Mom's Heartbreaking Post Nails the Truth About Being a Foster Parent

Rachel Hillestad/Facebook

Foster parents are asked to do the impossible -- love a child like your very own with the full knowledge you'll have to let him or her go. One foster mother shared a heart-wrenching social media post about the loss of a little boy she loved so much. But, she wants you to know, fear of loss shouldn't hold anyone back from helping kids who desperately need us. We have to be brave for them.

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I've been a foster mother too, so Rachel Hillestad's post, which has since gone viral with more than 72,000 likes on Facebook, really hit me hard.

"It took his left-behind toothbrush to undo me," she wrote. She went on to write:

I'm sitting here in a parking lot sobbing my guts out. He was mine for two and a half weeks, but those days and nights saw him smile, sleep through the night instead of freezing awake in terror, swing for hours on the swings my kids take for granted. He called me Mama and I told him every time I left that if I said I would come back, I would. I prepared him for his new home as well as I could, but now it's nap time and his new mom says he misses me.

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I have my own stories just like this. Of smelling little onesies tucked in the laundry after my little babies have left. Of shopping through Target and seeing a certain binky on a shelf and bursting into tears. Some of the kids I loved were taken back to their birth mothers or relatives, others to places I'll never know. But each of these kids I loved like my own. I got up with them in the middle of the night, figured out all their favorite foods, and even bought them little toothbrushes like Rachel did. And when I handed them over to the social worker, I did it knowing that if only for a few days, my babies felt what it was like to have a mother's love.

It's not easy, but once you see the enormous difference just a little of your attention and care can have, the empty feeling when a foster child leaves your arms seems like a small price to pay to have been able to hold and love them when they needed it most.

As Rachel wrote:

There is absolutely no reason that an 8-year-old who watched his mother be murdered not know the love of a stranger. It's absolutely criminal that a 2-year-old sit in a social worker's office for two days in dirty clothes because I'm afraid I'd get too attached. Getting attached been the greatest pleasure and honor of my entire life.

Well said. This amazing mom of three has fostered more than 70 kids, according to US Weekly.

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Kids in the foster system, every single one of them, have been through unimaginable trauma. Removed from the only people they know, usually during some ugly event. They need love. They need a mama, even just a temporary one, to take care of them and tell them everything is going to be alright.

Or as Rachel explains so beautifully:

The number one thing people say to me is, 'I could never do foster care. I would get too attached.' Guess what: I'm just like you. I 'got attached'. I was the only one who could get him to sleep or knew exactly what kind of jam he liked on his toast. I helped him through his diarrhea and got frustrated when he broke Christmas ornaments. I watched him as he slept.

Yes, the day every one of my foster kids left it broke my heart. But I could take it. I'm the adult. So I put on a happy face, got them all  dressed, handed them over with a smile, and watched those cars pull away.

Then I went inside and cried. Every single time. Eight in all.

Reading Rachel's post made me think about the babies in the foster care system I was so lucky to have cared for. Most, maybe all of them, will never remember or know who I was or how much I fussed over every feeding and bathtime. Or how much joy they gave me in return. But in a very real way, I am still their mother no matter where they go. And being a mother, foster or otherwise, requires healthy doses of heartbreak and letting go. 

More from CafeMom: It's Time for These Foster Parents to Let Their Little Girl Go

If you've ever thought about looking into being a foster parent, don't let the fear of loss hold you back. These kids need us to be brave.

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