“Before meeting my husband, I was content with my life. I was a dance team coach, loved to salsa dance, enjoyed my friendships, but always dreamed of a large family. Thomas and I met on St. Patrick’s Day in 2005. We were both waiting for our dates to show up and we both were stood up. I wasn’t terribly disappointed though, as I was enjoying my time with friends. As we were navigating our way through the pub full of green beer, I noticed a cross necklace. I looked at the head attached to the cross necklace thinking that he was cute. I casually mentioned, ‘I like your necklace,’ and moved on. I headed to the restroom. I was still waiting on my date so I didn’t give him a second thought. As I emerged from the restroom, the same cross-wearing, cute guy was casually leaning against a post, arms crossed. He raised his eyebrows and I immediately laughed. He spent the rest of the evening entertaining me with witty banter. As we said good night, he promised to call.
Not only did he call, but we spent the next four months together, talking all through the nights about our hopes and future dreams. Out of the blue, he suggested we just go to the courthouse and get married. I wasn’t totally opposed to be honest, but I thought I might scare him away with some truth so, I threw it at him, ‘Well, you know that I want to start a family. I want to be a mom and have as many children as God will give us. And I want to adopt children someday too. I want you to understand that, so think about it. Then, let me know if you still want to get married.’ So, he left and did some thinking… for about one day and said he was all in. After four months, we got married in Vegas, and I was happy. So happy.
For the next two years, we prayed and waited, hoping God would send us a baby. After another two years of fertility treatments, I was finally pregnant. I was ecstatic and told everyone right away. My dream was coming true finally. At about 9 weeks, I had an appointment to hear the heartbeat, and Thomas was going to be there. We were both giddy with joy. The nurse started her exam with the ultrasound wand and we anxiously stared at the monitor. She was very quiet. The room seemed to echo. After a grueling 3 minutes, she put her wand down and excused herself, saying she would get the doctor. With my heart racing and my stomach pounding, we sat in the longest silence. The doctor came in and also checked with the wand. Our baby had died. With a broken heart I wondered… would I ever have a baby of my own?
We spent some healing time and decided to try once more and to our delight, we were pregnant with twins! I had so much fun being pregnant. I felt light and joyful. We were preparing their room, attending baby showers… until the doctor’s appointment. It was a typical pre-term labor test, and I was dilated. I was only 25 weeks along. I checked into antepartum, the plan being that I stay on bedrest while taking medicine to stop labor, but I only lasted for six days before my babies decided to come. I remember that night vividly. My husband was in law school at night after working a long hard day and we decided he would visit me 3 nights a week. This was not his night, but he surprised me with a visit. I told him and the nurse repeatedly that something was wrong. I felt off. They constantly checked the babies and finally gave me a sleeping pill and my husband went home, a 40-minute drive from this hospital. I fell asleep and the next thing I remember was screaming in pain while several nurses were trying to hold me down. My babies were coming, so we headed to the OR.
As I lay on the table, unable to see past the curtain, I heard the faintest little cry, so quiet. ‘Is that my baby?’ I asked the anesthesiologist. ‘Yes, it is,’ he whispered. Right then a nurse called my name, ‘Mom, over here.’ She was power walking by, holding him, my sweet Joey. He was so tiny and purple. Another nurse called my name and sweet, purple Eli was rushed away too. Just then, Thomas arrived, dressed head to toe in paper coverups. He missed it, although I can’t believe he missed it because he made it to the hospital in 20 minutes.
The boys went through so much and both weighed under two pounds. I didn’t hold Joey until he was a month old. Eli had a hole in his intestines and also became extremely ill. Both boys had surgeries on their tiny bodies from a brilliant doctor. There were so many ups and downs that I was sobbing on a daily basis, arriving at the hospital at 6 a.m. and not leaving until Thomas arrived after law school around 10:30 p.m. On any given day, I was told one of my boys would probably die that day. I would drive home, barely staying awake. Thomas would study at their bedside, then drive home and study more. I’m not sure when he slept. I slept when I was pumping breast milk, and sometimes I would put my head down next to them and pass out. The boys’ precious nurses became my closest friends. I was only able to hold both of my boys at the same time once, but it was heaven, and I sobbed.
On a particular stressful morning, my Mom arrived for a visit and Joey was showing signs of illness so they had to do a full work up on him, which required a spinal tap and lots of pricks and pokes. Eli wasn’t getting a lot of attention so once Joey seemed stable, I went to Eli and picked him up. In that moment, he tried to die in my arms. He stopped breathing and went limp. The nurse pushed the alarm and because this happened during rounds, about 30 doctors, fellows and residents showed up. I quietly pushed my way back through the crowd, stunned. Someone who believed my mother was Eli’s mom gently grabbed my mom’s arm and escorted her away. I sunk further and further away to the back wall next to Joey. He contracted a rare infection and medicines were not working.
One day, I asked his sweet nurse, who I knew had recently lost a patient, what was going to happen. She gently explained that his edema would not go away. And it didn’t. That he would turn purple and stop producing urine. And he did. She said that slowly, his organs would stop working. And one by one, they did. His heart was last. He was so swollen, he couldn’t open his beautiful eyes. I knew he was in pain and I knew he was holding on for me. On this particular day, I was talking to Eli, telling him how proud I was, that he had been such a fighter and I told him that he could let go. It was the day before Father’s Day. We unhooked him from all of the wires and probes and I gently held him, listened to the beeping of his heart monitor. His sock had fallen off so Thomas helped me put it back on. I sang the song from our favorite book, ‘I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living, My baby you’ll be.’ His tiny foot jerked and I knew he was gone.
I buried my head as close to him as I could get. He was in Jesus’ arms, and he was no longer trapped in his tiny, painful body. Suddenly, from somewhere far away, someone was wailing. It was so loud, something I’d never heard before. I looked around and the nurses were quietly crying, but still functioning, taking care of the babies. ‘It hurts so bad!’ I sobbed another breath. I was the one wailing, ‘Oh God, it hurts so very bad!’ I looked up to the ceiling but I couldn’t see through all my tears and I rocked my baby, my sweet precious baby boy. He had fought for 4 months and 18 days. He fought because I asked him to. And he died because I let him stop fighting.
We had struggled so long with fertility that my doctor felt like we would not be able to have more children. But God blessed us with two little girls, who were also premature. They both spent some time in the Neonatal ICU and it was decided that more biological children would be unsafe. We dealt with Joey’s challenges and found out he had cerebral palsy, he was blind, he had epilepsy, and so many other issues. His life would be challenging, but he was my precious boy and I would be his biggest cheerleader. And, we decided to move forward with foster care.
In 2017, we became licensed through Depelchin Children’s Center and welcomed and eventually said good-bye to two foster babies. Through compassion and acceptance, foster mom friends became my closest confidants. We shared our struggles and our broken hearts.
In November that year, I received a call for a four-week-old baby boy who was being released from the hospital. We eagerly accepted and picked him up the next day. We didn’t know that he would later become our forever son Bryson, but we knew he had our hearts immediately. After getting settled with our sweet baby at home, we eventually learned that he had four siblings and that they were spread out between 3 different homes. We had the space and we had the ability to care for them in every way. We reached out to our agency and asked if it would be possible to bring two of the siblings into our home, to keep them together while they went through foster care, but we knew that we may not be able to keep them forever. Shortly after, David and Gabi moved in.
Foster care is not for the faint of heart. We went through a tremendous amount of trauma training and renewed training classes every year. These precious children had been through so much in their short lives and none of it was their fault. We loved on them unconditionally, worked with therapists, and continued visitations with the oldest two siblings, the twins. They were so precious. Whenever we would visit with them, they would ask to move into our home and started calling me ‘mom’ immediately. At one visitation, one of the twins became upset after being gently scolded by our caseworker. He began to crawl under a chair but I coaxed him out and asked if I could hold him. After he nodded his head, I asked if I could sing to him. After he said yes, I rocked this big boy who was 5 years old like a precious infant, and I sang to him. I always sing the same Bob Marley song:
‘Woke up this morning, smiled at the rising sun, three little birds, on my doorstep, singing a sweet song, a melody pure and true, singing this message for you…singing don’t worry, about a thing, cause every little, is gonna be alright…singing don’t worry, about a thing, cause every little thing, is gonna be alright.’
He melted into me and let me sing it through two times. I asked if he wanted me to stop, and he said no. One more time. I asked if he felt better and he quietly said yes and I released him. That was the moment that I knew he was sent to me from God. This was my son.
My incredible biological children opened their hearts and embraced these tiny humans. Their little hearts were so full of acceptance. I was constantly blown away by the wisdom in their kind hearts. They had so much compassion but not just for these beautiful children, for me as well. When I felt broken, my girls would find me and wrap their arms around me, telling me what a great mom I was. I didn’t feel like a great mom but I knew God sent those angels to me, to let me know He was there, He was my encouragement and my guiding light.
About a month later, we received a phone call asking if we wanted to adopt all five siblings. It was an instant, ‘Yes!’ We had to meet so many requirements. The process was emotionally exhausting, stressful, there were tears of broken hearts, and cheers for small steps of healing growth. We dealt with trauma, healing, and unconditional love. We handled every situation carefully and let them know that they were in a safe place, that we would never harm them. We all learned and grew together but there were times I sneaked off to my room or hid in the pantry for a private cry. There were times I was worried my babysitter/helper would quit and times I worried about not showing Joey as much attention as I had before. His nurses and therapists were phenomenal and they all became a part of our family. Their teachers at school were patient and they loved our children right where they were and they saw their preciousness. We had an amazing village.
Eventually, we reached a point where we were waiting for the court to schedule an adoption date. Then, the Covid-19 Pandemic hit. We were confined to our homes and doing schoolwork all day. The courts were closed but, the kids asked us every day, ‘When will we be adopted?’ We had a lot of fun at home while we waited. We learned how to ride bikes, we learned how to swing by ourselves for the first time, we played hide and seek, and we built tents and forts. We learned how to throw and catch a football, how to bump a volleyball, we struggled with reading together, we did scavenger hunts, played The Floor is Lava, and we learned a group dance. We laughed, we bonded, and we gave lots of hugs. And then one day, we received a call. Not only were the courts open, we had an adoption date!
We began the countdown. We had originally planned a huge celebration, with bouncy houses, a petting zoo, a video game truck, food and fun, and we’d start to plan a trip to Disney World, but the Pandemic set us back and that wasn’t possible. But it was okay. We were going to be a family, officially! After the adoption was complete, we couldn’t stop cheering and celebrating. We went outside and a neighbor had planned a car parade to celebrate. We watched our neighbors drive by. We saw family members, teachers, principals, counselors. We cheered and cried as our friends and classmates passed us. It was such an emotionally perfect day!
So, as we continue in this Pandemic, the most amazing and beautiful blessing occurred. We continue to thrive on that love and God’s blessings. I have my family, the family I’ve dreamed of, the family God pressed on my heart because He always knew His plans for me. Every challenge, struggle, and accomplishment lead me to be the mom that I am and there was never a more perfect time than God’s time. Mistakes are made, and apologies are given, and forgiveness is abundant, for children and grown-ups.
I hope and pray other’s hearts might be touched by our story. There are so many children that need homes and unconditional acceptance. And I know some amazing women who have also traveled this foster/adoption path. I’m so grateful for their encouragement. I’m really not that special, I’m not doing anything that another wouldn’t do if they felt the true love I felt. My children. My beautiful, precious children, who still have moments of trauma, who still need unconditional love and acceptance, they have rescued me, they have healed my heart. Is my family complete? My heart is overflowing but, I’m not sure. I will never know God’s true plan for our family. But maybe something is brewing?”
Read more beautiful stories about sibling adoption here:
‘We have a 3-year-old boy. His mother is homeless. No one will take him.’ Our jaws fell open. ‘We’ll be at your house in 30 minutes!’: Couple adopt 4 children from foster care, co-parent with birth mom
‘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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