Thrilled toddler yells ‘Dad!’ after adoption decree is announced

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“In 2010, my husband, Tyler, signed with the 101st Airborne division of the United States Army. Twenty days after basic training he was sent on his first deployment to Afghanistan. His unit would go to set records and receive many awards including the Presidential Unit Citation from the president. He was fortunate enough to make it home from that deployment as several of his brothers did not. He was home for two years before having to go to Afghanistan again in 2013-2014. Coming home from his second deployment, he soon realized that he had not fully left war and knew he needed help. He chose not to re-enlist when the time came but instead decided to seek treatment at the VA medical center in Ohio. He was diagnosed with severe PTSD in 2015. He is currently involved with the VA and weekly therapy but still struggles daily with his war life.

Mandi Palmer

I have been battling Crohn’s disease for 17 years now. I was diagnosed when I was 15 years old. Since then I have undergone dozens of surgeries to repair Crohn’s blockages. During one of those surgeries a nerve was nicked which paralyzed my stomach. I had to have my stomach taken out and then later rebuilt. During my years in and out of the Cleveland Clinic, I have lost a large portion of my intestines and have a ‘acting stomach’ that is now the size of an almond. I still undergo treatment at the Cleveland Clinic and require monthly infusions as well as surgeries to keep my Crohn’s in remission. Due to all of this, I have a hard time absorbing any nutrients and because of it, I battle with malnutrition.

Mandi Palmer

Tyler and I met right before his second deployment to Afghanistan. We knew it would be hard, but we also knew it would strengthen our relationship in ways most people could never understand. He was deployed for nine months, and one month after he got home, he proposed and we got married a few weeks later. When he got out of the army we moved to Perrysburg, Ohio, and decided it was time to start a family. We both knew we wanted our own family so greatly but didn’t know what God had planned for us.

Mandi Palmer

We tried for years to get pregnant but soon came to realize that it wasn’t going to happen, nor would it be safe for my body to sustain the miracle of pregnancy due to my illness. We were heartbroken and quickly found ourselves seeking other ways to grow our family and become parents. Because of the health battles we’ve been given, we weren’t the type of people to just ‘throw in the towel’ and let our dreams of becoming parents get shattered.

We knew we wanted to pursue adoption in some form and it was then that we kept hearing our local counties cry for help with foster care. Day after day, we kept hearing the commercials asking for people to take the training and become licensed foster parents, as they were in great need of foster parents. We were scared but we knew God was pulling at our heartstrings and telling us that this is what we needed to do. It only took a few months of rigorous training, mountains of paperwork and a couple home studies/fire inspections to become licensed as foster-to-adopt parents. The same week that we were licensed, we also received our first phone call to pick up our baby boy, Hunter. Talk about a whirlwind of emotions! We quickly ran to Target and purchased the necessities (car seat, clothes, baby blankets, diapers, food, etc.) we needed to bring our baby home.

We arrived at children’s services and there was Hunter, all bundled up in a receiving blanket, and he was being held by our caseworker. He was 8 days old and absolutely perfect. We fell in love with him instantly.

Mandi Palmer

It became obvious that Hunter was more than just our first baby. He was our ‘medicine’ and both of our reasons to fight the health battles that we have been given. He truly became our ‘why’ in life. Over the next 16 months we went through the crazy roller coaster ride of fostering and found out that we would indeed get to adopt him. Our prayers were finally being answered! Our adoption worker worked so hard to get paperwork finalized so that Christmas of 2017 would be our best yet. And goodness, it surely was the best ever! December 18, 2017, was the day Hunter officially became a Palmer.

Ann-Marie Finn / Finn Photography
Ann-Marie Finn / Finn Photography

After the judge read the adoption decree and presented his new legal last name, he looked at my husband and said, ‘Dad!,’ and then clapped.

Ann-Marie Finn / Finn Photography
Ann-Marie Finn / Finn Photography

We’ve learned that there’s a rainbow at the end of every storm and we’re so thankful we kept the fight. He is our world and our reason to keep fighting these battles. My husband said that there is no medication to help his PTSD quite like having his son take our last name.

Ann-Marie Finn / Finn Photography

Our hearts are forever changed because we now know a true and genuine love. We know that he will forever be safe with us and most importantly will always know what love is.

Ann-Marie Finn / Finn Photography

We have learned that family isn’t about DNA. It’s about love!”

Ann-Marie Finn / Finn Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Mandi Palmer, 33, of Perrysburg, Ohio. Submit your story here.

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