This post is Grassroots, meaning a reader posted it directly. If you see an issue with it, contact an editor.
If you’d like to post a Grassroots post, click here!

August 16, 2022

Journey to Motherhood

The photo above is my children Maia, Lily, August, Tegan and Olive

I remember being seven years old and playing with my Cabbage Patch dolls on the front lawn. I had the whole setup; playpen, swing, crib and clothes. I was always the mommy. Sometimes there was a daddy, but it was rare. My name for some reason was always Carrie Baker. Not sure where I came up with this alter ego, but I’m sure it was some sort of self-protection.

I didn’t date much in high school and reflecting back I know why. When I was 22 I met a boy and we became serious fairly quickly. My lack of experience in dating and relationships allowed me to get involved in a toxic situation.  During this relationship, I tried to get pregnant and was never successful. I saw a fertility specialist and was told my only option was IVF, which wasn’t covered by insurance. The relationship ended for a variety of reasons and I decided I need to leave the state and find a new life.

I met a girl online and through this journey learned my lack of dating in high school was related to my sexual orientation. I fell in love fast and we were engaged in three years. I told her I wanted children and she was on board. We started the IVF process with the first doctor I could find on Yelp. Sadly, many eggs were retrieved, but the cycle was a failure. I posted on social media trying to find another facility as I simply didn’t trust this one. I was given a referral to one and was told by several people, you will get pregnant with this doctor. Again, several eggs and transferred three, but another failed cycle. We took a break as my heartache was to large to process. I knew so many women getting pregnant with IVF, but not me. Finally, I found a doctor who was in the news for getting a grandmother pregnant as a surrogate. She tested me from A to Z and said it was simply my PCOS preventing me from getting pregnant. I wanted it so badly! We did one more cycle and during this cycle my partner’s mother passed away from lung cancer. A friend went with me for the retrieval and transfer. I felt in my heart this was the one. This would work! I was picking names and building a registry. I flew to be with my partner the day after my transfer. Two weeks later I learned it was another failed cycle. I was done trying. I asked her about adoption, but she would just joke and say how about we travel. Finally one day, I asked her to consider getting pregnant. She told me she didn’t want kids and she was doing it for me. My heart was shattered. I stayed with her another year knowing the relationship was over. I felt lied to and betrayed and couldn’t move past it.

I met my now wife, Julie, in 2013. She had a child from another relationship. She was 5.5 years old and its as instant love for me. She attached herself to me fairly quickly. I talked to Julie early on about my need/desire to have children. She also wanted more children. She did IVF and we had a positive pregnancy test. We were so excited. We sat for hours making a registry. We planned our cloth diapers, baby crib, and car seat. We were so ready and excited. We even announced it on social media. She was 7 weeks along.

I went on a work trip and she called me that she was bleeding. They had her do a blood test, but we knew. She lost the pregnancy two days later. Her mental health from the journey alone was so fragile, it was best for her to go back on her medication. We decided to take a break from from IVF and try again later. I ended up getting a job transfer to Texas from Chicago, so a cross country move was in the works.

The transition to moving wasn’t an easy one. Our daughter was struggling in school. Her father hadn’t joined us down here yet. It was just a complete clusterfuck. When things started to get settled, Julie came home with an idea. She worked in early intervention for a state agency as a services coordinator and special skills training birth to three. She came home one day wanting to foster children. I was 100% against it. She pushed more, but I said no. I went out to see a movie with my friend. She said, “I fostered and adopted. Just do it already.” Her saying that to me made me realize, that perhaps my journey was to foster? I went on google and called the first agency, it started with an A and at 8pm, they answered their phone. We did the classes and were licensed in five weeks.

The first placement they tried to match us with was three kids. We waited a week and were told they went elsewhere. We had over 50 additional emails. We weren’t in a position to take in a sibling set as a newer licensed home. One random Thursday, our case manager called us and said check your email. We had a word doc, baby girl born early at hospital in NICU. Being transferred to children’s hospital for surgery. That’s it. We said YES!

I’ll never forget the day, December 10, 2015. The day I became a mother. The day my life and world completely changed. She was so small. We were told she was a 24 week preemie. She wasn’t named and was called Natalie because that was her intended name. She was 3.5 months old and sort of funny looking, but I was in love. The case worker told us you will adopt this baby, but I cannot tell you that legally. I met her birth mother at court on January 16, 2016. She asked me about baptism. She thanked me for loving her baby, then disappeared. The department tried to find her or family. They were unsuccessful and in June 2016, parents rights were terminated. We adopted Tegan Amelia on November 4, 2016.

In May of 2016 we received a phone call for a baby girl seven weeks old. We again said YES. Her name was Raven and she was so beautiful and so big! She was wearing six month clothes already. Her case was unique, the parents were involved. They loved and wanted their baby very much. Sadly, CPS wasn’t supportive or helped much in completing their services. We adopted our now Olive Grace on August 23, 2017. Our girls were 7 moths apart. It sure did feel like twins.

I wanted to keep our home open, but Julie was complete. I felt like we had more love to give. We moved to a larger home July 7th, 2017. There were boxes everywhere and the place was a mess, but we were called for another baby girl. She was two days old and was going to Michigan in a few weeks. We said YES! I think we always said yes at this point. Six months into her case the judge denied the move for a variety of reasons. He asked in court if we would adopt and of course we said YES! Maia Nicole was adopted February 6, 2019.

On December 13, 2018 the birth parents of Olive called us that they were at the ER having a baby. Would we take placement? We of course said YES! We sadly assumed CPS would automatically place with us. We were there for the birth and stayed a week visiting the baby and bonding. At placement our agency said no, and provided zero explanation. I filed a petition with the court and on January 25, 2019 the judge gave us permanent custody. Our son August Halsted was adopted November 2020. This completes the journey and we have five amazing children.

So, I thought.

My marriage failed at the end of 2020 and I filed for divorce. There were a multitude of reasons for the failure, we both played a part. Covid, unemployment, mental health and more. I started dating someone rather quickly and during my divorce the kids and I moved in with her. I had been unemployed for 18 months due to Covid. In May of 2021, the same birth mother called me. She said she had a baby boy, would I come and get him. Without asking my new partner, I said YES. For privacy reasons, I can’t share more details.

I never imagined my journey would include adoption five times or foster care. Twelve kids have come through our home, each with their own unique story and trauma. I have learned compassion through this journey. The birth families and the children all have this major loss. However, if we can foster the family and keep the relationships open, it can ease the wounds and allow healing for everyone. Olive and August’s birth parents visit often. They are amazing people and at their core are the most loving people I’ve met. They love their children, enough to know they couldn’t parent them. I learned that addiction doesn’t make bad people. I’ve discovered I am not to judge anyone and a their life journey. This has been the most epic journey of my life and I’m so thankful for all those failed IVF cycles. God had his own plan for me and sometimes unanswered prayers are the best.

What I didn’t know and caused me to update this article is the true trauma of adoption. Each one of our children has a unique set of special needs. There are challenges that come with trauma and sadly, very limited support from the state. Navigating services and insurance was difficult. Do I have regrets? Not a single one. What advice would I give another foster family? You are not here to be adoption motivated. You are not here to expand your family through foster care. You are here to support, nurture and love a family, not just the child(ren). You are not to judge without walking in their shoes. Find local foster villages and groups. Talk to other foster families. The biggest and best lesson, learn to take a pause. Suck in the good energy of the journey and let out the negative. You do not need to understand anyones journey, but your own. DO NOT take away their genetic connection to the earth should you adopt. Allow them that history and safe contact. It is not YOUR story, is is theirs. Do not discuss their story in front of them without their consent. Remember, it’s a honor you raise these children as your own. Love them, they are your own. Do not forget where they came from. I guarantee you, regardless of their choices, the first family loves them.

A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The MAGNITUDE of that tragedy and the DEPTH of that privilege are not lost on me

Jody Landers

Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Kat Maerz  |  Contribution: 1,455