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Feature Friday: April Carter

'Feature Friday' is all about showcasing and highlighting stories that are 'Stripped Down To Real' that encourage and inspire the people behind the computer screens reading them! These are stories of REAL people, with REAL heartache, REAL struggle, REAL emotions, and REAL trials who have let God be the author of their story! And in doing so... have found abduant joy and blessing beyond expectation. I hope as you read these stories...they will encourage you to ask God what you're own story is, and that you will invite Him to write the chapters that lie ahead in your own life. Then go and be brave and bold, and share that story with hurting people who need to hear it themselves! Give your pain purpose, by helping others!

My name is April Carter, I recently began my journey as a stay at home mom. Prior to this year, I was an Elementary Special Education Teacher. I am twenty-eight years old and have been married for 3 and a half years to my incredible and supportive husband, Justin. We live in Fishers, Indiana. My hobbies include- mostly keeping our three foster children alive and well, but also working out, and reading.

Justin and I have always felt that God called us to be adoptive parents. Six months into our relationship we began to dream about growing our family through adoption one day. Fast forward 6 years, and a whole lot of struggles later, we are currently waiting on adoption dates for 2 of our 3 beautiful foster daughters. It was definitely an emotional and messy journey to get to this point.

Two months before our wedding, we were surprised to find out we were expecting. Pregnancy was never really part of our plan, as we expected to struggle with infertility. We were both thrilled and shocked by the news. Several months after our wedding, when I was 24 weeks pregnant, we found out our precious daughter, Kinley Mae, had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, and that due to other signs that were seen in the ultrasound, it was most likely caused by a fatal chromosomal disorder. We declined further testing and decided to wait until Kinley was born to have definitive answers.

The months to follow were filled with tears and prayers. I remember begging and pleading with God to heal Kinley. I also remember beginning to accept that it may be God’s plan for us to lose Kinley, and at that point our prayer was to be able to meet and hold our daughter and get to make joyful memories with her. All the research I did online made me realize it would be nothing short of a miracle for us to carry Kinley full term and get to hold her alive on this Earth. God gave us our miracle when Kinley Mae was born at 37 weeks, weighing 4 pounds and 12 ounces. God gave us 10 precious days with our sweet girl. It was confirmed when she was 3 days old, that she did have Trisomy 18, which is fatal. In her 10 days of life she brought us immeasurable joy. She taught us that joy and grief can exist at the same time. God also used Kinley to teach us to be present, focus on the joy, and not be buried in anxiety about the future. Three lessons that would be extremely important in our journey as foster/adoptive parents.

About a year after losing Kinley, and a significant amount of healing later, Justin and I began to talk about having more children, and what road we would take to get there. We decided to see if we could get pregnant again. However, it only took a few months of trying for us to both feel like God was calling us in another direction. In December of 2016, we decided to pursue our dream of adoption. We knew there were a few different routes we could take. After a lot of research, prayer, and discussion we landed on foster-to-adopt for several reasons. One of those reasons being that the need is so high for foster and adoptive parents in the U.S. foster system right now. (Did you know there are over 500,000 children in foster care in the United States?)

Photo Credit:Dear Cadence Photography

Fast forward 6 months of classes, trainings, and paperwork, Justin and I received the phone call that we were officially licensed! The following day (yes, that quickly, the need is HIGH) we received a call for a 6 week old baby girl in the NICU who was ready to go home. We were informed that there was a friend of the mother pursuing adopting her from another state, but that if that did not work out, this sweet girl would need an adoptive home. We fell head over heels in love with Baby A. She was so sweet and beautiful. Our love for her was no different than our love for Kinley Mae. We were in awe of this little bundle that God was entrusting us with, for however much time he had planned. After 5 months of loving baby A like our own, the court ruled to honor her bio-mom’s request, and A was sent to another state. She was sent to her forever home. This is the point it would have been easy to back out of this whole adoption journey. Losing another daughter, breaking down to ugly tears for days after she left when her little clothes would appear in the pile of laundry I was folding, or another paci would be found in the car, or another bottle in the dishwasher… but this was when we remembered those important lessons that God taught us through Kinley. We chose to focus on the joy. Baby A learned love and attachment because of us, this would allow her to attach quickly and easily to her adoptive mama. She also was already in her forever home at just 5 months old. She went to a loving family, and she also brought us a lot of healing after losing Kinley.

God did not bring us to the struggle of losing A without amazing planning. The thing is, 3 weeks before baby A had to leave our home, God brought us our forever daughter C. We had known about Miss C for 9 months. She was actually our adopted nephew’s biological sister. (My brother adopted her brother before she was born). When we had heard she needed a forever home, we contacted her case worker out in Colorado. Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would actually be chosen to be her forever family, but God is SO good and his plans are greater than ours. C finally came to us as her adoptive placement, when she was 15 months old, and she is now a beautiful, thriving 2 year old!

Photo Credit:Brianna Claassen Photography

We spent the next 7 months bonding with C and healing from the loss of A. We had to prepare our hearts again before taking another placement. In May, on my last day of work, I texted our agency to let them know we would like to be back on the call list. We were ready to grow again. The very next day at noon, we were called for a 16 day old baby girl in the NICU, who was ready to go home. There were a lot of indicators in her story that suggested her case may lead to adoption. But truth be told, Justin and I had agreed we would not take another infant. NO WAY would we put ourselves in a situation to experience infant loss… AGAIN. We had 5 minutes to decide if we would take placement of baby K before they looked for another family. In those 5 minutes we came up with so many reasons to say no… a big vacation just 3 weeks away, having 2 children under 2, the list goes on... after all we already agreed infants were going to be an automatic no. BUT, in those 5 minutes our hearts were heavy and we heard God reminding us that this sweet baby needed attachment more than we needed to be protected from it. We said “yes,” and by 5 o’clock Miss C was meeting her little sister, baby K.

Photo Credit: AT Photography

Prior to being placed with K, Justin and I had talked a lot about it being on our hearts to take an “older” child who specifically needed an adoptive home. We had dreamed of getting a forever sibling for C, maybe a 3-5 year old. However, when the call came about baby K, we figured God had other plans. Two months after being placed with K, we were not even on the call list for placement, and yet God’s plan still prevailed. A foster mama friend of mine had heard of a sweet almost 3 year old who needed a forever home. She told the girl’s case worker about us, and we were saying “yes” to her placement a few short days later. Having 3 children under 3 years old was never our “plan,” but God had put that desire on our heart for months to adopt an older child, making it a clear decision for us on growing our family again, so quickly. And over one weekend, Sweet M transitioned to our home. She came to us at almost 3 years old, and began calling us Mommy and Daddy almost immediately. I will never forget the moment she looked at me on her third day in our home and said, “You’re my MOMMY!” with pure joy and excitement.

So if you have done the math at all, after 13 months of being licensed foster parents, we became a family of 5, with 3 beautiful girls under 3 years old. Our life is busy, messy, and beautiful. We are filled with so much joy every single day. My advice to any person going through a hard time is to always keep your focus on the joy and stay open minded about God’s plan for your life. Your life does not need to look like anyone else’s for it to be full of joy and beauty. It would have been easy for us to fall apart over infertility, infant loss, or a failed adoption. Instead, we have chosen joy. We have trusted God’s plan, and let me tell you, his plan does not disappoint!

Photo Credit:Brianna Claassen Photography

#StrippedDownToReal #YouHaveAStoryToTell #AprilCarter #WorldChanger #WomenWhoAreBrave #InfantLoss #FosterCare #Adoption #GodIsTheBestStoryTeller #BeautyOutOfAshes

A big thank you to Mrs. April Carter for entrusting her story to all of us, to shed light, hope, and love! If you'd like to follow more of April's story, or contact her about foster care/adoption you can do so by finding her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ammarrs

or Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mrsaprilcarter/