Friday, May 30, 2014
Sunday, April 20, 2014
The first big step in any adoption is a home study. There are different requirements for domestic and international home studies so if you are contemplating adoption and want to start a home study you need to make that big decision first. Our agency, Lifeline Children's Services, has an office in South Carolina so we are considered an "in-state" family. This basically means a Lifeline social worker can handle all of our pre and post adoption needs as far as the home study goes (pre adoption) and post placement visits required by our daughter's country.
We started our adoption process in November of 2013 (see the timeline on the right). It was a busy time of year and we kept running into holidays but our social worker worked really hard for us and was able to schedule our visits pretty quickly. The home study isn't just a house inspection. While the social worker did spend time in our home and we did take her on a tour most of our time with her was telling her our entire life story. She interviewed us together as a couple and individually. We talked about every possible thing under the sun related to our marriage, parenting and adoption. We did a marriage assessment and talked over the results with her. Between our visits and phone calls we did a lot of education. Because we are adopting from a country that is part of the Hague Convention we had more education to complete. I found most of it really interesting and helpful. It was encouraging to see how much education is provided to help parents make appropriate decisions as part of the adoption process.
After we finished our meetings we waited for all of our criminal clearances, child abuse registry clearances and reference letters to come back in while she worked on writing up a huge report all about us. When she finished writing it we were able to give feed back to her as well as her supervisor and she made changes based on that. When a final copy was completed she sent it from Columbia (where she lives) to Charleston to be signed by her supervisor. Once it was signed by her supervisor she sent it back to Columbia to the South Carolina DSS (South Carolina has an extra step in the process where our home study has to be approved by the State). Unfortunately, our home study took the longest trip ever from Charleston to Columbia when it got stuck in the "epic snowstorm of 2014". It finally made it . . . just in time for President's Day so it got to sit at the UPS center for another day or so before it was finally delivered to DSS to await approval.
The home study process feels long . . . it is long. There is a lot of document chasing, meeting, reading and watching online videos. I remember feeling like I had done SO much yet I couldn't check a single thing off the "master adoption to do list". Everything I was working toward was just to check of that first thing - home study.
I've tried to take photos along the way of this part of the process because it is the very beginning of the story of our little girl joining our family. I look forward to showing her all of these pictures one day when I tell her that we were pursuing her before we even knew her.
Saturday, April 19, 2014
It was also a bit shocking.
Especially the first time I gave birth. I knew my daughter very well. I knew her movements, kicks and rolls. I knew the adorable quiver of her hiccups several times a day. I remember waddling into the hospital to go to work as a nurse and feeling as though we were a team. I shared my life and my body with her for 9 months and we had a relationship. I talked to her, prayed over her and even read to her. On her birth day, when after hours of labor, I finally saw her perfectly formed, marvelous little body emerging from my own . . . it was shocking. There. was. a. baby. in. there. What?? Even after feeling her kick and roll around and even seeing ultrasound images of her it was still startling and overwhelming to me. Simply a miracle. With the boys, I knew what to expect and that just added to the anticipation. Still, in that moment it is so amazing to fully appreciate the beauty of birth and the miracle of life.
It would seem that our journey to meet our newest daughter would be quite different but I actually see many similarities. This entire phase of the adoption is sort of like the throwing-up-every-fifteen-minutes-and-going-to-bed-at-8pm phase. Not too much fun but still the promise that it will be worth it . . . one day. The next phase is when we see our daughter's face in a photograph for the first time. It will start to feel more real as we have an image of who she is and learn a little bit about her story. Excitement will set in as we anticipate her arrival. The final phase is one last painful push of paperwork and travel as we make our way halfway around the world and walk into an office building and she is placed in our arms. That moment, I believe, will be very similar to the first time I held my 3 other children for the first time. There are likely to be tears from both of us and I fully expect to feel the same overwhelming sense of shock that this . . . is . . . our . . . child. There really is a child at the end of this process. This is who we have been falling in love with all of these months, waiting for, working for, saving for, sacrificing for. This is her.
Her face is a bit blurry right now in my mind, even in the photos we will eventually see of her we won't fully see her until she is in our arms. I expect to feel the same shock that I felt the first time I experienced such a miracle.
I can't think about the birth of my biological children and not think about the birth of my adopted child. I know her birth mother had a relationship with her before she was born. She felt those first little flickers of life kicking in her womb. She felt those flickers grow to kicks and rolls as time went on. Perhaps her birth mother felt the same shock I did when she gave birth and saw her child for the very first time. I may never know any more than that about our daughter's birth which is really difficult for me because I know it will be difficult for her one day. But as a mother I do know that life and birth is a miracle and I'm confident that every mother shares in the bond of that miracle. So I share that bond with her birth mother also. I also have the privilege of looking at the same little face she saw and experiencing that miracle again.
The road leading us to this child, this adoption, has been very long. My first realization that I wanted to adopt came when I was a child and saw a 20/20 report on the orphans in Romanian. The images of those children- shaved heads, starving, rocking themselves in their cribs - seared into my soul. My immediate response was that I wanted to help a child like that one day. My heart has always been soft toward children in need (hence my chosen profession of pediatric nursing). The images of those children were a small seed planted many years ago.
When I was in nursing school I had the opportunity to visit Haiti and work in clinics with a clinical mentor who also ran an orphanage. This was a pivotal experience in my life for many reasons. One of them being that I really fell in love with the kids and developed relationships with them. Thankfully, I was able to visit Haiti many times over a several year span and continue those relationships. They weren't just "orphans" to me. They were children who had unique personalities, senses of humor and talents. They just lacked a family (for a long list of reasons). At that point I could definitely imagine adopting a child. When Rhett and I were getting serious in our relationship I told him he had to come to Haiti with me if he wanted a future with me. Thankfully he came and also fell in love the the kids and we talked about adopting "one day".
Life moved along, we married and started our family. Claire was born and 21 months later Ford came along. By this time we were making plans to move overseas. While adoption was something we loved and supported it didn't seem possible for us at the time. Gus was born 6 months before we moved to Kenya. We said the whole pregnancy that this was probably our last biological child. Rhett would say it definitively while I would say it half heartedly - mourning the end of that baby making season of our life. I definitely wanted to add to our family and after having 3 children in less than 3 1/2 years the idea of adoption did sound like a great option! We had our first visit to Lifeline Children's Services around that time. We learned about their different programs, timeframes and wait times. We went to Kenya thinking that when we came back we would adopt.
While we were in Kenya I watched my baby grow into a toddler and passed the point where I was usually pregnant again. I started to really want another biological child. In the meantime, our cross cultural experience living in Kenya had challenged us and changed us. We wondered if international adoption was really the best thing for us. Rhett was content but I was yearning for more children. The adoption spark dimmed in my heart and I entered a long season where I really desired another biological child. There were times that I would consider adoption as a way of adding to our family again but I was honestly so focused on having another biological child that it seemed very distant and not really a viable option anyway. When we moved back to the USA we were starting from scratch. We were in no way prepared to financially to start an adoption. Having another biological child seemed like the only option to have a child at all. Obviously we never had that biological child or I wouldn't be writing this.
One day I woke up and realized the pursuit for another biological child was over and we needed to move on. We had another serious adoption conversation. I really desired a newborn because my heart was yearning for another baby. I am one of those people who love pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, newborns, babies . . . all of it - I LOVE EVERY SLEEPLESS MINUTE. We considered domestic newborn adoption and had some hang ups. I remember praying and telling God that if He didn't want us to have another baby then He would need to change my heart. I didn't really think He would. I mean, I l.o.v.e. babies. How could that change? Well, imagine my surprise when over the course of a couple months it did. I saw people with newborns and realized how great it was to not have any children napping, or sitting in a high chair, or even needing a stroller! I thought of lugging around an infant car seat again and instead of having nostalgic pangs for babyhood . . . I didn't feel anything. How strange? What was God doing?
That led us to a decision to adopt . . . a toddler or young child (younger than our youngest was our thought). We decided to look into domestic options. We prayed, sought wisdom and made decisions as we researched what those options were. In the end we were surprised to find ourselves contemplating international adoption again. It seemed as though we had come full circle.
We were both a little surprised when we realized we were adopting a child from Asia! Asia isn't familiar to us. We've spent a lot of time in Haiti, traveled around Europe, lived a short time in South America and two years in Africa. We've spent 24 hours in Bangkok once and that was as close as we felt to the whole continent! It is neat that God is stretching us in that way. Giving us a gift we never expected.
Everyone has a different story of how they came to adopt. Ours is a long, winding tale that spans years. So many times we thought we had a plan. We thought we had the best plan. Sometimes wrestling those plans out of our hands was a long painful process. When I finally stopped and sought God and asked Him to change my heart (not give me what I longed for) He gave me a wonderful surprise. A route I never really imagined to our daughter in Asia. If I'm honest, I kicked and screamed and had hissy fits leading me to that point. I thought I had a better plan, an easier plan, a cheaper plan. My heart is so full of thankfulness at His MERCY. I can't tell you how often I think "I'm so glad I didn't miss this" - and we don't even know who our child is yet! I'm so glad I didn't miss this entire process and being part of the AMAZING community of people who I have met as an adoptive parent. My heart is full of thankfulness that I didn't miss this opportunity to be a part of something so much bigger than me and my plans. I'm thankful that adoption is a part of our life, our family and our story.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Ex-pect verb 1. to look forward to; regard as likely to happen; anticipate the occurrence or the coming of 2. to anticipate the arrival of one's child origin: Latin ex (s) pectere: to look out for, await
Yes, friends we are expecting again. In them most marvelous and wonderful way, that only God could orchestrate, we are expecting (looking forward to, watching, looking for and awaiting) our next child. There are a lot of unknowns with this precious little one. Instead of doctor appointments and ultrasounds we have had social worker visits and fingerprint appointments. Instead of my waistline growing I have a bulging binder of documents on my table. To see our family you wouldn't know that we are expecting but we are praying for and dreaming about our little girl who is on the other side of the world right now. We are pursuing her with love as we step out in faith to open our family and home to a little girl who has neither.
Being "paperwork pregnant" is definitely a strange experience. So many questions and not a lot of answers at this point. Just waiting and waiting. We are thankful that our daughter's country has a very solid adoption process. We know exactly what the steps are and approximate waiting times for each step. We celebrate each milestone we reach and move on to the next wait. We are a busy family with 3 young children so as difficult as the waiting can seem we aren't really suffering very much with as full as our life is in this season. However, there is a precious little girl waiting for us and her waiting is much more difficult. I don't yet know what her circumstances are. Perhaps she is in a loving foster home with an adoring foster mom and dad or perhaps she is in a great orphanage that provides love and meaningful interaction. I like to think and hope that she is in one of those situations but the honest truth is that she may not be. She may be in a more difficult orphanage situation. When I think about the way my first three children spent their early years and how that might compare to where our daughter is right now my heart breaks. It drives my sense of urgency as I work toward bringing her home and redeeming those years without her.
But for now we wait. We look forward, we anticipate and we watch for her. We pray that God will supernaturally love and protect her until she is in our arms. We pray that He will send others to love her so that she is better able to receive our love one day. We welcome you to follow along on this journey with our family as we bring our daughter into the love of our family . . . forever.
I've read a lot of adoption blogs over the years. It seems surreal that this blog now carries that title too. I am excited about recording our journey here for our family as well as an encouragement to those of you who might be considering adoption as a way to grow your family however some details aren't appropriate to share in this forum. I am very aware of the fact that our daughter will likely read this one day and I want to respect her privacy. I also want to protect the adoption process for others who will come behind us on this journey by being respectful of her birth country in East Asia and the process they have set forth for the adoption of children from her country. If details seem cryptic or sketchy as I write this may be the reason. I'm happy to correspond with you directly so please don't hesitate to post a comment.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Friday, October 07, 2011
I'm trying to prepare the kids the best I can. I told Ford the other day "When we live in America we won't wash our dishes in the sink. We will have a big box that we put them in and when we take them out they will be clean" and "We won't hang our clothes out on the line either. We will put them in another box to dry them". Mostly the kids are the saddest about leaving our dog which I knew would happen we we got the dog but she has been worth it. We are all in different states of limbo - sometimes really excited about what is waiting for us and at other times really sad about what we are leaving. Which can be confusing with all of us at different states at different times!
I know we will be OK once we get there and get a little settled. But this in between time is killer. I feel like someone is pulling a band aid off really slowly for about two weeks.
Rhett's colleagues in the AIDS Relief training program hosted a going away party for him and two others in the program a couple of weeks ago. It was amazing. I can't believe the effort they put forth for us. Here is the party in pictures . . .
We drove about 40 minutes away to a hotel in Limuru for the party.
Now this looks really safe . . .
The setting of the party . . .
Our good friend and Rhett's colleague, Millicent.
The kids enjoying a lunch (mostly chipatis their favorite Kenyan food)
There are no words for this picture. I'm just thankful there are a lot of people at there praying for our safety.
Rhett giving his speech. There were speeches all around. Even I gave a speech! Their culture is still quite formal which I really enjoy. There are speeches and ceremonies and greetings.
This was during the gift presentation
This is the AMAZING photo collage they gave Rhett as one of his many parting gifts. You will find this proudly hanging in his new office I'm sure!
This cake sure looks good . . . but it's not really. We learned early on that Kenyans do not like sweet desserts so things often looks so yummy then you dig in and realize there is about 1/2 teaspoon of sugar in the whole cake - not so yummy.
Trying to get a group photo . . .
So that was our wonderful send off from an amazing group of people who work really hard to care for people who are often ignored or despised in their culture. The stigma of HIV is changing every so slowly but there is still a long way to go.
Many more good byes in the days to come . . .
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Finally they were able to orchestrate an escape attempt during their labor time in the fields. They ran through thorns, encountered a leopard, were separated from each other and each met individuals who did what they could to help them escape to a neighboring country. It was there that they were helped by Voice of the Martyrs to come to Kenya. And from there they were brought to Kijabe for care after their years in captivity. Rhett was asked to see them and address their health issues and from there our very special friendship started.
They joined us in our home for a meal. What do you serve people who have been in prison for the last 7 years? I was a little nervous. I bombed on the meal. I went bland on the food thinking anything spicy might be too much for them and it turns out their native food is quite spicy and my potato soup wasn't much of a hit. Cupcakes for dessert? Too sweet. They also ate them with a fork which I thought was cute! Anyway, we sat around our dining room table honored and humbled to have these persecuted Christians in our presence. They were mere weeks from their escape ordeal. They were emaciated and had a look in their eyes like photos I've seen from concentration camp victims. Physically the needed time to heal from their past and emotionally as well.
One feeling I had as we talked with them was that they seemed to have forgotten how to smile. They looked around nervously and seemed awkward when it came to smiling. Then at one point it was time for my kids to go to bed and asked them to go say good night to our guests. Claire walked in and gave a corporate "Good Night" but Ford started around the table with a "Good Night" and a hug and and kiss for each person. It was as if time stood still and my little 3 year old blonde angel gave the first loving touch and affection to these men that they had received in years. And something amazing happened. Smiles and tears. I felt as though God was giving them a little love through Ford right there and telling them it was OK.
We are thankful for our friendship with these special guys. We have continued to keep in touch with them and Rhett has seen them on a couple occasions since our first meeting. All of you who have supported us financially have also been a part of this story. We were able to pay for all of their medical and dental bills as well as their substantial bill for counseling at a center in Nairobi who helps refugees deal with the horrors of their past. We found it an honor to help our brothers in Christ and we wanted to make sure you knew what part you played in helping them too.
That has been one of the most amazing and fulfilling part of being here. We are able to truly see and know the needs first hand and have the privilege of helping and showing compassion to those around us. Thank you for your support that makes this possible. Please continue to pray for our friends. They have a long road to travel. They can never return to their country. They struggle with the thoughts of what might have happened to their families in response to their escape. But they have joy in Christ and have faith that inspires.