Many young girls “play house” while growing up, but Mindy Gould’s game took a different spin.

Many young girls “play house” while growing up, but Mindy Gould’s game took a different spin.

Instead, Gould played “adopt a baby,” adding she is unsure of where she learned what the term adoption meant. Gould grew up in what she called a traditional middle-class family who visited grandparents, aunts and uncles. Her parents had biological children – two sons and two daughters – and remained married until her mother’s death six years ago.

“I always wanted to adopt – there was no question in my mind,” Gould, a Grain Valley resident, says. “I’d pretend that I got a phone call, and I’d go get my baby.”

After years of working as a certified nurse-midwife and assisting in the birth of other women’s children, Gould went after motherhood on her own terms. At 42, she is the single mother of two girls who were adopted internationally and is a certified foster parent to two babies for now – along with balancing a full-time career. A sign in her upstairs bathroom reads “Children are the anchor that hold a mother to life.”  

She is thankful for parenthood.    

“I don’t,” Gould says of how she balances life as a single mother with four young ones in her household. “My house is a mess all of the time. I’m running here, there and everywhere. I’m never on time to anything – and it’s all OK. We’re very happy.”  

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Before becoming a mother at age 37, Gould first established her career.

She grew up in Columbia, Mo., and in her mid-20s moved to Utah, where she earned her midwifery degree, educating women on birthing options and supporting them in the type of births they chose. As a certified nurse-midwife, Gould worked in a practice with four obstetricians and six midwives and performed hospital births, assisting in the delivery of 50 to 70 babies each month.

Mindy moved to Grain Valley about a year ago so she could be closer to her father, Ed, and several siblings who still live in Columbia. Gould’s 22-year-old niece, Sage, is her older sister’s daughter and has lived with Gould since January. She works as a nanny for Gould’s 3-year-old daughter, and Sage also wants to be a nurse someday.

“She was my first baby,” Gould says, laughing, about Sage, a girl who was born when Gould was a senior in high school. “I felt like my sister had a baby so I could play with it. She was mine.”

After Gould finished graduate school and was in practice as a midwife in Utah, she realized she was ready to adopt. She chose to adopt her first baby from Guatemala.

Gould learned of her baby, Naidelyn, when the little girl was 4 days old. She accepted the referral and received her first daughter on May 5, 2006, when Naidelyn was 9 months old.

“Becoming a mother, no matter how you do it, is its own special journey,” Gould says. “Adoption is its own different kind of journey. It’s heart-wrenching; it’s not for the weary. You have to be willing to jump through a lot of hoops, and your life becomes an open book for social workers, agency workers and lawyers to decide whether you are going to be a good enough parent – and then you have the waiting time.”

A healthy baby, Naidelyn had lived in a home with a foster mother. The foster mother held Naidelyn the first time Gould met her. “Hello, Baby,” Gould told the girl. Naidelyn reached out for her new mother and accepted her arms.

“And then I just cried,” Gould recalls, laughing.

Even young children can develop separation anxiety, Gould soon learned. Naidelyn had developed a strong relationship with her foster mother, according to Gould. At about 11 months old, Naidelyn watched a videotape of her new mother picking her up in Guatemala. She placed her hands on the TV and cried when the image of her foster mother flashed on the screen.

Naidelyn, who attends a private kindergarten in Independence, no longer has memories of her foster mother, Gould says, but mother and daughter still talk about her adoption.

“They both love hearing their stories,” Gould says of Naidelyn and 3-year-old Jayde. “When I was little, it was, ‘Mama, tell me about the day that I was born.’ I loved hearing my birth story from my own mom.”

Gould’s heart soon ached for her family to grow. Seven months after returning with Naidelyn, she started researching adoption in Vietnam. Gould’s adoption paperwork arrived in Vietnam in June 2007, and by September, 3-month-old Jayde became Gould’s second daughter.

“One thing I’ve learned in this process is that your relationship with every child is very different, just like my journey with both of my girls was very different,” Gould says. “With Naidelyn, it was a very emotional roller-coaster ride – up and down, the excitement of doing it for the first time, the sadness of having to wait so long, the yearning to have her in my arms. Jayde’s adoption, for me, was a walk in the park.”

Jayde had lived in an orphanage with about 30 babies, Gould says, a sight that left the now mother of two overwhelmed. Gould describes Jayde as a “foundling” because the baby was discovered at a medical clinic.

Gould says she initially found herself angry that “somebody could leave my baby alone, outside the door of a medical clinic, and walk away,” based on the account of the doctor who found Jayde.

“But what I needed to come to grips with and come to understand was that somebody loved her enough to put her in a safe place where they knew she would be found,” says Gould, adding that Jayde was likely left alone, at most, for five minutes outside the clinic. “She was covered up with a blanket, with a hat on – somebody made sure that she would be OK. I could see the love and the careful planning that went into the decision.”      

She hasn’t dated since moving to Missouri, but Gould says she would like to marry someday, even though she is OK with her existing situation. She teaches full-time at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s School of Nursing, working mostly from home by teaching online courses.

“Absolutely,” Gould says of one day meeting a man, falling in love and then marrying him. “Absolutely. What we are missing in this house is a daddy. The opportunity has just never presented itself. You can get married at any age. I don’t believe you can parent at just any age.”

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She wants to adopt yet again.

Gould wants a family of three children, stressing the importance of sibling relationships. So, in June, she became licensed as a foster parent through the Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association. Adoption through foster care differs from the expensive process of adopting a child internationally, Gould says, and she’s also grateful for Naidelyn’s foster mother and wants to make the same contribution.   

“You don’t keep from getting attached. You get attached,” Gould says of the question she is asked most often about serving as a foster parent. “They need you to be attached. They need love, and they need to be treated just like any of my children are treated.”

Two foster babies currently live with Gould – 12-month-old T. and 10-month-old J. (because of privacy reasons, the names are being withheld). Gould says she has a good relationship with T.’s mother, adding, “It’s what she needs right now for him to be able to come home. We need to be working together on things.”

The experience hasn’t come without concern. Gould says she and her immediate family members questioned how the foster children moving in and out of her home would affect Naidelyn and Jayde. They talk openly about the babies and where they might live permanently someday, but the girls also love the babies like they are their own brothers, Gould says.  

Foster care is about helping families remain together, Gould says. The experience has taught Gould, she says, that her job is to remain nonjudgmental and to provide support, love and care for the children in helping families stay whole.

If the opportunity presents itself, Gould says, she would like to open her home to a foster child who needs a permanent home to add dimension to her family.

Would a brother round out the family?

“I chose girls the first two times around,” Gould says, laughing. “I’ve said this time, ‘Let’s see what God sends us’ – a little more of the old-fashioned way. One day, I’ll be able to say (to the girls), ‘Tomorrow, we’re going to go to court, and they’re going to let us keep this baby.’ ”