TOGETHER by AGCI

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Episode 54

Motherhood for an Adoptive Mom of Six

Brook Fiegel, adoptive mom

You’re listening to Together by AGCI. I’m Melissa Rush.

Today we’re talking about all things mom. This Mother’s Day episode is a celebration of moms everywhere. Whether you’re an adoptive mom, bio mom, mom-to-be, or praying that motherhood is part of your journey, this episode is a celebration of you. In this episode, we chatted with Brook, AGCI adoptive mom of six, about her motherhood journey. Let’s get into our conversation.

Well, thank you so much for joining us, Brook. I’m just so excited to hear about your journey. I know you’re an experienced adoptive parent, which is always great to hear. So this might be kind of taking things back a bit, but can you just kind of start by talking about, you know, when did you know that you wanted to be a mom?

OK, so probably I was almost 30 and I’m 53 now. So that’s been a while back. And at the time, my husband and I, we had different faith traditions. So it was kind of like, OK, what are we going to do? How are we going to raise our kids? And so it had to only been God that just the thought popped into my mind, like, let’s do foster care and let’s just take babies and love on babies and then love on their parents.

So somehow miraculously, he agreed to this too. And we go to the first meeting and they just tell you all the awful things that could happen, you know? And so I’m like, OK, clearly, yeah, we don’t want our house to burn down and all that. So but anyway, I just put everything in order and just brought different people in our lives.

And he looked at me like, we’re not doing this again. But we had to bring a dessert to the second meeting, and that’s the only reason we got back there, the second meeting. And at the time there was this older couple and they had a baby and they were like, We just want to love on babies and love on their mommies.

So it’s like, God put that in place for us. So yeah, so we started doing foster care we had one at a time. I was a big chicken. I would only take one at a time. And we did that, had great relations with the families. And then we moved to Ohio. We went through the process again and then adopted our our daughter.

And then we have adopted three from China and then two from Haiti. But each time it was totally God I would have never in my life I wasn’t one of those. Like as a young child, they’re like, I’ve always wanted to adopt. And, you know, I was never that way at all. Yeah, I am from a big family of six, but I never intended to have six kids.

But at that point when we got to like after four and we knew we wanted to adopt from Haiti, we knew we wanted to we wanted somebody that looked like them shared that culture. So we knew we wanted to adopt two. And I was like, Well, I’m the youngest of six. I wouldn’t be around either. So so here we are.

Yeah. And it’s funny, when you said when you said adopt an experienced adoptive parent, because I don’t think of myself that way at all. Like I’m going to walk with somebody tomorrow. Like, that has adopted five. I’m like, Okay, I can’t wait to meet with Ann. And she can give me advice. But somebody I had a question for somebody else that just said it had twins and they’re like, I should be asking you.

You’re the experienced parent. I’m like, Oh, I don’t feel experienced at all, you know? So anyway, I don’t. So no matter how many we’ve adopted, like, we never have it all figured out. Yeah, well, it’s always a journey, but I guess just for, for folks who, like, maybe aren’t parents yet, just thinking, I mean, you guys have adopted six children, which is pretty incredible.

So you might not see yourself as experienced, but I think the world does. So obviously that’s kind of a big transition going from, you know, kind of dipping your toe into foster care. And then, you know, fast forward to today, you’ve adopted six kids. How did you guys decide that adoption was the right path for you?

So when we did Foster Care, that was our intent was that we would just foster and like our first little guy, we spent the night in the hospital with him, just he was a preemie, learning about his apnea monitor and all that. And by the next day, I was like already doing like how in the world can I ever, ever get him back you know, and but God is so good.

And he just, you know, just so many God just has shown up so many times. And so I guess that’s how we knew we wanted to be parents is like we didn’t really know until we got into it and like, oh, yeah, you know. You know, so in a roundabout way, I was like, I didn’t that wasn’t our intent starting out.

Yeah, but that’s where we ended up. Yeah. Was there anything I know that this is looking back a bit for you, but is there anything that when you first decided you guys were starting that process that scared you about like adoption or kind of made you hesitate? I think with the foster care, it really didn’t because you have the babies and you’re like, they’re with you, you love on them.

It doesn’t matter. You know, you don’t even think about any concerns so God put it on our hearts to adopt from China. And when you when I say that, it’s like, oh, yeah, I’m this obedient person. No, I put it off for like five years. And I had a friend say, you know, God just showed us incredible ways that we were supposed to do that.

And and I kept putting up because I’m like, I have this nice little life with my daughter right now, like, why do I need to do that? And he just showed up in amazing ways. And anyway, so finally finally we went through with that process. And I’m kind of getting on a tangent, like, I’m not even sure what you’re seeing right now where we need to edit.

You’re fine, you’re fine. I just, I just was asking, you know, I mean, honestly, like becoming a parent no matter how you do it. Yes. OK, that’s where I was going. I’m sure you’re good. And so at the time, China and the process was getting longer and it was finally where it was your special needs. Well, even though we had fostered a little guy with cerebral palsy that I would have adopted in a heartbeat, just choosing that special needs was so incredibly scary.

And again, I go to a meeting and there’s this person who happens to be the person I’m working with tomorrow that was there. And she just shared about their daughter that had special needs and that they would have never you know, that was scary. For them, but they will adopt again and they will adopt someone who has special needs.

So again, God has to be really, really obvious with me and put people in place. So I think that’s the biggest one is just that unknown, you know, what are those special needs and yeah. And so we’ve done special needs and they haven’t been in a big deal at all. You have a daughter at her feet. You’d never know it to active running.

You know, we had one that had a cleft lip, which is a little bit more obvious. We had a third one with special needs that they said she had a malformed skull and she had what’s called crying mouth syndrome. Mm hmm. Well, her malformed skull was just like a flat spot, you know? So in my mind, I’m like, OK, so her head will be off, we’ll get stairs.

And I’m like, we get serious because she’s so cute. You know? So I think that whole special needs is scary. And then I look at some of ours, I’m like, they haven’t been a big deal. Yeah. And, you know, so I think that’s what’s scary, the unknown. But, you know, even giving birth, you don’t know. There’s no guarantees that you’re going to have a normal child.

But anyway, I think that’s probably the biggest concern for so many people because they are going to have some special needs of some sort just because they’ve had lived in an orphanage for a while or whatever. But it’s just it’s manageable, you know? Yeah. No, I think that’s something we I mean, I’ve heard that a lot from parents is like going into it.

You’re, you know, I mean, that’s just how people are, right? Your brain just goes like, worst case scenario. Exactly. No matter. Exactly. And it’s just never quite there. Like, it’s never quite at that level, like the right, you know, the situations that you work through in your head. And then they’re home and they’re, they’re real person and you love them and then it’s like, oh, I can’t believe I was so worried about this thing that now I don’t even think about.

But yeah, but it is scary. It is. And I think what is kind of funny about ours is so all of our special needs children, we didn’t have any of those special needs on our special needs checklist. You know, it’s like the club. We didn’t have and so, you know, and then like you said, you Google it and it’s like, oh, no, it’s the worst thing they could be, blah, blah, blah.

What’s not at all? So yeah, yeah. No, that’s good to keep in mind. That special needs checklist is kind of like an infamous thing that people. Yeah. Scares everyone because you’re like, oh my goodness. Like, how do I decide yes or no on these things? Like, well, our child is our child, you know? So. Right, right. Yeah, right.

So I’m sure every adoption has been different, but is there like a lesson that you’ve learned that you would tell somebody who’s like just, you know, embarking on the process? Like, what’s kind of the biggest takeaway you’ve had over your six adoptions? So I think especially with international adoption, there’s always going to be issues. There’s always going to be like a paperwork is messed up or it’s just so expect delays, expect issues.

And I think for me, not until our third adoption, I feel like there’s a huge spiritual battle that goes on and that the enemy does not want these children in homes and in Christian homes. And so expect some battles that’s going to happen. You know, so I think that would be my biggest is that there will always be.

And so finally, it’s like this last one is like, yep, yeah, of course that’s going to happen. Of course, the paperwork this and that and you just that’s that’s part of the process. So just kind of like having that in your mind that there’s going to be some kind of you know, you don’t know what it’s going to be, but there’s going to be something that comes up along the way.

Right? Like our last one is our daughter who’s lived with us all along, turned 18. So all of a sudden we have three adults living in the household, you know? So, I mean, we do everything and it’s finally just gotten to the point where I kind of laugh about it, just like, of course, yeah, of course, you know, because it’s just going to happen.

Yeah. Laugh or cry, right? One of you guys just like you just laugh. Yeah. It’s like, it’s just kind of funny, but it’s like, OK, nothing is going to stop us. I don’t care how many times, you know, we’re nothing is going to stop us from adopting these kids. Yeah. Yeah. And so can you kind of tell me what led you to GCI for the adoption of your youngest kids?

Like, what? What stood out? Yeah, I think it’s just one of those agencies that I kept hearing about. We know that the founders of Back to Back Ministries, Beth Cook and Burger, and I remember and I already kind of connected with GCI. And again, I feel like it’s always God, you know, together. But she used a DCI to adopt one of their sons.

And I’m like, OK, she is familiar with all these adoption agencies. And if she chose HCI, then OK, you know, it’s a great organization now. I’m glad you had a good referral. Yeah. Was there anything in particular when you you know, you landed on a DCI you just you know, you wanted to you’ve done international adoption before. You wanted to pursue that path.

Like what drew you to the Haiti program? Again, it was a God thing. So I told you, we put off the China adoption. Yeah. And it was our our dossier was almost complete to go to China. And I went to a food packing event, and it was at the one year anniversary of Haiti. And I was in my mind like, OK, God, I’m going to go adopt this one time.

Like, I put off five years. I basically was telling him I will do it, but I was like dragging my feet. And there was just this presentation on all of the orphans in the world and just the need. And I just that’s kind of one of those things you have those key turning points are key things in your life.

And I just, like, became emotional, like Lord, I can’t believe I’m telling you, I’m just going to take one. I’m like, you know, there’s so many, there’s such a need. So, like, here we are. And so God really put that put Haiti on our it’s like, OK, so this is what we want to do. Then where? And of course, that was at the anniversary.

And again, just if you’re looking for where if God’s like, where is he calling me to go? Like we would read something or something would come in the mail. And so we knew we were supposed to go to Haiti, but then the doors were closing. And so I don’t know if that’s where like they became hey. So each time we would try to adopt from Haiti, the doors would close.

And so but again, then we went to China and we didn’t know it, but we adopted again from there, you know, but, but there for a while that Haiti, the doors were just closed and I or we were we had to wait so long because we just adopted from China. But we just kept at it. And I would tell people, because the Haiti process is not like our other like China, it was just China’s like I don’t know if it’s still like that.

But and I would always say, hey, unless God is calling you to Haiti, do not adopt for me. You know, I’m like almost like steering people away from it. And I’m like, no, I will not say that again, because these two kids are so incredibly precious. And there’s just something about Haitians. I they just have this spunk and this sweet spirit.

And, you know, are they challenging the times? Yes. You know, are they like all the time? But it’s just Haiti. It’s just a it was just a God thing. And there’s it’s one of those things like I’ve been disobedient before. So so yeah, I think the whole Haiti is just it was being obedient and God’s ways are better than our ways.

And it would have been easy. The easy thing would have been just like, let’s just continue on it. Go back to China. It’s so easy. We’ve done the process, but and the work has to go, you know? Mm hmm. Yeah. Oh, that’s beautiful. You’re like obedience to that, because I mean, I know it’s it’s always it’s challenging, and, you know, especially when, like, roadblocks are coming up, but, like, obviously, it, it was how it was meant to be because you have your beautiful children now, and that’s it.

Just love hearing that. So as you mentioned there, you know, it was kind of a long process because you guys started in 20, 16 yes. So, yeah, our dossier was logged into November 2017. OK, and we. Yeah, but we started the process in July of 16, you know, so by the time you do the paperwork so finally got it finished and logged in 2017 and then they came home in October 2021.

Correct. Yeah. OK so that’s quite a while. That’s cool. Can you talk a little bit more just about this, this recent journey. You know, I’m sure that code came into play in some ways and you know, did the pandemic, you know, cause more delays in your adoption or how did that work out. Yes. So we were matched at March 17 of 2019.

So it’s just like, oh wow. Right. As soon as we were matched then boom, everything shut down. Yeah. And so all along in the Haiti process, I think the thing that I just did not like about the Haiti process is that you would go meet with the kids for a couple of weeks and then you would leave them.

And I would say that’s like the worst thing ever. And in fact and I didn’t even realize it that I had prayed in my prayer journal, like, Lord, if there’s any way just to make this one trip please let that happen. Well, it’s funny. So right after we were matched, we were having dinner with some friends and we were going to talk about the process and where would we get to go.

And and I just expressed that I’m like, I will. There’s just anyway, we could just go on the one trip, you know, my husband was like, can the Haitian government just change my head? Like that’s not going to happen. And like, well, with God, all things are possible. The very next day we get a call and I was like, You’re never going to believe this, but they’re going to let you do your first call, your first visit, virtually.

Oh, wow. So then, so then so then the worker there was like, oh, so thanks for coming, Brooke. And like, no, it’s just like good things come from good, you know, thinking of it. Yeah. So how what was it like? Like meeting them virtually for the first time? I mean, that must have been kind of a unique experience.

Well, yes. So I and I cannot wait until our son is older and so he can really comprehend this but our first visit with him, like he showed no expression, did not smile, nothing. And I’m like, OK, he’s then be kind of slow and kind of mentally probably challenged, like because don’t scare the girl. She was like more like laughing and no expression.

Probably the first two times. And then finally we were getting a little bit more out of him. Well, he could not have more personality. Like he’s going to be the head of the drama department. Is super smart. And it’s just so funny how like so my first impression of him was he’s kind of slow, doesn’t have much personality, you know?

Yeah. And I think I think he was so smart, you know, because he was like four and a half. And even at that, like taking this all in, like, they look so different what are they doing this, you know, what does this all mean? Yeah. And so it’s just funny. You’re my first impression of them is totally different than what I thought now.

I thought she would kind of be a handful and just kind of be spunky and that has proven true, but especially him and his personality was completely different. And so in that video, which we are thankful we got to do that, looking back when you’re like, what are tiny kids they don’t even older get like you just show up.

That’s the first time they’ve ever had any knowledge of you in general. And so at least they had seen us. But it, it got to the end. And I share this with another mom that was doing because it’s almost like you almost dreaded it because it’s so hard like when they watch TV, the screen, they’re watching Disney. And as much as we would try to sing and dance and, you know, it’s just not the same.

They were being taken away from their friends to have this call with these people that they say they’re going to come get us. But it’s been like over a year. Yeah. You know, and so I would just, you know, tell parents that that that it’s OK. I was literally I’m sad to say, I’m like I was dreading those calls because I’m like, it’s kind of hard because you just could see there was a while they were excited.

And then as it wore on, you could tell they were just like, OK, yeah, you know, when are you coming? You know? And so that was kind of tricky with all that. But yeah, so I mean, obviously and I can only imagine, especially with kids that age where they’re like, like you said, are you really coming? Who are you?

You know, you’re kind of like you say this, but like they don’t have that you don’t have that relationship where they, like, can, you know. No, they can depend on you. Yeah. You know. Right, right. Were there other aspects of the process that, you know, stood out to you or, you know, that just were different than you expected or different than your other adoptions?

Let me think about that.

Really? No. So any can you give me a little bit more like specific maybe? Which one? Yeah. Well, I guess just because this is such a unique time in the world to have like gone through an adoption during a global pandemic, I didn’t know if there were other aspects of the process that, you know, had changed from your last adoption well, like, I think like China, it was just like, this happens in three weeks and then you get this and then in, in like six weeks this I mean, it’s like so spelled out where Haiti is just like, you know, we thought we would get them in September and then May and then October, you

know, so so with Haiti in particular and I don’t know, I’m just comparing the two countries, it’s so unpredictable. And of course, you throw the pandemic in that and then the political unrest going on in Haiti. And so it was kind of super crazy, you know. Yeah. But we always feel like, again, God’s timing is always perfect. You know, and we felt like we got them at a perfect time.

And that’s so great to hear. So they’ve been home, gosh, four months. Four months. OK, so four months. Yeah, not that I’m counting, but it’s four months. Four months. How has the transition been It’s going really well, and I accept I just think God knows that I need easy, easy kids, you know? So but but the first two weeks especially, it was so hard.

And I you know, we would take babies one at a time. And I remember thinking, wow, people would take older kids and take more like that’s incredible. And then all of a sudden I’m like, oh, wow, we just did that. And it’s really hard, you know? And so and again, I think there’s a spiritual battle that’s going on but it is really tough.

You know, you’re tired and you’re just like, wow, we had it so easy. And now, you know, so I think just expecting some of that that it’s tough and I shared is going to be vulnerable. Like, it was this one time. We were trying to get them down for naps and my husband was working from home and it was just like a nightmare, you know?

And I just they couldn’t understand English yet, but I literally just said quietly to myself, like, I want to quit. You know, it’s really hard. And so but that so you’re going to have times like that. But that season doesn’t last forever and you’re still going to like yesterday was kind of a rough day for whatever reason, you know, but like the day before is beautiful.

The day was amazing, you know, but then 30 minutes before we were taking this call, so and so and so also got in a dispute, you know, so but just expect that there is going to be tough, but it’s all worth it. It’s all worth it. Yeah, I’m glad to hear that. Yeah. I mean, and that’s kind of like the only constant in life, right, is change.

So it’s like when you’re having a really difficult day, it can feel like, oh, this is how it’s going to be forever. That’s not true. Yeah. And also when you have really great day, it’s also not going to always be rainbows. So it’s kind of just like, that’s life. But I’m glad that they’re doing well and your other children have adapted to having a new brother and sister.

Yes. And you know, I think probably that was probably the biggest challenge too, is just like well, they’re adjusting just like we are. Yeah. You know, and OK, now what are the rules now? And going into each others room and getting in their things and so that’s all a huge adjustment. And and I don’t know that we as parents like we handled it correctly.

You know, we’re like, OK, you can lock your door, you know, for a while, you know, and then just trying to explain, no, you can’t just go in there and, you know, and do whatever in their rooms. But yet they would go when that one’s a no excuse room. Well, that doesn’t seem fair, you know, and so for the kids, it is a huge adjustment.

And that’s what I would think when you first come home is just to have, you know, just let them your kids that have been at home, you know, let them do their normal activities and have people in they offer to help, like let them come get them and go play or do whatever, you know, because that is a huge adjustment for your kids.

So you’re trying to adjust to the new kids and then you’re trying to help your kids that have already been in your home adjust. And then you personally are trying to adjust. So it’s it’s challenging. It’s a lot. And as a parent, you have you’re kind of like managing everyone’s adjustment, including your own, which is right. Which is all right.

Yeah. Do you have any like recommendations for, you know, I mean, gosh, I guess this just goes for parents of any kind. But like when you are bringing a new child into your home of, like, ways to like take care of yourself and make sure you’re able to, you know, have the energy to to handle it. All right.

It’s funny, I just read a I’m reading a book and it’s called Loving Your Actual Life. And one of the first things you suggested and that’s where for me, like, I need a quiet time with God in the mornings, you know? And so but when they’re coming in at four in the morning to cuddle and get in bed with you, that’s all good.

And that and that, we need to do that for a season. Yeah. But then it’s like, OK, but I really need to take care of myself, you know, so it would get to where I would be like, OK, I put a little clock and fortunately they know their number. So like, OK, not until seven, seven you could call me and you know, and then now it’s at eight, you know.

So I definitely think taking care of yourself and not feeling guilty about that. Yeah. You know, with that said, I still don’t exercise today, you know, but like really taking care of yourself, you know? So if it’s a quiet time, if it’s you need your or whatever is for you is if we take care of ourselves, we’ll do a better job of taking care of everyone else.

And so that’s important. Yeah. Yeah. And I think it can be hard for people who are, you know, new parents I guess, and you’re like, oh, my gosh, this tiny person needs me all the time. But you, you can, you know, you can be more present and like able to handle difficult moments if you’ve filled up your own cup.

So yeah. And it’s not selfish. It’s not selfish at all. It’s for everyone’s benefit. Absolutely. What has surprised you about motherhood?

And what surprised me about motherhood? Wow, that’s a good question.

Mm. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m kind of brain dead. I what has surprised me, I don’t I don’t know how to answer that one. I’ll have to think on that one. I’m not sure I’d answer that one. Well, my next one is, what do you love the most about being a mom? Maybe that’s so. Yeah. So I just I just think, like, the funny little things they say or just, you know, when you’re, like, feeling maybe a little discouraged or whatever, like, you are the best cook in the world, you know, and all you made was a grilled cheese, you know, it’s just that the they just can encourage you, you know?

And do they take so much out and drain you? Yes. But I just would think, wow, what would I do if I didn’t have these little people in my life? You know, they just bring so much joy. Yeah, that’s really sweet. I love that. I love picturing your kids like this is the best thing ever for grilled cheese.

I mean, grilled cheese is delicious. Is good. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Who doesn’t love a grilled cheese? So this podcast is going to come out around Mother’s Day. And, you know, we just always want to acknowledge Mother’s Day can be a hard hard day for for a lot of women who are waiting to become a mom. And, you know, for whatever reason, that’s not their journey at this moment.

Like, do you have an encouragement that you would share for for women who are still waiting to become to become a mother? Yeah. I mean, just it’s worth the way and just trusting that God’s timing is perfect and that once you finally get that child, you’ll you’ll understand, like, you know, and I even look back on some of our kids and I’m like, because we kind of would we took a journey to try to adopt a little guy from Africa, and it didn’t happen.

And it was like heartbreaking because God made it so obvious. Like, he’s never made it so obvious in all our adoption process that that’s what we’re supposed to do. And looking back, I feel like God took us on that journey because Tatum wasn’t ready for us, you know? And so it just trust that it’s all in God’s timing and that when you get that child, it will be a perfect thing and just it will be exactly how it should have happened. You know?

That’s really beautiful.

Well, thank you so much for sharing your story, Brook. It was such a joy to talk to you.

You, too. Thank you.

That was AGCI adoptive mom, Brooke. Thanks for listening to Together by AGCI. As always, if you liked what you heard, please rate or review us wherever you listen to podcasts. If you’d like to read or watch even more stories, check out our website, allgodschildren.org. Reach out to us and let us know what you think on Instagram at @allgodschildreninternational or email us at together@allgodschildren.org. We look forward to sharing another story of hope the next time we’re together. We’ll talk to you soon.