With 3 grown children, Ralph and Sue Hillman love to have a new baby in the house. In more than 20 years as foster parents, the couple has welcomed over 100 newborns, and treasured each one of them. In this encore of a story we did with the Hillmans in 2012, learn more about what motivates them to share their home with these babies.
Sue Hillman: "When we meet a baby... when we have a baby, that baby is our baby."
Ralph Hillman: "We're not a babysitting service. We're gonna love 'em hard."
Sue: "What a face. What a face."
Sue: "My name is Sue Hillman. And my husband Ralph and I have fostered over 100 babies."
(Sue & Ralph looking at photos) "Katherine. She went to the East Coast someplace, New Jersey I think."
Sue: "Our first child was a little boy. And he was 5 days old. He went on to be adopted and is probably 22-years-old right now."
Ralph: "Sometimes we get a lead that there's a baby coming. But often they call the agency and say, 'We're in the hospital and we really want to pursue adoption.' And then we get a call, 'Are you available?'"
(Baby on changing table fussing) Sue: "You're so hungry."
Sue: "Everyone is so different. You think you've seen it all, until you get your next one. And then it's a whole different story."
(Baby on changing table fussing) Sue: "Oh, I know it's just cold."
Sue: "Sometimes babies come to us because the mother has been on cocaine. We've had two fetal alcohol babies, which are really the hardest babies to take care of. Some babies come to us because the mothers just don't have the means to take care of the baby. Sometimes it comes from a married couple who just cannot handle another child in their lives."
Ralph: "We've had 'em as short as overnight. And then I think 6 1/2 months. When the baby leaves there's grieving, sadness. But most of the time it's covered by the joy of knowing that they're going to a good place."
Sue: (crying) "I do feel like I have a 100 children. They're all just so in my heart. I know every one of them."
Sue: "I can't even begin to tell you how hard it is to let a baby go, especially after you've had the baby for&ellipsis;I don't care if it's 2 weeks or 6 months. That baby is still our baby."
(Sue to baby) "Are you gonna burp?" (huge burp) (Sue laughs)
Sue: "We got our first baby, little William&ellipsis;called him Sweet William&ellipsis;in November of 1989."
Sue: "It's been an interesting journey with our church. I play the hand bells at church. And it was after a hand bell practice. And all of a sudden this voice... and I knew it was God&ellipsis;said, 'I want you to take care of babies.' And I said, 'What?' So God and I wrestled with this probably about 6 months, back and forth. But it just kept being on me, on me, on me, all the time."
Ralph: "It was something that I didn't anticipate. It's one of those things that just pops up. God says, 'Do this', and we do."
Ralph: "Our church is First United Methodist Church, and it has become a tradition that they pray for our babies the first Sunday that we have that baby."
The Rev. Michael O'Bannon, First United Methodist Church: "Let us pray. Thank you God for sending us the Hillmans and for sending Christopher to them."
Ralph: "Folks in the congregation are a part of all of that. It's part of the church's mission."
(Sue & church member) Woman: "What was the fate of the other one?" Sue: "Phillip? Yeah, he was adopted". Woman: "Wow."
Sue: "When we take a baby down there's so many people that come back and say, 'We are praying for this baby. We are praying for this baby.'"
Ralph: "Sue was just awarded the Tennessee Titans Quarterback Award for Community Service for keeping 100 babies. That's quite an honor."
Announcer: "The winner of the 2011 Titans Community Quarterback Award, which wins a $10,000 grant from Mr. Adams and the Titans Foundation, is Sue Hillman."
(Sue accepting award) "First of all, I'm very humbled. And I'm sorry I'm crying but this is just such a surprise. I'd like to thank my family first of all for supporting me in this mission. And secondly, to the agencies Catholic Charities and Miriam's Promise who do such an outstanding job with birth mothers and getting the decision that's right for them."
Ralph: "Mark 9:36-37 was shared as a result of the Tennessee Titan Quarterback Award. Someone forwarded that verse. 'Then he took a little child and put it among them. Taking it in his arms he said to them, Whoever welcomes such a child in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me, welcomes not me, but the one who sent me.' Whew. That's it. You know, this is... this is God's presence with us. ... pretty much says it all."
For more information on fostering or adoption, contact Miriam's Promise at 615-292-3500 or Caring Choices at 615-352-3087.
This story was first published on June 15, 2012.