“When my husband Cody and I met, we always knew adoption was in our hearts. When we began to plan our family, we quickly found out in order to get pregnant we would need to do IVF. We felt the best thing for us to start our family was to get in touch with a local foster agency and get approved to be resource parents. It took us nine months to get our house licensed and take the classes to become a licensed resource home. December of 2018, we were so excited as we waited for the call to be matched. I knew the most important parts of fostering children is not only filling them up with love and giving them safety, but reunification.
As Cody and I waited for the call, family members expressed their fears for us: ‘What happens if they return home, how will you guys be?’ I always had the same mindset and intention—we will tackle any unforeseen obstacles together. I read a lot of blogs and watched people open their hearts to sweet babies. We were not sure how many children would need us to help them reunite with their forever families, and we were okay with it. We had so much love to give and we, as adults, are built to deal with the heartache of the unknown, the kind children do not need to bear. If adoption is the true path for us, we embraced it with open arms. As we waited patiently for our little loves to find us, we set up a nursery.
On February 6, 2019, I received a call around 10 a.m. It was our foster agency, sharing they needed three siblings to find their adoption parents and have been in foster care for 15 months. Since they were looking for an adoption placement it meant it was highly likely we were the family who would be theirs forever. I called Cody to share the news, their ages, and to ask if he was ready to be a Dad of three. He said, ‘Let’s do this!’ We immediately FaceTimed our family and they were all crying tears of joy. My friends even showed up to our house helping us get ready for three. Our community showed up for us and we were so excited to see what lay ahead. Without the support of a village it would have been hard for us, but we knew with it we could take on the world. We met Michael (4) Mackenzie (4) and Melli (1) in a playroom two days after the call. When I walked in they felt familiar, like I had always known them. It was so hard leaving knowing they would not be back until the following Monday, since I was ready to give them the safe home they deserved.
They moved in on February 11, 2019, and our hearts were full. The date of them moving in was very special to us because it was the birthday of my mother-in-law who passed away in 2015; we felt it was a sign. The first few nights we all slept in the family room watching movies, because they were scared. I will never forget those first few nights, as they all needed someone who felt familiar and I was not her. I knew we would get there but in that moment they were moved again and let down again. We spent months working hard on building attachment by rocking them, singing to them, and meeting them where they were at. Lowering their anxiety by creating visual schedules and consistent routines. Building their self-worth by getting them involved in activities they loved. We tried our best to provide them with as much love and support we could give, not knowing what the future held. I played them the song Meant To Be and told them it was our family song. They began calling us mom and dad after a few weeks; it felt right. My hopes and dreams for them were simple, know healthy love and feel their feelings but know how to express themselves in a way which served them. The first four months were filled with family bonding, navigating trauma, and building trust.
On June 15th, we were driving home from visiting my grandmother and sitting in traffic when my phone began to ring. I handed it to Cody and from the look on his face and the tone of his voice, I knew exactly what had happened. He said very frankly, ‘Yes…Of course…When do you need us to come?…Are you sure?…Yes!’ He whispered to me that the kids’ biological sibling was born yesterday, and they want us to pick him up to join our family. I immediately began to cry and shook my head yes. When we parked in front of the house Cody jumped out of the car and was on the phone for an hour getting a hold of anyone who needed to be notified at our agency, to ensure we would be able to get approved to have their baby brother join our family.
Three days later after a short NICU stay, we picked up our youngest son. Cody and I walked into the hospital and a social worker met us in the waiting room. She shared he did not have a legal name, and asked us what we wanted to call him; I shared ‘Maddox.’ I did not get a chance to be there at the very moment my three oldest babies entered the world. Many nights as I sang them to sleep, I wondered what they looked like. When I laid eyes on Maddox, I cried because he was familiar. He looked like all of them. I instantly fell in love with sweet Maddox, and could not wait to bring him home where he belonged, with his siblings. The adjustment from three to four was more smooth than zero to three to say the least. Maddox brought a sense of calm and excitement into the home. Cody and I spent long days and nights determined to meet all the children’s needs as they were still adjusting to our new normal.
Maddox had his two-month check up, and his pediatrician heard a heart murmur. I brought my Mom and Dad to this appointment to help with Melli, who was still a baby herself at only 22 months. I calmly walked out to the waiting room and asked my Mom to please come in. The pediatrician was getting a referral together for a local cardiologist for an echocardiogram and EKG. I shared with her the news and began to shake, not knowing what any of this meant or what it would mean for Maddox. We were able to get in within days and met an amazing cardiologist who told us Maddox had a congenital heart defect, ASD, VSD, and was in heart failure. He would need to come in every two weeks and be on medication which would help the symptoms but would not heal the holes.
Weeks later, the county called to share because of Maddox’s diagnosis and medication he was on, he was considered medically fragile and needed to be in a home which was licensed to take care of him. With not wanting him to be moved from our care and taken away from his siblings, we moved agencies and took extra classes to become a medically fragile home. This meant Cody or I would need to be with him at all times and only one of us could work outside the home. We made it work. After two months of bi-weekly doctor appointments and administering medication, we got the news the holes were not healing and he would need to undergo open heart surgery. I remembered reading Melli a book to bed that night, silently crying as I read. I knew he would be in the amazing hands of doctors and surgeons but I was unsure how to prepare for this next stage.
On October 20th, Maddox went into a coughing spell which led us to rush him into the ER. He was admitted into the PICU and we waited four days for court approval to get the surgery. It was hard knowing I was the one to take care of him, but still my rights did not grant me the ability to sign off on a life-saving surgery my son needed. I slept beside Maddox for 12 days in the PICU cardiac unit as Maddox received two open heart surgeries. The first fixed the VSD and ASD holes and leaking valve. The second surgery was six days later because he needed a permanent pacemaker. I still have a hard time looking back. It was scary and traumatic—but Maddox is a fighter and did amazing! We spent the holidays all together that year watching Maddox heal and continuing to show up for all of them. There were school plays, performances, family parties and court dates. In November of 2019, we were given the news—we were officially able to begin the adoption process for all four kids. It felt like a relief, but it was also painful to know they were losing their biological parents who gave them life.
My kids are brave and have been through so much, but it felt amazing knowing I could tell them finally we were not going anywhere and we were theirs forever. November to August we waited as there were legal processes which needed to run its course before we could sign papers and sit in front of a judge to say we do, forever. Every month we progressed as a family, my children started to break down their walls and love without fear.
September 18, 2020 my family became official. We sat at our dining room table, holding each other. I am thankful for our journey. Although it was not easy, it is always worth it. Being the youngest sister of four, I know how important my sisters are to me. I hope more people will say yes to siblings joining their home in hopes they do not get separated from each other when entering into the foster care system. I saw my kids lean on each other so much during our journey, finding peace of familiarity and at times the only unconditional love they have had during their little lives.
Their bond is beautiful. What my husband and I experienced was unique, hard, beautiful, and painful all wrapped into one. We knew it was only part of what my children have gone through and they are our heroes. I am proud of our family and what we did to get here. Every one of us sacrificed something and we will grow together and learn from each other. I hope society can see my children and all children who go into the foster care system as not broken, but needing guidance and love. We need to take care of our children, and I can only hope more families open their hearts and homes to fostering.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Natalie Michny of Southern California. You can follow her journey on Instagram and donate here. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories like this:
‘At 11, his adoptive parents abandoned him at a hospital, never to return. ‘Mr. Peter, can I call you my Dad?’ I began to cry uncontrollably.’: Single dad adopts 11-year-old boy from foster care after biological, adoptive family abandon him
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