‘If he leaves, I will be wrecked.’ We fought together against the trauma he’d faced.’: Single foster mom says ‘this is just the beginning’ after adopting 2 sons

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“I could never have planned my life would look like this, simply because I couldn’t have imagined it in my wildest dreams. You don’t get forever with two precious babies just 87 days apart. It doesn’t happen. Today, I simultaneously acknowledge the generational trauma that caused my children to be separated from their families and give thanks for the miracles allowing my family—my whole world—to exist. I was first introduced to the world of foster care and adoption through my huge-hearted parents. It started with a relationship with Doctors Without Borders, where they welcomed a child and his mother into their home while he received medical care. Following this, they went through the process to become licensed foster parents.

I was on a college break and was able to help prepare the room, shop for clothing, and listen to discussions of what they were learning in classes—including the agreement they would not be adopting. When a 4-day-old baby girl arrived, they supported visits and attended court hearings as potential permanency options were vetted. After 2 years, my little sister was freed for adoption and, you guessed it, we celebrated her legally joining our family. My parents fostered other children while living in Connecticut before making the move to Arizona. They had intended to be re-certified here together, but my father suddenly passed away. My mother went through the process solo, and we added another little forever sister to the family in November of 2018.

Their example, along with several other close friends actively engaged in the foster and adoptive community, encouraged me to become a licensed foster parent as a single woman. As a foster parent, I am a part of a team with the primary goal of reunifying children with their parents. I stepped into foster care with this as my intention, but also knew from my family’s previous experience it isn’t always an option. When I completed my intake, I was asked if I would adopt a child whose parent’s rights were terminated while they were placed with me. There was a lot to consider, but I said, ‘Yes.’ All children in the foster system experience trauma, and moving them to yet another home would only cause more confusion, hurt, and challenges with healthy attachment.

In March of 2019, I met two social workers in a gas station parking lot to pick up a teeny, 2-week-old babe, now known as Rad. Our first 3 months together were a blur! I had my plate full with learning to be a mom, and it came with a side of the most complicated emotions a person can feel. A complete stranger was immediately dependent on me for every little thing. I was doing every single ‘mom’ thing—including falling deeply in love with tiny toes and baby coos—while at the same time being very much aware he already had a mom. A person who created him and gave him his dark hair and eyes—a person who he already had months (in utero) with. I wasn’t great about keeping a journal in those early days, but I did write him a letter after a week:

‘You are more than everything I ever imagined my first child to be. Even at 3 weeks old, you are patient with me as I learn this mama thing. I am amazed by your sweet temperament and how resilient you have been in your short life… I adore your big brown eyes, how loudly you eat, and even your soft baby snore. You have spoiled me, and so I will spoil you for as long as I can.’

Newborn baby wearing hat swaddled in blanket
Courtesy of Kaylissa Spurlock

Two other baby girls had consecutive stays in our home during those first few months—they came at 4 days old and 8 months old. When I said goodbye to my last baby girl on a sunny morning at the park, I could not stop crying. I was shocked at how deep of loss I felt because I was genuinely happy she was going to live with her big sister and grandma! She also came to me with a contagious illness, and most of her days with me were very difficult. I expected a sense of relief. Instead, it was a realization: I said out loud, ‘If he leaves me, I will be wrecked.’ This was the reality—he could very well be returning to his parents. In fact, this was what I was supporting in my role as a foster parent. These two truths in opposition of each other are something I think every single foster parent feels.

They were reinforced through several of these intense, emotional moments throughout his first year of life—meeting his parents, doctor’s visits full of questions I had no answers to, sleepless nights before big court dates, holding my breath through court hearings, rushing to pick him up from visits inexplicably cut short. Through it all, we forged an incredible bond. A bond that made me love his parents because it helped me understand, on some level, the love they have for him. There was also so much joy! After a visit to the zoo, I was looking back at pictures and I felt something looked different about me—I realized it was I looked genuinely happy and completely lost in the moment. Or better, ‘found’ in the moment. I felt exactly where I was supposed to be for the first time, in a long time.

Mother holding baby on the beach
Courtesy of Kaylissa Spurlock

A huge part of this, of course, has been finding motherhood—what an incredible gift we are given to love these tiny humans straight from heaven. I wrote about this time:

‘I’ve learned more about my heart, strength, and creativity in the last four months than I could have ever imagined! While I’m excited for the future, I don’t feel my typical rush to get ‘there’ because ‘here’ is so, so good to me. So if you need me, I’ll be here, soaking in these summer days and filled with gratitude for them.’

My social worker contacted me about little brother, now known as Rocky, when he was a few weeks old. He was in care with a foster family after he had been surrendered at the hospital, and it looked like his case would move to adoption. They were not interested in adopting, and so other families were being considered as they wanted him to bond with a potential adoptive placement. The next few weeks moved painstakingly slow—the foster system is complex, and even simple things require minimum waiting periods, multiple people signing off, contracts and clearance, and more. But then, at nearly 2 months, he was here! Almost every aspect of this experience was different: I knew about him and could prepare well beforehand, I’ve never known his parents, he didn’t have visits, and, as far as anyone knew, there was no chance of him going anywhere.

Baby wearing yellow onesie
Courtesy of Kaylissa Spurlock

Our bond wasn’t forged through the fight to be together, but rather we fought together against the trauma he’d faced. For months, Rocky did not want to be held, which made forming a deep connection even more challenging. Every feeding I would swaddle him up, lay him next to me, place one hand on his little body, and hold the bottle with the other. I would plead with him, God, myself, his doctors—what now? So we worked at it—eye contact, cuddles, reading books, silly voices, laughing, and he really lit up when I would sing (no matter how terrible). I’m so proud of how far he’s come and how we’ve grown together! By his adoption day, 382 days later, he was a mama’s boy through and through. On this day, I wrote this to him:

‘I’ve spent my entire life wondering what this moment would feel like—becoming a full-time-forever-and-ever ‘mom.’ I can unequivocally tell you I have never felt so immensely blessed. I will always be in awe of every divine event God orchestrated to lead us to each other. You have changed my heart and now I get to love you unconditionally every single day, from here on out, because you’re stuck with me! And, while forever won’t be nearly long enough, I think it’s a pretty great start. Happy Adoption Day, Rocky!’

Mother holding two sons posing outside
Courtesy of Kaylissa Spurlock

For over a year, I raised brothers while living in limbo, but Rad’s adoption day finally came a few months after Rocky’s. After we had been together for 575 days. It felt like I was finally able to let go of a breath I had been holding in for forever. I journaled this note to him:

‘I want to remember every detail of this day so I can tell you all about it as you grow up, because you’re not going anywhere! Happy Adoption Day, Rad! Signed. Sealed. Delivered, baby, I’m officially yours! You changed my heart and then my life. You are more than worth the wait—you are worth every sleepless night, every nervous phone call, every court hearing and home visit, every twist and mess—all of it so we could get here. And I’d do it all over again to be the one who gets to kiss you good morning and pray with you at night. It’s been a long road, but we did it! It is simultaneously hard to believe and impossible to imagine any other ending. ‘Meant to be’ doesn’t even begin to cover the way I feel. I won’t ever be able to understand both the loss and miracles that got us here, but I do know God has a great big plan for our lives and this is just the very beginning.’

Baby brothers lying down on white blanket
Courtesy of Kaylissa Spurlock

After witnessing other adoptions, I always envisioned mine at the courthouse. There is something about the energy in a courtroom, with friends and family sitting in pews behind you, and having a judge in black robes look you in the eyes and tell you a child is forever yours. The pandemic took this from us. Instead, Rad and Rocky’s adoptions were finalized at our kitchen table. Our adventure formally began in the same place where I get to eat dinner with my kids, do their homework, carve pumpkins, and decorate Christmas cookies. We get to grow up as a family here, together, and I couldn’t think of a more perfect place to become a family of three!

Mom and son standing in front of sign and balloon arch
Courtesy of Kaylissa Spurlock

So there you have it: two baby boys, born 87 days apart, came home to me within 4 months of being a licensed foster parent and made a forever family within two years. This is the quick notes version of the story—there are hundreds of details I left out because they aren’t mine to share. And others I’m just realizing now—like the fact none of my children’s four biological parents are local to Arizona, but they happened to be here when they were born. Proof there is a miraculous design to our lives we have yet to fully comprehend.

Brothers sitting on table beside a letterboard
Courtesy of Kaylissa Spurlock

The cherry on top of all the magic that is our family is Rad and Rocky will have a built-in best friend for life. It is a privilege to watch two children who are not at all biologically connected become the very best of brothers. One of my favorite parts of being their mom is seeing their relationship grow! Rocky loves to imitate every single thing Rad does and he never tires of being the adoring audience for Rad’s antics. I’ve never heard Rad laugh harder than when he is tackling or being tackled by his brother. I have a feeling this is not changing anytime soon!

Brothers standing in front of white wall wearing overalls
Courtesy of Kaylissa Spurlock

Out of respect for my boys and their parents, I am not going to share details about their case or what went into determining their parental rights would be severed. I will say I am forever grateful to them and I promise to never forget the honor it is to raise someone else’s babies as my own. To my babies: for as long as I have the honor of being your mama, I promise to keep you safe, be your advocate, and love you every second of the day. I have prayed for you from before I even knew you existed and I will for you to be kind, for you to be bright, and for you to feel deserving of all of the best things this life has to offer you. The world needs you to be exactly who you already are and I am blessed to watch you be and grow into this person.”

Mother holding both sons outside
Courtesy of Kaylissa Spurlock

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kaylissa Spurlock of Phoenix, Arizona. You can follow their journey on Instagram. 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 about foster care:

‘Oh my gosh, what have I done?! TWO toddler boys!’ I remembered the promise I made to myself, to always fight.’: Single foster mom shares ‘wild and beautiful’ adoption

‘Her birth mom is pregnant again.’ This news brought me to my knees. Could I handle two babies, only 11 months apart?’: Single foster mom adopts sisters, ‘It’s been beautiful and redemptive’

‘He’s a biter. Will you take him?’ He was dropped off with nothing but the clothes on his back. By the time he left, he called me ‘Mom.’: Single foster mom shares journey, ‘I was made for this’

‘How can you waste the best years of your life fostering children?’ People questioned if I’d find a husband.’: Single foster mom says ‘these children are worth it’

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