‘His parents terminated their rights. ‘That’s IT? We’re going to be a forever family?’: Single woman becomes ‘forever mom’ after unexpectedly adopting son, ‘He’s the best gift!’

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“Even though I loved children, I never wanted to be a mom.

I babysat all through high school, worked as a nanny during college, and volunteered with children often. I adored being with them…but I also adored going home at the end of the day to my freedom.

In my mid twenties, I led marketing for a foster care agency. Through my work with them, I learned all about foster care, the desperate need for good foster parents, and the harsh reality children in foster care faced. While I had compassion for the children in foster care, it never crossed my mind that I could help. I was a single girl in a small apartment – I was definitely in no position to be a mother, even temporarily.

But by the time my early thirties came around, the thought of becoming a foster parent landed in my mind and wouldn’t leave. The more I researched it, the more convinced I became that I was actually in the perfect position to be a foster mother. I now led corporate communications for a global tech company, so I was making plenty of money. I was also able to work from home whenever I wanted to, so I had the time and flexibility to dedicate to the children. I even had an extra bedroom in my apartment – the perfect size for a nursery. Since I had the most experience with infants (I nannied twin infants in college), I figured I’d specialize in children 2 years old or younger.

But even when I decided to foster, I fostered precisely because it wasn’t forever. I loved children, but I only wanted to play the role of Mommy temporarily. I couldn’t imagine trading in my freedom for poopy diapers and Daniel Tiger. My version of motherhood would happen for a few months at a time — just long enough to satisfy my maternal instinct but short enough to not make me panic — and between placements I’d go back to my fun, single life of dining out and meeting friends for drinks and traveling the world.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Friedland

For two years and four placements, foster parenting went according to that plan. But then, on June 14, 2017, my plot twist arrived.

I was in Chicago on a work trip when I got a phone call from the Department of Child Services. They had three babies who needed homes and they wanted to know if I was able to take one of them. The caseworker on the other end of the call said the third baby he described would be the hardest; the foster home he had been in for the first three months of his life reported he wouldn’t stop crying. The frustrated foster parents wanted the baby gone as soon as possible. I was feeling up to the challenge, so I chose him. All I knew was that he was four months old, his name was Jackson, and he had some strong lungs.

He would be my fifth placement. I was fresh off a break from fostering while I moved into a bigger house, and I had planned on taking placements again two months earlier, back in April. I now had a big home with a big backyard and I was eager to fill it with the sounds of a little one.

But then in a freak accident, I fell down the stairs and fractured three vertebrae. I was on bed rest for weeks and had to put off fostering for another two months. I was so angry about having to wait, but it was yet another miracle that led me to Jack. God (a God I didn’t even believe in at the time — not only was I determined to never be a forever Mom, but I was also a staunch atheist) knew the timing wasn’t right yet. Jack and I were meant to be a family, and He was going to make sure we found each other at just the perfect moment.

That day after I said yes to this new placement, I nervously waited for his arrival at the DCS office. A tall, clean cut man walked up to the lobby door carrying an infant car seat with the tiniest baby ever nestled inside. He passed him over to me and said, ‘We did the best we could.’

I used to be mad at them for not being strong enough (who would put a baby out of the house for crying?), but now I am so, so grateful they were honest about their limits — because they were one of the many miracles God orchestrated to bring us together.

I clearly remember the first moment I saw him. He was so gorgeous and teeny tiny and he had the most perfect porcelain skin and giant blue eyes and rosy red cheeks and rosebud lips. He looked like a doll. I had never seen a more beautiful baby in my whole life.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Friedland

I got him home and I held him in my lap and studied him. I smiled and talked softly and kissed him all over and tried to make him feel very safe. It must have been scary, all these new smells and sounds and faces. I wanted him to know that this was a good home and he would be very loved here.

I think he felt it. He passed out immediately and took a long nap. It seemed like he hadn’t before rested peacefully in his short life. Sometimes I wonder if the reason why he was so inconsolable in his first placement was because somewhere in his little tiny soul, he knew he wasn’t quite home yet.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Friedland

It occurred to me only recently that I had been asking the Universe for Jack all along. I wanted a man to share my life with. I wanted a beautiful love story that would last until my final breath. I wanted a connection so deep that I couldn’t even put it into words. Okay, so I hoped this man of mine would arrive in the form of a 6’3, dark-haired, bearded intellectual feminist with a swimmer’s body and a love for public radio. At the very least, I assumed my great love would be potty-trained. But God, in his infinite wisdom (and wicked sense of humor) knew what I really needed. He gave me a forever love, alright – in the form of my son.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Friedland

Our journey was not an easy one. The goal of foster care is always biological family reunification, and for over a year I continued to fall deeply in love with Jack all the while knowing he could be reunited with his family at any time. I wanted his parents to get their lives together and earn Jack back, but I also couldn’t imagine saying goodbye to him.

Eventually, the Department of Child Services felt his parents had enough chances to prove themselves, and they moved his case plan to adoption. But that still didn’t mean forever for us – we now would move into a lengthy court battle where DCS tried to prove they were unfit parents, while the parents’ public defenders tried to prove they deserved more chances.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Friedland

I was sitting in a conference room, nervously awaiting the outcome when their attorney walked over, put a piece of paper down on the table in front of me, and said, ‘Congrats, it’s a boy.’ His parents had voluntarily terminated their rights. When I pictured that day, I imagined I would be so happy and relived that I’d start sobbing – but when it actually happened, I was in such shock that I was numb. ‘That’s it? It’s over? We’re going to be a forever family?’ I kept asking my attorney these questions. I just couldn’t believe it was all finally done.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Friedland
Courtesy of Elizabeth Friedland

A year later, when we finally went to court to make the adoption official, I made up for my lack of tears earlier. I more or less sobbed the entire morning. I was thrilled my son would be mine legally, forever and ever. I was relieved it was all over and we could be a ‘normal’ family now without caseworker visits and complicated paperwork and legal limbo. But I was also crying because my ‘win’ was his birth mother’s huge loss. The happiest day of my life was also the saddest day of hers. The reality is that there is no adoption without trauma and loss, and I felt the weight of that truth more than ever on adoption day.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Friedland
Courtesy of Elizabeth Friedland

Our little plot-twist family has shown me that God moves mountains. He makes a way when there is no way. His timing was perfect. A day sooner or a day later and Jack and I may never have even met — but God was in control all along. God took a single atheist woman in a cramped apartment with no desire to have children and made a Mommy. Jack is the answer to a prayer I didn’t even know I was praying. He’s the best gift I could ever imagine that I never thought I wanted.

Today, Jack and I enjoy an amazing open adoption with his entire birth family. His biological parents have since gotten clean, are in stable housing, hold good jobs – and are even expecting twins. An open adoption is a complicated, awkward, messy, lifelong relationship – but as it turns out, unconventional relationships are kind of my thing.

I never imagined becoming a solo mother by choice. I never imagined adopting. I never imagined wanting to continue to grow my family through adoption on my own so that Jack can experience a sibling bond. I do hope I’ll find an amazing man to share my life with; more than wanting that love and partnership for myself, I want Jack to know what it’s like to have a father’s love. But I also know that the two of us will be just fine if Mr. Right never shows up – because I already have my forever.”

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Courtesy of Elizabeth Friedland

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Elizabeth Friedland of Indianapolis, Indiana. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her ‘Instant Mom’ podcasts (available on all platforms). Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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