Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Adoption Story: Ryan and Nancy

Ryan and Nancy's adoption story reads a lot like a novel. There were plot twists, unexpected characters, and surprise conflicts. 

Read all the way to the end, theirs is a story worthy to tell.
It seems like this has been an extremely long journey for us. While three years isn’t so long in the entirety of life, we have been through a lot in the three years we have been on our adoption journey. God has taught us so many things along the way but I think the most consistent message has been to wait for the Lord and trust in His timing. 
Everything started out moving very quickly. One thing I didn’t anticipate when Ryan and I realized that the Lord was calling us to adopt, was the immense amount of paperwork that would have to be completed. But, I was able to work consistently and diligently for 2-3 weeks and get everything completed. We then waited a month or so before we had our first home study visit and within the same week that we were home study approved, we received the life changing news that we had been matched. 
Our first match was with the very first expectant mother to whom we were ever presented. We were on cloud nine and our baby was expected to be due about two months from the time we were matched. We immediately started preparing our hearts and our home for the baby we longed for so desperately. 
The relationship that I, in particular, had with the first woman we were matched with was extremely open. She and I texted back and forth all day everyday, we talked on the phone several times a week, and when we were told that she was having contractions we got in the car, drove to her apartment and spent the weekend with her.
Unfortunately, the match failed and, as it turns out, the woman we were matched with was never actually pregnant. It was an extremely traumatic time for us. While we were matched with her, I felt like everything was falling into place just right and I thought it was a sign that this was right where God wanted us to be. Looking back now I can see all the red flags. I do believe that was an experience that we needed to have, I don’t know why yet but I know it was not for nothing. 
We prayed and prayed and knew that God intended to use adoption to not just grow our family, but to continue to impact our lives. So, when our hearts were ready, we let go of all of our fears and began presenting to expectant moms again. And right in the midst of this I found out we were pregnant! This time we presented to a few women before we received the news that we had been matched again.  This match was a little longer. The baby was due four months from the time we were matched. We had an open relationship with our second expectant mother as well but she was not near as communicative. She and I texted once or twice a week and we talked on the phone once a month or so. Ryan and I took a trip out to meet her and then right before her due date, we went back to her home town in hopes to spend some more time with her in the days before the baby was due. 
That is when I started to get nervous. She was responding to all of my texts but was not willing to see us. We spent ten days away from home before receiving the news that the expctant mom we were matched with had delivered her baby girl and had chosen to parent. Shoved right back into the depths of complete sadness and despair and hopelessness, we began our ten hour drive home with an empty car seat buckled in the back. The devastation was overwhelming. But, again we laid our feelings at the feet of our Lord and allowed Him to heal our hearts. 
A few months later I delivered a biological daughter and we spent the next year focussing on her. So excited to finally be parents and soaking up every bit of our little girl that we could. We always knew that our adoption journey wasn’t over but we needed to take a time out and enjoy finally being parents. 
Right around our daughter’s first birthday, we decided that we were ready to get back into the adoption process. She was young enough that we were prepared to wait for a situation that seemed just right for us. We felt we could only consider short term matches in an effort to guard our hearts so we knew it might take a little while. 
We reviewed and prayed about many expectant moms. We presented to a few but none were the right fit for us. Then, I received an email about a woman who was pregnant but not due for five months. As I always did, I read through her information and prayed over her and her baby. This woman was everything we could have ever hoped for in a birth mom, but since she wasn’t due for so long, I decided this wasn’t the right situation for us. I did continue to think about her throughout that day so I sent the email about her to Ryan. He and I talked and prayed about this situation extensively but ended up decided that we couldn’t handle being vulnerable to another birth mom for such a long time. 
Two weeks later I received another email about the same birth mom saying that they hadn’t found a match for this woman yet and were still looking for a potential adoptive family for her child. 

Hello God! 
Is that you? 
Tapping me on the shoulder saying ... Hey you dummies! 
Get it together! 
This is your baby! 

We talked about her again, contacted Susan and talked through our concerns with her, talked to the case worker who was working with this expectant mom and eventually decided that we wanted to present and hopefully be matched with this mom. A few days later we received the news that we had been chosen. This was going to be our baby. Praise God!

And then, another major development. Three days after we were matched, I found out that I was pregnant again. Due four months after our birth mom. For Ryan and I, once we decide to present to an expectant mom, and especially once we are matched, we feel like that baby is ours. Is a part of our family. Just the same as if I were pregnant. So, backing out of the adoption was never a consideration. Nervously, we contacted the adoption agency and let them know I was pregnant. We prayed and prayed as they spoke with the birth mom that she would be ok with it and would still allow us to adopt her child. Two days later we talked with the case worker for our situation. She talked us through our expectant mom’s concerns but, in the end, gave us the weight lifting news that our expectant mom was ok with it as long as we were.

Praise God! We still had the chance to adopt this precious baby! This was a closed adoption situation so it was very different for us to have absolutely no contact with our expectant mom. We spent the next five months praying and hoping and truly letting ourselves be vulnerable to this situation and excited for the baby that would be joining our family very soon.

And then the day came, I received a phone call that our expectant mom was in labor. We started making travel plans immediately and within a few hours were on a plane with our older daughter and my parents headed to meet our new addition. At just after nine o’clock that night, Ryan and I peered through the nursery window at our brand new baby daughter. The feeling was indescribable. We couldn’t go in and hold her until the next morning but it didn’t matter. Looking at her, I knew she was meant to be our daughter. 

Over the next three days, we spent hour upon hour in the nursery at the hospital snuggling our baby girl. On the last day, my nerves were high but I kept praying and felt confident that this was all going to work out. I prayed for calm in all of our hearts. I prayed for God to make sure that this perfect little girl ended up right where she was supposed to be. I prayed for our birth mom. Even though we never met her, I prayed she would somehow feel how much we love and respect and appreciate her. Her bravery and selflessness leave me in awe. She is a true hero in our lives. 

Late that night, we walked out of the hospital with the same car seat from before, except this time, it wasn’t empty. This time, our daughter was in it and we were taking her home. We didn’t get to bring her home to our house for another week since she was born in a different state but now, as I write this, we are comfortably home and she is sound asleep on my chest. It is the best feeling a mom can have. 

When we first realized that we were meant to adopt, we didn’t know where to start. There is a big agency in our hometown that we looked into working with but their wait times are very long. We looked into adoption attorneys in the area that we could use if we heard about someone who was interested in placing a child and wasn’t yet working with an agency but that seemed like a lot was going to be left up to chance and circumstance. Then, my aunt told us that a good friend of hers knew of a consultant with Christian Adoption Consultants that she could put me in contact with if I wanted her to. I looked CAC up online and just knew this was the best route for us. 
Now, having gone through everything that we did, I can’t imagine every going through adoption without a consultant. The agencies that the birth moms are working with care about the adoptive families but, in the end, their relationship is mainly with the birth mom. So having Susan in our corner was priceless. And having a professional that is always willing to answer your emails, texts and phone calls is incredible. We knew nothing about adoption when the process started and I have leaned on Susan so much for knowledge and information and support. Knowing that she is there for us, is something we cherish immensely. 

As you can tell from our story, adoption doesn’t always go perfectly smooth and easy. While no one’s story is without loss and heartache, sometimes a couple’s first match works out and sometimes the process is long and treacherous. But, I am now living God’s redemption from our previous heart breaks. Now I know that our other two matches didn’t work out because this little girl was the one who was supposed to be our daughter. It is most important to know that the call to adoption is from God and to stay faithful and strong throughout the process.

Never confuse a delay with a dead end...

When I look back at where we were and who we were when all of this started almost three years ago, it is hard to believe we survived. I don’t consider myself an emotionally strong woman. Truthfully, I am emotionally driven most of the time. But I have learned that I am much stronger than I thought. I have learned from experience that God never allows you to get yourself into anything that you won’t be able to endure with His help. Ryan and I have continued to grow closer and closer to God and each other. We are better and stronger both together and individually. Our hearts and our home are full and happy. Our family could never have been complete without the adoption of our precious baby daughter. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Announcing Your Adoption (part 2)

So, it's been pretty busy around here which is reflected in the kind of posts that have been non-stop. 95% of the blog for the past eight months or so has been adoption stories and announcements. When babies are born about twice a week to my adoptive families, telling the stories of how God answered prayers,  It's been a pretty fantastic kind of busy if you ask me...

One of the most popular posts of all time has been this one on my families announcing their plans to adopt. I thought it would be fun to run a part two. I love the creative ways families have announced their adoption plans and invited others into their journey. (For more on each family's adoption story, simply click their names for the link!)

Brad and Corrine set up a fun photo shoot for their adoption announcement.

 They even got their dog, Banks to look cute.

Loren and Natalie also set up a photo shoot to announce their adoption.

 Just a short time later they announced they also announced they were expecting!

Jared and Jeanna got their dog involved...

Tyler and Casey made their announcement personal with Tyler's firefighter gear and a rocking chair make by Casey's grandfather.

Later, when they were matched with an expectant mom, they told their parents this way!

Carl and Lesley made this adorable and creative video to tell friend and family on social media that they planned to add to their family through adoption. When they unexpectedly became pregnant just a short time after they made this announcement, they decided to continue forward with adoption and their pregnancy. But then an ultrasound surprised them with twins and they decided to put adoption on hold for just a bit...

Jon and Ruthie announced their adoption on her blog with a post "We Are Growing."

Scott and Karen sent this adorable delivery to friends and family.

And when they found out they were matched with their adopted son's biological sister, they sent out this surprise announcement!

Tadd and Andrea had a friend make this announcement once they were matched with their expectant mama.

Derek and Stephenie just made this fun announcement with their daughters and posted it to social media to share the good news.

 And Matt and Jenny got their boys involved in anticipating the arrival of their baby sister...

For more idea on announcing your adoption, head here!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Adoption Story: Jeremy and Melissa

I'm often asked if large families can adopt. This was a part of the conversation when Jeremy and Melissa first called me with a strong conviction that God was asking them to add to their family again, but this time through adoption. "But will we ever be chosen since we already have six kids?" 

So many assume an expectant mother looking for a family is looking for a young couple who have experienced infertility. And sometimes that's the case. But much more often, and always much more important is the question, "Will they love and care for my baby?" Much more of this topic, and what birth families are really looking for in an adoptive family here.

Jeremy and Melissa's adoption story started long before they began with Christian Adoption Consultants last summer. Today Melissa shares how their daughter came into their family (to make them a family of nine!), the rich meaning of the names she was given, and how their prayers for a decade were answered.

When we felt the Lord tug on our hearts about adoption almost a decade ago, we had no idea how challenging that call would be. We only knew that God had a special addition to our family who would not come from my womb. Over the years He has been so faithful to gently lead us down this road, preparing us along the way for the challenges we would surely face. After the ups and downs of the past few weeks with a quick placement, and an unexpected C-section 3 weeks before birth mom’s due date, drama with the birth family, the birth mom almost changing her mind, and other unexpected things that I do not have the liberty to share here, I can say without a doubt, had this happened in my time frame (5 years ago) we would not have been ready. We thought we were ready, but spiritually, emotionally, and physically we weren’t ready. God is so kind to sometimes not give us what we ask for until His timing. We have been standing on the promises in Psalm 126:5-6 for about 6 years now.  “Those who sow in tears, will reap a harvest of Joy! They go out weeping carrying seed to sow, and return with a harvest.” (My paraphrase) It is because of this verse that we gave our daughter the middle name Joy. We have been sowing seed these past 8 years. We’ve been sowing in prayer, we’ve been sowing in tears. The tears of waiting on God, the tears of wondering if it will ever happen.  Now as I look at our harvest of Joy my heart swells with a new kind of tears. Tears of joy.  

About 8 years ago through a series of God connections with several families the Lord dropped the name Hadassah into our hearts. We’ve been holding onto that name for all this time waiting for our daughter to arrive. In many ways it feels like the end of a very long pregnancy. We’ve always loved the story of Esther in the Bible, she was a young Jewish girl known by her Hebrew name, Hadassah. She was adopted by a cousin, and when the time was right, she was chosen by the king to be his queen. God used her to bring deliverance to the Jewish people. We have always loved the redemptive nature of her story. We believe that our Hadassah has a redemptive call on her life as well. We believe that God will use her to bring healing and deliverance; to be a voice to declare the promises of God to those in bondage and darkness. That just as she was rescued from some very difficult circumstances, she will be used by God to reach others in need of rescue. 

Even though she’s not a huge fan of sleeping at night, and prefers to be awake eating every hour all night long, she is an absolute joy! We are so much in love. All the hard things about this process, all the waiting, it’s all worth it. The thing that I think speaks to my heart the most in all of this is that even though we feel like we’ve been waiting for years for this, Hadassah was born about 9 months after we hired Susan to help us navigate this wild journey. We literally have been praying for her and her birth momma right from the beginning of the pregnancy. It’s amazing to me how connected we felt to her immediately. There was no warming up period, or bonding, it was instant. I attribute that to the fact that she was already ours conceived in our hearts through prayer. I may not have carried her in my womb, but I carried her in the womb of my heart for 9 months prior to her being born. 

Thanks so much Susan for guiding us and answering all our questions along the way! You were a beacon of hope when I had almost given up. 

For a bit more of Jacob and Melissa's story, you can read this insightful blog: Number Crunching the Costs and the Untold Benefits of Adoption.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Adoption Story: David and Kristen

Can I confess a little something here? I work with really amazing couples and sometimes, selfishly, I'm so bummed when their adoption journey goes so quickly! David and Kristen were just like this. I loved chatting with them over coffee when they were in town visiting family about their faith and how God brought them to adoption. They are a couple with crazy big hearts and beautiful dreams and I knew God would use both as he wrote the story of how they became parents. Today Kristen shares her heart and how God brought them to adoption, and how He was enough even in the scary unknowns of it all. 

David and I decided adoption was the right path for us several years after our infertility diagnosis. It took some time to reconcile and change how we thought we would grow our family. There is so much inside those two sentences, pain, fear, anger, grief and hopelessness. Even after we made the decision to adopt we knew we should wait for some practical areas of our life to settle down. I was in the midst of a pretty serious two year dental process that required an intense jaw surgery. 

As soon as I was feeling well post-surgery, we sought out Susan from Christian Adoption Consultants, knowing we wanted to move forward and that we wanted the wait to be as small as possible. We very quickly started the daunting home study process. All along the home study process and the profile process, David and I had to do so many things that were outside of our comfort zone, so many things that we would never have done if it wasn’t required: background checks, finger printing, home visits from social workers, doctor's visits and reports, pictures of ourselves, home, and lives. It was an extensive and invasive, but at each step I felt compelled to just keep moving forward, to stay in the process, no matter what I was feeling fear-wise, I just kept pressing though. As we would describe the process to friends, I would see the grimaces on their faces as we described certain parts and inside I would chuckle thinking “you don’t even know that half of it.” And sure in moments I would cry and freak out and go back to my tried and true line, “I don’t want to do this” “this is not how I saw my life turning out.” But I would press through and say to myself, “Kristen if you want this and keep going there will be a HUGE blessing at the end.”

We were finally home study approved mid-February, and after seeing a handful of situations from Susan and hearing a couple no’s, we finally heard our “yes” on March 18th, a little baby girl who had been born the 16th. We met Emma the very next day and fell instantly in love. Due to legal issues, we had to leave her and wait 30 days for all the paperwork to come through, she was in a city about 4 hours from ours and so we would visit her every weekend. On April 12th we finally got the call that we could pick her up and bring her home for good. 

And now when I look at her I am amazed at this whole process, a process I hated at times but changed my life, made me a better person, a braver person. The Lord was able to match my broken infertile body with a little girl with a broken family, and out of both my loss and Emma's loss, we have been given so much love. I'm still so in awe of this perfect love born out of such brokenness.

P.S. The time between the two pictures shown (announcing to their friends they were planning to adopt when their daughter was in their arms)? 25 days.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Adoption Story: Ben and Laura

When Ben and Laura started their journey to grow their family with Christian Adoption Consultants last May, they didn't know what the road would include.

They didn't know that they would be matched in just a few months and experience incredible joy and then just weeks later discover that adoption was never meant to be.

They didn't know the ache they would feel walking through the holidays last year with the nursery still empty when they anticipated celebrating as a family of three.

They didn't know those months after a failed match would feel like years with long days and heavy hearts.

But through the wait, God knew exactly what He was doing.

They didn't know that right around the time of that initial match, a little boy was being conceived that would need a forever family. 

They didn't know that the months they were left wondering if their family would ever expand past the two of them, God was knitting their son together perfectly.

They didn't know on a Tuesday night in March, a little boy was born and the moment they heard of him they knew he was meant to be theirs.

They didn't know that this Mother's Day, they would celebrate as a family of three with full arms and full hearts, and in awe that the entire time, God knew. 

God knew His perfect plan.

God knew this boy was meant to be their son.

And all of the unknowns came together in a beautiful knowing that this was exactly how the story was supposed to be written from the very beginning.

Photo credit to Jenna Leigh Photography

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

In Their Own Words: A Glimpse into Open Adoption

It's so hard to talk about open adoption as an idea. As a plan or a category. When you talk about open adoption it describes a relationship. It's as unique as the people involved and as important and sacred as the hearts connected. How do you discuss something as complex as open adoption: a birth family and adoptive family deciding to have an ongoing relationship knowing that it's best for all involved? I think the best way to have a conversation about open adoption is to put skin on it. Adding faces and stories to the idea puts it on the ground in a relatable to even "doable" way. 

You've met Matt and Emily and heard their story before if you follow the blog. I love the peek Emily gives us today about the beginning of their open adoption...

If you had been a customer of the Longhorn Steakhouse on Highway 19 in Palm Harbor, Florida last Sunday night, you may have seen two couples walking through the restaurant, ogling a sweet baby boy on the way to their table. You may have commented on how cute he was. You may have thought he looked a lot like the woman carrying him. You may have wondered about the man in the wheelchair. But you likely would not have assumed you’d be witnessing this baby’s biological parents sit down to dine with his adoptive parents. It’s a scene I’ve been playing over and over in my mind as I recount the wonderful experiences of our trip to Florida. The magnitude of that moment, that evening, will never be lost on me. It was incredible to be a part of – and I’m so very grateful we had it.

We had met up with Ethan’s birthmother, L, earlier in the day. She hadn’t seen him since he was a few hours old and was anxiously waiting for us outside a local mall. As soon as we saw each other the tears welled up in our eyes. We embraced and smiled and both looked at this beautiful boy she had brought into this world, and into our lives. As we made our way to the food court we talked and talked and the tears started flowing. It seemed to take forever to get to the food court and finally we just stopped to have a moment. Her, thanking me…telling me how I’ll never know how much this means to her. How happy she is to see him so happy and loved. Me, thanking her…telling her how she’ll never know how much this means to me. How grateful I am to and for her. We hugged again and I had to get Ethan out of the car seat so she could finally hold him again. She closed her eyes, breathed in his fuzzy head, and smiled and talked sweetly in his ear. He smiled and giggled back – always a flirt. It. Was. Perfect. She was able to feed him his lunch as he happily sat perched in a little high chair next to the table. We talked about how things are going for us, for her, for them. She was filled with happiness, it was obvious. Despite how bittersweet the reunion was – she remained firm in her decision. She had no regrets. She had made a beautiful family and she was so happy…so proud that she could do it. My heart was so full. We took pictures and laughed at the goofy baby and genuinely enjoyed catching up in person. I gave her a photo book I had made of Ethan’s first 8 months. Pictures from the hospital, coming home, all the firsts…holidays, pets, teeth, bites…she cried and thanked me for the gift. Soon she had to leave and we made plans to meet later for dinner with her and J, the birthfather.

After she left we sat, dumbfounded. It was so beautiful for me to see Ethan with her. I felt so much love for her. I wanted her to see how much love I have for Ethan and feel reassured…and she did. It was incredible and meant so much to us all.

Later that evening as we nervously made our way into the restaurant to meet them, I had a million thoughts running through my mind. I was so comfortable with L – we have established a very open relationship since our first contact last June. But we didn’t know what to expect from J. As we made our way towards them, I reached out my hand to introduce myself to him…he shook it, then pulled me in for a hug. A hug. I was stunned. He was nervous. Gracious. Friendly. Trying to make a good impression. As we made our way to the table – our little procession L, carrying Ethan, me, pushing Matt with the empty car seat, and J, bringing up the rear with L’s purse in his hand. Again I wondered how anyone could know how our little group was related. So bizarre, and so wonderful.

The evening flew by as we talked about Ethan, about life here and there, about their hopes and plans for the future, about our love for this child they created. It was bittersweet for them both…seeing him with us. Seeing their own features reflected back on a child who will call us Mommy and Daddy. But they seemed happy and grateful for the life he’s been given with us…and the open relationship they know they can have with us and Ethan over the years. Before long they had to go and we made our way back to the door of the restaurant. I stopped and asked the host to take our picture…the five of us together. And oh how I will cherish forever. I want so much for Ethan to know how loved he is, by us all. Looking at the pictures, it is easy to see that love. That beautiful, beautiful love. Adoption, my friends, is beautiful. As hard and complicated as it can be…

For more of Matt and Emily's story, follow their blog over at Karwoski Life.

And for more insight into open adoption, check here.

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