Adoption – Celebrating the Journey

For 31 Days I have blogged about Adopting Intentionally, this is the final post in the series.

Adopting is an incredible journey, a journey to be taken intentionally by preparing and by having open hands.

My hope is that there have been ideas and insights in these past 31 days that will continue to inspire and assist others as they step out on to the Adoption road.  May your journey be intentional and blessed.

Day 1

Day 1

Day 2

Day 2

Day 3

Day 3

Day 4

Day 4

Deciding to Adopt

Day 5

Day 6

Day 6

Day 7

Day 7

Day 8

Day 8

Day 9

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Day 10

Day 10

Day 11

Day 11

Day 12

Day 12

Day 13

Day 13

Day 14

Day 14

Day 15

Day 15

Day 16

Day 16

Day 17

Day 17

PeparingtoAdopt

Day 18

Day 19

Day 19

Day 20

Day 20

Day 21

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AdoptionAdvocating

Day 22

TwoOutcomes

Day 23

AdoptionDisrupted

Day 24

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Day 25

Day 25

Day 26

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AdoptionBringinHome

Day 27

AdoptionResourcing

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Day 29

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Day 30

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Brianna

Day 31

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Ultimately the end result is a family of the adoption adventure is a family.

From our family to yours, may your journey be amazing.

And where there are differences between birth stories and adoption stories, both bring us to parenting.

And a new journey begins . . .

Adoption Reflection – Brianna

For 31 Days I am blogging about Adopting Intentionally, you can find an overview and links to daily posts here. During this series I have invited guest bloggers to share their personal stories. This final day, Brianna shares her reflections on Adopting Intentionally.  Thank you, Brianna for sharing your beautiful story as it unfolds.

Brianna

I sometimes marvel at the beauty and richness of my family. I’m your typical Heinz 57 American, with a mixture of Belgian, English, Scottish, and German ancestry. However, I am an Air Force brat who has lived in seven different states and visited all 50. Either because of my upbringing in a military house or due to my God-given personality, I love adventure, traveling into the unknown and seeing new places, meeting new people. My husband is 100% Asian Indian with a Middle Eastern flair since he was born and raised in the United Arab Emirates who now travels all over the world selling educational robotics kits. Our biological son is a beautiful mix of the two of us, with an exuberant love of life and outgoing personality. Our adopted daughter is also 100% Asian Indian with a joyful heart and avid curiosity about the world around her. On top of these different ethnic cultures we add the kingdom culture, living life in the world as God has called us according to the Spirit’s leading and His word in the scriptures.

My family was formed by intentional choices. My husband and I intentionally chose to marry. That was not as easy as it sounds, but that’s a story for another time. We are still married 12.5 years later only because we intentionally choose each and every day to devote energy to loving God, loving each other, and working as a team. We intentionally chose to conceive and give birth to Ethan. Again, it wasn’t as easy as that sounds, but thankfully God knew what He was doing when He led us down that path. And after much prayer and discussion and time, we intentionally chose to adopt Nayami.

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When we are in public, I wonder how people see us. Are we all biologically related since Mohit is Indian and I’m white and we have one of each? Are we a blended family – Mohit and I remarried with children from previous marriages/relationships? Is Nayami the biological child and Ethan adopted, or is it the other way around? More often than not it’s just me with the kids, so it’s been fairly obvious that Nayami is adopted and then it’s assumed that Ethan is biological. In fact, I met the manager of Costco’s bakery when he asked how long I had had Nayami. A little surprised he was so forthright as that was his first question, he explained he and his wife had adopted from China and were leaving in two weeks to pick up their second child from China. Along with the questions about adoption and the process and the adjustments now that we are home, there are always questions about Nayami’s hand (and leg if she is wearing shorts). This is to be expected as she is missing all the fingers on her right hand, and we never mind people’s honest, thoughtful questions. We simply explain she had a childhood accident and her fingers had to be amputated and her leg fixed. Adults usually accept that, but kids want more of the details. I’ve had to use a phrase I learned from one of the many webinars I watched, “That’s something we only discuss at home.” Nayami’s story is just that…it’s her story. She can share whatever details she wants when she chooses. The adoption process is our story, and we are always willing to share in order to help educate and encourage others in their own journey.

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At home, there’s been beauty amidst the challenges in adjusting to a family of four. It’s definitely different having a biological child and an adopted child. When you carry a child for nine months, you begin to make predictions on his personality even before birth. If he kicks a lot, he’ll be quite active and into sports, maybe even a professional soccer player. If she calms down when music is played, she must be musical, maybe a singer or world-renown violin virtuoso. Then after birth you see glimpses of personality as they grow and develop so that not a lot of who they are is a surprise; it’s just natural. With Nayami, however, it’s all a surprise and a wonder. She’s an organizer. She wouldn’t leave our hotel room that first week unless all the shoes were neatly lined up under the cabinet and all the papers/books/luggage were neatly stacked on the shelves. When playing with her kitchen set at home, she first removed each piece and organized it based on type, size, and color before deciding to open a restaurant and feed Ethan and me. She is neat and clean. She immediately puts her shoes in the closet when we get home and never has to be reminded to throw her clothes in the laundry basket when she undresses at night. She is eager to help. I can’t leave the refrigerator door open to take out more than one round of containers as she is quick to close it for me, same with the microwave, or the bathroom cabinets, or the garage door. She is teachable, adaptable. It only took three nights for her to learn how to open her mouth to brush the backside of her teeth. She knows what goes in the trash versus the recycle bin. The first time on our strider (a pre-bike with no pedals) she insisted on riding it all the way around the block, despite numerous falls and zig-zagging around. We wonder how many of these traits are innate. Are they learned from orphanage life or are they a temporary response to living in a new culture and home? We expect a storming period where she tests us to see whether she is truly secure as a member of our family, whether that unconditional love we talk about is real. I wonder how many of these traits we see will survive that or will she be a totally different person when she is finally comfortable being an Abraham.

It’s been beautiful seeing Ethan and Nayami adjust to each other. Ethan has been an only child for five and a half years, although the idea of being a big brother has percolated in his mind for three of those years. Now he is learning what that actually means. While many kids his age experience this change, most of the time they learn how to be a sibling gradually, growing into the role as a new baby grows and develops. Not Ethan. His new sister is only five months younger than he is, able to speak and show off and claim toys and demand attention with the best of them. He has prayed for and prepared for her for so long, he takes his role as big brother very seriously. He loves to teach her how to take a bath, how to speak English, how to read, how to play games with the Kinect, etc. He is quick to make sure she is safe when she doesn’t understand to not run into the street before looking both ways for cars or ensure she doesn’t remove her seat belt before the car is parked. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve seen the ugly face of jealousy and Ethan’s competitive nature come out in not-so-pretty ways. But when that happens, we talk about how he’s feeling, how Nayami might be feeling being in a new culture, new language, new environment, and pray that God enables us how to treat each other with love, grace, and compassion.

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We’ve been on this journey so long, it’s a little surreal to finally have all of us in one place. It’s a new season in our life, one that holds its own challenges and opportunities to grow but also allows for so much joy and celebration. While being present in the now, we are excited to see what God has in store for us in the future. We follow Him willingly, with open hands, open hearts, and open doors, knowing that His will is far better than anything we could ever hope for or imagine.

Celebrating Birthparents

Adopting Intentionally – Day 30

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

Celebrating BirthFamilies

We recognize that our boys will face questions and interest in their birth families.  This is healthy, important and formative.

There will be difficult places, difficult answers.

We want to build the foundations of their connection to their birth families to their birth history early.  We want them to know that their stories are unique and incredible, that there is nothing to be afraid of and that there is so much to be celebrated.

In our home we celebrate birth families.

At our boys birthdays we take particular care to include traditions around birth family.

We are unable to be in touch with Colton’s birth mother.  I have written her letters here on the blog, we are intentional about thinking of her.

Colton and I go on a walk to a particular spot each year and we talk about her. 

We have an open adoption with Cam’s birth mother.  On Cam’s first birthday we celebrated with his birth family.  It was tremendously special.

We have stuffed animals that are associated with their birth mothers.  We look at pictures of them.  We talk about them.

Birthmothers have courage and strength.  They have a deep love and connection to their babies and we always want our boys to know that they came from love into love and that they were made to love others.

In our home we celebrate birth families.

Conspicuous Adoption

Adopting Intentionally – Day 29

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

ConspicousAdoption

When Cole came to us he was five months old.  When we were out people would comment on how cute he was.  That is what people do when they see a baby. 

I felt completely unsure of how to answer.  He was cute, but I had nothing to do with that, so often I would stop and explain that the person was very kind, and that I appreciate their kindness, though he was not mine genetically, we were adopting him.

And then the poor person had no idea what to say . . . and they would save me from the awkward and affirm our choice to adopt and then we all moved on.

I got better at just saying thank you.

Cole looks like us.  People often have no idea that he was adopted. 

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Camden is Cambodian.  He does not look like us at all.  He has beautiful deep dark eyes and jet black hair.  His skin is so beautiful.  People will often comment on how cute he is, and I say thank you.

There are other questions too with Camden.  They ask about his hair (that naturally shapes itself into a faux hawk), they ask about his age (he is so tiny, but walks and moves with confidence), and they often ask where he came from.

I am not at all offended by this.

Camden’s is a “conspicuous adoption,” a term often used to identify a family that has adopted from another race or ethnicity.

Sometimes people are awkward and ask oddly worded questions trying to figure out Cam’s background, but we don’t mind that at all either.

We love our boys’ adoption stories.  We love sharing about adoption and we are grateful when others show interest in how our family came to be.

Adoption – Resourcing Your Child

Adopting Intentionally – Day 28

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

AdoptionResourcing

There were two things we knew for sure when we began this parenting process. 

The first is that we didn’t really know anything about parenting; and the second was that we did not know about the genetic history of our babies. 

We did not feel like the experts on anything as we walked into parenting.

For us meeting our boys for the first time felt a bit strange.  When we looked at Colton we saw his birthmother, when we see Cam smile we can picture his birthmother.  This felt foreign to us at first.  While other parents look at their children and see themselves, their family or their partner, we were seeing something entirely different and new to us.

A great gift to us has been that we have sought out a village to help us resource our little guys. 

Colton came to us with asthma and allergies.  Camden came to us with medical complications at birth and with little prenatal care.

Here is a list of medical professionals that our boys have seen . . .

  • 3 doctors and 3 nurses (we go to a family practice, so our boys are known well by all the doctors and nurses in for primary care)
  • Pulmonologist
  • Allergist
  • Cardiologist
  • Gastroenterologist
  • Nutritionist
  • Feeding Therapist

In addition we have enjoyed working with Early Intervention in our area, a program that works with at-risk infants and toddlers.  We have so valued the input and insight these professionals have offered our children.

  • An extra set of eyes to see growth and progress
  • A clear understanding of developmental milestones and where our child is succeeding or lagging
  • Tangible and practical ways to encourage our child’s individual progress
  • Resource for other programs and events in the community for our child

We also chose to enroll our children in a daycare center.  This is an individual choice for every family, and we initially enrolled as it was provided by the state when our babies were foster children.  Here are the benefits that we have seen in this program.

  • An entire team of teachers and administrators who have seen our children grow and progress
  • Programs specialized to their age and skills
  • Socialization with other children their age
  • Opportunities not provided at home by us
  • Teachers who share responsibility so the burden does not lie on one person.

When we first were faced with all the opportunities and possibilities, we felt a tension between doing things ourselves and accepting the resources offered.  For us, we have truly learned to celebrate the team of caring professionals that surround our boys.  We love how they are known, how their individual strengths and weaknesses have been identified along the way. 

We have seen incredible medical successes.  Our oldest outgrew his allergies and his asthma.  He has grown into a very healthy five year old who is thriving.  Our youngest has overcome a great deal and even this past week had surgery that will prevent complications in the years to come.

We have seen them face and overcome developmental delays, and we have seen each of them become incredibly social and confident little souls.

As adoptive parents we have chosen to resource our boys at every opportunity, and this has worked for us.  We are grateful for all the supporting players.

A New Month, A Clean Slate

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

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Andrew and I have sought to have monthly goals for most of our marriage.  A new month is like a mini-New Year, a time to set some hopes and goals, to agree together on where we are heading, and what we would like to accomplish.

There are still some days left before a new month of November.  It is a great time of year to set some new intentions.

Here are some suggestions, and then on November 1, I will share some of our goals for the month.

Areas to Begin Anew:

  • Health (any fitness or eating goals)
  • Relationships (any connections, outings, date nights, girls nights)
  • Parenting (a specific area of learning, character development)
  • Finances (budgeting, investing, getting out of debt)
  • Learning (an on-line class, an audiobook, a new podcast)
  • Home Improvements (what little or big things are you aiming for)

Areas to Plan for this Month:

  • Thanksgiving
    • Where, when with whom
  • Holidays
    • Where, when with whom
    • Holiday cards
    • Gifts
    • Time off

Areas to Adventure

  • Review Groupon or Living Social (when you purchase an adventure you are more likely to do so)
  • Seek out Holiday Adventures (Christmas Caroling, Christmas Concerts)
  • Plan Winter Adventures (see our list for Fall)
  • Plan a spring or summer vacation

What do you hope this November holds?

Adoption – Bringing Baby Home

Adopting Intentionally – Day 27

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

AdoptionBringinHome

We brought two babies home with us that we hoped to adopt.

We learned that Colton would be coming to our home the day we bought our house.  We had our homestudy on a loveseat in a living room full of boxes (we had ordered a couch that would be delivered in a couple of weeks).

We were not ready for any guests, let alone for a baby.

Our scenario with Camden was also a quick one.  We were called on a Sunday and he was with us the following Friday.

Each time we were intentional in having the most necessary items, and then we allowed ourselves the time to adapt and see how our lives needed to shift.

Preparing a Place

In order to bring home a child the big items to have are:

  • a carseat
  • a place to sleep

Both our boys came to us with

  • bottles (it is important to keep the bottle the same as they transition)
  • some clothing basics

As we settled into daily life, we were able to identify what was most needed and then purchase as we went.

With Camden we did decide to do a registry, and as we were at home with him, the things we needed came to us from friends and family.  We came to the decision that whether he stayed with us or not, having items purchased for him would be a great gift.

Preparing for Health

Both boys came to us with health complications.

When we picked up Camden we were so concerned that we called our doctor from the road and were able to get an appointment for evaluation that day.

As a child comes to you, it is tremendously important to identify any health or medical needs.  An appointment within the first few days of placement is ideal.

Both boys have had a number of medical professionals work with them to get them to healthy days.  We are so grateful.

Preparing Your Hearts

When a new child comes into your home, it is so important to be ready for two opposing ways forward simultaneously.

Prepare to stop everything and find new rhythms and new balance with this new child.  Open your heat  to focusing on the needs of that one being and transitioning them into your lives and your home.

Concurrently, continue to live your life fully and well.  Seek the rhythm and balance you had established.  As you work together as a family to find a new path.

Bringing home a child to be with you forever is an incredible step.  It is also just the first step in a greater journey.