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'So what if we have 7 other kids?' How one family adopted 6 children from Africa

Carolyn Twietmeyer and her husband, Kiel, had seven children when they decided to adopt just one more. So how did they end up with six adopted children from Africa, including two who are HIV-positive? It wasn't an easy road, Carolyn Twietmeyer writes -- but it's been worth it. 

By Carolyn Twietmeyer, special to TODAY Moms

After years of grazing the topic of adoption with my husband, he finally agreed to ONE special needs girl from India.  So, I wasn’t really sure what the big deal was when I enthusiastically informed him that I had actually found our K-I-D-S. 

I mean, one or three, they needed a family!  OK, there were two boys and a girl, and a little HIV involved.  I mean, if you’re willing to go to India, then what’s Africa?  I was certain he would look at their picture and fall in love.  When I saw them I could almost hear their laughter in my living room.  Instead, he refused to look at the picture and began sweating profusely. He was doing the math in his head, 7 kids plus 3 more!?  Mortgage? Groceries? Braces? College? HIV/AIDS!!!??? 

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He stared at me in terror and a look of confusion that reminded me of a cocker spaniel hearing a high pitched sound.  Once the twitching began, I could only do what any desperate mother- to- be would do to fight for her future children: I clobbered him with our faith.  He fled the scene.  I followed him up the stairs.  Trailing close behind, I read him the riot act.  What kind of man are you?  Children are starving and dying and you’re concerned about our finances? SO WHAT if we have seven other kids?

Carolyn and Kiel Twietmeyer tell TODAY's Jenna Bush Hager that with proper health care and medication, HIV doesn't have to be a death sentence for the abandoned children they've adopted.

Kiel and I were rarely at odds.  We have always been able to communicate well, even our disagreements were short-lived.  My maternal instincts were in overdrive,  his male logic was on fire. I knew none of this made sense. But did it have to? I couldn’t bear the thought of his strong arms not protecting them.  The idea that his reassuring eyes wouldn’t look into theirs and pierce right through them with his unconditional acceptance and love was unspeakable.  However,  instead of telling him these things, I let him know what a horrible, selfish decision he was entertaining.  I did that disgusted squint thing that I do, followed by a louder than usual exhale and huffed and puffed my way back downstairs. 

It was then that another miracle happened. I decided to not say another word about it to him. Yes, me…silent. (I just broke out in hives at the the very memory.) I decided if this was meant to be, then he would come to this decision without my prodding, bullying and emotional, guilt-driven hijacking.

Exactly two weeks later, he informed me that every day since I told him about these kids, the topic of adoption had come up.  He was pale and clammy, with a deer-in-the-headlights look.  He works on construction sites, where apparently adoption is not usually a big topic of discussion.  But it kept coming up. He walked up to a reception desk, and the woman seated behind it asked him if he wanted to see the pictures of the kids that her sister just ADOPTED. 

On his way home that day, he asked for ONE MORE CRYSTAL CLEAR SIGN.  Immediately a song by Toby Mac came on the radio that he had never heard.  It was about orphans and the refrain said, “Father to the fatherless, be with your sons and daughters this Christmas.”  He was undone, and has been ever since.  He let me know he was meant to be a father to these fatherless kids.

Sure enough, by the following Christmas, they were laughing in our living room.

It isn’t always easy, but we wouldn’t change a thing.  We now have 13 children. No, I am not the most patient or organized woman,  I don’t always talk softly with a smile and I despise  laundry.  But, I can say for sure as a married  couple and an individual, very imperfect woman, this is doable and has enriched our entire family.  Our adoptions weren’t simply about saving some kids -- in so many ways we have been saved and forever changed.

To learn more about adopting and advocating for children with HIV/AIDS  please visit: www.projecthopeful.org and adoption.uchicago.edu.