Charlene Cardall

Life started with difficulties
Born at 24 weeks and not breathing upon delivery started life with difficulties.  The most lasting of all of them, the lack of oxygen caused my Cerebral Palsy.  At the time my parents didn’t know what was wrong with me, they just knew that I wasn’t behaving physically like a typical baby / toddler.  And the doctors could not offer a diagnosis.  I wouldn’t hold a spoon to feed myself and I wouldn’t walk.  I could blame my stubbornness on my momma because she says that she “forced” me to learn to hold a spoon and feed myself like other toddlers did.

The walking was a whole different story.  I would crawl and scoot along the floor but I was three years old before I started walking.  Somewhere around the age of three a doctor was finally able to offer a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy to my parents.  I looked it up once as a kid: “Neurological condition caused by a traumatic birth.”  Hmm.  I used to think when I was younger that if I just tried hard enough and tried to force my brain to realize what I wanted to do that I could make it all better so I could be like the rest of those kids out on the playground.  It didn’t work.

Only once or twice have I ever seen another person with a case milder than mine.  I’ve seen other children and adults who live with Cerebral Palsy and I know that my mild to moderate case is better and gives me a better quality of life than many others out there.  I am verbal, I am walking, I am working.  Deep down I know I am lucky/blessed given my low birth weight, under developed body and lack of oxygen at birth.  And for the most part I remember to be grateful.

Some days I still remember the harsh, hurtful things that kids said to me.  I still hate to walk to the front of the room with everyone watching me.  I hate looking in the mirror or doors of the store as I walk towards them.  I hate that even now as an adult I can trip over almost anything on the floor or trip over nothing at all.  I hate that I can lose my balance and fall just because I turned my head and looked behind me.  I can go for weeks and weeks, sometimes a month or more and not hit the floor.  I’m upright more than I’m on the ground.  But sometimes I pull out the trusty cane to be that added support when I am extra tired or in a crowd of people.

My kids have come to predict when it would be best for me to travel with the cane because they sense that I am tired or that the walk might be challenging and they remind me to swallow my pride and be safe.  It’s in those moments that I know that they truly love their old, ornery and pudgy momma.  I’d like to think that growing up with me as their momma and seeing just what it is like to see someone struggle physically that they have learned tolerance and acceptance of others who struggle.

 I always wanted a family
 I always wanted little people to call me mom.  But I also always knew that it would only happen thru adoption.  Imagine that!  Another woman’s heart had to break to make my dreams come true.  Doesn’t really seem very fair does it?  I could fill a book about the adoption journey, it’s joys, heartaches and disappointments.  It was a long, hard road.  It was high school all over again!  Ugh!  I was waiting, praying and hoping for someone to like me, to think that I was pretty enough, smart enough to pick me.

I signed up with multiple agencies, listened to somebody who knew somebody who knew someone else that was pregnant.  There was this little girl, or this little boy…  I think that the hardest one was when we actually picked a name for a little toddler boy and have the momma back out several weeks in to preparations to travel to an island in the Pacific Ocean.

In the Spring of 1999 after several years of disappointments and heartbreaks I was on the phone with my friend and told her that I was ready to give that maybe it just wasn’t meant to be for me.  She listened as she always has and she asked me why I was only looking with LDS Social Services, the international agency placing babies and kids from the Marshall Islands.  Why wasn’t I looking at kids in Foster Care?

That was a no brainer!  It was simple, I could not face the possibility of accepting a child, loving them and then living with the fear that they just might be taken away from me and reunified with their birth family.  It would have ripped my heart out.  From there the conversation went to someone that her son had met on his mission in Arizona that had adopted more than one child and would I like to meet them?  Well duh!  And the journey went from there.

I wanted off of the adoption roller coaster
I rewrote our parent letter to put our best image forward.  Honestly I didn’t care if they if I got a boy or a girl.  I didn’t care if they were white, black, blue, green or purple.  I just wanted a baby- child to love and I wanted off of the adoption roller coaster.  I started making emotional decisions instead of rational decisions.  I leveraged the equity in the house and wired $4,000 to an “adoption agency” that I learned a couple of years later was nothing more than an unlicensed broker.  But more on that later.

It wasn’t long before I was on the phone talking to a single mom with two kids and one on way.  She said that she picked us!  She picked me to be her baby’s momma!  We talked on the phone several times and I tried the best that I could to remember everything she said because I knew that one day I would want to tell my baby girl all about her momma C.  Then, one day in June I got on a plane and headed East with nothing more than a prayer and faith that it would all work out.

I’m a firm believer that across all religions, cultures and races when you are dealing with adoption that God will bring the right baby home to you.  You just have to be listening to the promptings of where you are supposed to be looking.  Me?  I spent too much time looking for my babies in the wrong places.  After years of hoping, praying and crying for a baby of my own my oldest had finally come home to me, just 23 months later my second came home and the last two five years later (but I didn’t spend all that time looking for them).

Sometimes a women’s soul knows deep down what her mind cannot or does not want to accept.
I was very busy and wrapped up in my new family that had just doubled from two kids to four. There was a lot to do, including getting all of the paperwork finished so that our new babies could become U.S citizens. Then, one of my dearest friends passed away suddenly. Amidst all of this, I learned that my husband and best friend were “dating”. How did I not see this coming?

I was broken, embarrassed, humiliated and ashamed.  I just knew everyone was staring at me, watching me, judging me.  I couldn’t keep my marriage together. Divorce is an ugly word and brings on many ugly things. There are no winners in divorce.  Everyone loses.

Somewhere I decided to put on my big girl panties and make sure that the divorce would not be the defining moment in the lives of my children.  I learned to rely on the kids and have them rely on me. Together we road-tripped and have had many wonderful adventures. Some of our adventures have taken us to some very small towns off the beaten path, and we have had a blast doing this!

My life has been richly blessed by all of my babies and their birth mommas.  They healed my heart when all I longed for was little people to love. They love me unconditionally.  They give me a purpose to wake up in the morning and face both the daily challenges in life and the unexpected ones too. Today I live thru them and take joy and pride in all of the things that they are able to do that I could never think of.  I love their track meets, soccer games, choir concerts and each and every event they take me to.

When I look at forms that the kids fill out for school and sports and bring home for me to sign, I take pride that they list home as Syracuse.  Home is where momma is.  Even if it is broken, that is home.  It is my honor and my privilege to give that to them.


Face your demons head on, so you come out the winner!

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