It was Mother’s Day in 1982, and Mike and Deb Schuring were at the hospital as Deb gave birth to their first child.
They should have experienced joy — they should have known the happiness that comes from welcoming a child into the world, especially on such a relevant day.
But Andrea was born three months too early, and she didn’t make it. On the same day that Deb celebrated her first Mother’s Day, she had to say goodbye to her first child.
Exactly a year later, on Mother’s Day again, their son David was born. He was also born three months too early, and the Schurings lost him only three days later.
Mike and Deb could have given up. They could have taken the deaths of their children as a sign that they weren’t meant to be parents, but they didn’t. Deb underwent a procedure to help her carry children, and they celebrated the arrival of Alex on April 18, 1986, and Sarah on September 10,1988.
They finally had the family they wanted, but Deb was told that two children would be it for them. “I understand the despair of those who can’t have babies,” she said.
Years later, the pastor’s daughter asked if they would consider being foster parents. Deb said no, but went to an informational meeting anyway.
They fostered their first baby in 1995. Twenty-three years later, they have fostered an astounding total of 100 babies — far more than the average foster family.
But it was not easy. Even the first child they took in had medical issues, and they found that she had stopped breathing one night.
They took her to the hospital, where she received life-saving surgery. And that was just the first one: there were many more after that, and many who had health problems or irreversible conditions.
One particular baby almost caused Deb to call it quits. When the family got a delivery of oxygen tanks and equipment, she broke down.
It was her then-15-year-old son, Alex, who was able to set her straight again.
As she cried, she said, “I can’t.” But then her son asked, “If not us, who?”
Alex and Sarah pitched in to help with the little ones. They became expert feeders, diaper-changers, and soothers. Mike helped out, too, even staying up late to care for them and then having a full day of work.
But, Deb said, everything they did was for the tots. “The babies call the shots. We always say they wear the diapers in the family.”
At 57 and 60, Deb and Mike are eager to spend more time with their own grandchildren. They’ve cared for more babies than most have, and though the decision is not easy, they’re trying to slowly step back from being foster parents.
“We’re winding down,” she said. “We’re saying no a lot more often.”
It can be hard to stop what you’ve been doing for over 20 years, though. To stop caring for those who desperately need care.
“We kept feeling we are supposed to be doing this,” said Deb. Whatever their decision, this family has made a huge impact in the lives of at least 100 individuals — and that’s more than most can say.
For a mom who experienced so much pain at the outset, Deb has truly been courageous to open herself up to love and potential loss again and again — but on some level, isn’t that what being a mom is all about?
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