Y is for You #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter YToday is a shout out to those who carried us through this adoption journey, who prayed diligently for us, who prayed for our birth mom, who generously provided references, who encouraged us through the rough patches, who rejoiced with us when we were matched, who grieved with us when matches fell through, who counseled us, who reminded us of God’s tender mercies and perfect timing, and who ultimately praised the Lord with us when we brought our sweet son home.

You are appreciated.

You are valued.

You are important.

You are reflections of grace.

You are sources of strength.

You are cherished.

You are LOVED.

You-are-Loved

X is for The eXtraordinary #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter XA couple of days ago, I wrote about all the unexpected things that happen as you navigate through an adoption.  They are countless and continuous.  Among them, though, are truly extraordinary details that regularly confirm that you are on the right path.  We had many of those along the way…too many to remember, but here are some of the biggies:

  • Being asked (entreated) to join the Domestic Adoption program:  There weren’t enough potential adoptive families to present to birth parents.  How is that even possible?  We had already decided to pursue adoption through the foster system, but we had not signed any contracts, and the phone call came.  How do you say no?  You don’t.  We didn’t.  In my heart of hearts, I wanted a baby.  From the beginning, I wanted a baby.  I was, however, cowed by outside concerns…concerns that if we didn’t make limitations on some issues, we would encounter problems along the way.  We set the limits.  In reality, I set the limits, and I was never comfortable with them, so when we started over after our move, I removed them.  And here we are.  I came to the conclusion long ago that God was working on me, bending & molding me, usa domesticforcing me to trust him completely, and when I finally did, he gave me exactly what I wanted.  A baby.
  • pca crossHaving a Christian social worker involved in our case:  She wasn’t ours, but she impacted us tremendously throughout.  She serves God faithfully and without reservation, and it shows all the time.  Her boldness and sincerity encouraged us and inspired us.  Her knack for mothering those who are in need made our birth mom feel safe and loved.  We were (ARE) all better for knowing her.
  • A volunteer doctor at Crisis Pregnancy:  I don’t know if this doctor is a Christian or not, but I do know that he is compassionate, and he believes in life.  When he saw our birth mom at Crisis Pregnancy, he offered to treat her himself at his private practice, and he followed through on that.  He is a good doctor, cautious and thorough, and he provided excellent care.  He treated our birth mom kindly and with respect, as he did all of us.  Org-AZ-Phoenix-Crisis-Pregnancy-CentersHe never withheld information, or acted as though anyone of us was an imposition on his time.  He is the type of doctor every pregnant woman should have, but especially those who are tempted to choose another alternative.  We were blessed to be under his care.
  • hippocrates symbolStellar hospital care for both our birth mom and our baby:  Without a doubt, our birth mom and our baby received top of the line care in the hospital.  The NICU, where our son spent four days while his blood sugar stabilized, was as good as they get.  The nurses were (are) phonomenal.  Further, they treated everyone involved with great respect. With two exceptions (attitude problems), our birth mom experienced the same stellar care.  The nursing staff in the maternity ward could not have provided better care, and they were kind and respectful to all of us.  The nurse manager personally cared for our birth mom one day, and I believe her lovely outlook sets the tone on the ward, and all of us benefited from her positive influence.
  • adoption symbolRooming in with our birth mom:  When you adopt, the maternity ward tries to provide a room (if one is available) to adoptive families, so they can stay in the hospital with their baby.  Such was not the case for us…the maternity ward was full.  Our birth mom, though, asked that I stay with her.  I was reluctant, because I didn’t want to be a constant (sad) reminder of what she was giving up, but she insisted that she wanted me to stay, so I did.  I will never regret doing that.  It enabled me to be there with our son much more than if I had been in a hotel, and it gave me the opportunity to spend a lot of time with our birth mom before we all (finally) went home.  Things were easy and comfortable, as they had always been.  I made sure to give her space, and I spent a lot of time with our son.  My husband was able to come every day to see us, and I was there when our birth mom discharged, and was able to say goodbye to her.  Those are memories I would not have had I not spent those days with her, and I cherish them.
  • The angel working in our county adoption division:  This paralegal secured an expedited hearing so we could finalize before our home study expired.  She pushed through paperwork at CPS when no one else – our agency included – would not make an effort, and she saved us a continuance (and probably some money as well).  She was kind, and she went the extra mile Jeremiah-29-11to make sure our hearing took place quickly and without problems.   At a time when I have lost faith in virtually anything to do with government, she proved that there are still good people working there, people who genuinely seek to help the public.

There were many other moments like this, but these are the ones I remember the most.  Even if they were the only ones, they would be enough.  God is extraordinary.  He loves in extraordinary measure, and he moves in profound and extraordinary ways to show us.

W is for Waiting, Waiting, Waiting #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter WYou do a lot of waiting when you pursue adoption.  A LOT.  There is nothing fast about the process, and even if it feels comparatively as though you’ve been moving along at a pretty good clip (and we did), it still takes months and months…sometimes years and years.

From the beginning of our first attempt to the end of our second, five years passed.  While we were waiting, we got older…and fatter, we moved across the country (and started over), family members got married and started families of their own, we bought and sold houses, our biological child started school, we lost some old friends and made some new ones, and all throughout we were waiting.

i'm still waitingWaiting is not an easy thing, either.  When “nothing” is happening, it can work some mean psychological tricks on you.  At some point I questioned every single aspect of myself.

  • What if I don’t have the right look?
  • What if I didn’t say the right things?
  • Did I advertise us properly (as if there is a “right” way to do such a thing)?
  • Did I include pictures that will make us likable?
  • Did we seem braggadocious?
  • Does the fact that we already have a child make us less likely to be chosen?
  • Does the fact that we are Christians put birth parents off?
  • We have pets…will that make birth parents more cautious about selecting us?
  • Will the fact that our families live on the other side of the country affect our chances?
  • Does the fact that it we have been waiting a while already give birth parents pause?
  • Does the fact that we have been waiting a while make birth parents question why no one has chosen us?
  • why why whyWhat IS wrong with us, by the way?
  • Why aren’t we being selected?
  • Could I have made our profile more appealing?
  • Does our social worker like us?
  • Is our social worker presenting our profile?
  • Why were we not selected when we were presented?
  • What made us unsuitable?
  • Why (with our first agency) are we not being presented to birth parents?

The questions go on and on, and they are not productive.  I was utterly unprepared for the onslaught of self-doubt, even though I doubt myself – and my self worth – all the time.  Worse, I didn’t say those things to my husband, which I should have…not because I needed someone to refute some of my more ridiculous worries (and I did need that), but because he would have helped shoulder the burden of uncertainty that is a natural part of this process.  He would have eased my anxiety, and perhaps even suggested that we ask the questions out loud to our agency, so I would have a more definitive answer, and so I would not needlessly worry.  I honestly did not know how to articulate my worries, because half of the time they were just half-formed questions skittering around in my head.

you of little faithThe waiting…waiting…waiting took a toll on me.  On us.  So if I could give any advice to those who are waiting now, it would be this:  Speak your questions and worries out loud.  Tell your spouse…make sure you’re not trying to shoulder the burdens alone.  Ask your agency.  Get answers.  Most importantly, tell God. Tell him your fears, and ask him to shoulder them for you.  He will.  He has offered, and He will.  I wish I had done that more, because I really could have used the peace that only He provides.

We had a great ending to that chapter in our lives.  The best ending…and the best beginning to the next chapter.  It is worth every worry and every doubt I had about myself to be where we are now.  Still, I made it harder than it needed to be.  I see that clearly now, just as I see clearly how present God has been throughout, and I am grateful that when I doubted, He didn’t.

psalm 27 13-14

V is for Visits #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter VSince we have an open adoption, we have a contract with our birth mom and birth dad stipulating visitation and written communication for them.  Because they are not together, we have separate contracts.  She is entitled to up to three visits per year, and four written communications per year (including pictures).  He is entitled to one visit per year and four written communications per year (including pictures).  The written communication is required, and we are sending an update approximately every three months.  The visits are not required if the birth parent does not request them.

We have had one visit so far, and it went well.  Our birth mom, from the very beginning, was not sure she wanted to have any post-placement visits, but she did request one when he was about 3 months old.  We met, of all non-neutral places, at her mother’s home.  I was nervous about the visit, but everything went fine.  Her social worker was there (a minimum requirement for me), and we had a set time to arrive and leave so it would not be an open-ended visit.  Standard visits last 1-2 hours, so that is what we arranged.

past adoption experienceI am very glad we were able to have that visit, because not only was our birth mom present, but her mother and grandmother were there as well.  I wanted them all to be able to see our son, to see that he is happy and thriving, and most importantly that he is loved.  I was even more grateful the next month that we did this when we did, because we learned that our birth mom’s mother passed away unexpectedly.  She, in particular, had some big reservations about the adoption…at least, until she met us and learned what open adoption is.  Her concerns stemmed from the fact that she surrendered one of her own daughters (she has four), and was never given the option to know the adoptive parents or see that her daughter was ok.  She never stopped grieving about it, and once she understood what our post-placement relationship would be like with our birth mom, she was completely supportive and on board.

adoption is love circleI don’t know if we will have any more visits.  None have been requested so far, and our birth mom told us when we saw her four months ago that she probably wouldn’t want another visit.  You do have to take those comments with a grain of salt, because even though she has access, there is still a grieving process.  And even though she is still certain she did the right thing, she still needs the reassurance that he is ok.  He is more than ok…he is wonderful, and happy, and growing like a weed…all things I make sure are evident in the pictures we send her.

worthy of gods loveMy hope and prayer for her is that she is buoyed by our letters and pictures.  I hope that she doesn’t ever feel we want to prevent her from seeing him and knowing he is doing well.  I hope she requests a visit if she needs it, and doesn’t deny herself what is her contractual right, especially if it will calm her heart.  I hope that she sees God’s presence in all that we have been through together, in the clear connection that we have with our son, and in our continued affection for her and gratefulness to her.  Most of all, I hope she sees God’s incredible, empowering, and steadfast love.

U is for The Unexpected #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter UFor as many things as you anticipate, going through adoption, there are that many and more that you don’t.  There’s simply no way to fully prepare for everything you will encounter.  In fact, there’s no way to even predict what you will and will not encounter…it’s both the beauty and the curse of the process.  So here are some of the unexpected things that happened to us:

  • planned parenthoodA start at Planned Parenthood:
    Considering the bulk of Planned Parenthood’s business, and the percentage of adoption referrals (1 adoption referral per 149 abortions in 2013 per CNS News), it is an undeniable miracle that our birth mom found her way to Crisis Pregnancy Centers.
  • Three matches…one baby:
    We never anticipated that it would take three matches to get us to our baby.  We expected a long wait, and the possibility that we would have to renew our home study, but we (and truly, maybe it was just me) never expected to have three birth moms select us…
  • broken-heartTwo disruptions:
    Equally as unexpected as having three birth moms select us was to have two fall through.  And it wasn’t the fact that the first birth mom changed her mind that was the bigger surprised, but the second whose mental illness (undisclosed) got the best of her and rendered her not competent to make sound decisions for her baby.
  • Our first match pregnant again, and requesting (begging for) us:
    Yes, this happened.  Yes, we were stunned, for several reasons.  She was pregnant again within two months of the birth of a daughter with medical complications.  She was begging to be matched with us again (and we were matched by this time to our birth mom), after changing her mind and costing us thousands of dollars.  We had to decline – our son would not have been six months before her baby was born – and as it turns out she was no more dependable the second time around, and the agency ended up letting her go until she made up her mind what she wanted to do.
  • Both birth parents involved:
    When we were matched with our birth mom, the birth dad was not in the picture.  A few weeks later, he was…until toward the end, when he ended up in jail (again) and missed our baby’s birth.  Back in the picture after he got out of jail, and they both requested to see our son at 3 months, but then they fell apart again, and he didn’t show up.  family supportSo where we didn’t expect him to be involved at all, at least he was…somewhat…was on board with the adoption, and gave his written consent.
  • Both birth families involved:
    We truly didn’t expect to have the birth families involved, especially as much as they were involved.  Both families have a lot of dysfunction, but they pulled together to meet us, and to support the decision of our birth parents.  We were surprised and thankful that this was the case…both because our birth parents needed whatever support their families could provide, and because it allowed our birth parents to feel confident in their decision.
  • law-and-order-logoHaving more than a little in common with our birth mom:
    I was really surprised at what I had in common with our birth mom…height, shoe size, blue eyes, fair complexion.  Add to that a penchant for crazy hair colors (pink!), flip flops, tattoos, loaded Subway sandwiches and Law & Order marathons (the original show, early episodes being our favorites).  There are a lot of other little details where we found we were similar, and it was a great connection point for us.
  • attitude is everythignGetting attitude from our agency at the end:
    This was so totally unexpected (shocking, actually) that, had I been inclined to recommend our agency to other potential adoptive couples, I am no longer.  I did not appreciate the head of the agency getting short with me on the phone when we were trying to push the final paperwork through…and it happen twice. “Big mistake. Huge!” (to quote Pretty Woman)  I wanted so much to have a warm relationship with them to the end, and have that be a part of our story, but that was not the case.  We are so very grateful for our son, and we know that God directed every step of our journey, but that hiccup at the end soured what was, until that point, a warm working relationship.

Stay tuned for more…the eXtraordinary surprises, because in the end, every detail was worked out perfectly, and God was glorified in everything.

flower do all to the glory of god

T is for Taking a Break #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter TI mentioned on yesterday’s post that this has been a very stressful.  Very stressful.  I’m spiritually battered and emotionally spent at the moment, and my soul is bruised.  Rather than try and come up with something that would be coherent (that’s not happening today), I’ll share what is giving me comfort today, and perhaps tomorrow I’ll start catching up.

Psalm 73:21-26

21 When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
22 I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength[a] of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present[b] help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Isaiah 53:4-6

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

Philippians 4:4-8

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.