Having babies isn’t easy. The uniquely taxing months of pregnancy are only the first steps in the long journey of creating a life and raising that person to adulthood. While it’s one of the most difficult things in the world, it’s also one of the most rewarding.
But something possibly even more difficult than raising a baby is losing one. When a child passes away just a short time after they are born, it is devastating to the parents in a way that nothing else can be…
It was Mother’s day, something no one was more aware of than Deb and her husband Mike. That was because the couple was at the hospital where Deb was in labor 3 months earlier than they expected to be.
After hours of labor, Deb gave birth to a baby girl with high cheek bones, just like her father. Unfortunately the tiny baby weighed just a little bit more than a pound. “We said goodbye to her on the first day,” Deb said…
One Year Anniversary
Exactly one year later, May 9th, 1983, Deb was back in the hospital, again in labor, again 3 months earlier than she should have been. This time, Deb gave birth to a blond little boy named David who looked more like his mother. He seemed to be doing better than Andrea had but after 3 days, he passed away as well.
Andrea and David were buried right next to each other in the Oakwood Cemetery in Pella, Iowa, just a mile away from Deb and Mike’s house. Suffering two losses as they did, separated by just one year, seems like the kind of thing that a couple of parents-to-be might never recover from…
But Deb and Mike Schuring never gave up. They wanted to be parents more than anything else in the world so they turned to specialist doctors to help. After years of infertility treatments and a surgery that sewed up Deb’s cervix to better hold babies in, their efforts eventually paid off.
A Boy And Girl
In 1986, Deb was able to give birth to a little boy named Alex and 2 years later, to a little girl named Sarah. After all they’d been through, they couldn’t have been more pleased but after bringing those 2 children into the world, they wanted to do even more as parents…
Doing Even More
To honor the memory of their two children who didn’t make it, they had the names “Andrea” and “David” painted onto the walls of their kitchen and began fostering babies. The very first baby they fostered in 1995 was as strong a reminder of the fragility young life.
They were fostering a baby girl named Anna who was just a few weeks old when they were blindsided by an unexpected medical problem. Deb heard Mike call out from the bedroom and when she ran into the room, he told her Anna wasn’t breathing…
They rushed Anna to the hospital in Pella as quickly as possible, though she would have to be transferred to a hospital in Iowa City. The doctors there discovered a cyst that was blocking Anna’s nasal passage. Deb and Mike stayed at the hospital with her for an entire week as doctors performed the necessary surgery.
After staying with the Schurings for 3 months, Anna went to live with a permanent adoptive family. It was difficult for the entire family to say goodbye, especially for Alex and Sarah, who were just 9 and 7 years old at the time. But according to Deb, it was an important lesson for her 2 kids, showing them how important it is to give of themselves to others who need help, even when it hurts…
From that time forward, both the parents and the children were all in on fostering kids. Alex became a diaper changing wiz, while Sarah preferred bottle-feeding tiny infants. Mike became the “master swaddler” of the home, able to comfort any agitated baby into peacefulness in mere moments.
But because of Mike’s success as the owner of a clothing store, Deb was the one who shouldered the majority of the burden of caring for the children, devoting herself full time to caring for the biological and foster children…
While caring for a healthy baby is already a 24/7 job, many foster babies are in poor health or in need of special care. And caring for as many babies as they had over the years — 100 to be exact — they have had to deal with just about anything a parent can expect.
They’ve cared for babies with low birth weights, a slew of different sicknesses, ones whose mothers had abused drugs during pregnancy, skin ailments, breathing issues, Down syndrome, blindness, even babies that required heart monitors…
It was their decision early on to try and care for babies no matter what condition they were in, though not a decision they came to easily. When a van carrying one of their first foster babies rolled up and began unloading oxygen tanks and medical equipment, Deb cried. When she said “I can’t,” it was her son Alex who turned to her and asked “If not us, who?” Seen in that light, Deb set aside her concerns and accepted the baby.
The Schurings were able to reach the 100 mark on babies fostered because they are typically with the family for only a short time, usually on their way to a longer-term foster care, adoption, or ideally back to biological parents or family…
Fantastic Success Rate
Those biological parents who take their babies back are usually young parents who believe they aren’t capable of caring for a child. But through visits to the Schuring’s home, they often come to believe that they have what it takes. In fact, about 70% of the foster care kids they’ve taken care of have been reunited with their biological families, an exceptionally high number.
For all their selflessness in caring for young babies, the Schuring family isn’t without its critics. “We have people say that foster parents are providing care for financial gain,” said Kaci O’Day-Goldstein from the Four Oaks Foster and Adoptive Family Connection, a non-profit agency that works with the Iowa government on foster care placements. She notes that parents fostering babies receive a stipend of just $15.78 a day. “A baby is 24/7 care. That’s 67 cents an hour.”…
What They Deserve
Still, all of the hardships are more than worth it for them. “It’s a new life,” Mike said. “They are vulnerable and deserve a new start.” They keep a photo album they call “the book of babies” full of cute little faces. Some of the kids they’ve raised even come for a visit with their new parents from time to time.
But after more than 20 years of fostering, the Schurings are thinking of giving it up. With Deb being 57 and Mike being 60, they are both getting tired. “We’re winding down,” Deb said. “We’re saying no a lot more often.” They hate to walk away from fostering because there is always a shortage of willing foster parents. If you have any interest in becoming a foster parent, contact a local agency in your state and they will be happy to give you more information about it.
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