adoption, family, infertility

Stop Making Your Brother’s Bed

Mary is on some kind of audition. Each weekend she comes home from her residential school for a visit. She stays from Saturday morning through Sunday evening. Mary is trying out for the position of Youngest Chicken Family Member. Her efforts are nothing short of herculean.

She makes me coffee when she wakes up on Sunday morning. She asks to do chores like cleaning the cats’ litter box or taking out the trash. She helps me cook and then sets the table. Mary hugs everyone and professes her love constantly throughout the visit.

This weekend I noticed that she was spending more time with Carl. He was emerging from his designated “no fly zone” (his room) and hanging out with her. They were watching YouTube videos and playing basketball together. I heard him ask her for a drink or snack a few times. Each time she complied and brought him whatever he asked for.

“You don’t need to do that, Mary,” I told her. “He has legs.”

Her reply each time was, “I want to.”

The oddest part came when I walked past his room and noticed that his bed was made. This never ever EVER happens. For a minute I was certain that I must be looking at a mirage. When I questioned Carl, he explained that Mary had done it. It took me by surprise that he’d even granted her entrance into his “no fly zone.” I went into a spiel about how he couldn’t treat his sister like a servant and she wasn’t his maid etc.

Mary came rushing over to defend him.

“He didn’t ask me to do it!” she proclaimed. Looking slightly panicked she rushed her words out. “I just wanted to! I promise!!”

It is a very sweet gesture on her part. I can tell that she carries guilt for the physical attacks and the murder plan and all of the things that occurred when she wasn’t stable. That all happened several years ago. There really isn’t a way to make up for it. She doesn’t even truly remember every scary thing she did during periods of psychosis.

It probably sounds weird but I want them to argue. I want her to become upset. We all really need to see if we can actually handle conflict in a healthy way. Mary may not realize it yet but this would be an important step in our healing.  Trusting a family to meet her needs doesn’t come easily for Mary. I want so much for her to see that our family is different from her biological family in this way. I don’t want her to fold my laundry. I just want her to be my daughter.

We need to test our ability to work together and weather a storm. All families fight. I want her to feel safe enough with her feelings to let them show. Could we all be safe if she got upset? She would have to get upset first in order to find out. She’d have to stop apologizing for every perceived error. She’d have to stop making her brother’s bed. She would have to trust that our love is unconditional.

Honestly, I just want to tell her there is no need to audition. It’s not necessary. She’s already got the part.

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

adoption, family, fostercare, infertility

Why THESE kids?: Adventures in Finding Our Children


“What drew you to THESE kids? Did you originally plan to adopt so many?” A friend of mine asked me recently. I had to stop and think. We certainly didn’t plan on having this many. Does anyone aside from maybe the Duggers plan to have a family this huge? Perhaps, but I haven’t met them yet.

But why? Why THESE particular children? I honestly couldn’t answer that question. Who knows? They were just our kids.

I think everyone starts a family in pretty much the same way. They want to be parents. They want to share in little league games and pre-school macaroni necklaces. People want to give goodnight kisses and pass on family traditions to a new generation.

Life never works according to a plan. Luke and I took a lot of the steps that we thought would lead us to parenthood. We got steady jobs with pensions. We bought a little house in the country with room to grow. Our neighbors has horses and goats and there was forest all around us. There was a big yard with great trees for climbing. Luke already had two children from a previous marriage. We thought we would have two more. Our plan was to conceive one child and adopt one from foster care. As a teacher I saw so many children in the system that I wished I could take home. They needed so much and there were so many amazing kids.

The plan was that I would acquire some great mom skills and then we would adopt when I was a seasoned and proficient parent. After all, if we adopted from foster care, then that child would need someone with experience and exceptional parenting skills. Right? Wrong!

Luke and I got pregnant right away. It was an ectopic pregnancy that came close to claiming my life. The damage from it made it difficult to conceive again. Even the thought of another pregnancy was terrifying to me.  We decided to take the foster parent classes and start there. Maybe we would foster a few sibling groups. Maybe eventually we would foster a child that would need us forever.

Everything changed the day we me them. Our family. Our kids. We went to an “adoption party” at the encouragement of some friends who had adopted two siblings this way. I think we went more out of curiosity than actually planning to adopt right away.

It was a huge building with a million different activities. Basketball, Arts and Crafts, games and pizza. Luke and I went into the woodworking area and I looked around nervously. There was a 12-year-old boy in a huge sweatshirt building a bird house. His name was Sean. He had 3 finished products next to him already. He had curly black hair, huge brown eyes and thick eye lashes, just like my husband. He began talking to me a mile a minute. He showed me everything he had built. He was talkative and animated and he laughed so easily. He told me he loved science. He loved the Percy Jackson book series, and reading was his favorite pastime. As an avid reader I quickly became immersed in a conversation about books.  Within minutes I was smitten. I looked over his head at Luke. I nodded and he nodded back. Silently, we knew. This boy was our son. I made a wooden ring toss with him and we played a few rounds. That ring toss now sits on display in our dining room. Sean takes it down whenever he wants to see me cry a few happy tears.

12-year-old Sean introduced us to his little brother, Carl. Luke sat down with Carl and built a little wooden car. As I watched them bent over the project I had a small flutter of excitement. We had always wanted to keep siblings together. We could adopt these 2 boys and our family would be complete. I had a feeling of relief. No more pregnancies, no more trying. We would be a family without fertility treatments, worry, and fear.

After we finished building our woodworking projects it was time for the boys to eat lunch. Sean led the way and invited us to come. He said, “Do you guys wanna meet our sister?” Sister??? There were 3 kids?! Were there more? Oh my. We went anyway.

She was tiny. Mary was 6 years old at the time. A small Hispanic girl with blonde curly hair. She could have been our biological child. Not that we were looking for “matching” children, but it just seemed like some sort of sign. Sean quickly spoke for her and told us she was “quiet.” He doled out food for them and told them what they must eat and what they didn’t have to eat. He was a tiny little grown-up and they depended on him. They didn’t even all live together in the same foster home. Carl was in a separate home and it haunted me that they should all be together. Their love for each other was obvious. Another woman was at the table briefly to inquire about just Mary. the youngest only. I felt immediately protective over this little group. Who would want to break this bond? The woman was obviously impaired if she didn’t enjoy charismatic Sean and his tales from the Percy Jackson books!

Mary looked down at the table and avoided eye-contact. The woman eventually walked away. As soon as Sean scooted next to his sister, Mary leaned into him and chewed absently on his sweatshirt strings. I introduced myself and made some comments about her art project. She answered me and said a few words. It wasn’t until later I found out that she was selectively mute. I was the first adult she had spoken to outside of her family, in a very long time.

We were sold. For months afterward we pursued these kids. Luke and I spent hours debating if we would be the “right” family for these siblings. Could we do it? Financially? Emotionally? Logistically? We debated, we planned, we searched within ourselves. In the end, we couldn’t stop thinking about them. We later learned that they had an older brother. He didn’t want to be adopted at the time so we just asked if he could visit his siblings with us. Maybe we could build a relationship with him. We didn’t want our kids to lose more than they had already lost. We didn’t know it at the time, but we would eventually meet Marcus and fall in love with him, too. We brought him home a year after we were placed with the other 3. Love is a complicated and unpredictable thing.

There are things you can’t plan for. We didn’t plan to fall in love with a large sibling group. In the end we didn’t have any more money, house space, free time, or extra-super parenting skills. All we had was love and commitment. What I want you to know id that there are no perfect parents and there is no perfect family. We adjusted, we accommodated, we fell into place. We went from 2-sometimes-4 into 5-sometimes-8 in the blink of an eye.

Taking a risk is the best thing we ever did. I wouldn’t trade this journey for any other.

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.


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** Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.