Deciding to Adopt – Hannah

Adopting Intentionally – Day 25

For 31 Days I am blogging about Adopting Intentionally, you can find an overview and links to daily posts hereOn the weekends during this series I am inviting guest bloggers to share their personal stories. This weekend, Hannah is sharing her decision to adopt.

AdoptHannah

Allow me to introduce you to Hannah.  Hannah and I grew up in the same town, our parents were friends.  I remember when her mom was pregnant with her.  Since she arrived on the scene she has had the ability to fill a room with her charm. Hannah and Kenny have adopted twice, once internationally and then domestically.  Welcome Hannah, and thank you so much for sharing!

When did you first consider adoption and why did you consider adoption?

Kenny and I have always wanted to have adoption as a part of our family plan.

All of Kenny’s sisters were adopted; two from the U.S. and one from Korea. Even before we started to try to have children we knew at least one of our children would come to us through adoption. For several years, we tried to get pregnant, but were unsuccessful. Instead of trying IUI and IVF, we started the adoption process. To be honest, neither one of us was ready for fertility treatments at that point. We were both still young and the thought of having multiple children scared us. Me especially. Eventually, after our first adoption, we did try IUI treatments, but it was unsuccessful. And still, we weren’t ready for IVF. Our first adoption was so amazing that we knew we wanted to do it again. So we started the domestic adoption process.

Were there any hesitations about adopting?

Honestly, no there weren’t any hesitations. We knew all along that it was a part of our family planning. It was just the timing.

Tell us about how and when you decided to move forward?

When we first decided to adopt, we knew we wanted to do an international adoption for a couple of reasons.

The first was that we had friends who had rough domestic adoption experiences.

Secondly, Kenny’s sister is Korean. We looked into adopting from Korea as well as other countries. But Korea was the best match for us in every way: we had a built in family connection; we were the right age; the wait list seemed reasonable; and it just “felt” right.

So, the first step was to find an agency that worked with both Korea and the state where we were living at the time. Once we found an agency, we were off.

With our second adoption, we were not willing to wait as long as we did the first time. We had waited a year after getting our son to start trying IUI. We knew that any international adoption would be several years and at that time, Korea was closed for international adoption. So it seemed obvious to us that our second adoption experience would be domestic.

We actually had a harder time finding an adoption agency the second time around. We were in a new state, so we couldn’t go back to our original agency. The only local agency required that we be active members of a church, which we were not. Nor did we want to join a church for the sole purpose of adoption. It felt like lying to me and I didn’t want to bring a child into our family that way. So we researched several national agencies and found one that felt like it was the perfect fit. Then we started the process all over.

How were you intentional in your decision to adopt?

We were intentional in so many steps of the adoption process: recognizing that we wanted to adopt; deciding on whether to do domestic vs. international adoption; which agency we wanted to use; what health conditions to consider; how we were going to share our children’s adoption stories with them; what we were going to share about our children’s birth history.

You’ll find that there are so many more decision points in adoption than there is in pregnancy. It is both liberating and intimidating, but in the end totally worth it.

Adoption Disrupted

Adopting Intentionally – Day 23

For 31 Days I will blog about Adopting Intentionally, you can find an overview and links to daily posts here.

AdoptionDisrupted

We knew when we stepped into adoption that birthparents change their minds.  It is part of the process of adopting domestically.  We had prepared our hearts as best we could for this.  We trusted with open hands that a child would come to us, and that the timing was not ours to determine.

We had a disrupted adoption, with the same child, twice.

The beginning days were not easy.  The path toward adoption was filled with disappointments and detours.

The baby was due July 1, 2009.  On June 1 our agency called, the birthmother ran into the birthfather and they decided that they would raise the baby together.  They were no longer working with the birthmother.

Our caseworker asked if we wanted to continue to wait and see if this child became available or if we wanted to be put back on the list of waiting parents.  We chose to go on the list as waiting parents, and were simultaneously open to this birthmother changing her mind.

Our addition was disrupted. We were in many ways starting at the beginning again.  We asked our hearts to shift.

Almost a month later we received an email while out of the state.  The birthmother had had the baby, and wanted us to adopt him.

We rushed back home to be ready, but the process became delayed.  There were complications and the baby was to be placed in foster care with the state.

On June 30, 2009 we were told that the baby would not be with us.  We pursued that child, through our agency and through the Department of Children and families for a month.  And then we were told that all doors were closed.

What can you do when an adoption is disrupted?

1.  Allow yourself to grieve

Having a disrupted adoption is a real loss.  It is not a death, but it is a letting go.  You ought to feel sad.  You can cry, process, reflect.  Walk all the way through the stages of aching.  And with that energy, pray for that baby, for that birthmother and for their days ahead.

2. Ask your agency to continue doing all that they can do

There is no harm in having an agency continue on your behalf.  You can make decisions in the future, allow the various players to continue forward.  We did not get a second call after the disruption with our first son.  However, while our second son was placed with us we received two calls about other children.  We walked through those steps when they were presented to us.

3. Mark memories for you future self

When we got the phone call that the baby had been born on June 22, there were orange day lilies just beginning to bloom everywhere.  We allowed the orange flash of them to cause us to think about the little boy, and we knew this would be true for years to come.  We also placed his birthdate on our computer calendars to come up as a reminder every year to pray for him.

4. Open your hands to what is next

When you are ready allow your hands to be open.  You never know what is next for you.  We went on a trip to Spain, fostered another amazing little boy, and bought a new house.  We were open.

May you be ready to receive the great gift of adoption.

To read the rest of the story about our disrupted adoption

Adoption: The Waiting – Brianna

For 31 Days I am blogging about Adopting Intentionally, you can find an overview and links to daily posts hereOn the weekends during this series I am inviting guest bloggers to share their personal stories. This weekend, Brianna is sharing the long wait she and her family endured to bring her daughter home.

AdoptiontheWaiting

What was the process of adopting like for us? The process was, in a word, challenging. I mean, not the paperwork, the home study, the parts we had some control over. But once that was all done and the waiting set in, challenging. (Honestly, I want to say horrific, but I don’t want to scare anyone from adopting. Do I say what I’m feeling with a layer of tact and diplomacy, or do I just come out and share the gritty truth?) Now that our daughter is home (currently sleeping on the floor of my bedroom next to my son, sprawled in one of her millions of unusual configurations), I can look back on the last four years with some clarity. And the word that comes to mind is horrific, and yet I see beauty and peace sprinkled in there as well.

Our home study and dossier were completed in May 2011 and submitted to India in June.

I was ready for some waiting time before matched with a child. However, that was not where the real waiting would be. August 12, 2011, we were matched with a sweet two-year-old girl who had lived in an orphanage in India since she was six days old. From the timeline provided us by our placing agency and the families we knew who had adopted from India, we expected to have her home in nine to twelve months. (I laugh at our naivety then).

At this point, everything we could do had been done. Now our case (and our hearts, our daughter) lay in the hands of the nameless, faceless people working for the machine that is Indian bureaucracy.

The first step in the process was receiving NOC from CARA. That is a No Objection Certificate from the Central Adoption Resource Authority in India. The expected wait for this step – two to four months. When it grew to six months, we called our placing agency to see what was happening with our case. They told us that in December 2011 (four months after we were matched) India had revamped their process and moved many steps online. There was now a monthly quota of how many families’ dossiers could be submitted, all online. Along with the online move, they were changing how they processed adoptions, so families under the newer laws would have their adoptions finalized in India instead of having to come back to America and do that in the courts here.

For some reason, with these changes, all the cases that were in process were set aside. It seemed that CARA didn’t have much time for issuing NOCs when they were dealing with the inevitable snafus that come as a result of trying to bring the adoption process in India into the 21st Century. We called, we emailed, we begged our agency for news, any news, of any progress. NONE.

 On July 6, 2012 (our 10th wedding anniversary and 11 months after being matched) we received an email saying NOC had been granted.

I remember we were in the car with Ethan on the way to the beach, and I just started sobbing. Why? I have no idea. I think I had started to doubt it would ever happen, and then I thought, Well, she’ll be home for Christmas this year. Again, I laugh.

Now that we had received NOC, we could at least have contact with our daughter. I could send pictures, stuffed animals, introduce her to us, her family who loved her and couldn’t wait to have her home. These things I did in earnest, sending something nearly every month.

Next our case moved to the court in the city where our daughter was living. Some judge had to approve us as parents and confirm that she was legally up for adoption. The timeline provided to us was two to three months. *hysterical (slightly crazy) laughter*

When we didn’t hear any news after three months, we emailed our agency. What was the hold up? No idea, but we’ll let you know when we know anything. When we learned in November (four months after receiving NOC) that Mohit would be in India on a business trip the first week of December, we decided to visit our daughter. I took a week off of work, left my son with my parents, and flew to India to meet Mohit and visit the orphanage. We spent three hours each day for three days with our daughter. Way too little time to get to know her, especially with the language barrier, and too much time to realize that now we KNEW her, we wanted her home, but we would have to leave her there, indefinitely. 

It was from the orphanage workers that we learned we had had a court date set up in November, but the judge had retired before he could hear our case. When will there be a new judge? No idea, but definitely by the beginning of the new year.

2013 began with high hopes, but as month after month passed, we realized we were in this for the long haul.

I’d like to say that we were patiently waiting, resting in the assurance that God was/IS in control and His timing is always perfect. I’d like to say that my packages continued every month to India because I was faithful and sure of the outcome. But that would be lying.

I wondered, I doubted, I questioned, I begged, I screamed at God, all the while clinging to Him with desperate hands. I don’t think I made it through one Sunday service for seven months without sobbing as we sang worship songs. You know the ones, the ones that say things like, “Our God is fighting for us all” and “He makes the orphan a son or daughter” and “Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.” Even my praise was blocked by my doubts and grief, grief over knowing and loving a little girl who lived thousands of miles away from me. And yet, with my head, and to my friends, I could say with assurance these things that I knew to be true – God IS in control and His timing is always perfect.

And yet, just like in the poem “Footprints,” God was so gracious and faithful to carry me despite all of that. He would show me in so many ways that He knew, that He cared, and that He had great things in store for us, I just had to trust and rest. Many times it was through songs on the radio – Blessings by Nora Story, Before the Morning by Josh Wilson, He is With Us by Love and the Outcome, Already There by Casting Crowns. Often it was through a Facebook post, those short quotes on pretty backgrounds – I have learned to kiss the wave that slams me into the Rock of Ages by Charles Spurgeon. Sometimes it was from the blogs I would read, trying to glean comfort from those that had gone before me and were already in their happily ever after. This is a good example, from Jen Hatmaker, “It makes sense that the Holy Spirit is called the Comforter because if you actually follow where he leads you, you’re going to need one…We trust that the God who begged us to care for the orphan actually cares about them and is weaving this beautiful story together right in front of our eyes.”

Finally, and the most amazing to me, were the times when He actually spoke to me in that still small voice, answering my questions and my doubts. He would remind me that He loved my daughter more than I did. He has a purpose and a reason and I am not “skilled enough to understand what [He] has planned,” (Aaron Shust, My Savior, My God). He didn’t call me to control anything but only to walk in obedience and then trust.

Not only did God comfort me, but He changed me. He used this time to work on my marriage, my parenting skills, and even my anger problem. He, ever so gently and lovingly, led my family on a journey that changed how we see others and our purpose in this life and how we use our time, talents, and money. He showed me what it was like to truly commune with Him, the three-in-one Godhead. He prepared Ethan to be the best big brother ever. He provided us time to travel to India so Ethan could meet Mohit’s family over there and then meet his sister and see where she came from and how she lived. Here was the beauty and peace in the midst of my pain, my grief.

In May 2013 a new judge was appointed to the court in India, just in time to take a six week summer vacation. We didn’t want too much time to pass before seeing Nayami again, and since she wasn’t coming home anytime soon, we took Ethan to meet her in August 2013. While we were there, our representative in India (called a RIPA) attended our first court date…where they set another court date to review the case.

The judge missed the next date. Then the lawyers in the city went on strike. Then the holidays had to be observed. (For a country where Hindu, Muslim, and Christian holidays are observed, I often wonder how any work gets done.) 2013 became 2014. Then the courts were closed for elections. Then a court date was set, but it was another holiday so it had to be moved. Then another six week summer vacation had to be taken, since the judge had worked so hard over the last year.

When I shared with a friend that the courts were closed for elections, he replied, “Well, of course.” Upon my startled look, he explained that he wasn’t surprised. With all the set backs we had experience, he was just waiting for the next one. He suggested I make a list of everything that could go wrong and just start checking them off as they came. We laughed, but I actually started expecting to hear that the court building had caught on fire and all our paperwork was lost and we would have to start all over again.

Then, miracle of miracles, I received an email June 26, 2014 (nearly two years after receiving NOC) that we had passed court.

Again, I sobbed, and again, I’m not quite sure why. I was under the impression that after court, it would take another year to actually bring her home, but along with that email came 11 others discussing travel to India and picking up our daughter. In amazement I emailed our agency to make sure I understood correctly. Our case manager assured me it was really happening, and our daughter should be home in the fall. June 27 I asked my supervisor for a year leave of absence from my teaching job.

Over the next three months we cleaned out the garage so we could clean out her room and make it livable. We met someone who spoke our daughter’s language and tried to learn (or record) certain key words and phrases so we could communicate. We enjoyed the summer with Ethan, constantly reminding ourselves we would be a family of four. And we praised God, for His provision, His grace, and His unending love.

Adoption – When There Are Two Possible Outcomes

Adopting Intentionally – Day 23

For 31 Days I will blog about Adopting Intentionally, you can find an overview and links to daily posts here.

TwoOutcomes

We got the phone call about a baby on the way home from our venture to Prince Edward Island, Canada.

We were told that the baby coming to us would most likely be put up for adoption, that currently his goal was a dual goal of reunification and adoption.  They were looking for parents who would foster to adopt, we would be considered a pre-adoptive family.

There were medical complications.

We decided to step forward with open hands.

Those first few days and weeks with our little guy were really difficult.

He was sweetness.  He was tiny and darling.

But his little body was struggling, his future was not clear, and our hearts and minds were racing.

During that time his caseworker and another DCF worker came to pick him up for a visit.  He would leave in his car seat and be returned to us three or four hours later.  It felt so hard just as we were bonding with this little baby.

The DCF worker commented on how much Cole, our son, looked like us, and I, smiling, told her that we had adopted him through DCF.  She asked if that was ever something we would consider doing again.  She was holding Cam in his carseat.

I couldn’t help it, I stopped smiling.  “Yes.”  I wanted to yell, but calmly I said, “we are hoping to adopt him,”  gesturing to the carseat.

“Oh?” She was surprised.  “His goal is reunification.  That is why he has visits with his mother.” 

We exchanged little more and they were out the door.

What did that mean?

Did she just not know?  Did she know more than I knew?  What were the chances that he would come to us?

And then at the same time we were struggling as his medical issues were increasing.   

Could we really care for him?  This could be life-long, life-altering.  Was this a good fit for our family?

And perhaps the questions that were echoing louder than the others:

Could we let him go?  We were so in love with him what would happen if his goal became reunification and we were asked to foster him so that he could go back to his mother?    

We walked through our days.  We went to doctor’s appointments.  We changed our lives around to take care of him.

All the while my mind and heart were spinning with questions.

I remember when the spinning stopped.

We were standing in our kitchen, Andrew was leaning up against the counter.

“What are we going to do?”  I asked him.  Feeling desperate to know, to have answers.

We batted around the questions again, and then he said.

“You know I have been thinking.  Perhaps once again all we need to do is have open hands . . . it just feels harder this time because we have to hold two opposed possibilities.  Maybe he will be with us forever.  Maybe he will be with us just for a time.  We just need to hold both things in our hands right now and trust.”

And I could see the truth of that.

Adoption calls us to have open hands and to trust.

Sometimes we need to hold two different possible outcomes in our hands at the same time.  One of them will come to be, and we will be ok, because we had open hands.

Adoption – Initiating and Advocating

Adopting Intentionally – Day 22

For 31 Days I will blog about Adopting Intentionally, you can find an overview and links to daily posts here.

AdoptionAdvocating

Your adoption story is unique.  There are places where you will not have control (see Managing Expectations).  But there are real places where you can take steps forward to advocate for your child before you even meet him or her.

There are lots of players in an adoption.  When working in the foster care system our children have had

  • a case worker
  • a case worker supervisor
  • an adoption case worker
  • an adoption case worker supervisor
  • each child has a lawyer
  • every birth family has a lawyer. 
  • The adoptive family has a resource worker

Navigating expectations with all of these people takes an understanding of the system.

Here are some tips for initiating  . . .

  1. Know your points of contact, their roles and then keep them informed.
  2. Understand that internal communication does not always happen, so begin conversations updating your point of contact with any information that they may need.
  3. Establish an intentional reputation early and clearly.  How do you want to be perceived?  Seek to articulate distinctly who you are and offer yourself as a resource to the case worker and the birth family and ultimately to the child.

We have learned the importance of initiating.  For instance our second son has had a number of medical issues.  We knew that these would be difficult for the case worker to keep track of.  I added to my weekly to do list that I would update the caseworker with how our little guy was doing and what appointments he had had during the week.

This established communication.  It also assured the case worker that we were on top of things, a caring family, one who was organized and capable.

In addition he had weekly visits with his birthmother.  We live an hour from this office.  We moved our schedules around and offered to bring him to these visits every other week.  We were able to establish a relationship with the staff and the birthmother.

We have also learned that it is our role to advocate for our child.  We had a disrupted adoption with our first child.  Even when the birthmother requested that he be placed with us, we were unable to gain guardianship.  We trusted that the agency we were working with would advocate as vigorously as we would.  This did not happen.

Our encouragement to you is that you are the child’s biggest advocate.  Take initiative and advocate for yourself and your child with intention, confidence and caring.

Adoption – Managing Expectations

Adopting Intentionally – Day 21

For 31 Days I will blog about Adopting Intentionally, you can find an overview and links to daily posts here.

AdoptionExpectations

Emotionally when you are in the in-between of adoption, it is best for your own well-being if you are intentional about managing your expectations.

We had heard stories where parents received a call and were at the hospital with a baby within twenty-four hours. 

And we had heard stories of adoptions where parents were chosen and then the birthmother backs out before or even after the birth and placement.

Once we were matched with a birthmother we found that we did have real desires of our agency and our birthmother.  When we adopted from the state we similarly had real hopes about how the Department of Children and Families (DCF) would handle our case.

It is important to begin the process recognizing what is out of your control.

You have no control over the agency . . .

  • how many other cases they have
  • how often they contact you
  • how well they get to know you
  • how they proceed through a timeline
  • how they communicate with you
  • and even . . . as we learned, if they will advocate for you.

You have no control over the birthmother

  • what she does about prenatal care
  • what she puts in her body or does not put in her body
  • how much sleep she gets
  • how often she communicates with the agency or with you
  • if she goes to doctors’ visits

You have no control over an orphanage or a foster home

  • how they care for a child
  • what they feed a child
  • how often they hold a child
  • how they affirm or discipline
  • how they instill love and acceptance

You have no control over a government agency or a government

  • how fast or slow they process information
  • how detailed they are in their process
  • what kinds of personalities you will be working with
  • what laws you need to navigate
  • what holes you will need to jump through

The good news is that you do have control of your own actions and expectations.

You can choose your own actions

  • You can choose to complete what is asked of you well
  • You can choose to complete what is asked of you on-time or early
  • You can choose to bring a positive attitude and outlook to all interactions
  • You can choose to assist all the people you are working with rather than hinder them
  • You can choose to prepare your family for a child by preparing emotionally, physically, socially and spiritually

You can set your own expectations

  • You can choose to believe the best of the people working with you
  • You can choose to understand and love the birthparents, wherever they are and however they behave
  • You can choose to recognize where the system can be helped and when the most you can do is wait, accepting either
  • You can choose to love the child that will be in your home before you even know him or her and accept that the timing is not yours to determine
  • You can live life well today, not worrying about the past or the future, but doing all you can today to be healthy and ready.

You cannot control your adoption, but you can manage your expectations.

A Story of Open Hands

Each Tuesday I write a blog post to share with you a way to be in more intentional in your day to day.

Andrew and I have chosen to live our lives with open hands.  We receive what has been placed into our lives with gratitude and acceptance.  We let go of what has been removed with trust and intention.

OpenHands

This choice began in 2002 on a warm summer’s night in Caracas, Venezuela.

We had just spent two weeks in the jungles of Venezuela, working with ten extraordinary teenagers in the tiny village of Cosh.  We were welcomed by the Yanomamo tribe and a tremendous family who had given their lives to live in the jungle.  It had been a tremendous time.

We were on our way home.  Andrew left the group early that night, and stayed awake in his room for hours. 

I awoke to a note under my door in the morning.  There was a letter from Andrew.

After getting ready, I took the unopened letter and found a quiet fire escape where I sat and read its contents.

Andrew affirmed that he had truly enjoyed our time together.  He articulated his appreciation of our newly formed friendship and his hope that our friendship would continue.  He then clearly stated that he would be interested in the possibility of dating.  If this was not reciprocated he was respectful of that.  He wanted to let me know about his feelings without in anyway overwhelming me.

I loved the letter.  I had grown admiring of Andrew.  He had been such a man of character on our trip, a hard worker, respectful, thoughtful, fun, intelligent, wise . . . 

And yet, I was hesitant.  There were many reasons not to date him, not the least of which was that I was slow to date and content in my single life.

I closed my eyes to reflect and pray and try and clearly consider how I wanted to answer him.

The image that I saw in my mind’s eye was one of open hands.  I felt a calm reassurance to trust in the timing and the opportunity that was before me.  Andrew was in my life at this time and I could date him.  It did not mean that I had to marry him or that there would be a difficult break-up.  It just meant that today, I could date Andrew, and that that could be really good for me.

I answered the letter with an affirmation.  Let’s move forward and try dating.

On the other side of the letter was Andrew, who received my letter.  He was nervous and unsure, but he too had seen an image that had encouraged him to be open to dating  . . . on his own Andrew had seen an image of open hands. 

This is something we discussed only later and were amazed that we had stepped into our relationship with the very same encouragement and trust.

Having open hands has become a way of life for us. 

It has opened us up to new possibilities.  It has helped us face difficult times, it has helped us trust when something has been removed from our lives.

We seek to live each day with open hands, trusting that what we have and what we do not have today is just as it is supposed to be.  We take the opportunity and we let go of what did not work. 

It is a gift to do both together.