There’s a great quote from Valerie Harper that I really love: “Motherhood is a miracle no matter how it comes to you.” For me, it came through adoption.
From the time I was a young girl, I felt drawn to adoption. I guess it was a combination of feeling very deeply for children that for whatever reason had no family (how unfair!), and compassion for the families, that for whatever reason had to let them go. In addition, although I wanted to be a mom and have a family one day, I didn’t automatically envision having biological children. I often thought about adopting as well.
In early adulthood, as more conversations turned towards getting married and having children, I began expressing my consideration of adoption. Most people were supportive; however, I have heard all kinds of comments over the years:
“ WHAT?!?! How could you not want your own? That just seems unnatural.”
“People only adopt when they can’t have children. The point is to have your own!”
“You don’t know what you’re going to get when you adopt.”
My response to these types were I simply don’t feel that way (except for that last one, do any of us know what we are going to “get” when we bring these marvelous, crazy little beings into our lives?)! All of this definitely made me feel “different” (maybe it was that “unnatural” comment, geez!), but the leaning towards adoption was still there.
I came to the conclusion that if my future husband felt strongly about having a biological child, we would of course go that route. And guess what? My future husband would be open to forming our family either way! We figured that since we are both open to adoption, why not?
So, we are different. We didn’t give birth to our kids. We didn’t adopt because we couldn’t have kids. We chose adoption, and I feel it was divinely pressed upon both of our hearts for an extremely invaluable reason. Make that two reasons: Jeslyn and David. My kids!
We chose to adopt domestically through the state, so we became “foster-to-adopt” parents in Texas. The licensing process was long, grueling, and intrusive. We were asked about every detail of our finances… our innermost thoughts… our sex life. Really! We worked happily, reflectively, and excitedly through it all. Filling out the “Profile of Your Child” was weird at first – can you really profile your child? After many discussions and lots of prayer, we decided that we would keep it pretty open: any child, any gender, aged 0-10 years. And then we waited for “the call.”
Bringing David Home
The first one came in January of 2006. I hung on every word. A 2-month-old baby boy named David, brown hair and eyes, overall seemed healthy. A little about his history (details of why my kids had to be removed from their biological families I will leave out, as it is their private story to learn first, and then to share if, when, and with whom they choose). They asked if we could come to the office later that day to meet him and his foster mom? Yes, yes, yes! When we walked in, I saw the foster mom sitting at a table, the baby carrier sitting next to her. She picked him up, gently handed him to me, and said “Your son.” All I can say is the moment I first held him was absolutely magical. I laughed and cried as I looked at this perfect, sweet, beautiful baby boy quietly looking back at me. My son. No words can totally and accurately capture that moment. I will never forget it.
We brought him home two days after he turned 3 months old. From there, the days (and nights!) were typical as a new mom, but I did have to live with the fact that David was still technically in foster care with us. He was “legal risk,” meaning 95% probability of being adoptable, but until the adoption was made final in court, it was not a done deal. That was a tough thought to have in the back of my mind because this was my baby! But amazingly, I had a certain unexplainable peace about it that I believe was from above.
Bringing Home Jeslyn
Four months later, in May 2006, we got our next call. Again, I hung on every word. A 10-month-old baby girl named Jeslyn. Red hair, blue eyes, “busy,” in excellent health. Would we consider her? Yes, yes, yes! Due to legal technicalities, it was over 2 months before we would be able to go to her foster home to meet her. The foster mom greeted us, and her teenage daughter came down the stairs carrying Jeslyn. She was wrapped in a towel, just out of the bath. As I held her and then dressed her into a sweet little pink dress, this perfect, beautiful baby girl smiled up at me with big blue eyes, and I was in love. My daughter. Though it is all etched in my memory as if it happened yesterday, I can’t get the words to perfectly describe these first moments.
We brought Jeslyn home in July of 2006, just after her first birthday. Suddenly, I had a 12-month old and an 8-month old (they are just 3½ months apart). It all became a whirlwind from there! We officially adopted Jeslyn and David on National Adoption Day, November 18, 2006.
Our kids have always known they are adopted. When they were very young, I kept their story simple: “You were in a lady’s belly (now, at 8 years old, they know this “lady” as their birth mom), and when it was time for you to come out, she went to the hospital and the doctor helped you to be born. The lady wasn’t able to take care of any children, so another nice family took care of you for a little while until it was time for you to come to mommy and daddy. When we were driving to get you, we were so excited that we wanted to drive super fast, but we didn’t want to get a speeding ticket so we went just as fast as we could to come get you and take you home… ”
One night, just after I had retold her story, my 3-year-old Jeslyn asked, “Mommy, did the lady think I was pretty?” I cried inside as I reassured her that the lady thought she was very beautiful (this was true, from caseworker notes at her birth). When he was about the same age, after hearing the story, David asked “Mama, how did that doctor get me outta there?” I laughed inside as I explained the mechanics of how he got out, using 4-year-old lingo, of course!
Is parenting adopted children the same as parenting biological kids? Most of the time, it is! But of course there are some big differences as well. My kids suffered a huge loss at a young age –the loss of their birth family — and every kid deals with that differently. We have sketchy medical histories for them. As they reach new levels of understanding of what adoption means, there are questions and feelings that we need to address and help them understand.
On a beautiful beach day when Jeslyn was 5, she and I were sitting on a towel looking out at the ocean. Out of nowhere, she sort of wistfully said “Mom, I really wish I had been inside YOUR belly.” So much goes through my mind with statements and questions like this from my kids. In the three seconds before I answer her – I catch my breath inside and pray for the right words for my child. I also scan the beach to see if she had seen someone who was pregnant – no preggos in sight! What brought this to her mind? “Yeah sweetie, sometimes I really wish that, too. But most of the time, you know what? I’m just super happy that I have an awesome little girl that is as sweet and silly and beautiful as you!” Big hugs, and just like that, she’s on to something else. “Daddy is surfing with David. Hey, it’s my turn…!” as she runs off to the ocean.
The month of November is National Adoption Month. As I think about that, and write here on a mom’s blog, I am grateful. Grateful for the moms who have had a part of our children’s lives. Their biological moms who gave them their biggest gift – life. Their foster moms, who had the heart and strength to so capably care for them when they needed it most, and then graciously let them go. Most of all, I’m grateful for this miracle called motherhood, and for the incredibly wonderful children that I “got.”
About Cathy Huffenus
Cathy was born and raised a Yankee in New London, Connecticut, then moved to Houston, Texas where she earned her accounting degree at the University of Houston, and met her native Houstonian husband, John. After a 12-plus year career as an accountant and then software consultant, she went from full time flying around the country installing financial systems, to full time flying around the house installing diapers and baby bottles. Her two children, Jeslyn and David, are now eight years old. After moving to Jacksonville in 2007, she and hubby became Florida-licensed foster parents, and the whole family has the privilege of caring for sweet babies and toddlers until they can go to their forever homes.