Chelsea Zeleny-Floro saw a post on Facebook that made her stop scrolling: a hospital was struggling to find a home for an infant with a particular set of problems. He’d been in their care for over two months, and if a suitable home couldn’t be found soon, the hospital would be forced to discharge him. Zeleny-Floro had no plans to adopt an extra child – up until then, that is.
Hailing from The Woodlands, Texas, Chelsea Zeleny-Floro never wanted to become a foster mom for an extended period of time. Instead, she and her husband hoped to take in one baby who they’d eventually adopt and raise alongside their biological kids. And thanks to a little girl arriving on the scene, that dream came true in 2016.
By the time Zeleny-Floro’s adopted daughter was ten months old, the parent had seen another long-term foster child move onto a new home. At that point, she told Love What Matters, “We had told everyone that what we really wanted was to step down from being foster parents, go back to our normal life and quit.”
But Zeleny-Floro went online – and a glance at her Facebook feed gave her pause. As a member of a fostering group on the site, she regularly saw posts about children in need of homes. “I normally scrolled right by those kinds of posts, but this one I couldn’t ignore,” she said.
According to Zeleny-Floro, “The post read, ‘Child waiting in hospital for two and a half months, can’t find placement, has no femur bones, and is considered medically fragile. The hospital says he has just a few more days until they HAVE to discharge him due to space.’”
The plea was enough to pique Zeleny-Floro’s interest. She commented on the post, but her request for more information yielded a daunting response. “After hearing the extent of his medical needs, we decided it was just too much for us to take on in addition to the three other children already in our home,” she wrote.
But then Zeleny-Floro saw two more posts imploring someone to consider taking the baby in. With that, she couldn’t scroll by anymore; she called the hospital to find out the truth about the tiny tot. “I wanted details. The good, the bad, the ugly,” she said.
What Zeleny-Floro found out was that “the hospital had never seen anyone quite like him,” she said. The baby had a serious condition: bilateral proximal femoral focal deficiency, class D. In general, PFFD causes the femur bone to be malformed or missing, but class D is the most severe version – and the baby had it in both legs.
Not only was the baby missing both bones in his thighs, but he had no hip bones either. And, if that weren’t enough, doctors believed that he might have fetal alcohol syndrome, too. This occurs when a mother drinks with a fetus in utero. It can result in the child being born with brain damage.
As Zeleny-Floro spoke to the child’s nurse, she “assumed she would try to talk us into taking this baby, whether it was the right choice for our family or not,” the mom-of-three said. Instead, the nurse simply provided plenty of information and encouragement; she had, after all, adopted three children of her own.
And those words were exactly what Zeleny-Floro needed to hear. “[The nurse] talked me into saying ‘yes’ that day, but she didn’t have an agenda. It wasn’t just because it was what he needed, it was because she took the time to make us feel comfortable and capable of being what he needed,” she explained.
Before Zeleny-Floro knew it, her foster baby arrived on her doorstep. Upon first glance, “he was adorable, but many things stood out about him,” she said. First off, the baby had a misshapen head, since he’d lain in a hospital bed for his first months of life. Second, he was miniscule. Third, his legs lacked bone structure in their upper half.
The infant appeared fragile, so Zeleny-Floro “feared everything. Was I holding him right? Was he in pain? Could I really do this?” she recalled. But there was light at the end of the tunnel: one of the baby’s relatives was in the midst of a home study and would be able to take him home themselves, upon approval.
But it wouldn’t be that easy for Zeleny-Floro. In the meantime, the baby was “the hardest baby we ever had. He cried a lot. He was sick all the time, never slept, had constant appointments and limited recourses,” she said.
In the midst of all this, though, something unexpected happened: Zeleny-Floro and her family began to fall in love with their foster baby. “Our commitment grew, our hearts opened,” she said. “He was our son, and we made the decision that we would give all we could physically, mentally and financially, for however long he was with us.”
With that, Zeleny-Floro had hardly any hesitation when she found out that the baby’s family hadn’t completed their home study satisfactorily. She recalled her caseworker asking, “Would you and your husband be willing to adopt him?” Zeleny-Floro said that they would.
So, on November 15, 2017 – which just so happened to be National Adoption Day – Zeleny-Floro and her husband officially adopted their baby. They made his moniker official, too, selecting Charles as a tribute to a late family member.
Of course, adopting Charlie wasn’t the end of the road for Zeleny-Floro. She still had to work with her son and fight for his healthy development every day. There was one silver lining: doctors determined he did not have fetal alcohol syndrome.
Meanwhile, after Charlie’s adoption, he began to move in ways Zeleny-Floro had never seen before. He came up with a new way of crawling before fully standing up on his own. He rode a scooter, he took steps with a walker and made his way upstairs. Then, one day, he walked six steps without assistance.
All of these developments gave Zeleny-Floro hope for her son’s life. She said, “I know there will be more hurdles to cross in the future, but for now he is my sweet, sensitive boy who walks on his hands, who rides a scooter better than other kids his age, who loves his momma and who will defy every single odd given to him.”