• Harlie Cloyd


When Riley first came to us it was September of 2019, and she was just barely 3 years old. She hardly spoke. She was so scared of nearly everything. She was a shell of a child.

I remember the only words I got her to speak those first few days were "chocolate ice cream." I had asked what her favorite food was, trying my best to make my home feel as familiar as possible to them (a shot in the dark, honestly), but when she finally spoke and told me she liked chocolate ice cream, I didn't hesitate. I went to the store and bought her some and we had all the chocolate ice cream our bellies could handle that day.

It didn't take long, though, before she began to open up. She was calling us mom and dad within the first week. She began to speak more and more and we got to know this child we had just met.

She began to show us her super silly personality and vivid facial expressions. This is still one of my very favorite things about her.

She allowed herself to let us love her and care for her. She let herself trust us.

And we let ourselves fall in love with her.

We honestly fell in love so fast. It wasn't even 6 months in, and we couldn't imagine our lives without her. At that time, we didn't know if there ever would be "forever" with her, so this was terrifying for us. And yet, we knew she needed someone to love her in that way in order to heal, so we did. Our hearts were wide open. We were hooked.

Over the years we continued to fight for her -- for her safety, for the resources she needed, for her healing, and even for her birth mom.

In September of 2021, her mom relinquished her parental rights so that we could adopt her. I will never get over this act of love from their mom.

And the adoption process began.

For trauma-informed reasons, we knew we wanted to change Ruthie's name, but we gave Riley the option. We loved her original name, but also knew that sometimes adoptees want to change their name and kind of "shed" the trauma associated with their old name -- get a fresh start.

And that's what she chose to do.

Now, I had already compiled a list of potential baby names that started when I was in high school. It was quite an impressive list lol.

I also had a dream before we ever became parents that I'd love for all my kids to have names that start with the same letter. But when we decided adoption would eventually be in our future, I held onto this dream a little more loosely because I wanted my kids to have a say.

But God.

Somehow, someway, both Riley and Ruthie chose "R" names from my list of baby names to match their brother, River.

The name Riley means valiant.

When I think of her name and what it means, I think back to the scared little girl we met in 2019 and I think of all she has overcome in a relatively short amount of time. She truly is one of the bravest people I have ever met.

She took what happened to her, and, instead of choosing shame, bitterness, victimhood, or hatred, she chose healing, love, and happiness. That took a lot of guts for a 3 year old, if you ask me.

So yes, she may be scared of worms and riding bikes, but at her core, she is incredibly brave. I am so proud of her for how far she has come. It is truly miraculous.

And then there's her middle name, Sue.

All of our kids have family names for their middle names. Sue is after my mom, Susan, or better known as "Mama Sue."

My mom is the woman who inspired my love of motherhood from a very young age. She was an incredible mother to us growing up, and now she is my best friend. She has supported us to the ends of the earth in our foster care journey. She loved Riley like her own from day one. She is the best Nana, always finding fun and creative things to make memories with her grandkids. She is the definition of a servant-hearted woman of God. I can't think of anyone I'd rather name my oldest daughter after.

So there's the story of how Riley Sue Cloyd came to be!

She is our daughter forever now, and we love her without end.

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