Our Family

Our Family
Our Family: Pops, Me, The Teenager, The Boy, The Freckle Faced Ninja, Miss Priss, Miss Sassy Pants, Madi-Lou-Who, & Dora the Explorer

Friday, September 23, 2011

Our adoption story...so far...the abreviated version!

I actually posted this on Facebook on Tuesday, August 24, 2010.  When I started this Blog, I thought it would be more appropriate here.

Our adoption journey began when we were dating and my husband Tony and I decided that we would have two birth children and adopt two children.  I'm not sure where the concept came from.  It was just there always. 
A year into trying to get pregnant without success and we decided that we'd go ahead and go through the process of adopting.  Neither of us was a fan of me taking drugs nor all that went along with the different infertility treatments.  We wanted children.  Getting pregnant would have been a wonderful thing to experience but it seemed God had other plans so we proceeded with adoption. 

Private and overseas adoptions were much too costly for us on a teacher and military salary so we looked into adopting a foster child.  After a year of filling out scads of paperwork and taking classes where we learned all the unthinkable things a neglectful or abusive person could do to a child, and the repercussions on that child, AND the behaviors that child would exhibit, we were ready to expand our family!  We were first given a six week old baby that was not free for adoption but told it was 99% a done deal.  Six weeks later they said, "Um, maybe it's not so done."  Three months later she was returned home.  See my post titled "Alyssa" for the story.  That was our first taste of what the death of a child might be like, except we could see her around town. In someone else's arms.  Three months later she was returned to foster care, along with her seven siblings.  That was the longest, and most difficult, few months of our lives. 
A month later we received a call about our oldest daughter, Gabby.  She was fifteen months old at the time and we'd met her previously at a picnic.  She was a complete doll and everyone was in love with her.  Two weeks later she was ours.  That was August 4, 1999.  I remember just watching everything she did with such joy, marvelling that I got the privilege of watching her grow up! 
Our adoption was complete the following April, just in time for her second birthday.  I don't know what emotion other parents experience who have given birth about their children, but I cannot imagine loving another person more than I love our daughter.  She's now 12 (April 2010) and at times I forget she's adopted!  
For a long time I hoped I'd still get pregnant.  We had some testing done and nothing seemed to be wrong with either my husband or myself.  We discussed adopting again and even went through all of the paperwork and classes again in our new state.   Then I turned up pregnant suddenly!  We put everything on hold and at 7 or 8 weeks pregnant had names picked out, maternity clothes in the closet, and plans for a nursery.  At my 10 week appointment there was no heartbeat.  The next day I had a D & C.  That was the first time I truly lamented not being able to become pregnant and for several months I hated all pregnant women! 
Gradually the pain faded some and we began to discuss adopting again.  But every time I brought it up, finances just didn't support the idea of adding 2 – 3 more to our family.  Tony went through several layoffs and it seemed like for a while that we just could not get ahead.  We constantly strived to just have faith and know that God was in control. 
Spring of 2009, I was speaking to a friend who is a social worker.  I mentioned our desire to adopt a sibling set of 2 or 3 set DOWN THE ROAD a couple years.  Well, she had three children that would be available in a few months ages almost 1, 3, and almost 5.  Would we be interested?  I laughed out loud, thinking Tony would say no way (he was laid off and job hunting at the time).  Instead he asked their ages and commented how perfect they were for us.  Shock but no real belief in it happening. 
We ran into that social worker again in July.  Tony had just begun a new job and this time she and Tony talked for a while.  By the time I joined the conversation, he was asking to see pictures!  Well of course the pictures sealed the deal!  Those pictures went up on our fridge and we prayed all through the summer and fall that we were doing the right thing as a family.  Once we began to share what we were doing with family and friends, we were amazed at the level of support and love we got.  God just supplied us with so many needs ahead of time, from clothes to toys to furniture!  We got lots of, "You guys are nuts!" looks and we still hear how we are assured a place in heaven and must be angels.  Well, I'd argue against that because I'm pretty sure just adopting isn't getting me to heaven and if you saw me blow my top over some of the stupid things I get mad about, you'd KNOW I'm not an angel! 
We completed all of our classes, paperwork, and prepared for a 3rd time.  Once we were approved to adopt, we had to wait for the court proceedings for the termination of their parents' rights to finalize.  Then we had to be officially approved for those specific children.  That last part took the longest.  DFACS does it's best but they aren't known for speed. 
We had been on this journey for a year and the beginning was in sight.  Yes I said beginning.  It reminded me of Dorothy.  The yellow brick road was supposed to take her home but it only led her to a new journey to the witch's castle, this journey more dangerous and rewarding than the first one.  At the staffing they asked and answered questions then told us that the foster family was planning a vacation and didn't want to take the kids due to the severe behaviors from one in particular.  I understood but was angry at the same time.  How could they say that about MY baby!  Again with the possessive feelings!  So would we go meet them today but not tell them who we were.  Then we would come back and get them on Saturday for a week.  Then they'd come back to the foster home until school got out.  Yes to the first, not happy about the second, YES to the 3rd, and hmmm to the last.  Not so excited about 6 weeks of them back in the foster home.  OK focus on the day.
We headed over to meet them.  I was more nervous than I have been for any job interview!  All I could think is, what if they don't like me!  They didn't know who we were so they just thought we were people visiting.  We brought a photo album for the foster parents to show them later with pictures of us, their bedrooms, our house, grandparents, etc.  We were there about an hour and pretty soon they found the photo album.  Will immediately spotted the picture of his room and saw his name. 
He didn't ask until after we left, "Are those my new parents?"  I've tried to imagine how he felt.  Not really possible.  Moved from place to place without your consent.  He'd been in 7 different placements.   The months approaching the court hearing to terminate their rights they saw their dad once a week.  Occasionally mom would show but not often.  Dad kept telling them, you'll be coming home soon.  Can you imagine having to be the one to tell them they weren't going back home?  Yeah, neither could the social workers or foster parents so none of them would.  Finally the attorney told them.  Nice and sensitive there.  Lydia went from difficult and strong-willed to a beast apparently after that!  Can't say I blame her.  She'd asked multiple times a day, "Who is my new mommy?  Will you be my new mommy?"  Can't blame her, she just wanted to know.  Once she was told about us, she and Will sat and looked over that photo album like they were memorizing it. 
We came back a four days later to bring them home for the week.  First we had a conference with Will's teacher.  Now we've got a ream of paper about Will's needs for counseling and hyperactive behavior due to hyper-vigilence.  I was a teacher and wanted to know how my boy was doing with school.  All that woman could tell me is that he could follow directions and he throws rocks on the playground.  I asked how he was reading and writing.  Well he won't listen or follow directions and he throws rocks on the playground.  Hmm.  Maybe if I'd lived with 7 different families I'd throw rocks and have trouble concentrating too!  So, waste of time there.  I was realizing what it was going to mean to advocate for my child. 

We went to the foster home.  I could not believe I was more nervous than before.  What  reactions were we going to get.  Refusing to go with us?  A "you're not my mommy?"  Well, as soon as we walked in, Lydia said, "You're my new mommy!" and jumped into my arms.  The baby walked up and wanted Tony to pick her up.  Will just stood there with a grin, his suitcase in his hand.  Then Lydia wiggled down and she and Will walked out the door and began packing their stuff in our car!  It was fairly funny and we were thrilled! 

They spent a week with us and several times in the first couple days, I wondered if we were crazy for doing this!  Going from one to four kids over night?  I couldn't seem to get the hang of meal times, bath times, tantrums, biting, diapers, the mess...I was overwhelmed with the trivialities. "God, you're gonna have to hold me up through this one." 

Then on about the 5th night, it hit me that they were going back to the foster home in a couple days for about 4-6weeks.  I was in the middle of singing Lydia a bedtime song (Jesus Loves Me and You Are My Sunshine every night for a year!)  when my throat is closing and I had to leave to go sob on the couch.  Of course Lydia, the observant girl that she is says, "Why are you crying mama?"  All I could say is, "cause I love you."  That was when I realized, yes we were crazy, but God had His hand on the whole thing so I had to have faith.  And that was when I realized I was beginning to care for them as MY children.  

Tony made a call right then.  They can't go back that long.  It will undo the tenuous beginning we've made with Lydia.  It will undo her.  We talked them into shortening the transition to just one week back. 

2 days later Tony left town for a business trip.  As he drove off at 6 am, I stood there with tears running down my face and fear in my heart.  They were gonna eat me alive!  How will I do this?  All by myself?  The look on Gabby's face said, "When can we give them back and return to normal?!?"  Well this is a great start.  Of course we survived but we didn't leave the house at all.  I had baby gates in all bedroom doors so I knew where everyone was at all times!  In a panic I became General Patton! 

Tony drove all night Saturday night to arrive home Sunday morning so he could go with me to take the kids back to the foster home for the week.  I had a huge mix of emotions, fear, worry, relief.  Yes relief.  I was so grateful for the quiet that week.  But by Tuesday missed them so much! 

The following Saturday they became ours.  We had a wonderful summer full of bumps and messes.  We struggled merely going to the grocery store!  I never knew you couldn't let siblings be in touching distance in the grocery cart (so whoever invented the cute ones where they sit together should have erected a barrier in the middle!)!  We had to institute rules about not asking for treats all the way through the store.  Teach them that there is always food available in our house and to not eat your entire meal in two bites.  We are still working to gain the trust of Will, who is now 6.  He wants to do what it takes to please and is very anxious about the well being of his sisters to the point of trying to parent them over us at times or speak for them.  We'd been warned about major tantrums that involved biting, kicking, and spitting.  To this day we haven't seen anything as severe as they warned us about. 
At times they describe things they've seen that I can't even connect with because I've never experienced that type of scary reality, fear, or loss.  At times I tell myself I can't afford to lose my temper with them because they deserve so much better than what they've had so far.  Then I lose my temper and have to forgive myself for being human.  At times I have to laugh (or I'll cry or die of embarrassment) at the things they tell other people or say out loud (like certain choice curse words!).  Then there are the times when I forget what they've experienced and seen and just see them as my babies.  Those are my favorite times!  But all the other times are what make the best times so absolutely precious! 
We are just a few months into this life time journey of being a family. We read everything we could get before they came about how to help them with the transition and to attach to us.  Now we are realizing that it's a two way street.  We had to transition and to learn to attach to them as well!  It's amazing what's happened in this short four months but we can't wait to see how our family will blossom in the next months and years.  And as the only boy with three sisters, Will already wants to know when we'll adopt him some brothers!

Update: September 2011 Our kids are 13, 7, 5, and 3.  We've been a family of 6 for 18 months, still have challenges, but more and more they are the challenges of normal children than adopted ones.  We pray through both and God gets us to the other side every time.

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