Lying in bed with my husband, Gary, then 50, we were reminiscing.
Together since I was 15 and Gary was 17, we’d met when my friend brought him into the yoghurt shop where I worked after school.
He’s cute, I thought, begging my friend to set us up.
Tying the knot 18 months later, in 1988, we couldn’t wait to start a family.
‘We’re going to end up with 10 kids,’ I often joked.
Fast forward 31 years, we were now proud parents to Matthew, 31, Andrew, 28, Alexa, 25, Sophia, 21, and Samuel, 18.
Our four eldest kids had flown the coop, and Samuel, in his final year of school, was preparing to follow in their footsteps.
With six bedrooms, Gary and I wondered what we would do once we became empty-nesters.
‘Maybe we should sell the house,’ Gary suggested.
But over the next six months, we never got around to it.
Plus, we were busy as foster carers, which we’d done for the past five years.
Though I loved every child who stayed with us, we had no plans to have any youngsters permanently.
After all, we’d raised five kids already.
Then, scrolling through Facebook in January 2019, I saw an article.
Seven siblings in need of forever home, it read, beside a photo of the kids in their best clothes.
My heart went out to their hopeful smiles.
Reading, I discovered the children – Adelino, then 13, Ruby, 11, Aleecia and Anthony, both six, Aubriella, four, Leo, three, and Xander, two – had been in a devastating car accident six months earlier.
Tragically, their parents had died and the youngsters had been badly injured.
It was a miracle they’d survived.
We have to help them, I thought, tagging Gary in the post.
Can we adopt them? I wrote, expecting him to tell me I was crazy.
With Gary working for the post office and me a lawyer, I knew we had the finances to make it work.
And as the hours passed, I couldn’t push the kids out of my mind.
Who else would have the room to keep them all together? I wondered.
It would be devastating if they had to split up.
By the time Gary arrived home from work, I’d armed myself with a speech ready to plead my case.
But when I asked him if he’d seen the article, his response left me floored.
‘Yes,’ he replied, calmly. ‘We should adopt them.’
My heart skipped a beat as I pictured the children as part of our family.
Telling our older kids, they were all incredibly supportive.
I contacted the adoption agency the following day, and when they suggested we meet the siblings at a local park to assess our compatibility, Gary and I were thrilled.
Preparing seven books, with details about our family and home – one for each of the kids – I hoped it’d help them feel safe with us.
I’m Mummy (Pam) and this is Daddy (Gary), I wrote, giving them the choice of what to call us.
Still, nothing could have prepared me for the moment we saw them.
Aubriella raced straight over to give me a cuddle!
Speaking with the kids, I felt like they’d been in our lives forever.
A week later, we were over the moon to be chosen as their forever family.
We just needed to foster them for six months before we could start adoption proceedings.
In preparation for their arrival, we bought new bunk beds, and a 15-seater van.
I also framed photos of their biological parents to help the kids keep their memories alive.
We knew they were still grieving, and needed lots of love and support.
Adjusting to their new lives, they often struggled to sleep. So, each night, I’d take turns rocking the five youngest in my arms to soothe them.
In time, they settled, and started to call us Mum and Dad.
Now, we couldn’t imagine our lives without them.
Adelino, now 15, is incredibly smart and wants to become a detective.
Ruby, 13, is a social butterfly, while Aleecia, nine, is quite spiritual.
Anthony, eight, is athletic, and Aubriella, seven, loves dress-ups and playing with dolls.
Leo, six, has a smile that melts hearts, and our cheeky youngest, Xander, four, follows his big brothers wherever they go.
Finally, in August 2020, the kids officially became ours, making us parents of 12.
Some of our eight grandkids are older than the youngest of our adopted kids!
It was a second chance for Gary, me and our beloved family home, as well as for the children.
‘I always told you we’d have a big family,’ I teased Gary, as we threw a party to celebrate the adoption.
Now, 10 months later, I feel like the luckiest woman on earth.
Though our home can be chaotic, we wouldn't have it any other way.
Follow the family's journey at instagram.com/second.chance.7