Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Adoption Story: Mike and Mallory

Every time I work with a family I get a front row seat to a miracle. Watching first hand how God creates a family; but also seeing His perfect timing, brave birth families, and hopeful adoptive families stepping into unknown spaces.

I watch as couples grow their faith as well as their families. 

Mike and Mallory called me last Spring as they began their adoption journey. They were home study ready by Summer. And by the next Spring this little guy was home. Today Mallory shares what it was like to finally know it was time to take the step toward adoption and how God brought their family together.

Looking back on our adoption journey gives us so much joy in seeing how magnificent God is and how He was working through every step of the process.  

Our journey began with hesitation. We were scared of the unknowns and fearful that it wouldn't work out. But God strategically placed numerous individuals in our life who unknowingly encouraged us to take the leap of faith and pursue adoption.  

Once we started the process, we moved quickly to complete our home study only to wait to be matched. Each time we presented our profile we were hopeful that an exciting phone call would follow, only to hear 'not yet.' It was hard and it hurt. We began questioning God and why he called us to adopt. After numerous situations and what felt like an eternity, that all changed in early January when we received the call that our son's birth mom picked us. And in late April, our son was born! 

If we have learned one thing through this entire experience, it is that God has a plan for you and don't question it. Was our adoption process easy? No. But it is exactly what God had for us and we wouldn't change it for anything. 

"For I know the plans I have for you" this is the Lord's declaration.  "Plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11)

Christian Adoption Consultants have been a blessing throughout this entire process. The prayerful emails and endless resources helped us feel completely supported along the way and we can not imagine pursuing adoption without their support and guidance. 

And if you are wondering whether or not to pursue adoption, as our friends thoughtfully told us, just do it. 

Monday, June 1, 2020

Adoption Story: Drew and Becky

I often get calls from families who have started their adoption journey long before they connect with me. Sometimes they've been in the wait for awhile. Sometimes something unexpected has thrown them a curveball. Sometimes discouragement and frustration has set it. 

When Drew and Becky called me for the first time, they had already been trying to adopt for several years. God had long been working in their hearts and lives to prepare them to welcome a child; they just didn't know when. It turns out, it was just weeks later they were chosen by and expectant mother and three months after that when they held their son for the first time. 

Today Becky has graciously shared excerpts from her blog she wrote throughout their journey to their son. What a beautiful way to trace the conversations they had before they were even married about adoption all the way to their family of three today...

Posted March 7, 2017

A week or two after meeting, Drew came over to my apartment and we sat in the bed of his truck talking about anything that came to mind. One thing we discussed was our futures, separately of course! I just met him, no was way I going to put 'us' in my sentences when discussing the future!

Although we avoided using 'us' in our sentences, there was one word both of us used. A word that just flowed out of each of our mouths with no hesitation. A word that both of us said with so much passion. A word that brings joy to so many people, but can also bring confusing questions and thoughts to others.


Both Drew and I discussed how we felt called by the Lord to adopt a child. The details of gender, age, race, disabilities, etc. did not get discussed. All that was discussed was the simple fact that we both saw adoption in our futures. The details were not discussed, I believe, because we didn't understand what the Lord was doing right then and there! As our relationship grew the word adoption came up more and more. It became a part of our combined future. We knew we would go through the process, but we didn't have any idea when.

For the past three summers Drew has led a mission trip to Montgomery, AL. The trip consists of working with Common Ground Montgomery and House 2 House. These ministries work in the intercity area in a neighborhood called Washington Park. Throughout the week we are there working at the CGM summer camp with the kiddos in the neighborhood, as well as work with H2H and help fix up abandoned homes in the neighborhood.

Since Drew and I have been involved with those ministries our hearts have grown tremendously for the community, ministry leaders, residents, and especially for the kiddos in that area. I would argue, and I think Drew would agree, that the 2016 mission trip was the most eye-opening, heart changing experience.

What is interesting when I say that is from the outside it really wasn't that different from the previous years. We worked with the same kids, stayed in the same area, had a lot of the same crew with us, played the same games. But in our hearts the Lord was working in ways we didn't understand and couldn't put into words. The other interesting thing was that both Drew and I were experiencing the Lord's presence. We were both feeling this extremely strong, no way to deny it, call towards adoption. However, we were not sharing it with each other! (Communication is the number one strength in our marriage, clearly)

About a week after our 2016 trip Drew and I were sitting down for dinner and that word, adoption, came up again. This time it was different than past times. This time the word lead to research, reaching out to friends who have gone through the adoption process, and most importantly prayer. We prayed and researched for about two months. We wanted to make sure we knew what, if we started this process, we were getting into. We also wanted to make sure the agency we used had beliefs that were similar to ours.

As always, the Lord answered our prayers and made it very clear that we needed to begin this process. December 6th we were sitting in our first meeting with an agency central Florida.

And so the adventure began...

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. (1 John 5:14)

Posted January 28, 2020

It’s been a while since we have publicly updated everyone on our adoption journey. So much has happened, yet at the same time there are many days we feel we have made zero progress. Let’s start from the beginning…

In December of 2016 Drew and I began to work with a popular Christian agency and got as far as our second home study (April 2017). Due to some of the things life had thrown at us during our first years of marriage, and the short amount of time that we had been married at the time, they told us they would like us to continue to strengthen our marriage and enjoy being married before we proceeded with them.

“What does that even look like? How do you prove you have a stronger marriage? When are we going to be ‘strong enough’ to have children? Why did we get this far before being told this?”

These were just a fraction of the thousands of questions Drew and I had to wrestle through. Did we need to work on our marriage? Of course, but who doesn’t? Had we only been married a short time? Yes, but we really felt we were ready to start our family! It was extremely painful and confusing time. We counted it as a loss.

Our journey had hit a barricade head on.

When someone who doesn’t know you personally is just checking boxes on a checklist and questions your marriage you have two choices…
  1. Believe the lies they are telling you.
  2. Fight with everything you have in you to prove them absolutely 100% wrong.
Drew and I only saw one option. We had to prove them wrong. Whoever “they” were. The next two years we spent working on us. We were intentional in learning how to communicate better. We went to counseling and worked through an amazing book about how to “argue” (if you haven’t read Created for Connection it is worth every penny). I know, it sounds ridiculous, how to “argue”, but it has been transformational in our marriage. We established a routine for our week, making each week look as similar as possible, so we are on the same page. Finally, we decided that we refuse to give up us time to please someone else and their agenda.

So, did we get stronger even when we thought we were fine? You bet your butt. Looking back, being told our marriage wasn’t “strong enough” based on a checklist was the BEST thing that ever happened to our marriage.

January 2019, we decide to give this adoption thing another try. We had a personal connection to a local Christian agency and decided to partner with them. We were back on our journey to growing our family. August 2019 we finalized our home studies and in September of 2019 we received our “Congratulations, you’re officially a waiting family” letter. I’m not sure there was a much more glorious day than the day we ripped open that letter. This letter meant that our profile that is created to show birth mothers all about us, our home, our families, our neighborhood, our dreams, etc. was actually going to be shown! We could be chosen any day, week or month. Our agency estimated 12ish months of waiting time. The light was at the end of the tunnel, we could see it!

November 22, 2019 we received an e-mail from the agency we were partnered with. The e-mail simply stated that they were closing their doors. They were no longer able to fund the adoption portion of the agency and were going to continue as just a pregnancy center. That was it. They were done. And our journey once again hit a huge barricade head on.

The agency that closed offered to transfer our file to another agency located in Alabama, but they don’t have a Florida presence. They told us we could wait 4-6 years for a child. In the adoption world that doesn’t just mean 1,460-2,190 days of waiting patiently for a phone call. That means every year that passes results in redoing a ton of paperwork, fingerprints, background checks, physicals, drug tests, blood tests, etc. That means every year that passes is more funds going out the door. Is that something we wanted to sign up for? (Also, we would be 34-36 and 39-41 with a newborn…in other words, looking like grandparents at the kindergarten parent/teacher night.) There were other factors involved in the transfer that Drew and I didn’t feel comfortable with.
  ”What on earth is our next step?”“How do we get the courage to take the next step?”“When is our family ever going to grow?”“Why is this something we feel called to, yet seems impossible?”

Another list of a thousand questions was formed through conversations with Drew. And the answer to all of them is…We. Don’t. Know.

Here’s what we do know. We know that the Lord has a plan for our lives and our marriage. We know that the Lord is the central part of our marriage. We know that the Lord is doing a great work, even today. We know that there are many people praying for us and our little child. But, we also know that the head knowledge of those things does not make the heart hurt any less.

I don’t write this to receive condolences. I simply write to make people aware. When we began this adoption journey, we had no idea how much heartbreak would be involved. We knew some would be involved but never imagined two losses would be a part of our story. Maybe we were ridiculously na├»ve. Some may say, “I told you so.” And you’re right, you did. And we listened to your concerns and guidance but, that doesn’t change the desire in our hearts to have adoption be a part of our family story and make up. We feel strongly that the Lord has called us to take in a child as our own, as He did with Drew and I (Eph. 1:5).

So here we are. Basically, we are on I-4 (for you Florida people), without Waze, struggling to find our way due to the many barricades. It’s frustrating, but only a matter of time before we get on the right route to growing our family.

He predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.  (Ephesians 1:5)

Posted May 11, 2020

What. A. Whirlwind. 

The secret is finally out!!! Drew and I are parents to a sweet little bundle of joy, Jaylen Lee. To say we are thrilled is an understatement. But man, we are just so excited that we FINALLY got to shout from the rooftops and share our news with everyone! 

So how did this all happen...

In January, after my previous post explaining that we were basically at another dead end in our adoption journey, I made it my full time job to figure out how we are to get back on the right path and continue to move forward towards growing our family. With our previous agency closing we had to find someone, anyone, who would accept our approved homestudy and not make us start the journey all over again. We met with a local attorney who pointed us toward Christian Adoption Consultants. On February 6th, CAC and an adoption agency graciously added us to their "waiting family" list right away. It was a dream come true. We had never made it this far in our journey! 

February 10th, just a couple of days after becoming a waiting family we were informed that there was an expectant mother ready to look at profile books and choose the parents to raise the child she was carrying. Profile books are basically resumes for your family. They have a ton of pictures and descriptions of your values as a family, your neighborhood, your family and friends, etc. We sent our book to this mother and prayed and prayed and prayed. We were informed that we were not chosen, and we were completely at peace with this. We were just thrilled we got shown, someone knew we were waiting to grow our family. Remember...this was the furthest we had ever made it in this journey. 

February 20th we find out there is another expectant mother ready to make one of the biggest decisions of her life. We sent in our profile book and prayed and prayed and prayed.

February 24th as I was in the car with my sister and my niece, and the agency called me to inform me that we were going to be parents! This beautiful, loving, selfless mother carrying a beautifully created baby boy that was due May 7th, had chosen us to raise her son. The call Drew and I had waited years to hear finally came. So after pulling it together, my sister drove me to church to inform my husband that he was going to be a daddy. (Side note: this church building is where we met, got engaged, got married, and now found out we were going to be parents...I see you God!) 

Drew and I started calling family and dear friends who have walked this journey with us and shared our exciting news with them! Telling our parents and siblings that we were going to be parents was incredible! But, we still had one more hurdle to jump over...

When you adopt a newborn nothing is finalized until the birth mother signs the paperwork at discharge in the hospital. So as you celebrate the fact that you have been chosen as a parent and secretly set up a nursery, there is always the fear that the birth mother is going to change her mind. Talk about an emotional roller coaster. Daily, Drew and I would go through the emotions of "OH MY GOSH! We are going to be parents!" and "This is never going to happen, she's going to change her mind." Daily. For three months. If I ever snapped, seemed clueless, was camped out in La La land, or all of the above...I apologize. Blame the roller coaster.

Because of this huge factor with newborn adoption, we chose to keep it close to the vest just in case she did decide to change her mind. People lovingly asked us, "How's the adoption journey?" and "What's your status?" and we had to lie, kind of, by saying we were still waiting, and we're sorry! The lies were just to protect us emotionally. Had momma changed her mind and chose to parent, we would have celebrated that for her, but we would have been mourning the loss of a child and we didn't want everyone to feel that loss if it wasn't necessary. 

Back to the timeline...

On May 7th at 8:31am this precious little boy, Jaylen Lee was delivered. Due to COVID-19 we were unable to be at the hospital for the delivery. Nothing was official yet, we were just prospective adoptive parents... So we anxiously waited at home on May 7th and 8th and filled our very empty schedules with anything and everything we possibly could. Thank you to each person who helped us fill our schedule, whether you knew what was going on or not. You saved our sanity and my waistline because I am a major stress eater.

May 9th at 11:30am we got a text message from our agency asking us to meet at the hospital at 1pm. It. Was. Go. Time. So we grabbed Nana and Pops, called Grammy and Papa to tell them to get on the road, and off we went to the hospital to meet our baby boy and his strong and courageous birth mother.

And that is how Drew and I became parents to the most perfect, precious, handsome little boy, Jaylen Lee!

You can read more of Drew and Becky's story, originally found on Becky's blog, The Taylor Made Life.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Adoption Story: Ricky and SarahEllen

It seems fitting that Ricky and SarahEllen began their adoption journey with Christian Adoption Consultants on Valentine's Day last year. They dove into their paperwork and were home study approved days before July 4th. Three weeks later they were chosen by an expectant mom. Then, just before Thanksgiving, their daughter was born. And the years of anticipating becoming a family, the holidays spent grieving losses suddenly became a celebration that God writes the best stories.

Before we were even married, we knew we wanted to have children. Less than a year after our wedding, we decided we were ready and after three months of trying, we found out we were pregnant after a trip to Canada. We were so excited and filled with joy but sadly, just a month later, I had a miscarriage. We were told the standard: it happens and particularly with a first pregnancy. But that loss was followed by three chemical pregnancies until we were finally referred to the reproductive clinic a year later. We were praying the whole time for God to give us a child; we knew ultimately it was His timing. We had three rounds of IUI and the third resulted in another chemical pregnancy exactly a year after we had lost our first baby. My husband and I took a break before deciding to try IVF in January when we were yet pregnant again in November. But just before Christmas, we found out there was no heartbeat and the pregnancy turned out to be a partial molar pregnancy.  
We had about given up all hope, when God told me one day to Google "adoption." We had looked into adoption before and heard all the standard myths about how a relationship with the birth family was like co-parenting or worse, wanting their child back later-on.  We continued to pray when a co-worker, who was in the adoption process, told me they had worked with Christian Adoption Consultants. In February, we sent CAC a message and got connected with Susan. That officially began our adoption journey.  

God taught us through the home study process that adoption was not at all what we thought. Not only was it a beautiful thing for babies to know their birth parents, but it can be a great way to embrace the child’s identity. We learned so much through our social worker and the training courses we took. We also changed our hearts about how we saw a birth family; eventually we decided we wanted to be open to being matched with a birth family who needed love and may not be in the best situation.  

Our home study went smoothly and after we returned from an anniversary trip in June to Ireland, we found out we were finally home study approved. We began mailing profiles and applications to several different agencies in various states with help from Christian Adoption Consultants.  Less than a month later on July 16th, we received an email about a mom expecting a baby girl due in December. Our hearts fluttered and we just had this amazing feeling about this expectant mom and situation. This was just the second situation emailed to us and would be the first expectant mom we would present to. We didn’t know much about her past, or the baby, but we felt God was telling us this was her. We deiced to present and less than two hours of the agency presenting our profile on the 18th, they called to tell us she picked us without even getting halfway through our book! She had that same feeling about us that we did about her. We spoke on the phone and it was instant love for this expectant mom; tears, fear, hope, love, and so much more were expressed in just a five minute conversation.  

We met the expectant mom for the first time in August. We met with a hug and although the next few minutes were awkward, within an hour we felt like we had known each other for years. We saw the baby we hoped would be our daughter on a 3D ultrasound for the first time. We were still nervous knowing the expectant mom could change her mind at any time, but we were hopeful. The visit lasted longer than we all anticipated; we kept talking and were enjoying each other’s company. After that trip, we received phone calls and updates from the agency until we visited again in October. The second visit was even better than the first; we had such a connection with the expectant mom and she even allowed me to feel the baby move. Looking back I think God knew we needed her and that she needed us. The love for her we had already, even with the possibility she could change her mind, was amazing.  
Less than a month later (and a full month before her due date), we got the call she was in labor. We packed up our animals to drop off at the in-laws and headed to Florida from West Virginia. We drove through the night and arrived five hours after our daughter was born on November 18th. The birth mom wanted us to be the first to hold our daughter and we named her Rosaline. It was love at first sight. We visited her and the birth mom frequently in the hospital and had a two-week NICU stay with our daughter. We were released the day after Thanksgiving and made it home on December 1st - there was much to be thankful for!
We share an open adoption with Rosaline's birth mom. We text back and forth every few days, sending pictures and updates. Phone calls and pictures have also been sent through our adoption agency and we plan to visit her soon. We pray for her and thank God for her sacrifice every day. Our love for Rosaline's birth mom is so great; she allowed us to be parents to a living child and words cannot describe how grateful we are for her selfless sacrifice to give Rosaline a life she was not able to provide. 

We finalized Rosaline’s adoption on April 29th, less than 6 months after she was born. God taught us that we were meant to be parents, just not in the way we had originally planned. Rosaline didn’t grow under my heart, but in it and we love her regardless of DNA. She is our joy and our life; our precious gift from a woman who put her child first.  God is good.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Adoption Story: Emma

As an adoption consultant, I get a lot of questions about what makes the "perfect" adoptive family: questions around age, family make-up, even income. Are we too old? What if we have too many kids? We live in such a modest house...on and on the concerns can mount before you even start.

But what about a single woman wanting to become a mother? 

In over a decade working in adoption, I've found over and over again there's no perfect adoptive family. The misconceptions and myths we believe about adoption are just that, misconceptions. Expectant and birth families are looking for someone they pray will love their baby as much as they do. And they have unique ideas about the ideal family, just like everyone dreams of.

So I knew the first time I talked with Emma, I could confidently tell her that if God had called her to motherhood, there was an expectant family out there who would think she was the perfect mama for their baby. Today Emma shares her story: her fears, her wait, and her answers to the prayers she had been praying for years...

Like many who have gone through the adoption process, my story is one of waiting. But mine is a less traditional story of waiting. I was never that interested in marriage, but I always knew I wanted to be a mom. However, I thought I should be married, so I waited.  I waited for the right person to come along. Once I got into my late-30’s, my desire to become a mom was growing with each passing year.  I had discounted adoption as an option; after all who would pick a single woman when there were so many wonderful two-parent families to pick from? So I decided to get some fertility testing, and was told by my doctor I needed to move forward with aggressive fertility treatments almost immediately if I wanted to become a mom. It was a whirlwind; I didn’t feel comfortable with the course of treatment, but I thought I didn’t have any other options. I felt called towards adoption, but I ignored the desire God put in my heart and went with the doctor’s recommendation.

The fertility treatments were also full of waiting, and in the end none were successful. So a few years later I was back to square one, and I still felt strongly called towards adoption. This time, I decided to listen to the desire that God put in my heart. I investigated the possibility of adoption which led me to Susan and Christian Adoption Consultants. Susan was wonderful; she reassured me that she had worked with single moms in the past and she was confident that I could become a mom through adoption, but she never made me feel pressured. It was the opposite experience I had had with the fertility doctors I had worked with, and it was all I needed to sign with CAC in September of 2018.

Initially there was a rush of things to do, but then I had more waiting. The wait was challenging, and I presented many times with answer always being “not yet.” Then in July of 2019, an expectant momma picked me! This expectant momma didn’t mind that I was single, and she later told me the fact I was single was a positive for her rather than a negative.

However, even with a match, I had a five month wait for this baby to be born. Those five long months were exciting, joyous, and anxiety producing. But in December 2019, my son was born - I was finally a mom. I got the amazing privilege of deciding on a name together with his birth momma, and then getting to know her better. 

In the end, all of the waiting was worth it. Watching my son grow and learn every day is such a joy.  Every moment of waiting was worth it for him.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Adoption Story: Kevin and Caylee

What happens when all of your best laid plans come crashing down around you? When the dreams you had for your family seem to be unreachable and impossible? Caylee has been there; weeping at the dreams lost and feeling like their plans for a family were hopeless. Today she graciously shares the story of how two became three, how none of it happened the way she anticipated, and how it was better than they could have ever imagined.

It was December 31, 2018, I was laying in bed with a pillow soaked with tears, asking God why He was allowing my life to be this way. Two weeks prior we had lost our second baby in a very unexpected second trimester miscarriage. In 2018, we lost two babies within a five month period, in two completely different ways. I was sobbing a talking to God when He clearly told me that our next baby would not come from my womb. I would love to tell you that I stopped right there and surrendered it all to Him, but that is not what happened. We were waist deep in the middle of IVF; we started the IVF process the beginning of 2018 with three beautiful healthy embryos, and two of them were in the arms of Jesus. In my mind, we couldn’t turn back, we had to complete the path we were on. With one embryo left my “plan” was to move forward as soon as my body was healed.  
We started preparing my body for our third embryo transfer in April, and our transfer date was set for June 24, 2019. Everything was going according to “plan” until the end of May, when one of my lab test came back abnormal, and it was going to postpone our transfer date three more months.  Devastation, anger, and hurt consumed me for about a week. Around the first of June that year, I was reminded of what God had spoken to my heart on December 31, 2018. Kevin and I had talked about adoption many times over the years, but we always thought the timing wasn’t right. That afternoon I emailed Susan with Christian Adoption Consultants to set up a time to talk the following Monday. We prayed and prayed over the weekend, asking God for guidance on this very new and scary road.  
On June 24, 2019, the very same day we had anticipated transferring our last embryo, we said a very scared “yes” to adoption. It's crazy to look back and see how He already told us something special and exciting would happen on that day, but it wasn’t at all what we thought or planned. We became an active waiting family on July 26, 2019 and our daughter was in our arms November 26, 2019, exactly 4 months later. 
Even though our adoption process was quick, it wasn’t without fear, doubt, and anxiety. Some days we would have three to four situations a day and other days we would see none. I will never forget the day our daughters expectant mom’s situation popped up on my email on a Friday afternoon. I read it sitting at my desk at work with tears in my eyes and knew immediately I wanted her to see our profile. Kevin and I talked and prayed about her all weekend, and on that Monday we told the agency we wanted to be shown. On September 10, 2019, we got “the call” saying that we had been chosen.  There were no dry eyes on either end of the phone. Such a special and sacred moment that we will never forget.  

The next two and a half months were spent getting preparing for the baby and loving and getting to know our daughter's birth mother. We will always cherish the time we spent with her and the conversations that we had. The first time we met her we feel like we instantly became connected; like family. Just like parenthood, adoption doesn’t come with an instruction manual. We formed a beautiful relationship with such a kind and selfless women and mother in a very short amount of time. On November 26, 2019 at 9:03am I witnessed our daughter, Ayla Grace, be born into this world. It was a beautiful and heavy moment that I will cherish forever. We had so many sacred moments in that labor and delivery room and in the halls of the very crowded hospital.   
Adoption is beautiful, and I am so thankful that I became a mother through adoption. We couldn’t imagine our life with anyone other than her, but that doesn’t mean her story doesn’t come without heartache and pain. Ayla’s birth mother had to make the hardest decision of her life to give us the title of mommy and daddy; a title we wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s all a lot. It’s heavy. It’s adoption.  It’s beauty born from brokenness. 

We thank Jesus for every twist and turn on our wild ride to become parents; we thank Him every single day for wrecking our best laid plans to fulfill our wildest dreams. 
Adoption stretches you; it stretches you far outside of your comfort zone, but it's there where we found our deep relationship with our Heavenly Father. I’m so thankful for the years of waiting, and the trash can full of one line pregnancy tests, because it led us to our sweet Ayla. A life without her is one we never want to know. If you are in the midst of infertility or adoption, don’t lose hope, God writes the best stories.    

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Adoption Story: Cary and Crystal

I remember the first time I met with Cary and Crystal. We were sitting across from each other in a Panera and they were excited about starting their adoption journey. Just like other hopeful adoptive parents, they had their share of fears about adoption along with their excitement. Will we ever be chosen? Will our age impact our ability to adopt? Will this ever happen for us?

I was immediately impressed with Cary and Crystal's love for each other and their passion for becoming parents. And through the time they were with Christian Adoption Consultants, I saw over and over how dedicated they were to making it happen. These pictures and their story was an answer to prayers ten years in the making...

Cary and I have had adoption in our hearts for about ten years. After the death of a child, two failed adoptions, and a three year process, our beautiful Juniper Anne came to us in January of 2020.

Cary and I got married later in life, at 40 and 45 (it was a first marriage for us both). Cary had never had any children, and I had a son when I was young, as a single mom. We tried to conceive early in our marriage, but were unable at that point. We knew we wanted a child, and we knew adoption was for us. Just a year after we married, my son tragically and suddenly passed away. We had to put our adoption dream on hold while we grieved this life-altering loss.

Fast forward 10 years, and we are now holding a precious and healthy baby girl. Our hearts are so full... I’m in tears writing this. We may be older parents now, but we are full of love and dreams and passion for this miracle in our arms.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Not Your Typical Baby Shower: How to Prepare & Celebrate Well in Adoption

As with the birth of any child, there is much to celebrate in adoption! Any time a baby joins a family, we should celebrate new life and rally around the new parents with our support and excitement. Getting ready to welcome a child often comes with a lot of anticipation and joy as you prepare your home and share your news and plans with others.

But what if your child is joining your family through adoption? Should your preparations and celebrations look different? The short answer? Absolutely.

Parenting through adoption is no less special or important than becoming a parent through pregnancy. But becoming a parent through adoption is different than becoming a parent biologically. It's important not to erase these differences, but to acknowledge them and their impact on the choices you make. There are unique aspects to adoption that are critical to consider as you prepare:
  • Adoption includes a birth family; there are other people involved to acknowledge and consider as you plan and prepare for a baby to join your family.
  • Adoption involves loss; brokenness is at the beginning of adoption when a birth family, for whatever reason, decides they want another couple to raise their child.
  • Adoption is about finding families for babies, not babies for families; this can shift our perspective and the choices we make throughout the process.
  • Adoption is not final until consents are signed and finalized by a judge; this should impact plans, preparations, and heart postures.

In light of these important differences, here are some practical ways to honor the unique aspects of adoption while you prepare and celebrate:

Adoption Announcements
Like any parents, hopeful adoptive parents are eager to share the news of their growing family. This is a great way to not only update friends and family, but also include others in your journey. (I love these creative ways families I've worked with have announced their adoptions found here and here.) It's important to note that once you share your adoption plans, for many of your friends and family you will become an unofficial "adoption educator." In this new role, you have an incredible opportunity and responsibility to advocate for adoption; ensuring you use positive adoption language and extending grace as others learn about the process alongside you.

Match Announcements
An important step in the adoption journey is when a couple is officially "matched" with an expectant family. Most people prefer the term "chosen" since the expectant family has carefully chosen the hopeful adoptive family to parent their baby. When sharing the news that you've been chosen, it's important to communicate in a way that's open-handed and clear that adoption is the plan, but nothing is final until after the baby is born and necessary paperwork has been completed. This is also a great time to think of protecting the child's story. Very often, adoptive families regret all they shared at this stage and wish they had not disclosed private details, even to close friends and family. Remembering to guard the child and the expectant/birth family's story is critical, even in the beginning.

Gender Reveal
It's a current trend for couples to have some kind of a gender reveal party where they announce if they're expecting a boy or a girl. But as I've noted, adoption is not final until all paperwork has been signed. A gender reveal party easily communicates a finality and surety to the adoption plan that simply isn't the case prior to birth. 

Preparing Older Siblings
Just like anyone preparing for a new a baby to arrive, preparing your children for the arrival of a baby brother or sister is an important step for families. But talking about the complexities of adoption can be challenging, especially with little hearts trying to make sense of hard topics. One easy way to do this is to focus on the idea of preparing your home for a baby in case another family needs help. When the language shifts from a specific baby and timeframe to being ready in case there's a baby that needs a family, it can help communicate your family's desire to help a child versus find a child.

Setting up the Nursery
To prepare for your home study, most often the room for the baby doesn't have to be ready (and let's be honest; for most families the baby sleeps in the parents' room in a bassinet for the first few months anyway!). When couples ask me if there's a "right time" to set up the nursery, I always tell them to do what feels right for them. For some couples, the thought of walking by an empty nursery while waiting for a baby to arrive feels painful. But for others, the tasks of painting a baby's room, setting up a crib, and finding the coziest rocker is a practical way to prepare and dream of the child they will one day be caring for in that room. Just like couples who attend prenatal appointments and birth classes, setting up a nursery can be a way of getting ready for the birth of a baby. It's also wise to decorate in neutral tones to prepare for a boy or a girl.

Birth Announcements
In an age where it's easy to give updates within minutes, we see new parents posting news of a baby's birth within hours. There is a special sacredness to adoption and those first days and hours when a baby is born. Very often, this is a time when the mother (and possibly the father and their friends and family) have to spend with the baby. It's often full of immense emotions and critical for the hopeful adoptive family to take the birth family's lead as to what they want the hospital experience to look like. In light of this, it's wise to wait to share any news or pictures of the baby publicly until consents have been signed. Instead, focus your time in the hospital loving the birth family well; giving them the time and space they need.

Baby Showers
Every mother (or couple!) deserves a party celebrating the arrival of a new baby and adoption is no exception. The question for adoptive families is more about timing; when to have a baby shower. Sometimes the easiest way to celebrate with a baby shower is after the baby has been placed with the adoptive family (after consents are signed). Setting up a gender neutral registry of necessities while waiting for placement can also be helpful. Many families find that a baby shower after the baby has been home for several weeks is a great way to celebrate. They often have a better sense of what they need and it's a sweet time to have family and friends meet the new addition.

Finalization Day 
Many couples take the opportunity to celebrate the day the adoption is finalized in the courts and often mark that as a special anniversary yearly in their family. Some families also call this "Family  Day" or "Adoption Day" (the phrase "Gotcha Day" has historically been used but generally has a negative connotation now since it can imply some kind of ownership.) This can be bittersweet, especially for the child as it not only marks a celebration of a new family, but also the separation from the birth family. Using sensitivity, especially as the child grows, to their feelings around this day will be helpful as you navigate how to/if you will mark this occasion in your family.

Clearly there's much to celebrate and consider when adopting a child. Here's some final questions that might be helpful to ask as you think about how to honor adoption and the entire adoption triad (adoptee, adoptive parents, and birth parents) when it comes to preparations and celebrations:
  • Does this honor the expectant/birth family?
  • Does this put unnecessary pressure or expectation on an expectant family?
  • Does this acknowledge the plan of adoption (vs. assuming something is sure)?
  • Does this feel too premature: could we put this off until later when the time might be more fitting?
  • Does this consider protecting the child's story that is theirs alone to tell?

Before a baby is placed with you, your focus and top priority should be on educating yourself, preparing for parenthood, and taking every opportunity to love the expectant and birth family well. There will be years to celebrate your child and the joys of parenting. Waiting a few short months to celebrate well and at the right time is a beautiful way to honor your child, their birth family, and the choice you've made to grow your family through adoption.

In the end, that kind of preparation and celebration is worth it.

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