Saturday, January 28, 2012

Adoption Class #3 - The Healthy Adoption Experience

We had a lot going on this week (what's new?) so I am sorry my blog updates are getting fewer and farther between, but it doesn't mean we aren't moving right along! The opposite is true, really! The faster things are moving and the busier we get, the less time I find to blog! But I really want to make sure I am passing along at least the highlights of each class, because Josh and I learn so much each time, and hopefully you will too!

This week's class covered a lot of information. We spent a lot of time on the "Common Myths" about adoption, learned about some core issues of adoption, talked about the building blocks of healthy adoptive families, learned about the similarities and differences in parenting by birth vs. parenting by adoption, and spent some time talking about the reality of bracing for a birthparent's change of heart. We also went over "Positive Adoptive Language" again, and I will share some of that with you in this entry since we've danced around it for awhile.

I think the most helpful thing for me in this class was talking about the myths and fears about adoption. I know I certainly have had a number of these cross my mind, and sometimes I spend hours dwelling on them. Just like with a pregnancy, there are fears and worries, but I have never adopted before, and I know very few people who have, so those fears tend to get even more magnified in my worried little brain. I felt better seeing them on paper, because that had to mean at least I wasn't the only one that worried about these things! And as I saw the other adoptive couples nod their heads as we read them off, I realized that we are all going through it. I'm going to list some of the myths and fears we talked about below, because if I have thought about some of these things, I'm sure you have too!

Myths and Fears About Adoption

I will never be able to love someone else's child like I would my own.
Okay. This is a big one. I am going to stick my neck out and say that I think it is even bigger for people who have biological children already. How is it even possible that I could love the child we adopt as much as I love the children we have now? In class, we talked about how it is very similar to being pregnant again after having one child. You go through the same exact fear and worry, thinking, "How could I love another child as much as I love our first? It just isn't possible!" And yet, as every mother of more than one child will tell you, when that baby becomes real to you, when you hold them for the first time, your heart just grows. It just does! When I was pregnant with Lily, I honestly had the same worry I do now about having another child, adopted or not! Will there be enough love to go around? Will another child decrease the love I have for my children? Will I like the new one as much as I like the ones I already have? (Seriously, I have thought these things, and you know what? So have you. Don't deny it.)

To quote from our handout, "Those who raise children by birth and by adoption know this (myth) simply isn't true. Adoptive parents often find themselves amazed at how strongly they feel that their new son or daughter belongs with them! They also find it insulting for people to make a distinction between children by adoption and children "of your own." Their adopted children are their own children!"

Infertility is not an issue for us any more - we have resolved all that.
 Josh and I have a hard time coming up with a name for our "fertility" issues. We have had healthy pregnancies, birthed healthy children. We have had miscarriages, stillbirth, "flukes" that went completely unexplained. We have no problem getting pregnant, but we haven't been able to have a healthy baby for six years! We don't fit the "infertility" label, we don't even fit the secondary infertility label, not really. But we certainly have issues! That is for sure. When we finally, finally hold our baby after all of our waiting and loss and hurting, it will be amazing. It will be so amazing! But it will not erase all we've been through to get there.

Again quoting from our class, "Infertility is a huge loss and it does inflict a wound. Like any wound, it can heal, but the scars and the tenderness will always be there. Champion adoptive parents are those who have faced their pain, walked through it (not around it), and have come out the other side better able to understand others who have been wounded by life. These are parents who can empathize with the pain of the birthmother's loss and their child's loss. Because of that empathy, they are better able to embrace the birthmother's role in their child's life without fear."

That last part really struck a chord with me. I hurt for our birthmother. I admire her so very much for the decision she is choosing to make for the sake of her child. But I know what it is like to leave the hospital empty-handed. I know what it feels like to hand away your baby, to go on living without them. I know the hole that it will leave in her heart for the rest of her life, and my heart literally hurts for her. I start to cry whenever I think about it. I am thankful that the Lord has allowed me to feel her pain on a very real level, because I know He will use that in my life to empathize with our child's birthmother. I know it will urge me to pray for her heart often, and I am sure it will help our relationship with her, whatever that might look like.

Parenting is parenting - it doesn't make any difference if it is by birth or adoption.
In class, we talked about how children who were adopted have very different issues than children born biologically into your family. This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone! But the reality of it is, every child needs to be parented in a unique way that fits that child's personality, character, and heart! I know this first-hand from raising twins. Yes, my kids were born on the same day, they were the exact same size, looking very similar to each other, related by blood certainly, with the same parents, raised in the same house with the same rules...yet...they are so different, and we parent them very differently!

Our daughter is highly independent. She takes offense to help being offered to her. She was born a tiny little mother. She melts at one stern look from anyone. She cannot be coerced, swayed, or talked into anything she doesn't want to do. She is the most obedient, helpful child I have ever met. We parent her accordingly.

Her brother is a follower. He will do what everyone else thinks he should do. He is loud, obnoxious, hilarious, rough and tumble, yet somehow incredibly tender-hearted and at times, very timid. He has a scientific brain, but an empathy for other creatures that is astounding. He is such a boy. And we parent him accordingly.

It should be a no-brainer that our next child, adopted or not, will be very different than the two we are raising now. Being prepared for that will, well, help us be more prepared for that!

Maybe infertility is God's way of telling me I wouldn't be a good parent, so we should take that as a sign.
I re-worded this a tad, because we dissected it a lot in class. What this myth boils down to, is that many adoptive parents fear that their struggles to get pregnant is God's way of telling them no. No to parenting, no to having a child, no to having more children, no. It is His way of "closing the door" to children. Josh and I have struggled with this a lot. Like, a lot. If it was so easy for us to have the twins, should we take it as a sign that the difficulties we've had since is God's way of saying no to more children? Other couples who haven't been able to get pregnant at all struggle with the idea that maybe they aren't "supposed" to be parents. Not only that, but all of us have had at least one comment saying something to the effect of, "Well, not everyone is meant to be a parent" or "Well, maybe God is trying to tell you something. Maybe you should be happy with the family you have." Personally, I have had only a handful of very veiled hints that maybe we should "move on", and I'm thankful for that, because some of the things people can say are downright stupid. 

We live in a fallen world. It sucks, but that's just the way it is. There is sin, sickness, pain, suffering, and God didn't desire any of it, yet we introduced it anyway, and we are now living with its consequences. When you look at someone born blind, do you conclude that God was punishing them? That maybe they simply weren't worthy of the gift of sight? Infertility and loss are a part of our fallen world, they aren't "of God". But like any evil and terrible thing, God can turn it into something wonderful! He can open new doors, He can and sometimes does perform miracles, and sometimes He nudges us down a new path. Our instructor said, "Ask any adoptive parent if they would give up their son or daughter for a child 'of their own' and see their reaction!"

Just having a child in my arms will cure the pain of infertility.
Again, I am not able to speak of the pain of infertility, but I know loss. I know that the pain of each pregnancy loss will not go away just because God gives us another child. You cannot replace children with more children.  Josh and I have five children, three in Heaven and two here with us, and we love them each uniquely. We are praying that God will allow us lots of time here with the next child that comes along, but know full well that finally holding a new baby will not erase the memories or the pain of our losses. 

For those who have been unable to conceive on their own, and then go on to adopt, the pain of infertility will always be with them. They still can't carry a child, and that is painful, whether you are blessed with a child through adoption or not. I think this is really important for people to understand, because understanding creates empathy, and I think we could use a whole lot more empathy in this world!

Birthparents need to get on with their lives, and they can't do that if they stay involved in their child's life.
The truth of it is, involved or not, birthmothers will never be able to just "get on with their lives". They go forward, they continue living, but they will never move on. I can't imagine someone saying to me, "Karen, it is time to forget about Lily and get on with your life." Excuse me? She was my child, I will never move on from her. It is not so different for birthmothers. They are forever changed after having their child, and for many mothers it is the contact they are able to have with that child that helps them heal. Sometimes, it is necessary to encourage a birthmother to get counseling to help her deal with her grief before resuming visits or contact with the child, but for goodness sake, who wouldn't need counseling after that? We are praying for our brithmother fervently, and hope that we are able to have some kind of contact with her to show her how very much her child is loved and adored, and what a beautiful sacrifice she made for the sake of her baby.

If our child's birthmother could see what a beautiful child he is, she would want him back.
This is perhaps the most expressed myth or fear that I have encountered when I talk about open adoption with others. I'm going to just copy what our handout says because it probably explains it better than I can.
"On one level this is undoubtedly true. She will have days when she aches with regret over her decision. She will yearn to be the one who feeds, clothes, and nurtures her baby. But it is extremely rare for those feelings of loss to be translated into action. Few birthmothers seek to have their child returned to them - or even try to undermine the adoption on an emotional level. Along with the pain and grief is the realization that she made her decision based on what she thought was best for her child at the time. Hard as it is to believe, many birthmothers experience real joy when they can see how happy and loved their child is in your family."

This is a tough one, for sure! It is very hard for us to think about the fact that with our unbelievable joy over our new baby, there is an incredible amount of pain and loss for his mommy. She is making the decision to place him in our family because she cannot care for him. She chose life for him rather than abortion months ago. She carried him all the way to term, and placed him in another family, our family. What an incredible sacrifice. One I am sure she will regret from time to time. We're praying for her every day, and I would love it if you did too!!!

Those are the big myths and fears that I wanted to talk about here. We covered quite a bit more, and I felt so much better after this class. I am so in love with our agency and all they do for us as adoptive parents, as well as how they advocate for the children and the birth families. I'm so comforted knowing what great hands our birthmom is in.

As I said earlier, I want to go over the Language of Adoption that we've talked about a lot in our classes. I will preface this by saying that Josh and I have had to make quite a few adjustments to the way we talk about our adoption, it is a learning experience for everyone! Our desire is that our children and our soon-to-be child feel completely loved and accepted in our family, always. I hope they never feel uncomfortable or hurt over something someone says unintentionally or intentionally. I hope you guys learn right along with us, and help change the way we talk about adoption and the way we talk to families who have adopted!

Negative Adoption Language

-"Children of your own" - Our adopted child is our own child, our very own! We hope he never feels otherwise.
- "Natural children" - All of our kids are natural...let's not make our new baby feel "unnatural"!
- "Put up for adoption" or "Gave up for adoption" - Josh and I use this term regularly, and are trying to change it. Did you know that the term "put up for adoption" came from the days of orphan trains, when children were literally put up on auction blocks to be inspected and sold at auction? Our birthmother is not doing anythign of the sort. She is making an adoption plan , and is not giving him away. This tells the child he was unwanted, unloved, and an object to be passed off, and I never want our child to feel that way!

Positive Adoption Language

-"Parents by adoption" or "Parents by birth" - Our child is blessed to have so many people who will love him. Not only us, his adopted family, but the family who gave birth to him. We will be given this child by adoption, but that does not erase his parents by birth. They existed and loved him, and will continue to do so after we adopt him.

- "Placed for adoption" or "Made an adoption plan" or "Relinquished the child"- Our child's birthmother is doing just that, making a plan for the life of her child. Using language like that conveys to the child and to the world that the birthmother took an active role in planning for her child, in creating the best possible life for him. She did so with thought and care and love for her child. She did not give him away, put him up for adoption, or hand him off. She made the best possible plan she could for him, with time and thought and love, and relinquished him because she decided that is what was best. It was not easy, thoughtless, careless, or hasty. I like using the word relinquised, because I think it more accurately conveys the birthmother's heart. It is hard, it is painful, it is probably the last thing she wants to do, but it is done out of love for her baby.

The last thing I wanted to talk about here was the last thing we discussed in class on Tuesday, and probably the hardest. As I have talked about before, a birthmother is not allowed to sign relinquishment papers until 72 hours after the birth of the baby. Most healthy babies and moms are discharged around 24 hours after birth. You do the math. That baby has to go home with someone, and 99% of the time, it is with the adoptive family. That means that depending on the day the baby was born, he usually goes home and spends close to four days or more with the adoptive family before the adoption papers can be signed and finalized. It is a very real possibility that the birthmother will have a change of heart during those four days and decide to parent her baby.

While this is a very difficult thing to imagine, it happens. It should not be a surprise when a mother decides to parent her baby. It shoud be surprising when she doesn't. Like I have said before, I never want to have a baby placed with us who should have or could have been parented by his birthmother. I believe that God will give us the baby He has planned for us, in His own timing! What is more difficult for me to deal with is the fact that we might be bringing home a precious little baby to our children, who will immediately attach themselves to that child. I worry about then having to explain to them, "Nevermind, he wasn't ours afterall."

Josh and I have talked about how we are going to deal with that, and the reality is we are just going to have to deal with it as it comes. I cannot predict the situation, and there are so many different possibilities that I just can't prepare for any of them. If God blesses us with a baby, we will explain to our kids that we are so excited to take care of that baby until his mommy can decide whether or not she can take care of him. If she can't, then we will be so happy to adopt him into our family. My kids are so smart, so empathetic, so adaptable, I know they will be just fine. That will be another loss to us that will be so incredibly hard, so I am praying God spares us from that, but we know very well that it is still a possibility. Just like with our pregnancies, we would be optimistic, but realistic. We are hopeful, but experience has taught us that hard things happen, and God will be there if they do.

Like I said, we had a lot to cover this week! Thank you for reading all of that and learning some new things about adoption! Another big milestone in the process this week was our homestudy interview. Our caseworker came to our house and spent some time talking to our kids, who did wonderfully! She glanced around our house a bit (very briefly, to my surprise after cleaning all week!) and made some notes. I told Josh that even though I had been warned that they barely look at your house during the homestudy, I still felt like I needed to make it as wonderful as I possibly could. I realized that I do these things because it is the only thing I have control over in this process. I will do what I can when I can! Just like in a pregnancy, there is so little you have actual control over. You can go to your appointments, you can take your vitamins and eat right, but that's about it. Everything else is completely out of your control. So you do what you can to the very best of your ability because it's all you can do! Well, in this adoption process, I can do very little. I can clean my house when my caseworker is scheduled to come over. I can go to our appointments, I can listen at our classes. I can pray for our baby. Everything else is pretty much entirely out of my hands, but at least I know I am doing everything I possibly can!

If you are praying, please, please pray for our baby!!! Pray for protection over him or her. Pray for his birthmother. Pray for her heart and for her protection and that she will be supported and loved during a very difficult time.

Josh and I have four more classes to go. We have two more interviews with our caseworker. After that, our homestudy will be submitted for approval, and we will enter the matchbook! Once we are in the matchbook, we are considered, "Officially Expecting" and can receive placement of a baby at any time! It could be a day, it could be a year. One thing I found really comforting was when our adoption instructor told us that a couple who has been placed in the matchbook has never not had a baby placed with them. No matter how long, it will happen eventually!

I will keep everyone posted, and we hope you will continue praying for us and supporting us through this process! Thank you so much for walking with us!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Adoption Class #2 - Grief, Loss, and Infertility

Okay! Second week of adoption classes. "Grief, Loss, and Infertility." Cheery title eh? If that weren't enough, all of the tables of this classroom were randomly peppered with tissue boxes. Dun dun duuuun.

I had actually already read a few other blog entries about this very class so at least I was somewhat prepared for how it would go. I knew we'd be discussing how grief and loss has played into our adoption decision, and I knew we'd have to share our story. I just didn't know how I'd get through it without bursting into tears...which is probably why they provide tissues.

I know that the typical adoption class group is filled with couples who have struggled for years trying to get pregnant. Our particular class is unique in that almost all of us have children, and our struggles come mostly from either secondary infertility or the inability to carry another pregnancy to term ( There are two or three couples in our class who are considered "infertile" (I seriously hate that term), but the majority of us have different issues or reasons that brought us to the adoption decision.

At the beginning of this class, we all watched an oooooooold Oprah episode (we're talking, like, one of her very first episodes. Boufont hairdo and all.) where she talked to couples who struggled with infertility. I am not a fan of Oprah, and this particular episode pretty much confirmed those feelings. She interviewed the couples with what I consider pretty insensitive and totally uneducated comments and questions. She didn't understand why couples would go to such lengths to have children, why it would possibly be worth it. One comment struck a chord with me that I don't think I will ever forget. When speaking to a couple who struggled for years to get pregnant and ended up adopting a gorgeous little boy who you could tell hung the very moon for them, Oprah introduced them by saying, "Meet Jack and Jill so-and-so, who after years of infertility, finally gave up and just adopted." Um, OUCH. Ouch for every single adopted child, every single adoptive mommy and daddy, every single orphan hoping someone comes to get them.

I hope my child never, ever feels like Josh and I "gave up and just adopted" him. I hope they know from the very moment I kiss their sweet baby cheeks that they were always, always in the plan, always. That, when God was forming me in my mother's womb, He already knew I would someday be his mommy. That through every birth, every loss, God was just waiting for me to get there. To get to a place where I would be ready to bring my baby home through adoption.

It was obvious to me throughout our class that it took a lot to bring some of those couples to the adoption decision, but none of them felt like it was somehow second best, or a consolation prize of sorts. We were all so, so excited to meet the child God has been planning to give us since the beginning of time, He's just been waiting for us to be ready!

After the Oprah video, we discussed a few things they had talked about, such as the different triggers when struggling with having a(nother) child. How baby showers, pregnancy announcements, birthday parties, holidays, and even the mere sight of a pregnant woman can create emotions in you that are simply not pretty. We talked about how we have each been there, the place where you hear another friend is pregnant and somehow you feel a perfect mixture of anger, hatred, happiness, grief, and jealousy. For those who had never been pregnant, they talked about when they'd hear how easily people would get pregnant, bragging about how they weren't even trying, it would sometimes send them off the deep end. Why? Why is it so easy for some people, and so insurmountably impossible for others? They talked about how powerless and hopeless it would make them feel. They talked about all they had tried, all they had been through, the many times they'd heard thoughtless remarks from others about how they should try this or try that, or how if they'd just stop trying altogether, they'd probably get pregnant.

For those of us who had a different kind of struggle, the kind where getting pregnant wasn't an issue, but staying pregnant was, we discussed some of the exact same issues. Even though I have two beautiful, healthy, perfect children, I have always wanted a bigger family. I talked about how it was shocking for me to have loss after loss, when having the twins had been so easy. How it caught us off guard, how each one was so painful in a very unique way. We talked about how our decision to continue trying got so much more difficult after each loss, because it wasn't just us we were making decisions for, we had to consider our kids too. Was it fair to put them at risk for more pain and sadness if we lost yet another baby? Could they handle that? Was it fair to even ask them?

We talked about how attending baby showers was nearly impossible for us as well, how the sight of a healthy pregnant woman could make us burst into tears, even for those of us who had healthy children. Josh and I have been trying to have a baby for two years now. When we first made that decision, my kids were four years old. I knew I'd get pregnant easily (I was one of those women after all) and that was the exact age gap I wanted. Yet the months go by, the years go by, and my children continue to get older, and sometimes, that widening gap between them sends me into a full on panic. This is not how I planned it! This is not what I wanted! They're going to be five years apart! They're going to be six years apart! They're going to be seven years apart! I'm going to have to have another baby just to keep this one company, if I can ever have one to begin with! Come on!!!!

We weren't the only ones who had experienced loss. One couple lost twins, another had countless miscarriages, another had an ectopic which she described felt like a "forced abortion". Josh asked me on the way home if I would have rather struggled for years to get pregnant at all, or been able to get pregnant but continue to have losses. I honestly cannot answer that. The pain in these women's and men's eyes was deep, no matter what they had struggled with. It's hard, it is all hard, each one of our paths has been so very hard. But. (There's a but, yay!) But...our paths all led us here, to adoption. And we are all so very excited to be here.

We talked about the importance of moving through our grief and making sure we were in a healthy place before pursuing adoption, how if you haven't worked through past pain you are putting the bond with your new child at risk. Our instructor gave different examples of how we might encounter our grief and how it is something everyone has to work through in their own way. She compared the grieving process to riding a roller coaster blindfolded. There are highs, lows, fast drops and slow inclines, and you never know when any of it will hit. You might have an amazing day, then, for no reason at all, you will be hit hardcore with some serious pain. I have experienced that firsthand, so has Josh. We move through most days just fine. We have a very healthy (in my biased opinion) outlook on what we've been through. We loved our babies, we lost our babies, we'll see our babies again. But every once in awhile, something will happen or nothing will happen, and one of us will be face to face with our grief.

A few weeks ago, seemingly for no reason at all, I just really, really missed Lily. I felt her absense. I knew exactly how old she was supposed to be, how big she was supposed to be, the exact way I would be holding her at that exact moment on the couch while the kids played with their toys. I could see what she'd be wearing, how her beautiful bald head would have an adorable giant flower headband on it made by her nana. I just felt the absense of all that I was supposed to have, and it made me very sad. Sometimes that happens. And I never see it coming.

Our instructor talked about how grief and loss and usually infertility almost always plays a role in adoption. But that does not mean that adoption wasn't the plan all along! Maybe not our plan, but definitely God's. Sometimes couples always planned on adopting and nothing imparticular brought them down that road. Sometimes it takes a lot to get a couple to finally see adoption the way God sees it, as the best plan for them!

I had, like, the best dream last night!!! I dreamt we finally got our baby! But it wasn't just one, it was two! A boy and a girl, who we named Casey and Cason (very weird and irrelevant but interesting nonetheless...), but the thing I remember most was the baby girl's adorable dimples, and the feeling I had when I held those babies. It was sheer joy, total peace, the feeling of finally getting there. I woke up SO excited! I just felt SO excited that it isn't that far off! I can feel us getting closer, and I'm just really happy about it.

I never in a million years would have chosen this road for myself, but when we are finally holding our baby, I know I'll look back on all of this and thank the Lord He put me on this path, that it led to that particular child at that particular time. Our child!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A challenge to my readers...

Yesterday I posted a link to a fellow adoption mommy's blog and told you about a contest she is having to help raise awareness, funds, and prayer support to about 20 different families in need. They are each bringing children home from faraway countries and many are in some seriously desperate situations. To help them each get a little extra support, this blogger is holding a contest and asking that people donate at least $20 to one or more of the families she posted about, then leave a comment on her blog saying you did so. She will choose two random posters and give them each a $250 gift card to Wal-Mart!

Over the past few months, God has really given me a heart for these families and children. I am constantly reading their stories and praying for them and watching miracles unfold every day. It is pretty amazing! But my heart also breaks for families that just can't get the funds they need, and the only thing separating them from their precious babies is money. It's just not right. If a family is obedient and courageous enough to commit to adoption, to love the least of these, they should not be held back by lack of funds, especially Christian families who are supposed to have the full support of the church in helping orphans. And they should certainly have more prayer partners than they can count.

Now, according to my fancy blog tracker thingamajig, I average about 200 readers a day give or take a few. I would like to challenge you guys to go visit No Greater Joy Mom's blog and click on a few of those precious baby's faces! See if God doesn't soften your heart towards these families and ask you to give a little to one or more of them. Maybe along with your gift, you could commit to faithfully praying for one special family, start following their story, and see what God does over the next few months! Just think what would happen if 200 of you committed to one of those families! That would be very cool.

I think we all have room in our days to pray for one of these families and their child(ren). This adoption community is quite large, and there are SO many families that need prayer and support! I would love to see some of you commit to one of them in prayer and help bring their babies home!

I realize that you are already committed to my family and helping us bring our little one home, and the support we have seen has been phenomenal. We are so blessed and so thankful for your love, support, prayers, and financial sacrifice. Because you have all been so wonderful to my family, I know you have it in your hearts to be just as wonderful to at least one more adoptive family in need! I truly believe God put our family on this particular journey for a bigger reason than just adding to our brood, and it would be amazing to help bring some other little ones home to their forever families as well!

If you'd like to give prayer or a financial gift to one of these children, visit this blog and leave a comment there saying you did so. Personally I would LOVE if you left a comment here as well!!!

If you have a blog or facebook, would you please share the link with your friends and family? Maybe you aren't able to give, but someone you know can! The more we spread the word the better. These are real families trying to bring home real children in really desperate situations.

Okay friends, thank you for reading and joining me in following some of these families! Let's help bring some kids home.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Adoption Class #1 - Open Adoption

Last week we had our first of seven adoption classes through our agency. A lot of people have commented on the "hoops" we are having to jump through to adopt, including these classes, but I have to say I for one am very grateful they are offered and required! We are learning a lot, and adoption is completely new terrain for us, so the more prepared we are, the better.

One thing that really stuck out to us was how our agency stresses to the adoptive families that they are not there to find us all a baby, but to find these children families. Their first priority is the children, and they want the families that are matched with them to be as prepared and ready as possible. Each class has a different topic, covering everything from Open Adoption to Grief and Loss. Our first class covered a brief history of adoption, open adoption, adoption laws, and the adoption "triad" (baby, adoptive parents, and birth parents).

We hit on a lot of information, so I will try to condense it to some of the more important info we covered. We're in a class of about ten to twelve other adoptive couples, so we all introduced ourselves and gave a quick background. Our instructor prayed with us (I seriously LOVE our agency! Totally Christ-centered which means a lot to us!) and then spent some time talking about what the Bible says about adoption, which was pretty cool! She gave examples of different people in the Bible who were adopted (Moses, Queen Esther, even Jesus!) and also how Christianity itself is the ultimate adoption example. As Christians, God has adopted us into His family, giving us the rights and standing in His family as His children! He paid a ransom to rescue us (far more than the $13,000 or so that we are raising to adopt our child!) and accepted us into His family, loving us far beyond what we deserve or can even imagine. I love being reminded of how much God loves adoption, how it is totally of Him, and how this path is not second best, but something we have been given as a gift!

We then touched quickly on "Adoption Friendly Language" and the history of how that is evolving. We were given a handout on phrases that are now outdated and sometimes really hurtful, and what phrases and terms to use instead. I might list all of them on an upcoming entry as an FYI, but I will give you a couple examples here. It is not really appropriate to refer to the birth mother or father as the "real" mother or father, but rather the "birth" parents. If they are the "real" parents, does that make Josh and I the "pretend" parents? See where I'm going? :) The same goes to referring to our biological kids as our "real" kids, because how would that make our new baby feel? Probably like they aren't "really" a part of our family!

After that, we started our discussion on open adoption. What it means, what it looks like, how it has changed over time, etc. By my own definition, open adoption is an adoption without secrets. The birth mother chooses the family she places her child with, she gets to knows us, we get to know her, there is some kind of relationship between us before and after the birth of the baby. We are aware of her medical and social history, she has made an informed decision of the couple she is placing her child with. Open adoption has become the "norm" in adoption situations here in the U.S. and is now thought to be the very best scenario an adopted child can grow up in, if the family situation is appropriate.

I was surprised to learn that open adoption was actually historically the normal way to conduct adoptions right up until about 1930. After that, adoptions were mostly all closed in the U.S., mostly because it was thought to be best by the social workers of that time. It was done out of what they thought would protect all parties, but years later, when these children were grown adults, there was a huge change of thought due to the fact that they had grown up with absolutely no idea of where they came from, what their medical background was like, the reasoning behind their parents decision to surrender them, and so much more.

Adoption records had been sealed for years, but sometime in the 70's there was a movement to open them up and allow these children to have access to at least their medical history. Adoption was tainted with secrecy and even shame for a very long time, and that way of thinking began to shift only in the last few decades for a variety of reasons. There is still, however, questions among many people asking if it is really best for the child to know his or her birth parents, their story, or if it is best to "protect" them by keeping this information a secret and "protecting" them from the truth. Our instuctor reminded us, though, how secrets and lies are never of God. I really had the wake up call that God is truth, and He would not want any of His children growing up under the pretense of lies and secrets. I am NOT talking about unavoidable situations such as international adoptions where a lot of information simply isn't available to adoptive families, I'm talking about when information is available and the choice is made to hide it from the child.

I've had a few comments to the effect of, "Doesn't it worry you that with open adoption your child won't know who his parents are?" NOPE!!! Though there are quite a few worries in this adoption process, that is not one of them. If you know me and my parenting style at all, you know I'm a fan of telling my kids the truth! Kids are so much more capable of understanding complex human relationships than we give them credit for, and I have every confidence that my child will have no doubt who his or her parents are! If it is possible, we hope there can be some kind of relationship between our family and the birth family, for our child's sake at the very least. I have had many comments saying "I could never do that" (talking about open adoption), but in my heart I want to say, "Yes you could, and you would, if that's what was best for your child!" We all want the best for our children, and if the best scenario for our child is that he or she knows and has a relationship with their birth family, and that is also a possibility, than that's what we'll strive for! Of course there are fears in every adoption situation, but fear is never what we should base our decisions on, and we won't be basing this decision on fear either!

Nowadays, it is actually the law that all adoptive families have access to non-identifying social and medical information on their child, even in the most closed adoption cases. However, it is now thought to be a much healthier situation for all parties if there is at least some openness in the adoption between the birth and adoptive families. There are many reasons for this, including allowing the child to know where they came from and the reasons behind the adoption decision, giving them someone in their lives that looks like them (something I'm sure we all take for granted), allowing the birth parents to see first hand that they made the best possible decision, and in our agency, giving the adoptive parents the opportunity to be examples of a Godly family to the birth mother. Many of the women who place their babies up for adoption aren't Christians, and their relationship with the adoptive couple might be the only exposure they have to Christianity! That's a great opportunity for us to show God's love to them!

We got to watch a few videos of interviews with birth parents and how they came to the decision of open or closed adoption. God really used it to sooth some of our fears about open adoption! For one, our instructor talked about how these birth parents are not scary people hiding in the bushes just waiting to steal their baby back. Mothers who place their child for adoption with our agency are making a sacrifice for their child because they value marriage, they value the father's role in raising a child, and they on some level value raising their child in a Godly home. People who value those things are not scary, shady people! They are just like me, honestly, and God knows I could have so easily been in their shoes years ago. I know many of us can say it is only by the grace of God that we didn't face that kind of decision at some point in our lives, but if we had, would we have wanted to be feared, or understood and accepted with grace? Watching some of these birth moms and even dads talk, my heart just totally broke for them and I so admired the decision they were making to give their child the best possible chance in life. That is love.

We learned a little more about the type of people who make adoption plans. We learned that the typical birth mother making an adoption plan is actually in her late 20's, with one or more biological children at home. The reasons for placement are widely different, and each situation is so unique. We got to take a look at the actual match book prospective birth mothers look through when choosing a family for their child, and I nearly cried flipping through it, thinking of how, if I was a birth mother, none of those couples would seem good enough for my child, and what an incredibly hard choice that would be to make.

We reviewed the three different types of adoption plans: open (meaning there is regular contact between the birth and adoptive families, visits, and some kind of relationship), semi-open (this usually takes the form of letters, emails, and sometimes phone calls, but no personal contact or relationship between families), and closed (all information is sealed and confidential except for the required medical and social history of the child's birth family). The type of adoption we will have is entirely up to the birth mother and what she wants. We are open to anything and will do our best to work out a plan that is comfortable for all of us, but best for the baby.

We talked about the adoption "Covenant" that is made between the birth and adoptive families. Basically this is a written (but not legally binding) agreement that is made before the adoption takes place, outlining the type of contact the families will have. The adoption agency helps mediate this and carry it out after the adoption is final. We were told that it is always best to promise the least we'd be willing to agree to (such as bi-monthly letters or emails) and let it grow from there if it does. We talked about how though it isn't legally binding and the adoptive parents technically have all the right in the world to completely sever contact with the birth family, as Christians we are to honor our commitments, and making a covenant with another is not something to take lightly!

We also touched on adoption laws and how they have changed and evolved over the years. I will give a run down of some of the more important laws because this is probably the topic I'm most asked about when talking about our adoption with others.

Once an adoption placement is complete, meaning the mother (and father, when applicable) has signed the official adoption papers, it is irrevocable. Let me stress this as much as I possibly can: Once an adoption in the United States is finalized, there is absolutely no chance that a mother can change her mind and get the baby back. Because this is the law and is a completely irrevocable decision on the part of the birth parents, they are not even allowed to sign these papers until the baby is at least 72 hours old. This allows the mother the chance to see, hold, and spend time with the child if she desires, before making a permanent decision to place them for adoption.

This is also another reason we chose our agency. We are confident that the birth mothers who go through CFCA get the absolute best counseling and preparation when making a decision about whether or not to parent. They are not pressured or coerced, they are counseled and prepared and given every opportunity to parent if that's their desire. Obviously, those 72 hours after the birth of what could possibly be "our" baby will be incredibly difficult for everyone. We have to completely trust the Lord that He will bring us the baby He's already planned for us, and if we are in a situation where the mother changes her mind and decides to parent before those 72 hours are up, though that will be heartbreaking for us, it is the best thing for that baby.

There were a few random facts about laws concerning adoption that I found really interesting. For one, birth grandparents have absolutely no legal rights to the child being placed for adoption, even if the birth mother is a minor. Minors are allowed to place their child for adoption without consent from her parents, and it is also the law that every effort is made to inform the birth father of the adoption plan before placing the child.

We covered a lot of other stuff, but for the sake of time and space I won't go into everything here. We learned a lot and I found it all really interesting. The next class will be covering "Grief and Infertility", and from what I hear it is always a very difficult class to get through! Like us, I'm sure the other couples have walked a very difficult path bringing them to the decision to adopt, so it should be quite interesting!

I will fill you in on our next class when I get the chance, but for now, I hope you learned a thing or two about adoption, I know I have!

Adopting Families in Need

I wanted to share a blog post by an adoptive mother who is wonderful about connecting the adoptive community and spreading the word on different needs and prayer requests within it. I encourage you to start following her blog and become a part of the prayer and support community she creates!

She recently posted an entry specifically asking for help and support for a few adoptive families in crisis mode, who are desperately trying to raise funds in order to bring their babies home. To get the word out, she's offering a $250 Wal-mart gift card to one person who donates to one of the families in need.

I encourage you to check out her blog and see if God leads you to any of the families in need of serious assistance right now. Click here to visit her blog!

Saturday, January 14, 2012


I have so much going on in my heart and my head right now this post will probably be all over the place, so I apologize in advance! I just had to take a few minutes to update everyone because we have hit SUCH a big milestone!!!


How crazy awesome is that???? We're so excited, and I am so overwhelmed with joy because we have truly seen over the past few months and especially these past few days how much God has blessed us with. We have had our friends and family step up so much and go above and beyond to bless us. We are so thankful for you!!!

Today was our Adoption Benefit Yard Sale and WOW it was awesome! We have been accepting donations for quite awhile, but the past few days our garage was packed to the BRIM! I worked all week and had absolutely no time to even give it a second glance, and just prayed to God that somehow He would work it out!

Last night two angels disguised as my oldest and dearest friends stayed for HOURS helping me sort and price and post signs all over the neighborhood. I love you girls more than you know and cannot thank you enough for your help! My sister, her boyfriend, a dear friend and her husband also came last night and helped us SO much sorting and rummaging and they even brought us brownies and ice cream! Yum! Just the pick-me-up we needed. ;)

This morning we had both of our families helping sort and move stuff and helped run the sale all day! It was a VERY big job, exhausting and overwhelming, but everyone helped so happily and willingly. Thank you so very much Mom (who also made the cookies that sold out completely!), Dad, Lisa, Brian, Stephanie, Mike, Nicole, Robin, and Jeff. We could absolutely never have attempted this without your help donating and picking up and helping all day!!! We have been blessed with the most amazing family and it is days like today when I really feel that!

So many of you guys came out to shop, give us a hug, and buy cookies and lemonade from the kids! They felt so special getting to be a big part of raising the money for the adoption, and you all really made them feel good! I was also really blessed to get to talk to people I haven't seen in so long, and finally met one amazing woman that I feel like I have known forever! Jaime, I am amazed and encouraged by you every day, and I am so thankful God brought us together through Miss Becky! I cannot WAIT til our babies are home!!!

To those who gave stuff...THANK YOU!!! It was an amazing selection and I got all kinds of comments on the great stuff we had! Thank you so much for giving to us in so many ways.

Thank you all for getting the word out about this yard sale and making it the success that it was! In total we raised over $1700 today, officially putting us over the half way mark!!! A good chunk of that was cookie/lemonade money, so thank you to my sweet babies for having that idea and working so hard with grandma to make and sell your treats!!! I love you so so much!!!

If you donated stuff, helped in any way, showed up to shop and say hi, or prayed for this day from a distance, we are SO thankful. Please know it is so very appreciated by our family!

Check back later for pics of the event today! Again, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We love you guys!!!

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Year, New Stuff!

Happy New Year! I am really excited to see what 2012 holds for our family. Josh and I were talking about how every year we think to ourselves, "Well, that was a REALLY hard year. Hopefully this next one will be easier." And every year we look back and say...NOPE! ;)

I have come to realize though, that while I can hope for an "easy" life, I'm not going to get one this side of heaven! We will continue to have struggles and sorrows and difficulties until we get to heaven. I simply don't have control over the things life throws at us. It is the lessons we learn, the way we react to our trials, the way we grow and what we teach our kids from it all, that's what we have control over. I have control over how I deal with things, how I appreciate every blessing, and who I become from it all. We are hopeful that 2012 will be at least slightly easier that 2011, but if it isn't, I pray we will be half as blessed as we are today despite all we went through last year!

God has grown our entire family so much this year. He has taught me things and brought me down roads I never thought He would, and I am honestly really thankful for what He's allowed in my life. I can look at who I was a year ago and honestly say that I am forever changed. I will never be the same. My heart has been broken for things and for issues that didn't affect me as much before my miscarriages, before losing Lily, before starting on the road to adoption, before...

I have always had a heart for children, for families, for sick kids. But through our experiences this year, God has really given me a heart for mothers experiencing loss, for orphans, for adoption, for unwanted and unloved little ones. I have noticed how people's passions usually derive from their experiences. They or a loved one have been forced to face something, to deal with it, to research it, to live it, to ask others about it, to see the inner workings of it, the causes, the effects, the people. It changes them, it creates a passion in them to do something about it. They get involved. They ask others to get involved. Maybe they pray for it, maybe they support it financially, maybe they become activley involved in helping those affected by it, maybe they center their career around it, or maybe they blog. ;)

I tell myself that maybe God needed one more person to be passionate about adoption, about loss, about advocating for those going through it. I hope I never lose that passion, but I don't really think I could if I wanted to. What will God use in your life this year and the years to come to create passions in you? It might seem like something horrible, something difficult, something you never, ever would choose to face. But maybe it will create a passion in you that will change the way others see things, the way we view them and how we support them! Maybe you already have a passion like that! I would love to know how you came to have a heart for that specific issue. What happened in your life or in the lives of those around you that forced you to stand up and take notice of something, to look at it differently, to see it from the inside instead of as an observer? How has your perspective changed because of it? What do you do about it?

These are some of my thoughts as we start a new year! I'd love to hear from you about what God has used in your life to change your heart and soften it towards something, to make you a die hard supporter of a certain issue, an advocate for a particular population of people, and what are you doing about it?

I also wanted to update you on a few adoption related things! We are so excited to be seeing a LOT of movement this month as far as the whole adoption process goes. Josh and I start our adoption classes this week! This will be a seven week "course" on adoption issues with topics such as open adoption, bonding, dealing with previous loss, etc. I will definitely let you know what we learn in each class as this is a learning process for all of you too! :)

We will have the last of our homestudy appointments over the next month, and will be submitting that to the courts sometime in February or March. The next appointment is in a couple of weeks and will include individual interviews with me and Josh, most likely talking to the kids, and also taking notes on our home. Our caseworker joked with me that she would be checking for dust, and when I nodded and said, "Okay!" she laughed and said, "Oh goodness adoptive families will agree to anything!" Haha I have to say she is right about that! We are being so scrutinized in every area of our lives and have been trying to bring home a child for so long that we certainly would not be surprised if they did check for dust, and we would agree to that too if that's what it took!

What she really will be doing is checking to see if what we wrote on our forms was accurate as far as the size and location of our home, gates around pools, number of bedrooms, etc. She said she looks to see if the home is warm and inviting, nicely decorated, and a good place for a child to grow up! I told Josh I wish she could have stopped by at Christmas time when it was all Christmasy and pretty haha!

We continue to fundraise and pray that God will provide what we need, when we need it. We have been seriously blessed by people making random and generous donations to our fund. We know it is a sacrifice for people to donate and we are so incredibly thankful for each and every penny. To those that have contributed financially, thank you so much for your support and the tangible way you have gotten us one step closer to bringing home a child to his or her forever family. Please know it means the world to us!!!

Our garage sale is coming up a week from Saturday and WOW we have a lot of STUFF!!! Thank you so much to everyone who has dropped things by and has given us some great items to sell! I can't wait to empty that garage and trade it all in for another great donation to our fund!

As you may have noticed, there is a new icon to the right of the blog. I found out about a really awesome organization called "Just Love Coffee" from a few other adoptive families. Basically their company sells fair trade, organic coffee and other various products and lets adoptive families (as well as a few other organizations with fundraising needs) set up a personal "storefront" that people can visit and purchase their products from. For each item bought through our storefront, Just Love Coffee will donate a good portion of it right into our adoption fund! It is really a great organization, and I have heard the coffee is really delicious!!!

To visit our storefront, click on the Just Love Coffee icon on our blog or go to  We would appreciate you sharing the link to our storefront with your friends and family, and encouraging them to visit it and buy some yummy coffee!

I will keep you posted on our adoption classes as well as how the yard sale goes next week! If you are praying, please pray the yard sale is a success! We would also appreciate prayer for our family as we start a pretty hectic couple of months with me working full-time, Josh coaching, the kids starting their football and dance seasons, us starting our classes and trying to finish our homestudy, continuing to fundraise, and of course the daily stuff every family has to get done!!! I usually thrive in the busy-ness of everything, but it can tend to get pretty stressful too!

We are also, as always, praying for the child that God has already chosen for us. We pray that God will bring them to us in His perfect timing and that we will have total peace when it comes time to make that decision. We pray for the family of our little one, whatever they may be going through, that God will be very close to them and they will totally feel His presence during a really tough time.

Thank you for continuing to support our family as we walk this road. Thank you for every donation, every prayer, and every encouraging word you give us regularly.

Happy New Year!!!

Just to make you smile...;)