Every family has days that loom large in their lives and brings a chance for changes that may be for the better – or worse. For the Palmer family, that day had arrived.
They were sitting in the courtroom and waiting for a decision that would change their lives forever, and they feeling quite nervous about it.
The moment was very emotional for both Mandi and Tyler Palmer. They had spent an entire year trying to prove their worth as parents and keep their family together.
It felt like it would be ages before the judge spoke and gave his final decision. However, an unexpected interruption occurred when a toddler broke the silence and shouted something out.
Back in 2010, Tyler Palmer had just joined the United States Army, serving in the 101st Airborne Division. He did not have long to process the changes in his life at this time, as he was sent off to Afghanistan just twenty days after completing basic training.
The experience would be a difficult one for anyone, and Tyler was no exception.
Fortunately for Tyler Palmer, he made it through his time in Afghanistan safe and sound and was able to return home.
Though he was happy to be back in the United States with his loved ones, the war experience took a toll on him just as it does with anyone who experiences it. Luckily for Tyler, things were about to go his way.
In 2013, Tyler was fortunate enough to meet Mandi, who he knew he had hit it off with right away. While Tyler was about to get sent on a second deployment to the Middle East, he felt great about the start to his relationship with Mandi.
Mandi had some health issues and Tyler’s deployment would be a strain, but the two felt optimistic about their future together.
Tyler’s deployment would last for nearly a year and be very difficult on the two. But it also gave him a new perspective on what really matters in life.
“He was deployed for nine months, and one month after he got home, he proposed and we got married a few weeks later,” Mandi later said. Tyler decided to exit the Army and start a new life with his bride.
Right away, Tyler and Mandi were sure that they wanted to start a family together. “We both knew we wanted our own family so greatly but didn’t know what God had planned for us,” Mandi said.
However, Mandi’s history of heart problems were a factor and the two had a very difficult time when trying to conceive a baby together.
The couple was understandably frustrated as weeks of effort turned into months and eventually, years. “We tried for years to get pregnant but soon came to realize that it wasn’t going to happen, nor would it be safe for my body to sustain the miracle of pregnancy due to my illness,” said Mandi.
However, they weren’t going to give up on parenthood easily.
The Taylors were determined to add a new member to their family and began looking at the potential options that they could use to make that happen.
Ultimately, they figured out that adoption was the choice that would best match their unique situation. However, anyone who has adopted will testify to the fact that the process can be a difficult one.
Tyler and Mandi were very receptive to the idea of becoming foster parents and noticed that there had been notices about a need for qualified foster parents within their area.
Commercials and other announcements caught their attention and they realized that a lot of children and babies out there needed a home of their own.
Tyler and Mandi took all of the commercials and announcements as yet another sign that adoption would be the perfect choice for their needs.
They figured it was God’s plan for them to adopt a child, and they decided to sign up for the licensing program so that they could take the steps necessary to become foster parents.
The licensing program was quite intense, and Tyler and Mandi spent months doing paperwork and jumping through various hoops to complete it. Finally, they became licensed and that same week, they got a call that their baby boy was ready to be picked up.
His name was Hunter, and Tyler and Mandi couldn’t wait to meet him!
When Tyler and Mandi got the call saying that a baby boy named Hunter needed them, they were extremely excited. Hunter was just a week old at the time and in need of a loving, caring family.
Tyler and Mandi were more than willing to be the parents that Hunter needed. Unfortunately, there would be more obstacles to come in the future.
What followed was a “whirlwind of emotions,” Mandi said. The couple went to Target and picked up the baby items they needed. “We arrived at children’s services and there was Hunter, all bundled up in a receiving blanket, and he was being held by our caseworker,” said Mandi.
“He was eight days old and absolutely perfect. We fell in love with him instantly.”
Unfortunately, being an adoptive parent can be extremely stressful. There is always the chance that the biological parents, or even other adoptive families, could come out of the woodwork and threaten a new family.
That’s what would ultimately happen to Tyler and Mandi, as they would find that their family was not quite official just yet.
Unfortunately for Tyler and Mandi, they would face a roller coaster ride over the following sixteen months, as they had to go through hearings and meetings while finally getting paperwork finalized so that the case could go before a judge.
This would end up happening on December 18, 2017 – just a week before Christmas.
By the time the court date arrived, the family had been together for 17 months. It may not seem like very long, but as a parent, it’s an eternity and the idea of giving up the little one you’ve cared for for a year and a half is simply unbearable.
However, Tyler and Mandi were ready for whatever it would take.
Tyler still struggled with symptoms related to PTSD from his time in Afghanistan, while Mandi’s heart issues were an occasional challenge for her, as well.
However, they both admit that Hunter was the best “medicine” for them. He was “both of our reasons to fight the health battles that we have been given,” Mandi said.
When the big day arrived, the family was nervous, but mostly excited. Everybody made sure to look their best, with tiny Hunter really being the star of the show in his fancy attire.
The parents were more than ready to put everything behind them and make their parenthood all the way official that day.
“It was very emotional, in a good way,” Mandi would later say. “We had all of our family and friends there. At the end of the court process, the judge announced Hunter’s new legal name.”
However, this was not the only big moment that would happen, as Hunter himself wanted to have a say about what was happening.
As the adoption decree was read and everything was becoming officially final for once and for all, Hunter yelled out. He looked at Tyler and he yelled, “Dad!”
Tyler also began clapping and everybody in attendance started to cry, Mandi said. “It was so emotional,” she said. It was truly a perfect unscripted moment.
The moment was also very special because it was when Tyler and Mandi realized that they could just focus on being the best parents that they could be and not have to worry about whether someone would try to take Hunter away from them ever again.
That was understandably quite a relief for the two doting parents.
When asked about how she felt at that time, Mandi is very clear. “It’s definitely rewarding,” she said. “It’s nice to look in his eyes now and not have to worry that he’s ever gonna have to leave us again.”
When the decision was announced and their family was made official, the judge certainly knew that he had made the right decision.
Not only did Hunter need parents to give him the stable, loving home life that every child deserves, but his parents needed him just as much.
He has been a miracle for Mandi and Tyler, who have learned that “there’s a rainbow at the end of every story,” Mandi said. She added that she was extremely thankful that they never gave up.
Tyler and Mandi are extremely proud of their baby boy, Hunter. “He is our world and our reason to keep fighting these battles,” said Mandi. “My husband said that there is no medication to help his PTSD quite like having his son take our last name.”
Hunter has had as great an effect on his parents as they have on him.
Adoption day is always special for families, as both the children and the parents get to enjoy that feeling of stability and permanence that other families may take for granted.
“He’ll always be safe and loved with us,” Mandi said. December 18, 2017 would end up being a day that the three of them will remember forever.
“Our hearts are forever changed because we now know a true and genuine love,” gushed Mandi when asked about her feelings about her son, Hunter.
“We know that he will forever be safe with us and most importantly will always know what love is. We have learned that family isn’t about DNA. It’s about love!”
Since adopting young Hunter officially, Tyler and Mandi have become huge advocates of adoption and talk about it whenever they get the chance to. They know that the experience of adding a child to a home can be life-changing and amazing.
Although being a foster parent isn’t always easy, it’s definitely worth it, they said.
Mandi has posted about her experience on Facebook during Foster Care Awareness Month, when she said that it’s the best feeling to know that you provide children with “safety, validation, comfort, and love.”
Mandi also wrote that foster children deserve to be cared for. “They are innocent and deserve all of us to help put their broken pieces back together.”