Adoption Preparation – Hannah

For 31 Days I blogged about Adopting Intentionally, you can find an overview and links to daily posts hereOn the weekends during this series I invited guest bloggers to share their personal stories. This weekend, Hanna is sharing her practical preparation for adoption. 

Hannah

How did you take your first step towards adoption? We researched. Holy cow did we research. We looked into international adoption versus domestic adoption. We went on the State Department’s website to look into what countries were available to us for adoption. We called adoption agencies to talk about our options. We spoke with friends who had adopted their children. We spoke with Kenny’s parents about their adoptions. By the time we had made a decision to go with an international adoption from Korea, I thought I knew everything there was to know about it (insert eye roll here). In truth, you will never know everything you need to know. Things change. New laws are made. There are always special circumstances. You just have to be prepared to flexible and patient. But, having a strong foundation of knowledge is huge. You need to know why you are making a decision to adopt domestically or internationally; or why you chose China over Kazakhstan; or why you decided on an infant over a toddler. Not only will your friends, family and even strangers ask you this, but so will your child. No decision is a wrong decision, but each one should be made with intention.

What was required of you in preparing to adopt? Ugh. What wasn’t required would be a shorter answer. With our first adoption, we had to get one home study prior to the adoption and three home studies post placement. There were state forms, federal forms, agency forms, medical forms. They needed copies of our marriage license, birth certificates, social security cards, passports and other things I can’t even remember. We had to get health physicals (Korea required that we not be obese among the many other medical requirements). Our pets had to be up to date on vaccines and assessments. We needed criminal background checks. We had to certify our employment and have letters from our supervisors basically recommending us as adoptive parents.

Honestly, I think some of the things we had to do should be required of all parents; things like taking a seminar about raising children how you plan on disciplining your child. One really wonderful thing we did was attend an adoption seminar at our agency’s campus to prepare us for interracial adoption. Things that I hadn’t really even thought about were brought to light: from now on, our family would be a walking billboard for adoption. Strangers will want to talk to us about adoption. Sometimes they will ask us completely inappropriate questions in front of our child and we have to think about how we will respond. We were told that people will come up to us and ask “how much did your child cost?” or “is that your real child?” I didn’t believe that people would actually do that, but it’s true. In talking with a fellow classmate of mine after we had adopted Evan, she said to me “I just don’t think I would love an adopted child as much as my own child.”

But some of the things we had to do were just plain insulting. One of the things that bothered me the most occurred during our second adoption. As I have previously said, we decided to go with a national agency, but that meant that we still had to use a local agency for our home study. This was a faith-based agency and it was clear that they wanted us to comply with their standards of faith. At one of our first home study, the social worker sat Kenny and I down next to each other and gave us a test. We were not allowed to talk or look at each other’s paper. The questions were things like, “is there pornography in the house?” “Does your spouse drink alcohol?” “How much does your spouse drink?” “Has your spouse ever used drugs?” It felt like a set up. Like we were presumed to be bad people. I hated it. On top of that, they gave us “homework” which consisted of 20 pages of questions about our history. They actually thought it was appropriate to ask if I was sexually promiscuous in high school. And that wasn’t all. They wanted us to tell them what our own sex life was like now. I remember screaming at the form and using a lot of four letter words about how ludicrous I thought it was. But we were trapped. We had to play by their rules if we wanted to complete the adoption. To this day, it baffles me why there isn’t a state funded home study agency available to every adoptive couple.

How did you emotionally prepare for adoption? Kenny and I talked a lot about what our expectations were for our adoption. And it was a rollercoaster. We got our visa approval to bring our son home from Korea right before Christmas one year. Kenny got it in the mail and thought it would be fun to wrap up the approval and put it under the tree. I remember opening it and thinking, “Oh my God! I have to pack!!” I cried with excitement and relief. In reality, we still had four more months of waiting until Korea gave us approval to bring Evan home. We didn’t travel until April. Taking things one day at a time and knowing that there will be an endpoint was huge for me. But the most important thing was communicating with Kenny. He knew exactly what I was going through and could relate to all my frustrations and worries.

How did you practically prepare for adoption? Well, first and foremost, we saved money. It was helpful that our adoptions took some time in the sense that we didn’t have to borrow money because we were able to save so much. As we went along, I slowly prepared for the baby. I would by a crib one month and then a couple months later I would buy a baby monitor. I would only allow myself one item and it seemed to help me feel like the adoption was still moving along. We did a lot of research about travel and tried to have a blueprint of where we were going to stay and how we were going to get to Korea and Kansas.

How were you intentional preparing for adoption? Again, we had to make a lot of decisions in the adoption process. And each one opened another discussion between Kenny and me. I think that our adoptions have made us a much stronger couple because they forced us to be excellent communicators. We know each others’ strengths and weaknesses an are able to rely on each other to accomplish a shared goal.

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November Goals

Each month we set goals together, intentionally setting a tone for the month.  Here is what we are planning for November.  You may read more about this here.

November Goals

A Month of Gratitude

  • Practice Gratitude with Andrew by doing the Instagram Challenge

    • follow Andrew @the_little_a

    • follow Liza @lizabsharp

  • Model and teach gratitude to Cole by having a project to work on together each week about Gratitude

  • Be grateful for what we have by returning to No Spend November

  • Intentionally plan for the holidays

  • Read a book together

Linking up to The Tiny Twig

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.

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Deciding to Adopt

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AdoptionAdvocating

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AdoptionResourcing

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Brianna

Day 31

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Ultimately the end result is a family.

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

And though 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.

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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.