About the time some people feel they are finally ready to become parents, they then have concerns about their age. However, in today’s “Let Love Define Family®” series for the Huffington Post Queer Voices, RaiseAChild contributing writer, Beth Hallstrom, found a couple who are very happy that they waited.
For two women dedicated to their careers and families who put motherhood on the back burner for 20 years, Jennifer and Lara didn’t let any moss grow under their feet when they finally decided a child would complete their life.
Jennifer and Lara, both 46 and residents of the Poconos area of northeastern Pennsylvania, were classmates at Marywood University in Scranton when they met and soon became friends. According to Jennifer, they became roommates in their junior year but didn’t become a couple until they headed to Florida for graduate school.
“We’ve been together for 23 years. We had a private commitment ceremony in Florida, then were legally married in Connecticut on December 31, 2009. It was just us ― we eloped because we didn’t want a big thing. We even came home that same day and had what I call ‘our reception’ in a restaurant. But, being New Year’s Eve, it was extra special,” Jennifer recalled.
Then, it was back to work. Lara, who holds several education degrees and certifications, took a job as a teacher while Jennifer studied Communication Arts and Human Resources and worked in Human Resources for several companies while in the Sunshine State.
“After some time, circumstances at home in Pennsylvania gave us reason to move back,” Jennifer explained. “Our parents were getting older, my grandma was getting older, we could be closer to our families and we had the opportunity to take over a family business. All of this combined to give us good impetus to come back.”
According to Jennifer, “We talked about being moms while we lived in Florida. We could have fostered, but at the time we lived there, it was illegal for same-sex couples to adopt. We also discussed biological options, but none was an appealing option for either of us. Then, we were busy with the move so we put motherhood on the back burner.”
Perhaps being close to family once again stirred their maternal urges, but as Jennifer and Lara approached their 20th anniversary they declared, “It’s now or never!”
“We looked at several agencies, then found Diakon Adoption and Foster Care,”Jennifer recalled. “We took the classes and did the training and were officially certified on Feb. 25, 2014. We went off on our planned getaway to Disney World and, on March 6 got an email from our caseworker about a 17-month old girl. And that was our daughter. That was Samantha.”
Jennifer said that when they visited Samantha at her temporary foster home, the three formed an instant connection.
“She was the happiest little girl in the world. Her foster mom liked to dress her in frilly outfits and she looked like a little doll. She came right to us, allowed us to change her diaper and put her down for a nap. We looked at each other and Lara said, ‘I guess we’re really Moms now. Let’s do this!’ She was in our house permanently by April 8,” Jennifer noted.
“We had no idea it would happen so fast. We were prepared to wait and put ourselves in a place where we would wait until the right child came along. I had to call my sister-in-law to borrow a crib and a high chair!” Jennifer remembered, laughing.
While Samantha was definitely in Jennifer and Lara’s home to be adopted, the final stretch of the process was difficult and stressful for the new family, mainly because of weekly visits with Samantha’s birth mother and assorted extended relatives.
Finally, the birth mother relinquished her rights. The birth father’s rights were terminated. Almost 18 months to the day of Samantha’s homecoming, her adoption was made official.
Today, Samantha is smart, sassy, very opinionated and simply too busy to watch TV or even sit still for very long. A preschool student, she is also enrolled in a swimming class and takes horseback riding lessons, which will be replaced with gymnastics for the winter.
“She’s actually pretty good at [horseback riding] and that’s the scary part. She is fearless, adventuresome, active and a love bug who wants to snuggle with us. We are very lucky,” Jennifer said.
“It’s fascinating to watch how differently she interacts with me and with Lara. We can’t imagine life without her and I really believe she’s brought us closer as a couple,” she continued.
Musing on their decision to become parents later in life, Jennifer said there are many advantages to waiting. “Age and experience are definitely a plus. As older Moms, we’re a lot more laid back. Come on, we’re the oldest parents at the playground, a same-sex couple with a bi-racial child. There’s a point in your life when you realize you don’t care what anyone else thinks, you relax and enjoy your child.”
To their fellow members of the LGBT community, especially those who worry about being an older parent, their message is: “Go for it! At least look into it. There are so many children who need homes and love and families. Don’t let anything stop you, society, your family, or yourself.”
Jennifer said watching their daughter grow and discover the world is an amazing joy.
“We look at each other and ask, ‘Why did we wait so long?’ Well, we waited so long because we were waiting for Samantha, that’s why,” she said.
Are you concerned that you may be too old to help a child by fostering, adopting, or becoming a weekend host parent? RaiseAChild encourages you to contact us.
RaiseAChild is the nationwide leader in the recruitment and support of LGBT and all prospective parents interested in building families through fostering and adoption to meet the needs of the 415,000 children in the foster care system of the United States. RaiseAChild recruits, educates, and nurtures supportive relationships equally with all prospective foster and adoptive parents while partnering with agencies to improve the process of advancing foster children to safe, loving and permanent homes. Take the Next Step to Parenthood at www.RaiseAChild.org or call us at (323) 417-1440.
Join RaiseAChild on Tuesday, October 25, 2016 for our 6th annual RaiseAChild HARVEST fundraiser at Mauro’s Café Fred Segal featuring performances by singer-songwriter Inara George; comedian Kira Soltanovich; and actor, comedian, and adoptive father Alec Mapa. Special thanks to presenting sponsor Banc of California and media partner HuffPost Queer Voices.