I was sitting in the hospital bed holding Isaiah as Alianna and Nana (Jason’s mom) came into my room, with Aunt Ginger and cousin Eliza right behind them. Ali was quietly grinning as she came right up to say hi to her new brother and get a hug from me. “Do you want to hold him?” She nodded. She climbed up onto the bed and nestled in next to me so I could help her. “Look, Mommy, his bones aren’t too soft!” she said has she touched his forehead. I had explained before about being very careful holding little babies, especially being gentle with and supporting their heads and necks. The first picture of them together captured that moment.
I grew up with an older sister and brother. I can’t imagine growing up without siblings. While Ali has five biological half-siblings, we don’t see them often. I really wanted her to have a sibling to grow up with, under the same roof, with the same parents. Zay was the answer to that prayer. Since getting pregnant, I’ve prayed many times for their relationship and I continue to do so. I hope they grow up to be the best of friends. I pray for a strong, loving bond between them. Seeing it come to life fills my heart with so much joy. She adores him. He adores her. She reads books to him. She rushes to comfort him when he’s upset. She sings him songs and gives him his pacifier. She helps with baths and diaper changes. She hugs and kisses him and rubs her soft cheeks against his face. He turns his face toward her and smiles. He watches her. He reaches out toward her. She’s quick to tell anyone we meet, “I’m a big sister. He’s my little brother. His name is Isaiah.” She’s so proud of him and her role. Jason and I are so proud of her!
1 Comment | Family, Family: Froggie/Isaiah, Family: Precious/Ali | Tagged: #aliandzay, alianna, brother sister, isaiah, siblings | Permalink
Posted by mahlbrandt
After living for three months as (foster) brother and sister in the summer of 2013, Termain and Alianna will always think of each other as brother-sister-friends it seems, and I hope it stays that way. (He was originally nicknamed Buzz Lightyear here.) I’m beyond grateful to his mom allowing us to stay a part of their lives as friends (that still feel a lot like family) over a year after they were officially reunified. A couple Saturdays ago we had the privilege of babysitting Termain for several hours. We get together every few months but this is the first time he was with us without his mom. We were all a little nervous about how he’d do, since being at our house stirs up a lot of traumatic memories from the time he was separated from his mom. Thankfully, he did great! He and Ali play so well together and their love for each other is obvious.
I just realized I never shared the photos from our last visit with them at Baby Vegas (AKA Chuck E Cheese) for his 4th birthday back in September. They wanted to do every game together.
Leave a Comment » | Family, Family: Buzz, Family: Extended Family and Friends, Family: Precious/Ali | Tagged: BFFs, brother sister, foster care, foster siblings, friends, kids, siblings | Permalink
Posted by mahlbrandt
The wait is over. We did not get the news we were hoping for. I’m devastated for our daughter and her little sister and what this means for their future—visits a few times a year rather than spending everyday together. But I also have peace knowing that littlest sister is deeply loved and wanted where she’s living. I trust that God has a plan and it’s a good one. I have a lot to process and I need some time to do so. Please forgive me in advance if I don’t respond for a little while as I’m letting go of 8 months of praying, hoping, fighting, phone calls, letters, hearings, trials, research, preparations…
3 Comments | Faith, Family, Family: Trust | Tagged: adoption, custody, Faith, Family, hope, love, siblings, trust | Permalink
Posted by mahlbrandt
Dear Other Other Mother,
If I were you I’d be really mad at me. Actually, I was in an eerily similar situation a while back and I was quite mad at the other potential-other mother who didn’t seem to care about my heart. But as far as I can tell and you’ve said, you’re not mad. That means a lot, because I really didn’t go into this to make any enemies. You said you’re not mad, just hurt. I can imagine the hurt. I really, really can imagine. In fact, so many times we’ve almost walked away for that reason. At the very beginning I told myself that as long as we knew baby sister was safe, we wouldn’t fight for her. We’d leave it alone and walk away.
There were several weeks of uncertainty between her birth announcement and learning about her whereabouts. We prayed hard for her every single day—that she would be safe and loved—and we still do. Even after I had a general idea of her location, I still wasn’t sure if she was safe and loved. That has always been the primary concern. Once I knew that was true, a huge weight was lifted. Our prayers were answered. I am so grateful for you. You’ve given her the love and protection she needs and deserves. You are invaluable part of baby sister’s story.
I took a step back until I heard from her mother through a letter, the first contact we had in almost 2 years. I had written to her to let her know we were willing to be baby sister’s home, her parents (temporarily or forever), so that she could be with her sister. She wrote back with her blessing and the contact info of people to call to pursue that end. We felt like it was the nudge we needed to start fighting for the secondary concern: family preservation.
We’re passionate about foster care and adoption. I believe that love makes a family. Family is more than just blood. (As an adoptee, I know you know this well.) My husband, my daughter and I don’t share any DNA. I know that I can love and care for a child that didn’t come from my womb and doesn’t share my biology. When we initially approached foster care and adoption we didn’t plan to get involved with our future kid’s biological family. When we fell in love with our girl, our hearts started opening up more and more to her biological family in ways we didn’t expect. I have a deep love and respect for her first mother—the one who carried her for nine months, who chose to give her life, who wanted to parent her and then ultimately wanted better for her than she believed she could offer. Adoption can leave a lot of unanswered questions about family and what it means. I don’t have all of the answers but I know that there are connections I wouldn’t dare severe, bridges that belong to my daughter and are not mine to burn. She came to my home with a history that involved a different family—a biological mother, another grandmother, three older sisters and a brother—family that’s connected by blood. We’ve chosen to make her family, our family—her people, our people.
I believe that you could do the same. You could join with baby sister as part of this broken, patched together, rag-tag family. I believe, as I have from the very beginning, that her love and safety is the first priority. You’ve given her that and I’m thankful. Family preservation is the next priority. For whatever reason, it wasn’t considered from the very beginning. There were several placement options for baby sister that would have accomplished both priorities. We feel that we can meet both of those priorities. We did everything in our power to be considered as her placement since before she was removed from her parents’ custody—even before she was born. I hate that it’s taken so long for anyone (CPS, DCS, legal system) to even seriously consider us as her long-term placement. I hate it because I know how badly it’ll hurt you both to be separated after spending this long together as mother and daughter. It breaks my heart to know that it will break your heart if the judge decides it is in her best interest to move with us for the sake of family preservation. I want you to know that I don’t take that lightly. That said, I still believe she belongs with her sister if it’s possible. It’s hard to put into words, but I’ve loved baby sister since before she was born—all because of my love for my daughter. I don’t know her the way you know her but I care deeply about her.
The decision is out of my hands now and we wait as patiently as possible for the judge’s word. If this doesn’t go how I want it, I want you to know that I have nothing but gratitude in my heart for you. I pray that we can keep in touch for the sake of the six siblings. And if this doesn’t go how you want it, I want you to know that I have nothing but gratitude in my heart for you. You will always be an invaluable part of baby sister’s story and I hope we can stay in touch for the sake of you both.
The Other Potential Other Mother
3 Comments | Family, Family: Trust | Tagged: adoption, blood, brokenness, custody, Family, foster care, siblings | Permalink
Posted by mahlbrandt
One evening Jason and I had a tearful conversation over dinner that ended with him saying, “Make the call. Find out what we need to do to become foster parents.” I had been feeling a strong pull in the direction of foster care and potentially adoption for a while but I was praying that if God wanted us to go down that twisted, scary road that He would bring Jason on board quickly. I wanted to be completely unified in our decision and God answered my prayer—bringing Jason to equal passion to parent kids who are not ours by birth, kids who are living their worst nightmares, kids who have troubling pasts and bad behaviors.
Within hours of making that decision together, I started feeling completely inadequate for the role of foster motherhood. I tossed and turned all night, wrestling with my fears and insecurities. The next morning, on March 11, I read this passage in Jesus Calling and it changed my life forever:
Walk by faith, not by sight.
As you take steps of faith, depending on Me,
I will show you how much I can do for you.
If you live your life too safely,
you will never know the thrill of seeing Me work through you.
When I gave you My spirit,
I empowered you to live beyond your natural ability and strength.
Thats why it is wrong to measure your energy level
against the challenges ahead of you.
The issue is not your strength but Mine, which is limitless.
By walking close to Me, you can accomplish My purposes in My strength.
Here we are on March 11, 2014. In the past three years since I read that passage I’ve been mama to four kids, each with a painful past and a broken heart. Three of those babies have gone on to live with their biological families. We had the great privilege of adopting one of them, our precious Alianna Mae. Today we’re going to court, pursuing a temporary custody placement of her biological baby sister who is six and a half months old. I’ve nicknamed her Trust here to maintain her confidentiality and to remind myself that I need only trust God with this situation. He is worthy of my trust. He moved a mountain for Alianna to be put into our custody 2.5 years ago and if He wants to put Trust into our custody today, He can do it. These last 6 months have been emotionally taxing as we moved from concern about her safety to concern about her long-term placement and connections with her biological family. She’s been in a safe and loving place (as far as we know) since she was two weeks old but we feel strongly that if there is any way to preserve her connection to her biological siblings—especially since she’s already separated from her biological parents—it should be pursued. And that is why we’ve been fighting for her since before she was born. Not because we deserve her or because she deserves us—we have no right to her. We love her because she is our daughter’s sister. We care deeply about her biological mother because she’s our daughter’s biological mother. If she’s lost, someday we’re going to have to answer our daughter when she asks, “Where is my little sister? Why didn’t you fight for her the way you fought for me?”
So we fight. We fight for what we believe is best for her. This afternoon we anticipate the magistrate will make the decision: will she stay where she is now or move into our home with her sister Alianna.
4 Comments | Family, Family: Precious/Ali, Family: Trust | Tagged: adoption, biological family, daughter, daughters, Family, foster care, kids, siblings, sisters, trust | Permalink
Posted by mahlbrandt
My parents named me Martina Louise. My first name means “warlike” and my middle name means “renowned warrior.” Most people who know me wouldn’t think of me as a fighter. My husband might disagree… But here we are and this is our life. We had to fight for our daughter Alianna. Her placement with us through foster care was simple but her custody and subsequent adoption were far from easy. We fought for her like we’ve never fought for anything else before.
Two and a half years later we find ourselves in a bizarre but not-so-different situation fighting for her half-sister. I can’t and won’t say much about the case in this public platform because it’s sensitive legally and we want to be respectful to all of the other parties involved. In short: if she cannot be with either of her biological parents—which is and has been the case since shortly after her birth—we believe (and DCS policy supports) that the next best option for a child is to be with siblings whenever possible. I believe that we are supposed to advocate for her and her best interests. I will fight for her and I won’t stop fighting for her.
As much as I want to keep quiet about this case, I also want to solicite the prayers of our friends. Please pray with us that whatever is best for baby Trust* would be done and soon—she’s already 6 months old! (We’ve been trying to get her placed with us since before she was born.) We have court next Tuesday March 11 at 1 pm, which involves a progress report trial for her biological parents and our petition for temporary custody.
*Not her real name (Thank God!) but my nickname for her since before she was born to remind me that her future is in His hands
4 Comments | Faith, Family, Family: Trust | Tagged: custody, DCS, foster care, siblings, sister, trust | Permalink
Posted by mahlbrandt
Ali Mae, you have grown and changed so much in the past month! You’re back to being an only child again after 3 months as a foster sister to Buzz. Right after that transition happened, I started working my way down my to do list (things to accomplish while we don’t have any foster placements in the home) which included some big changes for you. I turned your crib into a bed. I’m currently second-guessing that decision and we may go back for a while… You became potty trained for the most part, though we still have to remind you. The concepts of wet/dry have been learned pretty well. You started preschool two days a week and you are loving it! Every time we pick you up you’re having a blast dancing with your classmates and you say “I love you!” to your teachers when we leave. You’ve been talking more and more lately, often in sentences and starting to say some really funny things. Sometimes you get the order of the words mixed up, for example “I want cookie too Ali.” You have learned all of your colors (thank you Preschool Prep!) and are currently working on numbers and letters. There is no rush, of course. You have plenty of time before you need to have those things mastered. Because I’m a designer and Daddy’s a musician, we get particularly excited when we see you interested in art and music. We recently walked around the Parthenon replica at Centennial Park and when we walked up the back steps you looked up and said, “Deautiful.” You repeated it several times. That’s the first either of us have ever heard you describe a place or sight as beautiful. A couple days later we went into West Elm and your interior design loving parents were again amazed to hear you say it as you took in the atmosphere of the store. Music is also a big part of your day. Every time we get in the van you say, “music please” … repeatedly until we respond. At night you request “daddy’s music” on your CD player and often turn it on by yourself. Daddy set up a keyboard for you in the playroom which you love to play with and refer to as the “pino,” like pinot. We often catch you singing ABCs, Twinkle Twinkle and other simple songs all on your own, as well as singing along with the radio and CDs in the car. I love that your imagination seems to be growing and getting more creative while you play, too. You’ve always been a content and happy child mixed with a good amount of drama and passion. Lately your emotions have sometimes come bursting out so quickly that I think it’s catching even you off guard. We’re trying hard to be patient with you while encouraging you to develop self-control and regulation.
Speaking of beautiful, happy and dramatic… we recently had dinner with two of your biological siblings and their mom. You three have a lot in common! You had fun dancing to music together and dressing up with accessories and generally just having a silly, wild time together after dinner. It had been around a year since we’ve seen them last (a crazy busy year for our family) but we plan to get together much more frequently in the future, now that all three of you are finally old enough to really play together.
The other day while you were picking out your shoes, you said, “awesome.” I told you that I think you’re awesome. You responded, “Daddy’s awesome too, Mama.” I agreed and asked if you thought I was too. “Mommy’s awesome, too. Ali’s awesome, too.” I love you so much, Aligator. I think know being a mom would be so much fun. You make it way better than I ever imagined. You really are awesome, kid. I’m blessed to get to be your mom.
1 Comment | Family, Family: Adoption, Family: Extended Family and Friends, Family: Precious/Ali | Tagged: adoption, Ali, alianna, biological family, changes, daughter, foster care, growth, precious, siblings, two year old | Permalink
Posted by mahlbrandt
I will pull you REALLY fast down the driveway!
It was an attempt to get them to stop swatting and kicking at each other. It worked. In fact, they held hands 1/3 of the way around the block.
Leave a Comment » | Family, Family: Buzz, Family: Foster Parenting, Family: Precious/Ali | Tagged: Ali, buzz, evening, foster care, kids, siblings, wagon, walk | Permalink
Posted by mahlbrandt