‘We’re having a hard time finding placement for this little girl. We don’t quite know what’s wrong with her yet.’: Couple adopt special needs daughter from foster care

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“I guess our story really started in February of 2014. My current husband, Tim, proposed to me, and just 4 short months later, on June 14, we were married. I was all for starting a family right away, but he asked if I would be willing to give our marriage a year before we had children. I agreed, if only he would compromise too and allow me to get a dog. In October, our Stella girl was born and we were able to bring her home just in time for the holidays! Some would think she would satisfy the urge to become a mom, but loving her only made me want to be a momma more. By January, we decided we were both ready to try, and so began the journey of a lifetime.

Newlywed husband and wife walking down the aisle at wedding
Courtesy of Erin Leonard

I had made an appointment just to go over my overall health and prepare my body for pregnancy to the best of my ability. My doctor told me to be patient and give it a year, and that’s what we did. A year went by and we had no luck, but we were both young and healthy. Just to be sure, my doctor had sent me to WVU Medicine to get a fertility check. Both of us went for routine checkups with the fertility clinic, and all of the doctors told us, ‘You’re fine! You will be pregnant in no time.’ Sadly, another year passed. 2 years in, and I was beginning to feel discouraged. Since nothing was wrong, we decided to keep going at it alone. Year 2 turned to 3 and then was quickly approaching 4.

I had finally reached my breaking point. I reluctantly said, ‘We can’t do this alone.’ My husband and I decided we would move forward with treatment and attempt our first IUI. After weeks of blood draws, cycle checks, ultrasounds, tests, hours in the car, and ovulation tests, it was time. In August of 2018, I lay on a bed in a doctor’s office, Timmy’s forehead pressed against mine, begging God to please give us our baby. 2 weeks had gone by and I was painting my laundry room when I felt the too-familiar pang of disappointment. I tried reasoning with God, begging Him, and pleading with Him. I wasn’t ready to give up the hope I had clung to for so long. Sadly, I accepted it and my husband held me that night on the bathroom floor while I completely broke down.

Couple posing standing on bridge outside
Courtesy of Erin Leonard

While being immersed in my own pain, a short week later my world began to crumble around me. My sister-in-law, who hadn’t been trying, found herself pregnant. Now, this may make me sound like a completely horrible person, and if you didn’t know me and how much I love my niece (and my sister-in-law), you would judge me so badly. I was crushed. All I can remember from that day is collapsing on the grass at my mother’s house asking God, ‘Why her? Why not me? I have been begging for this!’ I felt every emotion you could think of. I felt as though I was going completely crazy and then I just went numb. After that pregnancy announcement, three others came back to back; all very close friends and family members. I was broken, angry, and I am woman enough to admit—jealous.

I walked through the next few months in a fog. I worked myself to death and I shopped the pain away. At the time, I traveled to work 45 minutes one way, so I had a lot of time to think and pray. One day on my way to work, I was deep in prayer, purely out of desperation. Like a movie screen, the word ‘January’ came across my windshield. I know it sounds totally insane, but I clung to this hope. This word (completely from God) gave me the strength to get through the holiday season. I truly believed I would fall pregnant in January and I clung to it.

What really happened in January of 2019? I got kicked out of my workspace. We will call it a very unfortunate ‘misunderstanding.’ However, the pain and betrayal I felt that day was necessary because that day I brought my business home.

Husband holding wife smiling down on him
Courtesy of Erin Leonard

I had wanted to bring my business home for years and didn’t have the guts; the atmosphere I was working in was ungodly and toxic for my spiritual walk, but I just never had the motivation to leave. God saw it fitting to get me out of there. At the time, I had hit rock bottom emotionally. I was tired of crying, tired of calling my mom hysterical, tired of bargaining. I felt so alone and there was tension and strain in all of my relationships. I can remember asking my mom, ‘Why can’t I catch a break?’ Have you ever heard the saying, ‘You are either heading into a storm, in the middle of the storm, or coming out of the storm?’ January of 2019, I began to emerge from the storm.

My husband and I began attending a church in our area that welcomed us with open arms. Relationships began healing, my attitude began changing, financially we were achieving milestones, my marriage was mending, and for the first time in years becoming a mom was a goal, no longer an obsession. By January of 2020, I began to feel strong enough to pursue fertility treatments again. After speaking with my husband, I called to make an appointment. Then COVID took the world by storm. My fertility consultation was via telehealth and we came up with a game plan, but because fertility treatments weren’t essential, month after month we had to push back my treatment.

Husband and wife in front of Christmas tree with Boxer dog in sweater
Courtesy of Erin Leonard

Admittedly, those months I was so uneasy about the treatment plan they wanted to pursue and could never understand why. They told me time after time, ‘On paper, you should have had multiple children by now. Your infertility is unexplained. We can try a series of medications, but if it still doesn’t work you may want to consider in-vitro.’ One day, while baking something scrumptious from the Magnolia Table Cookbook, I was listening to music and a random song came on, called, ‘In My Arms’ by Plumb; it stopped me in my tracks. I felt so compelled to download that song and I knew in my heart one day I would sing this song to my little one. I just didn’t realize how quickly this day would actually come.

It wasn’t long when I started feeling this ping in my heart to become a foster mom. It was a topic years before I refused to even discuss for fear of getting ‘too attached.’ However, night after night, I spent my time on Pinterest reading foster care blogs, looking up accounts on Instagram, and reading all about the good, bad, and ugly details that come with the territory, but I wasn’t scared. In fact, the deeper I dug, the more I craved this new journey. Was God calling us to foster? On Mother’s Day of 2020, while driving home from my mother-in-law’s, I looked at my husband and said, ‘I believe we aren’t supposed to pursue these treatments; I believe God is calling us into foster care.’ He agreed with me, and thus began the most amazing journey of our life.

Husband and wife smiling and standing outside with Boxer dog
Courtesy of Erin Leonard

I researched foster agencies and found one we began our journey with. Within a month, we were almost completely finished with our paperwork… and then it happened. ‘Hello, Erin. I was given your number by a fellow foster parent who said you may be able to take an emergency placement. We have a little girl we are having a hard time finding placement for. She is a beautiful 6.5-month-old baby girl but is listed as medically fragile. You see, we don’t quite know what is wrong with her yet. We think they ruled out she may be deaf and blind, but she could have cerebral palsy or possibly Down syndrome.’

Screenshot of texts with baby photo
Courtesy of Erin Leonard

My heart pounded. I knew at this moment we would love her. She agreed to allow my husband and I to talk once I got home from work. That night, we said yes to the most beautiful little girl I have ever seen in my entire life. The very next day, the current foster mom arranged for us to meet this precious baby, and I will never forget this day as long as I live. I will never forget the moment. There we were, sitting in a Sheetz parking lot at a picnic table, meeting our daughter for the first time. She had the biggest eyes and was so teeny tiny. After we parted ways, we hurried home to finalize our paperwork.

Father holding daughter while crying at a gas station
Courtesy of Erin Leonard

After a few hiccups with our previous foster agency, a new one stepped up and got us immediately licensed so our sweet girl could come home to be with us. Those 2 weeks were a whirlwind, many tears shed and many anxious moments. The current foster mom was sweet enough to allow us to go into her home and rock this precious girl to sleep. For 2 weeks, we drove 45 minutes one way every night just to kiss her goodnight. Some nights we wouldn’t get there until 11 p.m. or so! They were so hospitable and wanted to make the transition easy for our girl.

Mom and dad holding adopted daughter outside at a gas station
Courtesy of Erin Leonard

We have called her Blessing over the past 10 months. Before us, she lived in two other foster homes and unfortunately, reunification wasn’t an option for this particular case. She has thrived in our home and all of her caseworkers absolutely love seeing her and the obstacles she has overcome.

June 25th, 2020—We said yes.

June 26th, 2020—We met her for the first time.

July 8th, 2020—She came home.

May 13th, 2021—She received our last name.

6 years (and counting) of infertility issues. 527 days in foster care. Through our struggles, God made us a family.”

Mom holding adopted daughter and crying
Courtesy of Erin Leonard
Mom and dad holding baby sitting on kitchen floor
Courtesy of Erin Leonard

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Erin Leonard of Uniontown, Pennsylvania. You can follow their journey on Instagram, Facebook, and their website. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more stories like this:

‘We can have one more. Only ONE.’ That’s all I needed to hear. We had 8 kids within the next month.’: Couple adopts four kids from foster care, ‘My heart was changed’

‘She was sitting in a shelter with no place to call home. A teenager, she’d already given up on being adopted. Then I received a text: ‘Hey, Autumn. You still interested in foster care?’: Couple adopt teenager from foster care

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