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.

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