Foster care wasn’t the plan, but granted Hendersonville Chamber CEO’s dream of being mom

Foster care

Motherhood takes all forms, from stepchildren to adopted kids, special needs kids and beyond. Jen Todd / The Tennessean

Mom: Kathleen Hawkins

Kids: Michelle, 17, Rachel, 13, Brandon, 11

Her story: Hawkins tried to get pregnant for 14 years before she and her husband decided on international adoption. Then, they met 3-year-old Michelle.

"We met her on Christmas Eve and immediately felt a connection, and knew at that moment it wasn’t about what we wanted, it was about what she needed," Hawkins said.

They quickly entered the foster care process; foster to adopt, that is.

Then came 7-month-old Rachel; next came 2-day-old Brandon.

"We went from zero kids to three kids in a year and a half," she said."I don’t think I slept that year. It was crazy, but worth every minute."

Since then, she has devoted years of her life to encouraging those looking to adopt to enter the foster care process, a much more clear-cut and less expensive route than international adoption, she said.

"For many years on Mother’s Day, I cried and I hated it because for 14 years, I couldn’t conceive and it was a painful, horrible thing to go through," she said. "Just because your plan is not coming out the way you planned, if you want to be a mom, know there’s a child out there who needs you."

Biggest challenge: They are children with special needs. The reason children are in foster care is because they were either abused neglected or abandoned, all something that a child should never go through. They’ve all struggled.

The Hawkins family went from no kids to three kids in less than two years through foster care to adoption.

Biggest reward: Before (Dad) passed away I remember saying to him, ‘I don’t understand how a woman can have the ability to have a child, and treat them so poorly and not protect them.’ I was upset about it. And he looked at me and his response was, ‘If it wasn’t for people like that, then people like you wouldn’t be able to be a mom.’

I have no doubt in my mind these kids were supposed to be mine. My 17-year-old, though she drives me crazy sometimes because she’s a typical 17-year-old, we are exactly alike. There’s no way that child wasn’t supposed to be in my family. My two younger ones are not biological siblings, but they look alike, they act alike, they are best friends.

Favorite thing about being a mom: Knowing that I’m making a difference in the life of a child, to motivate inspire mentor and to lead. But the part that I feel blessed about the most is how much they motivate and inspire, mentor, and lead me because I learn more from them every single day. They help me be a better me.

ABOUT THIS SERIES

Meet Sumner County moms — moms with step kids and biological kids and adopted kids and special needs kids. Moms of kids with big age gaps. Moms of kids with different skin colors. Moms who have suffered from postpartum depression. Moms who have grieved. Moms who have loved.

In honor of Mother’s Day, we talked to moms of various family dynamics — their challenges, their anxieties, their bliss.

More: Years after giving child up for adoption, Gallatin mom adopts niece

More: Gallatin Chamber CEO on being a mom and stepmom, and loving both the same

Because being a mom is hard. And oh, so rewarding.

Reach Sumner County reporter Jen Todd at 615-575-7143, jtodd1@tennessean.com or on Twitter @jentoddwrites.

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