Fire safety plans, lists of rules and consequences, tax returns, bank statements, transcripts, medical records. There is a mountain of paperwork that comes with a license to foster. There are hours of classes in which you are given information that falls woefully short of preparing you for the tornado about to roll through your life. For instance, it is be good to know how to recognize human poop on the carpet, for the times when your foster son is violently angry at being bounced from house to house, but has no other way to express himself.

After my return from Tanzania in September 2010, my husband and I tackled the paperwork, gathered documents, and dutifully attended hours of classes. Looking back, the process that seemed overwhelming was pretty short. By December 2010, our fancy piece of paper from the state was hanging in our kitchen, and the wait began. Our agency licensed us for one child, up to the age of three. At this point, our home was open, and when children were in need of placement, a broadcast would go out. Our agency then submitted us for placement, and the home finder would choose from the available homes, trying to choose the one on paper who seemed most suited for the child in question.

I changed my phone ringer to the most obnoxious sound I could find, always keeping it nearby. Many people get placements right away. I was ready. The nursery, perfectly gender neutral, waited with empty arms. Over the next two months, I received eleven calls for placements. We said yes to each one, none of them worked out. Hope would rise and then vanish like smoke. To be called to a work and then not being able to carry out the mission is a frustration like none other. I didn’t know then about trusting in a perfect plan. The woman I was in those days wanted what she wanted, and now. Luckily, we aren’t always allowed to compromise and sell ourselves short.

On Valentines Day, 2011 I woke up with an inner knowing. My mom was visiting, and I told her, “I’m going to get a baby today.” I don’t know what spoke through me that day, there was no reason to think that day was different than any other but a quiet assurance spoke to my soul. We went on about our plans, shopping and lunch, my phone ringing over and over in the bottom of my purse, unheard. There was a baby boy withdrawing from opiates and methadone, lying in a NICU fifteen miles from my house. He needed placement, and we’d been chosen. The only problem was I’d missed all the calls and by the time I reached my agency, we were sure he’d been placed elsewhere. My caseworker confirmed this. The baby went to another home, so my mom and I dejectedly headed back to the house and started preparing dinner. However, my phone rang again. There was a mistake with child placement.

Our lives are made of infinite strings of moments, some of them change who we are forever. My life was about to get real.