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.

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.

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. 

Approval-Eve

On this, the eve of our Adoption Approval, I pause to consider the threshold before us.

In a matter of hours we will become “Paper Pregnant” — meaning we can now be chosen by a birth-mom. Any day, we could have another head to snuggle under our chin. Another cooing giggler, eyes lit up with wonder at our silly baby-entertaining antics. Another tiny hand wrapped tightly around our fingers.

The days have been rushed. I can hardly count how many lists I have going, much less how many to-do’s are on each list. I  run this way and that, forgetting my purpose for all my urgent steps. I snack here and there throughout the day, hoping mostly to motivate myself to keep going. Good-gracious, just this afternoon I did the potty-dance into the house, toddler on my hip, bag over my arm, shoes in my hands, and phone in my pocket.

Oooo, Elise, babe, I’ve GOT to put you down. Mama’s gotta GO! 

Yet I kept her in tow as I descended to the basement to free Rylie from her crate.

“Nooo!she protested. But I pulled out her new toy stroller (with the buckle she loves to play with. Of course.)

Finally entertained, I left her and polka-ed to the potty, only to hear a voice from my pocket, “Hello?”  

Mortified, I answered my phone.

Why did I answer???

“Do you feel better yet?” teased the voice. It was my friend Rachael. Giggles ensued as I requested a swift end to our conversation so I could pee in peace.

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Peace.

Funny how a baby can create the most anxiety-inducing, heart-breaking fits of crying, and yet moments later melt into the sweetest, warmest, softest bundle of peace laying limply on your chest. Who knew it could be so comforting to be-so-comforting? To pause and just be still, in awe of such indescribable love.

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I look out at the beautiful surroundings of our home. Never-mind the tree stumps and patchy grass. Tonight it’s the most peaceful place on earth. Home is waiting for you, sweet little one. We can’t wait for your giggles and snuggles and mischief to adorn our household with love.

Thank You, Good Night

Long week: 50 work hours, 5 hours of sleep each night, sick (again), preparing for a garage sale. Apologies for any discontinuity in the following recap.

Check out the bags under those eyes! Eesh.

Check out the bags under those eyes! Eesh.

 

Friday night, 10:30 pm – Finally finished baking 12 dozen cookies for the Indoor Community Garage Sale, our first fundraising event.

Saturday morning, 5:00 am – Alarm goes off on my phone.

Try to turn my alarm off by frantically squeezing the side buttons and sliding my keyboard out.

Remember I no longer have a flip phone.

Frantically slide my fingers all over the screen. Somehow manage to silence the alarm.

Crawl out of bed.

5:03 am – Get Rylie up.

5:05 am – Make a list of everything I need for the Indoor Garage Sale today.

5:06 am – Search for my Chalkboard Marker.

5:10 am – Remember I was supposed to order the rest of my Profile Books from Shutterfly with the $20 off coupon I got from Buy Buy Baby yesterday.

Search my bag.

Search the kitchen.

Search the living room.

Search my car.

5:15 am – Quietly sneak into the dark bedroom to search the laundry pockets.

A voice breaks through the darkness, “You got Rylie up already??”

Indignantly, I verify that I did in fact get Rylie up.

Then I look at the clock.

4:15 am

Wait, what?

WHAT?

*sigh*

4:20 am – Search my car again. Found the coupon.

4:21 am – Search for the chalkboard marker. Ay-yi-yi

4:25 am – Give up on my search and order my Profile books.

5:00 am (again, but for real this time) – Lay down on the couch to nap until I actually have to get up.

5:00:01 – tick

5:00:02 – tock

5:00:03 – tick

5:00:04 – tock

5:00:05 – Consider how to demolish the clock from my place on the couch.

Spend an hour thinking. In the dark. On the couch. With the ticking clock.

6:00 am – Get up and nearly run into Tyler.

Almost wet my pants.

Apologize for my alarm going off so early.

“That was my alarm.” he tells me

Cry a little.

6:03 am – Find my chalkboard marker on the coffee table I had already checked 6 times.

Thankfully, the rest of the day went much better. I met Nick and Jamie (our friends from college who are also adopting) at the venue for the Indoor Community Garage Sale and we got everything set up just fine. In fact:

9:00 am – Doors open.

9:20 am – Run out of Dog Biscuits my friend made for us to sell.

I couldn’t believe the amount of people who came out to support us. People who I worked with, people I used to work with, people who only kind-of know us, people who have known us since college… It meant so much to have so many people come support our adoption.

I can’t even explain how much every word, blog-hit, and gift has meant to us. I probably make ya’ll feel super-awkward, because I feel like I’m fighting back tears each time someone donates or says how much they enjoy reading the blog or shows up at our garage sale. I’m blown away to see names I don’t recognize as “Supporters” on our youcaring.com site. I’m moved by the interest and the support throughout our Adoption Process. And then there’s the random checks in the mail that appear right when I’m feeling discouraged… I’m in constant awe of God’s reminders to us of His faithfulness.

They say pregnant women are emotional, but I think Expectant Motherhood through adoption induces a state of emotional instability of its own.

That or I am tired. Check out the bags under those eyes! Eesh.

Like really, really tired. Can I go to bed now?

*Happy sigh*  Thank you for reading and caring so much about us and our family. You are a blessing beyond what my loopy, tired brain can formulate into words right now. {Thank you!}

P.S. If you want to, you can search “Cheyenne and Tyler’s Adoption Page” on facebook to get blog updates and find out about upcoming events.