Adapting to adoption
Gloria and Joel Fischer were uncertain if they'd get to have a family.
The Mitchell couple, who will be married for 17 years in October, knew they wanted to have children. It was just a matter if they could have children.
"We saw doctors, and the possibility of us conceiving wasn't impossible, but it just wasn't happening," Joel said.
So they decided on adoption.
"You always have that hope you're going to have your own biological children," Joel said. "When you finally come to terms that you know that it's probably not going to happen it's a hard pill to swallow."
They finalized their decision in 2006. However, the adoption process would take them down a long, and at times, frustrating road, until they would meet their son, Isaac, in 2009.
A domestic adoption through an agency takes about 18 to 24 months, said Melissa Steltz, a social worker with Bethany Christian Services, a non-profit Christian organization in Sioux Falls. And the cost is $20,000, which became a stumbling block for the Fischers.
Because of the high cost, they checked out alternative options. A private adoption with a lawyer was $5,000. The cost was feasible for the couple, but they would need to find their own birth mom.
So they decided to try and adopt a child through the state program. When adopting through the state's system, there is no cost, Joel said.
They filled out the necessary paperwork and went through training classes like CPR. They worked with the state for about six months until they realized they weren't a likely candidate to adopt a foster child.
"And we didn't want to go the foster route. It would tear us up to have a child in here for two years and take them out," Joel said. "So I remember closing the door after our case worker left and saying, 'Well, I guess we'll call Bethany tomorrow and figure out how to pay for it as we go.' "
Steltz was the Fischer's social worker, and once again, she started them from the beginning. They spent another six months filling out preliminary applications and paperwork for a domestic adoption.
Once paperwork is filed, birth moms look at potential adoptive parents' applications to determine whether or not the family is a suitable one for their child.
All the Fischers could do was wait.
Prayer plays key role
Their faith played a large role in the adoption process. Gloria and Joel made an effort to pray every night for 100 days or until they were chosen to be given a baby.
"We prayed for the child God would choose for us," Joel said. "This is God's child. It's in his hands and in his time. When he decides to reveal our child to us, we will just be ready."
About 90 days later, on Sept. 17, 2009, their prayers were answered. A birth mom had chosen the Fischers for adoption.
Gloria and Joel both recall the phone call. Gloria was babysitting, while Joel was on his way to a Bible study.
"I cried, I thanked God, then I got on the phone and called Joel," Gloria said.
"I didn't know what to say," Joel added. "You sit there through all that time you're waiting and you think OK, when the day comes how am I going to react.
"Am I going to scream, yell, cry? And I didn't do anything. I was totally speechless."
Isaac was born on Oct. 30, 2009. The Fischers were ready and waiting to take their new son home. They had already prepared the nursery right next to their own bedroom.
But Isaac wasn't coming home yet. With the birth came complications.
Isaac's birth mom had not received a lot of prenatal care, and the doctor she had been receiving her care from could not deliver the baby. The day of the birth, she was taken to a Sioux Falls hospital two hours from her home.
"We were in the waiting room and all of a sudden all these people rushed past us, beepers going off," Joel said. "Eventually we asked what was going on. We thought it was all OK."
Fifteen minutes later, but what felt like an eternity to Joel and Gloria, a nurse had told them the doctors couldn't get Isaac to pink up, or show pink in his chest, and he had breathing problems. When a baby is born, the child should show pink in its chest on up through its head right away, Joel said.
"I remember specifically his left foot was just purple. And he was blue, his face was blue. And he was not crying," Joel said. "We didn't know what was going on; we just knew it wasn't good."
A pair of challenges
Isaac was rushed to NICU. From there, doctors determined he was born two weeks early and with pneumonia. Because the birth mom had not been seeing a doctor regularly, her due date was determined on the size of the baby.
"That was pretty traumatic for him," Joel said. "He had pneumonia, but he had pneumonia in lungs that probably weren't fully developed."
He remained in NICU for two weeks. He had a C-PAP hooked to him to help his breathing and was kept in a draft bed.
In early October, the Fischers were able to take Isaac home, but it wasn't until six months later, June 7, that the adoption became official.
Now the walls of the Fischer home are adorned with family photos and Isaac. A miniature basketball hoop and other toys are strewn on the living room floor. And the family couldn't be happier.
"Twelve months ago when it was just Gloria and me, I can't remember what that was like anymore," Joel said.
"We get up in the morning, start getting toys out and turn on the Mickey Mouse Club," he said. "Even though I only get to experience 20 to 30 minutes of that before I go to work, it's the best 20 to 30 minutes of my day."
Isaac is now 10 and a half months old and Joel said his personality is starting to develop and show more and more each day.
"It's kind of funny. He goes from crabby to happy to crabby in a split second. And he has the biggest smile," Joel said.
He has a temper, too, which Gloria said she's sure they'll experience in the toy aisle at Walmart soon.
Joel looks forward to the day he gets to play football with his son and teach him to hunt. Already, Isaac has Raiders gear -- Joel's favorite football team.
And as frustrating as the entire process was at times, Joel said he and his wife never thought it wasn't meant to be.
"Because of our faith, we never thought it wouldn't happen. What we were concerned about is how old are we going to be when this happens," he said laughing.
That faith also provided a unique way of paying for the adoption. Joel, who is employed at Scott's Supply in Mitchell, said the company implemented a sales incentive program. At the time the program began, Joel thought it would provide a few extra thousand dollars do put toward the $20,000 bill. The incentive program ended up proving the Fischers with the money they needed to pay for Isaac's adoption.
"It was just another thing that showed us while we prayed for Isaac that it is something God has ordained," Joel said. "It's in his hands. He'll provide and make it happen."
The Fischers are very thankful to Isaac's birth mom, who they still have a strong relationship with.
"After our first meeting with her, she felt just like family," Joel said. "We hope it continues to grow. We want to invite her to Isaac's first birthday, his graduation day, wedding day and all the big events in his life. We want her to share them with him."
The Fischers' positive attitude and unwavering faith is something Steltz said families currently going through the adoption process can learn from.
"They trusted in the Lord and didn't get discouraged. There was frustration at times, but they knew that when Isaac came to them it was a perfect match," Steltz said.
Joel and Gloria now share their story by participating in panel discussions at Bethany Christian Services for couples looking to adopt.
"When you make the decision and move forward and lay it in God's hands and you're faithful to him, He will shine his face upon you," Joel said.