One Year Ago

We’d put our names in to be considered for twenty different babies. And twenty different birth-moms had chosen someone else. We knew it would take time – that there were plenty of very worthy and equally eager families waiting to be chosen. Average wait time was a year to year and a half. We’d only been waiting 6 months. But the misleading mantra, “you never know” still played in my head… played with my heart. I was inebriated by a cocktail of hope, insecurity, and rejection.

On top of it, work had been hectic – to say the least. I’ve always struggled with anxiety, but never before was it so bad that I dreaded having people in my office for the corresponding panic it evoked in me. Every interruption felt traumatic, because it either distracted from or added to my workload. I felt physically sick, mentally over-loaded, and emotionally drained. I didn’t feel like myself at all. I began to long for this adoption to happen, just so I could go on maternity leave and escape the stress of work. But instead of escaping, I (needlessly) wallowed in shame as I called my doctor to ask for anti-anxiety medicine.

Finally, after three months of working 50+ hours/week under immense pressure to perfectly execute my job duties, I passed a rigorous inspection – the culmination of the past quarter – with flying colors.  Tyler and I celebrated with a weekend getaway to Traverse City.

It was a disappointment to come home, but a relief to return to a much easier work situation. It was a Monday – and a fresh start. I felt revived, like I could breathe again.

That is, until the phone rang just as I was getting ready to go home for the day. My heart raced when I heard our adoption worker utter the words, “You guys have been picked.” Her calm voice made it nearly impossible to believe I had heard right. I started to shake uncontrollably and couldn’t quite catch my breath well enough to form proper responses for the remainder of the conversation.

As soon as I hung up with her, I tried to call Tyler.

He didn’t answer. So I tried again. And again.

Of all the times I needed to talk… why couldn’t he sense the urgency of this ringtone?

I had to wait half an hour before he called back. I don’t know how I made it that long without spilling. And I honestly don’t remember how the conversation went, but I’m sure I was in hysterics.

We were going to have a baby! Elise was going to be a big sister! And God had delayed it all for just the right time.

We still knew very little about our birthmom or her baby. Her first name and her mid-December due date were all we had to go on.  But in three days we would meet her face to face.

Anxiety returned to consume my every thought. But this time it was matched with excitement. No, it was undermined by excitement. We had been praying for her since we first decided to adopt. But now, she was real to me. My prayers for her and her baby gained urgency as I pleaded for God to give her peace with her decision, connection with us both, health for her and the baby, and most of all that God would somehow use this very intimate, very vulnerable and emotional experience to show her His love.

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Our Family of Four

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It’s official – we are now a family of four. Isaiah5

Isaiah is now 10 weeks old and is now legally ours. Today his Mama gave us the greatest gift anyone could ever give. I truly can’t express how grateful we are to her. And how grateful we are FOR her as well.

On Sunday, we made the 2.5 hour trek out east to visit her for the first time since he was born. I’ve spoken with her periodically on the phone in these 10 weeks, but this was our first reunion. We were nervous, knowing that she could still change her mind. I mean look at those beautiful dark eyes… those precious, chubby cheeks… his sweet cuddly demeanor… I think everyone wishes they could take him home with them.

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You think you know what love is? Love is sacrificing. Love is taking a risk. And I don’t mean being careless and naive about who you love and how much you love them. I mean being so self-less that you give up your deepest desires for the good of that person.

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People have asked us, “How could a birthmom give her baby up?”

My answer: I have no idea.

100_7910I can’t speak for other birthmoms, but Isaiah’s mom loves him more than life itself. Her decision to place him with us is for reasons that are personal and for which we deeply admire her. She is a beautiful, wise, compassionate, strong, determined woman, and we are so thankful to have her in our lives. It’s crazy to say, but I never thought I would be so comfortable sharing the name “Mom” with her. Somehow, it just comes out naturally… in fact, I feel so honored that she is the one that gave me that title.
This is love: Not that we loved Isaiah (that was easy!), but that SHE loved him. And gave over her right to be his Mom, so that we could love him as our own.

Sound familiar at all to some of you?

One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is 1 John, and so much of it resonates with the adoption journey. Here is 1 John 4:10…

“This is love: Not that we loved God, but that HE loved us, and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Friends, we are so very blessed by this cuddly bundle of chub. I just can’t stop kissing his soft baby-jowls. Can’t stop making ridiculous noises just to see his smile. Isaiah has 3 parents that would move heaven and earth for him. And a sister that sure would do her thang too.

 

 First Love

He gave you his first kicks,

First cry, first sigh,

Cuddled up in your warm arms

Settled into his first sleep.

No matter where you go or what you do

Remember you chose us, but he chose you

You’re his first love.

You gave him his first breath,

First sight, First kiss,

Touched your nose to his nose,

Told him how you’d miss him.

No matter where you go or what you do

Remember you chose us, but he chose you

You’re his first love.

You gave us his first smile,

First words, first steps.

Every day of his life

We will never forget this.

No matter where you go or what you do

Remember you chose us, but he chose you

You’re his first love.

We see you in his sweet smile,

Tough guy, won’t cry.

Breaks out in a shy grin,

Studies life with wise eyes.

No matter where you go or what you do

Remember you chose us, but he chose you

You’re his first love.

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First News of a Birthmom

It’s been a long two-and-a-half weeks since getting approved to adopt. On average, our agency has 3 birth-moms a month looking for a families for their babies. Probability was not high we would have received news of a birth-mom before now, but with adoption you never know.

So of course I’ve been as attached to my phone as a 6th grade girl.

I was counting this week out and getting ready to jump in the shower after digging in the dirt (aka assisting my father-in-law with converting the whole front of our house into lovely flower beds. And by “assisting”, I mean my father-in-law probably did 95% of the work.)

*hangs head in shame*

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And then my phone ding-ed.

It was an email from our adoption worker about a birth-mom due in September.

And guess what else?

Twins!

*faint*

 Twins… a lot to consider. When we were first asked about our openness to adopting twins we said, “Sure, bring it on.” But the reality is that twins AND a 2 year old AND working full-time just sounds a bit overwhelming. Elise still needs so much attention, and both of us being occupied with a baby may not be a very easy transition for her.

But on the other hand, who gets to choose what’s easy? 

Also weighing-in on our decision are the preferences this birth-mom is looking for: Monthly visits, more if possible; a stay-at-home-mom situation; and a family that doesn’t yet have a child. None of these “preferences” are set in stone; birth parents will read all about us and our preferences for openness and make an informed decision.

 

We have until June to give our official answer, but surprisingly we both haven’t felt any “nudge” like these could be our babies. It’s especially surprising to me, because I’m usually the idealistic, rescuer type who would be open to taking any baby. Without a doubt though, there is some couple ready and excited about these babies and we still pray for a beautiful future for them.

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Meanwhile, we are revving-up for our garage sale that’s happening June 4-6. We have TONS of stuff that has been donated to us:

Clothing in all sizes

Furniture

Lamps

A Car

Yes, seriously, A CAR. I posted on facebook asking if anyone wanted to donate their “yacht, car, or house” for our sale – totally in jest. And then one of our good friends texted me saying they just bought a new car and wanted to donate their old one anyway. I just can’t believe you people… ❤

We will also have baked goods – basically every-flavor-cookie imaginable as well as some pies, barbecue sauce, vegan energy balls… the list keeps growing!

I realized today that Lakewood’s last day is June 4, so I hope to draw some people to the bake sale since the sale is adjacent to the school parking lot. So if your kids go to West El, come stop by for some Last-Day-of-School Treats!

Hope to have more news soon of other birth-moms looking for families, but for now we’ll keep busy while we wait!

On Open Adoption

Common questions people seem to be asking are, “Is it going to be an open adoption?” and “How often do you have to let your child see their birth-mom?” and “Aren’t you afraid she will become their favorite parent?”

All questions that I have asked as well. Concerns that have troubled me, particularly when we officially submitted our application.

While Tyler and I both have cousins who were adopted, they all have closed adoptions. The “openness” thing is totally new to us. Having the birth-mom in the picture always seemed like it would be confusing to a child and create instability in the family. I imagined feeling competitive and possessive of this child that she had entrusted to us.

We automatically assume openness is for the benefit of the birth-parents, and in some ways it is. It’s reassuring to them to know that they made the right decision. That their child is doing well and loves his or her adoptive parents. They can still be a presence in the child’s life and not have to wonder if they are hated for choosing not to parent.

But more than anything, openness seems to benefit the child.

This weekend we attended a panel discussion at Bethany Christian Services. On the panel was a 28 year old guy who discovered he was adopted at the age of 4, but was not given any details about his birth-mom until he was 18. Several years ago, he finally got up the courage to reconnect with his birth-mom. The other panelist was a 15 year old girl. She has had an open adoption from the beginning. She sees her birth-mom every-so-often, and texts and emails her birth-mom now.

What kept coming up over and over from both of them was how important it was that they know their birth-mom. Neither had any insecurity with who their real parents were: the mother and father who had raised them and supported them their whole lives. But, having a connection to their beginnings meant so much to them and helped them feel secure in knowing they were wanted. 

0001-480It’s a little bit hard to relate to the deep connection they feel with their beginnings. For me, I’ve never really been too curious about my birth story. Perhaps because I’m afraid my parents will pop in the video tape and I’ll be scarred for life.

I also don’t feel like I look much like any of my family members, nor does that bother me at all. I don’t often think, “I got this trait from my dad” or “I have my mom’s _____.” I feel close to them, and I appreciate the interests that we share; but genetics – to me – are not foundational to my identity.

The panelists’ message was not new to us. We’ve been reading and taking other classes, and it seems that the more we hear from adoptive children, the more it is apparent that their beginnings are a crucial piece to their identity as an adopted child. They don’t care that they were adopted. They just want to know about this missing piece to their story.

I suppose — when I think about it — it’s a little like losing a parent. Those things that you normally never would have paid attention to become a precious connection to their memory. Maybe you’ve read the Harry Potter books. Peel back the many layers of that story and at its foundation is a narrative of a boy struggling to find his identity while avenging the death of his parents. No compliment is greater to him than hearing how much he is like his father or mother. The power of that connection to his parents is paramount, even though he lost them as an infant.

So what will an open adoption look like for us?

Hard to say for sure. Typical openness involves several meetings at the agency during the first year, and then once or twice a year after that, with pictures and letters in-between. It’s really just going to depend on what we believe to be most beneficial to our child.

But no matter what that relationship looks like, we want our child to think about their birth parents and to know that our home is a safe place to ask questions and explore their identity. And we are confident that when someday during that teenage-turmoil-phase they tell us, “You’re not my real parents,” their words will sting, but hold no truth.

And isn’t that what teenagers do anyway? Test to see how unconditional your love is? Sorry, kiddo… You’re stuck with us!

Our Profile Book {and also the arrival we’ve been waiting for}

Our Profile Book {and also the arrival we’ve been waiting for}

Look what {finally} came today:

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Also pictured are the cookies I caved and bought 2 days ago out of desperation. Apparently the Girl Scouts didn’t blacklist me after all. They really were just back-ordered. For 3 months.

And now that our approval date is so close, I finally finished the profile book I’ve been working on for 3 months. Oddly coincidental, no?

Maybe my need to keep my mind off the perfectly crunchy, caramely, coconut cookies that drove me to spend nearly 100 hours on this project.

Or maybe it was that cookie-deprival stalled my creativity all this time.

However these two events are related, today was certainly momentous.

So anyway, when a birthmom chooses our agency for finding a family for her baby, we will get an email with non-identifying information about her: when she’s due, the baby’s gender, any health concerns for the baby, her interest in on-going contact. If we feel we would be a good match for her, we let the agency know that they can show her our profile book. She will narrow her choices down by looking through the books and reading our 15 page Home Study Report.

Take a look at a few pages here if you’d like (If you click the photos, you can read the text and see clearer pictures.)

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That’s all I really have for today! Less than 250 words! I think that’s a record. That is, if you don’t count the text on the pages.