How It Began
“Our adoption story actually starts with a unique infertility story. My husband and I were blessed with 2 healthy pregnancies, then a miscarriage, and then we were diagnosed with what is called ‘secondary infertility.’ Basically, it means we once could produce children and now we can’t. And the really interesting thing…we BOTH got the diagnosis. Think God was making it clear to us? Yeah, we did too.
My journey of infertility has wrecked me and redeemed me. I am not the same person I once was, praise God! The love I now have for Jesus, my trust in God, my dependence on the Holy Spirit…our miscarriage and infertility was what God used to make it happen. Those months were the days of being undone, and new thoughts were planted. A life shift happened for me and so much good fruit has happened in my life because of sorrow.
Our third child was wanted and prayed for, and I was ecstatic when I saw we were pregnant. But the joy was short-lived. In February 2013, we miscarried about 6 weeks into the pregnancy. I was devastated. We had been blessed with 2 healthy pregnancies and had 2 boys, but suddenly we were dealing with an infertility diagnosis. It was a very painful journey. I asked God lots of questions and cried lots of tears. I specifically asked him over and over again, ‘Why did you give me a desire for more children if I can’t have (birth) them?’ God in his graciousness did grow our family, His way, through adoption.
We became foster parents in the summer of 2013. God puts His desires into our hearts and then works in ways we don’t understand to fulfill them. We thought foster care was to grow our family. But God changed our hearts, we soon realized the purpose of us being foster parents was NOT about keeping babies but rather loving them with an open hand, as well as loving and building relationships with their birth moms. It was a game-changer for us. We walked into our foster care journey with open arms, ready to embrace the hurting mommas as we loved on their children.
I’ll never forget the day I got the call in February 2014. My arms were aching with the weight of emptiness. It was the one-year mark of our miscarriage, and I felt the loss very deeply. I answered the phone and was greeted by a caseworker who said, ‘There is a seven-day-old baby boy who needs a home. Would you have a home for him?’
My heart nearly exploded, and after getting more information, I hung up and promptly proceeded to cry. I cried and cried, tears of joy. I loved that baby already. I had been waiting for him to come into my life for a whole year. I was scared too. What did it mean to have a ‘drug baby?’ What would it mean if I fell in love and had to give him back? Lots and lots of questions flooded me, but they were overruled by a deep desire to go bring that baby home.
One wonderful thing about telling a story that happened years ago is the ability to fast forward through all the painful parts. I am so glad I don’t have to relive those 2.5 years of loving and releasing. God used the life of my son to open my hand of control. To be open-handed to God’s plan and not tight-fisted to MY plans. It is a hard journey to get to that place of release. But I will say this, God was so gentle with me as he exposed my sin to me and grew me in my faith and love for Him. Two times our son was supposed to leave and reunite with his birth mom, but both times it fell through. Both times I wept at the idea of losing him, and I wept at the idea of his birth mom not having him either. We love her and so it’s such a hard thing, to love ‘your’ child that is actually her child and not want to give him up. In the end, she was unable to provide him (or herself) the consistent care that was needed.
It was with bittersweet joy that we adopted our son in September 2016. Bittersweet because his birth mom, who we love, was heartbroken. Our hearts sorrowed with her, but at the same time, we were filled with great joy to be welcoming him into our family forever. It’s a strange feeling, the sorrow and joy run parallel. Despite her sorrow, his birth mom told us if she couldn’t have him then she wanted us to have him. That was a gift to hear her say that.
A Complicated Journey
By the summer of 2016, our son’s adoption date was scheduled for September, so we felt that we were at a place to open our home up again, this time we said all placements must be under 1 year of age because Joshua was just 2.5. In July 2016, I got a call asking if we’d take a 6-month-old baby GIRL. A Girl?! I was ecstatic! We met the birth mom, and from the beginning, we were able to form a good relationship with her. Four kids was a BIG adjustment for us! But 2 months into Layla living with us, the court ordered for her to move to her relative’s home.
We understand why this happens. If we had a relative in foster care, we would want to have them live with us, not some strangers. But it’s hard on your heart to see a child you opened your heart to leave. (This is foster care, it’s about them, not you. You do it for the child, not for you.)
After another month of court visits and all the details getting put into place we packed her little pink duffle bag and dropped her off at the agency, it was terrible. I cried off and on for weeks but it was a time of soul searching and hearing from God. That is the beauty of hard times, we seek the face of our Lord and He is right there to comfort us.
December came, and we enjoyed having Layla for a weekend visit. We talked to the relatives and were glad to hear everything was going really well. But man, it felt so right having her back in our home. Needless to say, after the weekend was over and we dropped her off, I cried the entire way home and for the next week. Love really hurts sometimes, but it’s a good kind of hurt. It’s a hurt that is about more than just you.
Christmas came and we reflected on our year. Here we were, back to just us and our 3 boys. This is the way of foster care. Your family grows and decreases. It’s not your job to decide if it’s fair or the right thing. It’s your job to love the kids and love their parents and love God even more than the rest. Because the kids and the parents might come and go, but God is there forever. He is the one to put your trust in and He is the one who gives strength to love and release. You trust that you planted seeds of love and trust into those broken little people and then you commit the child into God’s hands to do the rest.
2016 ALMOST ended on a quiet note, but this is where the story gets really…unique.
An Unexpected Addition
Christmas 2016 came and went. We enjoyed celebrating with our 3 boys. Two days later, I got a phone call. A 10-month-old baby boy needed a home, would we take him? And thus, Joey entered our lives.
Each child is so different. Biological children each have their own differences, let alone children with completely different genetics and family backgrounds. To say that Joey was different from Layla would be an understatement. He was the complete opposite of her in SO many ways. It made for an interesting comparison because Layla left our home at 9 months old at the beginning of November and Joey joined our family at 10 months old at the end of December.
It was a VERY difficult transition for us and him. We were used to ‘Layla baby’ and ‘Joey baby’ was not her, nor should he have been. But it made for some getting used to. And we were not his normal. Even if a child comes from a place of dysfunction, it is still normal to them. And the older the child, the more accustomed to their ‘normal’ they become. So, our home was a hard transition for him as well.
For the first two weeks, I cried a lot; it was hard. And I prayed A LOT! The biggest thing was he didn’t sleep. He was up every 2 hours during the night, and we couldn’t comfort him. We were strangers to him. It was exhausting. It is a reminder that just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s wrong. And just because God calls you to something, doesn’t mean it will be easy.
But the beautiful thing about babies and children is how open to change they are. He adjusted, he got used to our routine, and it became his routine, which brought him comfort. He still didn’t sleep at night—that took MONTHS—but his crying fits got less and more manageable.
Joey was with us for a little over a month when I got a phone call. Can you guess? ‘Christi, it’s not working out with Layla’s relatives, she needs a home. Will you take her?’ I about dropped the phone. YES! There was no hesitation. And then I cried. I couldn’t believe it, my baby girl was coming back.
We talked some more. ‘We will just twin it,’ I said to the caseworker. Ha. Oh my, I had no idea what I was getting myself in for. All you moms of twins, I raise my hat to you. Twins are a lot of work! I called my husband after I got off the phone and he too said, ‘Yes, bring her home.’
We had 24 hours to go buy another crib, another car seat, and a set of bunk beds. We had to rearrange bedrooms so the 2 little ones could be together and that meant putting our 3-year-old in with the big boys, thus the need for bunk beds. We dropped everything and got to work assembling furniture.
It was so amazing to see God preparing us for this before we knew it would happen. Just one week before the call to bring Layla back we decided to hire a helper. Now that I would have THREE kids, 3 years old and under, I really needed that help. She jumped right in and was coming 2-4 times a week.
That is how we unexpectedly ended up with two children from different families, so close together in age. In any other situation, we would have said ‘no’ to another child so soon after Joey came. It amazes us the way these things work out. If Layla hadn’t left then Joey never would have been put into our home.
Looking back, it’s clear to us that Layla had to leave so that Joey could come to us. We needed him as much as he needed us. The struggle that he brought to our hearts has brought much growth and reliance on God. We cannot do this thing of ‘loving well’ without God.
Six Kids Total
We were launched into 2017, suddenly with five children ages 9, 7, 3, 1, and 11 months. It was crazy, pure craziness. But it got even crazier. A few months into this adjustment, we were told that Joey’s mom was expecting. Unfortunately, the baby would need a home. Since we had his brother, they asked if we’d take him. That was an easy answer, ‘No.’ We were swamped and barely keeping our heads above water trying to love and care for all these little people.
But it’s amazing what time will do for you. Within a few months after that phone call, we adjusted to a new normal of 5 kids, mainly a set of twins. When Michael was born in the fall of 2017, we were asked again if we’d consider taking him into our home. This time we said we’d pray about it.
We now were saying things to each other like, we’d like to keep the brothers together if we can, but are we really able to add another little one to our family? What is best for our other children? We don’t want them to feel neglected. A baby is a lot of work. But it’s his brother…etc.
My husband and I started praying and fasting, asking God for an answer. And sure enough, we both felt that we were to take him. It was enough for us. We were at the point where we wanted to bring him home to our family, but we struggled with also wanting to be good stewards of the children we had. God gave us these children, all six of them are His, so in the end, He gets to decide. We moved forward with the yes answer and a week later, in November 2017, we brought Michael home from the hospital.
Christmas 2017 certainly was different than Christmas 2016. In one year’s time, we went from 3 children to six. This is not normal, but in foster care, there is no normal!
2018 was somewhat of a blur. A lot happened that year. For one thing, we moved to a new house, with a few more bedrooms which was a big help, but again, a difficult transition. We had weekly visits with both moms for a season but by the time 2018 ended, we had adoption court dates scheduled for all three little ones.
Once again we were blessed to have their moms say that if they couldn’t have their child then they wanted us to. We feel honored to be the parents to these children. As we look at them. it hits us from time to time, what a privilege it is to parent these kids. This quote says it all, ‘A child born to another woman calls me mom. The depth of the tragedy and the magnitude of the privilege are not lost on me.’ – Jody Lander.
Adoption and Birth Families
In November 2018, we adopted Layla, and in February 2019, we traveled once again to the courthouse and had a double adoption for the boys. But that is not where our story ends. After adopting the children we were then free to invite their birth family over to our home. It was intimidating at first, for us and for them! Originally, a spirit of fear wanted us to be suspicious and to feel threatened, but the love of God won out! His perfect love casts out fear. Because of Him, we have been able to pursue relationships with birth moms and their families. ‘Our’ children have been a bridge. We now have a family picture wall of birth moms, birth grandparents, birth aunts and uncles, birth cousins, and birth dads. We get together with the birth families of our children on a regular basis.
People will ask us, what does it look like to get together with the birth families of our children? It looks like coming over for birthday parties and Christmas. Cookouts in the summer and Sunday dinners. It looks like playing dress-up with your cousins and jumping on the trampoline. Being tossed in the air by your aunt and reading books with your birth mom. These people have become very precious to us. I’m so glad that God allowed them to be part of our family.
Someone once asked me, ‘What do you do if the birth mom isn’t a safe person?’ My immediate response is ‘dig deeper.’ There are organizations that help connect you with a grandma, an aunt, cousin, sibling, etc. If it’s at all possible, find somebody connected to your adoptive child’s past who you can build a relationship with.
Not only do we believe that this is beneficial to our children, but it’s been such a blessing to us as parents. These people have a connection to our children. They also have wisdom and knowledge about our child’s history that is so good for our child to know. It’s been an amazing journey getting to know the birth families of our children. I know that it’s not always possible, but I sure do wish every adoptive family could connect with someone from the birth family.
I never expected this to be my life. But God writes stories better than we ever could. Now I can honestly say I’m thankful for how I got to where I am today, infertility and all.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Christi Stoner of Lancaster, PA. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook. 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.
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