Former Nurse Forgoes the ‘Single Life’ to Adopt Special Needs Children

I originally wrote this case study for the National Adoption Center. It appeared here.

Marcella Pigford spent 23 years as a pediatric nurse for medically fragile children. In her mid-forties, she lost her job, and decided to seize the opportunity to enjoy the single life. She had options. Her children were grown. Marcella sold her house, opened a fashion boutique, and started traveling. But something was missing…

“I always dreamed of having a large family,” said Marcella. “One day I realized how much I missed caring for the babies in the pediatric nursing facility, so I called an agency about fostering children with special medical needs. That was the start of my happily ever after.”

Soon Marcella’s case worker called her about fostering Ar’nez, a two-year-old boy who had Cerebral Palsy, seizure disorder, cried a lot, was non-verbal, deaf, blind and underweight because he did not like to eat. Marcella agree.

While caring for Ar’nez, Marcella would sing him nursery rhymes and kiss his check. Ar’nez seemed so happy, and above all he had not cried once while in Marcella’s company. Marcella told her case worker that she wanted to adopt him despite doctors’ warnings that Ar’nez would likely never walk or speak.

“The power of love can make any weak man strong,” said Marcella.

Since the adoption, Marcella has secured additional physical therapy for Ar’nez who is trying to stand and walk. He is now considered healthy weight, and says, “Mama.” Once considered deaf and blind, Ar’nez can now hear out of his right ear and tracks Marcella with his eyes wherever she moves. He also claps his hands, plays patty cake, and gives kisses and high fives.

Destined to be Mother and Child

While bonding with Ar’nez, Marcella received a call to provide respite care for an Autistic boy. When the case worker gave Marcella the boy’s name (withheld here for privacy reasons), Marcella’s heart skipped a beat. The child’s name had a unique spelling – like another boy she had cared for from infancy to age two. The case worker sent Marcella the child’s picture, and upon seeing it, Marcella burst into tears.

“It was the same child I cared for! My heart was heavy because this child was released to go home with his biological mother. I immediately felt sad for him and knew he needed me. I felt his pain, his fears and knew that he had to be scared and afraid. Without even seeing him, I told the case worker that if he was available for adoption, my home would be his last stop.”

Marcella felt in her heart that the child would remember her. Marcella greeted him with a hug and told him she had missed him. Marcella then gave him a doctor’s kit as a gift and told him that when he was a “little peanut” she would listen to his heart and take his temperature. Now that he was a big boy, he could take care of her. He took the toy stethoscope and started to listen to her heart.

“I asked him if he could hear what my heart was saying, and he smiled,” said Marcella. “I told him that my heart was saying, ‘I love you and missed you, and I’m glad that you are here with me. He said, ‘Thank you Mommy’ and gave me a big hug. I was stunned and knew that he was destined to be my child.”

Marcella’s adoption of the second child will be complete on National Adoption Day (November 21) 2015.

Marcella encourages anyone who is thinking of fostering a child to consider adoption because it makes a huge difference in a child’s life.

“No child wants to feel like they are not wanted or don’t belong. The state will support children until age 21. All the resources are set up for you. If you have room in your heart and home to make a child’s dream come true with a forever home, it could be the best choice you'd ever make.”

Marcella added that her children are blessings from God who bring joy and happiness to her life on a daily basis. She looks forward to growing her family by fostering-to-adopt more children.

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