“At 22, I found the love of my life. He was everything I never knew I needed. I always said I wouldn’t marry a military guy. Growing up in a town with a military base, you can imagine it happens a lot. I didn’t want to leave my hometown.
All that changed when I met Cliff. We had a whirlwind romance and after just 5 months of dating, he got orders to Afghanistan… I was heartbroken. We knew we both wanted forever. Cliff proposed and we got married the next week at the courthouse!
We knew we wanted kids, but we had no clue what God had in store for us. We started trying and quickly became pregnant with our first child… who we lost at only 12 weeks gestation. We were heartbroken and lost. We wanted to keep trying but soon, Cliff got orders to go back to Afghanistan, this time for longer. I was devastated but proud of my husband.
After Cliff’s second tour in Afghanistan, we started trying right away and to our surprise, became pregnant only a few weeks after he returned! We were ecstatic! Throughout the pregnancy, I had a gut feeling something was off. I just knew it.
The pregnancy was very normal. December of 2011, our beautiful daughter, Loralei, was born screaming via c-section! She was perfect. I couldn’t shake this feeling of something being wrong… it was all too good to be true. Everyone kept telling me, ‘You are just a first-time mom.’ Loralei was a beautiful and precious newborn but was so jaundiced she slept nonstop and projectile vomited all her feeds.
We took her to the pediatrician so many times those first 2 weeks. Finally, an amazing pediatrician noticed her liver felt enlarged on examination. He sent us for lab work and we quickly found out something was very wrong with our 8-pound daughter. They suspected she had Biliary atresia, a very rare congenital liver disease where her liver did not have bile ducts end became diseased in infancy due to the buildup of toxins not being able to leave her liver.
We quickly needed to find a surgeon to perform a life-saving surgery called the kasai. The next thing I knew, my tiny little daughter was undergoing so many tests and we were talking to so many doctors. It was terrifying. We felt so lost and scared. All along, we hung onto hope and to God knowing he was in full control and had already planned out all of her days.
At just 34 days old, she underwent an extremely complicated surgery to basically rewire her intestines and connect them to her liver to let it drain. I’ll never forget when the surgeon came in after the surgery. I felt like I was drowning. I hardly remember what he said to us. I just knew I wanted to get to my baby girl.
They told us she would need a new liver within 6 months and we should look at transplant centers. Well, God had other plans and she is now 9 and thriving with her native liver.
When she was about 10 months old, the Air Force allowed us to move to Ohio to be closer to a Children’s hospital that could better care for her rare condition. After things settled down, we decided we wanted to try again for another child. We quickly found out we would need some help from an infertility team. We started shot, pills, hormones, and all the other ‘fun’ things that go along with infertility. After a few months, we were very blessed to find out we were pregnant with our biological son, Brody. Thankfully, that pregnancy went smoothly and our perfect boy was born in November 2014.
He was just the sweetest baby and still is the best boy. When he was about 3, we felt called to foster/adopt. It had always been on my heart but Cliff needed a little extra time to come around to the idea.
Foster children get a bad rep. ‘How will it affect our biological children,’ and so on goes through your head. The bottom line is these are just children… children who have been through far more than any child ever should. They need the same things any child needs. Love, patience, understanding, care, a safe place with safe people while their biological family gets the help they need.
I always say once you feel called to foster children, you can’t push that feeling away. We started the long process of training and home inspections along with mountains of paperwork to become foster parents.
After about 6 months, we were approved to be foster and adoptive parents in the state of Ohio. We were terrified yet hopeful all at the same time. We decided we would put our YES out there and God would take care of the rest. Our first placement was a precious little boy who, after a few months, was reunified with his biological family, which is always the goal of foster care. Keeping the family together.
After he left, we got a call from our social worker saying she had two toddler boys that needed a place to stay. She didn’t know for how long but she knew the older brother had extensive medical needs, was nonverbal, drug-exposed, and had a brain lesion, feeding tube, and many other issues.
Cliff is a nurse and we had experience with medical children so we felt confident we could provide a safe, happy home to meet their needs. It was an emergency placement but we quickly said yes. I’ll never forget when they pulled up that night and I saw them for the first time. They were scared yet so sweet.
Tripp, the younger brother, was quiet at first but I soon as he saw a dog, he opened right up! He is our little ninja. Tate… our sweet Tate, his giggle could make the hardest soul smile! The social workers started bringing in all the feeding supplies and medical equipment with their trash bags full of belongings. It was overwhelming for everyone but we made it work!
We learned within a few months these boys needed a permanent family… an adoptive family. We didn’t have to think long before we knew they were meant to be ours forever! After 6 months, we were able to adopt them! It was magical and heartbreaking at the same time. Our happiness is at the expense of others’ pain, and we don’t take that lightly.
The months went by and life started to be ‘normal’ crazy, normal but normal and happy! As a family of six with two medically fragile kids, we never take anything for granted!
Doctor appointments and therapies filled out weeks. After many genetic tests, we found out Tate had a genetic syndrome called OHDO syndrome SBBYS. It is extremely rare and causes many mental and physical disabilities. However, these kids are so strong and so very brave and happy. What most would look at as hectic is our perfect!
Not long after our adoption was final, we got a call. ‘We have a child who needs placement.’ I quickly said yes and the next thing I know, a perfect little one was at our home.
The last year has been hectic for us as for everyone else but we have learned to never take a single thing for granted! Just the other night, a normal Tuesday night, the kids wouldn’t go to sleep and I was frustrated and worn out. Tate decided he wanted to say, ‘Mmmmmama.’ Oh how precious that word is.
‘MAMA.’ As mothers, we hear it hundreds of times a day without blinking. In fact, sometimes it annoys us. When it comes from the lips of your 5-year-old son who you were told would never speak… that is a miracle, friends!
Motherhood is such a gift! Never take it for granted. It doesn’t matter how we became mothers. We aren’t sure how many beautiful souls God will bless us with but we know they are all gifts and we are honored to be a part of their lives. Miracles happen every day in the smallest of ways. Never stop looking for them.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Candace Hatch. You can follow their journey on Instagram here and here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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‘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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