Courageous adoption by a single mother

“I was a freshly single 22-year-old who had decided to join one of my girlfriends and her mother in a belly dancing lesson. I noticed a flyer for co-ed volleyball as we checked out at the rec center’s front desk. In high school, I had participated in volleyball. I was interested in learning more about it because it was my hobby. The lady at the front desk informed me that she had an open spot on a squad and invited me to try out at their next game. I went to that game and had a great time playing it again. It was there that I met Mario, who was also on the same squad as myself. Mario informed me that he was a member of another co-ed team at the nearby YMCA, and he invited me to join them.

My ex-husband and I met in a church gym, and I was immediately smitten. The next five years characterized love, tears, addiction, abandonment, fear, strength, courage, and love. When I rolled my ankle, it set everything in action. My dearest friend Anna was there, and with a bit of aid, I could get over to her. I knew I needed to get my ankle checked because it was swollen. ‘Hey A’Jay, why don’t you walk Mandi to the vehicle,’ Anna said, seizing the opportunity to play matchmaker. That’s exactly what he did. She takes me to the ER, where I get a splint, and as we walk out the door, we encounter A’Jay’s sister and her husband. They said they were attempting to find out how I was doing, but they didn’t even have my last name to approach the front desk for any information. We spent practically every day after that night together.

Anna and Shavonne were well aware of my and A’Jay’s bond and attempted everything they could to bring us together. I don’t remember exactly how it all came to be, but it did. We went from being simply friends to having a real relationship. I was living with my best friend, Anna, her husband, and their twins at the time. Eventually, the five of us moved into a house together, and A’Jay and I became more serious about our relationship. October 15as a watershed moment in my life. We were in the garage for a smoke break during a Grey’s Anatomy commercial break.

I don’t recall what we were talking about, but I remember my best friend Alison looking at me and saying, ‘I will need you to take a pregnancy test.’ So we took a break from the event and headed to the store to pick up a few tests. I peed on the stick since we were all jammed into the restroom. I’d never been so terrified in my entire life. I was 23 years old and shared a room with two other people. I could not have a child with someone I had only known for a few months. I giggled as I flipped the test over. It was a positive experience. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was terrified, but I reassured myself that everything would be fine.

Courtesy of Mandi Booker

A couple of months later, I realized something wasn’t quite right on New Year’s Eve. We went to a friend’s house, and I was the Designated Driver because I was pregnant. That night, my boyfriend drank a lot and became irritated. When we returned home that night, he grabbed his brother-in-law’s and drove away. This was the start of a long journey. I should’ve paid attention to the red flags, but I ignored them. I was fortunate to secure a one-bedroom apartment the next month, and he moved in with me. My sister, her boyfriend, and my nephew came to town for the weekend of Valentine’s Day. He’d recently purchased a new automobile, so they went to a pub while I stayed at home with my 1-year-old nephew.

Now it’s 1:00 a.m., and my phone is ringing. I assumed my sister was attempting to gain access to the apartment complex. My heart dropped into my stomach when I answered the phone and realized it was a police officer. She asked me questions about A’Jay, such as his name and birth date. That night, the three of them are apprehended. The next day, while trying to get them out of jail while six months pregnant and with a one-year-old, I learn that A’Jay can’t be bonded out because he has a warrant for his arrest in New Mexico and will be deported. My heart is shattered. My mind has been blown. My world has been destroyed. I don’t know what I’m going to do. Outside of my family and a couple of pals, I kept quiet about what was truly going on. I kept up a front so I wouldn’t have to explain myself.

The following months were filled with loneliness and sadness. His court date arrived in May 2010, and my friend Anna joined his mother and me in driving to New Mexico for the hearing. The judge let him go the next day, but he couldn’t return to Texas for another few weeks. Kayden, our son, was born on June 28, June 28ust, in time. One of the happiest days of my life had arrived. I thought he was the answer to all of our problems up to that point because he was beautiful and perfect. However, it appeared that the addicted behavior worsened after Kayden was born. The following year was filled with sleepless evenings spent hiding keys and wallets beneath my pillow. Nonetheless, I stayed, and we married on April 2, 2011.

Another day I’ll never forget is April 8, April 8e was drinking cocktails with the family the other night when he grabbed my keys, jumped in my car, and drove away. I get in his sister’s car and follow him to a gas station. I approach the car and take my wallet from him through the window, which enrages him, and he speeds away from the gas station and onto the highway. We follow him and notice that the cars in front of him have all stopped due to road work, but he has no brake lights on. He slams into the rear of a vehicle carrying six people. His hip has been crushed, and he will require surgery. We’ll make it through the operation and the next few months of recovery, and I’m hoping for the best. The following year, though, will be filled with the same things: sleepless nights and misplaced keys and wallets. Nonetheless, I stayed.

In January of the following year, I went to the ER with a nasty stomach sickness, only discovering that I was also pregnant. Another young man. Kameron was born on SeptemberSeptember 10 next two years will most likely be the most demanding. Every week, it seemed like I had to take out cash to pay off some drug debt, which was usually simply a ruse to get more pills. Countless nights of no sleep and a knotted stomach. He’d been missing for a long time. Promise after promise has been broken. In 2014, we decided to relocate to West Texas, where my family resides. We reasoned that a change of scenery would be beneficial. And it did for a while, but addiction has such a powerful grip. He couldn’t keep away from alcohol, but he always claimed, “I have it under control.”

We couldn’t get away from the addiction. It had followed us to this location. In the end, addiction triumphed. I wasn’t the ideal wife or mother, but I stood by my family and cared for them despite coping with addiction stresses. Addiction is a disease that affects more than just the addict. Addiction is a disease that affects the entire family. Enough was enough after five years. He returned home after a three-day binge, and I told him he had to make a decision. He had the option of going to rehab and getting sober, or he had to leave. He decided to leave that day. Our lives were permanently changed on June 5, 201June 5was heartbreaking to see how addiction had taken over our family. While it was undoubtedly one of the worst days of my life, it also marked the start of a magnificent journey of self-discovery and strength. Indeed, you can’t love someone addicted to something, and it’s also true that you can’t love someone addicted to something. That man was one of my favorites. I fought with my decision to split up our family for the following year, but I knew I couldn’t keep going down the path we were on. He tried several rehabs, but each time he relapsed.

It was difficult for me now that I was a single mom. I was experiencing emotions I couldn’t control or comprehend, but I also had two little boys perplexed and sharing the same sensations. There were many tears shed over the next two or three years. They were perplexed as to why their father had vanished. He’d call now and again, and he’d be constant for a few weeks, but then he’d disappear. He still contacts them now and then, but he hasn’t been involved in their life since 2016. We grew up together, struggled together, and, most importantly, triumphed together. Our family was broken by addiction, but we were not hurt by it. Today, we are more vital than ever, and our narrative is far from over.

Courtesy of Mandi Booker
brothers sitting outside
Courtesy of Mandi Booker

Fostering was something I had considered for a long time. I’d always known children were suffering through difficult times, and I wanted to do something to help them. I understood what my boys and I had gone through, and I hoped that by sharing our experiences, we might be able to help others. I was a single mother of two sons who were doing everything independently. Why would I consider becoming a foster parent in the first place? I had to make sure it was correct because it wouldn’t just affect me. We talked about it a lot, and I warned them about what we would face if we went down this path. God bless them; their hearts are enormous, and they were completely committed. Our entire universe would be turned inside out and turned entirely upside down. I prayed fervently and frequently, and I couldn’t help but feel compelled to get in. My family assumed I was insane.

In October 2018, I attended an informational meeting and began training in November 2018. In February of this year, I received my license as a licensed foster parent. I was terrified. Fostering was no longer merely a concept; it was becoming a reality. My heart started beating when I got the first call. What criteria would I use to make a decision? What questions should I ask to aid in my decision-making? What if it doesn’t work out, and I end up being another person who disappoints these children? I was utterly taken aback. I began to question my judgment. I started to let thoughts of unworthiness and inadequacy dominate my mind and heart. But in March of this year, we went from a family of three to a family of five in the blink of an eye. I moved from having two to four boys in a matter of months. This was both our first and their first placing. We had no idea what to expect from one another. They were frightened. I was terrified. However, the first night was a success.

Courtesy of Mandi Booker
Courtesy of Mandi Booker

It had been a difficult and emotional nine months. There were temper tantrums and brawls, as well as some sleepless nights. All of our lives were entwined for nine months. They will always be a part of our story, and we will always be a part of theirs. In every foster situation, reunification is the ultimate aim, as long as it is in the children’s best interests. These boys were reunited with their families on December 21 December 21y left at 5 a.m. one morning, and we never saw them again after we celebrated Christmas a week early. We stayed in touch after they left for a while, and it was good to hear how well they were doing. One of the most challenging things we’ve ever had to say goodbye to them. We all cried a lot, and it felt strange being just the three of us for a few days. That assignment drained me completely. I informed my agency that I needed time to refresh. Now that I think about it, the timing of everything that happened after that makes me giggle.

I took a couple of days off, but placement calls started coming in. I almost said yes to one, but it didn’t feel right in the end, so I declined. The following call I received would have drastically altered our future if I had not fallen into that position. I received a call regarding a 14-year-old child in mid-January. Initially, I thought to myself, ‘No way, I’m not ready for a teenager.’ They checked in a few more times and told him he needed to get out of the house. I discussed it with some friends and family, and we decided to go for a weekend visit to see how things went.

Courtesy of Mandi Booker
family portrait
Courtesy of Mandi Booker

We instantly fell in love and felt he was the one for us. If you had told me 2.5 years ago that I would be adopting a teenager when I began my foster care adventure, I would have laughed and said, “OK!” I wasn’t prepared to deal with a teenager. I’m still not sure some days, but I’m glad I said yes. Our family will be complete on February 26 February 26were irrevocably transformed when he stepped inside this house.

Courtesy of Mandi Booker
Courtesy of Mandi Booker
Courtesy of Jennifer Marie Photography

When a social worker or caseworker called to see how we were doing and if I still wanted to adopt, I always told them, “If we can endure a quarantine together, we can overcome anything.” We’re still learning from each other, modifying, and adapting a year later. We take each day as it comes, and there are days when we fail. But we both get up, talk about it, and improve. That’s how we make it happen.

I’ve witnessed this youngster evolve, mature, and grow so much in the last year. He still has a lot of maturing to do, but given what he’s been through, he’s here is incredible. I did not give birth to him. I didn’t give him a name. I did not raise him. However, I am his mother. I can’t picture life without him in it. Forever Bookers will be released on May 21, 202May 21s is our tale of addiction to adoption and how we are overcoming it and how we are using our experience to promote hope.”

mother son photo
Courtesy of Jennifer Marie Photography
Courtesy of Jennifer Marie Photography

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