren’t so much 🙂 Thank you for being an encouragement 🙂

  13. AHHH! People can be so thoughtless in their comments. I love that a mamas love transcends the way your baby came to be part of your family. My husband and I are beginning to look into adoption. I cannot wait to have a baby that doesn’t necessarily look just like us. There can be no greater picture of the Gospel than adoption.


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