Saturday, August 23, 2008

We're "Real" Parents - Our Adoption Story

My previous posts (aka the lie that wasn't a lie) have caused a few people to ask me to tell our adoption story.

I haven't done so on this blog and maybe now (my 50th post) would be a good time to share.

Jerry and I were not infertile, but we never tried to have children. Our lives were happy and we were both very career-motivated. My job required a lot of travel and I did it. I loved it! Those years were complete. For both of us.

We have been together for a very long time. We worked together starting in 1982. We quickly became friends. Jerry and I had a similar sense of humor and above-average intelligence. We meshed well. Time spent together became longer and longer. When the apartment next door to mine became available, Jerry moved in. So, we lived separately, but together. Truthfully, his apartment ended up being a big closet. With furniture.

Eventually, we made the leap from being single to being married in 1989. I was 30 and he was 32. We ran off and got married in the church my great-great grandfather help found on Grand Cayman Island. Yes, my dad's father's family are all Caymanian. It was such a nice wedding and my cousins were witnesses.

Years passed by. We enjoyed our families and friends and work. And then more years. And what do you know? We're in our forties and where did the time GO? We looked around our house. It was nice and had a bedroom that we only used for guests. Our two little dogs were more than just pets (still are). We knew something was missing.

Now, we were NOT interested in being parents to an infant. We were smart enough to know we didn't have the energy to make it that long with a little one. God bless the older parents that do, but it wasn't us. We knew we wanted to adopt. We were ready.

So....we did some online research and found various agencies, but figured out that no matter what agency you use, older kids come from CPS. Period. That's when we decided to cut out the middleman and just go through CPS for certification. Well, you have to go through an extended period of training for Foster-To-Adopt. It's intensive and intended to scare the holy bejeebus out of you. By the time you're through, you're certain any older kid coming in your home is going to hate you, will get a baseball bat and smash any item of significance you own, and you just might wake up in the middle of the night to find them standing over you with a kitchen knife.

I could go on and on...but I do have some advise if you ever choose this path that I will throw in right now: DON'T go through CPS - they are overworked and overburdoned - use an agency! Be prepared to do much more of the legwork than you can imagine.

So, we passed our classes and cleared the home study with a small glitch - they didn't believe Jerry and I really had normal childhoods. We are truly amazed that people are shocked that you could grow up like the Cleavers. We did.

And once you reach this point, you think, "Finally! Now we can get our child." We decided we wanted a girl as Jerry has four brothers and only one of them has a daughter. I have a brother and sister, but always wanted a daughter. So that decision was made. My brother and his wife had their first child at age 34, so we calculated up that a 12 - 13 year old would have been physically possible for us as well and decided to look in that range.

Believe it or not, each state has the children available for adoption featured on a website. Your caseworker is supposed to be looking for you, but I can assure you, they probably aren't. They're too busy.

Anyway, we spent loads of time online. And then we saw her. Nicole. One photo. And a brief description. They don't say on the site why the child is in the custody of the state, but we all know parental rights aren't terminated because you have great parents.

Nicole was in another Texas town. A small town. Through contact with her caseworker (an honest-to-God angel), we learned her story. This story is horrendous and I won't go into the details, but you wouldn't wish it on anyone. Ever.

She looked like me when I was her age. It was really bizarre. And yet, she had Jerry's eye color and skin tone. Now, we weren't basing this on looks, but we knew it couldn't hurt. To this day, people always comment how she is such a blend of us. We all always crack right up!

Nicole was 13 at the time she arrived in our home. She had been in foster care since the age of 7. She had never completed a full year of school in the same school she began. Foster care will do that - move you around a lot. She was almost adopted by a minister's family, but before the preliminary period was up, they changed their minds. Poor little thing thought it was her fault. That she was unlovable. That no one would ever want her. God moves in mysterious ways and all the forces of heaven and earth brought us together.

We adopted our daughter on her 14th birthday. There are days when we all truly feel like we've all been together since the day she was born. That's how easy the transition was for us all. The love has grown and continues to grow.

Have we had struggles? Goodness! More than you can imagine, but we have worked through them as they come up. Mostly, it's been difficult teaching her she is NOT an adult and she must respect those in authority over her. She is still learning this. We believe that foster care breeds this need to protect oneself - they are scrappers and defensive - they'll hurt you before you can hurt them. That's a BIG hurdle to jump, but we're getting there.

So, we've been through 8th, 9th, and 10th grades. Monday begins her junior year. She'll be driving to school this year. And we'll be praying.

This has been a long post, but I guess it was time to share. Was it worth it? Oh yeah. Life has not been the same, but we can't imagine it without her now. No bats, no knives, no hate. Life is good and we've been blessed.


Dawn said...

You & your husband are wonderful people! Nicole is so lucky to have you as parents! Yay! My heart just feels so happy hearing your story. I work with troubled kids and have been involved personally with some. Of course kids who are raised by dysfunctional people are going to have issues. I'm so proud of this family you have given Nicole! God bless all of you!!!

Kerrie said...

It has been one of my life's blessings to know you and share your journey to Nicole. When we "met" you were just beginning and here we are, close to five years and hundreds of Scrabble games (& Bingos!!!) down the path of life.

One day my friend, we will share our teenage moments in person. Until then, thankfully the internet makes the world a much smaller place.

linda said...

What a beautiful, inspiring post. Thank you for sharing your personal story with us.

Nicole is blessed to be your daughter. She's one lucky girl!

gary rith said...

WOW. Quite a story. I imagine your daughter writing her book in 10-15 years and how awful the first half of her life was and then how wonderful it became!

Mrs. Who said...

Thanks for commenting on my blog - I really appreciate it, since I didn't even know they had listed me over there in the column on SITS!

It's nice to find another blogger who is 50 - I will definitely add you to my Google Reader.

My two sweet, lovely nieces are both dealing with infertility and one is waiting to hear about her adopted little girl from Guatamala. It has taken FOREVER - Avery will be one in October!! We are hoping to get her before then.

Also - snorkeling? Cayman Islands?? Love both!! We snorkeled for the first time in the waters of Grand Cayman and immediately went and bought our own equipment!

Keeper of the Skies Wife said...

Thank you for sharing that beautiful story. Nicole is blessed to have you both as parents. God did have His hand in that one!!! Thanks for coming to my blog...I love comments!

Kiki and Lele said...

Thanks for the comment, you have a wonderful blog.  Good luck in the give-a-way!
Kiki & Lele

Wep said...

That's such a wonderful story! My sister did the same thing, though she is still trying to get to that sweet spot :(

Melissa B. said...

Lynda: I've said it before and I'll say it again--you really, truly are an angel! Thanks so much for sharing this heart-warming story! BTW, don't forget it's Sunday, and you know what THAT means--S4 is underway today!

Minnesota Matron said...

How beautiful! Thank you! I tried to sign up to be a foster parent but was pretty much told that with three kids and their age span, I'd need a harmless infant! Just can't do that. But someday. . . . they sure do scare you. Your thoughtful post, and actions, made my day brighter.

MissKris said...

Absolutely, positively, without a doubt...BEAUTIFUL!!! Thank you so much for sharing with us! ((((((HUG))))))

Krazy Armstrong K's! said...

WOW, whats a great story! So glad your family has come together! Congrats on being Saucy!

Givinya De Elba said...

Thanks for telling us your story! I'm glad you and Nicole found your ways to each other.

FatcatPaulanne said...

I have some products you might like in my cafepress store, T-shirts and other things that say "Real Mom and Real Dad.

Tiffany said...

Wow. That is an amazing and inspiring story. How lucky Nicole is that you found her, and how lucky you are that she was there to be found!

Well, maybe luck had nothing to do with it... sounds like a plan at work...

Thanks for sharing!

Ronnica said...

This is really neat. Nicole is very fortunate, and I'm sure you are too. I've always wanted to adopt and plan on doing it someday.

-Bridget said...

That's a wonderful story. You rarely hear of people wanting to adopt older children. I'm so glad there are people like you who want to love an older child and help them understand they aren't "unlovable."


Kudos to you and your family. She is certainly a beautiful girl.

Jill said...

What a beautiful story. I cried. It just goes to show you that just birthing a child does not a parent make!

Your daughter is very luck to have you - but only as lucky as you are to have found her.

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