By Don Bradley
Vanessa Kline wanted another baby.
Her first son, Sawyer, 7, was the love of her life, but the family’s Red Bridge area house lacked something.
She wanted some good ol’ kid bedlam.
Vanessa and her wife, Tashia, tried to have that second baby, but IVF (in vitro fertilization) didn’t work and grew too expensive.
“So, I got to thinking that this just wasn’t meant to be,” Vanessa said.
Maybe she was right. But now, every day at 4 or so, the front door flies open and Vanessa Kline hugs what happened instead.
Myer is a first-grader. Norah’s in kindergarten. They arrived two years ago as a sibling set of foster kids. In pajamas, shoes too big, rotting teeth, needing glasses, traumatized and smelled bad.
And they spoke Burmese. When they spoke.
A month later, Vanessa and Tashia learned that the children’s mother was pregnant.
“And that’s how we got our baby,” Vanessa said.
And she got her chaos. When the older kids came home from school a day last week, Myer began to let loose a year’s worth of artwork from his backpack, Norah had a note from the teacher about bumping her head. Sawyer looked for food. Myer climbed on the kitchen counter and they all talked at once. Swim lessons, gymnastics, girl scouts…
Tashia’s great niece, Kayla Greer, watched with a smile.
“I think it all fell into place the way it was meant to be.”
It’s not easy for two women to have a baby, Vanessa said.
When the IVF route didn’t work, Vanessa and Tashia looked into private adoption. But something didn’t feel right about that.
“You’re pretty much buying a human being,” said Vanessa, a digital project manager at Hallmark.
So she and Tashia, an Army vet who served in Iraq and now works for the Department of Defense, went through Missouri’s 3-month foster parent training. That wrapped in March 2021.
“We were told we might get a call that first night because the need is so great,” Vanessa said.
They were ready for anything. They would take any race, medically-disabled, sibling set, whatever. Age was their only parameter; they wanted Sawyer to be the oldest.
They got the house ready. They traded for a minivan.
A month passed. Finally, the phone rang. The state had a sibling set, ages 4 and 5. Perfect. When the caseworker said the kids didn’t speak English, that was okay, too, because it was probably Spanish and Vanessa is Mexican and her parents spoke Spanish in the home.
Bring them, Vanessa and Tashia told the caseworker.
Vanessa ran to Walmart and bought clothes, underwear, socks, food, snacks, a few toys and toothbrushes. Her team at Hallmark showed up with a new bed and dresser and did the assembling.
Tashia was set that day to be sent to the Texas border for work. She got out of that.
At 4 p.m. a car pulled up and the two kids got out. They brought little beyond their history. Their mother had been born in Thailand. She suffered mental illness. The kids had lived in abject poverty. They had faced emotional trauma and hunger. Neither had ever seen a doctor or dentist. Police had been involved in their removal.
Vanessa and Tashia dug in and went to work. About the time things settled into a routine, they learned from the caseworker the children’s mother was pregnant.
They didn’t think long.
“These kids needed to be kept together,” Tashia said with a shrug.
This time they stopped at Target to buy an infant car seat on the way to Truman Medical Center.
Elijah joined the mix.
The journey for this bunch has not been easy. It took a year for the kids to stop being afraid. Myer fell asleep only when exhausted. He wouldn’t even fall sleep in the car. Vanessa made two signs for the house. “Breathe,” said one. The other: “You are safe”.
Vanessa and Tashia say they couldn’t have done it without “the village.” That’s what they call the group of family, friends and co-workers who help out. The group includes Kayla Greer, “Great Mother” (Tashia’s mother) and “Auntie Nana.” And when a neighbor heard the family had planned a Florida vacation, he raised $500 at his church, St. Thomas More, to help with expenses.
“Our village is amazing,” Vanessa said.
Tashia nodded. “We couldn’t have done this without them.”
Somewhere along the line, the state changed the goal of the three children from reunification to adoption. Vanessa and Tashia agreed to share monthly photos of the children with the biological mother.
“This was a beautiful story, but somebody had to lose,” Vanessa said. “I’m sure she loves them.”
On April 12, the adoption was finalized.
Now, their third spring together, the whole family looks forward to their first official Mother’s Day on Sunday.
Vanessa Kline already got her present. She got the chaos she wanted. But even better than that, now at day’s end when Myer is tired, the little boy falls asleep.