Have you ever looked back on a time in your past and realized that, unbeknownst to you at the time, it was actually a pivotal moment in your life? When Julia Williamson was in junior high school she watched a video at school that changed everything for her.
Julia, who grew up in San Diego, California, can recall with great detail the life-changing video — it depicted a woman giving birth. “I was traumatized,” she recalled with a laugh. “I said I was never having children after seeing that; no way.”
There was only one problem with her plan: she loved children. She spent her early years babysitting and even got a job after college as a school teacher. Her solution to swearing off childbirth but still having a family, she figured, would be adoption. “My mom talked me into having at least one child after I got married and I said, “Fine, and then I’ll adopt the rest!’”
So true to her word, after she and her husband married they got pregnant with a little girl, Emily. Although the pregnancy went well, the birth was a different story. A blood clot in her leg not only led to excruciating pain, but nearly cost her life. “I was in so much pain from all of it that I became suicidal in the hospital,” she shared. “I had to call my parents who were living in North Carolina at the time, and have them talk me down. It was such a difficult time.” Because of the damage the blood clot caused to her femoral artery, she was informed any future pregnancies would likely lead to more blood clots and could be fatal. Looking back, it’s as if her junior high school self could foresee her future and thereby began preparing her for the life she has now; life as a mother of one biological child and five adopted children.
The road to adoption is rarely a smooth one. Just ask anyone who has ever traveled that road and they will likely tell you about incredible highs and devastating lows; a roller coaster of emotions that can take its toll on even the strongest of people. Julia’s story is no different. From adoptions that came close but never happened, to adoptions that happened but were not planned, she has experienced the gamut of emotions one would expect.
When their daughter was six years old, Julia and her husband decided they were ready for another child and began the process of adoption. Their first two attempts fell through when both mothers decided against giving up their babies after initially agreeing to adoption. A friend then suggested they become foster parents. “We decided to do that and told them we just wanted kids that would be considered for adoption,” she said.
Their first call was for a little boy named AJ. He was 14 months old and had the chickenpox. Julia decided to stop by the daycare where he was staying to see him and get an idea of his size so she could get things ready for his stay. “I walked into the daycare classroom and a little boy came toddling up to me, grabbed my hand, and took me over to a mat,” she recalled. Unbeknownst to her, the little boy was AJ. It’s as if his heart knew exactly where to go and with whom. At that point in his young life, AJ had already been in ten foster homes in the past eight months. Julia knew they were destined to be together. She had no idea of the twist that was on the horizon though.
“When we went to the foster home that evening to pick him up the mom asked if we were going take Travis,” she said. “We had no idea he had a five-year-old brother.” Because of the circumstances surrounding his birth, the older brother suffered from severe detachment issues and proved to be too difficult for other family members and caregivers to handle. “It was not easy,” Julia confessed. “But our thought process was, if we don’t go through with this, they go back to square one and then it’s an even bigger problem for someone else.”
So they adopted both boys and took them home to begin life as a family of five. It wasn’t long before they decided to adopt again, only this time they specified their desire to adopt a little girl in order to “balance things out for their daughter.” Right after putting in their paperwork requesting a little girl they got a call. “They called from the hospital and said, ‘We have a baby. Can you come and get him?’” Julia said. “I was so excited I didn’t hear ‘him,’ and we rushed to the hospital.” The little baby was, in fact, a boy, but that didn’t stop them from welcoming him into their growing family. Luke fit in seamlessly and proved to be the balance they were needing.
If you’re keeping track, the count is now one girl and three boys.
When Luke was six months old they called the agency back and again requested a girl. Two months later they received a call notifying them of a little girl named Sariah. They gladly welcomed her into their home. The count is now two girls and three boys. Their family was complete and the adoption process was over. Or so they thought.
The youngest children were one, two, and three years of age when they got yet another phone call about a baby girl with the same biological parents as Sariah. “We had already decided we were done so we said no to her,” Julia said as an apparent sense of pain swept across her face. “Someone else adopted her but I went into a depression after saying no to her. It was a very difficult time.” A few years later they got another call and it turns out the same biological parents of Sariah and the other girl had a third daughter that was in need of a home. Having not been able to meet the other little girl and get a sense of closure, Julia thought it might be easier to turn down the adoption of the newest baby, Helena, if she was at least given the opportunity meet her and tell her “goodbye.” “I went to the foster home where she was staying and they were heavy smokers. It was so difficult to leave her there and she just weighed so heavy on my heart,” she admitted. “We had already decided we weren’t going to have any more and we weren’t planning on her, but there was this ache in my heart that we could do better; that she could have better with us.”
And with that, Julia set out to create a home for Helena that was as safe and welcoming to her as it was to their other five children.
Looking back at her own childhood and the things that helped her the most, Julia said she has no doubt it comes down to the adults in her life. “Having adults in my life that showed interest in me and payed attention to me was important,” she said. “Eating dinner together each night — that constant that we were going to have time to talk ‘bout the day — it was something I could depend on. I do that with my kids. I think it’s important to be there for them, so I’m in the stands at all of their events or whatever they’re doing, I’m there. And it’s important for them to have adults in their lives, whether it’s coaches or teachers or mentors, so that if they can’t come to me for something they can go to another adult.”
Her advice to anyone about to embark on the journey of parenthood? Don’t expect perfection. “It won’t be easy or perfect, but it will be worth it. Love what you get. I look back and I know I’ve made mistakes in parenting my kids — we all do — but I wouldn’t change anything. I love what I got!”