Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Young and In Love: Q+A with Staci Cook

I'd like to introduce you all to Staci Cook. She is a 29-year-old mother of four, who met her husband when she was sixteen. She and Will had an on and off relationship during their teenage years, and fell apart under the pressure of an unexpected pregnancy when Staci was a senior in high school. But ultimately their story had a (very) happy ending, as co-parenting led to friendship and friendship turned to love.

Now, they have been married for 7 1/2 years. They have two biological children and are in the process of adopting two girls after being foster parents for the past two years. Though they've had their ups and downs it has truly been a journey they wouldn't trade for anything.
 
Here's a bit of Staci's story in her words:

Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Small Photography

1.       Tell us about your journey to motherhood. How old were you when you had your first child?

I was 18 and had just graduated high school when my first son, Logan, was born.  It was quite different the second time around, I was 23, in graduate school, working full time and married when my second son, Landon, was born.  It always makes me laugh because my sons personalities are as different as the situations that surrounded their births.

2.      How did your family and friends react to the news of your pregnancies?

The first time around it was shock and surprise. I don't think it is in any parent's plans or dreams for their child to have a child. It is difficult to be a parent, sibling, friend or boyfriend when a new and unexpected baby is in the picture. I lost a lot of my friends because of my situation My boyfriend, now my husband, Will and I took a break for a while. In some respects it made parenting the baby easier, in others harder. My family was shocked at first, but in the end very supportive.

The second time around it was more expected. Will and I were married, we wanted more children and the time just felt right. Everyone we've surrounded ourselves with was happy for us. I think our friends and family were the most shocked when we told them a few years ago we were going to start fostering in order to adopt a daughter to complete our family.

 3.      What were some of the challenges you faced as a teen mom?

Most challenges were similar to every new mom, how do I balance life and a newborn, but there were lots of other challenges that came with having my son at 18. I had to navigate college and working part-time, all while putting my son's needs first. There were, of course, late night feedings instead of parties. 

I think the most challenging part was finding a place where I was accepted, being a teen mom made me feel isolated at times; that no one understood me or my situation. 

4.      Tell us a little about your love story. How have you and your husband evolved over the course of your relationship?

My husband and I met when I was 16 and he had just turned 18. We dated on and off over the course of the next year, and then I found myself pregnant. It really put a strain on our relationship, and we took a break for a while.

As we co-parented together we became good friends again and our relationship evolved again into a romance. We moved in together and shortly after bought a house together. May 20, 2006 we were married in a beautiful outdoor ceremony. It has not always been easy, but it has been an amazing journey that I am so lucky to have shared with Will.

5.      You and your husband are foster parents who are now in the process of adopting two girls. Can you tell us a little about how that came to be?

I always wanted to adopt, even before I became a parent. When I first brought up the idea of adopting, my husband had a lot of reservations. Together we did a lot of research about international and domestic adoption, which opened our eyes to how many children are in the foster care system in the United States and in our local county. It took a lot of talking about it with each other and our children, then reaching out to our local coordinator and other local families.

Every place is different, but in our county there are many rules, lots of paperwork, and special training you have to complete in order to become foster/adoptive parents. Completing the process brought my husband and I closer together. We have had a few placements come through our house, either returning home or moving on to other adoptive homes.

Currently we are in the process of adopting our daughters, Eva (10) and Averi (1), and we could not be more excited to be completing our family.

6.      What has been the most challenging part of parenthood so far?

That is a tough one, I think a big part of the challenge is changing and adapting to parent for your child’s unique needs. My children have different personalities and are at different stages, which means they need different things from me. I am always trying to figure out how I can be a better mom, but it is hard and very challenging.

Another challenge is making our relationship a priority while parenting. So much of our life is focused on the kids’ activities and the happiness of our children. My husband and I have prioritized spending time on our marriage to make sure it lasts. It is so easy to put your relationship (and yourself) at the bottom of the list when you become a parent. If you take the time to move it closer to the top, it will amaze you how much easier some things become.

7.      What are your aspirations right now? How have they changed since becoming a mother?

I always wanted to have a career where I could be creative and make a lot of money. Isn't that every one's goal? I do have a job where I am creative most of the time, it also offers flexibility which is something that I value more since I am a mom to 4.

I have always had aspirations to travel and explore the world. Some of those aspirations have been put on hold because I am a mother. Though for many of my travelling dreams, my husband and I have just brought the children with us. We may not be going to dangerous or exotic locals, but we are exploring together, which makes it just as amazing.

8.      What do you most love about your life right now?

I love that I am at a place where I am comfortable with myself. I have spent so many years uncomfortable, so to be at this spot is a great gift that I have worked very hard on. I am also just so in love with my husband and children, for the amount of chaos there is just as much amazing love. It is all so worth it.
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