Years ago, Trisha Yearwood made a promise to herself: If she wasn’t married by the age of 30, she would adopt.
She wasn’t. And she did.
Yearwood is mom to twin boys, Michael and Theo, and a girl, Aaliyah, who are siblings. They are all 5, until next month when Aaliyah turns 6. Their adoption was finalized in February.
“It was always kind of a life plan,” she said. “I figured 30 was a good number.”
Today is Mother's Day, Yearwood's first as an adoptive mom. She said she has enjoyed the "hugs and cuddles" of motherhood and also that she has learned a new level of patience.
Becoming a parent “is something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Yearwood, 32, of Grand Forks. “I never had the need or desire to wait for someone in order to make this happen.”
As a young adult, she identified certain milestones she wanted to achieve before children entered the picture.
“I knew the life goals I wanted to have in place prior to having kids, especially if I was going to go the foster-care-to-adopt route,” she said.
Those goals included earning her master’s degree and starting a career.
“So I guess it just didn’t seem that unusual to me, to do it this way,” she said. “When the time felt right and I felt ready, I decided to act.”
The Grand Forks native and 2005 Red River High School graduate earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood and elementary education and a master’s degree in the English language learners program at UND. For the past eight years, she’s worked as a preschool teacher at St. Michael’s Catholic School.
Began with fostering
An acquaintance who served with her on an education committee, and knew about her interest in fostering with the goal of adopting, told Yearwood about the twins. At the time, the boys were in emergency foster care.
“She thought they’d be a really good fit for me,” Yearwood recalled.
She met the boys and spent a few weekends with them. Later she learned the boys’ sister was living in foster care.
The siblings “had been split up because of a neglectful situation, and Aaliyah was the caregiver for them,” Yearwood said. “They were split up so she could be a kid again.”
Michaela and Theo moved in with Yearwood in September 2016 and Aaliyah in March 2017.
“I always told my mom that I was never going to have three kids because I had two sisters and we always fought -- and it was no fun,” she said. “And lo and behold, I have three. So there you go.”
‘Always a plan’
Yearwood and her sons have the same birthday, May 7, “so two years ago it was ‘30 and 3’ -- that’s what our banner read,” she said.
Looking back, Yearwood said, “It was always a plan to adopt, so when I got them through foster care, there was no way I could say goodbye. So every family planning meeting and the court hearings were always kind of stressful -- there was always the, ‘What if something happened or someone came back?’ It was pretty nerve-wracking.”
The children’s biological parents relinquished parental rights, Yearwood said, which paved the way to adoption.
She also worried a bit about money as she contemplated adopting three young children as a single wage-earner.
At St. Michael’s Catholic School, Theo and Michael are in preschool, but not Yearwood’s class, “because it’s hard to have your mom as a teacher,” she said. Aaliyah attends kindergarten there.
Despite her experience as a teacher and nanny, becoming a mother “has definitely been a really big change,” Yearwood said. “I have so much better understanding of how parents feel.”
She has been struck by “how different it is” being in the role of mother as compared to babysitter, she said.
“It’s amazing. It’s hard. It’s stressful -- there are lots of tears. But it’s rewarding in the end, too.”
Learning to deal with “tantrums and stubbornness is very new, because those can go on for quite a while,” she said. “We have calm-down time or timeout. Sometimes they just need to cry it out, or sit in your lap and talk it out.”
As a parent, she sometimes receives a call from a teacher, she said. “I’m the one with the naughty kid. I feel that I’m so much better now talking to parents because, being on the other end, I know how it feels.”
Becoming the mother of three little ones has been “a big adjustment,” she said. “For one thing, I’m never alone anymore.”
She carefully considers what organized activities -- and how many -- the kids should take on.
“They seem so young. I don’t know if they’re ready,” she said. “I worry about them being so exhausted if they’re in too many things.”
What she loves most about motherhood is “the hugs and the cuddles in bed at night,” she said.
As a parent, she’s learned a lot about herself.
“I have a lot more patience than I did, that’s for sure,” she said. “My heart’s grown bigger -- that sounds cheesy.”
About parenting, she’s realistic.
“No one is great at it. No one is, like, the perfect parent,” she said. “We all kind of stumble through it the best you can.”
How will she feel this Mother Day’s?
“I’m not sure; I’ve felt like a mom for a while. I guess it’ll just feel normal now,” she said. “After the adoption was finalized, done and signed, it was a relief. It’s a good feeling.”