Don’t miss this guest post adoption story; Tammy’s story is full of daily challenges and a very sad chapter, but it’s a beautiful story nonetheless. Be sure to visit Tammy’s blog, too: The Durable Mom.
I missed my daughter’s First Communion last spring. Fifteen minutes before we need to leave for church, our youngest son fell down the stairs. The bump on his head quickly grew to the size of a golf ball. Off to the emergency room I went. Nothing unusual in that, except this was my third ER visit that month. Seven kids, six pets, five kids with FAS, four kids with ADHD, three kids with RAD, two parents, and one bathroom…Welcome to our world.
When I married Dan in 1986, we were eager to start a family. Conceiving proved to be difficult, but we were blessed with our daughter, Hannah, in 1991. She was such a happy, healthy baby; we could not wait to have another.
When it seemed having another child was not in God’s plan, I decided to go to law school. My husband often joked how he knew I would be a wonderful lawyer because I loved to argue so much. So in 1995, our little family moved to another state so I could attend school.
Fast forward three years. It was three weeks before graduation. I remember sitting in my class, lost in thought. Instead of participating in the heated discussion over mergers and acquisitions, I was contemplating how I was going to tell my husband that I not only wanted to decline the job I had accepted, but that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and adopt a child.
This idea had been brewing for almost a week. I woke up one morning with this notion in my head and could not shake it! In the course of a week, the following things were put in my path: meeting a woman who had adopted, seeing an ad in the newspaper for adoptive families, and our childcare provider giving notice. I could not ignore God’s signs.
On my way home from class that day, I called my husband. I could not wait another minute to tell him. In a matter of 20 seconds, I told him: I don’t want to take the job, I have had little signs popping up to tell me this was right, I want to stay at home with Hannah, and I want to adopt.
“Hello?!” I looked at the phone to make sure I still had a connection.
“Let’s do it,” was all he said.
The next morning, I began the task of redacting my acceptance of the job offer and setting up a time to meet with an adoption agency.
The process went much faster than expected. We decided to go through the Minnesota Waiting Children’s Program. This program serves children who are under state guardianship and legally available for adoption.
In six short months, we were having home visits with an 18 month-old toddler, Tavaris, who was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. I threw myself into learning everything I could about FASD. His adoption was finalized in 1999.
Things were going along so well that, one year later, we found ourselves asking: “Why not do this again?”
We returned to our adoption agency in 1999. We wanted to parent another child with FASD. Our Home Study was updated and into the prospective pool we jumped. When our adoption worker called to say she had found a match, she had hesitation in her voice.
“I have found a perfect match for you guys… times three.”
She found a sibling group of three girls, ages 6, 3, and 2. Their lives had been filled with neglect and abuse, the extent of which was unspeakable. They had all been prenatally exposed to drugs and alcohol, but no formal diagnoses.
We considered the decision for all of 2 hours. Friends told us going from one child to two is tough, but going from two children to three is easy. I figured the same rational would apply when going from two to five! Count us in!
The adoptions of Alison, Mary Margaret, and Julia Anne were finalized in 2000. Our family life became a whirlwind of activity, sometimes verging on chaotic. Initially, the amount of appointments and evaluations was overwhelming. All three girls fell somewhere on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum. All three were moderate-to-low functioning. The shocker: Reactive Attachment Disorder, times three.
We knew nothing about Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). We had not been introduced to this term in our adoption workshops. I sought out everything I could find on the internet regarding this disorder. I was mortified. The stories were chilling. What did we get ourselves into? But… forewarned is forearmed. I was determined to not become one of those stories. Failing these kids was not an option.
The next few years were a blur to me. I didn’t have time to think most days… I just did. Life became “two steps forward, ten steps back.” On days that I could not do it, I believe God stepped in and did it for me.
Things came to a sketching halt in 2003. What I thought was food poisoning, lingering on for two weeks, turned out to be a pregnancy. We were overjoyed but worried how this would affect the children, who needed my attention so much. I gave birth to Clare in 2003.
In 2004, eleven months after Clare’s birth, we received a call from the adoption agency. The biological mom of the girls had given birth to a baby boy. He had been prenatally exposed to drugs and alcohol. The mother wanted her son to be placed with his sisters. How could we say no?
We finalized John’s adoption six months later.
Our adoption story is not without heartbreak. In 2009, our daughter Julia was placed with another family. Despite all our good intentions and hard work, her attachment issues were just too severe. Her mental health professionals’ recommendation: she needed to be placed with a family where she would be the only child. We agonized over the decision. We did not want to fail Julia. However, we knew that by not giving her this opportunity, our pride might have done just that.
We feel truly blessed by our children. They have caused us to grow and become strong in ways we never thought possible. Our life may be summed up in 12 words:
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
(** Do you have an inspiring adoption story to share? If so, please contact me!!)