When you’ve been touched by adoption, you appreciate certain things that most people take for granted. For one, you realize the magnitude of being able to have a child that someone else gave birth to. Some people that go into adoption can’t have children and becoming a parent in this way brings so much clarity and appreciation. Little things get celebrated and seemingly meaningless dates become a big deal.
My husband and I adopted two little girls from foster care. We’ve fostered many and have seen them go home. But two little girls, God made just for us. Our first one was 3 months old when she came home, and our second came two years later as a newborn. This is exactly how I would have planned my pregnancies would I have gotten pregnant. I’ve always said I wanted kids two years apart and I’ve always wanted girls. Those little miracles are not coincidences to me. I appreciate them and value the perfect plan God had for my life.
We weren’t able to have biological children because soon after our wedding, I was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension. My heart was overworked and enlarged, leaving little room for my lungs to work properly. I was put on an oxygen tank and an intravenous drug and was advised to not even try to get pregnant. I was way too sick to carry a child. As a young couple who had always dreamed of being parents, this crushed us. Thankfully, our determination was stronger than my illness and we worked our way to fostering. It took me a while to get healthy enough to foster but I always had kids as the end goal. I wasn’t always sure how we would get there but I knew I needed to become healthy to have kids.
As I began to get better, my husband and I checked out private adoption and surrogacy. Both would require us to take out a loan and with all the medical bills, it was a quick and easy decision against it. We tried adopting an orphan from Dominican Republic, where we’re from. But there were too many restrictions. So we found out about fostering. We didn’t have to pay anything, and we got to love on lots of little ones. We got to choose the gender and age. It just seemed like the perfect fit.
After taking the required courses, and finishing the home studies and background checks, we were licensed! Our journey has been great. We’ve had great case managers. We were very involved in our cases and treated the kids as if they were all our own. However, knowing that two little miracles were fully ours, opened our eyes to things we would have taken for granted otherwise.
I’ll never forget my oldest daughter’s third birthday. We didn’t have much money because I’d just gotten laid off from my photojournalist position. But it was so important for me to celebrate this day with all the people that have supported us from the beginning. We booked space at Chuck E Cheese and I handmade little goodies and gifts for the kids. When we sang happy birthday to her, I couldn’t stop crying. Our guests didn’t understand why I couldn’t hold back the tears. They just giggled and hugged me. What I felt was so incredible. Just a few years back, I was walking with an oxygen tank, and told I would never be a mom. Then, I was celebrating MY daughter’s birthday. She wasn’t officially adopted yet, but after raising her for three years, she was mine. Seeing a child that was picked especially for me was overwhelming.
We were able to formally adopt her a year later and I won’t even get started on the emotions of that day. It’s the little things that we really treasure. I’m an adoption family photographer in Miami, Florida and constantly take pictures of all my kids. If they go home, they can take the pictures with them. If they stay, I get to keep them forever. My girls have a canvas portrait I made when each was one year old. They’re wearing the same outfit. They each have theirs hanging above their beds. There’s something so beautiful about a child telling you how happy their own picture makes them. They have told me “thank you” on various occasions. These pictures give my girls a sense of security. They know they belong here. They have a place in my home and they physically see that.
As soon as both adoptions were finalized, I spent months planning the perfect photo session to celebrate our family. I made special tutus for the girls and found a photographer that would make our pictures special and unique. As a photographer, I already know how special family sessions are but being able to schedule one for my own family was amazing. Seeing the finished product on my wall gives me so much joy! I love looking at us as a whole.
If you ever get a chance to get portraits to put on your walls, do it. We all have tons of pictures of our kids on our phones. But if you don’t print them, your kids will never see them. It’s much more special to them than you think. After seeing how special my girls felt when they saw their pictures on the wall, I changed how I practiced photography. I used to just give digitals because people wanted them. But the kids don’t get to see the pictures because parents are busy and never get around to printing them. Now I make sure people have something to hang on their walls or at least frame on their desk or a shelf. All kids deserve to physically feel part of a family, whether adopted or not.
I find it crazy that if I had gotten pregnant many years ago, this wouldn’t be my life. I am constantly in awe of our family. I appreciate the little things that they do that they learned from me. And I’m in awe of the things that they inherited. They’re special little girls that show us cool little surprises that come from their genetic makeup. I stare at them every day as they walk away. They don’t know I do it. I just love the way they walk or dance away. I love the way they smile and the way they love. I love little things that they have that I don’t. It amazes me that I get to be their mom.
Janeris Marte is an award-winning adoption family photographer at Janeris Studios in South Florida. She has always loved and photographed kids and became a foster mom in 2013. She cares for many children in her home and adopted 2 girls. She’s an advocate for foster children and co-founded an organization that photographs and celebrates teens in foster care for their sweet 16s. She’s spent most of her life battling lupus but her optimistic personality has always kept her happy and motivated to do more for others. She believes that struggles in life bring people to their perfect plan. She loves to work out and eat healthy and feels her greatest accomplishment is to have gotten her kids to eat Brussels sprouts and in bed by 8pm. To learn more about Janeris, visit Janeris.com.