Linda Owens has spent much of her life opening her home and heart to the smallest in need. Over more than 34 years, she's fostered 81 infants — and counting.
"I never married and I never had children," Owens said, adding, "It's a rewarding, very rewarding, heartwarming thing to be able to have sleepless nights."
The 78-year-old, who lives near the San Francisco Bay Area, has been given many names over the years, including Mama Linda, Miss Linda and Baby Whisperer. She said she remembers all of the children she's cared for.
"They all have a mark in your life," she said. "I have pictures of when I started. I've got pictures in drawers and pictures in boxes."
Many of the children had a tough start to their lives. Some of the newborns have been exposed to drugs and are developmentally delayed.
"A lot of them aren't on target ... So this is what the challenging part is," Owens said, but noted that the struggles the children face make it all the more rewarding when they smile and make eye contact.
Owens considers herself a "temporary mother," but what she offers is everlasting. One woman, who adopted a baby Owens fostered 12 years ago, said she still remembers her advice.
"She's in her crib. Leave her alone. I know you want to play with her but if you wake her up, you'll start interrupting her sleep," the woman recalled Owens as saying.
When asked if caring for the babies allows her to give the gift of parenthood and motherhood, Owens said that when the kids are matched with an adoptive family, "that's the warming part of the job that I have done. To secure them, to build them trust to go on their new adventure."
When asked how much longer she plans to foster children, Owens said she doesn't think about stopping any time soon. "As long as the Lord gives me the health and the strength to do the job that I'm doing," she said.