Monday, June 29, 2009
on being an older parent
As I was growing up, all I wanted to do was have children. There was never really any other dream for me. For a short while, I thought about being a veterinarian, but there was too much schooling involved, and it seemed overwhelming.
I met my husband when I was 15 years old, and he was 19 years old. We dated for three years, and then married. My husband and I were very good, and followed everyone’s advice to wait a few years to have a family, and spend some time getting to know each other.
Finally the time came when we thought we could manage a baby. We had a house and two cars. I quit my job at a day care center, and began to keep children in our home, because we knew we didn’t want me to work away from the baby. The Lord blessed us quickly, and within three months, we had a baby on the way.
This was an unbelievable thing for me!! Imagine that “I” would have a baby!! I was so hungry to know what was going on inside that ‘secret place’ as the Bible calls it. I devoured all the library books I could find on pregnancy. I would go to book stores and just sit and read. I lay on my bed with my hands on my tummy, trying to just imagine that there was a person in there.
Months past, my belly grew, and one night, two and a half weeks before my due date, I went to bed with a sick stomach, and as I lay there, suddenly I felt a ‘ping’, and water began to pour out of my body. My bag had broken, and I knew I would have a baby that night.
Rachael was born, the most beautiful 5 and a half pound baby girl I had ever seen. No one had ever had a more perfect child; I had no doubt about that. I never knew anyone could ever love another person as totally as I loved that child.
Three years later, we added another perfect child to our family, a second daughter named Celeste. She was bigger at 7 pound and 13 ounces, but I thought she was just as wonderful.
Since we had been brought up with the zero population growth teaching in the 60’s and 70’s, we thought two children were all we should have. I began to do foster care to fulfill my longing to have a large family. More than 40 children moved through our home in four years. After a newborn boy I particularly loved left us, I begged for another baby, and soon, we had our son Gage on the way. We had a surprise – not an accident - and Max was born, and now we had two girls and two boys.
Moving back to Texas after six years in Oklahoma, we let our foster care license go.
Once back in Texas, I met a ‘quiverfull’, homeschooling mom who became my best friend. She loaned me books, taught me Bible verses, introduced me to new people and it wasn’t long before more children were on the way in our family. Two more children, were born during my 30’s, bringing our total of boys to four and when I was 42, the Lord blessed me with another beautiful girl. That seemed to end my childbearing.
I felt content with my seven children. My first two daughters grew up, married, and gave me nine grandchildren, some of them the ages of my younger children. They spent a lot of time with me, and my house stayed full.
Then, Rachael and her husband decided to become foster parents. Her foster children intrigued me, and I thought about getting a license again, but kept putting it off until she got two children, ages 6 and 3, that I just fell in love with. As a year went by, and termination of parental rights were scheduled for these two, my husband and I did indeed begin the process of getting a foster/adopt license to try and adopt these two children. However, it was soon discovered that their mother was pregnant again, and three weeks after the discovery, she gave birth to a premature baby boy. Being in our 50’s, I couldn’t imagine that the state would also let us adopt a newborn, but we continued to express our interest in these children, and let the state know we would take all three of them.
The pregnancy gave the mother six more months to try and work the plan the state laid out for her, and it began to seem like she would get her children back. However, at the very last minute, her boyfriend learned he was not the baby’s father, and the mother ended up relinquishing the baby and taking the older two children home with her. The baby’s attorney wanted to know, did we want to adopt the baby without the older two?
I remember that day I was asked that question. The baby was at my house, and I took him out on the porch and rocked. I looked at this child I had grown to love so much, and thought, we never would have even thought of adopting a newborn! We were so old! But I heard the Lord say to me “This was my plan all along. It was the baby I wanted you to have!” I cried as I rocked him.
A year later, when the baby was 18 months old, he became our new son, and we named him Luke.
Since we had our foster care license, we continued to foster. A week after Luke’s adoption was final, in the middle of the night; CPS called us, and soon knocked on our door with a two and a half year old girl, Angel-Leah. She was so beautiful and so verbal. We fell in love with her, all while trying to help her family get this precious child back home. It was obvious that they loved her, but the mother and father were too drug addicted and mentally ill to work their plan, and after a year, Angel-Leah became available for adoption too, and one day short of 20 months after she came to live with us, at age 4, she also became our daughter.
During this time, her mother had another baby. A family member stepped forward to take this new little boy. We didn’t hear a lot about him for a few months, until his parents suddenly said they gave up on him, they knew they would not be able to quit using drugs, and would not be visiting him anymore. The family members who were taking care of him approached CPS and us, and wanted to know if we would be willing to adopt him so that he could grow up with his sister. So one day before this baby turned six months old, he came to our house, too.
About a year ago, I went to court and witnessed the termination of his parent’s rights to him. There was a 90 day appeal period, and then the state got working on his adoption. We finalized it January 30, 2009.
So here we are, 55 and 59 years old, with three children ages five and under, along with our 33, 30, 23, 21, 18, 15, and 12 year old children. Sometimes people will chide us for adopting such young children at such an older age. They say it’s unfair, because we had birth children, and we are so old, to adopt babies when there are so many women in the world who cannot have babies, and wait many years to adopt. Why do babies seem to come to us so easily?
For one thing, we are willing to risk our hearts doing foster care. A foster parent does not have any special hardness of heart that keeps them from getting attached. Our hearts are broken on many occasions. And yet, we are willing to allow that to happen to us, so that a child can have a safe haven while their families are in turmoil.
Two of my children were born drug addicted. Both of the birth mothers involved drank and smoked. I am going to have to have the baby tested for Hepatitis C before too much longer. We run a risk that any of them may have mental illness later on, since that is a problem with their birth parents. I do believe as an older mother, with my birth children on their way to grown, I may be able to handle that better than a younger mother.
Also, my five year old daughter grieves greatly for her birth mother. I think if I did already have birth children, or even if she were my first adopted child, I might not be able to handle always having this birth mother between us, and knowing that I am second in her heart (she thinks). But I now have the maturity to allow her to love that first mother, and to continue to love her, and to let this little girl grieve when she needs to grieve.
To those who tell me (often) that I will be in my 70’s when these children are grown, that is very true. But I will be 70 with a GROWN child, not 70 with a two year old child!!
That is, unless the Lord decides to continue to bless us.