Tamara Wanner: Finding Hope through Adoption

Fifth in the "Gift of Life" Series

Posted by Nancy Lee on October 04, 2022

“He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord!” Psalm 113:9 (ESV)

Tamara Wanner tossed and turned in her bed in her hotel room three hours from her home. Would the little boy they would be meeting the next day be God’s answer to prayer for them? Was it God’s will that he become their son? 

“Please, Lord, could you make it really, really, really clear?” she cried out to God. “If this little guy is to be our son, please give us a sign. Please let him call us Mom and Dad from the start.”

It had been such a long road, and Tamara wanted to be absolutely sure this was the right decision. She and her husband had married eight years earlier at the ages of 29 and 33. After a few years of trying to get pregnant, nothing happened so they went to a specialist. After testing, they were told they had “unexplained infertility” and they tried some fertility treatments. The treatments were unsuccessful, so they began the years-long process of getting on a waitlist, having a home study completed, and finally being placed on the Central Registry in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada.

What seemed to be a good idea the night before was ridiculous to Tamara in the morning. What was I thinking? I read his file. This little five-and-a-half-year-old boy has been in and out of the hospital and foster homes for his entire life. There is no way he is going to trust adults and call them mom and dad right away!

When they went to the rehab facility to meet Cody, Tamara was focused on learning about his condition from the Occupational Therapist. “Tamara, he is calling you,” the OT said. Then Tamara heard it; his sweet little voice calling her, “Mom.”

A few minutes later, he turned to Tamara’s husband Bill and said, “Look at me, Dad!” Tamara and Bill looked at each other and knew this was their son.

The usual process for adoption is for the child to be integrated slowly into the new family. Since Cody was in an unsafe foster home at the time, the social worker rushed the process. The Wanners had Cody a total of one overnight before he came home to live with them permanently. 

Despite the confirmation God had given the Wanners, the transition was more challenging than they could’ve imagined. Tamara and Bill knew their new son had Weaver Syndrome, a condition that caused unusually rapid growth and affected his fine and gross motor skills. What Tamara and Bill did not know was that Cody was also autistic which opened up a whole new set of challenges.

Also, Tamara and Bill were unprepared for the grief they went through, grief over the loss of being able to conceive, and the expectations they had of being parents. 

Their feelings of overwhelm were magnified by Cody’s difficulty in attaching to them, a condition they learned was common with older adoptees who had experienced trauma.

Tamara and Bill are grateful for the many people who rallied around them. They found support through Cody’s dedicated teachers, counselors, and therapists.  They also found care and encouragement through the Christian community.

Friends who were on staff with Power of Change ministry visited Tamara and Bill and prayed with them. Through their prayer, Tamara and Bill felt God was again confirming to them that adopting Cody was the right choice.

Since Tamara was a schoolteacher, it was hard for her when Cody threw his books when she tried to read to him. She realized that he had never been read to, and that it would take time. She shared her frustration with a friend who gave her good advice. “Quit being a teacher and just be a mom.”

A year and a half after they adopted Cody, he started praying for a little sister. Tamara and Bill were hoping to have more children, so they again went through the process of being put on a waitlist, completing a home study, and having their name placed on the Central Registry.

Tamara and Bill with Cody and Serenity at Cody's graduation in 2017

This time the wait wasn’t so long. Fifteen months after they began the process, Tamara got a call from her social worker. “I have a little girl coming up for adoption that is supposed to be in your home,” she said. 

“As soon as I heard her name, Serenity, the Holy Spirit spoke to me, and I knew she was my daughter,” Tamara said.

Tamara didn’t hear anything more for weeks, but she got busy preparing a room for her new daughter. Finally, the social worker arranged a time for the Wanners to meet with her. Tamara and Bill saw pictures of Serenity for the first time and heard her story. She was born to an indigenous woman living on the reserve. Serenity’s birth mother had two requests: that her daughter be adopted off the reserve, and that she be placed in a home that loves Jesus.

“As soon as I read that,” her social worker said, “I knew that she was supposed to be with you.” Soon after, the social worker arranged for Tamara and Bill to meet Serenity at the foster mother’s house. “This is something that never happens,” Tamara explained, “but we got to see her and fell in love with her right away. The foster mother released her, so we were able to get her the next week.”

After returning home, Tamara called her principal and told him to find a sub for the rest of the year.

A week later, Tamara and Bill brought their beautiful 15-month-old baby home.  As they thought about the timing, they realized that Serenity had been born just after Cody had started praying for her. They felt so blessed at how their precious new daughter was an answer to prayer.

Though they trusted that this was God’s perfect timing, Tamara felt like they were thrown into a whirlwind. The Wanners were a farm family, and they were in the middle of seeding, but God gave them four days of rain to have time together as a family before getting into their busy routine. The adjustment was much easier than the first time. They quickly bonded as a family.

Serenity had colic, which was difficult, but their Christian family rallied around them, and some friends brought over some homeopathic remedies which helped.

Tamara and Bill are so thankful that God answered their prayers and blessed them with a family through adoption. For those who are adopting, especially older children and/or those with special needs, Tamara offers advice she gleaned through experience. She suggests you seek out counseling to help you deal with your grief from infertility. It is real and if not dealt with can affect your attachment to your adopted child. She recommends you connect to a community of other adoptive families, so you won’t feel so alone in the unique challenges you face. She also encourages you to seek out trauma-informed parenting classes and learn all you can about attachment.

Tamara leaves a few words of wisdom for all parents: “Realize that your children belong to the Lord. They are only yours to steward for a little while.  And that God can redeem so much of your own parenting mistakes. You can trust God. And pray, pray, pray for your kids.”

More about Tamara and her family: Tamara lives in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada, with her husband and daughter. Her son lives an hour and a half drive away. She has been a farm wife and bookkeeper, an educator, a voice teacher, and a Middle English research assistant.  She loves to cook, putter around her flowers, write, travel, play cards, and admire God’s creation. She also enjoys keeping up with her children’s adventures.

*family portrait by Rodney S. Braun