Strangers Always Asked Her “Is She Really Your Child?”

Story by Jeena Wilder

Sometimes I feel there is a stigma placed on adoption that it is only for rich married couples that cannot have their own children and I hate this stigma. Adoption can be and is a beautiful process for all different types of families. No matter the circumstances, a child is being welcomed into a loving home by parents who will love and guide that child. 

Drue and I met at EFY, basically a church camp for youths. My husband wrote his number on the back of my camp book but had horrible handwriting and It took 4 years and Facebook for us to finally reconnect but when we reconnected we didn’t waste any time. We started dating in September, got engaged in Nov and married in March of the next year. ⁣

Right off the bat we both knew we wanted a large family. I remember before we had any kids that we would almost jokingly say we wanted eight children. Then we had our first child and oh boy! With each consecutive child we would start to subtract one child from our total count. After we had our first born then we were ok with having only 7 children. Imagine our surprise when we realized we are actually half way there before we turned 30!

For the most part we haven’t struggled with having children, though I do have hard pregnancies. I suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum which initially makes me lose about 20-35 lbs and lots of hospital visits with each pregnancy. So how did we end up in a situation of adoption? It actually goes back to my husbands side of the family for a few generations. Some families are destined or blessed to have multiple adoption throughout generations and we have been blessed to continue this tradition. My husbands grandmother, mom, and aunt have all been adopted.

Our journey to adoption has been filled with happiness, joy, tears, and lots of prayer. We had decided to travel nurse as a family before our oldest son started kindergarten. This would allow us to travel the country and get paid to do it! Our first stop on our travel nursing adventure was a visit to our grandmother. While we were visiting we received terrible news that my sister in law had been arrested and our nieces and nephews were about to be placed in foster if someone was unable to pick them up from school the next day. ⁣Our hearts sank! What could we do to help? That was when Drue and I sat down and had a very important conversation. What could we do to help? Could we handle three more children while travel nursing? We just had a baby, did we think it sensible to add more children to our family right now?

It just so happened that because we were visiting our grandmother we could take the family and make it to where our nieces and nephew were within 12 hours. Upon arriving to this city with three children under 4 years old in our mini van we were able to connect with a few friends for a place to stay. We picked two of our nieces and nephews up from school the next day. The third niece was with a family friend in the same city because she was only 2 years old and not in school. ⁣

At this time the full picture started to unfold of what situation we were actually dealing with. Because of how quickly everything happened we never had time to truly search for a lawyer and when we did find one we would find out that they couldn’t work on our case due to conflict of interest. We went to court with hopeful hearts but scared. We knew there was a chance the judge wouldn’t want to listen to us due to not having a lawyer. But what could we do? Every other lawyer we contacted couldn’t work with us. As we sat down in the court room we waited until we could tell the judge that we were the best home for all three children to live with. Well due to previous legal proceedings the older niece and nephew were ordered to go live with a grandmother that they had not seen in years. The court also ordered the older two children to go to a foster until the grandmother could arrive. Luckily that was the next day but it was gut wrenching to hand off your own family members to a couple that you have never met. What would they eat? Where would they sleep? Would they be scared at bedtime? All of those things and more raced through our minds as we brought them to the DCFS office. ⁣

Much to our surprise the couple put most of our fears to rest. They were genuine, sweet and easily connected with the kids. We gave our niece and nephew our cellphone number and imparted as much love as we could in that short time. Through tears and hugs we walked them out to the foster families car and said our goodbyes. This really strengthened our resolve to make sure the youngest niece did not endure this same process. ⁣

It was so frustrating but our main focus was getting them into a good home and not letting them end up as part of the system. Once we knew that the older two siblings would be ok we then focused our attention to the youngest niece. ⁣

At this point we knew we needed to talk to the mom about signing over guardianship to us. Surely she would see that our home, staying with family would be best for her daughter. We brought a inmate phone card just to make that 15 minute phone call to plead our case. I remember that I had Drue start off the conversation because I was too nervous I would say the wrong thing. Eventually as we talked about the events that happened that week we got on the topic about having our niece stay with us. “No, I just don’t think my daughter staying with you guys would be best” the bio mom said. As simple as that. No reason or explanation. I looked at Drue with desperation hoping he would see I wanted to press the issue. But he just looked at me and shook his head no. Afterwards when we hung up, I asked Drue why he didn’t want to push it further?  He said “I felt impressed that at this time I don’t think it would have made a difference what we said to her, her decision wouldn’t have changed. But I do know that she’s our family and we’re gonna do what we can to make sure she’s in a good loving home.” A few days later the mother decided to signed over guardianship only to the paternal grandfather. So she went to live with her grandparents for the next few months. 

However before she went to live with her grandparents, we got to spend time with this precious soul. Can I say she has the most innocent and sweetest smile. It was at that time that we knew we would only be traveling long enough to do one nursing contract and then head back home. During our travel nursing assignment we kept in touch with our niece. Both my husband and I and her paternal grandparents agreed that our home would be best in the end for her. So again we talked to her biological mother and let her know that we felt like our home would be best for our niece. She was in a home with no other children her age and her grandparents were past the time to taking care of young children. I’m not sure what changed her heart (whatever it was we are so grateful for that decision) three months later we were able to welcome our niece into our home.⁣ 

So here we were, we have just welcomed the birth of our third child 9 months ago and now we were adding another child into our home. We were so lucky she fit right in with our three kids. Within a couple of weeks of having her in our home we knew we wanted to adopt her but there was still a chance of reuniting her with her parents. So we waited, but after a year those chances of her being reunited were slim. At that point we were legally ready to have her as a permanent part of our family. ⁣

It was a long road. Having a kin adoption is difficult, you’re wanting to make sure to not step on any family’s toes while still making sure your number one priority is this sweet child that you’ve been in trusted with. ⁣Then we started noticing she was having a rough time making friend and connect with children her age. Plus with all the changes she had happen she started having really bad anxiety. She would often wake up crying. Little things would set her off and she would have outbursts of emotions. Normal events or changes in her life, would cause huge anxiety attacks and she had a hard time coping. At this time Drue and I decided that therapy would be best. It was the best decision, not only was she getting the help she needed but we had a professional explaining what was happening to her and how we could help.

One thing that I didn’t expect to have a hard time with when we had our daughter join our family was her hair! For some reason I expected it would be very easy but I just struggled. To me, my bi-racial children’s hair were way easier to manage. Although I didn’t know what to do, I knew I had to figure it out. An outwardly way I like to show love is by making sure my children alway have clean clothing and their hair done every morning before school and church. I was determined to get it right. I even remember sending mass texts to all of my white friends asking for tips and trying every single one of them. I would even wake up thirty minutes earlier than our normal time just so I wouldn’t have to rush and stress my girls out by trying to do three heads in the morning before school. Let me tell ya doing three hairstyles in the morning in 8 minutes is doable but not advisable.

Often times when I’m alone with our four children I get from strangers “is she really your child?” “are you really her mother?” In front of my children! It’s hard because instead of people just accepting that I’m just a mom caring for my kids and running errands like any other mom. They want to question if I should be with this child. It hurts because it could start to put questions in my child mind that shouldn’t be there. She has a mother and father who care for her, she should have to worry why everyone wonders why she’s my daughter.

The days leading up to the adoption were stressful. There was still a chance the biological mom could prolong the process. The  biological father had consented to adoption but she was still struggling with the finality of it. Here we are going before a judge with what we now consider our daughter and an integral part of our family. What if the judge for whatever reason wouldn’t recognize how she fit in our family?

I want to say that the adoption day couldn’t have been more perfect. We arrived with our family and a couple close friends. The judge was so kind and actually came down to the table we were sitting at in the court room. He made our daughter feel special and then made sure to include the rest of the children in the process of the adoption. Our sweet daughter was adopted on October 16, 2019.

I remember I just kept uttering “I can’t believe this day is finally here”. The same happiness and euphoric feeling I had at the birth of my other children is exactly how I felt the day of our daughters adoption. 

I would like to end with my husbands thoughts and feelings following the adoption. “I have fond memories of my Grandpa Harris. One specific memory he shared was that a long time ago he was deployed to go to war and fight for our freedoms. During this time he would spend some of his req time at the orphanage with children of the country he was in. The war was terrible and like most wars neither side “won”. On departure my Grandpa decided he was not going to leave without doing something good for this country. He proceeded to adopt a young baby girl he had a special connection with.”⁣

I’m not at war and never have faced the horrors my Grandfather did. However, I have seen terrible things happen to good people and felt the same urge to do something good for this country and those I see in need. I hope that i am honoring his memory and fighting for the good things in life even in terrible situations.⁣

I look forward to providing this vibrant young girl, who will be an amazing young women and then a wonderful mother, a home that she can feel safe in and be herself. A home that she is sheltered from the terrible parts of life until she is ready to venture on her own adventures.  I am proud to call you one of my children.”⁣ 

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