For those of you who haven’t met Sara Brawner, you’re in for a treat. We’re so inspired by this beautiful mama of five and her positive perspective. For someone who has gone through such heartbreak, she mothers with such grace and kindness. We admire her for so many reasons and believe that her story is worth being told and heard. Hope this interview touches you the way it has touched us.
For our audience that may not know you, can you please share a little about your story? Let’s start with the day you met your husband…
“My husband won't want me to say this, but I'm gonna do it anyway. We went to a small college where everyone kind of knew everyone and ALL of the girls liked Beege. The first time I saw him I thought he was really cute, but I was also kinda determined not to be like every other girl who wanted to date him. Fast forward a year after we met and we became really good friends; fast forward a couple of years after that and we were dating; fast forward a year after that and we were married! We lived in Austin, TX for a couple of years after getting married, then in east Texas and now we're in Waco, TX.
We miscarried our first baby just a few months into marriage. It crushed us. And then about a year and a half after that, our daughter Willa was stillborn at 34 weeks and we were crushed all over again and even more intensely. In the year after losing Willa, we miscarried two more babies. We had also begun the process of getting certified to foster and adopt. Over the next year we fostered four children and got pregnant, and miraculously and hilariously finalized our adoptions with all four kids AND gave birth to our son all within a month of each other this summer. So now we have five kids and we're figuring it out as we go and taking it one day at a time and loving it.”
Strength is a word that comes up quite a bit when I think of your story. Can you share a little about how you and Billy continue to build and grow as a couple?
“You know, I think it's the things that initially make you weakest that have the potential to make you the strongest. I say that they have the potential to do that because I can see where it would be so easy to go through something traumatic and isolate yourself from your husband, family and friends...in fact I really wanted to isolate myself at times. I'm thankful for a husband who pressed into the pain, who pressed into my needs and took me on surprise weekend getaways and let me tag along to work with him in those first few days where I was scared to death of being alone at home. Even though our grief sometimes looks so different from one another's, I think we've both been able to understand that there's no wrong way to grieve. And most importantly, being people who believe in Jesus and life with Him after death has been huge in giving us strength because it's given us hope that Willa's death and our other babies' deaths aren't the end of the story.”
Foster care. When did this conversation become a reality? What inspired you to open your hearts to other children in desperate need of love?
“We had always talked about adopting, even when we were just dating. After our daughter died, the time we had on our hands and the space we had in our home pushed us toward actually getting certified and pursuing adoption. We got certified to foster and adopt, but we really never thought we would foster. I didn't think I'd be able to handle the possibility of losing more children. The morning after we got certified we got a call about a little boy who was living in a shelter and needed a temporary home. We broke our own rule by saying yes, fostered him for about a year, and now he's our son! After that first call we had to learn to say no—we got literally hundreds of calls about children over the course of the next few months—but I am so thankful that the first call we got was for our sweet boy.”
You’ve officially adopted four children which is so incredible! For some of our readers interested in this process, can you share a little about this journey?
“Yes! It's sometimes still surreal! This was a dream for us for so long and it's finally happened. The paperwork and training and unknowns can be so overwhelming before you get started, but I would say to anyone interested in the process to go for it! There's such a need for people to foster and adopt. And even if you're not in a place to do that, you can give in so many other ways, like giving financially or babysitting. From our first training to when we legally adopted all of our kids was about a two year journey. It was hard and frustrating and enlightening and beautiful. It's a weird journey...you're stepping into really broken situations and so many unknowns, but it is totally worth it.”
Since adopting your children you gave birth to your son, Jones. How did you prepare your children to a welcome a new baby into the family?
“Our kids have been so excited about Jones since the day we told them we were pregnant. They loved feeling him kick and talking to him and telling any and everyone that I had a baby in my tummy. So I don't know if we did anything to prepare them; they were just kind of on board from the get go! And it has been even more so like that since he was born. One of my favorite memories from the hospital was when all of our kids got to come in to meet Jones. The first thing IV (our little African American boy) said was, "He looks like me!" They all take such ownership over him and such good care of him and love being big siblings. I also love that they were all with us before we got pregnant with Jones so that they really got to be present for every part of his life.”
I’m about to have my fourth child, so tell me, what’s life like with 5? Any tips on juggling it all?
“Oh man. I'm so excited for y'all. Life with five is awesome and so full and fun and also really challenging. But mostly fun. I'm figuring this all out as I go, so I'm by no means an expert on the subject. But something I'm learning is that with multiple children they're hardly ever all being perfect and there are lots of days when it's easy (and necessary) to constantly be correcting at least one of them. But I've been bothered by the fact that I sometimes seem like I'm saying no all day long and always correcting someone, so I've been trying to really notice the positive moments throughout the day as well and give those moments even more attention than the negative ones. I think the more children you add onto your pack, the more tempting it is to become burdened by them or frustrated at requests that are actually very reasonable or a Debbie Downer because of needing to correct so often. But instead of always correcting and seeming burdened and harsh, I want to be a mom who is remembered for being joyful and compassionate and encouraging. Since a good mom can't be all yeses and has to continue to correct, I'm trying to continue to train up our children and also up my positivity and encouragement and call out the good that I see happening in our day to day.”
You’ve shared in different publications that you have photographs of Willa around your home and that your children know about their sister and her story which I think is really special. Are there any other ways you keep Willa part of your family on a continuous basis?
“I love that my kids know about Willa. I have a necklace with Willa's palm print on it, a bracelet with her name on it, a huge painting of my husband and her (my favorite piece of art ever) on our wall, and a picture of her as the background of my phone. So Willa is seen often and talked about often and I love that. We've celebrated her birthday and called it Willa Day for the past two years and I want to do that forever. Our good friends the McKellars made a video about Willa's life and I watched it the other day with my kids. I realized that I tend to make it all sound okay when I talk to my kids, saying things like "She's so happy now! She's in heaven with Jesus!" and I think when they watched the video it kind of started to hit the older ones that losing Willa was actually extremely painful for Beege and me. As they get older, I think it will be so special to let them into that part of our lives more and more. And for now I love that they love to open my phone and say "baby Willa!" and find her bracelet and ask me questions about her.”
Can you share a bit about the ways in which wearing Jones in your Solly Baby wrap has become a part of your life?
“Oh man. Our Solly Baby wraps are hands down the most essential baby items we own. On the third day of being home with Jones I cried to my husband because I never wanted to put Jones down and at the same time, I wanted to be present with our other kids and I knew they needed me so much. Our Solly Baby wrap has been the best because I get to keep Jones close and bond with him while also being there for my four older kids. No exaggeration, Jones takes at least one nap in a Solly Baby wrap every day. I normally put on a wrap when I get dressed in the morning and when he gets tired I put him in there and he falls right asleep. He loves it and I love it and I will cry when he's over 25 pounds and can't fit in one anymore.”
What’s the best piece of parenting advice you have received and what do you want to pass on to your children?
“The other day one of the moms that I really admire on social media (maybe silly, but whatever!) posted something really great about choosing moments over everything else. So choosing to engage with your child even when there's a mess you need to clean up or a text you want to respond to. And obviously that should be taken with a grain of salt because there's times when things have to get done, but that's been a game changer for my husband and me recently. We've reminded ourselves so many times lately to choose the moment. To let the kids come into our bed with their dirty feet because when we're sixty years old we won't be saying "I'm so glad we had a clean bed", we'll be saying "I'm so glad our kids knew they could come climb into bed with us." And I'd love to pass this onto our children; the lesson that being present is so important. It seems like our world is becoming less and less engaged in the moment and we'd love to raise kids that are present and involved and living life to the fullest.”
What are you most proud of?
“I'm so proud of how much our kids have grown. Our kids have gone from violent, anti-social, insecure and afraid children into little boys and girls that love each other and share and give the best kisses and know right from wrong and love adventures. And there's still so much room to grow, but when I look at where they've come from and how they are choosing joy, I feel so proud and I have all the hope in the world.”