Growing up I lived in a house with 2 brothers and 2 sisters. We were close in age, shared chores, clothing, treehouses and other adventures. Growing up in this family, we learned to share, debate, laugh, entertain ourselves, ride horses and be responsible for ourselves & others. Our parents may not have agreed with every chosen path, but they provided the guidance and support to get us where we wanted to go. As I grew I knew I wanted just such a family- a group of kids who played with each other, fought with each other, resolved differences and became friends & support to each other as adults.
My life went partially as planned: I earned degrees, worked, lived, loved and had my first child. I raised him as a single mother and spent some time looking and waiting for that person to share parenting of future children with… I have yet to find him. Eventually I decided that my desire for that larger family, that group of kids to annoy & delight each other (& me), was not dependent on my other goal of adult companionship. As a child, I had watched Wednesday’s Child on Boston television and KNEW, even then, that I would eventually adopt children from foster care to expand my family. It was time.
After completing my home study, moving & then revising it, I connected with a wonderful adoption worker through MA DCF. She helped me submit my information for consideration for some sibling groups available in MA while I continued to look through online photolistings for children who would somehow speak to my heart. I knew what I wanted: a sibling group of at least 2-3 kids, children younger than my son, children I could love & support and, most importantly to me, children who may be considered “difficult to adopt” because of their race, history or developmental needs. I knew my limitations- there is only one of me- and I let my worker know the conditions that seemed too much for my life and situation.
One day in January 2007, I logged in to the MARE website photolisting (http://mareinc.org/MARE-Online-Photolisting.html ) and, tucked at the bottom of the page, among a group of pictures of sibling groups from MA, I found this picture of 2 infants. Clicking on the picture to enlarge it and find out more, I looked closely at their chubby cheeks and saw the tracheostomy tubes nestled under their chins. Having worked in early childhood special education, including one year in an award-winning program with children who are technology dependent- I recognized the tubes under their chins and knew what this meant about their ability to breathe without medical support. I knew what the need for care meant, what the time commitment could be, what the medical follow-up & advocacy needs might be- and I KNEW that I wanted to be the resource for these children. My social worker was surprised by my interest but knew to trust me in choosing to submit only on children that I thought I could provide for. I was matched with them in February and the week after their first birthday, I went to a disclosure meeting and had an opportunity to meet them.
Trachgirl was the shy one, leery of new people, remembering the hospitals, the doctors, the people who come in and out of her life; she a safe distance during our first meeting. She warmed up later in the visit and played peek-a-boo in my arms on their nursery floor. Trachboy, less aware of a reason to be fearful, lay in my arms, looked up into my face and cemented their places in my heart. As he nestled into me, nuzzling my arm and falling asleep, I knew there was no hope of turning away or turning back- I had found my children. We had found each other.
After regular visits, a bunch of training on their daily & emergency medical care and a solo overnight at their foster home, Trachboy & Trachgirl came home to our house where they joined their older brother then 13. My oldest adjusted well to the twins’ arrival and continues to amaze me with his capacity to accept his brother and sisters as full-fledged members of our family.
When the twins were 17 months old, a younger sister was born and she joined our family the week her big sibs turned 2. I remember the day her social worker parked her car out front and walked my precious new bundle up the stairs. My youngest lay in my arms and the twins touched her face, held her hand, and brought toys to show her. I scheduled a family photo for that afternoon, knowing full-well I might realize quickly that there was NO WAY I was ever going to get out of the house again! The pictures were a big success, all four kids looking intently at the camera, a smile from the teen at how crazy his Mom truly was. For some time, this is the completion of our family. One day there may be others who join, related or not, but for now the craziness feels full, real, rewarding.
It has been a journey, laden with challenges and celebrations, hospitalizations, surgeries and periods of wellness & activity. It has been worth it. It has proven the greatest and most thrilling adventure of my life. I hope that my children will have the opportunity to learn the many lessons I was taught living in a large family. I wish them all the success, friendship, strength and happiness that I have had the fortune to have experienced. I encourage everyone who can, who has the resources, the energy, the love for children and the desire for a strong family to consider what they may have to offer a child from foster care, who may have no one else.