My Family

If you are new to this blog and want to read the entire story chronologically - please start in January with "Our Story, Part 1"

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Our Story, Part 19 - "Together Forever"

Here are two short journal entries from March 1999 (two months before Bryan came back to live with us).

March 20, 1999

“My mom called this morning and said that there might be a possibility that we could get Bryan back. I didn’t hesitate for even a second; I just wish he was here now. I have been struggling with the fact that I can’t have any children, but when my mom called I felt as if it would be complete if Bryan were here. I sure hope that Ruth lets him come live with us. I just want to hold him and make him feel safe.”

March 30, 1999

“Ruth called me today and asked if we wanted Bryan – YES!!! I miss that little guy so much and I can’t wait until he is with us again. We are going to Vernal on Friday April 2 and we will get to see him. I really hope he will be able to come home with us. I can’t wait to just hold him and love him. Ruth said he asks about us and that he has been really depressed lately. He says he wants to go live with 'Miguel and Daddy.' I can’t wait to see him!”
We were able to see Bryan for several days in April but he did end up going back with Ruth after our visit. He came back to live with us permanently in May.

~ In the judge's chambers on the day of Bryan's finalization ~

Bryan’s adoption was finalized in November 1999, six months after he was placed with us for the second time. For his finalization we met in the judge’s chambers and the entire meeting was recorded for us. I remember sitting across the desk from the judge holding one of the boys on my lap (one on Mykel’s lap and one on our attorney’s lap). It was very emotional for both Mykel and I as we tried to convey the reasons we wanted Bryan to remain a permanent part of our family. We were both in tears when Mykel said “because I love him and he is our son.”

The day after finalization was even more significant. We were able to have Bryan *sealed to our family. Ruth and I are both members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and a core belief of our religion is that families can be together forever. Valorie moved to Vernal because an LDS temple was being built there and she was able to convince Ruth to move with her and that is how we crossed paths and initially met each other. Ruth has told me on several occasions that she decided to place the boys with us because she wanted the boys to be *sealed to a mother and a father.

Together at the Vernal Temple for Bryan's sealing (Cole and Preston were sealed to us previously after their adoptions were finalized).

“Was there ever a man who truly loved a woman, or a woman who truly loved a man, who did not pray that their relationship might continue beyond the grave? Has a child ever been buried by parents who did not long for the assurance that their loved one would again be theirs in a world to come? Can anyone believing in eternal life doubt that the God of heaven would grant His sons and daughters that most precious attribute of life, the love that finds its most meaningful expression in family relationships? No, reason demands that the family relationship shall continue after death. The human heart longs for it, and the God of heaven has revealed a way whereby it may be secured. The sacred ordinances of the house of the Lord provide for it.” Gordon B. Hinckley,11581,1953-1,00.html

Bryan and Camille (me) sharing a moment at the Vernal Temple
The ordinance of having my children *sealed to me was the most wonderful and sacred feeling I have ever experienced – we are an Eternal Family!

(*The sealing ordinance is that ordinance which binds families eternally through the power of the priesthood.)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Our Story, Part 18 - Ruth

A few years ago we were driving in the car and out of the blue Preston said “I wonder how Ruth is doing and if she is okay.” The boys periodically ask how she is doing and wonder if she is happy, but the amazing thing about Preston asking that day was that it was actually Ruth’s birthday. I had spoken with her a few days before (Preston was unaware that she and I had talked on the phone) so I was able to give him an honest answer about her welfare (and she was having a hard time).

On Christmas Eve 2007, we were only living about a half-hour away from Ruth so we made plans to meet for dinner. The restaurant was fairly quiet so we were able to sit around a large table and just let the kids enjoy the meal and talk to Ruth. We took some pictures and the kids gave her some gifts they had made and bought, but the best part of the night was when we were all walking back to our cars after the meal. Mykel took the little girls and put them in our van, but Bryan, Cole and Preston walked with Ruth and I up the block to her parked car. It had been snowing and her windows were covered with a thick layer. The boys cleaned the snow off her car and then gave her the presents they had brought.

Cole then asked Ruth “are you lonely?” Cole is always concerned that Ruth is sad because they don’t live with her. We talk about that a lot and I try to ease their concerns by letting them know that “yes, Ruth does miss you, but she knows that you are happy and that makes her happy.” That might seem like a trite answer, but I don’t think I am the person to fully answer that question.

The other day my 6-year-old daughter Ava was looking at the pictures on my blog. Suddenly she got all excited and said “I know her! I know her! (pointing to the pictures) She is my birth mom, that is RUTH!”
The children all seem to have a special connection with Ruth, like a sixth sense to know when she is having a hard time in life or may be sad, because it seems like they will ask me questions about her during those times. I am amazed by this unbreakable bond.

I talked to Ruth before I started this blog to let her know what I was doing and if she would be okay with me using her name and her pictures. I also asked her if she ever wanted to comment on my blog that she was free to do so. I told her she can be as open and honest as she wanted to about how she felt and this is the response I received yesterday:

It is good to read Camille's blogs, to see things from her perspective, which has been healing for me. It wasn't easy placing the kids, any of them, for adoption. I wanted what was best for them; I knew that with Mykel and Camille that they would have much better, much happier lives than they would with me as a single mom. Camille and Mykel have been great about letting me see the kids, to be a part of their lives, which has also made placing the kids easier because I knew that I could still see them from time to time, that the kids weren’t totally gone, I would know how they are doing, I would never question if they were ok, if they were happy. I am glad that we have an open adoption, I am so thankful to Camille and Mykel for letting me be a part of their lives.

No, I didn’t pay her to write those things, she is honestly that sweet and kind. The amazing thing about Ruth is that I still get cards in the mail from her or e-mails and she is always thanking ME.
Here is an example of a simple, sweet note she wrote to me in November 2008:
Camille, I thank Heavenly Father for you and the kids. ~Ruth

I could never thank her enough for blessing my life so abundantly and allowing me to be a mother.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Our Story, Part 17 - "Open" adoption

After Bryan came back to live with us permanently we had to figure out where the boundaries were with Ruth and how “open” we wanted this adoption to be. I have to admit that I have made many mistakes during the process of this birth parent/adoptive parent relationship, first because of my own ignorance for Ruth’s feelings and second because I listened to other people’s advice instead of listening to my gut. For a time I took the advice that “we should just move on with our lives” (which would mean not letting Ruth visit the boys). I played into that unsolicited advice when Bryan first came back because I thought it would be too confusing for Bryan. Preston and Cole were so young they really didn’t know who Ruth was compared to me. Yes they called me “mom,” but they would still go to anybody else and not worry about who was holding them or feeding them, they were just happy to be loved.
Mykel with Cole and Preston 1999

In Bryan’s case he had been back and forth between Ruth and I so many times he was probably wondering where to call home and who to call “mom.” Hindsight of course is 20/20 and I realize now that my motive for not allowing Ruth to see the boys was because of my own insecurities as their mother. I was jealous of the competition to put it bluntly. I couldn’t see at the time that Ruth was missing them terribly, especially Bryan. I mean, she had been Bryan’s mother for the first three years of his life and Valorie had a special relationship with him as his grandmother, so how can taking that all away be good for anyone? Ruth and Valorie told me they only wanted to make sure that the boys knew that they still loved them and had not abandoned them ~ who can fault them for that? As time went on distance also became a factor in how often they could visit as we lived several hours away from each other.

Out on the farm

As I explained in one of my earlier posts, this wasn’t the normal adoption or normal adoption relationship, but it was the only one we knew. People have been very complimentary about my parenting skills since I started writing this blog, but I am the first to admit that I am definitely NOT the perfect mother ~ patience is a learned skill that I am still working to achieve!

The first few years with the boys I really struggled. Contrary to popular belief, adoptive parents aren’t the perfect parents marketing ads and commercials make them out to be. Mykel and I were far from the role model parents. We had marital and financial struggles, we definitely weren’t rich, and who was to say that we were any more qualified than the next person to raise these boys? We were just blessed to cross paths at the right time with Ruth and the results of this "open" adoption relationship have been more than we could ever ask for.

Cole, Preston, Bryan and Camille (me)

Even though life was very stressful during the time before Bryan’s adoption was finalized, I have a lot of good memories with the boys. One of my favorite memories is when I would tuck them in at night, they liked me to do the “Chicken Dance” with them – we would speed up the song and dance really fast and then fall to the ground laughing. I haven’t tried that with my girls yet….and trust me, no one wants to see me dance.

I have told my children several times “parents don’t have an instruction manual about how to raise their children, we have to learn as we go along and we make mistakes.” Fortunately for me, Ruth and I were able to make things work with this “open” adoption relationship ~ the adoption of the three boys was just the beginning of this amazing journey that has been over twelve years in the making.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Our Story, Part 16 - "You got your kids the EASY way!"

I didn’t post yesterday because I wanted to take some time and watch the video footage I took from when I first got all three boys. There is nothing like home videos to help you remember the little things you’ve forgotten over the years. People are right when they say kids grow up too fast. I loved seeing them so small!

Until I watched the video I hadn’t remembered that Bryan spent Easter weekend with us before he came back permanently. I knew that we spent a day or two with him (I have pictures of all three boys in the tub during that break), but I forgot that he actually got to come to our house in Ogden and stay for a while. I don’t remember what it felt like to see him leave; in fact I don’t even remember who picked him up and took him back to Ruth. I think at that point I was numb to all the coming and going. I can only imagine how confusing it was for a three-year-old.

Preston, Cole and Bryan during Easter Vacation - 1999

After Bryan came to live with us we spent the next six months getting ready for his adoption to be finalized (and adjusting to being a family of five!) We had to meet with the social worker again (luckily we had the same one so we didn’t have to answer all the probing questions this time) and complete another home study. It still felt weird to have someone watch us interact with our children to see if we were fit parents or not. Those visits were never really comfortable; tolerable, but not comfortable. I felt that if there was one thing out of place in my house or if the children did something wrong then it would lessen our possibility of the adoption being finalized. Those visits were very stressful!

But being a new mom with three little boys also brought different challenges. Because the boys were so close in age, when I had all three of them together in a grocery cart people would ask “are they triplets?” or “don’t you know what birth control is?” or “are they ALL yours?” or “Wow! They are really close in age, did you plan that?” I know people ask questions for conversation but I have learned over the years not to assume something about someone or their children because most likely you will put your foot in your mouth! (I am as guilty as the next person for doing this.)

One of my least favorite remarks people say when they hear my children are adopted is: You got your kids the EASY way! You didn’t even have to get stretch marks!” Ohhhhhh, this one really burns me up! (People say this to me even now and it is so annoying!) For people who make this comment I really don’t want to give them the courtesy of a response, I mean, what kind of response am I going to give them except for a kick to the shin or something like that? (I want to do that, but I don’t.) I am half-tempted to just pull up my shirt and show them my nice “non-stretch mark” stomach just to make myself feel better. Okay, I would never really do that, but I think about it sometimes. And just for the record, I DO have stretch marks on my arms from carrying the boys around, so I show them those! Someone told me once (after we had been trying for several years to conceive) “you just don’t want to get pregnant because you don’t want to get fat.” That one hurt, a lot.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t long to know what it felt like to have nine months to prepare for a child that would someday have your eyes, your husband’s chin and grandpas’ nose. I wanted to feel a baby kick, feel him hiccup, see him on the ultrasound, feel my stomach expand to fit his growing body, and oh how I longed to hold a brand new baby right after birth and hear him cry for the first time.

Some days I feel robbed of those memories. I don’t have any pictures of me with my children at the hospital (I feel blessed that Ruth gave me pictures of the children when they were infants). I missed the first three years of Bryan’s life and the first eight months of Cole’s life, so I don’t know what they were like as tiny babies, if they slept all night, when they first crawled or what their first words were. But I digress.

All of those things I missed still hurt, but then I realized, I have the rest of my life together with my children to make new memories. I am the one who gets to tuck them in at night. I am the one who gets to hold them, kiss them, hug them, and read to them. I get to watch them grow up. I can’t compare my pain to Ruth’s pain – it is a completely separate entity. Her pain and loss are now my joy and future (and how is THAT fair?)

I don’t feel like complaining anymore, what else can I ask for? I get to be their mom.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Our Story, Part 15 - "Mom"

When I first considered adoption, I thought I wanted a private adoption, but the more I thought about it, I didn’t even care whether it was open or not, I just wanted to be a mom. Since the first day the boys came to live with us we have tried to be as open and honest as we could about what was going on. They always had questions about Ruth and adoption in general, so I tried to answer them the best I could. Usually I would just give a simple question a simple answer, but sometimes the question would require a longer explanation.
Bryan and Camille (me) in downtown Salt Lake City - 2000

People would always give me advice (usually bad) about what I should do, such as “you shouldn’t let the kids see Ruth, it will just confuse them” or “you need to move on with your life and the kids need to move on” ~ I have to admit that I sometimes bought into this bad advice, usually because of my own insecurities and really not knowing what to do.

Bryan and Camille (me) at the Neola Rodeo - 2004

At the time I didn’t know anyone who was in an “open” adoption, or anyone who had adopted for that matter. I had no idea how I should feel or how to act about my children having a “birth” mom or if I was the “real” mom (I am not very good about the “politically correct” terms or labels people have for adoption).

There was no way to prepare for this situation and I had no guidelines or handbook to tell me what would be best for my children or our family. I just felt that if we were honest with our children they would be able to handle the situation better. Bryan and Camille (me) in 2006

For the first two weeks after Bryan came back to live with us he would only call me “Camille” – he refused to call me “mom” ~ Of course when the boys were tiny, they really didn’t care which “mom” was holding them, they were just happy with whoever was feeding them and loving them. Since Bryan was older, he understood the situation better and he had a lot of questions. I remember one conversation very distinctly. We were driving in the car and he was sitting behind me in his car seat, he was only 3 ½ at the time and had just recently came back to live with us.
Ruth, Bryan and Valorie in 2008
(Bryan's "birth mom" and "biological grandmother")
Bryan used to say to Cole and Preston; “Camille is NOT your REAL mom” (I would be lying if I said this didn’t hurt my feelings). So one day I tried to explain it to him the best I could. I told him that Ruth was his “birth mom.” He wanted to know what “birth mom” meant. I said she was his “birth mom” because she gave “birth” to him. I told him I was his “mom” because I was the person who took care of him and would be raising him. I told him Ruth would always be his birth mother and that she loved him just like I did.

Then he wanted to know about “birth” so I tried to explain in simple terms about a woman and a man creating a child (this was not easy!) I kept driving and he was quiet for a while, then he asked “then where is my birth father?” (all three of my boys have the same birth mother and birth father). Up to that point we really had only discussed his birth mother, so it was a valid question, and in his mind he only had one father, Mykel. I told him what I knew about his birth father and he asked me “tell me everything Ruth told you” (those were his exact words; he was an amazingly perceptive child). We had quite a conversation during that drive, but after I had sufficiently answered all of his questions, he seemed to be content with the answers.

After that car ride and question and answer dialogue, he started calling me “mom.”

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Our Story, Part 14 - Reunited

When we came back from California we decided to move to Ogden, so we were now a few hours away from Bryan and Ruth. Since we lived so far away we didn’t see each other as frequently, but we still saw Bryan at Easter and for Cole and Preston’s birthday and on several other occasions. Celebrating Preston and Cole's Birthday, April 1999

The day after Mother’s Day in May 1999, 14 months after Bryan went back to live with Ruth, she called and asked me if Bryan could come live with us. I told Ruth that if Bryan came to live with us that he was not going back (that may sound harsh, but I could not handle losing him again, and I did not want to keep confusing Bryan).
All the "boys" together for a visit (before Bryan came back)

She said Bryan kept asking to go and live with his “real family.” The year before when I had helped Ruth and Bryan move to their new apartment I gave them a picture of us (Mykel, me, Cole and Preston). Apparently it was hanging in their apartment and when Bryan would look at it, he would say it was his “real” family. I don’t know what finally changed Ruth’s mind about allowing Bryan to come back to us, but I am so glad she did,
I cannot imagine my life without my son Bryan!

The "Real Family" picture

Since we lived several hours away, I couldn’t just come and pick Bryan up right after she called. We made arrangements for my mother-in-law to pick him up and meet me the next morning. We were supposed to meet in Heber City (which was the half-way point) but I left early and drove so fast that we ended up meeting on the side of the highway. Bryan got in with me and I put all of his stuff in the back of my Jeep. For people passing by it probably looked like I was picking up my son from visiting grandma’s house, little did they know I was picking him up to be with us forever! All together again!

When I got in the car he just looked at me, looked at his brothers, and then looked straight ahead. I cannot even imagine what was going through his head at the time (I really think he was angry with me). I was just hoping he wasn’t scared of me. We started with small talk and that is when he told me he remembered living with us and when he killed the fish (I honestly couldn’t believe he remembered that, he was only 2 ½ at the time!) He also told me about his aunts and uncles and the trip he had made to the Denver Zoo. He remembered the names of the places he had visited and even remembered all of their names (and he went on this trip when he was 3).

Pictures of the boys for Father's Day 1999 (about a month after Bryan came back)

I asked him if he was hungry and he said “yes” so we decided to stop and eat at one of our favorite places ~ we call it “The Train Place.” ~ So there I was, sitting and eating hamburgers and shakes with my three sons, and it all just seemed so natural, like we were just out for a normal day together for lunch.

By the time we arrived home Bryan had warmed up considerably. We got his things unpacked and he just started running around the house and playing with his brothers, it was so wonderful to see them all together again! Mykel and I just looked at each other and smiled – we were now the parents of three boys, all under the age of 3 ½.

Life was good!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Our Story, Part 13 - "Decree of Adoption"

In November 1998, seven months after Preston came to live with us, and 11 months after Cole came to live with us, their adoptions were finalized. It had been less than one year since that Thanksgiving day when my dad asked me if I was interested in adoption, and here we were, now the parents of two amazing little boys!
"Finalization day!"
(Our attorney was standing between us, but I had to cut him out because I don't have permission to use his picture)

The language of the “Decree of Adoption” is short but very powerful ~
(the following is a small portion)

“… previously known as Baby B, is hereby declared adopted by Mykel and Camille Henrie as their child and hereafter he shall be regarded and treated in all respects as their natural and lawful child and there shall exist between said parties all of the rights, benefits and privileges instant to that parent/child relationship, together with all responsibilities and duties of a parent to their child and of child to his parents.”

The day after finalization at a party with our family.

“That petitioners (us) shall hereafter jointly share the relationship of parents to said children and shall have all of the rights, and shall be subject to all of the duties and responsibilities of that relationship. That said minor adoptive children shall have all of the rights, and be subject to all of the duties and responsibilities of the parent/child relationship.”

At a restaurant in California on Christmas Day 1998

The adoption finalization before a judge only lasts a few minutes ~ You raise your right hand and answer questions about why the children should be allowed to be adopted by you, why you want to adopt them and you swear to be a responsible and good parent.

(Shouldn’t ALL parents be required to answer these questions?)
After the adoptions were finalized, it was if an entire new part of my heart was opened up to the boys that had been closed before. I (unknowingly) hadn’t allowed myself to fully and completely love them because I was so afraid of losing them. They were finally “mine” in the sense that they couldn’t legally be taken away again;

Mykel and I were now their “real parents” (if there is such a thing).

Our first Christmas morning together!

We moved to California as soon as the adoptions were finalized. We were only there for a few short months, but we enjoyed our first Christmas together, feeding seagulls on the beach together, and getting stares and rude comments for “having our children so close together.”

We didn’t stay in California for very long though…the possibility of Bryan joining our family would be much easier realized if lived closer to Ruth, so we moved back and that possibility became a reality a few short months later.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Our Story, Part 12 - Six month wait

A few days after we got Preston back I was standing in line at the store holding him (he was one-month-old) with Cole (1-year-old, they are only 11 ½ months apart in age), and the lady standing next to me said “oh let me see your baby” ~ so I show her, and then she asks “how old is he?” and I say “about one month” and then she looks me up and down and says, “WOW, you look great for just having a baby!” I just smiled ~ and thanked her. One of my favorite reactions (when someone I know would see me holding a new baby) was “I had no idea you were pregnant!” I would just laugh and say “neither did I!”

Camille (me) with Cole and Preston visiting with my brother Kelly

There were so many people placed in our path to allow this amazing journey to take place. One very important person was our attorney (I haven’t asked to use his name, so I won’t). He has been the attorney on all five of our adoptions and he is one of the most charitable people I have ever met.

When Mykel and I first wanted to adopt, our attorney met with us individually and interviewed us about why we wanted to adopt, what our background was, etc. We also discussed the fee schedule for a private adoption (we didn’t have any money saved because before we got our boys we had only been contemplating adoption for about one month). We agreed on attorney fees (which were very minimal compared to normal adoption fees). I later found out (because I worked in the same office as he did at that time) that all the money we paid to our attorney he donated to a victim reparations fund (a fund to buy toys and teddy bears for police officers to give to child victims of sexual abuse).

Our attorney has a very demanding schedule and his time is worth a lot, yet he was always there anytime we needed him (without having to pay a fee!) He is just ONE of the many amazing examples of selfless people who have helped us along the way.

Out with the boys for a picnic

According to the laws of our state, an adoption can be finalized six months after placement, not date of relinquishment, which means, the adoption could be finalized six months from the date Preston was first placed with us (if relinquishment requirements are met). Even though Cole had already been with us for four months at this point, we decided to finalize both adoptions at the same time (November). Now we just had to wait.

Three brothers together for a visit

(even though Bryan lived with Ruth at the time, and I had Cole and Preston)

In the interim we were able to help Ruth and Bryan get set up in a new apartment in a different town (only 30 minutes from where we were). We saw Bryan on several occasions over the next six months (my parents and siblings were even invited to his birthday party). At this point Mykel and I wanted a new start somewhere else. We looked for jobs in California and a few days after Cole and Preston’s adoptions were finalized, we moved (again)!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Our Story, Part 11 – Time to put the crib back up!

When Mykel and I arrived home early in the morning after our long drive there was a message on our answering machine. The message was from my mother, she called to tell me that Preston was at her house and that she would keep him there until we got home! Apparently Preston had cried the entire time he was gone (I later thanked him for that) and Ruth decided it would be better if he lived with us, so he came back to stay!

Preston and Camille in 1998 (I told you my hair kept getting shorter!)

As I mentioned before, all of us were new to this “open” adoption scenario. Ruth and I were both walking on eggshells trying not to say anything to offend each other and sometimes we didn't even know what to say or how to act. I know she was doing her best with the entire chaotic situation as she had the hardest decision to make.
Here we were, two women, linked together through this ongoing course of life-changing events. I know that our meeting each other was not by chance, Heavenly Father had a plan for both of us.

Ruth and Camille (me) in 2001 meeting to celebrate Ruth's birthday

As I mentioned in my last post, I wasn’t mad at Ruth for taking Preston back (of course I was sad but both of us were sad). I knew that she had felt pressure from her family, her neighbors, and church members and probably even us to place the baby for adoption. When Ruth made the decision for Preston to be placed with us the second time, I felt like it was more of her decision and that she felt at peace with it this time. I cannot speak for her and how she felt, so I asked her if I could use her words in my blog.

Preston in 1998 (he picked this picture to put on the blog)

The following is a letter Ruth (my children’s birth mother) sent to me in 2001 after she came and had a visit with the boys:

(used by permission from the author)

“I am glad Bryan did okay with the visit. I would like to see the boys whenever it is good for you. After I met you, I knew those boys were for you. Right before I moved to Utah, I prayed about adoption for the boys because I knew that I couldn’t take care of them and give them a complete family that they needed to reach their full potential. So I prayed and fasted. No answer came as if it were the right thing to place them.

I had looked into LDS Social Services and read over papers with families’ stories and pictures. They looked like nice families but none of them felt right. Neighbors knew me, knew my story and that I wanted to place Cole and the unborn baby (Preston). So they introduced me to several couples, but none of them seemed right either. A week or two passed after starting my prayers and fast. I went to the refrigerator one day for something and the words “they don’t belong to you” came into my head.

Things were not going real well with me trying to take care of the boys, different little things happened, and my mom knew and was concerned. One day, she came out to Colorado from Vernal where she had already moved. She convinced me to go and we packed my stuff and I moved out there, which wasn’t very fun.

One day I was doing loads of laundry at my mom’s house, going back and forth to switch loads and then back to my house to check on “Mikey” (Cole) who was sleeping. It had gotten icy out on my porch. I went inside my house to get my keys and to make a very quick trip to the mail box when a thought came to me not to go back out the door down the icy stairs. I thought “if I throw salt on it, it will be okay,” but I was wrong, the table salt did nothing, boy was I dumb. I fell. I yelled and hoped my mom (who lived across the sidewalk) would hear me. She didn’t. A neighbor who was leaving her place saw me, went and got my mom and some other neighbors to help. They got me up because I couldn’t on my own. My mom took me to the hospital. My left ankle was x-rayed and declared broken. My brother and sister watched the boys while I was gone.

My mom watched the boys, and it was during that time that I met you and Mykel. I felt at peace with you, like I had known you before. My mom struggled with watching the boys. Watching her struggle and knowing that I couldn’t take care of them while I had a broken leg, I thought harder about adoption. I prayed one night and I said. “Heavenly Father, if these boys don’t belong to me, then who do they belong to?” That moment yours and Mykel’s face came into my mind and I knew they were for you and everything else made sense.

I told my mom and the next day she worked everything out with you. Having the boys leave was hard and in a sense there was peace of mind knowing that they were where they were supposed to be. I am glad that through Heavenly Father I was able to bless your and Mykel’s lives. Thank you for letting me see them and to know them.”

Monday, January 18, 2010

Our Story, Part 10 - "There is nothing as constant as change"

When Bryan and Cole came to live with us in December, Cole’s given name was “Michael Joshua” and his nickname was “Mikey” – we called him “Mikey” for the first two months or so, I liked the name “Michael” but not necessarily his nickname and besides, my husband’s name is “Mykel” and I didn’t want him to have to share a name (I had always looked forward to having kids, choosing a name, painting the nursery…etc. so changing his name was one thing I actually COULD do, so I did)!

Cole and Preston

I already had several boy names picked out and written in my journal from when I was 11-years-old. One of my favorites was “Cole” and since it kind of fit with his old name “My-Cole” (and because of his dark brown eyes) it worked. One day we just started calling him Cole and he didn’t even skip a beat, he just went with it. It is funny now because every once in a while the boys will ask “what was my FIRST name?”

During this time there was so much going on behind the scenes so to speak. We had moved twice in the last six months. The first move was right after Cole and Bryan were placed with us because we needed some more space. After Bryan went back, I really couldn’t stand to be in THAT house anymore, and even though we only lived there for about six weeks, we moved again, so we were in a different house when the baby was born. Ruth had originally named the baby “Austin MacKenzie” but from the moment he came to me, he was Preston Luke (he was named after a childhood friend of mine who had always been so nice to me).

Camille (Me) holding Preston

After everyone left, I walked back in the house to look at Preston sleeping in his car seat. He was so content and slept so soundly I didn’t want to even wake him, (even though I was dying to pick him up and hold him!), instead I just brushed the back of my fingers against his warm cheek and felt him breathing. Then, I got my video camera out to capture the moment on film to make sure this wasn’t a dream.

(Preston loves watching that video).

When I spoke to Mykel earlier to let him know Preston was on his way, he said he wanted to be the first one to change him, so I let him. Mykel got home from work a few hours after Preston arrived and he was still dirty from work but he didn’t care, he just wanted to see his new son. I love the memory of Mykel changing Preston’s clothes that first time. Mykel wrapped Preston up like a mummy and fed him, and from then on, that was how Preston preferred to sleep and be fed.

At this point in the adoption, Ruth had relinquished her parental rights for Cole, but not for Preston, so again I was just in “baby-sitter” mode. I never knew from day to day if she would change her mind. She and I spoke almost daily and finally on Mother’s Day (Preston had only been with me for a few weeks at that point) she said she wasn’t sure if she wanted to place him. I told her that if she wanted him back then she needed to let me know right now. She said she wanted him back. I wasn’t mad that she wanted him back because I knew her heart was breaking as well. I just had to have a decision one way or the other, it was too hard not knowing.

I packed up all of his clothes, his food, and his toys; I took down his crib and packed up every thing in my house that had even a slight memory of Preston, and he went back. I took Cole over to my mom’s house and told her that Mykel and I were going for a drive and needed some time to be alone. We drove for hours and hours and eventually ended up in another state, I couldn’t go back home yet knowing that Preston wasn't there.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Our Story, Part 9 - The Baby Arrives!

Sometimes when I tell this story it is hard for people to believe how things happened (it was unbelievable to me!) I mean, USUALLY adoptive parents get a call from a social worker or from the adoption agency telling them that they have been chosen or selected by a birth mother to be the parents, and then they get a time frame of when the baby will be born, they have time to buy baby supplies, chose a name and hopefully are prepared with the necessities by the time the baby is born. That is not how it happened for us, but seriously, is anyone really ever prepared to be a parent, no matter what the circumstances are?

Even now when I talk to women who are expecting and are stressing that they only have “two more months before the baby is born” and “they just aren’t ready yet” I secretly roll my eyes and want to say “how about an hour, how about 15 minutes, or how about no time to prepare at all???”

I am not complaining though because I am not a very patient person
~ so 15 minutes notice was great for me!

Our little family - 1998

Cole had just awakened from his nap and he and I were in the kitchen eating lunch when the doorbell rang. Ruth (birth mother), Valorie (biological grandmother), and Bryan (sibling) all showed up at my house as promised about 15 minutes after I got the phone call about placing the new baby with us. How does one prepare for this situation?

I don’t remember exactly what was said, I know we talked for a while and I asked about his feeding and sleeping schedule, what he liked and disliked, etc…

Ruth and I were sitting on the couch talking when Bryan came up to me and asked me to read him a book. I found a book he liked and he climbed on my lap and we read together for about 20 minutes (oh how I missed him!) When it was time to leave they brought in a box of formula, baby clothes and his necessities.

All of us were crying when it came time to say goodbye. Bryan held onto my leg and said he wanted to stay with me which made the situation even harder. It is one of those vivid memories where you can remember sensory details such as smells (lunch and baby formula), colors (dark paneling on the walls and blue carpet that made everything feel so dark and sad), touch (the cold of the April afternoon) and sight (the picture of Ruth walking away with tears in her eyes).

Mykel and Preston

I can’t describe my feelings at that moment in time; here she was giving me her baby boy to love and care for and while I was on the receiving end of this amazing selfless act and my heart filled with joy, Ruth’s heart was being ripped apart.

I think I was pretty numb with everything that had just happened; there really is no way to explain it.

Amazingly, the tiny newborn slept soundly in his car seat, oblivious to what was going on, through this entire exchange.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Our Story, Part 8 – Fifteen Minutes Notice!

Ruth was due in April and we already knew she would be having a boy. Ruth and I had spent several hours talking and I knew that she wanted to take the baby home. I did not want to pressure her about placing the baby (she had already placed one beautiful little boy with me). She had asked me if I wanted to come to the hospital and have dinner with her after the baby was born (she delivered at a small local hospital and they give the parents a nice dinner before they leave the hospital). It is funny how smells conjure up memories, because now whenever I smell baked carrots I get déjà vu about that hospital meal.

Bryan with his new little brother at the hospital, April 1998

Ruth and I spent the evening talking and by the time I left to go home, I knew Mykel and I wouldn’t be taking a baby home from the hospital. I would be lying if I didn’t say my heart was crushed, but who was I to try to make my pain any more important than hers?

We were able to see the baby in the hospital and of course he was completely perfect. He had a shock of black hair and his little red lips and the shape of his mouth reminded me of Mykel….
I have a vivid picture of Mykel cradling him in his arms and rocking him….and oh how we longed to bring him home with us.

I guess I always pictured motherhood/adoption like a Hollywood movie, you know the scene where everything works out perfectly and the happy couple leave the hospital with their newborn…all smiles, but that was not to be (at least not the hospital scene).

During the next few weeks I saw Ruth on several occasions. We went and visited my mom and my mother-in-law together and we went out to lunch. I even had the opportunity to go to her house and hold Preston and get him dressed once (he was so tiny and soft!).

A few weeks later I was at home with Cole (he had just turned one) when I got a phone call from the boys’ biological grandma. It was early afternoon and Mykel was at work, Cole was sleeping and I was doing some laundry. She asked if we still wanted to adopt the baby, and again without hesitation I quickly said YES!!!

She said “we will bring him over in 15 minutes.” I started screaming and dancing around (after I hung up the phone of course!) I think I cleaned my entire house during that 15 minute wait!

I tried to call Mykel at work but he was out on location and had to be reached via satellite phone, when I finally got a hold of him I started crying and said “guess what?? We are getting another son, he is on his way here!”

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Our Story, Part 7 - From Zero, to Two, to One!

Well in less than two months we went from being childless, to two children to one child. What a crazy emotional roller coaster we were riding, sometimes I just wanted to get off so I could stop spinning!
My son Bryan, (who is 14 now and reads my blog) read my entry yesterday and said “that is all I get, one short sentence for the whole time I was gone?” I had to chuckle a little bit. I told him I would be adding more as I continue on through the story. I hope everyone isn’t getting bored.

Cole with his aunt Dani

Since we didn’t have very many baby supplies (Ruth had given me Cole’s crib and most of his baby clothes but I still didn’t even have a high chair, I had been feeding Cole on my lap) some neighbors of mine planned a baby shower for me.

I still get emotional thinking about how grateful I am that these women did this for me,

it meant SO much!

At the baby shower with Cole, February 1998

The baby shower invitations stated:
“A baby shower for Camille Henrie and her new sons!”
and also mentioned clothes sizes for Bryan, Cole, and a newborn ~ but by the actual date of the baby shower, Bryan had already gone back to live with Ruth and it was unclear if Ruth still wanted to place the baby with us. I was grateful someone even thought about giving me a baby shower at that point, especially because Cole wasn’t even officially “mine” yet.

Camille and Cole - These pictures were taken February 12, 1998

I cherished all the time I was able to spend with Cole for those few months.

Bryan even came to Cole’s first birthday party in April even though he lived with Ruth at the time (Ruth and I talked quite often and went out to lunch, so it wasn't weird that Bryan came, he was just a natural extension of our little family).

Throughout the ten year process of adopting all five of our children, this was the only time we had only one child. (Preston would be born before Cole reached his first birthday; they are officially the same age for 10 days!)

It felt weird having only one child, but I didn’t get too comfortable, things were about to change again.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Our Story, Part 6 - Bittersweet

I didn’t want to even mention the next part of the story because it is so painful for everyone, but if I don’t mention it, the rest of the story won’t make sense.

Suffice it to say that Bryan went back to Ruth after he had been with us for a little less than two months. We saw him several times during the next year and then 14 months later Ruth called me and asked if Bryan could come live with us again. She said “Bryan says he wants to come live with his real family.”
I went and picked him up the next day.

When Bryan first lived with us we had a small fish tank. One day Bryan said “the fish are all sleeping.” Apparently he and his cousin Dylon put fingernail polish in the fish tank. I tell this story because when I went and picked up Bryan after 14 months of being gone, (and I was fumbling with what to say to him) he mentioned this story to me and said“do you remember when I put fingernail polish with the fish?”
Bryan has always had a phenomenal memory and even at 3 years old he was able to recall all of his biological aunts and uncles names and his uncle’s girlfriend’s name and places back East he had visited with them.
He still has amazing recall about anything he has seen or read.

Bryan and his cousin looking at the "sleeping fish"

I need to note that the relationship between us and the biological family was in its infancy at this stage. Neither of us had a handbook or set of parameters about how we should act or what the correct protocol was. The adoption was being handled privately and not through an agency, so we didn’t have set guidelines about what we should or shouldn’t do.

The last 12 years have definitely been a learning experience for all of us.
Cole and Ruth during a visit in May 2002

The following is a letter from my children’s biological grandmother after the boys’ adoptions were finalized: (Printed with her permission)

“Another family became interested in adopting the boys and they flew their daughter from Texas to meet the boys and Ruth. They fell in love with the kids right away and started bringing Ruth nice things and trying to win her friendship. (Meanwhile Ruth had broken her leg in two or three places by falling on the ice in December). It had become my job to take care of my own children at my apartment, take care of Bryan, Cole and Ruth at their apartment, and try to get the boys ready and dressed and off to a baby-sitter so I could go to work each day. As the main worker and child advocate in the case, I was ready to place the boys anywhere they could be happy and have a good life which I thought they deserved. I felt that neither Ruth nor I could supply all their needs and at that point the concern for their welfare was great.

Preston and Ruth in May 2002

Here is where the next major step in the miracle began….an attorney contacted Ruth and said there were other people interested in the adoption, and we might as well meet with the prospective parents…..Mykel and Camille Henrie! That was all it took! The other people were not even in the running once I met the Henries! When they arrived at Ruth’s apartment to meet her and the boys, the decision was made in my heart. Bryan climbed up on the couch and sat right by Camille. I never saw two people look more alike than those two! It felt right and appeared right. The rest of the story is so complicated and took two years, but it is a story that can certainly be told from many perspectives.

The long process of convincing Ruth was the hardest part. She wanted to keep all three of the boys very much. I kept talking and talking and pointing out how much difficulty she was having trying to take care of all their needs and make them happy. She gradually saw that she was not able to provide all they needed and one by one let them go….though it was a very hard decision to make.

Bryan with Ruth (his birth mother) and Valorie (his biological grandmother) during a kindergarten performance of The Gingerbread Man. I love this picture!

We all cried many, many times over the boys parting. If I could convey one message to the three boys, it would be to never think that you were not wanted by your birth family, because you were wanted a lot, and loved a lot; we all just wanted the very best for you which we were not able to provide for several reasons.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Our Story, Part 5 - Preparing For the Worst

The next few weeks were some of the hardest weeks of my life. For those of you who are following this story, I hope I am not boring you with details, but there were so many things that happened and I am only writing a small portion each day. Here is a brief recap: Ruth is the boys’ birth mother and “V” is their biological grandmother.

Because we lived in a small town (and we weren’t trying to hide) Ruth and “V” knew where we lived. They would stop by quite often to see the boys. I am sure they missed the boys terribly and were probably lamenting the fact that they were gone, but at the time it was so hard for me to have them visit (you know it always happens that people stop by when your house is a wreck and you haven’t made it to the shower, they never seem to stop by when your house is clean and your hair is fixed!) I never knew if they were coming to take the boys back or if they were just checking to see if I knew what I was doing. I felt like I was in a huge fishbowl.

We also had to start the paperwork to get the birth father’s rights relinquished. (Ruth obviously didn’t want to relinquish her rights until his were taken care of first). We had to find a sheriff to locate him (he was in a different state) and personally serve him with the paperwork.
At this point we had started meeting with a licensed clinical social worker to start our “Home Study” – which basically means you pay around $1000 to have a social worker meet with you several times, make sure your home is safe, ask hundreds of personally invasive questions such as how you discipline kids, why you are adopting, why you can’t have children of your own, check your entire background including financial and criminal databases, and THEN go to the local jail and get fingerprinted ~ and that is just the first visit (okay, so maybe it wasn’t THAT bad but I felt like a common criminal).

I was still working 40 hours a week trying to juggle daycare, daily/weekly visits from Ruth and “V”, home study visits and adoption paperwork; all of that combined with lack of sleep, and being a new mom, made me a little stressed to say the least. My brother used to joke that “when women get stressed they cut their hair.” I laugh about it now, but at Thanksgiving when my father mentioned adoption I had long hair. It was so short by the time we got them and over the next few weeks it continually got shorter. (This was probably because it was the only thing I had complete control over!)

I really had no control over the present situation. The only thing I could do was love and care for the boys and hope for the best. I was basically a glorified baby-sitter and that was frustrating at times. Bryan already called me “mom” and the boys would snuggle, hug and kiss me just like I had always been the only one there for them. I adored my two little boys and relished every minute I was able to spend with them. I loved hearing them laugh when I tickled them, I loved their smell and softness, and most of all I loved holding them and being their “mother.”

Even though the first few weeks were stressful, it was just a preface for what would happen in the next few weeks and upcoming months.