The tapestry of the life of a medically complex family

Archive for the ‘adoption’ Category

Life Paradox

When I was younger I was given a book by a friend called “Do It Anyway” by Kent Keith. In it he details the Paradoxical Commandments; the first two are as follows:

“People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.”

“If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.”

I live my life by many of the principles he described within his book and am reminded almost daily of these first two- today was no exception. I find that no matter how well people purport knowing me, they certainly never seem to get why I have adopted from foster care, and why I care to again. They misunderstand my relationship to my children and cannot fathom why I do what I do.

I love my children. People who regularly read my blog may understand this, but some people do not understand loving a child who was not grown within you. I cannot explain it to those who do not understand; I can only say that I feel the same love & protectiveness for all my children, biological and adopted. I have always known I wanted to mother multiple children and that some of these children would be adopted.

As a mother of children with complex medical needs, there are challenges- daily – but these do not diminish how I feel about my children. They are not the only events in my children’s lives, but they are often what I write about. WHY is that? Because I tend to have more to write about things which challenge, things which are unsettled, things to which I need give more thought. In no way does this mean that all there is in our lives is challenge.  It may be that you read about every challenge we have- and I write only twice or so weekly. So much of my time is spent living and enjoying that I don’t get a chance to write more often.

To get back to where I began, nearly every day we come into contact with someone who represents some part of the first portion of Paradox 1 “People are illogical, unreasonable and self-centered” – sometimes that person is even US!  But we keep on. We continue to reach out, develop friendships, take risk, love. Thankfully it is often worth the effort to us- because the feeling or support is returned. Even when it is not, it is worth the effort, because without the risk, there would be no return.

The second Paradox, describes the way I live every aspect of my life: “If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.” It is the paradox of my career path as well as my family life. There will be those who judge whatever I do. People will think I try to gain attention or acclaim, or have some other self-serving motive, but I will continue to “Do good anyway”.

I parent my children because they are my children. The good that I do serves no purpose other than its needing to be done- for my children, for their future, for my own fulfillment. It is my own purpose. Judge away: it will not change me. I will continue to “Do good anyway“.

To read the complete list of Paradoxical Commandments, please go to Dr. Kent M. Keith’s website at:


As friends have had babies, or gotten pregnant and are expecting, the topic of naming comes up. I find it fascinating the way people name their children- selecting for sound, flow, family history or meaning… People name their children for times of day, times of year, the weather of the day- all sorts of things go into naming kids across my friends & family.

My children all bear names to honor family members who have come before them. My eldest, Liam, is named for my mother’s father William. He was an engineer and a lover of music. My most fond memories are sitting next to him on the bench of his electric organ while he played complex melodies for all of us gathered in my grandparents’ living room. I remember the smells, the warmth… All of that went into naming ‘Liam’ as well as the meaning of the name, a good meaning for an eldest: ‘protector’. His middle name was chosen from a novel in which the hero’s name was ‘Conor’, meaning ‘lover of hounds’, and dogs are his favorite animal so it seems a great choice there too.

My children who have joined my family through adoption have names that bear meaning, as well as honor both their adoptive & birth families. My twins have names that share initials with my parents, ARK for my mother and TJK for my father. ‘Adrien’ arrived with the same first name, meaning ‘dark hair, dark eyes’ in Irish naming. I left her birth name with her and gave her ‘Rosa’ as a middle name to serve as a reminder of a strong African American female, Rosa Parks, who did not allow discrimination and unreasonable limitations define her life. This is a way of life I hope my daughter will be strong enough to emulate. ‘Tavish’ means Thomas, which was my Dad’s name, and ‘twin’ is its definition. ‘Joseph’ was part of his birth name and means ‘god will increase’ so I left it in his name to symbolize my hope for his unknown future. It seems he has risen to the name- being far more capable now than was anticipated at his arrival. I wanted their names to cement their relationship with my family as well as honor their heritage and beginnings.

When Keva was arriving, it was harder to come to a name. She was a beautiful baby and I worked hard to come up with a fitting name. ‘Keva’ is a variation of the Irish ‘Caoimhe’ [same pronunciation], meaning ‘beautiful’. Her middle name she shares with her biological great-grandmother, ‘Catherine’ [pure]. Her great-grandmother has adopted her oldest sisters and raises them nearby. We see them regularly. This woman is raising her third generation of family after raising the kids’ biol. mo., aunts & uncles when their mother died. She too is a strong and healthy role model for her great-grandchildren.

As I anticipate another arrival, I think of names which align with these above. I am working on names that share initials of my father’s sister, or my own sister. Naming will be either initials EPK or JAK. Names with positive messages and meaning are needed, to support this new one as she struggles to thrive here with her siblings in the future. OK all: you have your assignment. First name, middle name combinations, initials either ‘E.P.’ or ‘J.A.’  Thanks for your contributions- & kind words of support!

My Foster Adoption Journey

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 ( ) 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.