Fulfilling her heart’s desire to create a family was a personal odyssey for Natasha King, 46, of Saskatchewan, Canada. In this RaiseAChild “Let Love Define Family®” series installment for Huffington Post Queer Voices, contributing writer, Danielle Lescure shares Natasha’s very personal story of a 20-year trek that led to a 10-month-old girl finding a loving home in her arms.
“I found the daughter of my soul in foster care,” Natasha King admitted. “Adoption is a beautiful process that contains both joy and grief. My hope is that by openly celebrating our family’s intentional journey-into-being, my daughter will have the pride and foundation that can pull her through any challenge.”
But when Natasha first came out as a lesbian in college, she didn’t know such a happy ending was possible. While she had always loved being around children and yearned for her own, being gay at the time meant letting go of certain longings, such as becoming a parent.
“Coming out about 1990, I basically knew that I wasn’t going to be able to have kids because lesbians didn’t really have kids at that time,” she explained. “So I knew I was going to be giving up on this yearning to be a parent. And it was a tough thing to decide, but I knew I had to be true to who I was.”
However, her hope was rekindled when Natasha saw couples exploring alternative paths to parenthood.
“I ended up moving to the United States with my first girlfriend in my twenties and we both wanted to be parents,” she said. “We noticed, about ‘94 or ’95 that all of the sudden, women, lesbians, becoming pregnant and it was through artificial insemination. It was ‘Whoa! You can do this?’”
The pair eagerly pursued this new avenue, but a year of failed attempts took a toll on the relationship.
“It was very expensive and very emotional,” Natasha shared. “It didn’t work. Many times it didn’t work. It ended up getting to the point where we basically broke up over it because it was like, ‘I can’t keep doing this.’ Yes, I want to have a kid but this is emotionally tearing me apart.”
Natasha continued her quest over several years trying unsuccessfully to have a child on her own. Through it all, the idea of adopting was never far from her thoughts, but again, due to societal constraints and biases of the day, the possibility felt remote.
“In the U.S. at that time, and even in Canada, it was not really easy for lesbians to adopt,” she said. “I witnessed two women adopting a baby girl from China. They basically had to lie about who they were and have people confirm the lie that she was a straight single woman and not in a lesbian relationship. That was very hard emotionally.”
“I still wanted to be a parent,” she continued. “There were certainly points where I let it go and it would come back again and then it would go away. But I still wanted to be a parent.”
The beauty of patience and persistence is that eventually the passage of time brings new opportunities and changes in attitude. After almost 20 years of hitting a wall, a door to her dream flew open.
“I was living in Vancouver BC, and there was an info night for queers looking to adopt,” Natasha recalled. “It was like, ‘What? This whole night is just for queers? I gotta go to that!’ The place was packed. It was standing room only.”
Hosted by the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the Adoptive Families Association of British Columbia, among others, that initial informational evening left no doubt in Natasha and her then-partner’s mind this was the road to their family. She was amazed at how quickly and smoothly things went from introduction and intake to education and certification.
“It was magical,” she shared. “It was like something had paved the way for this. The first initial meeting for the Queer Family Info Night was in September and our home visits concluded in June. That was less than a year going through this whole process. We were doing something almost every week. We met the most interesting people. And almost half of the prospective parents were queer. I really took note of that.”
Natasha also realized she had a unique gift of understanding and expertise to offer a child. She too knew what it was like to lose her birth parents at a young age and be raised in a second home.
“I went through the training and learned a lot about myself having not grown up with my parents,” Natasha admitted. “I found out that I actually did have a file with the Ministry of Child and Family Services. My mom was a single mom when she died and because of that the Ministry became involved to make sure that what my family sorted out for myself and my sister’s care was healthy and positive.”
Because Natasha’s partner at the time was Latina and the Ministry desired to match children within their ethnic group, their social worker informed them they would likely get a placement very quickly. Shortly after completing their training, the phone rang. The couple was surprised to learn they were second in line for a 10-month-old baby girl with red hair.
“A week later we got a call saying that the first family decided to go for it so we weren’t being considered anymore,” she said. “And during that phone call she told me that her name was Charlene and in my head, I heard ‘Charlie’ and something seriously said, ‘That’s your daughter. Charlie, that’s your daughter.’ I heard it like it was actual words being spoken but it was in my head. So I said, ‘Nope, that’s not right. I know this is my daughter so I’ll just be awaiting your phone call.’ I was so sure. Every fiber of my being was sure this was it.”
Another week passed and the social worker called again. The first family had changed their minds. With only the weekend to look over Charlie’s one-inch thick medical file and decide if she wanted to move forward, Natasha consulted another lesbian couple with a medical background that she’d befriended through the Adoptive Families Association of BC. They reassured her that although there were concerns, none were insurmountable.
“Our daughter had been exposed prenatally to cocaine and heroin. She had some delays but she seemed to be doing very, very well,” she said. “And it was like, yep, this is gonna happen.”
Typically, completing adoption paperwork takes 6-8 weeks. But Charlie’s first birthday was approaching and it was extremely important to Natasha to see her that day. Once again, all the cards fell into place.
“The social workers worked hard getting all of the legalities sorted out and we met our daughter on her first birthday,” Natasha remembered. “She was super spunky and high energy and liked to do a lot of stuff outside and so our personalities fit really well. And the foster family, as much as this was really hard for them, they really appreciated us and said that they were so happy that we had been matched so well.”
The following week began the transition process, a very specific schedule of visits and activities designed to allow their daughter to acclimate to being with and around her new parents and understand she was safe with them.
“You spend a bit more time each day and you take on a bit more responsibility of the parenting each day over the week until the last few days of the week you’re basically there at 6:00am and you’re leaving at 8:00pm,” Natasha explained. “We took a lot of notes about what her routines were and when things happened so we could keep them identical when we brought her home.”
Canadian parental leave laws let adoptive parents take nine months off (birth parents receive twelve) to focus on this new chapter of their lives. A good deal of this leave was spent helping Charlie catch up developmentally. There were appointments with physical therapists and developmental specialists. Within those nine months, Charlie had progressed so well, she no longer needed those. She may not have walked until 13 months, but one month after she was running or “bolting,” as Natasha put it with a chuckle.
“She has a personality too that is just a go-getter,” Natasha said. “She is powerful. If she wants to do something, she finds a way to do it. She speaks Spanish and English. She’s doing great in school. The thing that impressed me at the last parent/teacher interview, the teacher was like, she’s so kind. Anyone that’s having a problem she’s right there saying, ‘How are you doing? What do you need? Can I help you?’ And to be honest, that to me was better than anything else. For a teacher to say that about my kid, I was so proud.”
The creation of their family even became a children’s book inspired by a question Charlie asked about why she had so many grandmas. It talks about adoption through foster care and Natasha first meeting Charlie on her birthday.
“This book has been really helpful for her in that it’s super-validating for her family,” shared Natasha.
In fact, Charlie herself used the book to prove to a 5-year-old friend that you could have a family with two moms when her friend tried to insist otherwise.
Though Natasha and her partner are no longer together, the daughter they share is their priority and they have a flexible co-parenting agreement.
And Natasha has high praise for the Ministry and the Adoptive Families Association of BC noting Canada is remarkably progressive in its attitude about adoption and open to seeking out prospective LGBT families.
“I have to say that everyone that we met through the Ministry of Children and Family Development was completely committed to this child and committed to us becoming a family,” she said. “The whole point is foster care is temporary. Either the birth family is getting the support they need to get past whatever obstacles are keeping them from being effective parents or they find permanent parents.”
Given her own trials and ultimate triumph on the road to becoming Charlie’s mom, Natasha encourages perseverance for all those seeking a chance at parenthood.
“Parenting is hard. I don’t know if everybody realizes just how hard it can be, but it is so worth it. There are so many joys associated with it that I would say if you do feel that you have joy in your life that you need to share, then you should just continue trying to become a parent.”
Natasha’s journey has evolved from yearning to be a parent to the daily adventures and delight of parenthood.
“I really enjoy the adventure. I really enjoy learning new things and seeing things through her eyes. She catches things that I have forgotten about. We do a lot of things outside. We do a lot of science and nature discussions and it’s really fun. She notices things that I don’t notice anymore because I’ve seen it and I just don’t think about it anymore. That’s such a gift.”
Have you thought about building a family through fostering or adoption? RaiseAChild is the nationwide leader in the recruitment and support of LGBT and all prospective parents interested in building families through fostering and adoption to meet the needs of the 425,000 children in the foster care system of the United States. RaiseAChild recruits, educates and nurtures supportive relationships equally with all prospective foster and adoptive parents while partnering with agencies to improve the process of advancing foster children to safe, loving and permanent homes. Take the Next Step to Parenthood at www.RaiseAChild.org, or call us at (323) 417-1440.
Learn the benefits of building or expanding your family through fostering and adopting at any one of these free RaiseAChild info sessions:
• Tues., May 16 6:30pm - 8:00pm The Garland, North Hollywood, CA
• Wed., May 17 6:30pm - 8:00pm La Plaza, Los Angeles, CA
• Thur., May 18 6:30pm - 8:00pm Lois Lambert Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
• Sat., May 20 11:00am - 12:30pm The Saguaro, Palm Springs, CA
• Sun., May 21 11:30am - 12:30pm All Saints Church, Pasadena, CA
RSVP now at www.RaiseAChild.org.