A career as Mom to many

Besides being a nurse and a priest, Mary Limbach is a foster mother who gives her children ‘all the love they want’

MARY LIMBACH STOOD in front of a photo collage of one of her two adopted daughters at her Port Washington home. She adopted both through fostering and has been a foster mom to several children over the last few decades. She said the experience has been wonderful and recommends people who are thinking about becoming foster parents do it. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
Mitch Maersch
Ozaukee Press staff

A wall hanging reads “There’s no place like home” next to the front door of Mary Limbach’s condo in Port Washington, and that’s what she has provided for many children the past 30 years.

Limbach has served as a foster parent in two different states and continues to take in children, although at 68 years old she prefers babies rather than keeping up with toddlers and teens.

“I’m open to anyone anytime who calls me,” she said.

Calls can come in at any time, and Limbach is prepared. Her living room and basement has a slew of baby toys, from trucks to balls to a variety of stand-up toys.

Her garage has shelves of bins filled with clothes labeled by age and gender, along with more diapers, car seats, toys and books, some of which Limbach found at thrift stores.

She already had plenty of experience with children as the third oldest of seven children growing up on the south side of Chicago.

“I was kind of a babysitter already,” she said.

Limbach earned her college degree in nursing and became a neonatal nurse practitioner in 1985. She grew up Catholic and became heavily involved in the church, but knew a leadership role wasn’t possible, so she left the denomination, went to an Episcopal seminary in Tennessee and became a priest in 1993.

Those two roles had her living in Missouri, Illinois, Colorado, Minnesota and Tennessee.

Limbach planned to start her own family, but the right guy never came around.

“It wasn’t like I wasn’t trying,” she said.

She was 38 when she decided to start fostering.

“I definitely wanted children,” she said, and thought, “Well God, if this is your plan for me to be single, I’m going to do a runaround on you and get children.”

After a training program in foster parenting, Limbach got her first baby, a girl, in 1994.

She turned out to be not a foster child, but an adopted daughter.

“That’s my first daughter. She came and she stayed,” Limbach said.

The baby had been born 13 weeks early and was in neonatal intensive care for three months. After spending three and a half months with her biological mother, the baby was given to Limbach. The mother had special needs and had been in nearly 10 foster homes from age 9 to 16, and she was not qualified to take care of a child.

It took a few years for her to relinquish custody, but Limbach finally got her first daughter, Sarah.

She hadn’t stop fostering in the meantime, taking in six children over three years.

Limbach’s oldest daughter now lives in a group home in Port Washington and usually comes to stay with her mother on weekends.

One year after adopting Sarah, Limbach met her second daughter at birth but didn’t know it at the time. She helped deliver a baby who was six weeks premature and had Turner syndrome, which causes a variety of medical and development issues.

This time, the parents had voluntarily relinquished custody. One month after the baby was born, Limbach got the call asking if she wanted to take her home.

Emily is now an adult and lives in a condo in Port.

When Sarah was 5 and Emily was 1, Limbach wanted to move. She lived 100 miles south of Kansas City and wanted her daughters to attend good schools. Limbach got a call from a hospital in La Crosse where she worked before, and took the job.

Wisconsin school systems, human service departments and the standard of living, she said, are well ahead of those in the South. She moved to Wisconsin in 1999, where her property taxes were four times higher than in Missouri. “You get what you pay for,” she said. “It’s a different world.”

Limbach found a good job at Aurora and moved to Port. She retired from nursing in 2017 and works as a part-time priest, which allows time to be a foster mother again. The support from Ozaukee County’s system has been “fantastic,” she said.

Limbach has seen foster children come from various backgrounds, sometimes due to unfit parents with special needs and other times due to drug addiction.

“The people who make these things are evil,” Limbach said of the drugs.

It’s sometimes hard to say goodbye to her foster children. One young boy she planned to have for one month stayed for three months, and she recently had him for a week while his long-term foster family was on vacation. He knows who she is and toddles over to her.

“There’s a bond there,” Limbach said.

But she knows what is ideally supposed to happen.

“The goal is always to reunite the family, and that makes sense almost all of the time,” Limbach said.

“My goal would be not to have them too long” and “to give them all the love they hopefully could ever want.”

She has become an ambassador for fostering. When she shops with her foster children, Limbach often is asked if she is their grandmother.

“I always correct people because I want them to know,” she said.

One woman told Limbach she had been thinking about fostering.

Limbach cautions that it will cost money to have foster children, but she said not to let that stand in the way.

“Do it. It’s wonderful,” she said.

For information on becoming a foster parent, visit www.co.ozaukee.wi.us/293/Foster-Care.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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