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.

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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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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.

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!

Why Does Adoption Cost So Much?

Our approval yesterday went great. We signed some papers and handed over our profile book. The adoption workers discussed what to expect next, which basically was anything. Every birth-mom is entirely different, and every adoptive family is different. It’s impossible to predict how long it will take for us to be chosen, but now we are officially a choice.

So of course in the mail today I opened the box to find a letter from Bethany.

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So sweet of them – a bill for $5000. Thankfully, we have been very used to limiting our spending and have saved up enough so that with the $2200 you have given us, we don’t need to panic or take out a loan!

Which means only $14,000-17,000 more to go!

Which leads me to the common question we are asked:

“Why Does Adoption Cost So Much?”

A great question! I wondered the same thing and checked on other agencies and other options for adopting for less. I was surprised to find that Bethany actually had the lowest cost of all the agencies I looked into. The short answer is this:

  • Birth mother expenses (hospital, housing, food)
  • Government and legal fees
  • Counseling with potential birth mothers
  • Adoption agency overhead and expenses
  • Advertising on your behalf

The only real way to bypass such incredible expenses is to adopt from foster care, which is no cost. And while we may do this in the future, foster care means two significant things we don’t feel ready for: (1) Agreeing to support the goal of re-uniting the child with their parents and (2) most-likely adopting an older child. With Elise not yet two years old, we felt ready to grow our family, but not ready to disrupt her birth-order or expect her to handle having foster-siblings coming and going from our home.

I believe back in 2012 there was a $12,000 government refund for adoption. Now, they have made up to $12,000 tax deductible. Which to me, makes no sense. At a minimum, why isn’t the entire expense tax deductible? Just sayin, it should be.

In addition, my employer offers $5000 reimbursement – which was amazing until I realized that I will not be paid for any leave I take because I did not give birth. So I am thankful for that, but will be using it to cover my leave. And taking that time is extremely important in adoption because the adoptive parents are not who the baby has heard and smelled and felt since conception. So much of the research supports new parents taking as much time as possible to bond with and nurture an infant.

So while the cost was EXTREMELY overwhelming at first — and still is somewhat of course — I’ve been amazed at God’s faithfulness throughout. Every single gift has been… an indescribable blessing. Not just because of the towering cost, but because people care. God cares. I was so disappointed when I found out my work did not win a $1500/employee bonus that we were favored for. The timing and amount would have been perfect. But God – through even more meaningful means – provided exactly what we needed. Thank you for every gift, friends – not just financially, but in your “congratulationses” (?), encouragement, and excitement for our family. 

Ready or Not

We got an email from our caseworker yesterday asking about moving our Official Approval up to May 5! Apparently our background checks, fingerprinting, and the rest of the paperwork is all completed and approved, so we are ready!

Wait… are we ready? Are we really ready for this??!!??

Let me just give you a sample of how stubborn our firstborn is.

I am trying to prepare our profile book for birthmoms to look through and realized that all of my pictures of the three of us are from a year ago. So my amazing mother-in-law came to take some family pictures. Let me just say these pictures really tell the story better than I could:

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*sigh*

But I love her to pieces. Even because of her stubbornness and independence. I just pray God uses those qualities for good as she gets older!

Meanwhile our to-do list is almost done. Tyler has pretty much finished the table that is one of the prizes for the Raffle Drawing. On the left is the actual table and on the right is a similar 8 ft. table he made for our friend Sabina:

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Isn’t he amazing? Next I want him to build me a dining room table that can extend to fit 12 people, so you can all come over for dinner sometime!

Our Raffle is in full swing… sort of. We’ve raised $500 thanks to a handful of people, most of whom are family (thank you guys so, SO much!). But we now have $5000 due in 3 weeks – yikes!!! Originally at the informational meeting they had said it would be $2050. We had that and the initial $3000 set aside and had hoped to not have to worry about money until after our Garage Sale/Bake Sale and Dinner, as the final huge portion is not due until we are actually matched with a baby. So the payment schedule goes like this:

Application Process (completed) – $3000

Agency and Legal Approval (May 5th) – $5000

Placement – $13,500

Medical/Legal expenses for the birthmom (only requested in 50% of cases) – $3000

Anyway, God will provide in one way or another, but if it seems like I’ve been annoying on facebook with the fundraising stuff, it’s just because (1) I don’t know how to do a lot of stuff on facebook and have been experimenting with making pages and events and (2) I might. kinda. sorta. be getting a little nervous about having to pay that $5000 so soon.

Fundraising is not my thing. When I agreed to join Girl Scouts, I had no idea it meant we had to sell the cookies.

What do dogs eat? Dog biscuits.

What do cats eat? Catnip.

What should Girls Scouts eat? Girl Scout cookies, duh.

Needless to say, I didn’t last long. In part because of not getting to EAT Girl Scout cookies at every meeting and in part because I was not interested in selling anything. And then there was that Flag Ceremony incident in which they wanted me to do something-or-other with the American Flag. I’m someone who can’t picture things without you showing me first, so I was terrified when they told me how important this job was, then put the flag in my hands and asked me to march down this little aisle of girl scouts all staring at ME. I knew I was supposed to turn one way and do something else…. I never really knew. I’m not even joking, I very vividly remember fighting back tears whilst bearing our nation’s banner.

Oh and then there was that time I had to sew something.

Is that why our Girl Scout Cookies have been “Back-ordered” for 3 months? Good-golly, I caved and bought the Keebler version of Samoas out of desperation. Must be they did a background check and found my maiden name and recalled the national disgrace I bore down on my troop!

Alas, I digress… what was my point anyway?

Oh yeah, fund raising. Yeah yeah, yadda yadda, you’ve heard it already and I promise to stop posting a million things on facebook!

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IMG_4531But exciting things are happening here! Our little one could be out there right now growing in his or her Mama’s belly. So crazy to think about. Please keep them both in your prayers. And the three of us as well! May 5th is just around the corner!

Matters of Justice

You will be shocked at the story I have for you today. And I’m not being facetious. I was shocked. Just stay with me here. You’ll see.

Remember how I told the story of my “Adoption Physical?” Well Tyler had his also around the same time as mine mine.

When I asked him how it had gone he said, “Fine. The doctor was kind of weird.” He wasn’t thrilled that the only opening they had was with a female doctor. I wasn’t surprised at his summation.

“Weird?” I asked.  I giggled a little inside as I asked, “Did you have to–”

“No.” he said. He knew what I was going to ask. We both were hopeful our physicals would be nice and simple: Blood pressure, pulse, lungs, done. None of that socks-off-foot-assessment or any other *ahem* uncomfortable examinations.

He said matter-of-factly, more amused than offended, “She did ask me ‘Why don’t you want to just have kids the normal way?'”

Why-don’t-you-want-to-just-have-kids-the-normal-way????

I was incited. How could a physician — a physician — ask such a question?

I try to be understanding of people who ask this question out of ignorance that 1 out of every 8 couples will struggle with infertility.

I try to pretend I can empathize with someone who says “I am so done having kids.” or “When he looks at me, I get pregnant.” or “I cried when I saw the positive pregnancy test.”

I know they love their kids and they don’t realize the sting I feel. I know that I am probably ignorant of their life circumstances, and how another child will add to the level of stress or chaos in their household.

But a physician? A physician likely will have had patients suffering from infertility in the 25+ years experience this lady had. Justice must be served!!!

Now before you think that was the shocker of the story and move on to the “Which Modern Rock Star Should I Date?” Buzzfeed Quiz, take a quick sip of  coffee and keep reading.

So when Tyler told me this, I made up my mind that when I went back in to get my TB test read I would see if there was anyway to give some anonymous feedback to this particular doctor. I knew Tyler wouldn’t do it and would probably try to talk me out of it, so I was just going to not make a big deal out of it.

I stopped by the front window on my way out and asked the receptionist, “Do you guys have comment cards?” She seemed a little surprised by my question. Oh boy, I thought, maybe I should just drop it. 

“We have these ‘Rockstar’ badges.” she said as she held out a star-shaped paper with lines to write words of affirmation.

“Does that go on a wall somewhere, like publicly? I asked.

“Yeah” she smiled.

“Oh…” I said. This was getting uncomfortable. Why can’t I just be chill like Tyler? (“Chill”? Can’t I think of a better, more age-appropriate word? Apparently not…)

“Well…. that’s not quite what I was thinking. I guess it’s not a big deal. I just wanted to give some anonymous constructive feedback to a specific individual.”

I could tell it clicked with her, so she offered me the office manager’s business card.

I accepted it and thanked her and went on my way. The card has been sitting on my coffee table for 2 weeks now. I should have just thrown it away and let it go (Please resist the urge to break into song.) It’s not like she is our regular doctor.

Then yesterday Tyler got a letter in the mail. “Dear Tyler: It is with great sadness that we are writing to inform you of the sudden death of Dr. M. N.”

Little did I know that the day after I took that business card to email her manager about being more sensitive, she passed away.

I was shocked. I felt awful. But was so glad I hadn’t passed along my feedback.

I guess what I learned from that is to have a little more grace with people. Before I go picking out the speck in someone else’s eye, I need to think about the log in my own (Matthew 7:3). Because I am sure not perfect and have said ignorant or offensive things myself that I truly didn’t mean. And I’m sure Dr. N did not ask her question for it to sound like “What’s wrong with you?” or “Why would you want to adopt?” Or maybe she didn’t realize what a great gift adoption is, both for us and for this baby that will be ours.

Regardless, all that really matters is that matters of true justice are given supreme priority. Like caring for orphans, feeding the hungry, supporting the shut-ins, and giving aid to victims of disaster.

And as for other matters, a humorous approach is probably the best: