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Love is the driving force

A Montanan who moved to his wife’s hometown in southeast Missouri has learned some hard lessons about parenting in tough situations over the years, but through those experiences he has come to learn the importance of love in raising a family.

Originally from Billings, Montana, Wade Buckman is a teacher, a coach, the owner of a coffee shop and the father of three kids — all of whom were miracles he and his wife Crystal never expected.

Asked how he met his wife, Buckman said, “To make a long story short, we initially made a connection over the internet. Anyway, over time we reconnected, and it developed into a relationship as I was looking into colleges and thought, ‘I remember talking to this girl from Missouri…’

“She was from the Arcadia Valley. It’s crazy to think about how it all worked out, but it’s also pretty amazing how well we fit together and how perfect we are for each other.”

Wade and Crystal Buckman have been married almost 14 years and have a very close and loving relationship that has helped them through challenging times as a couple.

Wade and Crystal Buckman have been married almost 14 years and have a very close and loving relationship that has helped them through challenging times as a couple.

Adopting Sarala

The couple got married in 2004 and next month they will celebrate their 14th wedding anniversary. They kept trying to have a biological child, but it just wasn’t happening.

“We had always planned to adopt, but we wanted to have a biological child first,” Buckman said. “It seemed to be the easier, more logical route, but things don’t always go the way we plan. There was an opportunity that came along where there was a little girl on Crystal’s side of the family that was needing a family.

“It was my birthday and I remember that we were in a shop in Farmington when Crystal received the phone call — three days after the baby was born — that they needed somebody and we instantly both thought, ‘Let’s do it!’”

What made the couple’s immediate decision to adopt the child so remarkable were the circumstances of their daughter Sarala’s birth.

“She was pre-exposed to drugs and alcohol,” Buckman said. “She was born three months early and only weighed 2.5 pounds. The social worker — understandably so, now that we look back on it — was almost trying to dissuade us in a way, saying ‘This is not going to be the little baby that you’re thinking about necessarily. She’s going to need a lot of care and a lot of extra things.’”

Although the task seemed daunting, Wade and Crystal decided to “go for it.”

Buckman said, “Both of us have a pretty strong faith and we looked at it as divine providence that we were given this opportunity. Through that time, we experienced a lot of amazing things in terms of support and seeing changes in our daughter’s health.

“She spent three months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Because of the conditions of her birth, she had a reservoir placed in her head to relieve pressure. Every day they would have to drain it.

“Once they knew we were going to go through the process to adopt, the surgeon snapped a photo and that was the only one we had of Sarala for four months. It’s of a sickly little baby with all these tubes and things, but we really held onto that and — again, through our faith — really expected God to do some amazing things. We got to see a lot of it happen, which was incredible.

The only photo of Serala that Wade and Crystal had for four months after agreeing to adopt her was a photo taken of her by a surgeon at the hospital where she was receiving care.

The only photo of Serala that Wade and Crystal had for four months after agreeing to adopt her was a photo taken of her by a surgeon at the hospital where she was receiving care.

After three months, Sarala was moved to a high-risk medical foster home.

“After she went to the high-risk medical foster home, we had contact with the foster parent and were able to check in every now and then. She also had some pictures done of Sarala and sent us an updated one.

“Now being a parent, we know it really did work out in a way. With this being our first child, we were able to survive that time apart, whereas if we were to have gone out there, there would have been no way that we would have been able to leave her.

“There were some pretty amazing people who did some really great things for her along the way — people who go into that environment and just hold babies. Sarala got to experience that. One of the few items that she brought with her was this blanket that was from that time period.”

“At the six-month point she finally made her way to us — which seemed like an eternity,” Buckman said. “We had done a lot of this over the phone. “

Coming Home

According to Buckman, a large group of friends and family supported them when they went to the airport in March of the next year to pick Sarala up.

“The social worker brought her on a plane along with just a small bag of items,” he said. “We waited for her to come out of the departure area. When she came, we have these pictures where you can tell she’s pretty freaked out by everything — all the people, all the attention. Once things quieted down, we sat down at a closed restaurant in the airport and signed some paperwork. Then we had a baby to take home with us! That was a pretty surreal experience.

“Once we were home — we already had the room prepared — we sat there for a while just in awe of the adventure we’d been on and the new chapter that was about to begin. At this point she was 8 pounds and developmentally like a two-month-old, so she was pretty close to a newborn, in terms of being a baby. So, we got to experience a lot of that even though she was 6 months old. Now that she was home we just loved her. She grew enormously in big ways.”

Eleven years later, the Buckmans say they wouldn’t change a thing.

“We’d do it all over again if given the opportunity, in spite of the challenges that have come up from the pre-exposure,” Buckman said. “Love has been the driving force behind us bringing her in, bringing her into our family and advocating for adoption, as well. We know the reality of what could have been. She had no family out there — no one to advocate for her or anything. If anyone who saw her so sick in NICU were to see her today, they would be amazed at how well she’s doing in spite of everything. The amazing thing about it, too, is she does look like us. There isn’t a question that she’s our daughter — which is pretty amazing and awesome!”

With Sarala in their lives, the Buckmans desire to have a biological child grew.

Adopting Keith

“But it just wasn’t happening, so we just focused on Sarala and continued to do what we do,” Buckman said. “Then we had the opportunity to adopt again, but this time it was kind of on the other end of the spectrum, where it ended up being a 13-year-old boy who my wife had initially come into contact with through school. After getting to know the background story, there was that feeling of, ‘You know what, there’s no reason we can’t do something here because this kid has no one.’

“We definitely had the space and the resources to do that again, so we ended up going through that process one more time and the adoption was finalized for Keith when he was 15. Now he’s in his early 20s and doing really well. We’re very proud of him. There were definitely some challenges. We had experienced parenting up until an elementary-aged kid and then we jumped into the teenage years.

“The teenage years all the way through young adult has been an education, but again, love has been the driving force. Not being afraid of challenges, afraid of conflict. Being willing to love through whatever came our way. It got pretty messy at times, but it’s another one of those things where we would do it again if we had the opportunity — and it’s still a question we throw around.”

What a Surprise

After adopting Sarala and Keith, the Buckmans finally came to the conclusion that a biological child just wasn’t going to happen.

“Once we accepted that, Crystal became pregnant and we ended up with Amelia, as well,” Buckman said with a smile. “Now we have three kids. Having a baby in our mid-30s is a lot different than having a baby in our mid-20s, but it’s still pretty amazing how we have a 3-year-old, an 11-year-old and a 21-year-old — which is quite a spread, but it’s been pretty awesome!”

Wade and Crystal Buckman are proud of their three kids — Sarala, 11; Keith, 21; and Amelia, 3.

Wade and Crystal Buckman are proud of their three kids — Sarala, 11; Keith, 21; and Amelia, 3.

Now, the Rest of the Story

“I lost my father to cancer when I was 6,” Buckman said. “I grew up without a father. I mean, I still have these faint memories of bits and pieces, but I still look at it as having grown up without a father. Father’s Day for me was always pretty rough. My mom did the best she could and there were some other people who stepped in along the way, but it’s just hard to replace that in a family.

“Now it’s a lot better because of my experience with my own family and the fact that I’m able to be a father to three kids. How amazing and precious are those relationships, those opportunities to love those three amazing members of our family who I am able to watch grow and guide! There’s a presence of love that’s always there regardless — in spite of bad decisions, conflict or whatever.”

Buckman has come to understand that love is the answer to so many of life’s difficult questions.

“I didn’t really understand ‘unconditional love’ until I became a father, which then gave me a whole new perspective on everything — in terms of the way I interact with people, the way I do my job as a teacher, the way I work with kids as a coach, the way I work in our business.

“As an encouragement to fathers, remembers that fatherhood is pretty amazing. Just do the next right thing and let love guide you. If you’re a new father, it can definitely be scary and overwhelming at times, but you can do it.

“Again, just do the next right thing and let love guide you. To fathers considering fostering or adoption, the same. It can also be scary and overwhelming, but just focus on the next right thing and let love guide you.”

“I didn’t really understand ‘unconditional love’ until I became a father, which then gave me a whole new perspective on everything…” — Wade Buckman

Along with being a husband, dad, coach and teacher, Wade Buckman is owner of the Arcadia Valley Roasting Company in Ironton. He says that his experience as a parent has even changed everything in his life — including the way he runs his business.

Along with being a husband, dad, coach and teacher, Wade Buckman is owner of the Arcadia Valley Roasting Company in Ironton. He says that his experience as a parent has even changed everything in his life — including the way he runs his business.

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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