Four years ago, I legally became a mother. The adoption day was no less special because I had already been parenting Danielle for 15 months. On that day, I truly claimed my daughter. No one could take her away.
I met Danielle when she was six-and-a-half years old. She’d been through some difficult times and a number of different families—none she could truly call hers. With me, she’d finally learn she had someone to count on. She couldn’t count on her birth mother, who abandoned all but the two youngest of her ten children. (Danielle was third youngest.) She couldn’t count on her foster family, who told her they wanted to adopt three of her older siblings, but not her.
Danielle was to move in six weeks after we met, but it was delayed due to the death of her sister. The funeral was the last time she ever saw her birth mom. The next move date was postponed when her birth father showed up and fought termination. He had been accused of abusing other children, though not charged formally. I was told there was a chance he could regain custody.
Danielle spent the summer visiting me every other weekend and wondering where she would live. I spent the summer falling in love. As weeks turned to months, I learned how little she resembled her profile. She wanted dresses and hair bows—strange from a child described as a “tomboy,” dressed in her older brothers’ hand-me-down sweats and black high tops. I wanted her to be who she was, not what was convenient.
Two weeks after Danielle’s seventh birthday, I got the call: The trial was over; parental rights had been terminated. I was so excited! But I knew it would be bittersweet for Danielle. When I arrived to pick her up, I found her sitting on a broken toy box, with garbage bags full of clothes. Neither Danielle nor her brothers cried. They knew all too well about goodbyes.
Though she was escaping the abusive situation they lived in, Danielle was devastated to leave her brothers. Four years later, they were removed, and the foster parents lost their license. Of ten birth siblings, Danielle was the only one to be adopted and will probably be the only one to escape the cycle of their past.
At first, Danielle had no reason to believe I would be any different from the other adults she’d known. She was used to taking care of herself and had trouble relinquishing control. During the first nine months, she threw hour-long tantrums. At one point, she even told me she was trying to push me over the edge.
But after the finalization, things changed. She knew I wouldn’t leave her. This didn’t mean everything was a walk in a rose garden, but there were plenty of reminders of how lucky we were to have found each other.
A year following the adoption, when we were going through a rough time, her teacher asked me to read the life story Danielle had written. After a few sentences about her moves and different families, we got to the part about me: “Then I had to move in with this lady.” (Ugh, what a description!) “I had to get used to her, and it was hard. She gave me a kitten on our one-year anniversary. Then she adopted me—it was the best day of my life!” Wow. I needed to hear that.
A few weeks ago, she told me that she is jealous of her little sister, Carina, whom I adopted as an infant. She wishes I’d been there when she was a baby. Oh, how I wish that, too! Danielle is the reason I became a mom. I’ve learned so much from her. No matter how hard it is, she keeps going and believes angels are watching out for her and her brothers. She’ll always be my baby.
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