Would We Adopt Again?
By Stephanie Huffman and Wendy Rickman
Starting a family is a big decision for any couple, but being a lesbian couple brings a whole new set of challenges, especially since we live in Arkansas. We were able to build the beginnings of our family before the 2008 passage of Act 1, the discriminatory law that bars unmarried couples from adopting or serving as foster parents. Because same-sex couples cannot marry in Arkansas, we are currently barred from adopting or fostering any other children. Which is why we’ve joined with other families and the ACLU to challenge the ban.
Both of us were born and raised here. Neither of us have a desire to leave the state. We love its beauty, its quiet serenity, and the amazing people who reside here in the Natural State. The socially conservative climate does make it difficult at times, however. Knowing these challenges, we prepared ourselves as well as any hopeful to-be-parent. We never imagined, nor were we prepared, for the journey that lay before us.
How did we build our family? We both had a desire to adopt and for Wendy to pursue pregnancy. We both felt there was a great need in our country for children to be adopted, for someone to care for and to love them. We knew our chances were slim, but continued to pray that things would work out for our family.
On a lovely morning in March 2003, we discovered that after numerous attempts, Wendy was pregnant. I continued completing the adoption process. In late August 2003, we heard about Tyler, a child in foster care. This child had an extremely difficult beginning. He had been exposed to cocaine in the womb, and was born after 32 weeks gestation weighing 3 ½ pounds. He was rushed to Arkansas Children’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Yet, he is a fighter. A nurse, checking on him one last time, found a heartbeat. God was with him.
He suffered a major brain hemorrhage. He has bilateral hearing loss. He has hydrocephalous. He was labeled a “failure to thrive” baby and had a gastric feeding tube. These were just some of the issues he faced in his life. We were asked if we would consider him for placement in our home.
When completing the adoption paperwork, we were asked via an inventory list, what disabilities or characteristics we would not consider for adopting a child. After a long discussion about labels, we decided to only check one box, i.e., cruelty to animals. At the time, we had two Shih Tzus we considered as our four-legged children. While we do understand why some choose to check boxes on the list, our decision was based on how each of us might be labeled if we were a child in state care being considered for adoption. Might others see us as a challenge who would be difficult to raise? Our decision was made easier because of our faith that God would not give us more than we could handle.
Tyler, was placed with us in October. Keegan, our youngest, was born a week before Thanksgiving. In two months, we had a newborn and a two-year old, both with their own health issues. The coming year was fraught with ups and downs. Keegan, who had experienced a uneventful nine months in the womb, turned out to have a severe milk protein allergy. We went through multiple types of formula and tests. We had a brief visit to the hospital with Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). He was allergic to most everything and caught most viruses. Tyler, though, began to thrive. Six months after he came to live with us, he was eating solid foods and his gastric tube was removed.
We survived the first year of parenthood like any new parents with the love and support of our family and friends.
Seven years later, Tyler has undergone surgery to insert four cranial shunts to help control his hydrocephalous. While we have achieved major goals academically and with Tyler’s health issues, we have had multiple setbacks with his emotional and cognitive development. He continues to be our little fighter, taking on these hurdles and bravely conquering them when many would accept defeat. Keegan quickly rebounded from his early health struggles and fearlessly makes the world his own domain. We know he faces challenges as he gets older, growing up with two mothers and a brother with disabilities. His strength and character are beyond his years.
Our “village” of family and friends have meant a lot to both of us. As well as our church home. Our boys are healthy and happy, which is really what we all want as parents. We bounce from school to work to soccer for both boys, basketball, baseball, going to the beach, going camping and boating, and going to Disney World. We study for spelling tests, attend parent-teacher conferences, and go to classroom parties. We are the luckiest parents in the world. We have learned more from our children than they will ever learn from us. Their spirit and strength and inner beauty are amazing.
Would we do it again? Yes. But until the adoption ban is lifted, we don’t have that option. After a victory in the Pulaski County Circuit Court, it’s now up to the Arkansas Supreme Court to end this discriminatory ban once and for all. No child should be denied the chance to have a permanent, loving home.