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

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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.

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

J is for Jail #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter JBoth of our birth parents spent time in jail during her pregnancy.  Her stint was the result of some really bad decisions that cost her a fairly good job, and resulted in fraud charges.  She was in jail for about five weeks.  While she was there, her on-again/off-again boyfriend (and our baby’s birth father) hooked up with her sister, and her sister (we think) stole all of her clothes.  It seems her sister had access to her (temporary) home while she was incarcerated, and took full advantage of it.  I mentioned at the beginning of this #AtoZChallenge that dysfunction is very common in birth parent situations, and that often extends to their families as well.

fraudIf my memory serves, I believe our birth father was incarcerated twice during the pregnancy.  When we met her, he was not in the picture, and I seem to recall that is because he was in jail (they had also – temporarily – broken up).  About half way through, he was back in the picture again, and wanted to meet us and be involved from that point forward.  He signed all the pertinent paperwork, and our social workers arranged a meeting with a counselor that included our birth parents, her mom and sister (the one who stole her clothes, and who was also pregnant), and his mom (who ultimately did not show up).  The meeting went well.  Questions were answered, fears were put to rest on both sides, and though it was stressful, it was very productive.  I did eventually meet his mom, and several more of her relatives, the most stable of whom was her grandmother.

What continually surprised me over the months was how much her family remained involved, despite the fact that it was a constant whirlwind of drama & dysfunction.  Once they met us, they were supportive of her decision and never (as far as I know) sought to change her mind.  I am grateful to them for that, because they certainly created enough drama otherwise.

jailThe birth father said several times throughout his (temporary) involvement that he wanted to be present at our son’s birth.  Ironic, but not totally unexpected, that when the time came, he was in jail again.  This time for drug possession with intent to distribute, though he claimed repeatedly that he had no use for drugs.  Of course they had broken up (again), only to get back together after she gave birth, only to break up again.  It’s a bad, and painful, pattern for her.

posession-drugs-sale-lawyerA sad detail that I believe (but do not know for certain) was connected to our birth father’s eventual drug incarceration:  our son was born exposed to methamphetamine.  I touched on this previously, but not on this angle.  Our birth mom stayed clean for so long, and then when stress (and bad influences) overwhelmed her, she did what she knew would relieve it.  I doubt it flitted across her mind that it would create more stress than it relieved.  It did, but for those terrible moments, she was able to be numb.

Jail is not uncommon, especially when stupid decision and drug habits are involved.  It is sad, but sometimes a relief as well, because at least (for the duration of the jail time), they aren’t using, and birth mom is getting regular prenatal care.  In our case, our birth mom was diligent about going to the doctor, so the only impact jail had on that was that she could not see her regular doctor.  I know that we had a better situation than many, and that God was a constant factor in protecting our baby.  I am continually grateful for that, because I know how different (and how much worse) it could have been.

D is for Disruption #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter DWe had two disruptions.  But let me start from the beginning…

We were officially certified to adopt on September 13, 2012.  The initial home study is good for 18 months in our state, and from that vantage point it seemed like a long time.

Our first match seemed to come very quickly.  She was about 3 months pregnant, so we still had a long time to go, but that was fine.  We met her, and she seemed satisfied with the match, so we felt satisfied as well.  One of her priorities was to find a Christian family for this child, and we fit that criteria.

From that point forward, though, things were awkward.  She wanted me to meet her for doctor appointments, but it always seemed a little strained.  She missed appointments here and there, though she did make the ultrasound that showed us she was having a girl.  That made things more real, but then she blew off the sugar test for diabetes.  More than once.  There were times she simply refused to answer her phone.  All throughout I felt hopeful that this match would stick, but in the back of my mind I half expected it to fall through.

broken heartWe got the call the day before her 38-week appointment, telling us she had the baby early and decided to keep her.  I was not surprised,  Disappointed, but not surprised.  We talked it over and decide we would hang in there until our home study expired, and decide at that point whether or not to continue further.

Part of the driving force for that decision was loss of money.  We lost half of what we had paid already, per the contract we signed, when this disruption happened.  The balance would not be refunded – again, per our contract – but applied toward our next match.  These terms are not unusual in domestic adoption contracts, but they are expensive.  We knew the risks when we entered into the contract…it is the nature of any adoption contract that potential adoptive parents have all of the money and none of the power.  You have to accept that going in…and we did.

Match number two happened within a few weeks.  We were thrilled about it, and perhaps I was especially so, since the disruption had caused me to start wondering what was wrong with us that she didn’t follow through.  This is not the first time I struggled with those questions – the waiting can beat you down – but more on that in another post.

We met this birth mom on a Friday.  She was visibly pregnant – close to seven months we learned – and she had CPS problems that prevented her from parenting this child and the two other children she had not surrendered for adoption.  They were with family members.  She wanted to decide where this child went, rather than having him (yes, it was a boy) become a ward of the state when he was born.  She was positive, upbeat, friendly, and excited about us.  We felt the same way.  Everything seemed great.

psalm91-4On Monday morning we got the call.  She had suffered a psychotic break over the weekend, and had to be involuntarily committed.  It was then that we learned she suffered from bi-polar disorder – apparently severe bi-polar disorder – and she was not only institutionalized, but she was not deemed competent to make decisions regarding the baby.

“Run, don’t walk, run from this match.  You do not want this.”  That was the advice from our social worker, and she was right.  We were thankful that this happened right away, that no contract had been signed, that no additional money had been paid.  I believe that God was protecting us here from a situation that could have been very difficult, and very costly, for our family.  Costly in more ways than financial.

But then, through both of these disruptions, I saw that God was protecting us.  The little girl from the first match?  She had a heart problem that required open heart surgery and a feeding tube.  We would have taken her anyway, but I wondered if the birth mom was afraid we wouldn’t.

The other (more sinister) hunch I had about the first match, though, was that this woman scammed everyone.  She was a single mom of three already, all with different fathers, pregnant with her fourth, with no way to provide for any of them except through the state.  I wondered if she decided to “give this one up because she couldn’t care for her” (her words) in order to get support until the baby was born.  I don’t know this, but I half suspected it.  Whatever her reasons, I didn’t trust her completely, and I see now that God was protecting me from myself.  I wasn’t highly emotionally invested in her…something held me back…and in the end, I was not devastated by the disruption.  I thank God for that, because it enabled me to be open when the right match came, and I was able to connect with and care for our birth mom in a way I could not have otherwise.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
    let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
    that those who love your name may exult in you.
Psalm 5:11

B is for Birth Mom #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter BDay 2 of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2014.  I’m hoping to get a chunk of time to write several posts at once, but since I only (finally) decided to jump in again yesterday morning, I haven’t planned ahead.  So…I’m racing to complete this before the 45 minutes I expect the darling son to sleep expires.

Perhaps the main reason adoption is ever an option is the BIRTH MOM…and in our case, BIRTH PARENTS.  So often the birth father is not in the picture, either by his own choice or because he is not known.  We were fortunate to have two birth parents who agreed that adoption was the best option for their baby.  We would not have our second child if not for that choice, and it very nearly did not happen.

In almost every case, birth parents who are choosing to surrender a child are doing so out of love, and out of a deep desire to give the child a chance at a better life…one that they can’t provide.  Their lives are almost always severely dysfunctional…drug abuse, alcohol abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, prostitution, disease, homelessness, joblessness, anger problems, deadbeat partners.  Our birth mom has dysfunction around her in spades, and yet, she is an intelligent, sweet girl who (almost) managed for (almost) nine months to care for our baby.  More on the “almost” later.  She was diligent about making her doctor appointments, she did what the doctor asked of her, and she stayed in touch with her wonderful, amazing, irreplaceable social worker and, by extension, with me.  It makes the fact that she started out at Planned Parenthood, seeking to abort this precious boy, startling at first…and after that sharp intake of shocked breath, I realized then (and am so grateful for now) that God intervened.

Her on-again, off-again boyfriend wanted her to abort, but he couldn’t come up with the money.  She didn’t have the money, so it didn’t happen.  She wound up at our local Crisis Pregnancy Center, where the doctor who became her OB/GYN for this pregnancy volunteered his time…and who invited her to come to his practice, where he would personally see her through.  They put her in touch with the adoption agency, and more importantly, with her social worker, a Christian woman with a passion for, and a mother’s heart for, these devastated women.  And she selected us.

The boyfriend?  He was initially resistant…initially preferring to kill this baby over giving him a better home than he (they) could provide.  But God worked in his heart too, and he (along with both of their families) agreed that this was the best choice for our baby.  He is all of ours…theirs and ours…and God’s…and without all of us, he wouldn’t be here.  Our baby was given life, and a devastating choice was averted, because God intervened.