Foster-Adoption

Our Adoption Story Part 6 – the Final Chapter

And then we were 7, again.

All the Littles and Levi

 Life with 6 children has been an adventure.  Our home is always loud.  There is rarely time for rest. From the time the sun comes up until the time it goes down there is always something that needs taking care of or a Little that needs tending too.  My oldest, Madison, is 20 now and has gone back to Arizona to go to school and work.  That also means one of the biggest adjustments has been that there is one less set of hands to help keep up with the Littles.  That took some getting used to.  Structure and routine are our friends.  Even so, we try to make even the daily routine fun for the boys.  We have beach days and family fun days.

We have a nanny that helps during the day so that I can work my business and take breaks to spend quality time with the boys. Having her helps me give my boys the best part of me.  I struggled with the decision to hire someone.  Why do we do that to ourselves?  I felt so GUILTY for not being able to do it ALL.  But a friend helped me see the light.  She said, “do you not realize that it is only American women who do everything by themselves.  Women all over the world have help.”  (Of course, the caveat is if they can afford it. I get that.)  If I were working outside the home, I would have a daycare provider.  So what’s the difference?  I work from within the home, so why shouldn’t I also have someone who can help me with the boys. I like to believe I am Wonder Woman (and I really do think we are at least related) even she did not have to take care of 5 boys while saving the world. So, I suppose I have a leg up on Wonder Woman really.  She doesn’t have kids. Bam!

I get asked often, “do you think you will have more?”  They really mean “get” more.  There will be no more “having” of babies in this house.  The question is one that we have always responded to in the affirmative. The reality is that there will be more children.  There will always be more children.

As to whether or not we felt we could bring more children into our home – we have simply just not ever been ready to say, “no.”  We knew, at some point, we would have to say no.  Maybe if we had more money, maybe if we had a farm, land, five nannies…. wouldn’t that be a dream???  Then we could say yes to all of them.

The second week in December, 2015, we received the call.  A baby boy had just been born. Unfortunately, we didn’t know the case manager and she didn’t know us. Our previous case manager had moved on to a different department.  So, even though we had adopted all three of the baby’s brothers, they did not immediately agree to place the baby with us, even though we were willing.   There were hoops that needed jumping.  In the meantime, we began the process, again, to get our foster license reinstated.

For months we waited.  We filled out paperwork.  And then filled out the same paperwork.  Again. And again.  We imposed on friends and family to fill out portions of our paperwork, references and participate in inspections.  Our village is amazing and have always said yes.  Whatever was needed to bring home the baby.   I checked in with CPS weekly.  I was always told, “soon.” In an effort to speed things along, I told her our story.  Perhaps if she knew us and could connect with us, she would understand the urgency.  So I told her.  Again.  And again.  I made sure she knew that we believed that siblings should be kept together. She said she agreed.  I also conveyed to her how we had previously lost J and J and that we could not bear to do that again.  That if the baby was to come to us, we needed some indication that the case plan was at least pointing towards severance.  She could not give us any guarantees but all indicators of bio mom and bio dad (a different father than our boys) appeared to point towards severance.  There was some relief in that.

During one of my weekly check-ins we finally received an update.  One that did not sit well.  We were told there was a slight glitch, and that was that there was a man who had come forward and was claiming to be the father, but to not worry, mom was adamant the man was not the father.  The man she named on the birth certificate and who had been participating in visits was the father.  The case manager was not worried.  The great news was that we could proceed with visits and after a few visits, the baby would transition to our home.

So we, well I, really, began visits each time I was in Phoenix.  The baby was able to stay overnight with me at my apartment.  We began calling the baby Levi. If he was to be ours, this would be his name.  He was such a sweet, happy baby.  When he was with me in Phoenix, he also spent time with my daughter and the rest of our family.  We were all in love…

I believe in intuition.  Sometimes we are more in tune with it.  In retrospect we can point to a feeling, an uneasiness that drove our decision-toward making one choice over another.  It was a Friday afternoon and visits with Levi had been ongoing for about four weeks and I simply had a feeling.  A feeling we needed to wait.  Curt and I discussed it and we agreed to tell CPS to slow things down as far as transitioning Levi to our home.  I immediately emailed the case manager that afternoon and asked her to please not move forward with placing Levi with us until we knew for sure that this other man claiming to be the father was confirmed to actually be the father, or not.

She called me that following Monday and told me 1) that they still did not have the DNA results back on the man claiming to be the father, and 2) that if we did not take the baby, that there was another family member that was cleared to take the baby and that if we did not take him, she would place Levi with her and she would not move him again.  I, again, asked her to wait.  I begged her to please wait to make that decision.  She said she couldn’t.  And so, we were left with a choice.  If we did not make the right one, we would likely lose him forever.  I asked for a moment to call my husband.  To which she agreed.

Neither one of us knew what to do.  Either we take the baby and trust that it would all be OK.  Or we could take him and have our hearts broken, again.  We have always tried to err on the side of trust.  It was extremely painful to even think that we might be opening ourselves up to that type of loss again.  Almost unbearable. But thinking ahead to our futures.  To our boys’ future. We knew we had to say yes.  And so that is what we did.  We brought Levi home.

Our boys were in love with their brother immediately.  Both of the two oldest Littles, Aydyn and Jaycob, were the most attentive to Levi.  Both of them always doting and making sure I knew if he was crying or that his bottle had fallen out of his mouth.  They would lean over him and gently kiss his face.  As a parent, you wonder what type of grown-ups your children will become.  If you look at them.  If you observe long enough, you are given glimpses.  These moments, when I am a silent observer, I catch those moments.  Even Jake, my ever moving little boy, has moments where he is still, gentle and full of care.  Aydyn, softly and gently would speak to his baby brother and just love on him.  Those moments.  (sigh) If only our lives were a movie and we could rewind these moments and play them over and over.

I would love to be able to continue our story and tell all of you that this chapter has a happy ending.  We chose to trust that everything would work out and that Levi would be the final addition to our family, but he was not.  Sadly, just two weeks after bringing him home we learned that, to everyone’s surprise, the man that claimed to be Levi’s father was, in fact, the biological father.  This was something no one had ever dealt with before and no one anticipated this result.  I wish I could have screamed as we were being apologized to over the phone, “I DID!!!  I felt it!  I asked you to wait….I begged you to wait…and now…now, we are losing our baby.”  Again.

The following few weeks were extremely hard.  I had to travel to Phoenix to facilitate visits between the biological father.  Every week, it became harder and harder.  The toll that it was taking on our family.  My boys.  My marriage.  It was unbearable.  I finally broke.  I sat, alone, in my bathroom and cried. I knew we had to let him go. Ultimately, we informed CPS that we couldn’t do it.  We couldn’t keep growing an attachment to the baby knowing that he was leaving us.  It wasn’t fair to any of us, including Levi.  Sadly, only five weeks in to having Levi come live with us, he was placed back with his former foster family.  A wonderful family that loves him.  Who he knows.  Who will pour into him and be the BEST place for him until he is placed with his dad.  We have a relationship with this family and they keep us posted on how he is doing.  I am so grateful for that.

I am not sure what purpose it served, having a child placed with us only to have him leave.  But I can say I know there was a purpose.  When and how that purpose is revealed, remains to be seen.  There is one thing, my boys got to meet their brother.  They know who he is and they know mom and dad fought to bring him home. If the bigger purpose is never revealed this side of Heaven, I am ok with that.

I know there will be more babies.  Likely soon.  The last 3 boys are all about a year apart. We used to be able to confidently say we were not ready to say no, if  and when “the call” comes in.  One thing that is now clear to us is that our family is complete.  We have six incredible children.  Four Littles.  Each with their own needs, one of them special needs.  They are our future and where our energies now lie. Saying no will be hard.  So very hard.  As hard as saying goodbye.

Foster-Adoption

Our Adoption Story – Part 5

Beauty from Ashes

 

There was a time in my life that I never really understood what grief felt like.  Deep grief.  The kind that resides with you.  The kind that you believe has finally left you but something, a smell, a song, a picture causes it to well up and it takes your breath away.  Losing Jaycob’s little brothers was that type of grief.  When I say losing them was like death itself, it’s because to me, it was.  (Their story is here and here).

In the midst of that grief God did a beautiful thing.  He opened our hearts to love more than we knew we could.  He sent us Aydyn and Ezra and they were such gifts.  Being their mom and dad was such an immense privilege and I am grateful every day that we were entrusted with their lives.

Even so, the loss was still there.  The grief would ebb and flow.  At the time, I didn’t know if it would ever leave me.  Or if I wanted it to.  I didn’t want to forget them.  I ached for those babies and I felt so alone. People understand when you have had a loved one pass away, but I don’t think any of our friends, but a select few, really grasped the significant loss we experienced.  Even now, I ache for them.  An ache I carry very silently.  They will always be MY babies.

Without J and J, life was MUCH less chaotic.  We went down to 5 children which, to most, might seem like a crazy number.  Not for us; by this time, we were pros!  We had managed 7 kids, while both of us were working full time, I was running my business, Curt was coaching…and we were doing it! 5 was a piece of cake.

We started the adoption process for Aydyn and Ezra very soon after they were placed with us.  Bio mom’s rights were severed and we knew the biological father’s rights would almost certainly be severed because he was facing a very lengthy prison sentence.  With this in mind, Curt left for California to pursue a coaching position there and Mike went with him.  I kept a small place in Phoenix for me and the 3 Littles so that I could finish up the adoption process for Aydyn and Ezra and the plan was that I would follow Curt to California as soon as we could finalize the adoptions.

If you know anything about our story, you know this….it’s been full of twists and turns and unexpected phone calls that usually end in us getting babies.  We should have known to not get comfortable and to always expect the unexpected.

There was another baby.  This time when I answered the phone I was alone.  Curt was hundreds of miles away.  How would we do this?  What would it mean?  Could I go to California?  So many questions.  I needed to speak to Curt.  Unlike all the other times, I couldn’t just turn to him and know what the answer was.  I do know my husband; however, and I suspected that this baby would be no different.  The phone call to my husband confirmed it, we were going to be getting another baby!  All the questions we had were still not answered but we trusted that it was all going to work out.  The case manager was amazing and she gave us the go ahead to travel back and forth with the baby while he was added to the case plan for Aydyn and Ezra.

We got the call about Isaiah on a Wednesday, I brought him home on a Friday; he was two days old.  By Friday night, we were in California and I introduced Curt to his youngest son.  I’ll never forget it.  He said, “that’s my boy.”  And he was.

He brought such healing. There was something so special about receiving such a tiny little helpless baby.  I was in awe.  His bio mom has never seen him since his birth.  I will never understand that.  Maybe it was too painful for her.  I would like to think that is the reason.  That somewhere inside her she knew she was making the best choice for HIM.  She will never know the amazing little boys each of her sons have become.  Each one of them so unique. Aydyn my sensitive protector, and Ezra by bruiser who has a smile that is infectious.  Then there is my special little Isaiah.  It’s almost as if he is a blanket.  He brings me such comfort. A stillness.  It’s almost as if God himself said to me, “I know your hurt, I know how hard it was to lose them, and because you have been faithful, I am giving you this gift.” That’s what Isaiah has been to me.  Not a replacement, but a treasure, a reward.  A sign that my pain served a purpose and in the ashes of that pain – he was preparing a beautiful gift, new life.

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.

Foster-Adoption

Our Adoption Story – Part 2

Our Family was Complete…

Jaycob Israel Mays. 2013-08-10 23.11.44

Our boy has a personality so large – he warrants his own paragraph.

We never expected a baby.  In fact, our plans were that we were going to adopt a little boy close in age to our only boy at the time, Michael.  He was 8.  Beginning with the day we told our agency that we were willing to accept emergency placements, I received a call just about every day about a child needing to be placed.  That’s how it works.  Early in the morning a call would come in with whatever information was available, usually just the gender and the age, and I was asked if we were willing to accept the placement.  For three weeks I received a call in the morning and then nothing all day. Which meant another family had received the placement.  It was nerve wracking.  Every morning we’d get our hopes up and our minds would start swirling, what did we need? who was going to call off work the next day? and then – nothing.

Then on a Thursday, like the previous Thursdays, we received the call in the morning.  There was a three-week old baby boy.  A baby! Not in our plans – or even on our radar.  But we decided our calling was to simply say “yes” and what would be – would be. Like every other day – we waited all day.  The baby must have been placed already.  Then at 4:45 in the afternoon, the phone rang, “Is this Wendy Mays, I called you this morning, did you still want the baby?” Excited and nervous and really without any hesitation, I looked at my husband and shouted, “YES!” And from there the rest was a whirlwind.  We were given an address and my daughter and I got into the car and met the case manager at an apartment in central Phoenix.  I knew the area, several of my criminal cases had occurred near there, a homicide – drug deal gone bad, right around the corner.   When we arrived the case manager was sitting inside of a car with the baby.  She got out and she handed us the baby and a plastic grocery bag with his things, a onesie that was two sizes too big, a bib, shoes that did not fit him and his paperwork.  As we were exchanging the baby, a woman walked out with a man and several children.  I stood there with the baby in my arms as they stopped and looked at us – but said nothing.  It was a very intense moment.  As it turns out she was a friend of the biological mother and had been deemed not an appropriate placement and that is why the baby was being removed from her home.  We just wanted to get the baby and get out of there. We finished the exchange and left as quickly as possible.

We were not at all prepared for a baby.  We stopped at Walmart on the way home and bought baby clothes, blankets, a travel crib, diapers, formula, bottles and several other items until we could fully process the fact that WE JUST GOT A BABY!!!!!

Oh, my Jake.

It really was love at first sight.  Curt’s mom, Debbie lived with us at the time (it ended up being her final year and a half on earth) and as soon as we brought him home, she “claimed” him.  She declared it from the Lord, he was ours.  She turned out to be right. There were some hiccups along the way and a few times we were not so certain that he would be.  But we chose to meet that fear and stand firm in it.  Whatever the outcome, we were going to love our baby.  He was going to have SO much love, whether it was weeks or forever – he was going to get ALL of us.

Jake has always been full of energy.  And noise.  And movement.  He does not know how to be still. Incapable of it, really.  Equally so, he is full of humor and so bright.  Don’t say anything around him if you don’t want it repeated.  He remembers EVERY.THING.  As he has grown older challenges have begun to develop.  He has no in betweens.  He is either fully on or fully off.  Some of his behaviors are off the charts and we struggle to teach him how to regulate himself.  Some days are better than others.  We do not know what the cause is yet – we may not ever, if it was his biological moms drug use, heredity or anything at all, there are likely multiple assessments and evaluations in our future.  But when I look at my boy, sometimes when I just have no energy left in me, in that stillness I am filled with a grateful heart.  Thank the Lord he is ours.  WE are so blessed he is ours. WE are the lucky ones. We are learning so much, daily, about ourselves and what we are capable of.  How to be better parents, not just to Jake, but to all of our children.  In the stillness, I pray and I promise that we will do our best to be the parents he NEEDS.

We were now Five.  Thirteen months after we brought Jake home, October 31st, 2014  – he officially became Jaycob Israel Mays.  Halloween has always been one of our favorite holidays – now its extra-super special forever.

Our family was complete.  We began planning for the next phase of our lives.  I was admitted to ASU’s W.P. Carey Executive MBA program, I was going to transition out of law into corporate America, my daughter was almost done with high school and we began laying the groundwork for my husband to pursue coaching opportunities in San Diego.  A move back to San Diego was something we had been discussing for quite some time and it now seemed to be the time to do it.

It was almost exactly a year after Jake’s adoption, the week before Halloween, Curtis came home early and was napping on the sofa, I was working in my office when the phone rang.  If we thought Jake rocked our world, we really had NO idea.

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Foster-Adoption

Our Adoption Story…Part 1

four boys

The Decision

To tell our story fully, I have to go way, way back.  As a little girl, our family talked often of adoption.  It was just my sister and I, dad the lone male, was surrounded by 3 women.  At that time I believe even our dog was a girl.  My sister and I would lay in our parent’s bedroom and draw pictures of our house and the bedroom we would convert for our “new” brother. We talked about it often and we would throw out names for him. I am not sure why it never happened but it didn’t, but the desire to add to my family through adoption was always with me.

When I met my husband, adoption came up periodically throughout our marriage – his response was always an emphatic “NO!”  Each of our chosen careers were with populations that had special needs and difficulties, his as a special education teacher (mostly behavioral disabilities) and mine as a criminal defense attorney.  We often encountered people at their worst and the thought of bringing someone, with the potential to bring their problems with them, into our home was frightening and a barrier we just couldn’t get past.

However, about six and a half years ago, our hearts softened.  Separately, we came to the same place – that we wanted to add to our family via foster-adoption.  I believe that was a God-thing.  Curtis had several friends come into his life that either had adopted foster children or were in the process of adopting foster children.  His experience of seeing his friends navigate through foster-adoption helped him see that we could do it.  My desire had also re-surfaced at around that time.  I remember where I was when my husband gave the green light.  It was like how I remember where I was when the space shuttle challenger exploded, when Princess Diana died, 9-11, and the first African-American president was elected.  I remember the room, where I was sitting, and I see it as clearly now as it happened.  I was working in my home office and he simply came into my office and said, “let’s do it!”  I needed no further discussion. I immediately began researching HOW.  That was in September of 2010.

We kept our decision private.  We didn’t tell anyone, except our two children who were about 14 and 8 at the time.  They both immediately agreed with the decision and were excited about the idea of having a new brother or sister.

Our whole story is filled with the tiny “God moments”.  I believe He has his hand all over our journey and it is a gift to be able to look back at the moments in time and just know, with absolute certainty, that our decision was part of something so much bigger than us.

One of those moments was several months later.  Our decision was still a secret and my husband and I were sitting in the living room of a friend’s home for Bible study.  Our “home team” was SO close and everyone was family.  We were nearing the end and another set of close friends had decided to share a prayer request.  They had made a decision to become foster parents and were hoping to adopt out of foster-care!  Curtis and I, looked at each other grinning at the secret we had been keeping.  We didn’t want to “steal” our friends’ moment, so we said nothing, but we did talk with our friends afterward and shared with them that we had come to the same decision.  It was incredible!  Both our families ended up going to certification classes together and being able to share the same journey with some of our best friends has been one of the most special experiences of our lives.  We are forever connected.

It’s also funny that you think you know what your plans are and we often, as humans do, think we have all things figured out.  How often our Father must shake his head at us and think, “buckle up Wendy – you have NO IDEA what is coming!”  I didn’t, we didn’t we really had no clue as to what was coming.  We had a plan.  A pretty, perfect, packaged plan.  We were going to adopt a boy, a little boy, he would be close in age to our son, Michael, so that he could have a play mate – a built in best friend.   Again, God just chuckles.

When you are licensed to foster-adopt there are several different ways a child can be placed with you. As part of the certification process you have already decided the gender, number, racial specifics, and disabilities, if any, you believe would be best suited for your home and so when a child needs to be placed CPS, via your adoption agency, puts a call out to the families that match.  So for weeks after being certified – NOTHING!  I didn’t understand it.  There were so many children needing homes and we did not receive one phone call.  Discouraged, I reached out to our agency to figure out what was going on.  We had specified that we only wanted to be placed with a child whose parent’s parental rights had already been severed. They explained that those children are not as available because, most of the time, the foster families they are already with decide to adopt them.  At the time, we felt we could not bear a child being placed with us and have them leave.  (A sentiment I hear often) We weren’t quite ready to change that decision.  Instead, we opened ourselves up to provide “respite”.  Respite is when a foster parent, takes another foster parents foster children so the foster family can take a vacation or other needed break.

We will never forget the little boy that was placed with us.  His name was Acari and he was the sweetest little 18 month old.  We had him for just four days and in that short amount of time, he filled our hearts with such joy.  We fell in love with him instantly.  He is what changed and opened our hearts. This precious little boy.  Because of him, we decided that we were in the best position to bear the potential loss of having a child be with us, for only a time.  As the grown-ups, it was better that we bore that loss.  Any child placed with us deserved to be fully loved, without holding back, without fear, even if it was temporary.  We hoped it would be forever, but we also learned that the love we were giving a child placed in our home mattered.  Our love would be forever imprinted on their hearts. They deserved to know love, safety and security and it was what we were called to do.

The decision was made – we accepted the risk and we called our agency and let them know we had a change of heart….

Three weeks later, we received our little boy, Jaycob, into our home and he rocked our world to its core.  Mays.March2015.JakeandEzra