Thursday, August 9, 2018

In Their Own Words: For This Child I Prayed

I heard this song for the first time over the weekend and knew I wanted to share it. Then I heard the story behind it and knew I wanted to share. Kelly beautifully captures the heart of hopeful parents and wrote a song based on Hannah's prayer in 1 Samuel. I love how it speaks to God's faithfulness for families in the wait.


Multiple miscarriages.

Failed adoption plans. 

We grow up thinking that those words will never be part of our narrative or our friends’ narratives, that we’ll never suffer the agony of longing for a child that still hasn’t come, but all too many sit in the harrowing, ugly, silent pain of that desolate darkness.

Maybe you're one of those precious souls sitting in that darkness.

No tiny onesies to buy, no bonding during late-night feedings, no abundance of baby snuggles — none of the joys of parenting are currently part of your story. Instead, there’s soul-crushing silence.

And while that deafening silence swirls around you like a constant storm that won’t let up, you may be feeling like there’s an even greater silence from God.

No sounds of baby coos or the pitter-patter of little feet running down the hallway; no heartwarming calls for “mama” or “dada”; no “I love you’s” as you breathe in the scent of freshly shampooed hair from the little one who is curled up in your lap before bedtime.

Just. Silence. 

The kind of sorrow that sneaks up on you in the dark as you try to fall asleep. The kind of sorrow that makes its way inside of your chest and quickly builds until it rises to take residence as a lump in your throat… Which eventually gives way to your devastating grief manifesting itself through heavy tears, guttural cries, and convulsive gasps that leave you breathless.

You’ve prayed, begged, and pleaded with God, and yet there’s waiting, waiting, and more waiting. Three months, six months, a year, two years, five years… The longer you wait, the more hopeless you feel, and the wait has induced a type of gut-wrenching sorrow that you never knew existed until now.

As you bring your knees to your chest and hug them tightly, you wonder how this will ever change.

It’s scary to hope. It requires trust. It requires faith – faith that things will get better, even though we don’t know when or how.

As the tears soak your neckline and the grief mercilessly sucks the air out of your lungs, you wonder how much more of this you can endure. “Where is God in all of this? If He’s the Giver of good gifts, why am I drowning in a sea of sorrow? Am I doing something wrong?...”

As you question your circumstances, your life, and maybe even your faith, you wonder if it’s worth it to keep persevering in prayer. You hear people telling you that you need to hold onto hope, but you know all too well now that ‘hope’ is often a four-letter word.

While I’ve never experienced this particular sorrow myself, I’ve witnessed it closely firsthand, and have had the honor of walking beside two of my dearest friends through each step of this arduous journey. After years of waiting, they finally have their beautiful bundle of joy, but the hardship that they endured to get there was heart-rending.

It forces us to break down the walls around our hearts – the ones that we’ve carefully and strategically built in order to protect ourselves from the pain. You know that if you choose hope as you continue to fight this draining infertility battle, you’ll have to continue to face the harsh reality of grief head-on, and that feels like too much to bear.

It’s overwhelming, exhausting, and terrifying, and my heart breaks for you.

After witnessing the immense pain that came from loss after loss; the deep sorrow, anguish, and unimaginable grief; the difficult conversations they had with God and with each other; the words from their hand-written letters to their future little one whom they hoped they would meet someday; the days filled with hope and the days filled with mind-numbing devastation…

The song is called “For This Child I Prayed,” and was also inspired by Hannah’s prayer of gratitude after struggling through years of infertility. After years of waiting, she finally received her precious baby boy, Samuel, and dedicated him to the Lord.

And then finally being able to celebrate the impending arrival of their sweet baby girl, a song was placed on my heart.

It’s a song that chronicles their suffering and loss, their longing and angst, their confusion and hope, their sorrow and faith, their prayers and pleas, and ultimately, their indescribable joy. It’s meant to capture the heartache of the valley, as well as a type of mountaintop joy that can only be born out of the depths of great sorrow.

While a six-minute song could never fully capture the highs and lows of walking through infertility, I hope that this song still resonates in your heart if you’ve been on (or are currently on) that same journey.

After holding her beloved son for the first time, she went to the tabernacle, offered a sacrifice of gratitude to the Lord, and proclaimed, “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me what I have asked of Him.” (1 Samuel 1:27)

I know so many couples and families who have been affected by infertility, and if you’re one of them, my prayer is that this song will bring much-needed hope. If you’re courageously fighting this battle, I pray that you feel acknowledged, heard, and understood after listening to it.

If you've been trying to start a family, and are still waiting, this song is for you. 
If you’ve been trying to expand your family, and are still waiting, this song is for you. 
If you have gone through this journey, and are now on the other side of it, this song is for you.
If you’ve been trying for a long time, and are in the deepest part of the valley and wonder if your prayers will ever be answered, this song is for you.
If you’ve never gone through this journey, but are hurting for someone you love who IS going through it, this song is for you.
If you’re just starting out on this journey, and are at the beginning stages of fertility treatments or adoption plans, this song is for you.
If you’re nearing the end of this journey, and your answered prayer is going to arrive any day now, this song is for you.
If you’ve suffered a miscarriage or multiple miscarriages, and are grieving the loss of those angels as you bravely keep fighting this battle, this song is for you.
If you feel like no one understands what you’re going through, and it’s hard to describe the depths of your pain, this song is for you.
If you haven’t told anyone about this harrowing journey, and you and your spouse are living with this secret pain, this song is for you.
If your heart is grieving due to adoption plans that suddenly fell apart, this song is for you.
If it’s too hard to go to the baby shower, the birthday party, or the church service, and you can’t bring yourself to even get out of bed on those days, this song is for you.
If you’ve suffered heartache due to unsuccessful IVF treatments, and are grieving the loss of those angels as you bravely keep soldiering on, this song is for you.
If you go to a baby shower, a 1-year-old’s birthday party, or a Mother’s Day or Father’s Day church service with a smile on your face, but sob alone in your car on the way home, this song is for you.

The Lord is on your side, sweet friend. Even if you’re at the point where you can’t stomach the word “hope,” the Lord is still fighting for you.

If you have a mama heart or a daddy heart, and are struggling to cling to hope when it seems as though everyone around you has had their desires fulfilled, and you haven’t… This song is for you.

Hold on, dear one. Miracles are possible. When you allow yourself to grieve while simultaneously clinging to hope, even if your grip is slipping and you’re barely hanging on, the fear will eventually start to crumble and light will break through the cracks.

When you feel alone in your mourning or you feel like giving up, remember that there is One who hears, who understands, who comforts. My dear friend, when you weep, Jesus weeps with you. You can lay your broken dreams, your grief, your pain at His feet.

Keep persevering. Keep praying. Keep trying. You won’t be in this place forever. I don’t know how or when your precious one will arrive, but I do know this – GOD WILL NOT LEAVE YOU HERE.

He can do more than you could ever think to ask or imagine. You are loved. You are treasured. You are held by the Father. While I can’t claim to understand God’s timing and why some couples have to wait longer than others, I do know that there’s purpose in the pain, and that you are not alone.

Give Him your sadness, your anger, your confusion, your tears. He is waiting to embrace you, to mourn with you, to comfort you.

And while I’ve witnessed the depths of despair that infertility brings, I’ve also witnessed the height of the mountaintop joy that can come from that sorrow, and I am praying that soon you will experience that glorious mountaintop.

Even when your grief smothers the words that you desperately want to pray, and you bring nothing but tears before Him, know that those tears are not in vain. Those cries are ushered into heaven as precious prayers and broken hallelujahs, and the Holy Spirit is interceding on your behalf when all you can offer is a collection of teardrops in the palms of your hands.

Not only does Jesus grieve with you, but I do too. While I can’t say that I know the exact pain of infertility, I’ve witnessed it so closely in the lives of many who are precious to me, that I’ve almost felt as though I was going through it too.

Whether you’re praying for finalized adoption plans or a long-awaited pregnancy, there is hope, dear friend. There is always hope. I am hoping with you and for you, along with so many others. May we cling to this hope together, as we anticipate the joy that is to come.

“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning… And let us hold unswervingly to the hope that we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” – Psalm 30:5b, Hebrews 10:23

Kelly O’Roark is freelance marketer, song writer, and musician from Louisville, Kentucky, and is a graduate of the State University of New York at Geneseo. She’s been playing the piano since the age of 10, and started writing lyrics and composing music at the age of 17. While she creates music as a hobby, she uses it as a ministry to bring hope, love, and encouragement to others in various seasons of life. 

She also has a passion for creative writing, and hopes to start a blog someday where she can share her faith and life experiences through both music and writing. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, and is excited about her new, upcoming role as a first-time aunt!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Adoption Story: Rob and Sarah

Rob and Sarah have an incredible story to tell of how their sweet daughter joined their family. An unexpected phone call, a stay on an island, and finding God's faithfulness in every twist and turn...

Ya'll, I almost said "no" to this new adventure. Actually, I almost said "heck, no!" How could I, a hearing person in a hearing family, in a hearing community, adopt a (potentially) deaf newborn. I didn't think I could and I didn't think I wanted to. I didn't know how to raise a deaf child. I wasn't familiar with the challenges or the needs and I didn't know ASL (American Sign Language). My husband was much quicker then I was to say "yes." He was ready to jump in. It took me a little bit of time to settle into the thought of it all but, I'm really glad I did. I'm glad WE did. In October of 2017 our little Lucy, our profoundly deaf little love, joined our family and now we can't imagine our life without her.

I want to tell you all our story. The story of how Lucy came to join our family. Adoption is such an amazing, crazy, scary, wild ride. Our story is not like someone else's story, it's only ours. One thing that I try to caution people who are considering adoption against is comparison. You're going to read adoption story after adoption story and you're going to want to build a narrative in your head about how it's going to go for you or about how hard or easy it might be or what it's going to be like when you first meet your new little baby... don't do it. You will likely be wrong and get discouraged along the way. The way our story played out was NOTHING like how I imagined it would go. Nothing.

We had decided to officially pursue adoption after talking about it for years, in September of 2016. We began our home study and spent the next several months filling out paperwork, getting background checks, having meetings, and finally being approved to adopt by the state of Virginia in March of 2017. We hadn't planned on it taking so long to finish the home study but, we hit a few bumps in the road along the way that made the process longer.

In the meantime, we were coming up with ways to save extra money and fundraise. We sent our letters to our family and friends. We sold chocolate. We held a big silent auction (with a lot of help from friends, family and our community). People supported us in a big way and we are forever grateful! Words can't express what it's like to know that you know that you NEED to do this thing, you need to adopt, but you look at the cost and you look at your bank account and... nope. But God had a plan. He knew what we needed and He spoke to the hearts of so many who gave time, money, prayers and encouragement to us over and over again. We were so blessed.

Summer came and we were still fundraising. We had joined Christian Adoption Consultants (Look them up; such a great concept!) after our home study was complete and I was definitely glad to have someone to counsel me during the many crazy moments. After our home study was complete, I still didn't feel the peace to move forward with filling out applications to agencies. In my mind, I wanted to have more money in the bank before we got on any waiting lists. I knew that if we got chosen by an expectant mother we didn't have the funds yet. If I'm honest, I definitely had times of frustration thinking that it was going to take forever for us to ever get to a place where were had the money and we chosen to adopt. We tried to stay cool and keep trusting God, but we had our moments for sure. Along came mid-July and everything changed.

A friend called who had a relative who was pregnant and wanted to make an adoption plan for her baby. She asked if she could give her our information and show her our family profile book. Of course, my emotions went haywire and we were both getting excited! She then asked if we'd be willing to consider adopting a baby who might be born deaf, because the mother was deaf and it was genetic. Wait, what? "Um, I don't think I can do that." was my response. We had considered and prepared for adoptions that might include substance exposure or other skin colors but, deafness? This wasn't something we had thought about and I wasn't ready to say "yes." My excitement level dropped and I told her we'd talk and pray about it.

Rob and I talked about it for days and we sort of brought it up casually to our son, as well, just to gauge his reactions. We started thinking about having to learn ASL and what having a deaf child would mean for our family. We really didn't know much about what might be in store for us but, we knew that there was a woman who was going to have a baby in just 2.5 months and we needed to decide if we were willing to jump into this situation or if we needed to walk away. Well, I think you know what we decided to do. I shot my friend a text and gave her the green light to show our profile book to the mother-to-be and then we waited. Oh my goodness, waiting is hard! You wonder what she's thinking. You wonder what you're thinking. Your emotions are all over the place.

On August 3rd we first made contact with Lucy's expectant mom over Facebook messenger and soon after that we spoke on the phone through an interpreter. She told us she needed several weeks to explore her options. So, the waiting continued but of course the choices that lay before a pregnant mother making an adoption plan are hard choices! They are choosing a family to raise their precious child and you can't rush that. My heart was eager to know but it also broke for her. While we waited we were in the middle of the final preparations and then hosting our silent auction, which ended up raising around $4k! It was a ton of work and so many people donated their time and goods to make it happen. It still blows my mind to think about. After that was all over, we still hadn't heard anything so I decided to go to IKEA to buy a crib in faith that, one way or another, we would eventually adopt. I drove the three hours with my son to IKEA only to find out that the crib I wanted was out of stock! Talk about bummed. Was it a sign? After wandering around a bit and buying a few little things (does anyone go into IKEA without buying anything?!) we left, slightly defeated. I got to the car and got us loaded up and I pulled out my phone. I had missed a text from the expectant mom. My heart started to race. I opened the text... "I have decided to choose you to adopt my baby." I read it and re-read it 50 times. She chose us! I called Rob, all shaky from excitement. "You're going to be a dad again!" We couldn't believe it was happening.

By then it was early September and the baby was due in just a few weeks. We only had a month to get ready for the trip. The mother lived in Hawaii and we had a lot to prepare for: arranging flights, preparing our home to be gone until we were granted permission to travel home with the baby, and of course, preparing for a little one. During that time I began building a relationship with the expectant mom and started texting her more frequently. We chatted about random stuff; birth stuff, names for the baby, our feelings, her feelings, favorite foods, and more. We were trying to get to know each other as much as we could before the birth. I knew it was to be honest with her during this waiting time; she was placing such a huge amount of trust in our family and we wanted to honor that and show her all of the respect she deserved. We discovered we shared a deep love for chocolate and peanut butter and joked that surely this meant everything was going to be fine!

In was late at night on October 4th she texted me. "We're going to induce labor on Saturday morning." Saturday was just four days away - it was "go" time! We bought our plane tickets the next morning for Honolulu and stayed up and we stayed up all night long packing, cleaning, and preparing for the 15+ hour journey to the island. After just 20 minutes of sleep, were were on our way! Getting there was so surreal. We couldn't believe we were on a beautiful island and that when we left we'd be a family of four.

The next day met the expectant mom and grandmother at a botanical gardens. We were nervous because they are both Deaf and we only knew a little bit of ASL. How would we have conversations? Would they like us? What if they didn't? I'm sure they were just as nervous as we were. We hugged in the parking lot and instantly loved them. I know that's not always the case with birth and adoptive families but it was true for us. We did our best to communicate and, for a first meeting, it went amazingly well. They were so incredibly welcoming and loving toward us and I was really blown away by all of it. By the end of our time we all expressed excitement for the next day's events (birth day!).

Birth day came and they induced expectant mom at 8am. We waited all day around the hospital and around town. No birth. We eventually went home and they said they'd call us when the baby came. We were feeling so tired from the time difference and we needed some sleep. I slept restlessly and didn't feel very well. I kept checking my phone. Morning came and we finally got a text that the baby had been born at 9:07am. She was beautiful and momma was doing great, but tired. It was very exciting! What wasn't exciting was that Will and I had come down with influenza overnight (probably from the plane/airports) and so it was too dangerous for us to go see them. I can't even begin to express how disappointing it was for us that I was unable to go to the hospital and love on Lucy and her birth mother. I was devastated. It was horrible. Our son, Will and I both were running high fevers, couldn't eat and were just miserable. Thankfully, Rob stayed healthy and was able to go and visit with them and then bring home Lucy the next day. We didn't want either of them to get sick, as the flu is so dangerous for infants, so we rented the apartment below the house we were staying in for the two of them to stay in for the next week to give us time to be fever free and better. What an amazing blessing it was that the apartment was open that week for us! Every other week was booked but, God knew we would need it. Once we were a bit better Rob would bring Lucy up to our deck and we would sit outside with them without too much risk. At the end of the week our fevers were finally gone and we were feeling much better. I sanitized the whole house and Rob and Lucy moved back in. It was so amazing to finally be together, though I mourned the fact that I had just missed the first week of her life. Rob did an amazing job caring for her though and I'm forever grateful that he was able to!

The unexpected sickness wasn't the only wrench in our plans. We ran into paperwork issues that turned the typical two weeks to wait out approval to head home into six! It was beyond frustrating (and expensive!). But we made the best of it (I mean, who gets six weeks of vacation in Hawaii?!) We were able to enjoy the beach and see the sights. We drove around the island checking out the North Shore, Honolulu, a coffee plantation, cute little towns, beautiful beaches, a huge mall, and botanical gardens. Multiple times per week we had dates with Lucy's birth mom and her mother. We so enjoyed our time with them and our ASL slowly improved. Since we weren't sure when we'd be allowed to leave so we soaked up every minute. That time with them was such a gift.

Back home our parents and siblings and friends were all constantly wondering when we would return and sometimes I think they were more frustrated than we were. I think we would have stayed in Hawaii forever if it wasn't so expensive and we didn't miss everyone so much! In the end we finally made it home the week before Thanksgiving and everyone was so excited to meet Lucy in person.

Looking back I know God had His hand on the whole thing. I'm so thankful I didn't know in advance all of the hardships we would go through to get her. Our adoption ended up costing a lot more than we had anticipated with a direct placement and I'm sure I would have said "no" if I had known this from the beginning. I'm so glad I didn't know! God knew and He has provided. I'm such a planner and I like to know everything about everything before jumping in but, I saw God be bigger than all of that. He always knows the way through, even when we don't. For anyone considering adoption, I always tell people to just jump in. If you know that the desire from God is there, go for it! Heed His leading, follow the peace, and trust Him for provision. It's a wild ride, but it's so good.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

In their Own Words: Insecurities and Open Adoption

I have the honor of working with Kelly on our team of consultants at Christian Adoption Consultants. She is becoming a dear friend and I especially appreciate her insight as an adoptive mama. Raising twin toddlers who keep her on her toes and working as an adoption consultant, Kelly has a beautiful perspective of adoption. Recently she shared her thoughts on open adoption and honestly and transparently shares how it intersected with her own insecurities. I'm thrilled to be sharing Kelly's thoughts today on the blog!

In the initial stages of the adoption process the thought of having an open adoption with a birth mother evoked some concerns and fear in our mind. At the time, our perception was heavily influenced by the media, our lack of education and a few Lifetime movies. But now having some personal experience in this relationship and as an adoption consultant who walks with families through the process, I understand the benefits of an open adoption to all three parties of the adoption triad.  Recently, I wrote a post debunking five myths commonly associated with an open adoption. Myths such as “open adoption is co-parenting” or  “open adoption is only beneficial to the birth family.” Today I will be discussing how our insecurities can play a role in negatively shaping the way we view an open adoption.
Early on in the process, I realized these misconceptions surrounding an open adoption not only stemmed from lack of education, but also my own deep rooted insecurities that had been brewing for many years as we struggled with infertility. I thought that if we had an open line of communication with a birth mother it would make me feel like less of a mother and be a blatant reminder of my infertility and empty womb. Perhaps I also believed the lie that an open adoption would somehow undermine my role as a mother. I quickly discovered a connection between my insecurities and the initial fear I had regarding an open adoption.
Throughout our struggle with infertility, I allowed my barrenness to define me. Many days I felt broken and the odd one out among my friends. There was a time when I equated “being a woman” with a growing bump and a positive pregnancy test. But when the growing bump never came and hundred of negative pregnancy tests later, my definition of “womanhood” didn’t fit. It was a lie. “There has to be more than this,” I said to God one night through tears after throwing another negative pregnancy test straight into the trashcan along with what seemed at the time, my hopes and dreams.
Over the next year the Lord carefully and lovingly removed the false identity I had unknowingly placed on myself. I was reminded through reading the Word, my personal suffering and talking with other friends that my identity is solely and explicitly found in Christ. For those who are a child of God, nothing from this world can take away the fullness that is found in Jesus Christ-not even an empty womb.
I’m grateful I had this “break through” before we started the adoption process, as I continued to carry this truth with me. Even so, reminders of my “old way of thinking” sometimes crept back in. When our home study provider began describing examples of what an open adoption looked like practically bitterness, insecurity and jealously stirred back up again. “I could never do that,” I secretly thought to myself. But, as we received education from our adoption consultantread blog posts, listened to podcasts and heard stories from birth mothersadoptees and other adoptive families we came to realize the benefits of an open adoption far outweighed any fears we had. We knew an open adoption wouldn’t be easy, but it would be worth it.
Where and who we find our identity in has a profound effect on the way we interact with others and respond to circumstances. When our identity is found in Christ-we are free to love others and embrace the uncharted waters  we may encounter without fear. Because my identity is rooted in Christ, and not on my role as a parent, I can embrace the beautiful reality that the twins have two mothers, with distinct roles, who love them immensely. Their first mama lovingly carried them for 9 months, brought them into this life and chose adoption for them. Their birth mother made me a mother. She gave them life and I have the privilege of raising them.  She chose us to be their parents because she felt it was in the best interest of her children. Can you imagine that kind of love? A kind of love and strength that it takes to place the baby who you carried in your tummy for 9 months, the baby who you felt kick, the baby you heard cry for the very first time, the baby who has your nose and your eyes, into the arms of another woman who her child will one day call “mama?” That is a self-sacrificing kind of love; a love I want my children to know.
Research indicates that on going communication with birth parents allows adoptees to have a deeper understanding of identity and where they came from, access to important genetic and medical information and a distinct understanding of why adoption was chosen, which can decrease feelings of abandonment and increase feelings of belonging. And so I propose this question: How could we as adoptive parents, knowing this truth, not take the opportunity to have an open adoption with our child’s/children’s birth mother if that option is laid before us? I’ve spoken with adoptive families who wish they had the opportunity to have an open adoption with their child’s birth family. They would give any thing to be able to answer some of their child’s lingering questions about where they came from.
If you were like us, and struggled with the thought of having an open adoption with your child’s birth family, I encourage you to take a few moments and examine yours fears, insecurities and concerns. Birth mothers have given adoptive families a piece of their heart, one that they are entrusting them with forever. There is so much love in that decision. Not only do I want my children to hear about her unconditional love from us , I want them to know her personally. In our mind, the more love the better.

Kelly Todd is a pastor’s wife living outside of Atlanta, Georgia. She's a twin mama of the sweetest little blessings, and works for Christian Adoption Consultants as an adoption consultant. She considers it a joy to help guide families through their own adoptive journey since CAC was an integral part of her own family's adoption story. You can find Kelly's original post here and follow her at Something Beautiful Here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Adoption Story: Justin and Nicole

Like so many hopeful adoptive parents, Justin and Nicole had plans about how they would start their family. After they were surprised with infertility, they started down the road to adoption. But that didn't come without unexpected detours and roadblocks. Today Nicole shares their journey through adoption and to their son.

From the beginning, God had been preparing us for this journey and it is a God-written story. 

We had struggled with infertility for about three years before we started the adoption process. When we first started our journey, I thought I had it all planned out and knew exactly how everything was going to go. However, I was so wrong. When we started our home study, initially it went well but we were soon overwhelmed with all of the paperwork that went into it. When we eventually applied to the agency we had chosen, we were denied and I was devastated.  

After that speed bump, we discovered Susan and Christian Adoption Services. Susan was so helpful in explaining all of the details of adoption: everything from the profile to agencies and beyond. We got everything together and were ready by the end of January 2016 to be matched with an expectant mom. We started seeing possible situations from Susan; expectant parents looking for an adoptive family for their baby. We began to put our "yes" on the table, but only heard "no" in return. We presented to so many we eventually lost count. We could always reach out to Susan who was always encouraging and said the right words to help us keep moving forward. We started getting our nursery together to give us something to keep our minds busy during this time of waiting. 

Coming up on the end of 2016, we were discouraged because we hoped to have a baby in our arms before the end of the year. We started renewing our home study, and about the time we were finishing it we began to see situations from a new agency we were beginning to work with. But once again we heard a "no." 

Just two weeks later, we heard about another situation: an expectant mama who wanted to make an adoption plan for her baby. As we heard about her, this situation felt different. I knew this one was special because it was everything we wanted. A little boy, due in March. A healthy expectant mother who wanted a closed adoption. I immediately called Justin and we both agreed that we wanted to present to this mother. After a phone call with the expectant mom, we learned later that she chose us to raise her son. Words can't describe our feelings the moment we heard that first and final "yes": feelings of hope, relief, joy, happiness, and much more. It turns out all of those "no's" we had heard previously were just "not yets."

Just a few weeks later, almost a month to the day, we got a call that the expectant mom was having labor pains. She planned to head to the hospital in the morning, but a few hours later, Justin answered the phone and and all I heard was "8 pounds, 8 ounces, healthy and a head full of black hair." We were so excited; we called our families and let them know he was here, and started making travel plans as soon as we could. There were no more flights out that night so we we had to wait until morning.  

When we walked into the room and met “K” for the first time the next day, it was so humbling. We got to spend the day with her and we also met our son's birth father and biological sister. The next day we said our final goodbyes, and it was one of the hardest things to watch "K" hold her son and tell him goodbye. When she handed him back to me, she told me just by seeing us for a few days she knew he was going to be well taken care of and she was confident she had made the right decision. 

God wrote a perfect story, as He always does. He knew exactly what we needed and He answered our prayers for a healthy baby. We were even able to adopt debt-free with God's incredible provision for our family. Everything fell into place in Gods timing. He wrote this story from the beginning to the end and gave us the greatest blessing we could have ever received. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Rethinking a Failed Adoption

Failed adoption.

There aren't two other words that can strike as much fear and anxiety into the heart of hopeful adoptive parents. And the fact that these words are common with domestic infant adoption can be even more terrifying. Although these statistics are hard to track since there's not a common bureau collecting data, most professionals acknowledge the rates are as high as 40-60% of adoptions in the U.S. end in failures (although note that working with certain adoption professionals can significantly reduce these numbers).

When we talk about an adoption failing, it means that the adoption process was not completed. (A disrupted adoption notes when an adoption falls through after the child has been placed with the adoptive family and before finalization. A dissolution is when the legal relationship between an adoptive parent and child is severed after the adoption had been finalized.) There can be many reasons that an adoption fails, the most common being the expectant/birth parent(s) decide to parent. 

There are certain safeguards you can take to lower the risk of a failed adoption. Working with ethical agencies and attorneys and ensuring all of the legal steps to an adoption are taken are critical steps. One of the most critical safeguards is to make sure the expectant/birth parents have access to care and counseling, both pre-birth and long after. This allows an expectant/birth parent to have the time, education, and support needed to truly make the best decision for them and their baby (whether that's to parent or make an adoption plan). Partnering with an adoption professional can help you do all you can to ensure a safer, lower risk adoption.

But even if you do everything possible to reduce the risk of an adoption failure, ultimately the human heart is fickle and there are no guarantees in adoption. A mother and father not only have an ability to change their mind; they have the right to decide if they want to parent and decide what they feel is best for their child.

So what if you've done all you can to protect yourself and you still face a failed adoption?

Rethink the idea of failure

Sometimes a shift in perspective changes everything. Adoption is about finding parents for babies, not the other way around. Most hopeful adoptive parents desperately want to help where there's a need. Of course they want to be parents, but more than that, they want to provide an option to a birth family and a loving home to a child. 

Adoption is an incredibly unique space for a hopeful adoptive family to offer their time, resources, and love to a birth family in need. They are a resource for expectant families if they choose to sign a termination of parental rights and lovingly place their child into another families arms. When the focus is on being a resource: a safe space where the expectant family can feel confident about the possibility of entrusting a hopeful couple with their child, the perspective shifts. There's no ownership, but open-handedness. There's an acknowledgment that everyone is here for the good of this expectant family and baby, that plans can sometimes change, and that ultimately the expectant/birth family has the right to decide what that is. What if we shifted our perspective so much that sometimes, instead of a failed adoption, we thought of is as a successful decision to parent? 

At the heart of adoption is an open-handed decision to love big, love well, and love without reserve or selfishness. We talk about this often in terms of a birth mother making the courageous decision to make an adoption plan for her child. But I think there are times when hopeful adoptive families can be just as courageous to love a mother (and father) considering adoption, regardless of the outcome.

Rethink the grieving process

There's no doubt that going though a failed placement is a tremendous loss. It's a heartbreaking experience that often comes without any warning and can be devastating. In many ways, a failed adoption can feel like the death of a dream (of that particular child to be a part of your family). There's often confusion, unanswered questions, and very rarely any closure. This kind of grief is termed "ambiguous loss" and can can be incredibly difficult to work through. A failed adoption can leave you searching for answers which can delay the grieving process. 

While many friends and family can understand other losses (like infertility, death, or a terminal diagnosis), it's rare to find others in your support system who can truly empathize with what you're going through. Grief can take on many unique forms; so giving yourself the grace and the space to heal is important. Take the time to grieve like you would any significant loss. Don't discount it and do what you need to care for your heart (and your spouse's). Be patient as you think about possible next steps on your adoption journey.

Rethink what you know about happy endings

Happy endings don't write themselves like a typical fairy tale in adoption. In the end, it was inevitable that someone would leave the hospital brokenhearted. Whether it's a brokenhearted birth mother who made an adoption plan, or a hopeful adoptive family when she decided to parent, adoption in it's fullness isn't without hardship. In adoption there is no lack of the tension of loss and gain; bitter and sweet. 

Maybe in the end, nothing failed. Maybe you were meant to love and care for that birth mama and that baby for that season; over those months and in that hospital room. Maybe you were meant to pray over that expectant family and plead with God for their health and welfare. Maybe you were meant wrap them both in love in that sacred space and show up when no one else did. Maybe, in the end, you were a part of the story of a beautiful family, just not the way you imagined it.

Maybe, God is doing something so much bigger than you can see at this moment.

In the end, adoption is never without risks. When we put our "yes" on the table, unreservedly, it is fraught with unknowns. It's easy, especially after walking through a failed adoption, to want to snatch that "yes" right up, or give God your list of requirements before placing it down again. But loving big, selflessly, and unconditionally is not just a way to step into adoption, it's a way to live out the gospel.

God wants to do so much more through an adoption than "get a couple a baby." Adoption is about restoration and redemption. Sometimes it unfolds the way we anticipate. But more often, God is writing a story that includes plot twists we didn't see coming; faith we never thought would stretch us, love we didn't think would almost break us, and a front row seat to God's goodness and faithfulness. In the end He promises that all things work for our good and His glory. 

Keep moving forward. Keep loving big. Keep walking in faith. God promises when we do it's always worth it.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. 
- Ephesians 3: 20-21

Want to read more about how God can work through the brokenness of failed adoptions? Here's a few families stories that might encourage your heart:

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Adoption Myths and Assumptions

We could never have an open adoption; we don't want to confuse our child or have the birth mother take them back!

Adoption is too expensive - how can someone 'buy a baby' for that much? It's like a black market!

Is there really a need for adoptive families in the U.S.? We heard there aren't enough babies to go around and we're not even infertile...

These are just a few of the comments I hear often from people who find out I work as an adoption consultant or from hopeful adoptive parents.

When it comes to the subject of domestic adoption, there are a lot of misunderstandings on the topic. Some stem from how adoption used to work in the U.S. (with primarily closed adoptions that were stigmatized), how some adoptions today are mishandled or unethical, or news and media that portray adoption a certain (often misinformed) way. But I've found that most of the myths and wrong assumptions people have about adoption are simply because they don't know better and need some insight and education.

If I'm honest, I probably believed a lot of these myths and shared these assumptions until I began working in adoption: as a birth parent counselor, an adoptive parent case manager, social worker, and adoption consultant and director. And after working with birth and adoptive families for years, I've learned a lot (and am still learning).

Today I wanted to break down some of the most common adoption myths and assumptions and offer some insight from my experience working in adoption. As in everything else, education is the best way to address what we assume we know or unknowingly and subconsciously learn from outdated practices or ill-portrayed media. Knowledge is power and that's especially true when it comes to learning about adoption.

WHERE the need is

Myth: There's a line of families waiting to adopt domestically and not enough babies available for adoption. 
Truth: There is a great need for adoptive families, specifically for babies who are minorities and substance exposed/affected.

Most adoptive families have the experience of working with a small, local agency. Very often these agencies do a handful of adoptions a year but do many more home studies for families. This often equates to a longer wait (1.5 to 3 years) for families to be matched with an expectant mom. It also means they sometimes limit the families they work with. But there are agencies (that might not be local to a hopeful adoptive family) that serve many more expectant families and are looking for hopeful adoptive families because they don't have enough locally. 

In addition, while it's true that there are a lot of families waiting to adopt infants who match their family portraits and they feel like come with guaranteed health, there are a number of children who desperately need adoptive families to say "yes." There are children every day who end up in foster care because there was not an adoptive family willing or available to open their home. Several years ago this need was overwhelmingly with children of color, specifically African American. Today, the need is for families open to children who were exposed to substances prenatally. 

So the need is absolutely there, but very often an adoptive family simply needs to connect the dots (or work with a professional who can help them make those connections) to find how and where they can meet the need.

WHY adoption is costly

Myth: Adoption expenses are unnecessary and exorbitant.
Truth: Adoption expenses are essential to ensure an adoption happens legally, ethically, and all parties in the adoption triad are cared for.

Adoption is expensive. Although adoption costs can be across the board from $25,000-$50,000, the average domestic agency adoption costs $43,239 (Source: Adoption: By The Numbers). These expenses include agency fees, birth parent care, medical expenses (if insurance isn't involved), and legal fees. Of course there are adoption professionals out there who do take advantage of some of these fees, but working with ethical professionals ensures adoptions expenses are used for the right purposes and that an adoptive family avoids the common financial pitfalls.

The good news is that financing an adoption isn't impossible. I've walked with hundreds of families who never had that amount in their bank account but were able to finance their adoption with a little creativity and hard work. And were you to ask any of them, now they they have their child in their arms if it was worth it, they wouldn't hesitate to say they would do it again in a heartbeat.

For more on this topic: The Cost of Adoption

WHEN a family should start the process

Myth: A family needs to have everything in order, especially their finances, before beginning the adoption process.
Truth: There are resources available to help families, starting in the very beginning, to help a family begin their adoption.

It's common that families believe they have to have everything figured out before beginning their adoption journey. While there's wisdom in having a plan, I've found that a lot of families can get paralyzed simply with the amount of decisions there are to be made in adoption. Where will we get the home study? How do we feel about open adoption? What about becoming a transracial family? How will we come up with the costs? How do we find a good attorney? The questions can seem endless.

The good news is adoptive families don't have to have all of the answers to begin the process of adopting. The even better news? They don't have to go it alone. There's a limit to the amount of "googling" and information seeking that can be done on the front end and without knowing how to filter what's helpful or not. Finding an adoption professional to help guide them and a community to support them is key to a successful adoption. Once that's in place, a hopeful adoptive family can confidently move forward, knowing they have the resources at hand they need to adopt.

For more on this topic: The Steps to Adoption

WHAT to consider with the complexities of adoption

Myth: Adoption is a happy ending for everyone.
Truth: Adoption is a complex mix of joy and challenges.

There's an assumption that adoption looks a little like a fairy tale; with nothing but smiles, sweet stories, and "happily ever afters." But adoption always begins with brokenness. The reality is that if sin and brokenness weren't a part of our world, adoption wouldn't be either; birth families would always be in a position to parent their children.

Adoption doesn't just begin with brokenness; it can be woven throughout. There's a child living outside their biological family, possibly outside their ethnic culture. There's a birth family who continues a life without that child. The impact of the grief and infertility doesn't go away simply because a family was grown through adoption. This doesn't mean that God doesn't meet us in our brokenness and can't redeem it, but being aware of the tension that this reality creates is so valuable when considering all that's involved in adoption.

For more on this topic: The Unexpected Journey of Adoption

WHO the birth family is

Myth: All birth families fit a common stereotype.
Truth: Birth families come from all walks of life and are just as unique as the hopeful adoptive families on the other side.

There truly isn't a specific box that all expectant and birth families fit into. In my work as a birth parent counselor, I've worked with birth parents who were young teens and grandmothers (truly). Mothers who were attending college and unemployed. Women who were expecting their first child, for others it was their eighth. Women who were single, married, lesbian, blue collar, professional...the list goes on.

But they always share one thing in common. Every single mother has a desperate, selfless, and sacrificial love for their child. Each one has made the courageous choice to do what they feel is best for their child, despite a tremendous desire for that to be to parent their child themselves. I've never met a birth mother who didn't have a tremendous love for their baby.

HOW openness really works

Myth: Open (and semi-open) adoption will harm and confuse the child and allows for ambiguity in parental roles.
Truth: Open (and semi-open) adoption has been found to be best for all parties in the adoption triad (the child, birth family, and adoptive family).

It's common that there is fear surrounding open adoption (for both the birth family and the adoptive family), but it's often based on the misunderstanding that open adoption looks like coparenting. Instead, open adoption simply allows for some level of ongoing communication and relationship with between the birth and adoptive family. Instead of threatening the adoptive family, this relationship offers more people to love the child, first hand answers and clarity about the child's adoption story, and assurances that adoption was in the best interest for the child. A recent longitudinal study showed support for open adoption and ongoing relationships and benefits for both birth families and adoptees, even into adolescence and adulthood.

The reality is that openness is both beautiful and challenging; a lot like many other important and valuable relationships in our lives. Some level of openness can offer tremendous benefits: a birth family can have the assurance that they made the right decision. An adoptee can know first hand about that decision and have critical information about their identify. And in addition to having key medical and social information for their child, and adoptive family can help build an incredibly valuable relationship for the entire adoption triad.

This has been just a few common myths and assumptions people have surrounding adoption. Do you have any you would add?

For more Adoption Resources, Tutorials, and Adoption Stories: click here!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Adoption Story: Colin and Kendal

This sweet family of three was built by adoption. But if you had asked Colin and Kendal just a few years ago if they dreamed about their family story, they wouldn't have imagined this kind of beginning. Today Kendal shares how an unexpected and heartbreaking diagnosis led them to their daughter.

Over four years ago, we received some information that changed our world – that we have less than a 2% chance of naturally conceiving a child. As a young, married couple with hopes of a full family, an infertility diagnosis immediately caused those dreams to come crashing down. At a loss on what to do next, we remained in a mixed state of shock, depression, sadness, and overall limbo for two years. However, after encouragement and support from close friends and family, we reached out to Susan and Christian Adoption Consultants in June 2016, ready to begin our adoption journey! After learning more about adoption, working with her to get our family profile book put together, and completing our homestudy, we started receiving and presenting to situations and began the long wait.

After a tiresome day of work on a random Tuesday in late November 2017, Susan’s name popped up on Kendal’s cellphone and she gave us the news we were waiting years for – that an expectant mother chose us as the adoptive parents for her baby! Those crashed-down dreams of parenthood were alive again and coming true! And on March 9, 2018, we experienced the immense joy that can come from holding your baby in your arms; our daughter – Caitlin Rose!

While adoption wasn’t something we talked much about prior to our infertility diagnosis, it’s clear to us now that it was God’s plan all along. We had to go through all the “junk” of infertility, discouragement, and waiting in order to get to a point of surrender to God and His perfect plan. We likely never would have come to the decision to adopt if our life had gone as we had planned. But how grateful we are now! Caitlin is our perfect match and we cannot imagine our life without her. 

We’ve learned many things through this process. How to be patient and wait on God. How family is much more than biology; our love for Caitlin is beyond anything that we could have imagined and how she entered our family does not change our love for her. And we’ve learned how much love you can have for your child’s birth parents. Birth moms – and birth dads – make selfless decisions to ensure that their baby has the best life possible. They sacrifice their role and trust us with the responsibility instead. Adoption is messy and hard, but it is beautiful.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...