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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For Keeps

It was a Monday afternoon and I was just grabbing my purse to head home from work. Tyler and I had been gone to Traverse City all weekend, at a bed and breakfast/winery. It had been so beautiful and relaxing. I felt rested, but also restless. My body was at work, but my mind was elsewhere.

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Suddenly my phone rang, and I tensed and then scrambled. I don’t typically get calls while I’m at work. Could it be…? When I saw the caller name, I could barely feign a “Hello?” as if I didn’t know who was on the other end.

“Hi, Cheyenne?” our adoption worker asked.

I confirmed that it was me and she went straight to the point.

“A birthmom has asked to meet you and Tyler this week, if you are interested.”

My hands shook with adrenaline, and I cleared my throat to try to control the excitement in my voice.

Three days later, we sat in the parking lot, waiting for our appointment to meet the woman who was considering us to be parents to her baby. We were equal parts excited and nervous.

Talk about an important interview. I tried to coach myself:

“Don’t look at Tyler when you talk; make eye contact with her.”

“Don’t mention how far behind you are on laundry or that you love to cook but work too much to make home-cooked meals AND keep a spotless kitchen.”

“Don’t bite your lip or touch your face or cross your arms or ramble on and on…”

I was a hot mess.

She, however, was cool and calm. Friendly, yet distant. But when we got to telling her our story, I could see tears in her eyes. Sometime during our conversation, she told us she was having a boy. I couldn’t help it – I turned to Tyler and squeezed his knee “It’s a boy!” I barely choked out. He laughed at me breaking the wall of formality with my emotional and intimate exclamation of what I knew was our shared excitement.

She laughed too, and I could be wrong, but I think that sealed the deal for her.

On November 29, after 3 hours of torturous, un-medicated labor, she gave birth to Isaiah. We were out the door and on our way to the hospital as soon as we could get a grandparent to stay home with Elise.

He was sleeping soundly when we got there, beautiful and bundled in his mama’s arms. She passed him to me and I stared, searching his face for a sign that he consented to me being his Mama too. When he opened his eyes, I knew I was in love and would do whatever it took to win him over.

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The next 24 hours were spent as a proud, doting family. Three parents feeding, snuggling, and swaddling. Three parents cooing and aww-ing over his toes and his hair and his pouty milk-drunk lip.

Her good-bye the next day broke my heart.

Our emotions were high as in the next instant were asked to wheel our crying baby into the special care nursery. They had warned us that his newborn scores were high. He needed to be watched and treated until he was healthy enough to go home.

We were cautiously optimistic that he would improve over the next couple days. Meanwhile, the grandparents all came to visit and brought Elise to see her new baby brother.

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But his symptoms worsened and the next two weeks would be spent separated – Tyler and Elise at home and Isaiah and I across the state at the hospital.

It was agony to be separated, but Isaiah and I bonded during our time as just us. We had a lot to learn about each other and not a lot else to do with our time. My heart broke over his piercing cries and his stiff, curled body. And it melted over his sleeping smiles, happy sighs, and dark eyes that commanded me to hold him tight and never let go.

Isaiah sleeping

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On December 13 we were finally discharged and came home to begin life as a family.  Even though legally we had only “temporary custody” of him, we were over-the-moon with excitement.

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On February 9th, Isaiah’s birthmom called me to say she had made her decision official and signed the paperwork that would make us able to apply to adopt Isaiah. She didn’t need to do that, but we had bonded during our time together in the hospital. This woman is something else… her call meant so much to us.

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And on May 19th, Isaiah Levi became ours.

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Not, “We ‘are’ adopting him.”

Not, “He’s pretty much ours.”

Not, “We’re just waiting for it to be official.”

He’s ours. We’re his.

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For Keeps.

The Club

Are you in The Club?

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If nothing else, you at least know someone in The Club. They hold gatherings in houses, coffee shops, churches, and schools. They exchange advice, share stories, and swap resources. They shop at exclusive stores, receive exclusive magazines and memberships, and benefit from frequent exclusive promotional materials that are hung on refrigerators across the country. Members of The Club are recognized daily, though they may sometimes still feel under-appreciated for their contributions.

And it’s true — they sacrifice body, mind, and soul. They put in long hours without pay. They worry about their performance and lose sleep over the effects it might have on The Club’s beneficiaries. And while eventually members’ responsibilities lessen with seniority, membership is a life-long commitment.

It’s stressful to be in The Club. And there are some members who even got drafted to it without ever volunteering their participation.

If you haven’t caught on by now, “The Club” I’m referring to is Motherhood.

In spite of it’s requirements, five years ago all I wanted was to be in The Club. We had settled down in a house in our ideal community and school district. We’d been married for 3 years and were ready to introduce a new tiny member to our family.

But in spite of our frequent *ahem* “application“, The Club just kept rejecting us.

It was a painful roller coaster of hope and disappointment. And while my greatest desire was to be in The Club, I couldn’t help resenting their exclusivity and the painful reminder it was of the experience I thought we might never have.

“Just wait till you have children,” and “When you’re a mom, you’ll understand,” were among the biting phrases members of The Club frequently offered me.

Nowhere was it more prominent of a reminder than at church.

Being fairly new to the community, we were visiting different churches, hoping to find one that had a similar style and feel as the church we grew up in. After visiting a few, it became apparent that the easiest way to connect with church-people… is to have kids. 

Them: “Good morning, I’m Chad and this is my wife Andrea. What are your names?”

Us: “I’m Cheyenne and this is Tyler.”

Them: “Welcome! So do you guys have kids?”

Us: “No…”

*insert awkward pause*

Them: “Well, we’re glad to have you here!”

In my insecurity, I imagined their drive home going something like this:

Andrea: “You know those new people today? What were their names?”

Chad: “I think it was Cheyler and Tyanne.”

Andrea: “Oh, right. Did you notice how awkward it got when you asked if they had kids?”

Chad: “Yeah, I noticed that too.”

Andrea: “Do you think they don’t like kids? Do you think they were annoyed by our kids?”

Chad: “Who knows. And if that is the case, they will just have to deal with it. They’ll understand someday when they become parents.”

I’m sure that’s not what really happened. And I truly believe people had the best intentions and were sincerely trying to create a hospitable place for us to worship. But when the parenthood-connection couldn’t be established, it felt difficult to connect at all. Even the ministries and events offered were mostly for moms, children, and families. And the conversations around us always seemed to be centered on other people’s kids. Infertility is just not a good opening-liner to explain childlessness. We knew we would just have to get past the initial awkwardness of being “three-to-five-years-married-without-children” and focus on the point of church – worship.

It was five years ago – on Mother’s Day – that I got another negative pregnancy test. I was tired and frustrated and crushed with disappointment again. Why did I do that to myself? I should have waited one more day.

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The last thing I wanted to do was go to church and get by-passed for a Mother’s-Day-daisy. But we went anyway.

I put on a skirt and feebly attempted a happy face as we found our seats in the row. But when we closed our eyes and bowed our heads in prayer, the pastor’s words wrung my heart like it was nothing but a soggy sponge. I couldn’t hold back the tears that flowed down my face.

“Father God, on this day we recognize all the mothers who have cared for us and who care for our children. For them, we are so grateful. And be near to the mothers who are still waiting for children. Help them to see Your goodness and love for them, even as they wait.”

I am in “The Club” now. But that pastor’s words made a lasting an impact on me – to feel included. Remembered. Honored for the important role I would someday play in my children’s lives. I know don’t want my “membership” to alienate anyone – at least as far as I can control.

So for those hurting today on Mother’s Day: Please know you are cared for more than you realize. I may not see your pain or know which of you is struggling, but I stand with you as one who cannot forget my own struggle. And although I am on the other side of infertility, I will always remember that I am entitled to nothing on Mother’s Day. The greatest gift I could have is my children.

Hang in there, dear friends. And when your time finally comes, don’t forget the journey it took to get there and the ones still struggling down the long, hard road.

Lamentations 3

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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So Much to be Grateful For

I can’t even put in words how I feel right now. But let me start from the beginning…

August 14, 2015     The Training Software at work goes down for a planned, 2-week outage so they can upgrade to the latest version.  It’s about as much fun as copying the Dictionary in calligraphy. For 45 hours a week. But no big deal. I’m a planner. I’ve got a great team backing me up. As Elise says, “Go got this!”

August 31, 2015     The Software is back up and working! Now for entering all that calligraphy into the computer! Only, the software is running at about 5% of the normal speed. Anxiety is starting to set in.

September 4, 2015     We get an email that there are many known issues with the upgrade, and the software will be down until further notice. I was able to get all of my data entry done by then, so I buckle in for what I hope will just be a weekend without it.

September 23, 2015     The Training System is still not up and we have our first of three inspections in October. My anxiety is so high, I decide it’s time to talk to my doctor. He gives me a prescription I can take as-needed. I hate taking medicine of any kind, but my stomach constantly feels like I’m incubating a porcupine, so I’m thankful to have the option to take it if I need to.

Sometime in early October      I have a breakdown in front of my boss. And his boss. But they take my concerns very seriously and make a game-plan to speak to the powers-that-be about prioritizing the resurrection of the training system.

October 15, 2015     The Training System is finally back up! Now I can enter all the information from the last 6 weeks for our 70 employees. An exhausting 57 hour week. But with a lot of help from the other Training Tech’s and my dear friend Kelly who’s the Training Supervisor at another center, we got it all done!

October 20, 2015     Inspection #1. No findings! Such a relief! And to celebrate, Tyler surprises me with planning a trip to Traverse City for the weekend after our last inspection!

November 5, 2015     Inspection #2. A much more intense inspection of Training, but after examining stacks of paperwork all day, they find only 2 very minuscule errors that have no affect on the quality of the work we do. Such a relief!

November 12, 2015     Inspection #3. This one was a huge one for our center, but there were really only a few things they asked for from Training. Again, a successful inspection. And the first time I can really breathe with hope that this stressful season is over and we can move forward with the normal, day-to-day stress of business-as-usual. Tyler also finishes his parent-teacher conferences for their first trimester. Time to celebrate!!!

November 13, 2015     Traverse City, here we come!!! Beautiful sunsets and sunrises, delicious food, and a much-needed, perfectly-relaxing weekend together. I owe Tyler’s coworkers a huge “thanks” for recommending this trip to us. I don’t need fancy things, just quality time. This weekend meant so much.

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November 15 2015     The Lions win their second game of the season. I wish this wasn’t news-worthy.

November 16, 2015     The first week I can officially get back to the job I love!

November 16, 2015, 4:00 pm     I notice a missed call from our Adoption Worker. My hands start to shake. I haven’t been completely honest with you guys… we’ve actually put our names in for about 4 babies in the last month. And my call-back to the Adoption Worker confirms it… we’ve been chosen!!!

Yesterday, November 19, 2015     We meet our birthmom. What starts as an awkward introduction ends with two hugs and her smiling and quietly saying words I will treasure forever: “I’m excited.” 

She’s excited about us. 

She clearly had no idea how profound that simple statement would sound to my heart. One of the things I have been dreading is seeing everything unfold as our greatest joy… and our birthmom’s greatest grief. I can only imagine there will still be grief on her end. But hearing that she was excited for us to be parents to this baby means she knows we care about both her and the baby. I’m blinking back tears right now. We care so, so much. She will forever be in our hearts and prayers, that throughout her life God would give her hope and comfort in her grief, strength and a support system in her troubles, clarity and confidence in decisions, and that she would begin to understand just how much her Heavenly Father loves her.

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We’re having a baby….

Big Sister!

Big Sister!

And up until yesterday we thought our birthmom didn’t know the gender. But she revealed to us that she is having a baby BOY!

I think even Tyler teared up when she told us! Not that we had a preference really, but it just made everything more real. Oh yes, and another spot of news: The baby is due Dec. 12. But probably sooner. She had an appointment two weeks ago and was already dilating and having contractions. Please be in prayer for her and the baby!

Funny, isn’t it —  God’s timing? So much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.

Thank you all for following our story, for praying for us and encouraging us, supporting us financially, and most of all, for loving this baby and his mother without even knowing who they are. It means the world.

Shaken

It’s been about 2 weeks since I last blogged and there are a few reasons for that. As you likely experienced yourself, the summer is busy. Not just “To-Do List-Busy”, but “There’s-Only-So-Much-Summer-Left-Busy.”  Since June was pretty much entirely devoted to fundraising, we’ve been trying to make up for lost time with camping and day-trips.

But perhaps another reason is the celebration of our dear friends’ being chosen by a birth-mom, and bringing their baby home, only to lose her two short weeks later. The mother had changed her mind.

It doesn’t happen a lot, in spite of what you might have heard: About 1 in 20 cases, and usually a birth-mom changes her mind before the couple brings the baby home.

We are heartbroken for our friends. We were so thrilled for them and were so blessed to have met their baby girl. The news rattled us, to say the least. No one expected it. Everything leading up to that point seemed so God-ordained. The birth-family seemed so certain, so relieved to know this baby would have such amazing parents.

The past few weeks have led us through a lot of soul-searching. All of which makes our resolve to adopt ever-more sure.

As I’ve said before, one of the common platitudes we hear is, “It takes a special couple to adopt.”

But we are not special. We are not strong. We are not prepared for that kind of devastation. We are shaken and weakened just by this news of our friends.

We are fragile… but our God is mighty. 

We won’t withhold love from any baby… but we very well may have our hearts shattered.

We may face more than we can handle on our own… but we are never on our own to handle it. 

What we may experience through adoption is a mere shadow of the heartbreak our Father has over those who reject Him. Yet His heart can handle it, and He does not shut down. He can never grow weary of loving.

“How great is the love the Father is lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)

And if WE have been adopted into God’s family, we feel ever-more burdened to adopt children into our own. But our ability to stand and move forward with determination has nothing to do with us and everything to do with Him. The God who loves us and will sustain us. The God who loves these children. 

So that no child will leave our home without being loved as our own and covered in prayer for the rest of their lives.

“We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

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Please pray for adoptive and foster families. They probably aren’t as strong as you think… we all need your prayers!

What’s Next?

Now that our fundraising events are over, the question we keep getting is “What’s next?”

And I completely understand the sentiment. I’m a planner and always like to have a game plan for “what’s next.”

But other than writing a about a hundred “Thank-you” cards, the next thing to do is really just to wait.

(Anyone know a scribe-for-hire? It’s amazing to know that SO many have contributed to our Adoption Fund!)fundraising status

To wait… one thing I ought to be good at by now, but am not.

Compared to the wait for Elise, this has been a piece of cake. But I’m still always anxious to hear any news from our agency of a birth-mom wanting to make an adoption plan. Any news that could be the first contact that leads to our baby.

Tyler and I were talking whilst washing dishes together last week. It was just after we had put our names in for a birthmom’s consideration. I was expressing my excitement that we finally had a chance – albeit a small one – to be chosen. From January to April the agency had 3-4 birthmoms a month looking for parents for their babies. But since we were approved on May 5, there have only been 2 opportunities for us to be considered. And the first one was twins, which we didn’t put in for.

Needless to say, I’ve been a bit anxious. Waiting just isn’t easy for me.

But Tyler couldn’t relate. He’s excited for our next baby, but his emotion doesn’t wax or wane.

Why couldn’t we ever be on the same page? It’s not like I’m looking for him to cry with me through sad dog-movies. Or sad dog-movie previews. Or sad dog-commercials.

Then he said something that reminded me of why I love him, “I actually don’t mind waiting. It means there’s nothing for us to do. Just to wait for God to take care of it for us.”

My soapy hands paused from scrubbing for a second as his words sunk in. I had been looking for him to connect with me, to draw him into my emotions. Instead, I was drawn to his: steady joy in trusting the Lord to work for us.

So what’s next for us? Well… just waiting. But waiting doesn’t mean nothing is happening or that our purpose in life is somehow immobilized. Just that God is the One in control.

And there’s no one better to trust our lives with.

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14