Jeremiah, 2, and Journey, 4, keep watch from their step siblings bedroom on a foggy Monday afternoon on Nov. 26, 2018. Since Charles works two full-time jobs, Jordan is left most days to care for the children and manage appointments and other logistical matters. Often Jordan will bring Journey, Jeremiah and Cain (the three youngest, besides the baby) to daycare so she can run errands and accomplish things she otherwise wouldn't be able to. But on days when Jordan can't get all the kids ready before the daycare cut-off time of 9:30am, they keep themselves busy at home.
Jordan, 25, sorts laundry and searches for baby Charlotte's clothes to get her ready for the day while Journey, 4, plays in Jeremiah's bedroom on Monday morning, Dec. 3.
On the days where Jordan remains at home to care for her kids by preparing meals, doing laundry, helping with homework, cleaning gooey noses and paying bills while Charles is at work, Jordan is not preoccupied with any semblance of self-pity and does not take to whining about the challenges of her job as a full-time mother of five.
"Some days are harder than others, but at the same time it's never a burden to me to be their mother or to have so many,” Jordan said: “Honestly, after the 3rd it just becomes routine. People think our life is hectic or chaotic, and it’s not like that. We have strict routines and rules and a lot of structure that helps keep our everyday life flowing. My job is to be their mother— and I thoroughly enjoy it.”
On this Monday morning, as is occasionally the case, Jordan accidentally slept in and was unable to get most of the kids to daycare, which has a cut-off drop-off time of 9:30am. In addition, J.J., 7, missed his bus for school. Therefore Jordan had no choice but to bring all five kids to Journey and Cain's doctor's appointment. She strolled into UNC Health Care with two strollers carrying 4-month-old Charlotte, Cain, 1, and Jeremiah, 2, aided by her 7-year-old J.J. and 4-year-old Journey.
Cain, 1, gets his blood drawn at UNC Health Care in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Monday, Oct. 22 as his mother, Jordan, comforts him.
Charles Stephens and Jordan moved in together in 2016, after having both started their own families with other partners. Charles has two kids of his own, 12 and 13 years old, from a previous marriage that ended in divorce, while Jordan has three children, ages 2, 4 and 7 with her ex, Jules. Charles and Jordan have two children together, a 1-year-old and a 4-month-old, and are now engaged. All of the children live under the same roof except C.J. and Lia, who live with Charles' ex-wife. In descending order, the children are C.J., 13, Lia, 12, J.J., 7, Journey, 4, Jeremiah, 2, Cain, 1, and Charlotte, 4 months.
Jordan's fiancé, Charles, cradles and tickles their son, Cain on Sunday night, Oct. 21. Charles Stephens met Jordan in 2014 through his roommate. At the time, Jordan was in a residential rehabilitation program called UNC Horizons, while Charles lived in an Oxford house. Jordan was dating Charles' roommate, her high school sweetheart with whom she had three children. Jordan had been having issues with her boyfriend since early on in their relationship, due to his tendency to see other women, spend several nights away from his family and fight with Jordan constantly. In contrast, Jordan's relationship with Charles has made her question what a normal relationship looks like: "In the beginning of our relationship, I always tried to push him away, or find something that was wrong... Because it was so calm, and I was so used to chaos and fighting and arguing. But he won't have it, he's a peacemaker," she said.
Jordan loads her strollers into the back of her minivan. Besides suboxone, Jordan has been drug-free since February of 2017 (when she relapsed), and before then had been dealing with a serious heroin addiction that she developed as a teenager. Her addiction has created for Jordan a personal story that's nothing short of complicated and heart-wrenching. Having been closely monitored by Child Protective Services since she lived with her ex, Jules, because of the tumultuous relationship they had and her heroin use, Jordan had a close call a couple years ago after a drug test came back positive, (a fault of Charles', who had used just before the two became intimate). Though her CPS worker believed that the positive test result was not her fault, Jordan had to wait three weeks in order to give a hair sample to clear the mistake. Since then, Jordan has dedicated herself to starting clean for her kids', and her fiancé's, sake.
Jordan Brooke, 25, first found out she was pregnant at seventeen years of age. While with her ex-boyfriend, Jordan gave birth to three children: J.J., 7, Journey, 4, and Jeremiah, 2. Upon leaving her ex, frustrated by the abusive nature of their relationship and his endless womanizing, Jordan connected with Charles Stephens, 38, who had recently divorced. Charles fathers two children with his ex-wife, but the children live primarily with their mother. Together, Jordan and Charles, now engaged, have had two children: Cain, 1, and Charlotte, 4 months.
The story’s name, “E Pluribus Unum” (out of many, one), the well-known motto of the United States, refers to the family’s unity despite it’s distinct parts, and a mother’s determination to provide stability and solidarity after a history of personal hardship.
Caption: Jordan and Charles take the kids for a trick-or-treating event down the street from their house in Hillsborough, N.C. on Saturday, Oct. 27 2018.
Jordan took J.J., Journey, Jeremiah, Cain and Charlotte to Wendy's on Thursday evening, Dec. 6. "This is the first time we've all been out to dinner somewhere since before I was pregnant with Charlotte," Jordan said, laughing. Understandably, it's been a while since the family has gone out all together to a public place to eat. The task requires quite a bit of patience on Jordan's part. Very rarely does Jordan lose her cool, and when she does, she never resorts to shouting or any kind of physical punishment.
Jordan was horribly abused and beaten as a kid by her step-mom, and she has no intention of disciplining her own children by aggressive, physical means: "When someone's hitting you for no reason, and you don't understand why they're hitting you, you just feel so down. Especially since they love you, but don't say sorry. It just really hurts your self esteem," Jordan said.
Jordan found out she was pregnant with Jeremiah when she went to jail for a drug court violation she had in May of 2015. She relapsed after having her wisdom teeth removed, and both her children at the time, J.J. and Journey, were taken away for 34 days and placed in a foster home. Jeremiah was conceived by rape (Jordan's ex, Jules, had raped her), which made the pregnancy extremely emotional for Jordan. But about five months into her pregnancy, Charles entered her life and stayed by her side.
"He would rub my belly and was very sweet and supportive," Jordan said: "It never felt weird or awkward to me, even though Jeremiah wasn't his. And when Jeremiah was born, they placed him on my chest, and I immediately fell in love with him," she said.
Jordan views herself as more than a caretaker to her kids. "Teaching them their morals and their values, being their safe place to come when they need to share something," Jordan said. The best part about being their mom? "Having their unconditional love, 24/7," she said.