“Man Plans, God Laughs”
The Road To Adoption Doesn’t Always Go As Planned
Heather Doyle first thought about adoption in the seventh grade when she met her best friend who was adopted from Korea. Having come from an instable childhood, Heather’s strongest desire was to have a family. She knew she wanted to parent birth and adopted children. That desire strengthened when she met her husband, David, who Heather calls her rock. When it came to family, they were both on the same page. In their pre-marital counseling sessions, they planned out their future: Birth children first, adopt later.
“Well, man plans, and God laughs,” Heather said. “It is His story. Not ours.”
Heather and David struggled with infertility for six years. They started trying for birth children as soon as they got married. After two years with no pregnancy, they sought help from a specialist. Two years later, they learned they both had issues that would make having a child difficult: Not impossible, just challenging.
“We did IUI and IVF and had a miscarriage,” Heather said. “We had enough needles in our house to make it look like an addict’s home. I shed a lot of tears. My heart ached as I longed to be a mother, but my body just would not let it happen. My heart had already given birth to children, but my body would do no such thing.”
By Summer 2012, Heather and David’s church offered a Discovering Adoption class, and David suggested they attend together.
“We talked about adoption many moons ago, but had never acted on it,” Heather said. “I went, but I went grumbling. Even my body language was not open those first few weeks.”
Heather was amazed by her teacher’s commitment to adoption. At first, Heather was confused why someone would take on the adoption of older children, especially the adoption of SEVEN older kids, but as Heather learned more about the need, she realized how amazing her teacher’s heart was.
“Sibling groups are considered a special needs group, because many people adopt to get a baby,” Heather said. “One baby. They don’t want to take on an entire group.”
Heather went on to explain the hard facts about foster care adoption: Placing children over the age of six is tough. Her class taught her that 75 percent of kids over six never get placed with an adoptive family, and they spend their life in and out of various homes within the foster care system. When they age out of foster care at age 18 without a support system, they are even more likely to end up in devastating situations: 25% in prison; 25% homeless; and 60% will become parents to their own children, and those children are twice as likely to end up in the foster care system. It’s a vicious cycle.
The Importance of Siblings
Learning all of this, Heather’s mind quickly went back to her childhood. Despite moments of instability, she always had her little brother, PJ. That’s all that mattered to her. Heather thought about all the kids who get separated from their siblings in the foster care system, and her heart grew.
“My ‘let’s get this class over’ quickly moved to ‘I can’t wait for our class this week and to be around this amazing teacher,’” Heather said. “David and I left the class in tears each night, grabbed a Coke ICEE and drove around talking and praying about adoption and God’s will for our life.”
The more Heather thought on it, and the more she and David talked about it, they knew they were meant to adopt a sibling group.
Adopting A Sibling Group
The Race To Prepare
When Heather and David engaged with an adoption agency, the agency was very excited to learn that Heather and David were interested in adopting a sibling group. There was a sibling group of three the agency had in mind, so Heather and David raced to get prepared.
Heather was kind enough to share her To-Do list with us from her Home Study (which was in the middle of the holiday season):
- Cook and host Thanksgiving Dinner
- Babysit nephews on Friday
- Clean house
- Safety proof our home for home study
- Gun safe purchased and delivered
- Dead bolt installed on back door because of our pool
- Locks put on back fence
- Double lock medicine, organize into bags in a file cabinet in our closet
- Changed to locking door knobs on our closet
- Latches installed on lower cabinet doors
- Hazardous cleaning chemicals installed up high and locked
- Hazardous outdoor garage chemicals installed high and locked
- Outlet protectors installed
- Utility room organized
- Closet organized
- Smoke detectors inspected
- Organize file cabinet papers
- Garage organized for better safety
- Decorate for Christmas
After writing this list, Heather wondered if they were crazy in trying to meet a November 30th deadline, but they did it, and Heather and David were first in line for the sibling group of three. But at the last minute, the grandfather of those children chose a family closer in location to him. Heather and David were devastated.
At the same time, Heather’s mom suffered from a stroke, and Heather had to take on an even larger role in being her caretaker.
“At times, I was bitter and upset, but we never lost hope,” Heather said. “I think this is why we stayed certified. We had three quarterly inspections, attended classes and read all the books to stay active. Keeping up with these regulations may have contributed to helping us stay hopeful.”
Finally Finding Their Forever
Heather and David Meet Olivianna and Joshua
A year later, Heather and David received the call they had been hoping for! Heather and David chose to meet at their adoption agency’s office, as it was middle ground for them and the foster mom. Heather described the room as colorful and playful with a mural of the sea. There was also a huge fish tank.
When the kids arrived, they raced toward the fish tank. Heather and David walked over to it with them and knelt down to talk about fish. They instantly connected and bonded over laughs and blown kisses to fish.
“So in love with these babies,” Heather thought to herself. “They have my heart.”
While mesmerized by the kids, Heather and David listened carefully to the foster mom and social worker share their history and needs:
- She is a picky eater, but getting better, while he eats everything.
- She is slow to warm up, but will tell you everything when she warms up to you. He instantly warms up.
- She loves to sing her ABCs, knows her colors, loves educational shows, and the color pink. He loves balls, trucks, and trains.
- She is potty trained and sleeps through the night. He is not potty trained yet and having trouble getting there.
- They go to bed at 8 p.m., wake up at 7 a.m., and take a two-hour nap every day.
- They both need everything, because they came into the system with nothing but the clothes on their back.
After spending more time together, playing Candy Land, bonding over fish, and looking at books on adoption, it was time to wrap-up their first meeting. Heather describes holding back tears, as the kids were confused and saddened by their departure. Heather knew how much sadness they had already experienced, and talked about how she didn’t want to leave them.
The First Visit
In a few days, they were able to see the kids again, and hang out as a family, just the four of them. They loaded up the car and went to the zoo. They got their first family photo taken together right as they entered.
“It is my favorite photo of all time in my life so far!” Heather said.
They fed giraffes, rode the carousel, visited the petting zoo, saw monkeys, elephants, zebra, and the red panda all before lunch. There were moments of insecurity, but Heather and David reassured the kids they would be there and keep them safe. It’s something they would continue to do long after this first visit to the zoo.
The Second Visit
The second visit, just the four of them, came after a picnic at the park with the Child Advocates volunteer. Heather and David took the kids to their house to show them where they would be living.
“This is your new neighborhood,” Heather told them. She pointed to the sidewalk, “This is where you can take walks with mamma and daddy.”
As they pulled onto their street, Olivianna recognized Heather and David’s house from pictures in their Life Book. She pointed at it and said, “This is my home!” Heather says she will cherish those words and her joyful smile for the rest of her life.
Together, they played games in their new playroom, and explored more moments that would be their new forever.
The First Week
After the first night, the process sped up. What was supposed to be a 6-week process until move-in turned into a 3-week process. The kids were allowed to move in with Heather and David immediately. Although Heather recalls walking the aisles of Target at midnight to get everything they needed, she knows it was the best thing for the kids and them.
Heather graciously shed light on her first week with Olivianna and Joshua by sharing a journal entry she wrote with us. Here’s our favorite highlight, which is an overview of what she learns about her new kids in the first week:
“Just finished first week as a mom of two precious toddlers. He wears a cape all day, every day. She wears striped tights and a pirate hat all day, every day. She loves to paint and to help her mom do dishes and put away cups. ‘I big girl,’ she says proudly all day. He amazes all the kids at the playground as he climbs across all the big boy equipment. Super baby indeed! They are so full of personality and energy and they smile and giggle and cuddle all day! There is not enough macaroni and cheese (which he calls nahnahnah) in the world for him.”
After describing her tiredness and her daily sobs of joy, she ends the entry by saying, “My heart will never be the same again,” and it wasn’t.
In August 2014, the day they had all been waiting for finally arrived. Since living with Heather and David for the past nine months, Olivianna had become fascinated with pink flamingos. The family would see them at Moody Gardens, and Olivianna would spend hours drawing them. After Heather learned the pink flamingo symbolized truth and balance, she thought it would be a fun way to celebrate their upcoming Adoption Day. Heather and David made a huge 6-foot long painting and hung it on the garage, while friends covered the entire yard in pink flamingos.
“We never got to have a pink or blue stork, but a yard full of pink flamingos sure was fun!” Heather said.
Then, they gathered with family, friends, and their social workers in Downtown Houston at the courthouse and Olivianna and Joshua officially became part of The Doyle Family.
Every year in November (the month Olivianna and Joshua were placed with Heather and David) and August (the month Olivianna and Joshua officially became Doyles), Heather and David take the kids to do something fun. This August, they planned a camping trip to celebrate!
The Love, Laughs, and Lost Memories
Now, you can find The Doyle Family enjoying the park, board games, reading books, and watching movies. They attend church every Sunday and have a fun family day and rest after church. You can find everyone tending to their favorite pets, which include a dog named Bacon, two hamsters, and three lizards. Olivianna has found a love for ballet, while Joshua focuses on karate. The kids’ activities keep everyone very busy, but they always take time for quality time with one another.
Arms Wide Adoption Services works with The Doyle Family through our Post Adoption Program. Heather and David reached out to us when they noticed Olivianna was having a harder time focusing in school. They immediately got connected with Sharon Carter, one of our Post Adoption caseworkers, who has been helpful in connecting The Doyle Family with the resources needed to help Olivianna address some of her earlier memories.
When asked what advice Heather has for other potential foster or adoptive parents, she said:
“Take it one day at a time. Make lists of everything you must do and take it one thing at a time. If you think about everything to do, you will get overwhelmed and not enjoy the growth and special moment. It is a journey, and it will change your life. You must be ready for it! Be thankful for everything that happens along the way. A grateful heart will open the door to hope when challenges come and peace to keep you strong. Be patient. Know that your purpose is to love and provide nurture and structure, so get your heart ready and yourself ready with rest and read great books like The Connected Child and Peaceful Parenting.”
Thank You, Doyle Family!
To The Doyle Family… Thank you! We know sharing your adoption journey is not easy. There were moments of sadness, fear, roadblocks, and waiting. But the triumphs and the beautiful family you have now was worth the wait. We are so grateful you have opened your home and hearts to adoption, and continue to do everything and more to support your kids and their adoption journeys.