“I have always known my biggest goal in life was to be a mom. In high school, my freshman English teacher had adopted her daughter from China, and that was when I knew one day I would adopt.
Aaron and I met when I was 18 and he was 24. He was my first boyfriend, and I was his first girlfriend. Two years after, we started dating, on June 20, 2009, we were married. From the start of our relationship, I was open and honest with Aaron on wanting to adopt and possibly become foster parents. I didn’t know at the time, but Aaron’s parents were foster parents when he was a kid. They ended up adopting 5 kids from the foster care system. Aaron’s experience with the foster care system was not great, and he was apprehensive about foster care because of that.
In December, only a few months after we were married, I found out I was pregnant. We told everyone. We were so excited and stressed at the same time. Little did we know, it would be just the beginning of a very long and hard journey. I was 12 weeks pregnant when we lost the baby.
We started to try again right away but found out I was suffering from secondary infertility. With the help of my OB and Clomid, I became pregnant again a year and a half later. At 14 weeks and 4 days along, we lost our daughter. While in the hospital, I was diagnosed with Incompetent Cervix. Surprisingly, two months later, I found out I was pregnant for the third time. Our doctors and I agreed we should attempt medical intervention to try to sustain the pregnancy. Our Doctors placed a transvaginal cerclage at 12 weeks, and only one week later, we found out it was already failing. I was placed on strict bed rest to attempt to reach viability for the baby.
At 22 weeks and 3 days along, I wasn’t feeling right. I actually thought I was having horrible heartburn. I asked my husband to come home and to bring some meds for me. It turns out my water broke. My husband rushed me to the hospital. Shortly after we arrived, they attempted everything possible to save the pregnancy. Later that night, I was informed I had a placental infection, I had to deliver our son or I would die. At 1:30 a.m. on May 19, 2012, we welcomed our son Grayson into the world. He was born alive and while surrounded by family, passed away an hour and a half later. That was the hardest thing my husband and I have ever gone through.
As we went through the grieving process after losing our third child, we realized adoption was placed on our hearts for a reason. We didn’t care if our children were biologically related to us. Aaron and I took foster care orientation in December of that year but didn’t start the actual foster care classes until April 2013. On Mother’s Day of 2013, I was given news that changed our lives forever. I learned my coworker told her cousin about our story and how we were in the process of becoming foster parents. We were hoping to eventually have the opportunity to adopt. My coworker’s cousin had a daughter who was pregnant and not ready to parent, she wanted to meet us to discuss adoption.
After such a heartbreaking journey to becoming parents, could this really be happening? Aaron was naturally apprehensive, he was worried and anxious we’d be hurt and still broken-hearted once again. We had three months until the baby was due and did everything in our power to get through the long checklist of the adoption process.
On July 20, 2013, we were told Mason was going to be born that day, 5 weeks early. We packed our bags and drove from Washington to Montana just in time for our son’s birth. Mason was absolutely breathtaking and tiny. After a short observation period in the NICU, Mason was able to return to his birth mom’s room. She was gracious and asked me to stay with her. I have never been so incredibly happy to get so little sleep. I fed him, I gave him his first bath — it was glorious!
Two weeks after Mason’s birth, stuck in Montana the entire time, we said goodbye to Mason’s birth family as the judge granted us a safe return to Washington.
When Mason was three years old and after many failed fertility treatments, we decided to become foster parents. We knew, even if we were never given the chance to adopt again, we could still provide a safe and loving home for a child in need. Aaron and I became licensed foster parents in November 2016. Our first two placements were a sibling group of two little boys. One was two weeks younger than Mason and one was 3 months old. The three-year-old was to this day my hardest placement. Trauma and bonding issues are real and so hard. We loved those boys so much; we pushed through the hard times.
In April 2017, I got the call. The one I never in a million years thought I would receive. The DCYF office had a brand new baby girl who was brought to our local hospital. She didn’t have a name and no known parents. She was a Safe Haven Baby (a baby brought to a safe, designated location and surrendered). I was given two minutes to come up with a name and was told she would be an adoptive placement. We had nothing for a girl, much less a very tiny 4lb 10oz baby girl. She had no prenatal care, she was not born in the hospital, and she was detoxing from multiple narcotics. I have never been so nervous to meet a baby in my entire life. I knew she was going to be sick, I just didn’t realize how sick she was.
The moment I met our daughter, I was about to start crying in the DCYF office. She was so tiny, and I was shaking as I adjusted her car seat straps. This tiny baby was nothing short of a miracle. When I brought our daughter home, I was so overwhelmed. We went from one child to 4 in the span of 5 months. All the kids were under the age of 4. I was dealing with a brand new baby who was detoxing so bad I thought she was having seizures. She couldn’t gain weight because she wasn’t eating correctly. Milk just ran out of the side of her mouth.
Her first few months of life were full of doctor’s appointments, occupational therapy for eating issues, neurology appointments, physical therapy for Torticollis and tight muscles, and nutritionist appointments for weight gain. She faced a lot of scary diagnoses and we were asked by the state if we were sure we wanted to adopt her. There was never a question in our hearts. She was our daughter from the moment DCYF called me. When Charlotte was 3 months old, she became legally free. It was the day before our foster sons moved to their family member’s home. It was also the month we welcomed a little boy (who we did respite for a few times) to become his pre-adoptive placement. His half-sister Anna came to live with us on November 15, 2017, and two days later we adopted Charlotte on National Adoption Day.
Anna came to us with a lot of trauma. She was diagnosed with bonding issues and an anxiety disorder. That is not surprising as she was moved 9 times in the 3 years she was in foster care. She was 4 years old. Anna’s half-brother reunified with his father in January 2019, the same month we adopted Anna and gave her a forever home.
In the last 3.5 years of being foster parents, we have gone through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows with 16 kiddos. This life is not easy. We are constantly advocating for our foster kids. We are making sure they don’t fall through the cracks of a very broken system. I have held babies and toddlers who are detoxing and kids with food insecurity from being starved. I have stretched and worked with kids with muscle tone issues and put kids into counseling to learn how to cope through their trauma. I do this because I am passionate that every child who comes into our home leaves knowing I gave them my all. I want them to succeed in life. I love seeing parents work their plans and change for the better. I love seeing a positive, beautiful reunification. I love each and every child who comes through our home.
We have been asked, ‘How has foster care affected Mason?’ He goes through the goodbyes just like we do. I will tell you, he is so compassionate. He knows diversity, he is the first child to welcome new kiddos into our home, and he is incredibly loving to all of them. Saying goodbye does hurt, but it is so worth it. If my broken heart can help any child, it’s worth it.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lindsey Porter of Chehalis, Washington. Follow Mary on Instagram here. Submit your story here, and be sure to subscribe to our best love stories here.
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