Meet my sister, Kim: My name is Kim. I have been married to Joseph for twenty years and together we have three adult children, and are the grandparents to four delicious little creatures.
We all have choices, right? Throughout our lives we are faced with many choices every day. Some really don’t amount to a lot – as my mom would say, if it doesn’t matter in five years then it doesn’t matter. However, some are life altering.
Because of other people’s choices Joseph and I made a life altering decision: the decision to gain permanent custody of our two oldest grandchildren, while also giving our blessing for my daughter’s youngest child to be adopted so that he could have the life God intended from his conception. Let me explain the dynamics of our story and how letting go allowed one child to live fully. For any that have followed my blog, you know that my daughter is currently incarcerated in the federal corrections system, serving a sentence for drug trafficking.
My daughter had three children. The oldest two by her then-husband, while the youngest child’s father is someone she has chosen not to disclose. On October 11, 2015, my husband and I received the phone call that would change our lives. On that day, via my youngest sister, we gained physical custody of and began the process to gain full custody of our two oldest grandchildren. Both of their parents are drug addicts and traffickers. Both have extensive criminal histories. Both have served a considerable amount of time in and out of jail over the past seven years.
This was not the first time my husband and I gained custody of our oldest grandchild. We first gained custody of her when she was about 1 1/2 years old. We had her in our custody for about 1 1/2 years. We “had to give her back” as my husband says, because, at the time my daughter was sober, employed and ready to live independently while being supervised through a felony drug court program. Although our hearts were broken because we had to return her to her mom, we were also happy that this was a new beginning for us.
You see, when we began dating and then got married, we had three very young children between us. Therefore, we began our relationship with children and had no opportunity to live as a couple first. I know that there are many people that live in blended families and I do not think anyone would disagree when I say that it can be quite a challenge to keep blended families together and healthy and happy. Ours certainly wasn’t idyllic during a lot of our years together, but finally we were empty nesters and on our own! We were excited about that prospect. For a minute anyway.
After we received physical custody of the kids in October 2015, our main goal was to make sure they were taken care of. A considerable amount of time was spent making sure that we had all of their identifying information and birth information so that after temporary custody was gained I could take them to the doctor’s office and the dentist office. My daughter and their father during this time were living a life that revolved around drugs. There was a very limited supervised visitation schedule the Judge initially entered and after maybe one or two visits, we went back to court and my daughter was told she could have no contact with the children until she passed a drug screen and received drug treatment.
Things were rough. I heard from her occasionally and it was venomous. At that point, my child weighed less than 100 pounds and didn’t even sound like herself. I quit responding to text messages and voicemail messages. I let the silence speak for me. We continued caring for these two little people, all the while worried sick about my daughter’s youngest child. You see, she had told one man that he was the father, and she allowed him to have the baby while she was running and gunning. Her addiction caused her to pretty much lose all contact with the baby. The children were separated, as two lived with us and the baby (our Zebra) lived with his “father”. I tried to keep our Zebra as much as possible and stayed in contact with the man who he lived with. I knew in my heart he was likely not the baby’s father, but there was nothing I could do legally at the time because I was knee-deep in attempting to help heal the older two, working full time and, Joseph and I working our way through the legal system in an effort to maintain custody.
Then one night my mom said, “You know, Brandi would love to have H”, and she asked me what I thought about that. At the time I just said okay, I know, I will think about it. The truth was that my sister already had six children. She certainly didn’t need to add one more. She was also married, which caused me to wonder what does my brother-in-law think about that potential really? How would this work? And then I talked to Brandi. She is the youngest of my sisters. She and I love each other deeply, but we haven’t always been close. A few years before all of this took place, she and I began meeting once a month for lunch. Just us. It was exactly what our other sister had prayed for . . . it built our relationship. We discovered who each other is and we grew to depend on one another.
As I’ve said before, I do not believe in coincidences. I believe in God. I believe it was His hand that began to knit our relationship together so that we could be prepared for what He was going to work out in our family. I agreed that it would be best for our Zebra to not live with the man named as his “father” but that he should live with my sister and her family. Because Brandi had been the one to physically taken the kids on that October day in 2015, she was given the task by the court to monitor visitation with the kids and their parents. During the visit with my daughter and the oldest two children, my sister asked her permission to take the baby to her home until things got better. My daughter signed the necessary paperwork.
Long story short, my sister and her husband gained physical custody of our Zebra and began the conversation with me about their adopting him. Whoa . . . I wasn’t prepared for that. Seriously. We were in the trenches with a toddler who was non-verbal and a kindergartener with a lot of scars that weren’t visible to the naked eye. I chose not to acknowledge the thought of his adoption. Wouldn’t that truly mean that I’ve severed any hope that my child may find sobriety again and be able to parent her children? What did that say about me, as his grandmother, that I would “allow” another to raise him if my daughter couldn’t. Would it damage my daughter permanently if she was asked to give up her parental rights to this child?
But after prayer and much thought and discussion, I knew that this was the answer for our family. This was a way for us to make sure our Zebra was in a good home, was loved, was nurtured and had a hope for a future. It was a way for me to step back and take a breath and be able to pour the majority of my energy into the little ones that we had in our home. I then had to broach the subject with my child. I told her then that she had chosen to give birth to this child and she could now, as his mother, choose to give him life again through adoption. That was one of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had. My child chose to do the right thing. She chose to give him life, twice! His adoption was finalized right before Christmas of last year.
As for the other two . . . we have gained permanent custody. We went to court to seek permanent custody; and, again, my daughter told the Judge that she wanted us to have permanent custody of the kids. She chose not to contest it. Their father did contest it. He wanted another chance. He was not provided that. He completed his incarceration and as of this writing, has not taken any of the necessary steps he should in order to have supervised visits. I refuse to budge on the parameters we’ve set. If these children are subjected to the neglect and chaos again that they’ve already suffered due to their parent’s actions we may never be able to truly help them heal. We will not take that chance at this delicate time in their healing.
My husband and I realized that the most important thing we could do was raise these two children. We knew we had given up our chance to be just a couple until these children are grown. That was a sacrifice we willingly made. People often ask me, “how do you do it” or say to me, “you’re doing an amazing thing” . . . and I still have trouble comprehending those statements. I don’t stop and think about “how we do it”, we simply get up each day and take care of our family . . . God chose us to do this. Nor can I process the fact that some people wouldn’t do this or couldn’t do this for their grandchildren and am grateful that we are able to.
Things have changed in the past two years. I was able to retire with a full pension, although it means I’ve taken a pay cut. I knew that God was weighing on me the need to retire so that I could focus on our family. So no matter how tight finances get, and trust me they get unbelievably tight some months, I knew retiring was what God wanted me to do. I cannot say enough what an amazing husband I have to walk this path with me. He gave me his blessing when I brought up retirement and he supports us every single day. This time I have had to learn how to lean on him, on my mom, on my sister and on my friends. This time I knew I couldn’t tackle this as super-woman, because it’s not about me. It’s about the kids and it’s about knowing that we have been appointed by God to raise these kids. We don’t get to travel or do spur of the moment things together as a couple, but we get to have the warmest, snuggliest morning hugs ever. That’s a trade we both have gladly made.
As for our Zebra, there have been many miracles in the wake of this little man’s life. He brought together myself and my youngest sister. He brought together my daughter and her aunt. His presence created a new, larger family that can show him love and nurturing everyday of his life. He created a new definition of family in our family. We are just now beginning to get questions from the kids about the dynamics. If he is adopted, then you aren’t MaMaw, you are his aunt and we are his cousins. Uh no . . . you will always be brothers and sister and we will always be MaMaw and PaPaw. Hard conversations will be had with all of the kids over the next few years, but there are three strong, determined women in their lives – their grandmother, their biological mother, and their adopted mother that will help them as they navigate these waters. So as I said earlier – choices do create families. Our home now has two little ones that keep us busy every single moment of every day and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Our Zebra has gained a new family with a new future. Hard choices can lead to beautiful results. What do you wanna bet, God already knew how His plan would unfold . . . He just needed us to participate in the ride. So for anyone that is raising a second generation or is considering adopting . . . seek wise counsel, pray, God will give you the courage to move forward and you will likely be blown away in how your life will unfold . . . and then you will realize you couldn’t imagine it any other way. Jeremiah 29:11 . . . For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
**You can find her blog MOM BY PROXY here by clicking on that link**