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.