‘It’s funny, I see you becoming a mother to a baby, but not a newborn. He’ll have big, round, blue eyes.’: Single mom details attachment and adoption process from foster care

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“’It’s funny, I see you becoming a mother to a baby – but not a newborn – and he will have big, round, blue eyes.’ Back in my early 20’s, I went to see a psychic. I’m a skeptic by nature, but this woman absolutely blew me away. How could she possibly know I had dreamed of adopting for as long as I’d known I wanted to be a mother? Believing in psychics is a discussion for another day, but I nearly fell right out of my seat a few years later, in 2015, when I saw my very first picture of Axel. A cherub, round face of a gorgeous 6-month-old, with the biggest blue eyes, stared right into my soul from the computer screen in that social worker’s office.

Courtesy of Ashley McK

I think I have always known my path to motherhood, because I can’t remember otherwise. Adoption was my first choice. I did not know how or when I would, but I always knew I would. As I became a young adult, I started to set a concrete plan in place – graduate university, travel a bit, settle into a career, buy a home, start the adoption process, and with any luck, I would be a mom before I turned 30. My family was mostly supportive, although they had some reservations at first. I think a lot of people in my life did. Even some of the people in the adoption community questioned my intentions when I first started my path toward motherhood. I was single. I was 27. And, adoption was my first choice. I was told ‘usually’ it’s single women in their late 40’s who embark on this journey. It saddened me then, and it saddens me now, that adoption is an after-thought for a lot of people. I have been working hard on changing that perception for anyone who will listen.

I was naive and excited when I started the adoption process. I made a lot of calls and decided the right route for me was to adopt via foster care. I went to an information session with my mom, and I walked out of there shaking. You know when you just feel it in your bones? That was me. I could not start the process fast enough, and if we know anything about adoption, there is absolutely nothing fast about it. There were heaps of paperwork, home studies, 12 hours of a psychological assessment, 32 hours of in-class sessions, homework, etc… and I loved every second of it. I took every course offered by the Children’s Aid Society, whether mandatory or not. I even took some courses twice! I felt so prepared, willing, and hopeful. I felt like I was prepared to tackle it all, but truly, nothing could have prepared me for what was about to come. Like I said, I was naive!

I received the call about Axel in late October of 2015. My adoption worker told me my name came up as a perfect match for him. He was 5-months-old, and his case looked like it would go towards adoption. While I was floating on cloud 9, she reminded me there are always risks involved with adopting from foster care. I acknowledged the risk and was so incredibly eager to learn more about him. I was told a bit about his background, why he was apprehended, where he was living, and why the panel thought we would be a perfect fit.

Axel had not attached to his bio mom or to any adult in his life, including his wonderful emergency foster mom. He had a blank look on his face, he slept in very short intervals with his eyes open, and he just, overall, was having a tough go of it. It was recommended by a specialist at the children’s hospital that he be moved into a stimulating environment to make up for what he lacked in his short life. I had taken quite a few courses offered by the Children’s Aid Society on attachment, and because I was going to be afforded full parental leave immediately upon placement, they were cautiously optimistic we would bond and he’d attach to me.

Courtesy of Ashley McK

A couple of weeks later (I didn’t sleep for two weeks solid, I swear!), I sat there in that social worker’s office hearing more about Axel and his bio family. That’s when I saw his big, blue-eyed picture. He was, and is, gorgeous. My heart was pounding before I saw the picture, but staring right into those eyes for the first time is a feeling I will never ever forget. My mom had accompanied me to the meeting, although I made her wait in the waiting room. I was so overcome with emotion the social worker asked if I’d like to get my mom to join the rest of the meeting. I ran out into the hall and motioned for her to come in. I don’t remember what was said in the poorly lit room. My eyes didn’t stray from that perfect photo of my son. Well, that is until I was snapped out of it with, ‘Are you busy right now? Or would you like to go meet Axel?’

I have never been so nervous in my life. I wanted to cry, throw up, and jump up and down! I walked up the stairs and there he was, sitting in a saucer, drooling. He was wearing a shirt that was too small for him. His delicious, round, belly peaking out. My adoption worker and the foster mother began talking, and I just sat on the floor next to Axel, studying everything about him. His nose was so tiny. He was drooling everywhere. There were about three and half strands of hair on his head. Did I mention his delicious belly? His foster mother encouraged me to pick him up. My arms felt like jello, but somehow, I managed not to screw it up. He did not react either way to my presence, which in hindsight, should have been worrisome. But, whatever magical baby spell he put on me was working. I was forever his.

Courtesy of Ashley McK

Over the course of the next month, Axel and I slowly integrated. I spent a lot of time in his foster home familiarizing myself with him. I got to know his foster mother, who has been a foster mother since 1982 and has had countless children in her home. She was wonderful and informative. I am so thankful my son had her experienced and welcoming arms to hold him for those few months before I came along.

December 10, 2015 – Axel officially moved in. The first few months with Axel were NOT easy. Little dude did not sleep. He was playful, but not necessarily with me. Eye contact was minimal. If I approached him too quickly, or if I cuddled him, he stiffened. We had a long road ahead of us, but I think we were both determined to make it work. I signed us up for swimming lessons. He didn’t react to the water, but he had to hold onto me while we were in it. We did some baby gymnastics, where again, he relied on being in my arms or needing me to get him from point A to point B. Slowly, the work we were putting in was showing some results.

After about 6 months, he would start to look for me in a crowded room. He tried to do silly things to make me laugh, and better yet, I could make him laugh. My adoption worker came over once, and he was seated in his highchair. I was fixing him a snack, and my adoption worker approached him. His instinct was to reach for me. She started smiling and said she wasn’t sure we would get to this point. She believed in us, but she wasn’t sure. My son was approached by a stranger, and he sought my approval, my protection. He was attaching to me.

Courtesy of Ashley Mck

After about 7 months of us putting our work in and bonding in our blissful bubble, there was actually a storm brewing outside of it. Unfortunately, there were some major mistakes done in Axel’s file, both before he was placed with me and afterwards.

My first preoccupation was Axel’s well-being. He started splitting time between my house and another home. He regressed. His temperament changed; his sleep pattern got skewed. Then, Axel got quite sick. He had to see five different specialists, had well over 30 medical appointments, a few trips to the ER, and a couple of surgeries. To say I was kind of smacked in the face with parenthood is putting it lightly. To say my son is resilient is a huge understatement.

Courtesy of Ashley Mck

There were so many court dates, I stopped counting. There were appeals at various levels. I missed a lot of work, missed even more sleep, and my whole world was about making sure, no matter the outcome, I was giving Axel all of me for as long as he was in our home. After two years of indecision, there was a final 9-day trial. Ultimately, no one could guarantee removing Axel from his first attachment would not result in any lifelong negative effects. I felt that then, and the older Axel gets, I know it even more.

Courtesy of Ashley Mck
Courtesy of Ashley Mck
Courtesy of Ashley Mck

We are so lucky Axel’s adoption is an open adoption. He will always know where he came from. He spends quality time with an aunt, including sleepovers and trips to the family cottage. While I was hopeful our relationship would develop this way, I never thought in my wildest dreams it would be to this extent.

Axel has brought so much joy to our family. My parents, who he affectionately refers to as Nonna and Grampy, became grandparents the moment I matched with Axel. They have been relentless in their love and support. I don’t know where either of us would be without them. I don’t think I could have come out whole after those years of uncertainty, and protecting Axel as much as possible inside of our blissful bubble, if it weren’t for my family and a few very important friends in my life.

Courtesy of Ashley Mck

Happily, we had our adoption day on October 10, 2019. My mom, being a family-law lawyer, was able to represent us and finalize the adoption. It felt surreal! I always imagined what that day would feel like, and as I sat there with my son and his collection of dinosaurs in front of the judge, I realized it was nothing like how I imagined. I was happy of course, but it felt like a formality – Axel and I were family already.

Courtesy of Ashley McK
Courtesy of Ashley McK

Is adoption fast? No. Easy? HECK no. But, Axel is my family, and I would do it all over again 10 times if it meant keeping him safe. He is a happy, athletic boy, who thrills me every day with how smart and loving he is. Our story started long ago, and our adventures as mother and son are numerous and plenty. I am so excited for my little family and for what is to come for Axel. I know he is destined for great things; I don’t even need a psychic to confirm it!”

Courtesy of Amanda Mateo
Courtesy of Amanda Mateo
Courtesy of Ashley McK

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ashley McK of Montreal, Quebec. You can follow their journey on Instagram. 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.

Read more stories about foster care and adoption here:

‘I don’t think any social worker will jump to place a child with a 20-year-old, single male.’ I agreed and said, ‘I’ll be patient.’ I checked all the boxes.’: Former foster kid becomes adoptive dad to 3 boys, ‘Fostering is love’

‘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

‘Oh, are you babysitting?’ ‘They’re mine.’ I’m a 30-year-old single black woman with 3 white kids. Love has no color in my home.’: Woman adopts 1 boy, 2 siblings from foster care, ‘love is love, no matter the color’

‘I’ve never had real parents before. I’ve waited my entire life to be treated the way y’all treat me.’: Couple adopts 18-year-old who was ‘abandoned by his birth mother with no name’

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