Living the Dream
This blog is submitted by a local mama in honor of National Adoption Month.
Our experience as adoptive parents:
Our journey towards this began a long time ago, long before the kids were even placed with us as foster children, but let’s just pick the story up from there. Our plan was to get our foster care license, adopt 2 children (one at a time), and then foster indefinitely. We even had a theme song for this “Come and knock on our door, we’ve been waiting for you...”. Surprisingly, life didn’t follow our well laid out plans. And we couldn’t be happier about that.
Two days after our foster care license was stamped by the state, We received a phone call from our DHS licensing worker that a 9 month old girl and her 20 month old brother were currently at the DHS office awaiting a foster home. Lori called me, practically bursting from excitement! When we arrived at DHS 30 minutes later, we went through all of the formalities and learned that there were actually 2 more siblings that were already placed in other homes. The oldest was placed with a relative with whom she had previously lived. The other child, though, was placed with another foster family. A priority for us had been to keep siblings together if at all possible, so this was a bit of sad news. The kids did end up seeing each other regularly at their family visits with their biological parents two to three times a week for the two years before the parents relinquished their parental rights.
Less than one year after the kids first came, their big brother had to leave his foster home, there was no question when DHS called to ask if he could come to live with us, and overnight we were a family of five! Right around this time we also learned that the children’s biological mother was pregnant again, and we were told to anticipate the removal of the baby from her care. So we also began to plan for placement of the baby in our home. In the spirit of being honest, I must say that this was all incredibly overwhelming! But, as it happens, Lori and I found our groove, and little by little, it became less scary. Baby boy came home with us from the hospital and we were a family of six! And now, two and a half years after we brought home our little boy and girl for the first night, here we are with 4 beautiful, amazing children, on the cusp of adoption day. We couldn’t be happier to be a legal family, once and for all!!
We have been talking to the kids about Adoption for several months now and they seem to understand as best as their little selves can. They are excited for their new names, to all have the same last name. We are working on spelling and writing our last name. The kids also enjoy doing “the Burgess dance” as we explained after the court hearing we will all be Burgesses and shall do “the Burgess dance”, this consists of shaking wildly with two fingers pointed in the air. We are quite a sight!
Our oldest is 7 years old. He is sweet, compassionate, insightful, smart, eager AND has endured trauma that no child should ever experience. We love him to the moon and back and he loves us, and is excited about being adopted. He is also conflicted about it. It is interesting to watch him through this process. Regardless of what he has experienced in his biological mother’s care, he loves her deeply. Which is completely understandable and acceptable, of course, especially for a kid with such a compassionate heart. He was most assured when talking about adoption when we said we would be his parents and his family always and forever. His demeanor has changed since learning about the adoption, he is more affectionate and more calm in general. I think a giant weight has been lifted from his shoulders, it is incredible to see.
Next is our 4 year old. He doesn’t remember not living with us, so “adoption” isn’t really an event for him. He does, however, miss his biological father immensely. He is such a sweet boy, and he looks up to his big brother with awe and admiration, mimicking his every move. It’s quite special (and very scary at times!) to watch. He loves to hug and cuddle and play and dance.
And our 3 year old. Our only girl. We look at her and cannot believe how much she has grown and changed since she came in to our lives. She is so bright, so strong, sassy and independent, and we hope to never stifle this OR let it overtake her. While she has an amazing memory (seriously, she remembers eating a banana on the beach when we went camping. Two summers ago.), she, too, does not remember not living with us. She started calling us “mom” without any prompting about 2 days before we learned their biological mother decided to release her parental rights. It’s like she just KNEW. She is kind of scary like that at times!
Last but not least, the baby. Or I suppose since he is 16 months old, we probably shouldn’t refer to him as the baby anymore. This little boy. He is just so sweet. From the first night home from the hospital, he was such an easy baby, which was such a blessing given he arrived about a month and a half after the oldest child came to us. While we had the typical (or at least what I assume to be typical) fears for parents of a newborn, we also had some additional concerns. Even though he came to us at 3 days old, and was surrounded by so much love, we worried that the trauma of being away from his biological mother and her voice and comfort, etc. would impact his ability to bond. As time went on, these worries disappeared. He is very much attached to us! And to his siblings. He and his oldest brother have developed an especially close bond.
Whenever we talk about the kids, especially to someone new, we are showered with praise. This feels a bit awkward, we want to be acknowledged and respected as a family as any natural family would be. Others give us some pretty hefty pats on the back for keeping the kids together, not splitting up the siblings, providing a home for children in need, etc. The reality of it, however, is these children are what we have been waiting for and planning for, for a very long time. WE are blessed. THEY have fulfilled OUR dreams. And yes, daily living is very hectic with 4 children ages 1, 3, 4 and 7. Family activities and getaways can be even more chaotic (mostly for us, not the kids). But, again, they have fulfilled our dream, so the least we can do is endure a little chaos to help create great family memories. Our mantra when someone is acting up and the dog is barking and another child has a question that MUST be answered right now, the milk spilled (again) and the baby is showing off his well-developed shrieking skills? “Livin’ the Dream.” Lori and I look at each other and repeat this, and it keeps us going. And our mantra when we build a fire in the fireplace and make s’mores while sitting in front of the Christmas tree to listen to a nice cozy, peaceful story that then gets interrupted every two minutes because someone is sitting too close to someone else, the 4 year old wiped his marshmallow hands on the carpet, and the 3 year old keeps taking ornaments off of the tree to chew and the one year old is biting any flesh in sight? “Makin’ Memories.” Happy childhood memories is one of the best things we can give them.
Insert human rights complaint here: The down side to this adoption is that our Happy Family Day is dampered by the fact that Michigan still does not recognize our marriage as legal. This means that our four children who currently have two loving equal foster parents will soon have one legal loving parent and a one loving roommate.