This week’s Meet a Mom Interview was shared with us by Iowa City Cedar Rapids Moms. Jennifer Pratt is an Iowa-based mom of four who adopted four boys from Brazilian after battling infertility. Now she has a full house, with Leandro (11), Cristiano (10), Enzo (8) and William (6). Read on for this inspiring mom’s journey, from how she decided to adopt from Brazil to her best advice for adoptive parents.
Can you tell us a bit about your typical day with four boys—we’re sure it’s pretty busy?!
I am a stay at home mom. Honestly, it’s always been something I wanted to do but now that I’m a mom I feel like I would benefit from some adult interaction!
You have adopted four Brazilian boys, siblings. Why did you decide to adopt?
We decided to adopt after we tried to have children for 9 years. Some of those years were spent working closely with infertility doctors. My heart began to open up to adoption and about a year later my husbands did the same. Most days I wish we would have skipped all of the tears and heartbreak attached to infertility and decided to adopted sooner; however, it would mean that our boys wouldn’t be ours and that is unfathomable!
What an amazing story. Why did you decide to adopt internationally and how was the process?
We chose to adopt from Brazil because my sister married a Brazilian. Adopting from Brazil would allow our ”future” children to have a connection with their heritage. Fast forward a few years and this was absolutely the right decision. The boys love that they have an uncle that shares their birth country, primary language, skin tone, hair texture etc… He’s pretty much a celebrity in our household. Even though the boys have dropped their Portuguese they still get excited that a family member of theirs speaks Portuguese.
The process of adoption was less painful that originally intended. We found a wonderful adoption agency, Hand in Hand. While they work with adoptions from many different countries they were excellent in dealing with Brazil. We worked with an agent from their office that is originally from Brazil and speaks fluent English and Portuguese. She was instrumental in explaining and walking us through the processes of adoption. She was beside us step by step guiding us on what to complete next. I cannot imagine what the process would have been like without her knowledge.
How hard was it in the beginning when the boys came home with you?
We spent two months in Brazil adopting the boys. Brazil’s laws require a mandatory 30 day cohabitation period before adoptions can be finalized. The second month was spent preparing visas, passports etc… Our time in Brazil was very difficult. Looking back, the biggest adjustment came from becoming parents overnight to four children. What made it more difficult was our inability to communicate with the boys, and complete everyday tasks because of the language barrier. Every experience was made significantly more difficult because we didn’t speak Portuguese. With such a difficult start, we anticipated life to become much easier when we would be home in our own environment. However, we quickly found out that even though we were back in our comfort zone everything had changed. Life was no longer the same as we had left it two months prior. Not only was everything else different, we were different. I was now a “mamãe” (mother in Portuguese) with school-aged children. This adjustment proved to be the most difficult. I specifically remember walking my 3rd into preschool each morning thinking, “this is what these moms do every day? Every second is spent with or thinking about your children?” I was in such a fog I found it nearly impossible to remember simple things like, snack day, wacky sock day, library return day, early out day, home lunch day etc… I am a very organized individual so the fact that I saw women around me remembering and completing these everyday tasks was mind boggling. After a year I realized that it gets easier with time and every now and then you forget something and so does everyone else!
Totally! Can you share more about your fertility journey?
We completed what felt like every infertility treatment with the exception of IVF. We spent our first year trying on our own before seeking medical help. After the year was up we reached out to fertility specialists where I tried a variety of medications and IUI’s. After about year 8 we decided that I wasn’t meant to be. We considered IVF but ended up decided that it just wasn’t for us and then the idea of adoption began to take root in my heart. The process of infertility was very difficult. It seemed like every month for many years brought heartbreak after heartbreak. I often wished God could tell us how that story would end so we could bypass all of the hurt, but I found it comforting that the day we accepted the referral of the boys it had completely erased the last 9 years! I have thought about the days and months we lost grieving for our own children and wishing for them back. Being on the other side of that struggle I would tell my former self to find joy in each day because at any time it could change, and it did. I feel like I let infertility rob me of so many moments, when come to find out, having babies was never my story to begin with.
What a beautiful perspective. What’s your favorite part of being a mom?
Being needed. It’s actually the best and worst thing. I feel like the past 4 years of my life my name has been called by one of my children at least every 10 minutes of the day. However, when they aren’t home I sometime feel useless because nobody needs me. It’s something I wrestle with. Since we are on the tail end of COVID I am actively seeking out a social life of my own. It’s funny how much effort goes into something like this now. What used to be effortless now requires so much!
I also really enjoy seeing the little lessons I try to instill in my boys play out in a real world setting. I enjoy seeing them navigate problems or issues for themselves and use the tools and lessons we’ve talked through at home to deal with it on their own.
What is your advice to adoptive parents and those who are considering adoption?
Be realistic. The world views adoption as this beautiful life-saving event. However, while it is beautiful it is also very messy and completely life-altering! You must ignore what the world tells you to do and learn to trust in yourself. You were set apart for this child(ren) and you have been prepared and gifted to deal with each unique situation as it presents itself. You will find yourself addressing questions and issues that you never could foresee. Don’t pretend to have it all together—that doesn’t help anyone!