Disclaimer: We are not adoption professionals.
We are adoptive parents hoping to help other adoptive parents.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Getting to know our son's needs

Today was the day! We would finally meet our son! We traveled to Ethiopia with two other couples and we were all filled with butterflies. Our hosts came out and invited the first couple in. And then the second.

Then it was our turn - and we were told, "Your son is napping."

For a deflating two hours, we mingled with the other children at the orphanage and took pictures on behalf of other waiting parents. We would stick our heads in the room of the sleeping 2-year-olds and hope our son had awakened. We waited and waited. Finally his beautiful eyes were opened and I picked our son up.

Now, I am an adoption "veteran". I know that during the first meeting of adoptive parents and children, the Disney music is NOT always playing in the background. However, I had not prepared myself for our son's crying. He was emotionally attached to the wonderful caretakers at the transition house. In his world, he knew who was supposed to be there lifting him out of his crib - and it wasn't 1) a man who 2) spoke a language he had never heard. My son started crying and had to be taken by his nanny to calm and soothe him.

I, the adoption vet, felt terrible. I was tired from jet lag and totally depressed. I tried to put on a brave face, but I was bummed. My wife wisely played off the tenderness of the nanny who absolutely loved our son. Watching her, learning from her, my wife began the long process of bonding with our boy. I moped around the margins.

The next day, we went back for our "gotcha day". It didn't take long for me to get over that initial disappointment. When we picked up our son and carried him to the van, he cried out for his "mama". I knew he was calling for his nanny.

With crocodile tears in his eyes, we left the transition home ready to become our son's parents. Little did I know that this little boy who loved his nanny and cried out for her would quickly attach to my wife.

In the early days, our son was attached to my wife's hip. He demanded that he be carried everywhere. Carrying a 23 month old constantly is exhausting but my wife carried him because he needed to be held, he needed to be close, he needed to feel the warmth of her skin.

In this way he knew he was loved and cared for. For him, this was his way of attaching to us.

Well, he was attaching to my wife.

Our son would come to me, but I was not someone he looked for when he needed comfort, soothing, love.... my bonding time with my son would look very different.

The first 7-9 months, our son routinely awoke anytime between 4am and 5am. I would bundle him up, put him in the stroller and we'd walk - anywhere between 2-4 miles. This was a wonderful way for our son to learn that I was not a bad guy. He was close to me, but not touching me. This is the way he needed to bond to me.

For us, a major treat was when he actually stayed asleep until 6 or 6:15. But, as tired as I was, those early mornings yielded beautiful bonding between Father and Son. Sure, it wasn't the recipe used in many adoption books but it was the one my son needed.

Now, my son is my bud and whenever I am not home, he constantly calls for "Daddy". Conversely, whenever my wife is out of sight, he wants "Mommy".

Figuring out how our son needed to bond to each of us has made our family connection strong.

Monday, August 23, 2010

When God Speaks - Obey!

It was August 2004 when we began to explore the idea of adoption. Two months later - after much prayer! - we made the decision. We were going to adopt a child!

We researched adoption agencies and found one we liked. We began paperchasing. But then the doubts crept in. Were we too old to adopt? Would we have the finances to complete an adoption? Would our friends and family be supportive?

We finally decided to press forward and trust God.

By November 2005, we had finished our home study. Then we had piles of paperwork problems. It was May 2006 before we submitted our dossier (adoption paperwork) to our agency. But we were finally in the "waiting room"!

In October 2007, we made a very tough decision. After health problems and a job loss, we decided to stop our adoption process. Our hearts were heavy. We didn't want to close the door on adoption but we weren't sure what God's plans were for us at that time.

We prayed for wisdom and to know God's will for us regarding adoption.

In January 2008, we decided to start a morning couples devotional. One evening, we stopped by the Christian Bookstore to pick up a guide for our devotions. We were not sure what we were looking for but we put it in God's hands and had faith He would show us the way.

After several hours (we both get lost in a bookstore), we finally settled on a book.

Strangely (or according to God's plan) around the begininng of January, we both began to have feelings that we should re-start our adoption process. We started feeling a need to get our paperwork in order because maybe....just maybe.... We had been there before, and realistically we did not have the finances to complete an adoption. So neither one of us said anything to the other about what we were feeling.

That is, until we started our devotions.

As we began praying and doing our devotions daily, we started talking more and shared our feelings about the adoption. We were compelled to add the adoption to our daily prayer list and ask for guidance and wisdom.

Within days, we received a series of phone calls from our agency and our homestudy agency encouraging us to get back into the waiting room!

I have to admit, I was overcome with anxiety about this and could not wrap my head around it. It felt like a cruel joke. We had resigned ourselves to the fact that we would never be parents. We had given up the idea of adoption - we told everyone it wasn't for us and that God had something else in mind for us. We even thought perhaps our purpose was hosting exchange students.

Not sure if we were really "hearing God tell us to continue with the adoption", we focused our prayers on adoption and asked God to "hit us over the head please" with His will for us.

At the end of January, we received a call from our adoption coordinator telling us that we were at the top of the list but we MUST get our dossier updated. We were stunned!

We were feeling overwhelmed with happiness but also overwhelmed with sadness knowing that our adoption savings had been spent on living expenses for the past 5 months. That evening we talked about it and prayed about it and came to the conclusion that we could not afford to adopt. Why must it always come down to money? We went to bed that night praying for some message from God that our decision was the right one.

The next day, we began our usual routine. Got up, fed the cats, made coffee, brushed teeth, began our devotion. BAMM! There it was, our answer! The devotion was: Adopting God's Heart.

In the middle of the page was this statement: Caring for the fatherless is not simply a compassionate act. Adoption is not merely an additional means of growing our families to the desired size. Caring for orphans is about obedience and expressing the heart of God.

Clearly, God hit us over the head! The message was very clear, God was calling us to adopt and we were saying, "Not now. We can't. We don't have the money...."

As I look back, it seems that God was speaking to us clearly all along, we were just hard of hearing! God calls us to have faith and trust in Him that our needs will be taken care of.

We pulled out the adoption file and began working on updating everything.

In September 2009, we found out how faithful God is. Our daughter finally came home! She is such a joy. I can't imagine our family without her. The struggle was worth it and we are SURE God meant for us to be a family.

And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Choosing adoption wasn't easy

After we were married for a few years, we felt that it was time to have kids. So off the birth control we went... and I found myself dreaming of how I would paint the nursery and what we would name our baby.

A few months went by. Those months turned into years.

We are Christians but we began to struggle with our faith. Why wasn't God answering our prayers? Did we have some sin in our life? One of us wasn't spiritually mature enough? Were we thinking of having kids too much and that thought had become our idol? We weren't serving God enough?

There had to be an answer. And so we prayed. We prayed God would reveal whatever it was that was keeping us from having kids.

He was silent.

But our desire to have children wasn't silent. The desire burned - actually seemed to scream at us. Why was it so easy for everyone else to get pregnant?

We really wondered whether fertility treatments were the right route. But then we decided that if we needed other medical treatment, we wouldn't shy away from it. So we pursued it.

But it didn't work.

Why God? Why? Is wanting to have kids such a bad thing? It's not like we were asking for a lot of money or a mansion! We wanted a child. The Bible says procreation is good. Why couldn't we procreate???

We were completely exhausted. Emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We had never been so exhausted in our lives.

I just wanted kids. I started looking into adoption.

My husband just wanted kids. He wanted to continue fertility treatments.

"Why can't we just adopt?"
"Because we should have our own child."

We had completely opposite thoughts and we did not understand each other's viewpoint. But we both had the same result in mind: to be parents.

I made a 'deal' with my husband. "If we talk with an adoption agency, then we can go back to the doctor." I thought for sure that once he heard about adoption, he'd be hooked. He thought that once we went back to the doctor, we'd be pregnant.

So we scheduled appointments with an adoption agency and the doctor - both in the same day.

I loved the adoption option. He loved the doctor option. We were going nowhere fast.

We talked. We prayed. We cried. We finally decided we would try one more treatment - and then move to adoption.

Another failed treatment. So we moved to Option #2. Adoption. I felt like it was a back-up plan for my husband and so we talked. Really talked. He wasn't sure he could love another man's child as his own. I didn't understand. He was honest; so was I. We talked and talked and talked. We finally agreed that what really mattered was...we wanted to be parents.

It was heart wrenching. It really was. Deep down, I was completely disappointed too. I felt like I had let my husband down. That he had to settle for second best because I couldn't give him what he so desperately wanted.

But as we moved forward with adoption, God healed our breaking hearts. He showed us that His plans are always good, despite what hurts our circumstances had caused. He showed us how to love like we have never loved before. Most importantly, He showed us that adopting a child isn't Option #2 - but it is a perfect picture of what God has done for us. He has adopted us!

We now have a better understanding of the love that God has for us. God adopted us. He chose us.

We adopted. And we love our child more than anything. It doesn't matter that our blood doesn't run through our child - God's blood runs through that child. And the blood of Jesus covers that child - just as it covers us.

"....you have received the spirit of adoption...." - Romans 8:15.

God chose adoption. We did, too. Or maybe adoption chose us. Regardless, we are now a family in every sense of the word. My husband could care less about biology now - and completely loves this child with all of his heart. I do too.

Adoption is no doubt, a miracle.

Why we chose adoption

We had 2 little boys, at the time ages 2 and 4. I'd always dreamed of having a little girl. I also had rough finishes to my pregnancies with months of pre-term contractions. And lastly, but most importantly... I'd always loved and been intrigued by the idea of adoption. When people talked about it, even when I was younger - and again when I became a mom - the idea just pulled me in. There was something about it.

But it never came into our minds because we conceived quickly.

I still remember where we were when I first brought adoption up to my husband. Sitting in our driveway, watching our boys play. I said to him, "You know how I said I was DONE having kids?" (Our baby #2 was HIGH maintenance.) "Well, I think I've changed my mind. And what do you think about considering adopting?"

He was floored.

My husband confided in me that he always thought adoption was plan B - and since we hadn't needed a plan B, he had never considered it.

We prayed about it for 6 months and talked on and off during that time.

The following January, we applied with our adoption agency. 2 1/2 years later (a bit longer than we had originally thought!), we brought home our daughter.

Along the way, there have been multiple "signs" that we made the right decision. But there were also concerns along the way, when it took so long and tested our patience beyond what we felt we could handle.... had we discerned God's will for our lives incorrectly?

We are so thankful for those around us who lovingly and gently walked along side us during those emotional rollercoasters!

Just because it takes a long time, doesn't mean you aren't meant to be on that road! I learned patience like none other from that experience. And I have to say that not only do I love my daughter - as does my husband and our whole family - for that matter everyone... because pretty much everyone melts around her! - but also, I feel so incredibly priviledged to be a part of this adoption.

Wow. Adoption is just so amazing and I just am so happy to know and fully understand and to be a part of such an amazing miracle.

The same can be said of giving birth to a child.

But they are very uniquely different.

Our daughter is a gem and we can't imagine life without her!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Empty arms, heavy heart

When we got married, we had dreams similar to every other couple's dreams: the house with the picket fence, 2 kids, a dog. The American Dream.

A year after we got married, we bought a house. The next year, we got a dog. Check and check. The year after that, we decided we wanted to have kids. Check.... well, not so fast.

I was having some issues with the pill. My doctor said my dose should be increased. When I told him we were only a few months away from trying to have kids, he suggested I go off it altogether to give my body a rest and get ready for baby making. I came home from the appointment and my husband just stared blankly at me: "You can't go off the pill yet, we weren't going to start trying for a couple months!" "It'll be alright", I assured him, secretly thinking that in a few short weeks I would be pregnant.

Within a few weeks, we found out that my sister-in-law was having fertility problems. "Poor her" I thought, "perhaps she is too old to get pregnant." She was, after all, in her mid-30's. I was a spring chicken in my mid-20's, realizing I was in my prime fertility. Shortly after that, she told us she was going to attempt IVF. "Oh how fun," I thought, "We will be pregnant together."

Her IVF worked. I wasn't pregnant. But I knew I would be shortly.

A year goes by. The doctor says it is time to look into infertility issues. What?!?! I am in prime fertility years, I can't be infertile!

Test after test after test found - well, not much. "You are perfect candidates for IVF" I hear him telling us. IVF? Isn't that for old women? "Especially given your age, you have over a 60% chance of becoming pregnant." Well, alrighty then. An easy solution.

Easy it was not. Shots, testing, bloodwork, mood swings, bloating, weight gain. "It will all be worth it" we assured ourselves. The day of the transfer, they put back 3 embryos and we started dreaming of triplets.

A couple weeks later was the pregnancy test. Negative. What? Well, where did my babies go??? You put 3 in there and now they're gone?

It felt like we had been hit by a sledgehammer. We couldn't process what had happened. We cried. We got angry. We were in disbelief.

A few weeks later was our follow up appointment. I sat there, crying, just staring at the doctor as he told us "Sadly, you fell in the 40% range instead of the 60% range. When you try again, your odds will increase." When we try again? What planet was he on??? We were NOT going through this again.

Except we did. Maybe he was really convincing. Maybe we desperately wanted to have kids. Maybe we thought this was our only answer.

Another negative pregnancy test. We were devastated. I have never experienced such devastation in all my life.

The world slowly stopped spinning. I felt like I was barely holding on. Everyone around me was having babies. All of my friends were popping them out like it was nothing. It got really hard faking being excited for them. It never failed - when we'd go to WalMart, there would be a dirty screaming baby - and the mom would be just as dirty and screaming just as much. Seriously??? I quit going to WalMart.

We had a circle of friends that got together quite regularly. They all had kids. Some had 2 by now. We had to quit getting together, it was too emotionally hard on us to smile and pretend like we weren't hurting.

Eventually, we decided to adopt. "If we can't have our own...." we thought, "we might as well adopt. It's a second best plan, but we'll be finally be parents..."

When we found an adoption agency, we had a glimmer of hope. "Welcome to your paper pregnancy" said the paperwork from the agency. Pregnant! I was pregnant! Not in the way I had imagined - but I was thrilled to read that from the agency. Those words helped to heal me - and helped us to move forward.

Working on the mounds of paperwork kept me busy and focused. It was good therapy. When the paperwork was finally completed, we sighed a big sigh of relief. Finally. We will FINALLY be parents. And soon!

Nope. Not so soon. We waited and we waited and we waited. It made no sense. There were a TON of kids internationally who needed parents - we needed kids - and things weren't moving quickly. At all.

Month after devastating month we had no news of our adoption. This was all too familiar. We had years of month after devastating month of no news. We could not go through anymore!

But our agency encouraged us to perservere and hang in there. So we did. We still felt like the world was giving birth all around us - but we hung on. Barely at times, but we did.

Two long years after completing that paperwork, it finally happened. We became parents. All the misery - disappeared. All the questions - answered. All our fears - subsided. All our sadness - replaced with joy.

All because of one child.

A child who was not born of our bodies but immediately became a part of our souls. A child who opened our hearts in ways we didn't know possible. A child who made our empty arms full.

A child. Finally. A child. Parents! We were finally parents!

Once we were united as a family - biology disappeared. It didn't matter that we didn't birth this child. It didn't matter that we were born on opposite sides of the world. Nothing mattered. Except that we were all together. Finally.

And there is no doubt that we were always meant to be together. We can't imagine our lives without OUR child. This child is ours in every sense of the word.

Adoption was not second best for our family afterall. It was the greatest gift we could've received! Thank God for all those years of infertility - or else we never would've had this child - our child - as a part of our family.

God works in mysterious ways.
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