My husband Paul and I entered 2016 not thinking our lives would change that much. We were happy with our jobs and content with our community. We enjoyed our childless life filled with weeknights of watching the Red Sox or Celtics play on TV and weekends that comprised of catching up on sleep, exploring new walking and hiking trails in our area, and hanging out with friends. But we felt challenged to consider who we were living our lives for, simply selfishly for ourselves or sacrificially for others. Without looking for it, we realized we were receiving an undeniable and unmistakable call to adopt from the foster care system.
That call began a crazy year-and-a-half that led to applying to adopt, completing a MAPP class, and moving across town to a larger home. In April of 2017, my husband and I received a foster to adopt placement of a 10-year-old boy named Antonio.
We had a lovely two-week honeymoon with Antonio, but then the difficult times started. As a child who had experienced incredible trauma and neglect, Antonio required all of our attention all of the time. We were exhausted by the time bedtime came, but we endured months of difficulties getting him to sleep. His destructive behaviors were a surprise to all involved, but we hung in there with him, even when we felt completely at a loss what to do and were utterly exhausted. We are incredibly grateful for the support of friends and family who prayed for us and encouraged us when we were in the trenches that first summer. In-home therapy supports and attachment coaching from Pathways to Permanency were invaluable to helping us through.
Six months into Antonio’s placement with us, the three of us were brushing our teeth before bed. (Doing bedtime together like this was a huge help to getting Antonio moving in that direction.) Paul and I were close to the sink while Antonio was a few steps away. He came closer and exclaimed, “Make room for Antonio!” with a huge smile and worked himself between us to spit into the sink. Paul and I chuckled as we thought how true those words were!
“Making room for Antonio” has been the messy and beautiful focus of our lives the past 18 months since Antonio moved in with us. This journey has not been what we had expected in many ways. Making room for Antonio is messy. It requires a real transformation on our part to be more selfless and loving – something our religious tradition calls “dying to ourselves.” No longer do we get to sleep in on weekends and very rarely do we get to watch the Red Sox or Celtics the way we used to. Times to explore new walking and hiking trails are few and far between. The traumas that Antonio went through in his first 10 years continue to affect him and erode his trust for us at times, causing heartache and pain for all of us.
But making room for Antonio in our lives has been beautiful as we have seen him grow in his trust and attachment with us and as we have observed his effort and performance in school improve. We are so proud of him for how much work he is putting into making this new family – that he didn’t ask for – work. His smile that continues to get brighter and brighter and his hilarious antics fill the places in our hearts we didn’t know needed filling.
The adoption was finalized in May of 2018, a little over a year after Antonio first came to live with us. But making room for Antonio in our lives will be a lifelong endeavor that continues to transform us from selfish people to sacrificial people who care for others more than ourselves.