When We First Met

by Rachel Williams

 

I remember very clearly the day my heart became a mom to my son Randy.  It will forever be burned into my memory.

 

About five years ago my husband came to me and told me he felt like he was supposed to start teaching the youth group at our church.  I was adamantly opposed because with our 2 children and 1 foster child, we had three kids three and under, and he already worked evenings. Adding 4 + more evenings to our month where he was not home to help, felt like he was asking for the moon.

 

With a firm, “now isn’t the right time,” and a frustrated attitude about it all, Joey lovingly said, “this is something I know I need to do.”  And put his foot down.  If you don’t know my husband, you wouldn’t know that this is extremely out of character for him.  He rarely has strong opinions and he is always easy going.  He is he very opposite of me in every way!   Recognizing how much this must mean to him, I gave up the battle, and prayed for a better attitude.

 

Not even a month later, he came home and said, “I need to tell you about this boy in my small group.  I need us to pray about adopting him.”  He poured out our son Randy’s story to me: no longer living with his biological family, because of the unhealth of the environment, he bounced around between friends houses sleeping where he could, all while enrolling in the military and trying to finish high school.  He came to church every single weekend with his girlfriend’s family and he was always bringing new friends to youth group.  As soon as he graduated high school, he would be completely on his own. Without a driver’s license, a car, health insurance or any help getting into college, he was going to be sent into the world completely unequipped for it.  With an aching heart, he asked me, “will you please consider praying about adopting him?”

 

I recall not having an ounce of hesitation, my answer was an instant, “yes.”  Excitedly he asked, “you will consider praying about this!?” and my response was, “no, I am saying ‘yes we should adopt him.’”

 

My heart was 100% in.  No questions asked, I remember a transformation happening in my heart that day.  It can only be described as a burning into my heart with the desire and almost a need for him to become my son. I distinctly recall missing him, wishing with all my heart I could grab him into my arms and embrace him as my son.

 

I had not even met this boy.  I had never laid eyes on him, I had no idea what he even looked like. What I knew was that my husband wanted to be his dad, and my heart had already become his mom.

 

Within a week or two I was able to actually meet Randy.  He, of course, had no clue that we were praying about bringing him into our family, and we had no idea if he would even want that.  But the day I met him will forever be committed to my memory.  We had an unexpected weekend without kids, so with zero distractions, a boy appeared before me after church while I heard the words, “Rachel, this is Randy.”  He might as well have said, “Rachel, this is your son.” because everything I had already experienced in my heart, expanded times a thousand.  He had the same average build and stature as my husband, he had the same slender shoulders, he had the same color hair, and he even had a similar shaped face.  I felt like I was looking at the version of my husband from 17 year earlier, only with glasses.

 

He looked my like my husband’s son.  Somehow, someway, they stood there representing the perfect picture of father and son.  The way that Randy looked up to Joey, was written plain as day on his face.  He respected him, admired him, looked up to him, and he longed for a deeper connection with him.  I would find out a few years later, that Randy loved him so much, he actually considered asking if we would adopt him, all the while we were already praying about it.

 

It would be three more months before we would ask him to become our son.  Since this was such an atypical adoption, we felt it was wise to take extra time to pray about it.  During that time, the longing for him to join us, only grew more within our hearts.  The desire to scoop him up and love him as his parents became so intense that the 3 days we waited for his answer answer after we finally asked him, felt like agony. We could not even focus while we waited, so we simply prayed fervently he would say yes, if it were God’s will, that he would choose us.  

 

And he did!!

 

I have continued to marvel at the love that God poured into my heart for my son that day.  The 18 years I missed as his mom seemed to be instantly and abundantly impressed upon me.  It was almost physically painful to love him, because I loved him so deeply.  I am so thankful for that miracle, because truly, that is what it was, a miracle all wrapped up in a mother’s love.

When We First Met - Met You Twice

by Kimberly Gehm

 

We have a unique story when it comes to meeting our daughter for the first time because we were able to "meet" her twice. Promise was brought into care two times and each time was a different experience.

 

We were chosen to be her foster parents because we were adopting her older brother Malachi. At one of the final meetings for Malachi's case before it was moved to adoption, the case workers had mentioned that the birth mom was pregnant again and they will most likely be removing the baby once born. Upon hearing this, my husband, being the one at the meeting as I was home with Malachi, started to pray "Lord protect that baby girl." Crazy thing is no one knew the gender of the baby. No matter how hard my husband tried to refer to her as just "baby" he physically couldn't. He knew without a doubt that she was a girl. So. for the next few months we prayed protection and safety over that baby girl.

 

On August 6th 2014 a baby girl was born. She had some obstacles to overcome but overall she was healthy. Two days later she was brought to our home. Receiving that phone call we had been anxiously awaiting for the past several months and hearing that the baby is a girl was surreal. We were so excited that Malachi would get to meet his biological baby sister and potentially get to grow up with her. She was identical to him in every way as a newborn. A full head of dark hair and chocolate brown eyes. We could have dressed her up in his newborn clothes and not have known any differently. The next few weeks were perfect as a family of 4. I had loved this tiny baby as if I had given birth to her. Praying for a child for months before actually getting to meet her connects you in such a deep, indescribable way. She was ours in every single way.

 

Then on August 29, 2014 because of extremely unfortunate circumstances she was returned back to their biological mom. Services hadn't been worked, no progress had been made and we had to hand our baby girl over to an unsafe environment. The system had failed our baby girl and ultimately her big brother. We tried everything in our power to talk to the right people and fight it, but no one wanted to get involved. We were devastated. We debated closing our home all together but decided to take a small break before jumping back in.

 

In January 2015 we reopened our home and waited for our next placement. A month went by and not a single call, which was so strange because we were getting multiple calls every month before she was born, but we waited and prayed for the right child to be brought to us.

 

On February 5, we received the call we never expected. Our baby girl was brought back into care and they would be dropping her off within an hour. Talk about major freakout mode! The house was a wreck, we were a wreck and recovering from the flu all week. We were all napping when I got the call. We immediately jumped into action mode. Clean up the house and clean up ourselves; cry, or really sob, and prepare our hearts for what was about to happen. We were so thrilled for her to come back home, but heartbroken because a child doesn't come into care unless there has been trauma.

 

An hour later, the investigator came to our home carrying a dirty car seat that was covered in a blanket. She placed the car seat in the middle of the room. I took a deep breath as I lifted the blanket and underneath the blanket was this huge 6 month old girl. Big brown eyes, what little hair she had was starting to curl and she gave us the biggest smile. Our daughter was home. She had grown so much and looked so different. I honestly wouldn't have recognized her if it wasn't for the little blood vessel blemishes she had on her nose when she was born. They were still there. It is such a surreal feeling to see a baby that you love so deeply but is a stranger to you.

 

For the next several months we struggled to learn each other all over again and bring her back to health. Her case was a constant up and down battle and we thought we would lose her again. However on November 10, 2016 our precious little girl was forever sealed by adoption into our family.

 

The Day We Met

by Shelby

We were at church camp with no signal. Despite that fact, I had my phone strapped to me all day knowing at anytime we could get a call, a call that would make me a Mama. As the day went on, I realized it didn’t matter that my phone was attached to me, there was NO signal, so I finally stopped checking every five seconds. After helping teach a children’s class I decided to allow myself to see if, by chance, something had found a way to my phone.

There was missed call and a voicemail from our home finder! My heart leapt as I struggled to understand the message she left; it was broken up and choppy.  I was able to make out there was a placement for a baby girl. My heart was racing, this was it, I could feel it. This was that moment. The moment people talk about when they ‘just knew.’ I loved her before I even knew her name. I had never touched her, but my arms were already aching to hold her.

I found a spot where I could stand in just the right way to call Lindsey. I was able to get a bit more information amongst the static. A 6 month old baby girl was in need of permanent placement. It looked like this would go the route of adoption and we had been specifically asked for. I ran to find Boogie and I could feel the tears burning my eyes; we were going to be parents.

The next day we drove the 2 hours home and waited for the Social Worker to show up. I kept running to the window every time a car would drive down our road, crossing my fingers it would be her. When they finally showed up with a carseat and a small Walmart bag, I tried to act calm. I peeked around her carseat as they sat her on our dining room table. She was perfect. I asked to hold her, still unsure of how this all was supposed to happen, and gently scooped her up. She was calm and quiet, unbothered by all the newness around her. Her dark brown eyes skipped around and fixated on the light above us. It was surreal and almost like in that moment time had slowed down. As I was holding her and taking her in, the workers gave us the information they had. I tried to listen, but I was a little distracted with all the thoughts whirling in my head. About 5 minutes later, they were gone. And just like that, it was the 3 of us, the way God had planned it. I was finally with the child I had been writing to all these months. I wrote to her without knowing how old she was, where she was living, what her name was. All I knew was that I was writing to the child we were working for, worrying over, and praying for- Layla.

I may not have had morning sickness, labored in a hospital bed, or even known how much she weighed when she was born, but I was her Mama and I never, not even once, doubted that. You see, I may not have physically been sick because I had a little one growing inside me, but there were days that I was sick with worry about the upcoming trials and ‘what ifs’. Nope, I don’t have some great story to tell about my contractions and throwing ice chips at nurses. But I DID labor for her: home studies, background checks, paper work, hours of classes, paper work, interviews, oh and-more paperwork.

Even though I may not have those stories to tell you about the 9 months leading up to her birth, I have plenty to tell of the moments she grew in my heart. The times that I dreamed about her and talked about her before we had met, the endless nights we prayed for her to join us, the moments that she steals our hearts, over and over again. How when she calls for ‘mama’ it sometimes puts a lump in my throat because I’m so thankful it’s me she’s calling for, and it all goes back to that day- July 24, 2014. The day we met.

When We First Met - A New Fairy Tale

by Jen Stevens

 

There aren't many words to describe that moment when you meet your child for the first time. I had years to prepare and dream before our first daughter came. In my head I had built up this fairytale image... How when we looked into each other's eyes we would know each other.

 

In the beginning I thought that moment would be in a hospital room, looking into the face of a baby that had grown in my body. One that was synced to the rhythm of my heart.

When we started the adoption process that dream died and my new fairytale formed. While being her mom was my dream come true, that moment I had built up in my head wasn't meant to be. The reality of our first meeting was hard. Instead of the fairytale, our meeting followed exhausting days of travel. Unfamiliar sounds, foods, and customs, and a rushed schedule enforced by government officials.

 

The day we met, we were picked up at our hotel and rushed across town to the city orphanage. They asked that we place booties on to cover our shoes and then ushered us down the hall to wait. We paced in the silence of a small room until they brought our daughter to us. As they neared the room I could hear them talking, yet couldn't understand the words. It was just one more barrier in our initial connection. The words of comfort she knew were foreign to us. But we were determined.

 

As the door opened and they entered, my heart was in my stomach. She turned to look at us while clutching her caregiver. And the tears came, then the desperate sobs, as they told her we were going to be her "mama and papa". They encouraged me to take her and while I wanted to, I saw her fear, I felt her fear. She nuzzled into the woman's scarf and hid her face from me. I turned my back and choked back my own tears. I took a few deep breaths and reached into my bag for a toy and after showing her, I took her into my arms. That was it, I was holding my baby. My beautiful girl with big brown eyes and red hair. At 10 months old she was so tiny. I remember being able to feel every rib as my hand held her back. Barely 10 pounds, but every ounce was filled with fear. I held her close and stroked her hair. I knew we belonged together. In words she didn't understand I told her it would be ok.

 

And it was.

 

When We First Met - And Then There Were Five

by Emily Attaway

 

When our foster care license was issued, we lived in a three bedroom house. The inhabitants consisted of myself, my husband and our dog, Phoebe. The back two bedrooms were empty except for a crib in one room and a twin bed with a trundle in the other. They were painted a light grey and had gender neutral bedding. We intended to foster a sibling set with the hopes of adopting them. The call came in on a Tuesday while I was at work.

“We have a placement for you. Three kids. 2 girls and a boy. They are 5, 3 and 1. The oldest needs to start kindergarten this upcoming Monday so we need to move them fast. Can you take them?”

This was the call that changed our lives. The call that set everything into motion. The call that torpedoed us from a family of two into a family of five.

We accepted the placement, confirmed that the children would be brought to our house on Thursday afternoon and called our Sunday school class leaders to see if anyone had three car seats we could borrow short term.

Then we bought a minivan.

Just reading that makes us sound crazy, which maybe we were.

I remember texting our friends, and ignoring the advice from one to “Take these last two days and go on two really good date nights!” choosing instead to make lists and plans and dreams.

Oh, how I wish we had gone on those two dates, really enjoyed those last two nights before our lives changed forever.

I will never forget the way I felt on Thursday, as we paced the house, going back and forth to the front window, and waited on the social worker’s car to appear in our driveway. We were terrified. I felt my stomach clench in the same nervous anticipation that I felt on our wedding day.

This is crazy. This is the right decision. Is this the right decision? This is such a big change! Are we making a mistake? This is so exciting. I think I may throw up. This is the right decision.

A car pulled up and we saw a man step out with a toddler in his arms. I glimpsed them through our frosted front window and turned to my husband with huge eyes. “Oh my goodness. They’re absolutely beautiful!”

We came outside to meet them. A five year old girl with blond hair was standing beside the car, her hands clasped nervously in front of her. She forced a brave smile. Then a three year old girl who bears a striking resemblance to me came around the side of the car, eyeing us warily.

“This is the sir and the ma’am I was telling you about.” The social worker addressed them.

I don’t know what I was expecting to see in their faces, but as I crouched down in front of them I saw my own fear reflected there. For as long as I live, I will never forget how unsure and scared they were. In that moment, as my heart broke for the three tiny faces in front of me, I became a mother. I spoke gently to them, trying to convey that they were safe.

“Hi there. My name’s Emily. We are so glad you’re here. Would you like to come inside?”

They nodded tentatively.

We went inside and they made a beeline for the living room to look in the backyard. Hearing the commotion, our dog Phoebe’s face popped up to look in through the window.

“Oh wow!” the three year old exclaimed, her voice registering excitement. “You have a puppy!” Then she turned to me, questioning in a voice filled with hope, “Do you have a swing, ma’am?”

I would have given her the world in that moment if she had asked for it. “Oh, honey. We will get you a swing.”

The next hour was a flurry of paperwork and signatures. A horrific dirty diaper where we discovered that the youngest had come without diapers, wipes or a toothbrush. A quick run to the store. My naïve surprise that the social worker didn’t offer to change the aforementioned diaper. Oh, that’s right. We were the parents now.

Once the social worker left, my husband had the audacity to suggest he run to the dealership to pick up the new minivan. I gazed at him in shock. “You cannot leave me by myself with three children! How am I supposed to keep them all alive if I am all alone?” We text some friends who were pregnant with their first child, asking them to come hang out at our house with me so I wouldn’t be alone with these three tiny strangers who I was afraid may self-combust at any moment.

I remember offering them lemonade and chocolate milk, more concerned with them being comfortable in their new home than the messes spilled on my couch.

I remember them throwing rocks in the backyard, and my husband and I looking at each other helplessly as we realized we didn’t know how to get them to stop.

I remember their little voices singing out “Happy Birthday” when we offered them a piece of their welcome cake after dinner.

I remember the three year old looking at the five year old’s blankie with jealousy, and then asking sweetly if she could use a ratty old towel from the linen closet as her own lovey.

I remember playing in the backyard that evening, the toddler finally grabbing a pillow from our outdoor furniture and laying down on the porch, completely exhausted from his chaotic day.

I wish I could forget how scared they were that day, which, over a year later, the kids now refer to as “the first day”. But it’s burned into my memory. I have a hard time reconciling the happy, healthy kids who spend their days running around our home, hanging onto my legs, and calling me “Mama” with the three terrified babies who were dropped off last August. I went to bed that night the best kind of exhausted, the kind of exhaustion that is exhilarating when you realize that you must have let three tiny bandits move into your house, because they have completely stolen your heart.

When We First Met - Saying Hello and Goodbye

by Kelly Hughes

 

 

We did it. We nailed the parenting thing. We had a beautiful little boy and a gorgeous little girl born 2 years and 7 days apart. Our happy American family was complete. But then it wasn’t.

 

We knew that God’s call on our heart to help children was clear and so we became certified for foster care. Our family went from 2 kids to 5 kids under 5 overnight. And thus began the journey that would change us forever.

 

During the 5 weeks that they were with us we changed 5 kids into 3 different rooms trying to see who would not keep each other up at night, who would not bounce everyone awake at 6am, and what would keep us the most sane in a small house. We fell in love quickly. We got a glimpse of families who loved their children and were heart broken to be parted from them. We learned that foster care did not just bring us new children, it brought an entire family dynamic to learn about and nurture. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins..…it affects so many. With breaking hearts, we said we don’t know if we can do it again, listening to their sobs as they got in the car and drove away for the last time.

 

Maybe it is too hard, maybe we’re too weak. It feels more comfortable to have smaller grocery bills, put on fewer shoes, and have less chaos. So we took a little while for our hearts to heal and our bodies to rest and we answered the call once again. “Yes,” you say? “In 45 minutes you will be receiving a 2 year old boy and his 4 day old brother who is still detoxing from drugs in his system.” Goodbye last night’s blissful sleep, hello newborn world.

 

We saw the bruises on his arms and the shaking of his hands. We knew he was child #9 and we prayed for his mother to be rescued from the addiction that held her so tight that she had to choose drugs over these precious lives. 3 short days and off to court they went, only to be sent to live with a relative. Barely time to blink and no time to say goodbye. We pray they are loved and cared for wherever they are.

 

A little more time to regroup and the call comes again. An 11 month old girl and her 23 month old brother. The most trauma affected little ones that we had encountered. We barely knew what raising trauma-based children looked like and we were in for a crash course. We decided right away that our girl was either going to be a tuba player or an Olympic swimmer. How else could she possibly have the capacity to scream at the top of her lungs for hours at a time? Hours upon hours the screaming went on. We had to introduce formula, then pureed foods, then solids. Her brother spoke and understood almost nothing although he was just shy of 2 years old. On the streets we heard the comments “you’re amazing, you’re wonderful, I could never do it” and my look became a blank stare as I thought I’m barely holding it together. I’m certainly less than amazing, and I don’t know how I’m going to make it through another day.

 

But 5 weeks went by and suddenly the screaming lessened. She began to smile. We began to breathe again. She figured out what being tickled was and we discovered the best giggle we have ever heard in our lives. It literally stops people in their tracks, it’s that good. Our little buddy began to talk and hug and sing. He knows the words to every song he listens to regularly. And by something completely unforeseen by us, 2 years went by and those precious lives were officially adopted into our family.

 

Foster care is hard, we would never try to cover that up. But do you know what foster care isn’t about? It’s not about us. It’s about children. Children who are in desperate need of love, patience and care during both their good and most unlovable moments. Are we special or significant? Not at all. We are simply evidence of people living one step at a time in grace and praying that others will take this step as well.

 

 

Kelly Hughes became passionate about providing more resources for foster youth and foster families through fostering 7 children. Her placement bag drives have brought in over 3,000 bags in the last 2 years which have been distributed throughout Pennsylvania. Her next goal is to open a full-time free donation center for foster families which is moving forward under much prayers and many volunteer hands. She is wife to a pastor and mama to 4.