By Julie Chambers
It is funny – life has its own way of throwing curveballs at you. For many of us going through the childbirth process whether it is homegrown, infertility or adoption, the path is not always a leisurely walk.
My husband and I, if you were to ask us fifteen years ago, never imagined that our family would have been more than a couple of children. Any more children would have been a very stern, “no!”
But our lives have taken us on a wild rollercoaster ride of parenting. Being foster parents, we have experienced the reunification process, seen others adopt, and then we too have adopted five awesome children.
With the adoptions of the five and our homegrown of three, managing a large family is a challenge daily. Every day brings something new, even though we have a set routine.
After having three children, we wanted to have a fourth, but we were told that I would not be able to carry another child due to my accident that resulted in a lifelong disability. In 2004, I slipped and fell, shattering my left knee. A fluke of trauma during a routine surgery turned into a not-so-routine surgery at all. I have endured 53 surgeries and procedures under general anesthetics from knee to neck.
After many conversations with my husband and researching domestic adoption, we decided that was not the path we wanted to take. It wasn’t a financial decision nor a logistic one. We found that children in our own backyard needed help and that we could provide a safe and loving home for them.
We became foster parents.
As we opened our home to many children, from newborns to toddlers to pre-teens, we did not have any intention to adopt. We found our place. Our home was a revolving door and I discovered more about the social service system than I ever cared to imagine.
Then, as we were fostering one of our kiddos, we were asked if we’d consider adoption. After learning more about his family, we thought it was better for him to be with his bio family, so we declined! Another month went by, we were asked again, and again, we declined.
As the weeks went by, we were asked for the third time and were told we would lose him if we did not agree to adopt. Nevermind you that he had already been in our home for over a year. We discussed it together, prayed together, and concluded he would continue to be a part of our family.
Welcome adoption number one!
As we finalized our first adoption and continued to foster, we maintained our busy schedules with our older kiddos. Life was running smoothly. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would be in a position for adoption number two. Our daughter, along with a surprise sibling, were the next two adoptions – making us a family of six. And after fostering another little guy for almost three years, he became our fourth child to join our family through adoption. Never say never!
Needless to say, you just do not know the path that is in store for you. Having seven children ranging from young adults to toddlers (and five with special needs) is quite interesting. With myself having a disability, there is never a dull moment. When someone asks if we are complete, the reaction is initially yes, but we are never sure what the future holds. Sure enough, we thought all was good in routine, but when we least expected it our family of nine became ten.
Though my husband and I both come from big families, I cannot say that had any influence on our decisions. As I have expressed, adoption was really never in the cards, but then life changed. When you go through a life-changing event as we ALL did back in 2004, you start to re-evaluate what is important and how you can make a difference to others. Then, you figure it out as you go, as we continued to do.
Our adoptions were handled through the foster care system. As much as we believe reunification is the best, our children’s cases did not work out that way. We keep an open line of communication in our home and with their families. We speak of their birth-families often, communicate with them, and sometimes we visit as well…with boundaries in place. I am also reminded every time I look at my little ones that without the choices made by their birth families that led them into foster care, my crazy big family would not exist. Adoption is bittersweet.
All the children placed into our care over the years were put into our home for a reason. Whether you are spiritual or not, I believe there is a reason for everything in life. Now, as we have gone through the process with social services and rode their carousel ride, we are opting to further grow our family by way of private domestic adoption.
(Tune in on Friday for Part 2 of Julie’s “Great Big (Adoptive) Family.”)
Julie Chambers is privileged to be a mother of eight by way of, homegrown, adoption and fostering. Currently, she is on the adoption journey of having twins. She has been married to her husband for almost twenty-two years. Six of her eight children have special needs varying from autism, seizures, failure to thrive (FTT), cerebral palsy (CP), neurological and developmental delays. Julie also deals with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, an uncommon form of chronic pain that usually affects an arm or a leg and OCD, as a result of her accident in 2004. Julie would not change what happened, as it has opened a whole new world for her. She is a total night owl, enjoys watching the sunrise while blogging. She is never far from a Pepsi or a 6-Pump Mocha Frappuccino along with a few sticks of licorice. With everything, she remembers to always smile no matter what, while finding time to blow bubbles with the kiddos. Connect with her at www.blackandredlicorice.com.