Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Adoption Story: Brian and Krissy

Today, instead of a family sharing their story in the typical format here, you get the treat of watching it! Krissy shares their adoption story in this little video. You can hear directly from the heart of an adoptive mama why they stepped into adoption, the highs and lows of their journey, and the dozens of details God worked out in the process. Then, you can actually watch as they meet their daughter for the first time.

*This story comes with a Kleenex warning. Just after the ten minute mark I completely lost it!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Repost: Open Adoption 1.0: A [mini] Tutorial

One of the most common questions and concerns I get from adoptive families has to do with open adoption. Can it really work? Are the horror stories true? How does it work for the child? Today I thought it would be helpful to share again the most common questions and my responses about openness in adoption, what we've learned over the years, and what it's REALLY like...

Those two words are enough to strike the fear of God in people: "open adoption." No matter who you are, I've found that nearly everyone immediately goes to the most recent Lifetime movie of the "big bad birth mother" who shows up on the doorstep of the adoptive family with a golf club demanding her baby back. Or the crazed tabloid story of the father that took the baby to the forests of Digibuti and never returned.

I've had this discussion with dozens and dozens of adoptive parents. And other mothers. And friends. And strangers who find out what I do. Because everyone wants to know what it really looks like and if it really works.

So let me just talk to you about open adoption like I would with one of my adoptive families. We're in your living room and you've brewed me some Starbucks to win me over. Done.

I would say this: "Get over it." (OK - I don't really say that.) But this is something like what we would chat about...

Years ago almost all adoptions were closed.  A young woman got "pregnant out of wedlock" and went to "visit Aunt Jean in Oklahoma" for several months. She would deliver, most likely not be given a chance to even meet her baby, and return never to speak of the life-changing event again. Then a sweet young couple dealing silently with infertility would be notified that a baby who matched their skin tone and hair and eye color was ready and waiting for them. Only close friends and family knew the baby was adopted and they would never speak of it again either. Until that sweet baby got to be an adult and they discovered the truth: "Happy 18th Birthday! Here's your original birth certificate - you were adopted [insert super awkward pause here]..."

OK - the story didn't always work out that way. But more often than not, this was a typical plot line. And you've heard it because many of these people ended up on Oprah or Regis and Kelly with tearful and dramatic reunions.

Today we know better. We know that closed adoption is usually not the best for anyone in the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptee). For the birth parents, openness offers incredible closure and solidifies their choice for adoption. For the adoptive family, they have important information (social and medical) that make up a huge piece of their child. And for the adoptee, they've heard first-hand from the source the reasons their birth parents made an adoption plan. The child also has more of a sense of identity (I got my brown eyes from my birth mom and my love for music from my birth father's dad) which is invaluable for their sense of worth.

Many people think openness will lead to second thoughts, confusion, and Lifetime movie drama on their own doorstep. Instead, it leads to honesty, insight, closure, and genuine relationships.

Openness is a continuum. For as many different families who have adopted there are just as many variations to openness.

  • Open adoption is typically when the birth parents and adoptive parents have open communication after the adoption of the child.  First and last names including contact information are shared openly between adoptive and birth parents. An ongoing relationship is developed.
  • Semi-open adoption allows the adoptive parent's contact information to remain completely confidential, but allows a meeting between the birth and adoptive parents prior to or at birth. A semi-open adoption also often involves emails or letters and pictures sent periodically throughout your child's life. 
  • Closed adoption is when the birth parents and adoptive couple typically remain completely anonymous.  Only a social and medical history is shared concerning the birth parents. They do not meet or even know first names. 

Here's the concerns and questions I'm asked almost every time I get into a conversation about open adoption:

We don't want to confuse our child.  We want them to know we are their parents.
Usually we're the ones that make things confusing. If the birth and adoptive families are clear about their roles and aren't rivals, the child won't be confused. Just like some of us know and have unique relationships with two sets of grandparents, it doesn't mean we don't understand the important and often different relationship we have with each of them. Ignoring or undermining the significance of a child's birth parents can undermine the child's identity.
We don't want the birth parents to change their mind.  What if they see us and have second thoughts?
Open adoption actually solidifies a birth parent's choice for adoption.Rather than wondering "did I make the right choice? Are the adoptive parents really who they said they were? Do they love him as much as I do?" - the birth parents actually get to SEE their child being loved like crazy and know they made the right decision.   
What if the birth parents are intrusive or don't approve of our parenting style?
The birth parents have chosen the adoptive family to raise their child. Usually, they have received excellent counsel and fully understand the adoption process.Birth parents recognize that they are not in a season to parent and are giving up the ability to parent their child in the traditional sense of the word. After consent is signed and the adoption is finalized, it's understood that the adoptive family is the legal parents in every sense of the word.
So what does openness look like, really?
I've seen families walk this out literally hundreds of ways. I know a family who has set up a private blog and they update their birth parents (and the birth grandmas!) with picture and video updates. Another family sends pictures monthly to add to a scrapbook they made for the birth mom. Many families text updates and pictures. Most families send picture and letters through email. Some celebrate holidays together. I know one couple even who babysit for their now 3 year old daughter! 
Here's the crazy thing: these same fears that adoptive families have are the exact same fears birth families have. I've sat in numerous coffee shops with mamas saying they want to be sure not to overstep boundaries and want their child to know they've chosen an adoptive family to be parents. Big bad birth mama complex?  Right out the window.

You see, these are women who have made the ultimate sacrifice. They are the antithesis of selfish women who only want what's best for themselves. In an open adoption, they have hand-picked a family to raise their sweet baby. Birth parents aren't baby-snatchers. Because of their immense love for their baby they have chosen adoption. Is it hard? Yes. Do they waver and second-guess? Almost always.  But they are the heroes that deserve more than our questioning raised eye-brows. They have chosen LIFE when the world tells them otherwise. They deserve our awe, respect, and honor.

Bravelove, one of my favorite adoption resources, specifically for birth families has several stories of open adoption on their website. Here's one of my favorites that gives such a beautiful picture of the kind of strong love it takes for a mother to make an adoption plan and the joy that open adoption can be.

Really, openness happens best when it's organic. I didn't sit down with my best friend at a coffee shop the first time I met her and chart out our friendship: OK, I need email updates from you every three months, pictures of your family every 6, and these are my plans for celebrating your birthday... Real relationship  is a gradual and slow process. I can't tell you how many families I've worked with who were scared to death at first at the thought of an open adoption, and then met the birth mama and fell in love with her. I've had many families who feel like they've also adopted the birth family and all become like extended family.  

My only caution is this: it's much easier to slowly open the door than to need to slam it shut. Openness happens in a healthier way like other relationships: gradually and slowly.  

I was reading my twitter feed awhile ago and came across this: "I woke up this morning and heard my son's mother reading scripture to him." I immediately had tears in my eyes. It was Mother's Day and one of my sweet birth mamas had traveled across the country (as she has several times now) to visit her son and his adoptive parents. And she was celebrating her first Mother's Day with the mother she had chosen for her son. They are like family now. I can't think of a more beautiful picture of open adoption.

Here's the bottom line: is open adoption hard? YES. But what relationship that is truly valuable isn't. My only "easy" relationships are with the barista and the grocer. Hard, messy, genuine, and worthwhile relationships usually happen in my living room.  

Want more adoption [mini] tutorials? Click here for more resources!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Repost: What I Wish I Knew While We Were Waiting

There's no doubt that the wait in adoption is one of the hardest parts of the adoption journey. Your home study is done, profile is created, and now you sit, waiting to be matched. I thought today I would repost some practical encouragement from adoptive families who have been in the wait and what they wished they had known during that time...

In the midst of the wait of adoption, it can be easy for discouragement and hopelessness to creep in. Doubting what God has called you to and feeling overwhelmed with the unknown, it's easy to forget that God is working even when we can't see it. It's hard to cling to the truth in the wait.

Recently, I asked some of my families who are on the other side of their adoptions what they wished they knew while they were waiting. Each of them who are done with the wait of their journey and have little ones in their arms. Here's what they said...

God writes the best stories. Better than we could ever imagine. Once you see it all unfolded you realize all the frustration and waiting and delays were not in vain and served the perfect purpose of guiding you to the expectant mom and baby that you were meant to be with.  - Leigh

I read or heard somewhere that we shouldn't put our hope in something that we can lose. I could lose my marriage, I could lose my job, I could lose my child. I had thought, "If only I had ____, THEN I would be okay." Usually the answer was a baby. I thought that when we finally "got" a baby, I would be okay. But then I wasn't. Becoming a mom didn't solve all my problems, in fact, it created some new ones. It's so hard, but that's why we repent and ask God to help our idolatrous heart. Ask him to give you joy and peace…That’s near impossible without God's help. Ask him!  - Stacey

I wish I had realized that God didn't expect all the disappointments, the frustrations and even the no's we experienced to make sense to me at the time but that in the end He would make it all plain and his plan would make SO MUCH sense!  - Gayla

I wish I had known that God hadn't forgotten about us. That His hand was in every detour navigating us to our daughters in His perfect timing.  - Shelley

I wish we had realized just how God loves us...I think about the love my earthly father has for me and I know he would do all in his ability to give me my hearts desires and keep me from tears BUT he can't do God loves me even more than that and He CAN do all of that and more! AND He is faithful...He restored everything the moment we held our son. (And as hard as it was, I had to come to truly realize that God was sufficient even if a baby never came. It was a correcting of my perspective that led to peace throughout the process.)  - Katie

God has a plan and it's better then yours! And once the wait is over, the sadness, longing , and pain seems so short and insignificant!  - Becca

That God would be enough to see us through. That there are GOOD and BAD people in the adoption world and you have to forgive the bad and keep going and trust somehow that it was for a purpose... That God would provide financially when the debt seemed insurmountable. (God knew, I suppose, that I need a lesson in trusting when it came to money!) And in the end, although it was very hard the wait would be worth our little man.  - Rosie

That it's out of our hands, God is in control. Just breathe!  - Michelle

I wish I had realized how very precious every day of the wait is - God needs every second of that time to orchestrate the massive butterfly effect of adoption. To wish it differently is to idolize my own situation and wants. It's not just my family, but the timing of the birth family, the timing of the extended family's experiences (on both sides), the timing of the people you will spontaneously meet along the way who needed to hear your story or whose story YOU needed to hear or who needed to even just see your family from afar and have that work in their hearts, who needed to have an adoptive family's presence in the community or church, the timing of where God needs our adopted children to be as they grow up in order to accomplish his work...I could go on and on. The effects of adoption are far reaching and profound. The timing is NOT just about the right child for our family. Actually, I know for sure I don't deserve such a precious gift at all. The fact God has answered that prayer for us means that we have received INFINITELY more than we deserve.  
- Meagan

It was so good to remember that we weren't waiting on an agency, a situation, a "yes", or even a baby. We were waiting on God alone. And to continually remind ourselves of God's mercy especially in the moments we felt He was an unkind Father. Just as He had compassion on those grumbling Israelites in the desert, He continually had compassion on our faint hearts. Lean into the family of God, and hold tight to the promises of Jesus.  - Danielle

For more in the series, "In Their Own Words," visit here.

More on waiting:
What To Do In The Wait
Dear Mamas In Waiting

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Adoption Story: Lynn and Alisa

Lynn and Alisa were such a joy to work with! Their steadfast hope and faith in God were so evident throughout their entire adoption journey. They had walked a long, hard road before they called me in September. But is was just three months later they were matched and one month later when their son was born.

Adoption has brought us to a higher level of trust in God. We often have a false sense of being in control of our lives and for us, adoption emphasized our need to let go of our idea of what should be and let God work. There were many times along the way that we seriously questioned whether we had mistaken His calling to adopt: when we waited and waited and waited…and waited some more.  When we finally matched only to experience the disappointment of a failed match. When we presented time and again thinking: This is it…the timing is perfect/the situation is in our comfort zone/the location is ideal. Surely this is THE ONE God has planned for us, but finding out that is wasn’t when we experienced a second failed match. But each time, God gently admonished us to trust His heart – He had called us on this journey for a reason. When we matched again, we admit to doubting from time to time because there were many kinks in the process from our first call with the birth mother until our clearance to come home, but God worked them out in His time – often at the last minute (which was hard on our emotions, but strengthening for our faith). 

After grieving our second failed match, we decided to broaden our options and stumbled across Susan and Christian Adoption Consultants. We had fresh hope and more importantly, an experienced, compassionate, unbiased consultant to guide us. As it turns out, our successful adoption came through our original path and wasn’t a direct result of our hiring Christian Adoption Consultants. But we were extremely grateful for Susan as the situation took some unexpected turns and had some risks that made us appreciate Susan’s experience with all involved in the adoption triad.  In the end, the decisions were up to us but she did help us view the whole situation rather than just our side of it. Having her support during those stressful times of decision making was a huge blessing for us.

While we often wondered why things were going the way they were, in the end, we don’t have to know why. The joy of loving our son dims the heartache and stress of the journey. From the bottom of our joyful and thankful hearts, we can testify that God is faithful.  

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Adoption Story: Nathan and Ashley

Nathan and Ashley spent years on the road to parenthood. Nothing went as planned. Nothing seemed to be working. Until everything seemed to come together exactly the way God had planned from the very beginning...

Our journey to parenthood was nothing like we had dreamed or imagined it would be. Years of heartache, brokenness, and daily struggles filled our lives as we tried to grow our family. After several doctor visits, multiples procedures, and one failed fertility treatment after another, we knew God was telling us to close that door, and another one would open. Many days and months of prayers led us to adoption, specifically leading us to Susan with Christian Adoption Consultants. From the moment we spoke with Susan, we knew that this was the path God was leading us to grow our family. Susan answered any questions we had, and gave us a sense of security as we embarked on our adoption journey. For the first time in months we had a feeling of hope, and truly felt God’s story unfolding.  

We signed with CAC late October, were home study approved in December and began presenting our profile book in January. After two heartbreaking “no’s” we were matched with our sweet Mama B in late February, who was due in late June. Over the next few months we spent our time building our relationship with her and the birth father. We developed a love for them both that is indescribable. They are the two individuals who chose life for their sweet baby, made the most selfless decision, and made us parents. 

On June 15, ten days before Mama B’s due date, we got the phone call that would forever change our lives. Mama B was in labor, and was headed to the hospital.  After driving through the night, and 17 hours later, we arrived at the hospital where Mama B and our sweet baby boy had been born hours before. We got to spend quality time with her while she shared the story of our son’s birth with us. We then were able to go to the NICU, where the sweetest nurse met us at the door, and handed us the most precious, amazing, little boy. The moment we laid eyes on him, our lives were forever changed.  We cried, laughed, and simply couldn’t stop smiling. We knew at that moment that those months and years of heartache were all worth it. 24 hours after his birth, papers were signed, and Mama B was discharged and would go home. It was one of the most bittersweet feelings that we’d ever felt. Our greatest joy, was one of her toughest and saddest moments. We hugged her, loved her, and prayed for her as she had just made one of the toughest most selfless decisions of her life.

At that moment, Calloway John Cohee became ours, and we were finally a family of three. The tears we had cried, the days we had asked God “why”, the heartache we experienced was all worth it.  God’s timing is always perfect, not always easy, but perfect indeed.

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