Tuesday, August 9, 2011

This is How We Became a Family

I'm not sure where this one will go, so let's just jump in and figure it out, shall we?

The best place to start a story is at the beginning and this particular story begins when I was four. When I was in preschool we all wrote down what we wanted to be when we grew up, drew a picture of it, and then the school made a big book of all of them and sent it out to every family. As you can imagine it was full of fire fighters, doctors, lawyers, veterinarians.. the usual- and then, there was my page. What I wanted to be, really, really, wanted to be, was a mommy.  As the years went by that wanting never went away, in fact it just got stronger and stronger and more consuming with every year that passed.

I ended up getting pregnant senior year of high school, not recommended, and I was so excited- and scared. I wanted to be a mommy, but I wanted to be a good one, and I just wasn't ready for that yet. My boyfriend at the time and I argued endlessly about giving her up for adoption or keeping her. As it turned out, we weren't afforded the luxury of making that choice. I miscarried over Spring Break, technically I guess I didn't miscarry and I had to have a D&C, whatever. It was heartbreaking and still to this day brings tears to my eyes. I miss my daughter every day and I wonder what she would have been like, who she would have turned into, what her smile would have looked like, everything and anything. As I always do, I tried to take it in stride and pretend that I was ok with it, after all I wanted to give her up for adoption anyway so it wasn't like I was planning on having her, right? Well, as it turns out, there is a huge difference to the heart between making a choice to give someone up and having that person die before you even meet them. As I got older though I started to look at that as a necessary evil. What other way can you look at it without being depressed? Life went on, I dated, fell in love, fell out of love, and everything was fine.

In 2005, after five years of going to doctor after doctor with no results, I was diagnosed with a neural tumor. Not cancerous or anything, but scary nonetheless. What had happened was the nerves in my spine had just kept growing and growing and created a huge jumbled mess, about the size of a football. (Don't even get me started on how the hell a doctor can NOT notice a football sized growth for five years.) Surgery was scheduled and I was going in to be fixed. Because of the nature of the tumor, and the fact that it had wound its way through my intestines and around my ovaries, fallopian tubes, and bladder, the surgery was very long (14 hours) and I didn't have the best odds. I had about a 20% chance of living through the surgery, a smaller chance that I would retain bowel and bladder control, and an even smaller chance than that that I would ever walk again. I am happy to report that I'm alive, still walking, and do not wear a diaper. The other side effect of the surgery- I cannot have children. My fallopian tubes are crushed and my ovaries are non-functioning. My tumor produced small amounts of testosterone, and when it wrapped around my ovaries, it ruined them. As if being diagnosed with something scary and rare (20th person on the planet to be diagnosed), going through a surgery from hell (I was basically cut in half and put back together- recovery from that SUCKS), and spending an entire summer thinking I was saying goodbye to my friends and family for the very last time.. now my life long dream is gone. I was devastated, and then felt ungrateful because I knew I should have been happy enough to just be alive, but I had serious thoughts that not being able to have children made life not worth it all.

About a year and a half after surgery I met my husband. It was instant attraction and we both knew from the beginning that this was "the one". We knew each other for about 3 months before we started dating, got engaged 6 weeks into our relationship, and were married a year later. The hardest thing I ever did was tell him I can't have kids. He's wanted kids his whole life, just like me, and I was afraid that he'd leave. However, my hubby is nothing if not amazing, and he told me that if we wanted kids we'd just find other ways, and if we decided that we didn't want kids, he'd be happy with just me. He is a wonderful man, and I love him more and more each day.

At first we looked into IVF and other fertility treatments, but, wow, is that expensive and we were young and just starting out. $10,000 a month sounded like a lotto winning, not what you pay for fertility treatment, so that was out. When that went out so did donors, surrogates, and every other medical treatment we were looking at. Next, we decided to look into adoption. That too was astronomical. At that time we could afford to take care of a kid if it showed up on our doorstep, but there was no way that we had $20,000 to $100,000 upfront. We were back at square one and had nowhere to turn. I once again felt my dream fading and I was once again devastated. One day we were sitting on the couch watching tv and it was like one of those brilliant a-ha moments- I turned to him and just said, "foster care". I called the agency the next day and 10 days after our wedding, we started the process of becoming licensed foster parents.

The process of being licensed is intense and feels like it lasts forever. There are multiple visits to your home, some unannounced, there are FBI fingerprint/ background checks, 20 hours of mandatory classes which isn't a lot, but still, you turn over all of your bank info, they talk to your family and friends- sometimes without your knowledge, you have to go to a doctor and be completely checked out to be sure that you're healthy enough- they don't want to put kids in your home and then have you drop dead, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. It is, in short, the most intrusive thing I have ever been through. I viewed it as a test, and I think it is, to see how much you really want to do this. We were told that the whole process could take about 2-3 years before we have kids in our house. I gladly signed up to live like that for the rest of my life if I had to, anything to be a mom, any hoop, any obstacle, anything.

Six months later we got a call at 9pm from our case worker asking us if we wanted three kids. Hell yes we did!! We were told to pick them up at the agency the next morning and that is precisely what we did.

I remember the very first time I saw my precious babies. They walked in with a caseworker and stood with their backs to the wall, wringing their hands, and staring at the floor. They were so scared, so lost.. and so damn beautiful. The two oldest were cajoled into coming and sitting by me to color, the baby was put in my arms and we just got to hang out there like that for about an hour. My son, then 25 months, introduced me to his teddy bear and told me all about his love of fire trucks. The baby, then 5 months, fell asleep in my arms and my oldest, barely 3 at the time, had nothing to do with me. Not that it mattered, I loved her instantly, she was, and still is, my soul mate. I would like to protect my children's privacy, so here's some vague back story. Two of my children were physically abused- beaten and burned mostly.. one of my children was sexually abused and repeatedly raped at the age of  23 months and has permanent physical damage and deformation.. one of my children tested positive for cocaine at birth and has Sensory Processing Disorder, which is a blanket diagnosis that encompasses anything from ADD to autism, and we're awaiting further testing.. all of my children were exposed to mass amounts of alcohol during the pregnancy and we are fortunate that this has had no impact on them, we were also the 8th home for the oldest, 6th for the middle one, and 4th for the baby- and she was only 5 months old. As you can imagine, being a parent is hard enough, but trying to parent three strangers that went through all of that is nothing short of absolute hell. They are angry, with every right to be that way.. they don't trust you, here again, understandably.. they want nothing to do with you and blame you for everything that has happened- not because they truly believe it's your fault, but you're the one that's there so you get the brunt of it. Children are not meant to deal with adult issues and it's not pretty when they're forced to.

Wow, this got long. I'll finish it up quickly.

The statistic is that 50% of foster kids go back to their biological family, so even though I now had them in my home, there was no guarantee that they were going to stay. The next year with them was tough. They came around and accepted us, started calling us mom and dad (NO, we never asked them to, or referred to ourselves that way) but the hard part was their biological dad. Their mother had signed away her rights, but he was still holding on for dear life, not that I blame him at all, I wouldn't let them go without the fight of my life either. He was doing anything in his power to screw us over legally. He called CPS on us for mosquito bites (literally, yes), refused to give the kids their clothing or toys, would show up for his visitation when and if he felt like it and do nothing but try to get info out of them about us and where we were, we were dragged in and out of court for every appeal and every stoppage he and his attorney could think of, it was an insane year, but he finally ran out of appeals and we were cleared to adopt. We adopted our three kids one year after they came to live us to the day. The judge asked me on adoption day if I had anything to say. I was crying so hard that day that I couldn't speak so I never got to tell him, but this is what I would have loved to say...

These kids are my dream come true. I hoped and prayed to have kids some day. I went through a lot to get here, and at no point in my baby dreams was I even close to how incredible this would be. We may not have become a family in the normal way, but we are a family. I was put on this planet to find these children, and they were put here to be with me. My entire life is complete and I love my children in a way that I cannot express with words. Thank you so much for allowing me to adopt them because without them I would be completely lost.


  1. A wonderful story. Best of luck with your family.

  2. You know, I get a tear in my eye and a smile here when I sit and read this. Great!

  3. I am the product of foster care...I believe I came from good and decent biological parents..mother sick and father financially and emotionally unable to care for 5 children. Forster care for 19 years until I left in the middle of the night. Bless you for your love....