My husband Ben and I started our family like most couples a few years after we were married.
After a period of infertility, our son Samuel was born. We completed a trifecta with 3 amazing sons joining our family through birth, yet our hearts did not feel done with having children. Instead of considering another pregnancy, we were drawn to adoption.
We approached adoption the way we do with everything in life: I read 5 books about it, talked to a lot of people who have adopted, and prayed. We soon felt at peace, knew it was the right decision, and started the adoption process in Ethiopia.
A year later, our son came home. He was five.
Two years later a 12-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son joined us from Uganda. And then, a year later, an 11-year-old daughter from Uganda. We choose to adopt older children from East Africa; we were open to sibling sets and special medical needs. Our Ugandan kids are all biological siblings. We found out about Lillian when we were in Uganda adopting Joz & Joseph. They were separated from her before their mom died. We went back to adopt Lillian 9 months later.
Our journey has not been without challenges. We have experienced difficult adoption processes, a very sick child who needed medical care, severe trauma, attachment challenges, learning disabilities, behavior issues, and more. These were issues affecting us all- not just our children that came from hard places but our biological children as well. Parenthood, no matter how you enter into it, has no guarantees. We are not promised perfection. Instead we strive for holiness and to surround each of our children with unconditional love.
I like to have fun with my kids.
We take every opportunity to bring joy to our days through the gift of laughter. Our children’s lives have been full of trauma and tragedy. Sometimes that can get very heavy. So, we have chosen to be a little crazy in our family. The dynamics within our family just make good comedy. Seven children, homeschooling, English as a second language for 4 of our children = NEVER a dull moment. I wouldn’t have it any other way!
I have been blessed to journey alongside some pretty extraordinary women in my life.
So many of them are here in the U.S. but I currently have 16 sisters in the countries of Ethiopia and Uganda who have allowed me to walk alongside them too. Our family has a passion to lift up and empower single mothers who are HIV+ so that they may work and provide for their children. We have been giving grants for 3 years now, and these mothers inspire me. Outside of my family, they are my reason for getting out of bed in the morning. To witness a mother in extreme poverty, shunned by society, still find hope and fight for her children shows me how strong the human spirit is. It’s a daily reminder to live simply. To count blessings. To find joy in small things. And to love deeply.
When I was 20 I thought I knew a whole lot. Now that I’m 40 I realize I’ve only just begun this journey of self discovery.
Motherhood has given me a growth mindset. I’ve learned to never stop learning, becoming the best version of myself. That includes being the mom that Joz, Lil, Sam, Luke, Abiti, Joseph, and Abe need from me each and every day. But, being a mother makes me a better person. God created me for so much more than I am currently doing in my life. I take that on as a pretty big challenge. How can I love and serve others in a greater way in our world? The answer is revealed to me more and more each day!
I’ve met so many moms over the years that have all said this phrase: I could never……..(fill in the blank). I probably uttered the same words many times throughout the years. I tend to avoid it now. Because you can never underestimate the love of a mother, the strength of a woman, and the power of God. Just when you think you couldn’t handle any more, you find out you are pregnant or are called to foster or adopt. Or move to a new place. Or volunteer. Or take a new job. Thirteen years ago I had NO idea just how strong mothers are! They can and WILL do anything when it comes to the passion and love they have for their children. Move aside, world! Mommas are here to bring powerful change!
Saralyn Ward is an award-winning writer, wellness advocate, and mountain mama. She is the founder of The Mama Sagas, writes for several publications and hosts a regular parenting TV segment on Colorado's Everyday Show. When she's not huddled over edits, you're likely to find Saralyn climbing peaks or skiing down them, and reminding herself that the two little girls that call her mom are not the boss of her.