Adoption option is a blessing for the Hocker family

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Adoption option is a blessing for the Hocker family“You hear about this unconditional love that parents have for their children. That’s really difficult to imagine if you haven’t experienced it.

“When I finally did, I didn’t expect it to be so immediate, and so powerful.”

Donna Hocker recalls how after years of longing for a child, her opportunity arrived unexpectedly in a whirlwind development.

“There is a misconception that sharing DNA with your child makes a difference in how much you can love,” she said, acknowledging her atypical entree into parenthood. “I myself may have even believed that at some point in my life. But now that I have Maddie, I love her like every mother loves her child.”

Donna was living outside the area when she met Ray, a graduate of Burroughs High School who returned to his hometown to become an entrepreneur and a contributor to the Navy’s mission at China Lake.

The two met through a rally-car racing event, and eventually fell in love, married, and made their home together in Ridgecrest.

After trying for 10 years to have a child, Donna suggested that they talk to an attorney to look into adoption. When they did, the attorney tried to talk them into adopting an older child, instead.

“He said, ‘Oh, do you really want to deal with all that — the crying and the diapers?’ I said, ‘Yes! I want to experience every moment!’”

Undaunted by the challenges that come with raising an infant, and warnings of the expense, long wait times and bureaucratic challenges that come with navigating foster-care and adoption services, the Hockers pressed forward.

After deciding to pursue adoption, Donna heard a story about a local physician who delivered a child, and was asked by the birth mother to find a home for the baby. “I asked him if that happened very often, and he said no. So I told him if it came up again, to keep us in mind.”

Fast forward some months into the future. Donna and Ray had just returned home from vacation one weekend and had gone outdoors together to work on the yard.

Donna got a call from a nurse at the hospital, saying that the doctor was looking for them — a teenage mother in a desperate situation was about to deliver, and she was looking for a home for her child.

“So we didn’t have that typical scenario where we waited for years with our names on a list — this was totally God intervening.”

Minutes after receiving the call, the couple arrived at the hospital to meet the mother.

“When we got there I was concerned it might not be a good situation, and I didn’t want her to feel pressured. I thought, after holding her baby, she might want to change her mind.”

After introducing themselves and offering their reassurances, the Hockers left. “I remember we went to dinner, but I couldn’t eat.” After about half an hour the doctor called and asked them to come back.

“He put Maddie in my arms, and I knew — Ray and I both knew — she was ours.”

Maddie was born on a Sunday, but the social worker didn’t come in until Monday. “So we started the process, and the nurses let me spend Monday night with her,” said Donna. “That actually turned out to be a good thing, because even though that maternal instinct kicked in, we needed that transition. That’s a steep learning curve, and there were so many things I needed to know.”

By Tuesday everything was finished, and the Hockers went home with their little girl.

Nearly eight years later, the Hockers still live, work and play in Ridgecrest. Maddie is an outstanding student, a burgeoning gymnast and a natural-born leader.

“A lot of people do tell us how much Maddie is like each of us in different ways,” said Donna. She’s independent and determined like her mother, goofy and creative like her father.

“I think a lot of your personality doesn’t come from your genes, it’s how you’re raised. So like all babies, she’s adapted to her environment.”

But inheriting Donna’s dazzling blue eyes? “Well, God did that.”

Ray and Donna did not make a secret of Maddie’s adoption. “We told her that we had prayed for her for 10 years, and God chose to make her our daughter. I think back on how everything happened — and so quickly. I get chills just thinking about what might have been if we hadn’t been home or we hadn’t answered the phone … but we were and I did. And that’s part of how I know this was meant to be.”

Motherhood has carried many surprises — like the overwhelming feeling of a human’s capacity to love, and the challenges that come with staying engaged at every moment, and being attuned to all the responsibilities that come with raising a child.

“I think parenting has taught me, though, how to pick and choose the battles that we want to fight,” said Donna.

“It’s important to me that she is kind, considerate, giving and compassionate. Not so much how she chooses to dress herself or wear her hair.

“Really, it puts things into perspective for us, too. Bringing Maddie into our lives has taught us what’s important. Our home feels different. Taking a walk now is different than it was without her. Every little thing about our lives is different, and better, because she is here.”

Maddie’s integration into her extended family, including an older sister, was just as seamless, said Donna. “From her grandparents to her aunts and uncles and cousins — she just fits. She’s a Hocker, through and through!

“I’m so proud of her. She is such a great leader, and she knows how to think on her feet. She’s stubborn, but I know that will serve her well when she gets older!”

The only down side, said Donna, is how quickly time passes. “The time you have together feels like it’s gone in an instant. So we try and appreciate whatever time we are in,” she said.

“If there are any couples who are struggling out there, this is a really great option. And there are so many kids out there who need good, loving homes,” said Donna.

“And I’m glad that this mother chose adoption over her other alternatives. It takes a lot of courage for a young girl like that to make this choice. I’m thankful every day that she did.”

Pictured: Donna, Maddie and Ray Hocker.

Story First Published: 2017-05-12