Thursday, October 26, 2017

Adoption Story: Ben and Amanda

Sometimes songs provide a soundtrack to seasons in our lives. When Ben and Amanda found themselves unexpectedly in a story of heartbreak and infertility, they clung to Jesus and a song from All Sons and Daughters; Wake Up. Within that song, and their faith, they found that God had not abandoned them through it. He was walking with them the entire way...


Testimony. We hear about testimony in church on a weekly basis. God healing cancer, repairing marriages, mending relationships, miracle babies, bringing success to businesses, you name it, God is moving in our lives daily. We hear about these amazing testimonies all the time and my husband and I started to feel lost in the shuffle. We had been trying to start our family for over 5 years. We tried naturally, we tried Clomid, we traveled, we tried IUI, we got a puppy, we tried natural again, we bought a big house, we traveled, we tried IVF, twice, and along the way we conceived and miscarried 4 times. With every positive pregnancy test we thought we would be able to share our incredible testimony but only to quickly realize that again we would miscarry and we had no testimony to share. Was God forgetting us?

WE HAVE SEEN THE PAIN
THAT SHAPED OUR HEARTS
AND IN OUR SHAME
WE'RE STILL BREATHING, 'CAUSE...

We shared our struggle publicly, educating friends and family. We hoped that by sharing our story that it would help others who might be suffering silently to know they are not alone and to help everyone else have a better understanding of this disease. During our journey people would say “why don’t you just adopt?” like it was something as simple as buying a new pair of jeans because the current ones had holes. It felt so hurtful and dismissive – to the infertility community AND adoption community. At the time, we just didn’t feel like that was the way God wanted us to build our family. God was not leading us that direction. It wasn’t time yet.

We traveled the infertility road for five years and decided to take a year or two break after our last IVF and miscarriage. We began to wonder if we were meant to be parents. We started our break in July of 2016 getting back to regular life without injections, meds, special diets, therapy, etc. It was heavenly! We reconnected with friends we hadn’t seen in years and began dating each other again. It was bliss!

Then in December 2016 things started to change in our hearts. My mom learned of a little girl who was urgently in need of a family - her parent were not able to parent - and she needed a forever home. On that call we, for the first time, said yes to learning more about adoption. We wanted this little girl to have a family by Christmas and thought maybe it could be us! But boy 'o boy we were naive. Adoption is not that simple we quickly learned. But instead of shying away I spent days and weeks secretly researching the adoption process. Reading stories that can only be written by God himself for so many families. My heart started to change and I remember getting this overwhelming feeling that we needed to step faithfully forward in God’s plan for our growing our family; and this plan was adoption.  He spoke into my heart that something special was coming and we needed to step forward in obedience. The time was now and it felt so frantic!

WAKE UP WAKE UP
WAKE UP ALL YOU SLEEPERS
STAND UP STAND UP
STAND UP ALL YOU DREAMERS

In January of 2017 I finally shared with my husband that I had been doing endless hours of research and soul searching and my heart for adoption had grown. I shared that God has a plan for our family and we needed to move forward with adoption. My husband was a skeptic at first but as a good husband does - he trusted me and said yes to learning more. 

In February we agreed that adoption was going to be a big journey with many unknown twists and turns but learned that there are people out there that can help you navigate the waters.  After some research, enlisted Susan with Christian Adoption Consultants to help us. CAC has been such a life saver during this process. We knew the infertility world like the back of our hands but this was all new to us. Susan helped us step forward in our faith and we got the process of our home study rolling in March. After delays and frustrating months getting our home study completed we finally had approvals in July to officially become a waiting family.

It didn’t take long to start receiving situations and we actually said yes to our first one in early July! It was thrilling, exciting, and such an adrenaline rush! It felt so right. After a few days wait we learned that we were chosen by the birth parents for a boy that was due to be born in early December 2017. Our hearts were thrilled and we praised God. Excited we shared the news with family that we were finally finally going to be parents. Unfortunately, only 6 weeks after we matched, the birth parents started to feel connected to their sweet baby and they decided to parent. Our match failed and we were crushed. We questioned God. We questioned if we were forcing the growth of our family by pursuing adoption. But somehow we kept hold of a mustard seed of faith.

WE HAVE SEEN THE HOPE
OF HEALING
RISING FROM OUR SOULS
IS THE FEELING...

My gut began to tell me that if that match ended so early it was because something bigger was coming. God gave us a feeling of peace to trust in his plan to grow our family and continue to step forward in faith. So we started reviewing situations again but none of them felt right. Would we ever feel that organic feeling of “this is it” again when reviewing a situation?

We saw about 20 more situations before that familiar feeling returned. I remember I was feeling emotionally drained with this process when I opened the email from Susan that describe another potential situation for a baby in Florida that was due in about 30 days. I got through two paragraphs before I called my husband in tears telling him that I had the feeling again and he needed to review this immediately. We had to present our profile and he quickly agreed. We decided to keep this a secret from our family because we did not want to let them down again if we were not chosen. The emotional roller coaster our family had been on with us over the years was wearing on them – four miscarriages and a failed adoption was not just difficult for us, it was hard for everyone. We decided we could wait a few days before telling them anything.

WE ARE DRAWING CLOSE
YOUR LIGHT IS SHINING THROUGH

Then category 5 hurricane, Irma, happened. And the few days we were supposed to wait turned into two weeks. We didn’t get very much information during this delay and fear of another loss began weighing very heavy on our hearts. It felt so right when we submitted our profile and yet we felt it slipping thru our fingertips again. In isolation because we still hadn’t told anyone. Did we not hear God right? We kept trusting though because we just felt like we needed to see this one through. So we kept waiting.

Then we started to get updates as we headed into the 3rd week of waiting that the expectant mom was reviewing profiles. Hope began to build. The very next day we then learned that she was actually scheduled for a c-section and baby was coming early. So we prepared for a potential life changing call that night! ….but it didn’t come. And we kept waiting. I remember telling my husband that she decided to parent and we just needed to move on and we agreed that we would give it the weekend before doing so. How do you let go of something that feels so right though? Well, you don’t.

ALL THAT YOU REVEAL
WITH LIGHT IN US
WILL COME TO LIFE
AND START BREATHING...

The waiting was incredibly difficult and I cried tears of heartbreak and frustration not but 10 minutes before Susan called us with the most life changing news. Our baby girl had been born, was healthy, and we were chosen by her incredible birth mom to parent her. She picked us. We stood in our kitchen with dinner going cold just crying in disbelief. We still had not told our families this was happening so we began making calls to our parents letting them know that we had been keeping a huge secret and we were heading to Florida to meet our daughter! We took a day to prepare and buy all things baby girl. Then we got on a plane with one way tickets to Florida praying that this really truly was God’s plan for our family.


I remember tears streaming down my cheeks as the plane took off out of our home state praying that we would not come home empty handed. I listened to All Sons and Daughters - Wake Up - on repeat until we hit our destination. Quoted throughout this story these lyrics captured everything about our journey so perfectly.

HANDS UP, HANDS UP
HANDS UP ALL BELIEVERS
TAKE UP YOUR CROSS, CARRY IT ON...

We spent 3 weeks in Florida waiting on ICPC bonding with our baby girl who grew in our hearts for so long. We always wondered if it would feel foreign when we held her for the first time but honestly as soon as we laid our eyes on her our hearts responded with the feeling of “oh, there you are, we’ve been waiting for you.” While in Florida we had the great honor of meeting our daughters brave birth mom and grandfather during our time in Florida. We truly reveled in the feeling that we all already knew each other. To our surprise, conversation flowed so easily and we planned our next visits to continue bonding and staying in touch. 


Looking back, God could not have written our story any more perfectly. While adoption was not our plan A, we left no stone unturned and know in our hearts that our path to adoption was purposeful and led by God. He knew exactly who our daughter was long before we did and he knew exactly how to lead us to her.

God's hands are all over our adoption story. Our daughter’s birth mom and I share the same birthday month and baby girl shares the same birthday month as my husband. She was born 9 months after we stepped forward in faith to pursue adoption. Faith. Such a common thread in our journey so much so that I tattooed “walk by faith” on my arm as a reminder that God is always shaping our lives and we have to trust in Him. Faith is the name her birth mom chose for our daughter.

This is God. This is our testimony. He is always with us.

HERE WE STAND OUR HEARTS ARE YOURS, LORD
NOT OUR WILL BUT YOURS BE DONE.



Thursday, October 19, 2017

Questions to Ask When Hiring An Adoption Consultant

There are a lot of critical decisions to make when it comes to adoption. Domestic or international? What about foster care? Agency or private adoption? Go it alone or hire a consultant to help guide you on your journey?


But once you decide on domestic infant adoption and that you want a consultant to walk with you, how do you decide which consultant group to work with? With several consultant firms to choose from, how do you know which one is the best fit for your family? 

I've compiled a list of questions to ask when you interview potential consultants. Use this list to get the most information, educate yourself on the specific services available, and how things work with each consulting firm.

Services
  • How long is your contract?
  • Do you offer profile creation or review services?
  • What kind of ongoing support and communication is available throughout the length of our contract?
  • What are your stats: number of successful adoptions, percentage of failed adoptions, average wait times, etc.?

Recommended Agencies and Attorneys
  • What are your standards for the agencies and attorneys you recommend?
  • What kind of services do the agencies and attorneys offer for expectant and birth families?
  • What kind of vetting does an agency/attorney go through to be a part of your recommended agency list?

Situations
  • Are there requirements to saying yes or no to presenting?
  • How much time do we have to decide if we want to present?
  • Will we know when we see a situation what agency or attorney it's from?
  • Do we need to pay a fee to present to situations?
  • How much information are we given to review for each situation? Do we have access to social/medical history, information on the birth father, prenatal records, etc.?


A few other things to consider:

  • It should be easy to get a hold of a consultant. Communication is key when you're adopting and being able to easily reach someone in a timely manner matters!
  • In the same vein, you should feel like they are happy to answer your questions and knowledgable about the entire adoption process. Ask about their professional and personal experience in adoption.
  • Don't hesitate to ask for references of other adoptive families who have used their services.

Ultimately, you want to feel confident and comfortable with the consultant you choose. They will be walking with you during your adoption journey to guide you, advocate for you, and educate you. But they will also be there to be a listening ear, possibly a shoulder to cry on, and to pray with you as you work to add a baby to your family. Finding someone you trust will be invaluable.


If you want to find out more about Christian Adoption Consultants and our consulting services, feel free to email me for a info packet. I'll be happy to answer these (and any) questions you have! 




Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Adoption Resources

In an effort create an easy "go-to" list of adoption resources, I've compiled this list of some of my most popular blogs on the topic. Find a topic you're interested or use it as a guidebook or roadmap to help you navigate your adoption journey!



Getting Started
The Steps to Adoption 
Keys to a Successful Adoption
Who Is Called to Adoption?  
The Cost of Adoption
Viral Adoption Situations (and what the real story is)
Adoption Myths and Assumptions

Hiring an Adoption Consultant
Why Hire An Adoption Consultant
A New Approach to Adoption
Is Hiring a Consultant Worth It? 
Why I Recommend Hiring a Consultant 
So You Want to Hire An Adoption Consultant 

The Home Study Process 
Your Home Study Survival Guide
Preparing Your Home for an Adoption Home Study

Infertility and Adoption
What I Wish You Knew About Adoption and Infertility {Part 1} 
What I Wish You Knew About Adoption and Infertility {Part 2}  
What I Wish You Knew About Adoption and Infertility {Part 3} 
In Their Own Words: Mother's Day
What to Expect When She's Not Expecting

Waiting in Adoption
What To Do While You Wait
What I Wish We Knew While We Were Waiting
Truth To Cling To in the Wait 
Dear Mamas in Waiting 
What if We Never Get Chosen (Every Adoptive Parents' Fear)

Openness in Adoption
Open Adoption 1.0
5 Myths of Open Adoption
Navigating Openness
Making Promises in Adoption
Silence on the Other Side 

Expectant and Birth Families
For Birth Parents: A Guide for Your Adoption
The Truth About Birth Parents
Dear Adoptive Mom: What Birth Parents Wish You Knew 
The Perfect Adoptive Family {What Birth Parents Are Really Looking For}
Adoptive Mamas Talk Candidly About Birth Parents 

Raising a Child Who Was Adopted
Extending Grace in Adoption 
A Letter to My Real Son 

Other Adoption Resources 
Positive Adoption Language
Creating An Adoption Hospital Plan
Creating Your Family Profile
Rethinking a Failed Adoption
Your ICPC Survival Guide

Read hundreds of family's adoption stories here





Monday, October 2, 2017

Adoption Story: Zach and Danielle (again!)

Sometimes when God asks you to step into something new and unknown it feels exciting and adventurous. Sometimes it feels hope-filled and thrilling. And other times it feels scary and almost impossible. Crazy even.


This was Zach and Danielle's story when God asked them to put their "yes" on the table for a second time. After the most hard and beautiful first adoption (if you don't remember how Isaiah came to be their son you don't want to miss it), they never anticipated adopting again.

But then, God changed all of that. Today Danielle shares the details of how her family unexpectedly grew their family of seven to EIGHT with sweet Ezekiel Benjamin.


When we brought our son Isaiah home a little over two years ago we thought we were done adding children to our family. The adoption, like many, had been terribly difficult and we were thankful to have the five amazing kids we’d been given. Little did we know God had different plans. It’s kind of incredible the way He moves us to do things we don’t want to do and then gives us the heart to do it.


In the spring of 2016 some close friends invited us to an Adoption Agency fundraiser. I was fitful about attending because I had a sense God would use that time to reveal something important to us. I even started stating my case to God in my mind: “We don’t have enough seats in the van or chairs at the table,” “We’ve already done our hard thing,” “I don’t think I can go through another adoption process.” We hadn’t even made it through the opening prayer that evening before we knew exactly what God was asking of us. Step back in. Say yes again. Even though it seemed impossible and crazy, we did. We weren’t without fear but we knew WHO was holding the future.

We were home study ready and signed back up with our amazing consultant, Susan, by September a year ago. We knew how crucial it was to have Susan’s insights, encouragements and connections in our first adoption and did NOT want to move forward without her. Plus, she had become a trusted friend and confidant.

The months that followed were very quiet. We gave our “yes” several times; we received “no” back every time. There were long periods of time we had no situations at all. We definitely didn’t feel confident the process would end with a baby but we prayed over each birth family and baby. At times we thought this might be why we were back in the process. But as time went on we were finally able to admit to ourselves and to God that we really wanted this little person. That revelation made us feel vulnerable but we kept stepping out, putting our “YES” in the mix.

Mid June we got a call late one night from Susan, “Your family has been chosen!” It was very surreal. The expectant mama was due later in July but at her 38-week appointment they decided to induce her. We flew out to her state and were there at the hospital when baby was born. We met her and her son just hours after he had arrived.

We connected immediately with mom. She referred to us as his parents, every medical question she deferred to us, when the time came to put a name on the birth certificate she put ours on it. She made it very clear that she wanted us at the hospital with her as much as possible and for sure through the nights. We cared for mom and baby with everything we had. It was an extremely exhausting and emotional few days. I don’t honestly know how we did it aside from GRACE. Our kids kept asking, “Does the mommy still want us to be his family?” It was a question we weren’t daring to ask ourselves.


When the time came for mom to be discharged, she signed a temporary custody agreement allowing us to take him from the hospital and she’d sign consent the next morning. We enjoyed every moment with him, wondering over his gorgeous face and sweet dimples. We were cautiously optimistic that the prayers we’d prayed were being answered the way we asked. And then one of our worst fears became a reality.

The baby was asleep on Zach’s chest late that night when my phone rang. Mom had chosen to parent and she, along with her agency counselor and the administrator were on their way to pick up the baby. When the agency arrived they asked if we’d be willing to see mom. She walked in the room sobbing and saying “I’m sorry”, I opened my arms and held her a long time. “We love you. We will always love you and pray for you both.” The pain was searing but there was beauty in it somehow. She couldn’t do it, and I can’t fault her for wanting to parent her son.

It was the gospel holding us together, plain and simple. He saved and sanctified us for that moment in time and only because of His love, we were ready.

We flew home the next morning, devastated. And when we landed in our home state we both had messages from the agency on our phones.

Another baby boy. Born the day after the first baby. And he needed a family. Were we willing?


It was unthinkable. Our hearts weren’t even over the loss that just occurred. It felt dizzying, stressful, and not even right. At first we said we thought this baby belonged to another family.

But then.

We. Said. Yes.

It wasn’t pretty. It didn’t feel right. It was stressful and awful and scary beyond belief. Adoption is risky. Adoption costs. Adoption is incredibly painful and hard. And it takes its toll in many ways.

A week later we flew back to the state we’d been with the first baby. Oddly enough it was the due date we’d been given with our first match. People close to us kept telling us how brave we were. I can tell you that I felt anything but brave! I felt like a coward but we kept moving forward, doing the next thing, signing the next paper, driving the next road. My heart was faint and I’m ashamed to admit that fear and anxiety crouched near me at every turn. If not for our friends and family we wouldn’t have been able to endure. The loved us in so many ways during that time! Even now I can’t begin to unwind how tightly their prayers and support bound us together.

Everything that followed has been a crazy series of events that we still have a hard time believing. We met another beautiful baby boy, cared for him in the Special Care Nursery (his nurses were amazing), and in less than two weeks a second baby was released from the hospital to us. It was terrifying to think he might actually be our son.


I remember a moment in time when I was reading my bible and I looked at this tiny baby still in the hospital and this thought came: You came for me, Lord. I was in desperate circumstances. No one was coming for me but YOU CAME. I was alone and had no hope but YOU CAME FOR ME. His word and His people carried us.

He was welcomed with unhindered joy by his sisters and brother and they have been cuddling, kissing and cooing every chance they get. The way they walked through this with us taught us a lot about freely loving people.

We are humbled. We are amazed. We are incredibly grateful and in awe of the great gift God has given even through the pain.

Ezekiel Benjamin is the answer to so many prayers. It’s amazing grace that God would write the story the way He did, although it didn’t feel amazing at the time! “But God, who is rich in mercy…” He strengthened us, gave us truth in His word and surrounded us with people who’ve supported us in ways we will never forget. After all, it was His love that compelled us to adopt in the first place.

“I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick.”           Ezekiel 34:16


Beautiful pictures credited to LoK Photography.

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