Foster-Adoption

Our Adoption Story – Part 4

Prophesy…

Easter.2014.all the babies

If you have read our story from the beginning (you can find that here) you know that we had the incredible fortune to have made the decision to foster-adopt, completely unknown and at the same time, as some of our dearest friends.  I like to think that was a “God-thang”.  Lisa and Bobby Johnson are amazing people.  Lisa is, like me, a confident and independent woman who speaks her mind.  Unlike me; however, she is fierce in her proclamation of her faith.  She amazes me in that way.

I grew up in a church that frowned upon things like prophesy and speaking in tongues.  Not that it was outright banned or anything, but if it had happened, I am sure there would have been quiet murmurings and the perpetrator would have gotten the side eye, if you know what I mean.  To personally experience such an event is another thing.  For me, what at the time was a quite ordinary conversation, later had such significance that it continues to blow my mind.  It has been evidence to me that the God who performed all kinds of miracles throughout history was the same God performing them all around me, and in my own puny little life.

It was one of the early foster-adoption classes we had together; it was a hard one.  We were shown pictures of children who were currently in foster care and waiting for a family to adopt them.  Every single picture was of a kid that needed a family.  One in particular was of a sibling group.  We were informed that sibling groups were one of the hardest to place.  It was during that conversation that Lisa joyfully proclaimed that adopting a sibling group was what she wanted to do.  I do not think Bobby was there yet, but Lisa’s mind was made up.  She jokingly looked at me and Curtis and said, “you just watch, I believe you all are going to have lots of babies too.”  Curtis and I just laughed it off.  “Nope, one is enough for us!” She wasn’t having any of it and we laughed some more and the conversation fell off and was largely forgotten.

About a month before we received Jake, Lisa and Bobby, true to their word, received their first placement, a sibling group.  Two girls, T & T.  A newborn baby and an 11-year-old girl.  We were SO HAPPY for our friends. What they had hoped and prayed for had come true.  It was so wonderful to watch.  And these precious girls.  They had been through so much.  We had the privilege of watching them both thrive in a safe and loving environment.  About a month later we received Jake and during that first year, our families spent lots of time with each other.  Our babies even went to daycare and were in the same infant room together. We adjusted to our new life with three children.  It was good.

As time went on, Lisa and Bobby’s family grew.  And grew. And grew.  Like us they had two older bio children and in no time, with their foster and adopted children they were up to seven children fairly quickly.  Two sibling groups and a newborn little boy were added to their family.  Lisa would often joke.  She would say, “You’ll see.  There are more coming for you guys.” And we always laughed but stood firm, “no, this is it for us.” (Back when we got the call about Jaycob’s brothers, that should have been my first clue to just listen to Lisa.)

Fast forward….We had now had Jaycob’s brothers for about four months and we knew they were leaving us, we just didn’t know when.  When the phone rang.  This time, when it rang, it was not CPS, it was Lisa.   Lisa, started off a bit hesitant and then barely stopping to take a breath, said, “I know you all still have Jaycob’s brothers and I don’t know if you’d be interested or not, but our case manager is trying to place these two little boys, they are brothers and are separated in different foster homes and will be up for adoption soon, and my case manager is looking for a family that will adopt both of them…..” WHOA WHOA WHOA……and you thought of us???  I was in shock.  Our hearts were already preparing for the boys to leave.  I was going to start back at school and complete the MBA program.  Curt was for sure leaving to CA soon…..Take 2 more?  But none of that came out of my mouth.  Instead, I told her I would need to talk to Curt.  Wait? What?  And when I did, to my surprise, he didn’t say, “no.” HOLD ON HERE.  And then we called a family meeting and brought in Madison and Michael and discussed it with them and they were on board and suddenly, instead of, coming up with a way to tell my sweet friend “no”, I found myself on the phone with her case manager telling her we wanted to meet the boys and we made arrangements to go see the boys in their current foster homes.  WHAT JUST HAPPENED HERE??? (another of those “God-thangs” – if you didn’t guess)

Everything else was a whirlwind.  We met Aydyn first.  Oh man, Love at first sight is real!  He was SO smart and talked and looked like a five-year old, even though he was only three and a half.  If you’ve never met him, he has the most beautiful eyelashes that curl up.  To die for.  Just the sweetest little boy.  Ezra we visited next and he was, even then, a bouncing baby boy.  Seven-months old at the time and a ball of energy.  He’s our bruiser and full of life.  By the time we were on the forty-five-minute drive home, I had already made up my mind.  I was just waiting for Curt to say it out loud, though I already knew in my heart he had come to the same conclusion as well.  We were adding to our family, again!

We got Aydyn on my birthday, the day after Valentine’s day, 2013 (the best birthday gift ever!) and Ezra followed two weeks later.  Aydyn came to us with 3 things.  A pair of pants that were too small, a jacket that was too big and too heavy for Arizona and some pajamas.  Ezra, on the other hand came with boxes of his things. He had been with a family that truly adored him, and reluctantly let him go because they believed, as do we, that sibling groups should be kept together, if at all possible.  We are forever grateful for their choice.  We know what that loss is like.

Aydyn bonded with my husband immediately and the very first night started calling him dad. They were in the loft and Curt was putting together a shelf and the boys were all around him trying to help and Aydyn wanted to be part of it and called out “Dad, dad, dad” with the other boys.  My heart melted when I heard it.  Curt didn’t make a fuss, just quietly acknowledged to me what had happened with a glance.  Aydyn did not bond with me as quickly and I know, because of some of the things that have come out over the years, that had more to do with his trust issues with mother figures than with me.  It hurt my Momma heart to know what he must have experienced so far in his little life.  But He did eventually bond with me and he and I share a very strong mother-son connection now. He is, and always has been, my tender-hearted boy.

When we received Aydyn and Ezra we also still had Jake’s brothers, so for a time, we had seven children in our home.  It was pure CHAOS.  But it was also a special time.  We spent most every afternoon after work on the back patio, the babies in bouncers and the Littles throwing balls and running around in the grass.  It was an amazing time.  As we approached Easter that year the time came that J and J were leaving.  It happened the day after Easter, so we did it up.  We had all our family over for an egg hunt and bar-b-que.  We wanted our babies to know how special they were to us.  It was such a fun day but also a present undercurrent of sadness. Tomorrow would be hard.

The next day, while everyone was at work and all the other kids were at school and at daycare, the case manager arrived.  It was just me and the babies.  I hugged them hard and cried as I packed up all their boxes of things.   It all happened very quietly. And then they were gone.  I cried a lot that day.  The grief is still with me.  Then, it was unbearable.  It has softened.  But it is still with me.  Sharing this with all of you brings it to the surface.  I wish with all my heart that things did not happen the way they did.  I wish they were still here.  I question why we had to experience such grief and loss.  In my mind I still picture my babies, though I know they are little boys now.  One almost 4 and the other almost 3.  I am sure they would not even remember us. But I treasure that time.  I treasure that my son, Jake, had the opportunity to have that time with his brothers.  I pray they are loved and know love and are growing into amazing little boys. That time mattered and the love that was poured into them during that time mattered.  It was not for nothing.

But they gave us something else.  They gave us a love we had not experienced before.  They, like Little Acari, opened up our hearts and prepared us for the life we have now.  A life with seven children. Yes, seven….If you are counting, at this time in our story we were back to only five.  As I have said before, our story is a long one…I have learned to listen to my friend Lisa and when she says to me, “I don’t think you are done.”  Now my laughter has a tinge of nervousness to it, because I know something, or someone rather, is coming.

Foster-Adoption

Our Adoption Story – Part 3

Brothers…

2013-11-03 11.46.42

If you ever end up adopting out of foster care, the chances are very real that one day you will receive “the call”.  The call that changes it all.  The call that causes you to question what is the “right” thing to do and for whom.  The caller on the other line was our son’s paralegal from the Guardian Ad Litem’s office.  “Hello, Wendy, I thought you should know that Jaycob has two little brothers and they are currently in foster care.  Would you be interested in having them placed with you?”  Shocked, I couldn’t believe the news.  Curtis was napping in the front room and I quickly rushed in so that he could be part of the conversation.  I could barely breathe.  Two babies, one 13 months and the other a newborn, boys!  For us, there was barely any hesitation.  “YES! of course!”  Our son deserved to know his brothers and they to know him.

In spite of our immediate willingness to jump in, we truly were not prepared to bring 2 more babies into our home.  We were no longer licensed to foster, we had given away a lot of our baby things.  We had no intention of adding to our family so there was no reason to have kept anything.  I had just entered an MBA program at ASU and Curt was beginning to look at transferring to San Diego to pursue teaching and coaching opportunities there.  Our daughter was entering her final year of high school.  I had JUST sold my 7 seater Honda Pilot and downsized to a VW Beetle to commute back and forth to school.  How were we going to fit all these kids in my husband’s Dodge Magnum?

So we called upon our friends.  The call was put out over Facebook and our amazing “village” came through.  In a matter of days, we had 2 cribs, a 2 seater stroller, tons of clothing, diapers, toys, and just about everything else we needed to be ready for the babies.  Two of my treasured friends came over and in a matter of hours we had a painted nursery and rooms moved around to create the space we needed to bring home the babies.  Man, I look back at all that we accomplished through the generosity of our village and I am still, three years later, so overwhelmed with gratitude.

Jake was now just twenty-six months.  Still in diapers.  How on earth were we going to do this?  Three babies in diapers?  And run my law practice?  And survive football season?  And go to school? And…and…and…. The reality of our situation began to settle.

In doing the math, the age of the older baby explained why the mother had dropped off the face of the earth and had abandoned Jaycob.  She had become pregnant and likely did not want CPS involved in her new son’s life.  It’s unknown why she did not come back into the system when that baby was born, but she didn’t.  It was not until the littlest one was born substance exposed that she became involved with CPS again.  Had CPS became involved with the second pregnancy, perhaps the heartache we experienced later, could have been avoided.

We have come to call ourselves “Team Mays” – fitting for a football family comprised mostly of boys and an athlete daughter.  Team Mays did what we do – we rallied.  We immediately began figuring out what needed to be done and we did it.  We began the process of re-instating our license.  I took a leave of absence from my studies, we stepped down from some of our other commitments, we got daycare in place and we began looking for a bigger car.  We made our “new life” work.

Life with the babies, I call them J and J, was wonderful.  Stressful, crazy, wonderful.  They arrived the week before Halloween, which was fitting because Jaycob’s Forever Day is Halloween.  That first Halloween, we loaded all of the babies in a wagon and proudly took them trick or treating through our neighborhood. The babies brought us such joy.  I had never imagined that I would have wanted or thrived with a large family, but it has fulfilled me, all of us, in ways nothing else has.  My very identity began to shift.  The core of who we were had changed.

I watched my children thrive as well.  Watching how my older children adjusted to such a big change gave me many proud moments.  I watched them both so easily love these new babies and share them with everyone.  Our home had always been a place that other kids flocked to, so not only were my kids experiencing what being a foster family looked like, but all the kids that had come through were experiencing it as well. Our boys received so much LOVE.

Very quickly, however, we learned that this time things would be very different.  The bio mother had bonded with the 13 month old with no interference from CPS and she was going to fight for him.  All of her complaints centered around the 13 month old, not the newborn.  After every visit we received complaints.  It was always something largely out of our control.  He would get dirty at daycare or had caught a cold and, somehow, that translated that we were bad foster parents.  I understood that to her, we were the enemy.  We were the reason her kids were not with her.  As things escalated, so did her complaints and her complaints next turned to the CPS case manager.  Shortly afterwards, we were told the case plan was changing to reunification.  Tired, and facing her own personal traumas, I believe the case manager gave up.  We were devastated.  Mom had not completed everything she was supposed to, yet, but the case plan was changing.  We were at a loss.  Powerless and helpless.  It was clear we were going to lose the boys and it was happening soon.

A sadness was beginning to settle in.  A heaviness.  We were losing our babies.  They were already part of our family.  The littlest had only really known me as mom and I was so deeply bonded to him.  And the 13-month old and Jake were best buddies.  Even though it should have been, losing them, was never part of our thought process.  That possibility was one we never appreciated until we were in the thick of it.  Instead we chose to love fully, not withholding any of our hearts.  As we got closer and closer to the time they would leave us, the ache in my heart grew and sprouted into grief, that like death, is now part of me.

And then an amazing thing happened.  As before, I was sitting in my office, and the phone rang.