Category Archives: adoption

Nearly Normal

I toted Sean to an ‘unfamiliar to us’ playground. We gathered our things, exited the car and headed for the location.

As we walk through the gate and onto the splash pad, I instantly feel something is different. This is a completely foreign experience and I am not used to it.

Mom’s keep talking to each other, and no one turns around. Not one little kid stops in their tracks to watch us as we come through the gate. There is no undo attention. He simply joins the other kids.

No one pretends that they are not looking at us.

This is because it is the right season to be out of school. Not one person – never mind three – ask him ‘What, no school today?’ He is not a teenager, missing some class period, in the middle of the day. He has just the right skin color for no one to be concerned that he is at the park alone. He matches me perfectly and no one asks ‘is that your son’ or where I got him. He has all of his hair and no one gives him that pitiful looks reserved for children with cancer. He has just the right number of chromosomes and his behavior falls into pretty acceptable social norms.

So we blend.

It is incredibly strange. I don’t often realize the way that I steel myself for the situations I will find myself when I am in the company of several or all of my boys. I get it, and I don’t. Some days I have more tolerance for it and some days less. It’s always there, but during this experience, in it’s absence, I feel a hard time relaxing and settling into quiet oblivion.

It’s odd being nearly normal.

To The Mom Who Left Her Newborn with Down Syndrome

Dear Ruzan,

I’ve read the stories about you and I wonder what it is like to be a headline. I’ve read the comments after the stories and they are very harsh.

I know nothing about you. Neither do the people who are writing the stories or making the comments. I don’t know what the state of your marriage was before your baby was born, your personal struggles, your finances, religious beliefs or your mental health. I know the state I was in after I gave birth, and I would not want anyone judging me on that period of my life. Ever. I do hope, for your own sake, that you have people that care deeply for you around you right now.

I find many facets of your story incredibly intriguing. One is that everyday in the media we hear horrible stories of mothers who have beaten and neglected their children, drowned them, thrown them from bridges or set them on fire. As gross as this is, it is true and many people make the flippant comment – ‘if she only left the baby somewhere safe’.

You’ve done that. Congratulations. I mean that. You left your child in the loving and capable arms of his father who seems to be confident in his ability to love and raise Leo and I pray they will receive all the support they need in their endeavor.

Let me tell you something about myself. I gave birth to my first child who was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly after birth. It is probably one of the most challenging and devastating periods of time for a mother of a child with a profound disability. It can be hard. Really hard.

I knew from the moment I received the diagnosis, that I would fight harder, love him more, become a better version of myself and put him ahead of anything else on the planet. He is one of the great joys of my life.

I also know the struggles I deal with on a daily basis. They are deep and sometimes dark. My son is hard and has many medical and behavioral complications that I never anticipated. I have looked back a certain periods of our family life and wondered how on earth we came out on the other side. I believe any mother of a child with significant special needs will tell you – the highs are gloriously high and the lows are sometimes so low they are scary. This is my life.

Coincidentally, I am also raising a child whose biological mother was incapable of raising him. She told me herself. I can’t imagine admitting that and yet I can tell you that surrendering him and walking away was the best decision she ever made. I look at him and believe in destiny. He belongs with me and his father and his brothers. I wish good things for her and say a prayer ever time I think of her because she gave me one of the greatest gifts I will ever receive.

I even hope for him (and her) that someday it might be possible for them  to forge some type of healthy and productive relationship. I hope that he can accept her for who she is and all she could and could not do. She is no villain. What if she is, in fact, a hero?

I don’t think you are a horrible person, or even a terrible mother. The grief you must be dealing with is probably immense. You have lost the child you thought you were having and you were unable to embrace your new reality. You have determined that you are not able to raise your little boy. You have received lots of negative publicity and many people are very quick to rake you over the proverbial coals – although most of them have never and will never face your situation.

If you are unsure of your decision and need help – please, reach out and get it from whomever you think can help. Now you know where I am.

If you are certain, I wish that all of you the joy and love that is meant for you in this crazy life.

I wish the same for your gorgeous, baby boy.

November is Nat’l Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month and tomorrow is Thanksgiving. They work together for me, so I’ll tell you a story.

Mikey was brought to our house (the week of Thanksgiving) by an emergency unit of DYFS. We signed up for that. We agreed to take children at odd hours, with no items of their own, for very short term stays 🙂

Mikey arrived at our house in a soggy diaper, a football jersey with his puffy dark hair in little, stringy braids. He was brought with a black trash bag filled with 14 prescription medications that we needed to figure out how and why to administer to him. He tried to get into the bath tub with his tiny Air Jordan’s. He ate his weight in pancakes. He didn’t say a word. He just smiled.

000_0020In one way, it was such a strange experience having a child suddenly show up for us to care for and to parent. In another way, it was mundane and normal – we just needed to do the next thing that needed done. It was a surreal experience for me. I wish I could have had insight into his little 16 month-old brain. Mikey was flexible and resilient and he settled into the new sights and sounds and experiences – including his two older brothers – without trouble.

Because Mikey was in foster care, it was unclear how long he would stay with us or if he would permanently join our family. Some people think that we must have spent lots of time pondering and considering foster care and adoption. We really just put one foot in front of the other and kept trekking through the process as it opened up organically. When Mikey had been a part of our family for about 9 months, Dennis said ‘if he can’t go back to his biological family, we are adopting him, right?’ Yes. Of course. That was easy.


I tell Mikey that our family situation and his adoption into our family are not chance or some ‘second-best’ option. I tell him that families formed by adoption are special and blessed. I tell him that this is exactly what was supposed to happen – because it did. I tell him that this plan was written in the stars, from the beginning of time, by the hand of God. I believe it with all my heart.


“Somehow destiny comes into play. These children end up with you and you end up with them. It’s something quite magical.
~ Nicole Kidman

Mikey’s Turn to Turn 11

Mikey came into our lives in the conventional way – via a blue Hyundai. Typical story, right?

When DYFS called us to see if we could take Mikey and his sister, I said “no”. I told them we weren’t ready. I told them that we already had 1 child with significant medical needs and Mikey’s seemed extensive. I told them it just wasn’t a good time. I told them I’d check with my husband.

Dennis told me that we should take them in immediately and who better could deal with Mikey’s issues than me. He said it would be fine. Oh. Okay.

I called back and said yes.

Mikey came to our house in a wet diaper, a football jersey 4 sizes too big and a pair of Nike Air Jordan’s. Half of his hair was a poofy, little afro and the other half was stringy, little braids. He was so enthralled with the prospect of the bathtub that he tried to get in with his tiny shoes on. He came complete with a garbage bag full of 14 medications and a firm ‘good luck’ from the caseworker.000_0007 000_0017 000_0020Mikey was 16 months old and could walk stairs, foot over foot, and catch a tiny bouncy ball repeatedly thrown against the wall. He ate twice his body weight in food, especially fruit and slept through the night. I’ll admit – some of the early years were a blur. It was joyful and precarious. The balance often tipped to the ‘overwhelmed’ side.

It was not a straight line from our first meeting to his adoption nearly 3 years later. Sometimes things got scary and difficult. Once and a while a relative would show up who felt they were capable of caring for Mikey. The thought of someone taking him from us was terrifying. We were told that he was ‘failure to thrive’. I hated those words. Mikey was small – so small. I wanted the doctors to acknowledge he was thriving though – eating, learning, and coming off medications one by one until there were NONE left. Failure to thrive – ha!

Foster care is such a bad situation. It is hard on everyone. It is not a ‘natural’ circumstance to be in. But on June 7, 2007, Mikey name officially changed to Michael Dennis Kenneth Costello. I actually did not revel too much in his adoption day. I woke up and thought, ‘let’s get this mess behind us so we can continue to just be a family.’ I wanted it to be OVER and to BEGIN all at the same time.

100_1034100_1703 100_1765Mikey has always been physically gifted – swimming like a fish at 2 and 3, riding a two-wheeled bike at nearly 4, running faster, jumping higher and skating faster than everyone else 🙂 Everyone is Mikey’s friend and he sees a friend in everyone, he is generous and would give you his last piece of Halloween candy if you asked. When I see my 4 boys together, nothing makes more sense to me. DSC08010 (1)Mikey is simple in a very good way – he sees things just as they are in the moment that he is in. There is nothing else for him. I know I can learn from that – and I am glad that he is right here, in my house, in my life, and in my heart.

Magical Baby Boy

I’m flying through life at the speed of light when the call comes. The social worker (who I plead with me to call ANYTIME) calls and says she needs me to take a baby born today – tomorrow. Wait until you see this one, she says.

I could not even figure out how to be home to receive my visitor.  We had commitment after activity scheduled and my thoughts flew to all I had to do. What about Gavin’s teen group in Princeton and Sean’s impending surgery? There was a playdate scheduled, a meeting to attend and a list of phone calls to make. I wondered how I would get the piles of laundry done, and could really I keep up with everything that needs done around feedings every three hours, diapers and cuddling. It doesn’t matter that I’ve done it before. It always seems more hectic than last time.

I get a little nervous and doubt my abilities to juggle everything. Butterflies take up residence in my stomach and wonder if there is something wrong with me. But since I can’t resist, I say yes.

I keep a box of a dozen newborn outfits in the attic and a flannel blanket. I run around, sweep floors, throw the clothes in the laundry and grab a basket to stick all the accessories in. I clean and wipe and organize until I feel a little better.

The social worker stays only a few minutes to deliver the little package. He comes complete with a dozen tiny bottles of ready-made soy formula and I get his schedule from her. I marvel at him for a few moments, I dub him ‘Romeo’, and she tells me that they will probably call the family in about 24 hours. A short stop for this little traveler.

Then, things just roll on like nothing even happened.  (Can someone remind me of that next time I freak out?) He sleeps and the boys and I finish some academic work we were in the midst of when he came. I make dinner and bake cookies with a tiny spectator.

This baby has some type of magic. He plants my feet directly into the here and now and I can only do what’s in front of me – because nothing else really matters. Gavin and Mikey both take their turns getting some baby-love and Sean makes sure that I am reminded that he is, in fact, the baby of this family. He sits on my lap and hangs on my shirt. The night wears on exactly like it does every other night.

I stare intensely at him each time I change his diaper. His miniature parts remind me that what matters most is food, and warmth and family and love. It’s in the fore front of my mind for these blessed hours – and that’s really nice. When I feed him, I am amazed at how it is he is in my living room. I think of a bible verse in the book of Hebrews that says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.”

I study his face for any indication.

I pray often for his birthmother during our brief time . I pray that she finds peace, somehow, in her selfless plan for her baby. I wish all types of wonderful things for her. I hope that something in her whispers that what she has done is good and right. Because it is. People often ask me why a certain baby was given up for adoption. I never ask and I am never told, but I don’t believe there is a reason that is less worthy of another. Adoption is good

At 3:30 a.m., I whisper to him, ‘Where did you come from?’ I don’t mean his delicious, warm little body, but the him that is inside, the mystical that makes us ‘us’. His baby soul. I wonder where he was before he was here – here on my couch and here on the planet. But that’s too much for 3:30, so we do soy formula, and spit up, and cold wipes and too big, smallish diapers.

He left quickly and unexpectedly due to some health issues that needed to be checked out. I didn’t even get a good-bye kiss. But better than that, I got a beautiful text of a picture of his parents holding him with huge smiles on their faces. They saw it too. He’s magical.

Aren’t they all.