‘I got a call about a baby boy.’ We were excited, but scared of getting hurt again.’: Mom of 3 shares journey through infertility, foster care, and adoption

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How We Met

“Michael and I met in high school through a mutual friend during his senior year and my junior year. Not long after meeting, we decided to date each other exclusively. From this point in our relationship, I expressed my desire to expand my future family through adoption. We got married on July 5th, 2013 at 21 years old. From the moment we got married, Michael wanted to become a father. I knew I wanted to be a mother, but I didn’t quite feel ready. A little over a year into our marriage, we decided we would start trying to conceive. It was the fall of 2014. In our eyes, we figured we’d have a couple of biological children and then adopt later into our marriage.

Husband and wife sitting together in front of a public fountain on their wedding day
Courtesy of Ashley Hales

Due to my diagnosis of Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), we weren’t able to conceive. We worked with my OBGYN for two years trying to conceive until my body and emotional state had enough. Our final IUI attempt was in November 2016. Once the doctor said IVF was the next step, I didn’t want to progress any further. I figured instead of spending thousands of dollars on IVF treatments that may or may not work, we could apply the money to adoption since it was always a goal. We ended up taking an additional two-year break from trying to grow our family. During this time, we traveled, remodeled our home, and sought out counseling on both an individual and unified basis.

These two years were necessary for our healing. The struggle of infertility can weigh down an individual and a marriage. During our infertility journey, I vividly remember the day Michael called me at my retail job to tell me how we were going to adopt. He was on one of the local news websites and ran into a Wednesday’s Child news story. It was a sibling group of two brothers, around the ages of 8 and 6. Michael instantly felt drawn to these boys and told me, ‘When it’s time for us to adopt, we’re going to adopt from foster care.’ After this phone call, at my same retail job, I kept running into adoptive moms who had all adopted from foster care and shared their stories with me. Through these few encounters, a seed was planted in both my and Michael’s hearts.

Courtesy of Ashley Hales

Beginning Our Foster Care Journey

In January of 2019, I kept having the feeling it was time to start our foster care journey. A frequent web search of mine was AdoptUSKids.com. I loved seeing the children’s pictures and reading their biographies. During one of my searches, I found a sibling group of two teenage brothers who I instantly adored. I showed them to Michael and he felt the same way. From this moment, we got into gear and worked really hard to get our home study completed so we could inquire about these brothers. April 30, 2019, we were home study approved and we immediately requested our home study be sent to these brothers’ caseworker for review.

After waiting two months, we got an email from their caseworker stating the brothers didn’t want to leave their city. The boys were excelling in school and were both on the high school football team. For the next few months, we inquired about several more sibling groups and didn’t get matched. On November 6, 2019, at 12:08 p.m., I had a voicemail from DCFS calling about a potential foster care placement. I immediately tried to return the call and it went to voicemail. Waiting for a call back, I texted Michael and told him, ‘We got a call about a placement,’ and I’d let him know the details once I received them. His response was, ‘We need to get a bunk bed. Stat!’

We had a nursery set up in one bedroom and a full-size bed in another. Here we were thinking we’d be matched with a sibling group of older children, when in reality, we were matched with a six-day-old baby girl in the NICU. We were through the roof! Our plan was to adopt ‘Legally Free’ kids from foster care, we didn’t really consider fostering. In our hearts, we couldn’t say no; this sweet little girl needed somewhere to go. I left work early so I could run to the store to get the bare essentials needed for a newborn baby. When Michael got off work in the afternoon, we went straight to the hospital. Walking into our sweet foster daughter’s hospital room and meeting her for the first time was a precious memory I will always cherish.

In our foster daughter’s case, reunification was successful. We had our foster daughter in our home full-time for 10 months. Our foster daughter going home was absolutely heartbreaking, to the point where we never wanted to foster again. In August of 2020, we were visiting my in-laws and discussing family matters over dinner. My father-in-law’s dad passed away that summer and my father-in-law was trying to decide what to do with his house. We walked through the old 1928 house. Seeing the potential in it, I made a joke to Michael about selling our house, remodeling Grandpa’s house so we could live in it, and then using our equity to finance an adoption through an agency.

Foster parents playing with their foster daughter with big smiles on their faces
Courtesy of Ashley Hales

Within a couple of weeks, my joke turned into our reality. We got our house ready to sell and listed it on September 30th. By the weekend, we had multiple offers and went under contract on October 5th. On October 8th, I got a call from my good friend, Debbie. Debbie asked if we were planning on fostering again. I told her we were done with foster care and we were in the process of selling our house so we could finance an adoption through an agency. Debbie followed up by telling me about a friend who had a two-month-old baby boy she was fostering and how his case looked like it was headed toward adoption. The Guardian Ad Litem was requesting this baby be moved to a pre-adoptive home so he could start bonding with his potential forever family.

Meeting Our First Foster Son

I was excited at the news, but when I told Michael he wasn’t sold on the idea. He told me, ‘Do what you need to do for us to be considered, but don’t talk to him about the situation until a family’s been picked for this little boy.’ I had to jump through so many hoops to get us on the list of families who were being considered as a placement for this little boy. In addition, I called the caseworker to introduce ourselves and tell her about our experience with raising our first foster daughter. You see, both our foster daughter and this little boy were in care for the same reason. In addition, they were both preemies and had to have oxygen for the first couple weeks of life. On October 20, 2020, I got a call from this little boy’s caseworker stating our family was selected for the placement of this baby boy.

When I told Michael the news, he didn’t believe me. The following night, we got to meet our little boy, and by the next morning, he was placed in our home. There were so many mixed feelings at this moment. We were scared of getting hurt again and were still healing from our foster daughter being reunified. We were excited to have a sweet baby boy to care for and love. We were confused, and we were closing on our home just days later. Since foster care has so many unknowns, we decided to go through with our plan of adopting through an agency while loving this sweet little boy. After selling our house, we spent the remainder of the fall and most of the winter remodeling the house we were moving into.

Husband and wife sitting on their couch holding their newborn foster son
Courtesy of Ashley Hales

We worked on the demolition, painting, lighting, and cleaning. During this time, we were living in my in-law’s basement, both working full-time from home, co-parenting our foster son full-time, renovating a house, and Michael was going to school. It was an exhausting season for us! Our foster son’s case was transferred to his home state of Nevada. After the transfer, DCFS wanted to move our foster son into a foster home in Nevada and give his parents an additional 12 months toward reunification. This took us through yet another loop in our foster care journey. We pleaded with our foster son’s Guardian Ad Litem and caseworker to keep him in our home. Even though he was only two months old when he moved into our home, the transition was initially really hard on him.

By this time, he had been in our home for two months, making him four months old. It was through this experience I learned we were his best advocates and we needed to be willing to do whatever it took to keep him in our home if he couldn’t be reunified with his family. We were able to get the Guardian Ad Litem and caseworker on board with letting us continue fostering our son by agreeing to participate in virtual visitations and commute once a month for in-person visitations. By March of 2021, we were moved into our new home and completed a home study through our adoption agency. Then, the wait to be matched with a baby from our agency began. We decided to use a local agency that brings their birth mother to Utah to deliver their babies.

A Newborn Boy From Tennessee

We asked to be presented to every situation available; we didn’t have a preference for race or gender. After being presented to roughly 10 birth mothers and not being chosen, it took a toll on our emotions. On July 20, 2021, at 3:23 p.m., I got a call from the matching coordinator from our agency. She asked me if we wanted to be matched with a baby boy born in Tennessee earlier that day. All she could tell me about the baby boy is that one of his ears didn’t fully develop, causing him to fail his hearing test, and his birth mother wanted a closed adoption. Once again, when I told Michael about a baby, he didn’t believe me and he had to hear it from the matching coordinator. We were up against time, and we had to make a decision right away since this baby boy was across the country.

Michael knew this was our son, so we said yes and immediately started to arrange our flight. In three hours, we had our flights booked, our hotel reserved, our car rental, arranged care for our foster son, packed our bags, and filled out all the documentation the agency needed. It was a stressful few hours, to say the least. On top of this, we knew our son’s birth mother wanted to leave the hospital the moment she was allowed to. In adoption, if a temporary guardian isn’t in place before the birth mother leaves the hospital, the baby goes into foster care. The soonest we could arrive at the hospital was the next day around noon. Just before we hopped on our flight, the matching coordinator contacted us stating they had an adoptive mother who was previously matched who lived in the area and was willing to wait with our son until we could get to the hospital. This adoptive mother was a godsend.

We got to the hospital the next day a little after 12 p.m. Taking a red-eye flight and knowing we were going to meet our son in just a matter of hours, we couldn’t sleep. The whole flight and drive to get to the hospital, we were trying to make a list of all the names we could possibly name our son. It’s stressful naming a baby on such short notice. Walking into his hospital room was another perfect moment I will always cherish. He was the most beautiful baby boy. We are forever grateful to the sweet nursing staff and the adoptive mother who took care of our boy until we could get to him. We decided to name our son Bo Matthew. As I mentioned, after our infertility journey we went to counseling, and Bo was the name of our counselor. We decided to give him the middle name Matthew after our church leader and good friend.

Courtesy of Ashley Hales

Bo’s birth mother relinquished the following day after we arrived and then Bo was discharged. My heart ached for Bo’s birth mother and I wanted nothing more than to take the pain away. We felt so blessed to be given this precious gift, but at the same time felt like we were breaking up a family. This obviously isn’t the case. Bo’s birth mother wanted to place Bo so he could be given a life she wasn’t able to provide him. His birth mother is such an extraordinary woman, and we love her so much! Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to meet her as she chose to have a closed adoption. After being in Tennessee for four days, Michael had to head back to work and return to our foster son.

Instant Sibling Bond

I remained in Tennessee with Bo waiting for ICPC to clear for the remaining 9 days. Initially, it was a terrifying thought to be 1,800 miles away from home all alone in a hotel with a brand-new baby, but I absolutely loved it. I was able to nap when the baby napped and we snuggled all day long. The bonding that took place between Bo and I during this time was priceless. The minute we got the approval to head back to Utah, I booked a flight right away. Bo and I took an Uber to the airport. Let me tell you, there was nothing more stressful than the thought of my brand-new baby being in a stranger’s car, traveling through an airport during COVID, and flying in a plane with a connection. We got back to Utah late in the evening and decided to introduce our boys to each other the next morning. When our foster son met Bo, they were 11 months apart and best friends from the moment they met.

Two adoptive brothers laying on the floor with their heads next to each other's
Courtesy of Ashley Hales

At this time, we decided I’d be resigning from work. We had two baby boys now and I wanted to be the one to raise them. When I talked to my manager, he suggested I take my maternity leave and think it through. Maternity leave was a good opportunity for me to see what it would be like to be a stay-at-home mom. I loved my job and enjoyed the corporate world, but I hated the thought of taking my kids to daycare and seeing them for a limited amount of time. We worked so hard to have kids, I wanted to spend as much time with them as possible. Toward the end of August 2021, we had our foster son’s permanency hearing. The courts changed our foster son’s goal to adoption and set a termination of parental rights hearing for January of 2022.

Husband and wife holding their two adoptive sons in their arms
Courtesy of Ashley Hales

After our foster son’s permanency hearing, I kept telling the courts and DCFS that if our foster son’s biological mother had any more children who came into care, we wanted them in our home. We understood the importance of keeping siblings together in both foster care and adoption. On November 24, 2021, I received a text message from our foster son’s caseworker. Our foster son’s biological mother had a baby boy and he’d be coming into care. She wanted to know if we’d be willing to have him in our home. This was a huge shock to us! At the time, we had our 15-month-old foster son, Bo who was 4 months old, and now a newborn baby boy. We were through the roof with excitement and felt a bit out of our minds. Of course, we didn’t give it another thought, and the answer was yes!

Welcoming A Biological Sibling

I have a fondness for sunsets, and the night I met our newborn foster son, God painted the most beautiful sunset. I knew we were meant to have another child, there was no mistake. I had been telling DCFS we would take another baby if and when they arrived. I spent the next week in the NICU with our foster son’s baby brother. Michael was unable to come to the NICU. He had an ACL surgery performed just weeks earlier. Our loved ones really stepped up and helped our family at this time. Michael wasn’t mobile, we had a baby in the NICU, and we had two little baby boys at home. Our newborn foster son was discharged from the NICU on December 4, 2021.

Courtesy of Ashley Hales

Our boys took to their new baby brother right away. There was never an issue with jealousy. Our older foster son was newly walking, so he was busy discovering his new world. Bo was so little he didn’t know any different. The sweetest moments we got to witness were Bo and our newborn foster son falling asleep and snuggling each other. It often made me think they had to have been friends in another life and were meant to be brothers in this one. December 6, 2021, was the day my maternity leave ended, and now with having three boys under the age of 15 months, I definitely couldn’t return to work, so I resigned. It was a bittersweet experience for me, but I am so grateful I’m able to be a stay-at-home mom.

Health Complications

Unfortunately, the day we brought our newborn foster son home, he was unknowingly and mistakenly exposed to RSV. With time, both our newborn foster son and Bo got sick. For a week, we had daily suction clinic visits. On the eighth day, we went to the suction clinic and the respiratory therapist was slightly concerned with our newborn foster son’s oxygen levels. He gave me the choice to monitor him at home or have him admitted to the ER to be monitored there. I decided to have him admitted. Within an hour, his oxygen dropped and his breathing labored. They had to transport him to the children’s hospital where he was admitted on the spot. By the next morning, he was intubated. We’ve experienced some scary moments as parents, but nothing like when our three-week-old son was intubated. Again, our loved ones helped our family out immensely.

Outdoors family portrait of husband and wife with their three adoptive sons and the rest of their family
Courtesy of Ashley Hales

Here we were again, Michael was immobile and healing, I was in the PICU with our newborn foster son, and we had two baby boys at home. Our newborn foster son was intubated for 7 days and then monitored for another 3. My heart goes out to the parents who have children admitted to the hospital for any length of time. Our sweet little guy was discharged once again on Christmas Eve. Being home as a family of 5 was the best Christmas gift we could have received. During this time, our newborn foster son’s parents asked if we’d be willing to adopt him. With this news, we knew we had a lot to look forward to in 2022 by adopting 3 healthy, beautiful boys.

Three adoptive baby brothers sitting on a bed resting on a large, leather pillow
Courtesy of Ashley Hales

Long Awaited Adoptions

In early January of 2022, we had our older foster son’s termination of parental rights hearing, and it was granted. Shortly after, his case was transferred to an adoption caseworker. We decided we wanted to rename our older foster son Michael Daren, calling him Mikey. Michael after my husband and his adoptive father. Daren after his first foster father, who is a remarkable person. After getting approvals and finalizing approvals, we had an adoption date set for April 11, 2022, to adopt Mikey. April 11, 2022, was the best day! We held the adoption ceremony virtually in our home with our closest family and friends. After a long wait for permanency, we were relieved that Mikey was officially our son.

Baby boy wearing a bowtie and sitting on a couch holding a sign with his name
Courtesy of Ashley Hales

In the coming weeks, we were able to come to an agreed-upon Post Adoption Contract Agreement (PACA) with our newborn foster son’s parents. Shortly after our PACA was in place, his biological parents relinquished their parental rights. His case was then transferred to an adoption caseworker. We are projected to finalize around the end of July 2022. We decided to rename our youngest foster son as well. We’re naming him Beckham Grant Joseph. Beckham is a name we love, Grant is after my grandfather, and Joseph is a family name from his biological father’s side of the family. In November of 2021, we were encouraged by our attorney to apply Bo for SSI Disability due to his hearing loss. Receiving approval from SSI has taken 8 months.

Courtesy of Ashley Hales

At moments, this process was discouraging because we’ve been anxious to finalize Bo’s adoption. We’ve since received approval and will be moving forward with Bo’s adoption. His projected finalization date is the end of August 2022. He’ll be a little over a year old. Our adoption journey has been lengthy, and often a very emotional experience. We’ve seen a lot of twists and turns on this wild ride, but we would do it all over again for our boys. It’s crazy to think about where our journey started and how it ended, all because of the love we grew for one little girl.”

portrait of husband and wife holding their 3 adoptive sons while holding a sing that says "LOVE MAKES A FAMILY"
Courtesy of Ashley Hales

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ashley Hales from Salt Lake City, Utah. You can follow their  journey on  Instagram.  Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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