I sat down to write this story over and over, but the words just wouldn't come to me. The story was so amazing that my words couldn't do it justice. My words were not enough. This is a story that can only be told in the first person, so here is a story from a mom about her boys.
Just a warning, this is a long story that WILL require tissues!
Three years ago, I bought my big house and at the time it was just me and my dog. It was so strange to move from a small 2 bedroom apartment in the big city to this huge house in the suburbs. I remember thinking to myself this house is so empty. So, I got another dog, a German Shepard because I was kind of scared I would not hear if someone came in the house when i was sleeping.
I was 37 years old, still single, while my twin brother was married and working on his second child. While I was still in my tiny little apartment, I saw a news report about a teenager who went to church and begged for a mom and a permanent family for Christmas. It broke my heart. I remember telling myself, man I have this 2 bedroom apartment and room for this kid to live with me and lead a better life. I even called about adopting him him but many people had requested to adopt him at that time. I had long stretches of military duty coming up but I promised myself I would pursue being a foster mom when I got back. I said if I never become a wife, I want to become a mom so that's what I did.
When I got back I started the foster care process. I took Adoption classes. I talked to my mom about my plans. At that time she was living in out of state and wanted to move closer to me. Selling her house was proved tough at first, but the month before I finished my last week of classes, my mom sold her house and moved down here just in time to witness me get my first placement, a sibling group-a boy and a girl.
I grew up in a stable loving home. We struggled a little bit and were almost homeless at one point when we moved from Georgia to Michigan but the grace of god always provided for us. I didn’t know much about the foster care system at that time and I think I didn’t think about life outside of the picket fence or bubble we lived in, but being a foster mom was life changing experience. It brought with me a lot of personal growth. For the first time in my life, I had to be responsible for someone other than myself. The past two years have been very challenging. A lot of ups and downs (mostly downs) but I have learned a lot.
Being single at 37 was very difficult. Its still is some days. It can be very heartbreaking. You see all these people around you getting married and having kids and you question god, when will it be my turn. When will I get married and have a family of my own. It was very lonely and I often felt forgotten. Then there were those questions, why haven’t you gotten married? Or the comments, you're getting to old to have kids, they will have down syndrome, or you should try online dating, or maybe you're just too picky. There is this stigma out there that if your not dating or married by a certain age there is something wrong with you. It was almost like it was expected of you to be settled down. I remember praying and almost begging god one Christmas for a family of my own. I felt like a failure for not being married or having kids. I felt like my time was slipping by.
The year I found out I could adopt, I also found out my brother and his wife were expecting again. To be honest every time they told me they were pregnant my heart sank. I was completely saddened, jealous and heartbroken. Part of me literally died inside every time they told me. This time, they didn’t say anything until they knew I was going to adopt because they knew how hard it was for me. I knew as happy as I should be for them, I was facing my own fears. I would shut down.
When I first became a foster mom, I started looking for items on the Facebook Online Garage Sales. I found this stroller, that I would need for my future foster kid and that’s how I met Momma A. She had been a foster mom for quite some time and was also the Director of Lapetite, where many kids in foster care attended. She was very knowledgeable about the system and provided me all the ins and outs of being a foster mom. That chance meeting turned the tide on where my life is today and we have maintained a close friendship ever since.
Momma A started fostering my Boys in 2015. With fostering, you do not always know at first if the kids you are taking care of are going to be up for adoption. Typically if you foster them for a year, and the birth parents do not actively participate in the children's case plan, then parental rights are terminated. With this particular case, the parents chose to terminate the rights of their kids in 2016.
In March of 2016 she started talking to me about adopting these boys. The older boy had been diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy a disease that will make progressively make life harder for all involved. She had known that my background as a nurse would be a perfect fit. I on the other hand was really reserved. Becoming a mother to a child with a disability was very difficult and I initially had huge reservations. I knew what his diagnosis was and how hard my life would be with him. But she persisted. She said no Dear, you would be perfect for these children and I think you are the one that needs to adopt them. I said some prayers, did some research about the disease and had a team meeting with my mom who I knew I would need support and assistance from. Together, as team and as a family god changed our hearts and minds.
In the meantime, I had 2 boys already that I had been fostering for the past year. So visitations started at my house on the weekends and I would go to all the necessary doctor appointments at Shriners. Weekends were crazy with all 4 boys running around to say the least. Both boys struggled in the beginning with the older one have lots of big emotions centered around anger and abandonment issues with long crying fits. These emotions had spilled over into school as well, so we really had to focus on his needs for the first month. Many times, I often wondered if he would get better or ever feel secure in my home.
After 3 months the boys were scheduled to move into my home with the 2 boys that were already there moving into a new home with their biological mother. As often happens in the foster care system snags arise and my boys move in date was pushed back a month. In addition, I kept the foster boys and gained their newborn sister until the court could clear up the misunderstanding and reunify them with mom. My fight to keep the siblings together prolonged the ordeal. They had never been in foster care before and I was the only person they really knew for the past year. I worked out a plan to try and convince the courts to let me have all 5 kids at once. I would buy a new car that could accommodate all the kids, get the new furniture needed, and presented them a daily schedule. Unfortunately due to the high needs both physically and emotionally of my little boy I was denied. Luckily after a month, the sibling group of 3 were reunited with their mom and I became an alternate guardian for them if something were to ever happened to mom. (Which is way awesome)
My kids moved in the day before the oldest's 5th birthday. Typically once the kids move in, there is a 90 day wait period before the adoption but that was not the situation with our case. From day one, I had to fight really hard to prove that I was the right parent for these kids. I was questioned about my active lifestyle, being a single parent and being slowed down or struggling to deal with a kid who would be disabled. They also knew my desire to travel and questioned how would I manage with a kid in a wheelchair. I was persistent. I said I am strong, I have a great support system and I am determined. We are a team and family, we will do this together.
We had a parent teacher conference two weeks after the boys moved in regarding behavior. Two weeks after that (30 days after they moved in) the negative behaviors stopped. School was going well, the crying and hitting stopped and reports were all positive. My mom and I were holding our breaths. We couldn’t believe it. The past visitations had been so challenging and so hard because of the behavioral problems but having a safe well loved home went a long way and the boys were starting to feel it.
As adoption day was imminent more questions arrived about the financial needs of a disabled child and how much support would come from the state. They wanted a statement to what life would be like with my older boy. I wrote a NINE page paper about all of his medical needs and in that moment, no one ever questioned whether I was ready for the challenge to adopt my son ever again.
I know I talk a lot about my older son, but we dealt with quite a lot with my little one too. He was challenging in his own way, as all 2.5 yr olds can be but comparatively he was much easier. Being 5, my older son was able to process more the feelings of not being wanted, he felt like no one loved him. Luckily his first foster mother was able to formulate normalcy for him that he had never felt before. While my little had some issues such as crying a lot, fear of car seats and speech issues, for the most part he was perfect kid.
I met Kelly with Momma Got Soul Photography at a kids expo. We had planned to go there just to have something to do but I saw her booth and asked her what is a life book and she explained it to me. Before that date I never heard about it before but I knew I wanted to document this moment for them for the rest of their life. I mean how many times do you get a chance to be adopted? I wanted it to be special just like them. I wanted to celebrate their first year with us. So we took her card and gave it some thought and hired her for a Christmas shoot. I remember being a little nervous and wanting to make memories but truthfully this was the first time I ever had help with the Christmas decorating and it was kind a little stressful. When I got the album back, I was so impressed with how well it turned out , I decided to hire her for my adoption shoot when the day ever came. And that day came on Feb 24. My kids have grown since then. They have almost changed 180 degrees from the day I first met them and If you see them today you would never know that I adopted them. Being a mom has been the best gift god could ever provide me and you know throughout my 2 year journey it has completely changed my life in so many ways.
Lets just say I don't cry often, but it was hard to see through my lens with the amount of love I witnessed in the courtroom that day. I was honored to be able to document such a momentous time in the life of these boys and their mom. To be honest, I am not sure who is luckier, those 2 boys or the wonderful woman that adopted them. I can't wait to watch these boys blossom as they grow in such a loving household.
If you want to see more of their fabulous story, check out their first Christmas in their new home!