May 6, 2019

Living My Why: Becoming a Family

Alexis Simek

Four years ago, my husband and I were told we had “undiagnosed infertility.” This is one of the more annoying things you can be told – you will most likely never have your own children, and there isn’t a clear reason why. Feeling stunned, we started exploring other options to make children a part of our family and future. First, we spoke with a few adoption agencies. But it turns out, two people who work full-time are not “the most attractive adoptive parents.” A birth mother probably wouldn’t pick us if we both wanted to work. Also, it would cost around $60k. If we wanted to adopt internationally, we’d have to wait until we had been married longer to demonstrate our stability, and then spend four months overseas. Additionally, the waiting list was over two years.

Inspired by our church’s foster ministry, we decided we’d become licensed foster parents instead, with the hope of adopting from the foster care system. The little nuggets had changed our hearts and we wanted to be a part of the solution.

“How hard could this be!? We have a clean house! We’ve never committed a crime!”

After attending the informational meeting, I told my supervisor at PartnerCentric about the hours of training I’d have to complete. I’d need to be available for health inspectors, fire marshals, social workers and volunteers to interview us and verify our domicile was fit. The response I got from him and from PartnerCentric: “Let us know if you need anything! We’re here for you and we’ll work with you to come up with the right accommodation.”

After six months of paperwork and background checks, we were finally verified and open to take a foster placement. We had set up a room, optimized for a toddler or preschool child to take up residence (no one gets babies!) and we waited for the call.

The week between Christmas and the New Year in 2016, it came. A baby had been born who needed a home. He was going to have to stay in the NICU for a short time, due to issues with the pregnancy. We scrambled. We got a crib, a bathtub and toys. We dug out the donated newborn clothes (that we thought we’d never get to use) from storage.

“We can totally take on an infant with no notice! We keep to a schedule! We pulled a car seat out of thin air! We are unstoppable!”

An estimated short stay in the NICU turned into a month of driving back and forth to the hospital early in the morning and late at night. When we finally got him home, the challenges continued. I’d have to take him to mandated appointments for children in the foster care system (WIC office, state run pediatrician – she always runs at least an hour late, dentist – yes, a 6-month-old with no teeth will need to see the dentist, and an early child development expert to verify he is hitting milestones). We took him for visitation with his birth mother twice a week. Everyone under the sun needed to come see him each month – lawyer, agency workers, the Department of Children and Family Services and court appointed special advocates.

And the reason this was all possible? It’s because I work for the kind of company that cares about its team members and their whole life, not just their work life. When I needed to take a few hours off with little notice during this process, we went through my to-do list and priorities, and then my boss said  “thanks for the heads up!” and wished me good luck. There was always support when I had to vent. There was joy, when we found out we would be adopting that baby. There was paid vacation time, in fact, so we could celebrate with our family, even if it was created in a way that doesn’t meet standard leave definitions.

During this journey, I grew personally and as a parent. But I grew in my career as well. I was given the opportunity to move from analyst to Project Manager of Technology. I learned new skills, took professional development courses, and was given increased responsibility. I fell more in love with my job. I was championed for my ideas regarding company improvement and encouraged to think outside the box. I was given both autonomy and careful guidance. My career makes me a better mother, and being a mother makes me a better employee. If I didn’t work for this company, that diagnosis would have meant a completely different life for us. One I can’t imagine now that Lukas, our adopted son, is a part of it.

In a few weeks, we’ll be moving out of the home that we’ve outgrown. A larger home will give us the opportunity to foster additional children. We’ll have to have the fire marshal out again and I have every confidence that I can do it all again...at home and at work.