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Motherhood’s joys and challenges

Posted: May 8, 2010 10:56 p.m.
Updated: May 9, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Carolyn Sears flips through her scrapbook of photos of the almost 80 children she has fostered over the years at her new home in Newhall on Wednesday.

Newhall resident Carolyn Sears remembers the day she had to give up foster child Curtis Kinkade.

She packed up Curtis’ clothes and put his belongings in the car as she prepared to take him to the social services office to be reunited with his biological parents. The sandy-haired 3-year-old who had been calling Sears “mommy” for several months clung to her waist.

“He wouldn’t let go of me. We had to drag him into the car,” she said.

Curtis, who suffered from kidney problems, was the first of what would be about 80 foster children to be raised by Sears, 76, and her husband, Carrol, after the couple’s own children had grown.

Sears’ three children were in their teens, and the nurse’s aide was out of work for a while. LDS Social Services had a need for foster parents, and
Sears had an insatiable affinity for children.

Most of the children were newborns, and each personality took some adjusting to, Sears said. Some would peacefully sleep through the night — others would cry for hours.

“I had to get used to getting up in the middle of the night to change a diaper and give a bottle,” she said. “When it’s hurting, you get a hurting cry. When it’s got a poopy diaper cry, it’s another cry. You better get to know those cries and do something about them.”

Her biggest challenge was the child of a drug-addicted mother, she said. He had to be attached to a breathing monitor at all times and could not be out of Sears’ sight.

On several nights, Sears woke in panic to a loud, beeping monitor. She patted his back waiting for him to cry or breathe. “I was always afraid he was going to die,” she said.

She may have been relieved to see him go after six months, but she did love him. Whether they were fussy and colicky or perfect angels, she loved them all the same, she said.

“There are no unlovable babies — you might have to work at it to get it to love you, but no one is unlovable,” she said.

Some she had for one or two days, and others she mothered for up to a year. No matter how long she kept them, each goodbye was emotional, she said. Each departure was followed by a “good cry” in her car and a therapeutic shopping trip, she said.

“You treat them like they’re yours, you dress them like they’re yours,” she said. “I always got attached. You can’t help it when you hold a baby in your arms for a couple days, months or even a year.”

About 10 years ago, Sears had to give up foster parenting. Arthritis took over her knee, ankles, feet and left hip. She was afraid if she took in a baby, she would drop it.

“It’s still hard,” she said. “I didn’t want to give up my babies.”

Sears has a new grandbaby, one of seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

On a rare occasion, Sears said she’ll receive a visit from one of her grown foster children.

A 20-something Curtis showed up at her doorstep one day. He died no more than a year later of kidney failure.

Sears couldn’t bear to attend the funeral, but she mourned as if she had lost her own child, she said.

“If it wasn’t for Curtis, I don’t think I would have been a foster mother,” she said.

Her greatest joy in fostering, she said, “was knowing that I’m loving somebody that I wouldn’t get to love if I wasn’t a foster mother.”  



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