Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Diane's Diary by Diane Mueller
Have you ever wanted something so badly that your heart actually ached, or that it felt like you were missing a piece of your soul? And no matter how patiently you waited, you still were left wondering, “Why not me? Haven’t I been a good person? Haven’t I done everything I was supposed to do? Then why am I left with this empty space in my heart when everyone around me feels fulfilled?” This is exactly how my friends, Darlene and John Zeutzius felt when they were trying to conceive a child only to be disappointed time after time, when it seemed like everyone around them were able to create life with relative ease. Even people who didn’t seem to be deserving of the privilege of being parents were making babies. Yet they held fast to their faith as they continued to walk through life, until one day, when an amazing path was laid out before them and their lives would be forever changed.
Their remarkable story begins back in 1995 when they were married. They’ve both always known that they wanted children, and lots of them, because they both came from large families. Within their first year of marriage they suffered through the agony of two miscarriages and Darlene lost one of her fallopian tubes in the process. The doctors assured them that this wouldn’t make it impossible for them to conceive, but it certainly would make it more challenging. After struggling for five more years with no more pregnancies, numerous tests and different medications, they finally conceived their miracle child. In 2000, God answered their prayers and gave Kyla Mae to them. While she was pregnant, Darlene promised God that if He allowed her to carry this baby to term, that she would be happy and content. Life was good after the birth of Kyla; they spoiled her and their little girl everywhere with them. Even though they were happy and enjoying life, they still felt like something was missing in their lives. They felt bad raising an only child. They wanted her to have a sister to share secrets with, or a brother to make her strong and tough. But more than that, who would be there for her after Darlene and John were gone. Even though they promised God they would be satisfied with just one child, now that they’ve experienced the incredible joy of parenthood, they couldn’t help but wish for another.
Traditional adoption is always a consideration for couples who are unable to have children, but it’s a very expensive proposition, and this was especially true for Darlene and John. The expense for adoption was well beyond the amount their budget could afford, so they would have had to take out a loan to complete the adoption and still be able to afford to raise the child. No matter how many ways they considered this option, they just couldn’t make it work out. Again, they were left feeling disappointed and tried to make peace with the fact that perhaps they were only meant to have one child. Just when it appeared that Kyla was destined to be an only child, a ray of hope appeared in their lives. It began with a conversation with one of John’s cousins at a family gathering. They talked for hours with this cousin about the foster care program, in which she was in the process of adopting a 5 year old boy that she had been fostering. This conversation left Darlene feeling very hopeful and inspired her to research the program further. Several months later John’s cousin died and while at the funeral, Darlene observed this young boy crying over her coffin, missing his new mom. Shortly after the funeral, John and Darlene attended an adoption class and were awed when they saw a vision of John’s cousin sitting in the back row. They took this as a sign from God that their predestined path was to continue forward in the foster care program and they became licensed foster parents.
They had a few different children with them during their time as foster parents, some long term and some just on the weekends, but each instance taught them different parenting skills and they also learned which situations were conducive to their family dynamic and which situations didn’t work very well. It also gave Kyla the opportunity to discover what it would be like to be a sister. Although they loved sheltering children in need, soon it became evident that it was becoming too emotional for their family. It was too much heartache to live with the uncertainty of bringing children into their lives that had to go home. It was also taking too much of an emotional toll on their own little girl who was looking forward to having a sibling, and then continually coping with the disappointment when the children would leave. Then during one of their foster care training programs the topic of “special needs adoption” was presented and explained. The term “special needs,” with regards to this program, doesn’t refer to children who have a mental or physical impairment; instead, it refers to children who are considered at higher risk because they come from an uncertain background. These children were in the foster care system due to having been abused themselves, or having seen abuse occur, were exposed to drug abuse, prostitution or poverty. Some of these children have lived in the streets or halfway houses, or have been taken from the care of their parents due to domestic abuse or some other situation that was unsuitable for a child to be raised in. While other children may have been born with illegal drugs in their system, or may have medical needs such as; ADHD, RAD or asthma. The adoptive parents are able to choose the degree of special needs they are willing to accept, as this is a lifelong commitment.
John and Darlene filled out their paperwork for the Special Needs program in the spring of 2009 and then began the waiting game. They applied to adopt one special needs child, but would be willing to consider more if it meant keeping a family together. In early December, they attended a healing ceremony at their church. As they kneeled before the altar, they squeezed each others hands and prayed. Unbeknownst to each other at the time, they both prayed for exactly the same thing. They both prayed for God to heal whatever was preventing them from having more children and to heal the empty spot in their hearts. As the minister placed his hands on them to pray for them, Darlene felt an unexplainable feeling course through her. She quietly sobbed to herself as she sat through the remainder of the service. At this point, she had thrown her hands up to the Lord and asked for His help. Two weeks later, Darlene received a phone call from their social worker stating the agency had found a match for them. They had a 7 year old girl, 4 year old boy and a 15 month old boy who needed a home. Darlene and John went in the next day to read a bio on each of the children, little did they know, the bios would only consist of one paragraph per child. The company required them to take a day to consider whether or not they wanted to meet the children based upon reading these bios, as meeting the children meant they were going to proceed to adopt them, unless there was a significant issue that arose during that meeting. They both knew they were going to say “yes,” but per the agencies instructions, they agreed to wait and talk things over. Due to the holidays, however, they weren’t able to meet their new children until the first week in January. Even though the three children were half-siblings, they were each living in separate foster homes; so in essence, the children were meeting each other at the same time they were meeting their new parents. On this initial meeting, they all laughed and played for hours and they instantly knew this was meant to be. They were given immediate weekend visits and the children were permanently placed in their home by January 26th.
The children needed to live with their new parents for 6 months as foster children to ensure a smooth transition into their new daily lives. This also gives the children and parents the opportunity to decide if full adoption is the result they all desire. At the end of July, Darlene and John petitioned the courts for adoption and received an adoption date of September 28th, 2010. They appeared in court on that specified date as a foster family and walked out of the courtroom as an official family. Darlene and John were now the proud new parents of: Sasha, AJ and Tavi; and Kyla was finally a big sister. With the stroke of the judge’s gavel, they went from being a family of three to a family of six and all was right with the world. They were officially one big, happy family.
In December of the same year, they received a phone call from their social worker advising them that the children have an 8 month old half-brother in foster care and the agency was wondering if they would consider taking him in. The agency knew that taking in Ty would be a huge impact on the family, but legally, they needed to ask. The only concern they had was what the odds of the adoption being finalized were. They didn’t want to integrate their little brother into their home, only to have him removed later on. They couldn’t allow their children’s heart to be broken in that manner. Upon further review of Ty’s file and investigating other options, Darlene and John were informed that it would be a struggle to adopt him, as there was a father involved, but he needed to be placed in a home regardless. If he didn’t get placed in their home, he would have to be placed somewhere else. Being the loving people that they are, Darlene and John brought him home and he’s been with them ever since. Nine months later, Darlene and John are still working on adopting Ty, but the legal issues are in their favor. (The adoptions of the other three children occurred quicker and more easily because the children were in the custody of the state of Wisconsin, meaning that the parental rights were already terminated. Conversely, Ty is in the foster care system and in the custody of Milwaukee County, so it is a longer process due to parental rights still being dealt with.) Despite any difficulties they have encountered, Darlene and John are thrilled to be the parents of each one of these children. The children call Darlene and John, mom and dad, and the children call each other, brothers and sisters. They are all one cohesive, loving family and that is a bond that will never be broken.
The Zeutzius family would like to give a special thanks to: Children’s Social Services of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and their personal social worker, Nichole Watts. They would also like to thank: Lutheran Social Services and their social worker, Nikki Thompson. For more information, they can be contacted at: Lutheran Social Services of WI & Upper Michigan, 3003-A N Richmond Street, Appleton, WI 54911. This has been an incredible, life changing experience for Darlene and John and their only regret was that they didn’t learn about the program earlier. Now instead of having an empty heart, Darlene has a heart that is overflowing with a love and happiness that can’t be explained. Everyone who has met their children will attest that they are some of the most loving, energetic, intelligent, creative and forgiving souls, and they will change the way you view the world. “So whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God. There we will be treated with undeserved kindness and we will find help.” ~ Hebrews 4:16
As always, thank you to my sponsors: 911Strong.com and Big Rig Supplements for your continued support of me personal and my bodybuilding goals. You have opened doors for me that I never dreamed possible. And thank you to my mentor and coach, Jennifer Abrams (www.jenniferabrams.net) for your guidance and support, and for making me believe that even the sky is NOT the limit. And a special thank you to my friends at Steeltribe Muscle Gear Apparel. The Tribe is some most genuine and inspirational people I’ve had the privilege of meeting in the fitness industry.