Monday, September 30, 2013

Congratulations Sam and Lesly

This sweet girl will have an amazing story to tell someday about her life. I'll leave all of the details and miracles for her and her family to share in their time, but for now, I can tell you the beginning...

Sam and Lesly began working with me in March of this year. Throughout the summer they were presented several different times to several different birth moms, but none seemed to be the perfect match. In mid-July, I sent them the story of a young birth mama in need of an adoptive family. (To be honest, it's the kind of story I won't forget.) When I emailed Lesly that day, I admitted that I knew some of the logistics might not be a fit for them, but I felt strongly that I was supposed to let them know about this birth mother. With the details being a real issue, Sam and Lesly decided not to be presented but committed to praying for this sweet birth mama and her baby.

Several weeks went by and I got an email from the agency that the same birth mama was still in need of a family. Still feeling strongly that this might be Sam and Lesly's baby and knowing that they had been praying, I emailed Lesly again. This time, she called me within minutes.

"Susan, we've been praying for this birth mama and her little one since you emailed us the first time. Sam feels like this is our daughter. We're in!"  Lesly shared that they hadn't been able to think of much else the past several weeks. 

This time, logistics took a back seat, and they moved forward with confidence and faith that God was doing something bigger than their finances or their fears.

And he was doing something amazing.

In the coming days Sam and Lesly were chosen by this birth mama and developed a beautiful relationship with her. They have been able to offer her hope, encouragement, and healing. 

And last week, their precious daughter was born.

I've loved getting pictures, calls, and text updates from Lesly who is reveling in the goodness of God that this is their story.

And it's just the beginning of the story for their daughter. The beautiful girl with soft brown curls and big brown eyes who will someday hear how she came to be in her forever family. About her birth mother who lived a tremendous amount of life in a few short years and is a picture of strength, courage, and determination. About her parents who were chosen before they even knew of her to be her mommy and daddy. 

And about a God who sovereignly put all of the pieces together to create a beautiful picture of hope and redemption.  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Isabelle and Jillian's Birthday Art Expo

This year, Isabelle and her bestie, Jillian, decided to do a joint birthday party since their birthdays are 3 days apart. Since they are smitten with the American Girl, Saige and all things art, we decided to throw them their own Birthday Art Expo in honor of turning 8. 
I'm honestly not sure who had more fun, the girls at the party or the mamas in planning it. God bless Pinterest and Gretchen for her spiritual gift of party planning.

The main event of the art expo was an art class. In the movie, Saige's grandmother, Mimi, is an artist and teaches her to paint. We were blessed to have Jillian's Mimi, an artist, come and teach the girls to paint on canvas. They soaked it up AND there were no tears. Win.

The menu? Art pallet cookies (the paint being M&Ms), rainbow fruit cabobs, pretzel "paint brushes" (dipped in colored chocolate), and Saige's "balloons"; Babybel and sharp cheddar cheese.

The girls even designed their cake with their own artwork!

The girls brought their American Girl dolls (yes, there's Jack's pirate Lalaloopsy Doll in there too). The dolls had a tea party while the girls partied.

We set up a hot air balloon photo booth where we took all the girls pics individually that they were able to go home with. Along with their favor of a paint can filled with mini paints and other art supplies. One of the girls sweet friends designed and made each of the girls a "genuine" Saige outfit. There was much celebration (jumping and squealing) when they opened that gift.

In the end we created some artwork, ate yummy snacks, and made lots of sweet memories.

Also, I have no idea how we're topping it next year.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


This was my hash tag last weekend.

Last week was insanity. A consignment sale I prepped for. Two of my adoptive families matched with birth families. Two of my adoptive families had babies. One family visiting their birth mama for the first time. And a weekend full of fun chaos.

We celebrated birthdays over the weekend. Isabelle and her BFF, Jillian were turning 8. And Jillian's mama (my BFF) was celebrating a birthday too (a few more than 8). So our families decided to celebrate with a birthday weekend extravaganza.

It began with Gretchen and I picking up the girls from school for a surprise trip to the American Girl store. Both of them have been dreaming and wishing for Saige, and when we pulled into the parking lot, there was MUCH celebration (the screaming and shrieking kind). We had a personal shopper at American Girl who helped the girls pick out their dolls, had them try on Saige's outfits, and tour the store.

After shopping, both families loaded the mini vans and drove to Lawrence.  Gretchen and I had plans to run the Color Run the next morning. We spent the evening wrangling all six of the kids for dinner and swimming at the hotel.

The next morning, G and I got up at the break of dawn to run with thousands of KU students in the Color Run. Best. 5K. Ever. (And I should know now that I've run TWO.)

It really does live up to it's name: The Happiest 5K on the Planet. The Color Run is 5K meets dance party meets rainbows and unicorns. (Literally - the mascot is a unicorn). The rules are you wear white the the startling line and finish plastered in color. Afterwards there's a huge finish festival with more color. The kids loved it and you should have seen our no-longer-white bathrooms back at the hotel afterwards making attempts to clean up.

Did I mention we wore fun socks?

We topped off the weekend craziness with lunch at the local brewery, a trip to the Natural History Museum, and a birthday Art Expo birthday party for Isabelle and Jillian on Sunday (which deserves an entire blog of it's own).

The adults decided we really are good friends since we all still liked each other after all of the togetherness.  And the kids act more like siblings than friends anyway.

Overall, it was a huge win for the #birthdayweekendextravaganza. And this week, I sleep.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Celebrating 8

This morning (just after midnight) marks 8 years of Isabelle's life.

8 years of her giggles.

8 years of her spunk.

8 years of crazy questions (see below).

And several years of witty sarcasm (thank you, Daddy).

We've had a week long of celebrations. A trip to the American Girl store and an Art Expo party with her BFF (more on the blog later). This morning she leapt out of bed, onto her balloon strewn floor, singing, "It's my birthdaaaaaay!" I got a little teary as we sang to her over her requested pink sprinkle pancakes with a candle.

It's been such an honor being this girls mama. It's been crazy and tiring and joy-filled and challenging and wonderful. We're far away from sleepless nights and potty training, but we're into the hard conversations, homework, and the d-r-a-m-a.

This week Isabelle started gymnastics. As I watched her on her first time on the beam, I noticed she no longer had the chubby little legs with rolls. She's now long and lean. And graceful. She's slowly growing up and if I'm honest it scares me. Do I have what it takes to be her mom? To shepherd her heart? To teach her all it means to be a woman in this world? To share the gospel with her so that she'll know what a treasure it is?

I'm thankful I don't have to be enough for my daughter. That in the midst of my trying to be all I can for her that Jesus is enough. 

That is my prayer for Isabelle. That Jesus will be enough for her at 8. And 18. And 80.

Happy Birthday, Bella. You're my favorite girl.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Congratulations Sam and Sophia

Sam and Sophia began the journey to grow their family almost two years ago. It was born in their hearts early on to adopt and they began the process for international adoption. But this spring, it looked like God was rerouting them to domestic adoption. After much prayer and consideration, they called me in June. I remember surprising Sophia when I told her how quickly the process could move. It took a few weeks for Sam and Sophia to change course in their adoption plans and begin a different path than they had planned.

But the whole time, God knew what he was doing. And his timing was perfect.

Sam and Sophia began with Christian Adoption Consultants in July and in 2 months, were matched with a birth family. Just days later, they were hopping a flight to be there for delivery.

Last week Sam and Sophia became a family of three and added this sweet girl to their family.

Of course, just like every family's story, there is much that happened in the in between. In the waiting, the praying, the dreaming, and the hoping. Their daughter's story is a good one.

It's a story of answered prayers.

Of courage displayed.

Of hopes fulfilled.

Of worthwhile waiting.

And God's great redemption story on display.

Congrats Sam and Sophia. It's been a joy to pray and wait with you. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Congratulations Jamie and Sarah

Jamie and Sarah's story to get to their sweet baby girl has been a good one. A hard one. A long one. And one with God's fingerprints all over it.

I often have the conversation with my families who tell me adoption has one of the greatest impacts on their faith than anything else they've been through in life. For Jamie and Sarah it was no different.

When they began this journey about a year ago, none of us could have anticipated the hard decisions they would face in the midst of waiting on God to grow their family through adoption. In the midst of it, there was never a "no" in their hearts.

Their full and complete "yes" was always on the table for God to do with what he wanted.

Yes - we will step into the unknown.

Yes - we will take the risks involved.

Yes - we will love without reservation when we don't know the outcome.

God answered their "yes" in powerful ways throughout their entire adoption journey. And two days ago, their daughter was born.

Her name means "God has answered."  Sarah explained to me today: 
When we asked the Lord whether this is what he had called us to, he has answered.
When we asked him for help, he answered.
When we asked for clarity and discernment, he answered.
Not because he said yes, but because he is enough.
And he answered that he will always be enough for her.

It's been an honor to walk with this family. To watch as they waited for God's perfect timing. To pray with them as they agonized through tough decisions. To listen as they taught their boys the beauty of adoption. To admire the way they honored their birth mama.

And especially to celebrate the birth of their daughter with them.

I'm thankful God can take our small "yeses" and do miracles like this with them.

And I'm so thankful he always answers.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Rerun: My Heroes

Today I'm rerunning a post from last summer in honor of several of my families meeting their sweet birth mamas and little ones for the first time this week. And I'm reminded who some of the real heroes in adoption are...

Every so often I sleep with my phone. When I know one of my birth mama’s due dates is approaching or we get news at her last prenatal appointment that “it’s almost time.” So my phone is on my bedside table at night. 

The call usually comes at a less than perfect time like when I’m poolside with the family, in the middle of the night, or during the busiest work week. (Actually, once it came during a dinner party gone horribly wrong for which I’ll be forever grateful.) 

And I rush to pick her up or meet her at the hospital; breathing heavy, eyes going a little wild with the pain, and struggling to make sense of the beginning of the now imminent goodbye.

And so we labor together. I coach. She breathes deeply. I encourage. She groans. I pray. She rests. 

And I watch in awe as a woman labors to give birth to a gift she knows she won’t keep.   

At this point I’ve usually walked with her for months. We’ve chatted for hours over coffee or tea. We’ve talked to doctors. We've talked about adoption and life and hurts and relationships.  We’ve found an adoptive couple.  One that fits her mold of a “perfect family.” At least one she believes will be the perfect fit for her. She’s become a friend and I’ve come to love her. 

I love her bravery and strength. I love that she’s been through so much and still smiles. I love how she loves. She loves her baby so much that she recognizes she can’t give him what she so desperately wants him to have. 

And so I watch her smile as she pulls her baby to her chest and meets him for the first time. I watch the adoptive mother stand in awe at the miracle she just witnessed and the miracle that will be the beginning of her child’s story. He was soon passed from one mother to another. And in that moment his love was doubled. All because this amazing woman made a choice for life.

As I watched this story unfold again; it always shocks me how beautiful and messy and hard and wonderful adoption is. We chatted today; just days after watching this picture of sacrifice. She was crying. But she explained they were happy tears as she thought of her son and everything she had been through and how she had written him the beginning of a very good story.  

And I was reminded why these women are my heroes.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

5 Myths of Open Adoption

I've found there is an air of mystery surrounding open adoption and a lot of questions from my adoptive families first beginning to contemplate adoption and what will be a good fit for them.

What will our relationship with the birth family look like in the years to come?

What kind of contact will we with have with the birth mother?

Will the birth father overstep his role?

Is openness even good or healthy for our child?

For adoptive families, it's critical to wrestle with these questions early on in the adoption process and understand the benefits and challenges to open adoption.

Openness in adoption describes the relationship between the adoptive family and birth family. Years ago, closed adoption was the only option. Pregnancy outside of marriage was looked at much differently and a woman was expected to make a secretive adoption plan. A closed adoption ensured she wouldn't shame herself and her family and allowed the adoptive family to avoid admitting publicly that they had fertility issues.

Closed adoptions led to a lot of problems. Children who didn't know their stories. Birth families who had no idea if their children were loved and well cared for. Adoptive families left with gaping holes in their child's medical history. 

Now we know that some level of openness benefits everyone involved in the adoption triad (the adopted child, the birth parents, and the adoptive parents). But there are still many popular myths that are still believed, even after the research has shown how positive openness can be. Many of these myths come from the media that exploit the rare negative experiences or Lifetime movie dramas. 

So today we're busting the myths about open adoption. Here are the top 5 I hear often:

1.   Open adoption is co-parenting  
Some people assume that with open adoption comes co-parenting with the birth family: sharing parental responsibilities and decisions and even custody or time. When an adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents become the legal parents of the child. A new birth certificate is issued with their names listed as parents. That means that all of the decisions, custody, and rights lie solely with the adoptive parents, even if the birth family disagrees with these decisions. A better way to look at open adoption is co-loving the child rather than co-parenting.  

2.   Having an open relationship with the birth family is risky since they might change their mind and decide to parent
Not only is a new birth certificate issued at the time of finalization, but at that time the adoption is also irrevocable. This means that when the birth parents make an adoption plan, sign consent forms, and the adoption is finalized by a judge, it is final; the child is forever a part of that family. This is one reason it's critical to have adoption professionals (like a consultant, agency, and attorney) who know what they're doing walk beside you to ensure all of the necessary legal steps are taken. Once an adoption is finalized, even if a birth parent changes their mind, the adoption can not be overturned.

3.   In open adoption, birth parents regret their decision
The assumption is that if a birth parent sees their child growing up they will change their mind. Actually, open adoptions often have the exact opposite effect. A birth parent can see firsthand that their child is loved and well cared for. Instead of wondering if they made the right decision, they are able to witness firsthand the blessing their decision has been to a family and have confirmation that it really was the best choice for their child.

4.   Open adoption only benefits the birth family
Not only does a birth family get the assurance that they made the right decision, but the benefits of openness also extend to the child and the birth family. The child knows their birth story, has a healthy sense of identity, and has the assurance of their birth parents love firsthand. The adoptive family is able to be aware of medical and social issues in real time, not just from a form that was completed during the pregnancy. And the entire adoption triad serves as a sort of beautiful extended family for everyone involved.

5.   There are no boundaries in open adoption 
Just like all relationships we have in life, boundaries are good and healthy to have. I have yet to hear of a birth mother who shows up on a doorstep unexpectedly. More often birth mothers are hesitant because they don't want to encroach on the family she has chosen to help create. As in relationships with grandparents, extended family members, and friends, healthy boundaries are necessary and include open communication, clear expectations, and seasons that are closer than others.

By no means do I want to communicate there is a one-size-fits-all method to pursuing open adoption and what is best for each family. Openness is on a spectrum and is unique to every family (birth and adoptive). Finding the right fit is to be prayerfully considered and can change throughout the adoption process and the child's lifetime. 

It's also worthwhile to note that these decisions are harder to make with a nameless, faceless couple who are future birth parents. I've often found that once an adoptive family and birth family meet and the process of getting to know each other happens organically, much of the fears subside. When a true relationship is formed, bonds are created, and the best interests of a shared child is a mutual goal, openness can create a beautiful story for everyone involved.

For more on this topic, check out this post: Open Adoption [A Mini-Tutorial]

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

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Congratulations Ryan and Kaitlin

I met Ryan and Kaitlin this spring in a coffee shop. Over coffee they talked about how they felt like everything had come together for them; a great marriage, fulfilling careers, a wonderful family. But there was one missing piece: they were longing for a child and ready to add parenthood to the list.  

So they dove in. They began their home study, I created their profile, and they were excited at the prospect of growing their family through adoption. Within months they were ready to be matched.

Almost four months to the day they began with Christian Adoption Consultants, they were presented to a birth mother. Just hours later, she went into labor and delivered a boy.

While the rest of us were prepping for barbecues, festivals, and enjoying the last bits of summer, Ryan and Kaitlin hopped the first flight they could get to meet their son.  

Kaitlin later told me that she had a feeling about this birth mama and baby and found out later she had the same feeling about them. "Ryan and I both knew it was fate from the minute we saw the birth mom's information. She said she felt the same when she saw our profile!"

Congratulations Ryan and Kaitlin! I'm thrilled that your future Labor Day weekends will include birthday parties of this sweet little guy.
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