‘They hadn’t told us which bed she was in, but we knew. Somehow, we knew. She was tiny, wrapped in an orange elephant blanket, and absolutely beautiful.’

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“My wife Chelsie and I have been together for almost a decade. We fell madly in love in high school and we’ve been together ever since. We both knew pretty early on in our relationship that we wanted this to be forever. We wanted marriage, we wanted a family and more than anything, we wanted to do it all, together. So when the time came that we were ready to start growing our family, we talked a lot about how we wanted to go about it. Being a same-sex couple, we had a few options. After lots of discussion and research on my part, we decided to explore foster care and adoption.

Sherry Berona Photography

One day, I stumbled upon an invitation to an informational meeting at a local college that was taking place in December of 2016. We spent weeks anxiously waiting for the day to come. ‘What would the meeting be like?’ ‘Are they going to test us?’ ‘Will we be the only same-sex couple?’ The questions flooded our minds. The day came and the butterfly-in-your-tummy feeling was at an all-time high. We walked in and we were greeted warmly by everyone. They had a panel of foster parents share their stories and answer questions. They had multiple agencies handing out information and answering questions. The agency we picked that night was very open about accepting same-sex couples which made us both feel much more comfortable. We signed up for an orientation at the agency and it was that day we decided this is what we wanted to do. This is how we wanted to grow our family. Here we are, two women, ready to be moms, and there are thousands upon thousands of kiddos in care. They are already here, in this world. waiting for the stability and love we were so ready to give.

Courtesy of Ciera Romero

We spent the next 8 months filling out TONS, and I really mean TONS of paper work. In the middle of all paper work, we had to complete 30 hours of training. We learned about trauma, physical delays, educational delays, the causes of both, and much more. We both needed to get physicals, we had to get finger printed, our cars had to get inspected, we were both interviewed multiple times so they could form our Home study. There were a few times I remember looking at each other like, ‘What the heck did we just get ourselves into?’

Late August of 2017 we got a call from our agency. ‘Everything was approved. You guys are officially licensed foster parents. You will get your license in the mail in a few days, but you can start getting placement calls now.’ That felt so good. After almost a year of preparing, we could finally get calls.

Not even two weeks later on a Saturday, we get a call. The social worker introduced herself and said they needed a home for a newborn baby girl. We said yes right away. It was after-hours so she didn’t have many details, but she said she would call us back with more details as soon as she got them. We spent the entire day freaking out. ‘Did they change their minds?’ ‘Is the baby ok?’ We weren’t expecting to be left hanging for so long without more information. She called us the next day with more details. We were actually walking into Target when she called because, what else do you do when you’re about to be moms but go get all of the baby stuff?! Monday morning, we woke up so excited. How is this real life? How are we about to go pick up a sweet baby girl from the hospital and take her home?

Remember earlier when I said ‘the butterfly-in-your-tummy feeling was at an all-time high’ before the meeting? Yeah, that was NOTHING compared to what we felt on our way to the hospital with an empty car seat in our back seat. When we got there, we met two social workers, filled out MORE paperwork and then followed them up to the NICU. We were introduced to the nurses and I’m sure more was said but it was all such a blur. There were two beds in the room she was in, and for some reason, we were both drawn to one in particular. They hadn’t told us which bed she was in, but we knew. Somehow, we knew. The nurse turned the lights on, and walked towards the bed she was in. She was tiny, all wrapped up in an orange elephant blanket, and absolutely beautiful. The nurse went over a few things and then – it was time to go home. I sat in the back seat with her and we drove home in complete awe that we were parents. We were in charge of this tiny perfect human.

Courtesy of Ciera Romero
Courtesy of Ciera Romero

Being a foster parent comes with frequent visits and home inspections. In our case we met with our agency worker weekly and our county worker monthly. It comes with uncertainty. You live your life everyday not knowing what is going to happen. The one and only thing that is for certain in the foster care world is that NOTHING is certain. Nothing is guaranteed. The purpose of foster is reunification with the birth parents. That will always be the priority. We knew that going into this. We were told ‘Reunification is the purpose of foster care!’ dozens of times. Still in our hearts, this felt different. She felt like a part of us from the beginning. She was everything we dreamed of and more. The fact she could be taken from us at any time was honestly gut wrenching. We battled often with the thought of being absolutely heartbroken for birth mom, but so excited at the thought of being mamas to this girl forever. It’s one of the hardest things we’ve ever experienced feeling.

At the start of the year parental rights were terminated for the birth parents. The 60-day appeal period passed with no hiccups. In the next few months there were times where our permanency as a family was threatened. It shook us and we were on an emotional roller coaster. Every day that went by we didn’t know if it would be our last together. Every time the phone rang my stomach was in knots. It felt as if the dream we had felt came true was now hanging on by a thread. I remember having to remind each other,’ No matter what happens, we still have each other.’ Although that was true, it was impossible to imagine what life would be like without her. After what felt like an eternity, the issues were resolved and we were able to relax, just a little.

Courtesy of Ciera Romero
Courtesy of Ciera Romero

Months and months went by. We lived our day to day life. Weekly meetings with social workers, court hearings, home inspections, birthdays and many ‘firsts’ for our sweet girl. One day we got a notice in the mail saying we were officially considered her pre-adoptive family and we would be contacted from our worker about paperwork. One thing to know about social workers, especially in our county, is that they are OVER WORKED. Our worker originally told us we would sign paperwork in August of 2018. When it came time for our August meeting, we were ready to go. ‘Not this time, I’m sorry… I’m trying to have everything ready for you guys to sign in October.’ Deep breath. Okay, not this month, maybe next time.

October came and went. The holidays flew by. Nothing. We got another notice in the mail, this time from the courthouse. No biggie, it was just a check in. I mentioned it to our worker, but she told us not to worry about it because we’d be finalized by then. We did not finalize by the hearing, but we did FINALLY fill out paperwork. We were one big step closer to forever.

Courtesy of Ciera Romero
Courtesy of Ciera Romero

The day came. March 12, 2019. The day our daughter would officially and legally be ours forever.  Remember those tummy butterflies we talked about before?? I’m sure you can imagine how we felt waking up on what would be the best day of our lives. We got up early, really early, because you know, life with a toddler…You need to give yourself extra time. Haha.

Courtesy of Ciera Romero

We all got ready in our special outfits and drove to the courthouse where we met our family and social worker. We anxiously waited to be called in to the court room. Finally, the bailiff called us in, and we sat down… front and center in front of the same judge who had gone through this entire journey with us. The finalization took all but 5 minutes, which is pretty funny considering how long everything else took.

Nikki Nakata Photography

It was a perfect day. The baby we brought home from the hospital, the baby who felt like ours from the beginning, was finally ours FOREVER. It still feels surreal to say that out loud after the long journey we’ve had. But it’s real. This is our new ‘real life.’ No going back. Chelsie and I will be her moms forever.

Nikki Nakata Photography
Nikki Nakata Photography

All of the paperwork, rough days, court hearings, inspections, meetings, training, countless days filled with worry and tears – were completely worth it.”

Nikki Nakata Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ciera Romero. You can follow their journey on InstagramDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

Read more beautiful stories of same-sex adoption:

‘We went out to eat. There was a family sitting beside us, obviously disgusted. That hurt. My ‘life choices’ interfere with their views. We ARE the new normal.’

‘Nervously, we asked what was happening. ‘Are you sitting down? The birth mother is having twins.’ Our tears of joy were replaced with complete shock.’

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