“It’s almost been 4 years since we received an unexpected email, made a short phone call, and met a tiny little baby girl for the first time and jumped on what we refer to as a rollercoaster. While the moment was 4 years ago, our journey to meeting her, to becoming a family of six, started years before in the spring of 2013.
My husband, Jason, and I always knew we wanted to adopt. Even as a little girl, I would play adoption with my dolls. I can’t quite pinpoint where the idea to adopt came from as a child, but I do think God was preparing me even then with the idea of adoption. In May of 2013, after celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary, we had one child. We made our first of many phone calls and started the process of adoption through the state. That same day, I started a journal to our future adopted child, a place where I would detail my feelings as we walked this path.
Little did we know at the time, but God had other plans. Plans that would bring about another pregnancy, a beautiful baby boy in June of 2014. Our desire to adopt didn’t waver, and while we raised our sons, I continued to write to our future adopted child. ‘Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.’ Psalm 27:14. Waiting. This word became an anthem for our journey toward adopting.
We thought we would be adopting after having our two biological children. This was our plan. The years of waiting, completing, and renewing our home study and being selected as the second family twice for waiting children, our hearts and minds were weary. It was through the wariness, though, our hearts changed. For years, we had spoken the misconception out loud, ‘We couldn’t foster. We couldn’t open our hearts to that pain of having to ‘give a child back.’ We couldn’t fall in love with the possibility of heartbreak.’ In April of 2016, God transformed those false thoughts — those thoughts only meant to protect us, to keep us safe — into thoughts of pouring what time we were given with any child into showing them what family was. To love a child so completely, no matter what, no matter their background or our own desires for more time. This is the kind of love every child deserves to have; to have a family say yes to loving them each day, no matter what.
While we were prepared to begin fostering, God once again whispered, ‘Wait, I have a plan.’ In September of 2016, we found out we were pregnant and due in April of 2017. Looking back on our adoption journal from that day, my heart was torn. ‘We’re so excited, but at the same time I struggle because I’ve been praying and waiting to meet you the last two years,’ I wrote. Once again, waiting consumed our hearts and minds. Little did we know, the waiting wouldn’t be much longer.
On February 8, 2017, at around 2:30 p.m., I received an email that would forever change our lives. It asked if we would be open to picking up a 2-day-old baby girl who needed a foster family. While the boys napped, I called Jason at his work. I was a yes, but I wasn’t sure where he would be at. I will never forget his response, ‘I think this is the baby we have been praying for.’
The same afternoon, we drove our two young boys to the hospital. We were given a room number, and I’ll never forget seeing the tiniest baby in the room all by herself. We held her in our arms for the first time when she was 2 days old, and I realized we had been praying for this little one for years before she was even born. Her adoption story, as with any adoption story, began with brokenness. That day, we stepped into that broken place, as broken and imperfect people, choosing to love her with open hands, with each passing moment.
If you would have even asked me if I would have cared for a newborn baby while being 30 weeks pregnant, I would have thought you were crazy. While it was draining, it was the most beautiful blessing to care for that little girl. I would sit at night, bottle feeding our foster daughter while feeling our little girl wiggling around in my belly. Out in public, I would soak in the confused and bewildered stares from strangers, as their brains struggled to understand why my belly appeared to be full-term, while I rocked an infant.
In April 2017, our family officially grew from five of us to six when our daughter was born. The girls are 9 weeks apart and have only really known life together. With our ‘virtual twins’ and our two boys, we were living a swirly life. Not only were our lives revolving around the typical night feedings, bath schedules, and milestones; we were also experiencing court dates, visits from caseworkers, and a baby with a lawyer. The layers of new information, appointments, and required visits indicated more waiting would be taking place.
While we learned to parent four little ones, we were also learning the process of the foster care system. So much brokenness is woven through the lives and stories that take place in foster care. It all starts out with pain and separation from what was. This has never been lost on me. Even in those initial moments of joy holding our daughter, there was a pain in my own heart, knowing there was a mama who was not holding her due to choices made.
As the months went on, I was able to not just drop her off for visits at Human Services with her birth mom, but I attended the visits with her. It was during those visits I got to know the woman who had carried the little girl I was raising for 9 months. It was during those visits where I saw her care for her, while unconventional, as she asked me questions and thanked me for loving her baby. It would be just the three of us in a room, being observed through two-way glass, where I gleaned what I could about the mother that held you first.
In August of 2018, we received another unexpected email, ‘She’s all yours.’ It was on that day her birth mom made the choice to relinquish her parental rights. She had told me at our last visit she was so happy for her baby, she knew she was with her forever family. Months prior, she had even asked me if we were ready to adopt. Even as I reflect on those words today, the tears come. Humbling is the only word I can pen to describe the feeling it is to be told by another woman you are the forever mother of the child she carried inside of her. I will forever be thankful to her birth mom and her choice to choose to love, by choosing our family to be her daughter’s forever family.
While our hearts yearned to adopt you then, it would be months more of waiting until the day would come. Lost paperwork, human error, and a broken system drew out the finalization process; waiting. My emotions were all over the place, as each time my phone rang, my heart would jump, and wonder if that was ‘the call’ we had been praying for, for years. Finally, the call came.
On April 17, 2019, after 798 days in our home as our foster daughter, we were able to make official what was already in our hearts. She was and is a part of our family, our daughter. Her adoption day was a day of rebirth, for our daughter into her forever family, but also for us as a family unit, to know we were forever united. When we walked to the court room, the six of us were asked to sit at the front tables. The judge talked about how her relationship with me was equivalent to being born from me. This will forever humble me. Being a parent is such amazing responsibility and a blessing. My favorite part of the day was when the judge asked my daughter if she would be ‘a good girl, and obey her parents.’ She yelled, ‘Ya!’ from our table. After the judge signed the adoption decree, he gave you a big high-five, and it was final. We had a daughter.
We did, and do, choose to love her and each of our four children, with our hands open. They are all amazing, beautiful gifts from the Lord, and they will each forever be a part of our family. It has been 4 years since we said yes to the unknown, said yes to choosing love, and yes to bringing home a baby girl we had only just heard about. ‘Her story is just beginning,’ is something that was said to me about our daughter 4 years ago and has stuck with me. Our God is in the business of redeeming, healing, and blessing beyond our dreams, and never could we have written such a beautiful story on our own.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lauren Bernard of Oregon. You can follow her 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.
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