Celebrating Catholic Motherhood

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Catholic Adoptive Parenting Columnist Heidi Hess Saxton

Additional Catholic Mom Columns

Handling the Hard Stuff

When my husband and I were married, we knew ahead of time that, barring a miracle, it was unlikely we would ever have biological children. And, while we would have welcomed the miracle, we decided it best not to count on one. So we looked into adoption – and, finally, into foster care. (Foster-to-adoption is becoming increasingly common due to the high percentage of children in the foster system who become permanent state wards.)

Days after picking up my first sibling group, I made my first foray into the grocery store. Strapping on my baby carrier, I persuaded a passing bag boy to lift the older two into the grocery cart (shaped like a sports car), and practiced my Indy raceway impressions as I rushed past the impulse items at the end of each aisle.

At the checkout, I awkwardly supported the baby’s head with one hand as I bent to retrieve a wayward cantaloupe from the far corner of the cart. “You wouldn’t catch me wearing one of those baby carriers,” the clerk announced to no one in particular. “It’s too hot and bulky – worse than being pregnant!”

“Oh, I was never pregnant,” I commented casually. “In fact, I’ve been a mom less than a week.”

The clerk’s jaw dropped as she counted three little noses. “Uh… oh, I’m sorry!”

“Oh, don’t be! I have all of the good stuff … and none of the hard stuff!”

It was a lie, of course. There had already been plenty of hard stuff. I reminded myself of this fact several times each day: when the two-year-old went on yet another inconsolable crying jag, or when the four-year-old refused to eat what I spent all afternoon (two minutes at a time) getting on the table.

Late at night, when they were all in bed at last, I spent my last waking moments asking God to heal their hurts and wipe their memories clean. “Show me how to give them the love they need,” I whispered into the darkness, “to help them through the hard stuff ahead.”

No family is immune from difficult times, of course. We live in a world that has been ravaged by bad choices and sinful actions, both those of our own generation, and of the generations before us. In many cases, our new charges came into our lives as a direct result of bad choices on the part of their birth parents. Our job, then, is to help these children separate the difficulty from the response. Their lives have been touched by tragedy – but they are pure gift. The circumstances of their birth may not be ideal. The hard stuff of the past will always be a shadowy memory. And yet, with God’s help, the hard stuff can become a source of redemptive joy.  

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  Romans 5:3-6


So, I’m Not Your Real Mother…?

Then why do my eyelids snap open
at the sound of your midnight whimper?

And why, when you fell, did I cry along,
or laugh as I tickled your toddler toes?

Why does my heart catch, watching you sleep,
and thrill at your touch every morning?

These hands have held and tucked and fixed and
spanked and knotted up in angry frustration.

These knees have calluses from scrubbing and running
and praying ‘til dawn pinked the skies.

No, I never carried you underneath my heart.
But my soul has stirred for the life of you.

You are planted in that vast expanse of longing,
realer than tiny dancing eggs or suckled nectar.

I look at you, child of my heart, and remember.
“Mother” is first and foremost a verb.




Heidi Hess Saxton and her husband Craig are adoptive parents of two children from the foster system. Heidi is editor of "Canticle" magazine, a publication of Women of Grace. A convert to the faith since 1994, Heidi is also a graduate student of theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan, and a frequent contributor to  Visit Heidi's blog at




Adoption Resources:
These resources have been recommended by our readers.  To suggest a link or book, email [email protected] with your suggestion.

Helpful Links:

*Several readers have recommended local DHS and Catholic Charities for adoption resources. 

Little Flowers Foundation

Catholic Charities USA

National Council for Adoption

Priests for Life Alternatives to Abortion Resource Page

US Department of Health and Human Services

National Adoption Information Clearinghouse

Helpful Books:




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