Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I hung up with Liz, and as if we had just read a circular looked at Chris and asked, "Well.  What do ya think?"  We started to pace back and forth in front of the stores, completely lacking direction as to where we were going.  Our heads were spinning.  A healthy baby boy was going to be born that night, but we had hoped to have heard about the previous circular already.  We decided to take a little time and consult some friends.

I called my best friend, but she wasn't home.  I spoke with her sweet husband and walked him through the situation.  By the time I hung up with him it was time to meet back up with Chris's parents, and we decided not to say anything quite yet.  Didn't want to get ahead of ourselves.  We paced around Barnes & Noble, again, directionless.  I looked at Chris with big, googly eyes at one point.  "What?"  he asked.  "Umm, I'm thinking about the baby."  We headed to a shoe store next where Chris's parents offered to get him a new pair.  I was able to focus on the purchase at hand, that is until my bestie's ring tone came from my pocket.  "I'm going to go talk to her.  I like the ones you have on."  And I quickly exited the store.  As I explained what was going on I paced around the outdoor shopping center before I finally found a bench to sit on.  She was able to ask me some good questions to think through, but in true best friend fashion, I had already thought about everything she mentioned.  I asked her whether our decision should be affected by the fact we hadn't heard yet about the other circular yet.  "Would you say yes to this if the other circular weren't in the picture?"  "Yes."  There was our answer.  Why would we pass up on this baby when the other one isn't a guarantee?

We called Liz and left her a voicemail that we were interested in having the birthmother see our profile, but there were so many details to think through.  It was a Friday.  Sunday Chris was speaking at church and then we were planning to drive to Houston.  We hadn't seen any of my family or friends yet.  If we were to be chosen, maybe I could fly out Saturday night, or Sunday morning, and Chris could drive our car and dog back to MI on Monday.  But the birthmother wanted to meet the adoptive parents as soon as possible, and the baby was going to be discharged on Sunday or Monday.  How can we make this work?  Wait!  "Don't get too far ahead of yourself, Manda."  I went ahead that night and emailed Liz.  She knew we were in TX, and I wanted to let her know we had a plan if we were to be chosen.  She emailed me back Saturday morning.  "Thanks for the  update.  I will be meeting with the birthmom regarding profiles at 2pm today.  I don't know how long she plans to take to make her decision but I will update you once she has."

I sat by my lap top all day.  Literally.  I sat on a couch with the computer and cell phone near by at all times. If I went to the bathroom, the phone came with me.  We went running that evening, and my phone was in my hand throughout the workout.  I think because the whole situation was so last minute and rushed, I felt an urgency.  I hadn't clung to my computer with other circulars, but because I knew we would have an answer within 24 hours, my heart was anxious and impatient.  My head was playing tricks on me.  "Ready.  Ring!" as I stared at my phone.  I would refresh my Inbox page every ten minutes.  "You'll get a response when you least expect it.  Just ignore all of this."  I don't know what kind of superstitious logic that is!  We went to bed without an answer.

We woke up early the next morning since we had an hour drive ahead of us to get to church.  Chris was already getting ready in the bathroom when I peeled myself from the bed.  Before I could leave the bedroom to check my email to see if Liz responded, my phone rang.  It was Liz.  I waved down Chris.  "It's Liz."  Chris's eyes popped out of his head.  "Sorry to call so early, but I have some good news for you."  I nodded furiously to Chris and whispered "Good news."

"The birthmother chose your profile."

While Chris paced around the bedroom and welled up with tears, I tried to stay focused and ask Liz as many questions as I could think of.  Do we need to bring a car seat to the hospital?  When will he be discharged?  When do we need to be there?  I found out that the birthmother looked at seven profiles on Friday, but Liz didn't get our's to her til Saturday.  She looked at our profile and said "He looks so laid back, and she looks so friendly."  The birthmother wanted to meet with us as soon as possible.  The baby would be discharged on Monday, the next day.  The birthmother decided we could name the boy and put his name on the birth certificate.  Our Elliott Christopher was born and waiting for us.

More to come,

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Healthy Dose of Sobriety

I was giddy as I received and read each circular.  My smile came naturally, and I would intermittently squeal as I came across an exciting detail.  I had the child named as soon as we responded.  Until we heard that we had not been chosen, I lived as if we could be and could receive this child in a matter of days, weeks, or months.  I couldn't hold my excitement in and would break out into song or dance spontaneously.  It was thrilling, that is until we received our fifth circular in June.

It was June 28th around dinner time.  I approached it like every other email we had received thus far, giddy and squealing.  Chris was in position on the couch and I proceeded with the reading.  A baby girl.  Due in a couple of months.  I read through the details about the birthmother with anticipation to finish the email and say "yes," when my words were stopped and I literally could not go on.  Tears rushed to my eyes, and I began sobbing.  I couldn't squeak another word out.  Chris looked perplexed and waited patiently for me to continue.  I eventually caught my breath, but my crying continued as I read aloud a heart-wrenching situation.

You see, a number of circulars we had received up until then involved birthmothers who were in need of help, and I say this with sincere sympathy, because of careless choices they had made.  That didn't affect our desire to help them in any way.  The email I was reading involved a young lady who was facing circumstances that immediately broke my heart.  It was possibly the first time in my life where compassion came so easily and so quickly, in a moment.  Regardless of if I ever received this birthmother's child, I wanted to meet her and hug her.

All excitement was drained out of me, and a part of me didn't want to finish the email.  No more smiles.  No more squeals.  I finished reading and went immediately to the bathroom where I continued to cry.  Chris sat on the couch, equally broken by what we had just read.  When I came back to the living room, we talked about how it was situations like this that motivated us to adopt.  We desired to help a woman in need.  I responded to the email by saying "YES.  Please show our profile to this birthmother."  I wept at the very thought of the situation the next couple days.  I discussed it with a few close friends and would tear up as I spoke about it.  Chris would say, "I really hope she picks us."  "I know sweetie."

On July 1st we headed to Texas for the month.  We waited and waited, but never heard a response.  Two weeks passed by and no news.  The 15th of July was a Friday, and Chris's dad took the day off from work to spend with us.  Chris, his mom and dad, and I headed to one of my favorite shopping centers in Southlake.  We caught an early movie and ate lunch at Cheesecake Factory {obviously a favorite of mine}.  We split up to do some shopping and would meet back together in a couple hours.  Chris and I headed off to browse my favorite stores.  The two hours went quickly, and I decided to pop into one more store before it was time to meet back up.  I headed into LOFT while Chris stayed outside.  The sale was picked over, and I had done enough shopping in Chicago to last a couple seasons.  Unexpectedly, my phone rang.  Over the music in the store I heard Liz's voice, our case worker.  I abandoned the store and waved Chris down.  "It's Liz," I mouthed to him.

She told me that she had just emailed out an urgent circular and was calling families to get quick answers to it.  A woman was in labor, as we spoke, with a baby boy.  She was going to deliver that night and was wanting to look at profiles as soon as possible.  Standing outside the front of the store, Liz walked me through all of the details of the situation, and I simultaneously whispered them to Chris.  She didn't need an immediate answer, but needed one within the hour.  Chris asked, "Does she know anything about the last circular, the baby girl?"  I asked Liz, and she said she hadn't heard anything yet concerning that circular.  What to do?

More to come,

Friday, January 27, 2012


June 6th, 2011.  We started our day by eating breakfast at Yolk.  I had oatmeal topped with sauteed peaches and pecans.  Then we went on an architecture boat tour led by a fantastic Australian woman who wore a large black hat and yellow thick-rimmed glasses.  We ate at Flaco's Tacos for lunch before Chris had to go to class.  After an afternoon of shopping on the Magnificent Mile, I met him at the Cheesecake Factory for dinner.  Arcade Fire and Ellie Goulding were on my playlist, and I was looking forward to the rest of our week in Chicago.  These are the events of the day our home study was approved.

Chris was taking a class at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago for a whole week, and I had my own personal vacation during the days and fantastic dates with him at night.  We went all out in true Chris & Amanda fashion.  We've never celebrated Valentine's Day as a couple.  Instead we save up and majorly splurge for our anniversary in May.  This year we waited til our Chicago trip.  I had scored majorly on Restaurant.com during their Memorial Day sale.  80% off gift ceritificates!  I got three $50 gift certificates for $4 each.  Fine dining on a budget.  I wore dresses, we had three course meals, and best of all we were in the city every night.  It was a much needed distraction, yet our second day there I'm faced with reality.  Our home study was approved and there was no escaping the adoption process.  Our vacation was now subtitled "Our last before we have a baby."

Our names were now on the distribution list to receive the circulars {make sure you read my last post to understand this stage of the process}, and not three days later we received our first one.  A boy with special needs was due to be born within the month, and the mother was allowing the agency to choose his parents. Boom!  We're faced with our first decision.  I don't think I can rightly describe the feeling of knowing there is a baby available for adoption, and we bear the burden of choosing if we would be interested in adopting it.  To what is it comparable?  Not to wanting a husband or job or puppy.  There's a sweet baby that's going to be born in need of parents, and I want to be a parent.  As I read through the email there was a great need to be objective because emotions were not lacking in the moment.  This is where it was helpful that we had already completed our Service Plan.  The decision for this particular circular had already been made.  We knew we were not in a place to care for this baby's specific needs.  We did not respond with interest to our first circular.

Although it was a "no," what encouragement that we were now being made aware of real opportunities.  I never would have expected an email so soon.  I thought maybe in a couple weeks, but what was waiting for us when we arrived home from Chicago the next day?  Another email!  A baby boy due in less than two weeks.  As we read through the email, we were hesitant to allow our hearts to be as excited as they were.  All of the birthmother's criteria was fitting our's.  Because Chris and I had already talked at length about what we would and wouldn't say "yes" to, our decisions were usually quick.  What was left to pray about?  We responded with an enthusiastic "Yes," but found out a week later she chose another family.

We received three more circulars that month.  Here's how it usually went down.  I would check my email and find a circular waiting in my Inbox.  I imagine it to have said, "Where have you been?  I have been sitting here for like three hours waiting for you to read me.  Hello?"  I would immediately hunt down Chris.  I even drug him out of bed once.  That's usually a no-no, but he didn't mind it in these cases.  I was careful to read every single detail in the email as quickly as I could in a slow manner.  Does that make sense at all?  Or did I read them as slowly as possible in a fast manner.  Either way, I could hardly get through the email fast enough.  I would finish the email, look up at Chris, we would flash each other a goofy grin, and I would say, "Well, what do you think?"  Of the three more circulars we received that month, we said "no" to one and "yes" to the other two.  A white boy, a black girl, and a white girl.  Were any of these going to be my baby?

More to come,

PS.  I can't write this without hearing the Target Lady in my head.  "Approved!"  "Classic Peg."  {shoulder bounce}

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Question & Answer Session

Allow me to answer some FAQ's that we received while we were awaiting approval.  They will help you understand our upcoming circumstances.

Q:  Do you have any say in what baby you receive? {gender, race, health, etc.}
A:  Yes.  We can be as specific as we want in our preferences.  We could say we want a Hispanic boy, but that will limit what birthparents look at our profile.  We stated we were open to any race and either gender, and we wanted a healthy baby.  Healthy in broad terms.  We were willing to consider some situations outside of the ideal pregnancy.

Q:  Will you know when a birthmother is looking at your profile?
A:  Yes.  We will receive an email called a circular.  I don't know why they're called a circular other than the fact that it circulates among all the approved adoptive families.  The Bethany case worker working with the birthmother, and sometimes father, writes up the circular including all of the information they have gleaned during their time with her.  It begins with information about the baby, due date and gender if known.  It then gives details about the birthmother {age, race, marital status, physical description, education level, work experience, other children she has, hobbies, religious affiliation, personality, attitude toward adoption, and the nature or relationship with the birthfather}.  Then it provides all of that same information for the birthfather if it is known.  There is a brief description of extended birthfamily, a family medical history, and reason for considering adoption.  It gives prenatal care information, any medications, alcohol/drug use, and any high risk factors involved.  Finally, it lays out the birthmother's desire for openness and any preferences she has for the adoptive family.

Chris and I will read through the circular and decide if we would like the birthmother to consider our profile. If we say yes to a circular, we are essentially saying that we would be willing to adopt that particular baby.

Q:  How many profiles does a birthparent look at at one time?
A:  There were approximately 25 total families that were receiving the circulars.  However, a birthmom could look at 3 profiles or 12.  It just depends how many families respond to a circular.

Q:  How will you know that you've been chosen?
A:  After a birthparent makes their decision, our case worker, Liz, would email the families who had not been chosen, thanking them for their willingness to show their profile.  If a birthparent chooses us, Liz will call us with the good news.

Q:  Will you meet the birthparents?
A:  Yes, there is almost always a meeting between the birthparent and adoptive parents.

Q:  Where will the birthmom be at in her pregnancy?
A:  She could pursue adoption at any point in her pregnancy.  Some during their 5th month.  Some contact Bethany days before their due date.

Q:  Will you get to go to the hospital?
A:  The birthmom writes out a Hospital Plan with her case worker detailing her wishes for what she would like the hospital experience to look like.  It is completely up to her.

Q:  When will you get to bring the baby home?
A:  We will bring the baby home straight from the hospital once it is discharged.

Q:  Is there a chance that you could bring a baby home and then the birthparent change their mind?
A:  Yes.  Until the parental rights are terminated, the birthparent can change their mind.  The court date for termination of rights is usually 6-8 weeks after the baby is born.  {This is specific to Michigan.}

I liked having answers for people.  I liked knowing what to expect.  I only had these answers because I had asked Liz all of these questions.  My heart was excited and anxious.  What would our circulars say?  Which ones would we say yes to?  Would there be ones that we would say no?  What would our birthmom be like?  Would it be a last minute delivery or would we have time to prepare?  And what would our little baby be like?

I guess I didn't have all of the answers, but we would alot sooner than we expected.

More to come,

Sunday, January 22, 2012

While We Wait

We completed our last interview on March 21st, less than two months after the information meeting we attended.  With the interviews completed, all that was left to do was wait for our approval.  There were a few items on our to do list while we waited.  Once we received our approval, we could potentially receive a baby any day.  So although we were in a waiting period, we felt an urgency to prepare ourselves and others for some possible quick life changes.

One of the first things we did once all of our family and close friends had been informed was to send out a letter informing the people in our life that provide endless support for us.  Yes, a letter.  Envelope.  Stamp.  Snail mail.  There is a tangibility that a letter provides that is lost in email.  I wanted people to feel the importance of our news.  I wanted them to leave it on their kitchen island for a few days and remember that we were adopting every time they walked past it.  I wanted them to lose the letter in a pile of bills and find it a month later and be reminded of our good news.  Email can't do that.  When was the last time you read an email from a month ago?  It's probably under one hundred other items in your Inbox.  Our letter not only informed people about our good news, but also made them aware of the financial need we were facing.  Though we didn't ask anyone directly for money, we believe that if you provide others with information and knowledge, either they will help or will find others who can.  We didn't immediately see any money as a result of this letter, but there was comfort in knowing that the most important people in my life know what's going on and are praying for us and our future baby.

Even though we were now able to tell people the best news of our life, I felt exposed.  I had been so private for so long about wanting a baby.  When I told people, "We're going to adopt a baby,"  I felt like what I was really saying was "I can't get pregnant," which was true, but still so sad for me.  Here I am delivering such wonderful news, and inwardly I'm still mourning a loss.  In that moment of vulnerability for me, I'll never forget those who responded with such grace.  I had one coworker who was so sincerely happy for me she wept when I told her our news.  What a sweet moment to share tears with someone.  I had another coworker who said she had been praying for years that God would bless us with a child, not knowing a bit of what we were going through.  The most rejoicing came from those who I expected it the least.  Jaws dropped on some and others squealed, but people were unanimously happy for us.  I chose to get over my self-consciousness and be grateful for the supportive people God had put in my life.  And so what if they were thinking, "Oh, Amanda can't get pregnant, and that's why they're adopting."  No one cared that I couldn't get pregnant.  They were so happy for the adoption.

I found that in general people were very unfamiliar with the adoption process.  Most people were more familiar with fostering to adopt and international adoption.  Domestic infant adoption was a mystery for most.  I usually just answered whatever questions someone had and figured they were okay with the rest of the unknown, rather than bombard them with all the information I stored in my back pocket.  We also found that  no one felt the urgency to prepare like Chris and me.  I wouldn't expect them to, but it left Chris and I wondering what to do about all that stuff we had on our registry.

I suppose we could have had a shower upon our approval, but there's that feeling of "We might not use this stuff for another year... or we might need it next month."  There was no known due date, yet practical me is feeling internal pressure to prepare.  I had spoken with other approved adoptive moms, and many of them had this feeling of emptiness walking past a furnished nursery that lacked a baby. I just couldn't relate.  I don't know how many times I asked Chis if we were crazy for buying items from our registry.  I was always on the Babies R Us website finding sales and deals.  "Chris, our sterilizer is on sale this week, and I have a coupon."
"Go ahead and get it."
Two weeks later, another sale and he said, "Go ahead and get it."
I slowly was filling the baby's closet with bottles, pacifiers, burp cloths, changing pad covers, water proof pads, and the occasional toy.  I would ask my friend, "Am I crazy?"
"No, you're being practical."
Before I knew it, I had a fully furnished nursery.  All that was lacking were the bigger items {stroller, car seat, swing, high chair}.  Oh, and $19,000.  It was the end of May.  No approval yet, but we were ready to be handed a baby.

More to come,

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Something Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue

I always knew what I would name a boy if we had one.  Elliott Christopher.  It's Chris's first and middle name switched.  Elliott.  So sweet.  However, over the eight years of trying to get pregnant I have had so many girls's names that I swore I would use.  Way back in 2003 it was Hannah Glory, Glory reflecting my John Piper days.  Then it was Claire Grey {my Grey's Anatomy days}, and then Stella Rose, Madeline {line not lyn}, Caroline, Audrey, Paige, and Marin.  I was prepared to have multiples, that's for sure, as long as they were girls.  I was online searching lists of names: French names, names popular in 1942, and I even looked at a list of rare Mormon names to see if there was anything that stuck out.  Teemarie and Delightra just weren't cutting it though.  I finally had it narrowed down to either Clara or Daphne.  I still love both of them.  By the way, naming our dog was this difficult as well.  The first couple days we had him he was Puppy, and even after we named him I kept thinking up new ones.  I didn't want to name my child and for weeks say to Chris, "Oh we could have named her ________."

Remember my trip to TX to see my family and best friend?  One evening, as we do every visit, my friend and I snuggled up on her soooo comfy chair-and-a-half and big ottoman to peruse the most recent Pottery Barn catalog together.  In light of recent circumstances {hehe, we're adopting} we were looking at PB Kids.  We came upon an item monogrammed "Amelia."  She asked, "What about Amelia?"
"I think it's great, but I don't think Chris would ever go for it.  But it would be so sweet.  We could call her Millie sometimes."
"Ohhh, Amelia Rose!"
We ooed and ahhed, and then quickly dismissed the unlikely possibility.

When I got back to MI and the name topic came up, as it did often, thanks to me, I mentioned Amelia to Chris.  "Yeah, I like it."  He didn't even hesitate.
"Seriously, you like it?"
And that was that.

If only decorating the nursery was that easy.  Since I was ten I wanted to be an interior decorator.  I went to Texas Tech specifically for their Interior Design program and promptly dropped all of my ID classes the second day of class once I realized "design" is different than "decorating."  An artist, I am not.  I knew I wanted to get started on the nursery A-SAP.  I am a super practical person and did not want to make decisions as life changing as decorating a room for my long awaited child once it was here.  Can you sense the drama in my voice words?  My plan was to do a gender neutral room and accessorize once we knew the gender.  Google Images became my best friend in the evenings.  I wanted to do thorough research before I made any decisions.  White crib or wood crib?  Classic or eclectic?  Pottery Barn or Anthropologie?  Here are some nurseries and images that I just loved.

neutral... love it.

 embroidery hoops with fun fabric... love it.

 simple and pretty... love it.

 random wall display... love it.

 stenciled wall... love it.

 vintage art... love it.

 flowers that flow out of an empty frame... hello?  love it.

Although there are some similarities between all of these, they're different too.  What to do?  Start with the basics, Manda.  Here's the room we're working with.

Light fixture needs to change.  You could bump your head on it if you walked under it.  The wall color was a smidge too yellow.  It was supposed to be Linen White when it was first painted but was mistinted.  We basically have a blank slate here.

We decided to go with a tan cream, not to be confused with a creamy tan.  Mediterranean White from Restoration Hardware.  I bought their paint fan deck a few years ago and love it, and Home Depot has great color matching.  I knew I wanted to use a dresser as a changing table and wanted to get furniture this kid could grow into and use for a long, long time.  I had my eye on IKEA's grey brown furniture for a while and thought it would be perfect for a nursery.  It's different, but soft and pretty.  Plus I am, to this day, in a major grey phase.  When Chris and I went to look at it in the store, we found the dresser $100 off in the As Is room.  It was already assembled and had one dent on the top that we could barely notice.  Mint condition!  We got the night stand and couch table to use as cubbies.  We bought a crib, bedding, and rocking chair.  The skeleton was in place.

I had three projects I wanted to work on.  A quilt, mobile, and lamp.  I won't go into too much detail about it all, but I will say that it was all looking a little girly.  If we got a boy, I was prepared to make another quilt and mobile.  I even splurged on white scalloped basket liners from PBK, knowing they were totally girly and would have a short life span if we got a boy.

I am mighty proud of my owl lamp.  I found it on Craig's List for $10 and it was hideous, painted brown and orange to look like a real owl.  Even after I knew what I was going to do I found this lamp from West Elm for $99!!!

SO without further adieu... the final, fully accessorized nursery.

I wanted curtains on rings that I could slide open and closed  as many times as needed during the day for naps.  Blackout curtains too.  So glad I spent the extra money for both of those details.

This rocking chair was my grandmother's when she was little.  I love how the outdated birds and flowers that my mom put on there in the 80's just happen to go perfectly with everything else.

The room looks so much bigger with the double bed out of it.

art from Home Goods, girly but sophisticated and could go anywhere in my house if her decor changes

the plates are actually tin and all connected, from Home Goods
nests and eggs, slight bird theme but didn't go crazy with it

 MY owl lamp!  How does it compare?  I love that mine is perched on a stump!

 new light fixture

The doll crib on the floor was mine when I was little, made by my grandfather Pappap.

Found a mobile for $15 at PBK and deconstructed it...

 sewed the birds... {pattern}

 and wrapped the arms in grey, of course, yarn.

The bedding and frame above the dresser are navy blue.  Love how it's dark like black, but less harsh and more sophisticated.

I love how it all came together in a matter of months.  It's a room I know she can grow into as she gets older.  But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.  Baby?  What Baby?  Our home study still hasn't been approved in our story.

More to come,

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Addendum- Nothing to Hide 2

So I wrote my last post at ten o'clock at night, after a stressful weekend that I will most likely share about in a far future post, tired and writing out of a sense of obligation to get this story goin'.  As I was writing I was fully aware that I was in my Joe Friday mode.  "Just the facts ma'am."  I have been contemplating writing Part Deux, and upon receiving a note from my new editor today (A, you're hired) I knew I had at least one reader looking for a bit more "humanity," as she described it.  I couldn't agree more.  So here goes.

The month for us couldn't have gone fast enough.  When we set up our first interview with Liz, we hated that it was two weeks away.  We were ready to do it right then and there.  I was hoping to set a new record for fastest home study ever!  With Chris and I working so close to home, our schedule was extremely flexible, and Chris could come home early when needed.  I would imagine not all families have that same flexibility as us.  So when we had to wait on Liz's schedule to clear up, it kind of irked us.  "Come on, let's get this goin'."

Because of our "Nothing to Hide" mentality, we really weren't worried about the interviews.  I was probably more nervous about my house being clean and presentable than my life and heart being exposed.  Yes, we had done a full out house cleaning before Liz came over.  I think I even wiped down our base boards.  The other reason I really wasn't nervous were the years of preparation that my job had provided for me.  Working as a Dean of Women required me to interview around twenty women in a semester's time.  I also met with three ladies a week to discuss their lives and responsibilities as student leaders.  Much of this experience refined my question asking skills and ability to articulate my thoughts.

Do you remember the poster on the wall in your seventh grade classroom that said something like, "You can do whatever you want to do"?  I've been told that I believed that message, and it has contributed to my overwhelming self-sufficiency.  Although this characteristic is often times my biggest flaw, in this situation it provided me much comfort.  Tell a stranger about all my dirt and skeletons in the closet?  "Okay.  I can do it!"

If I had to pick a word to describe the tone of the interviews it would be harmless. Most of that was provided by Liz.  Talk about a Joe Friday!  She initially came across to me as being cold, which is ironically the first impression I give others, but I figured that quality was needed in her job, providing a service yet not getting too attached.  As the interviews proceeded I began to see Liz's humanity and joined her in the process of providing as much integrity to the home study as possible.  Of course there's the temptation to sugar coat my weaknesses as an individual, our struggles as a couple, and my past and present failures.  I knew each question wasn't an opportunity to disqualify us from adopting as much as it was to provide each birthparent with the opportunity to accurately know us, thus providing them with a clear picture of what their child's life with us would be like.  With this attitude, I knew there was no reason to feel threatened as someone I barely knew dug deep into my heart and life.

All of our fertility treatments brought Chris and I closer together over the years.  The adoption process only continued to do so.  It's always encouraging to hear your spouse rattle off your best qualities when asked to describe your strengths.  Early in marriage Chris and I tried to find a common hobby for us to share as a couple.  We tried and tried to find something that both of us equally enjoyed.  For as much as Chris and I have in common in regards to zeal, drive, and stubbornness, you'd think we could find something to do together, but alas, there was nothing.  He likes the outdoors.  I like being indoors.  He likes walking up a mountain.  I like walking through outlet malls.  He doesn't like playing games.  I always win at games.  Probably why he doesn't like playing them!  We eventually decided our shared interest was food and dining out, but deep down we probably are both thinking that it is a lame excuse for a hobby.  The adoption process was a good reminder that we are on the same page, the same team, having the same goal in mind.  We wanted a baby.  Together.

So, what else was on my mind during this time of waiting?  A nursery and a name.

More to come,

Monday, January 16, 2012

Nothing to Hide

To my knowledge, anyone in the U.S. who wants to adopt, domestically or internationally, is required to have a home study completed and approved.  Chris and I went into it with the attitude, "We have nothing to hide."  We were going to be open, honest, and transparent, no matter what question was asked of us, and if Liz found something in our lives that disqualified us from adopting, then so be it.

The first interview lasted about three hours.  It began with us giving Liz a tour of the house.  We walked through every room, including the basement, and she jotted down a description as we went along.  She was looking for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, functioning doors and locks on all doors {this has yet to be addressed upstairs.  We don't have one door that functions properly up there.  Oops.}, and adequate space for a child to live.  After the tour Liz asked us a broad array of questions.  What is your neighborhood like?  How do you resolve conflict as a couple?  What are your strengths and weaknesses?  How would you describe your spouse in three words?  What does your family think of you adopting?  Would you describe yourself as culturally minded people?  And on and on.  The three hours went very quickly.

Before Liz's next visit, Chris and I were to complete personal questionnaires independently of the other person.  We couldn't share our answers or talk about the questions at all.  These questions were much more detailed.  How would you describe your childhood?  It asked about child discipline, alcohol and drug use, past relationships, your spouse's history, and on and on again.  Liz's second visit was four hours long.  Two were one on one with me, and the other two were with Chris one on one.  She went over our questionnaires with us individually, clarifying, asking for stories and further explanations, and I must say that by the end of it, she knew far more about me than my best friends and family.

A month after the first interview we had our third.  It's now the end of March.  This interview was two to three hours, going over any remaining questions that Liz had and clarifying previous answers given.  So what is Liz doing with all of this information?  She used it all to compile and compose our home study.  In the end, it was a twenty page document, all written by Liz, with everything that we talked about.  There wasn't anything that we talked about that didn't make it in that document.  It was alot of work for her and took a little over two months for her to complete.

I was always, and still am, so appreciative of all of Liz's work.  January was her first month working as a case worker, and we were one of about twenty families that she was working with.  She was always very careful and respectful of everything we divulged to her, and she would often refer to her "crazy weekends" that I later learned involved last minute adoptions and placements.  She traveled all over to people's homes and hospitals, and she was the only full time case worker in her office.

So with all of the interviews completed, our only responsibility was to wait for approval.  Birthparents couldn't look at our profile until we received it.  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.

More to come,

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Got My Creative Juices Flowin'

I couldn't wait to put together our Family Profile.  No really.  I couldn't wait.  It didn't need to be ready until all of our interviews were complete and we were approved.  I had our's done before our first interview!

The Family Profile book is what the birthparents look through to get a better picture of where their child will live and what kind of life they may have.  Will their child go on vacations?  Will their child play sports?  What kind of extended family will their child have?  The birthparents may look at 3 profiles or they may see 12.  I'll tell you later how all that works.

When putting together the book, it is so tempting to adopt {pun not intended} an attitude of selling yourself, making yourself and your life appear to be something it's not.  I wanted our book to be accurate, but fun.  I wanted the book to be easy on the eyes and to give relevant details.  I looked through a ton of profile books online before I began working on our's.  I saw some books that were so busy and difficult to follow.  Families would go on and on about things that didn't even matter, like detailed stories of their lives.  "I was born on a cold winter night, blah blah blah."  I wanted to provide a quick glimpse into our life.

On the one hand, I was so excited to get my creative juices flowing.  On the other hand, this project weighed on my heart.  A woman with a baby in her belly is going to read my book and decide whether or not she sees her baby living with us for the rest of its life.  So many people have the misconception that women give their babies up for adoption because they don't love their child.  It is often the complete opposite.  So many of these courageous women want the very best for their baby, and they know that they can't provide it themselves.  They give their baby up for adoption with their child's best interest at heart.  It is a sacrifice.  We viewed adoption as serving a woman as much as we did helping a child.

If you'd like to see our profile book, click here.  Here's our profile video that was posted on Bethany's website for birthparents to view.  Hope you like them.

More to come,

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Ball is Rolling

One week after mailing off our initial application I received an email with a username and password to our personal webpage with Bethany.  It was a portal that would be used for communication between us and Liz.  I quickly signed in, well as quickly as our slow internet would allow, and saw that our formal application was posted and ready for us to fill it out.  I didn't even wait for Chris to come home.  He wasn't surprised.  He knows how much I like to fill out forms!  When he did come home, he went to exercise, knowing I was fully capable of completing it myself.  This form was a bit more detailed and lengthy than the previous one.  We were asked to provide names for references, basic financial information, and a simple explanation of our home and neighborhood.  We were also asked to briefly state why we were pursuing adoption.  I had it all done within a couple hours, so it couldn't have been that challenging.  Chris and I clicked "submit," and it was off.

right after we submitted our formal application

Just two days later I received a message on the portal saying our application was approved.  We met with Liz the following week to go over initial paperwork.  We signed some serious papers stating we were committing to adopt through Bethany and a financial agreement to pay every penny as the adoption process progressed.  The total amount of the adoption would be $19,800.  Ouch!  Here we are signing these papers saying we'd pay, and we didn't have that money.  We didn't even have half that money in savings!  Chris and I make eye contact and look at each other saying with our eyes, "Are we idiots?  Well, he we go!"  I guess some fund-raising was in order.  Before we left the meeting, we set up our first in-home interview with Liz.  It would be the first of three length interviews.

One of the first forms we had to complete as a couple was our Service and Openness Plan.  It was a simple two-sided piece of paper, but boy was it jam-packed with some significant information.  We had to decide what adoption opportunities we would be open to hearing about and which ones we were not willing to consider.  These are babies we're talking about.  Babies that we were not willing to consider.  What if the birthmother smoked or drank or took drugs or prescription pills while she was pregnant.  What if the birthfather had a family history including depression, schizophrenia, or drug use?  What if the conception was the result of rape?  What if the child had medical needs?  And the questions went on and on.  And we had to say "yes," "no," or "open to consideration" with each potential situation.  I won't go into all the lovely conversations that Chris and I had, but needless to say, two people will almost always differ at some point.  We had some differing opinions, but what we agreed on was that we were open to any gender, any race, and we knew we wanted the child to be healthy.  We were not in a place financially to care for a child with special needs.  We wanted a child with special needs to be with a family capable of providing the money and time required to care for them.

We also needed to decide what kind of openness we wanted with the birthmother.  Here's some adoption vocabulary definitions for you:
closed adoption- there is no exchange of identifying information and there is no further contact with the birthparents once the child is in your custody
semi-open adoption- there is possibly some identifying information exchanged and contact after the child is placed
open-adoption- full exchange of information and ongoing contact and visits with the birthparents

Your mind may go where mine went, to some Lifetime movie for women about a deranged birthmother that kidnaps her child after it has been given to a family.  We were quick to learn that is not the norm, AT ALL.  A closed adoption initially seemed ideal, but we saw such an opportunity with the birthparents if we were to have some level of openness.  If there was on-going contact with them, what kind of relationship could we build and what role could we play in their lives?  We consented to a semi-open adoption and spelled out what kind of specifics we would be willing to work with; visitations, emails, pictures, and letters.  All of this and we're not even a couple weeks into the application process.  Jumping in with both feet.

Well, if it wasn't official already that we were adopting, we definitely were now.  And the first thing on my mind?  Baby Registry!  Chris and I didn't register for wedding gifts, and I've always regretted it.  I could not wait to walk around a store with a plastic gun and scan as many UPC's as I wanted.  It was right around Valentine's Day {my how time flies}, and I told Chris all I wanted was to go and register.  He was totally up for it.  I think he was a little excited too about looking at baby gadgets and gizmos.  We headed to Babies R Us that weekend.  Was I crazy?  I felt crazy.  I'm filling out a form at BRU that asked me what gender my baby is?  I don't know.  What is your baby's due date?  I don't know.  We made one up.  December 31st.  I wrote it completely in disbelief that we would actually have a baby by the new year.  I envisioned yet another Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year without a child.  We were told that once you're approved and birthmothers begin looking at your profile, it can take anywhere from 6-18 months before you're chosen.  December 31st was pushing it, but I knew I could always change it to later if I needed to.

I flew to TX a week later to visit my best friend and to tell my parents our news.  I borrowed my friend's car  and drove to my parents, a quick 25 minute drive.  Here I go.  I finally get to tell them the news after wanting to for so long.  I didn't do anything creative.  No baby booties in a box or T-shirt saying "Hey Mom and Dad, we're adopting."  I was just going to tell them.  I don't know why I thought they would just be sitting around on a Saturday waiting for me to show up.  Mom was busy working on a sewing project, and dad was either about to exercise or just did.  I forget.  Somehow we all three ended up in the kitchen, and before they returned to their previous activities I spoke up, "Sooo, I have something I want to tell you."  They stopped in their tracks wide-eyed.  "Chris and I have decided that we..."  Their eyes grew even wider.  "are going to adopt a baby."  Mom burst into tears and Dad started laughing out of excitement.  Big group hug!  They had all sorts of questions and were so excited.

More to come,

Monday, January 9, 2012

Not if, but when

preg-nant [preg-nuhnt]- adjective
fraught, filled, or abounding {usually followed by with}: a woman pregnant with anticipation.

That was me!  Finally preggers, just differently than most women.  That night Chris came home from work, and I immediately hugged him.  "Thanks for letting us adopt a baby."
"You're welcome."
"Honey, for the first time ever, in my life, I feel pregnant.  It's always been 'if we have a baby,' and now it's 'when we have a baby.'"  I had NEVER been able to confidently say that.

I was pregnant with anticipation.  Pregnant with excitement.  Pregnant!  My husband saying "Yes" was like the stick turning pink {and I had no idea how much pink was about to come into my life}.

Three weeks later we were getting ready to go to the information meeting.  I imagined a big room with chairs in a circle filled with happy couples, like ourselves, thrilled to be hearing about the opportunity of adopting a child of their own.  Maybe we would go around the circle and say our names and how long we've been married.  Bonding.  Sharing.  I can't wait!

We make it there with time to spare and are led down a short hallway where our soon-to-be case worker welcomes us {I will refer to our case worker as Liz for the sake of anonymity}.  There is a card table set up with a sign-in sheet, water bottles, and snacks.  Chris and I are never ones to pass up water and snacks, so we load up and head in.  The room is smaller than our bedroom and has 4 rows of 8 metal folding chairs with a puny middle aisle down the center.  It is dead silent, and there's about three other couples already seated.  I slowly take off my puffer coat from New Year's, careful not to punch the people sitting behind us in the face.  Tight spaces.  I twist off my water bottle cap and take a small sip.  CRUNCH! "Shh."  Chris is enjoying his salty snack.  I don't think anyone else but us took advantage of the snacks that night.

By the time the meeting began there was about ten couples in the room, and it appeared only one of them were truly ecstatic about being there.  That would be us!  I was thinking things like "I wouldn't even want these people to babysit for me," and "I guess these people haven't had the past two years as us or else they'd have grins on their faces like us."  I quickly learned that not all people who adopt are quite like us.  Some are, but not all.

We spent the next hour being overwhelmed with details and watching a power point and video filled with sweet children's faces.  With each face I thought "I would take care of you."  "I could be your mommy."  "Yes please."  At the end of the meeting we filled out some forms saying we were interested in more information.  Liz thanked us for coming, and we left well-informed and ready to begin the application process.  We  had a mini-application to fill out requesting access to a longer, detailed on-line application.  Some basic info.  Within three days it was complete, we wrote our first check to Bethany Christian Services for the application fee, and it was all ready for the mail.  Let's get this party started!

More to come,

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Proceed With Caution

First of all, I have heard from many of you lovely single ladies out there, and you have unanimously said that you too are being asked these horrid questions.  Shame on us.  Is there no tact in the world?  May we learn to be less nosey and more thoughtful when interacting with others.

Now, back to our story.

Don't be confused.  Chris had just agreed to go to an informational meeting.  He had not said we were going to adopt.  I knew that about him.  He does not like the whoa-man to get too far out ahead of the man.  We had been dating for two years in college when my lease was up for my one bedroom apartment that I had been living in for about a year.  If we were going to get engaged, then I would renew the lease and we would live there together once we were married.  If not, then it was sianara shweetheart, and I needed to make some plans for moving.  I tried, in the most round-about way, to ask Chris if I should renew my lease, thus avoiding asking him straight out if he was going to propose.  He had nothing to do with my questioning.  He practically stayed silent, or he would say something like, "Let's just wait."  Um, there is no waiting in lease renewing and moving.  He hated that I was even asking.  Again, the whoa-man getting out a little too far ahead of the man.  So I knew he had agreed to a meeting and nothing else, and I should not ask about anything else until he brought it up himself.

You may be further confused about why he had to decide whether or not we should adopt a baby.  Didn't you just spend years pursuing a child?  What else is there to decide?  Anyone who has gone through fertility treatments of any kind will tell you it is exhausting.  Most couples decide they want a baby, they do "the deed" {wink, wink}, and they get pregnant.  Then there's the couples that aren't even trying and they get pregnant {Grrr}.  Trying to get pregnant when it doesn't come naturally is exhausting.  Broken record!  Your relationship goes from, "Oh, you're my best friend.  I love you.  Let's go hug and kiss."  to a business meeting that you have to be at and you know there is a chance of it going badly.  Spontaneity?  Ha!  Everything is timed, planned, calculated, and you're so chalk full of hormones your husband can't remember the last time you were all that appealing.  One month I had three times the progesterone in my body that a woman should have.

Who knew what kinds of challenges adoption was going to bring.  I've heard horror stories of failed adoptions that break your heart.  We were not jumping into this expecting sunshine and roses.  Chris had to wrestle with whether or not we should jump into yet another opportunity that would, yet again, cost our time, money, and emotions.

On January 4th, he came home for lunch, and we had a long talk about everything I just explained to you.  It was one of those rare conversations in marriage where there is absolutely no tension, and the two of us have a team mentality rather than one of opponents.  We talked through what all would change in our life and how a baby would change us, as a couple and individuals.  Talking through all the potentials got Chris excited.  He said, "Ya know I have wanted to adopt all along."  True statement.  He had.  I was thinking, "Soooo?"  Chris uttered, "I think we should adopt a baby."

More to come,

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I digress...

So I would imagine some of you are wondering why I'm talking so openly about this now when so many of you have been in the dark til now.  You may be a coworker thinking, "I see you every day.  Why didn't you say something about what you were going through?"  You may be my mother {Hi Mom.} thinking, "I didn't know any of this was going on."  You may have gone to high school with me thinking, "Amanda, I haven't seen you in 14 years.  Why didn't you give me a call to tell me what was going on in your life?"  Okay, maybe not the last one.  You Bearkats are probably giving me a break on this one.  All that to say, I do feel responsible to offer some sort of explanation.

We all know there's a happy ending to this story.  Just scroll to the top of the page and see my sweet girl.  I hope I didn't just ruin the end for some of you.  Maybe I should change the picture up top to one of me with my hands up in the air gesturing, "I don't know what's going to happen."  Probably too late for that.  As I type, I can hear her over the monitor babbling and squealing up in bed instead of sleeping.  I don't think I would be able to share all of this if we didn't have a child right now.

Chris and I decided at the beginning of all this that we wanted to keep our choices private.  In the beginning my hopes were high, and each month I would envision myself giving my family the good news.  I never really lost that hope.  I would have much rather given my family the news that we were expecting than say "Um, we've been trying to get pregnant and haven't been able too, but we're still trying so just give us some more time."  My family was gracious to never want an answer as to why we didn't have children, and I have always appreciated that.  "Appreciate" is an under-statement.  Well if we weren't telling our family about what we were doing, we were certainly not going to tell the masses.

Over the years I was asked once a week on average if we were planning on having kids one day.  I would give a quick, "Yes, we'd love to have kids." and then try to change the topic.  And then there's the folks that are bold enough to ask if we're trying to have kids.  Do they not realize what they're asking about?  Our personal bedroom habits.  I heard "Why don't you guys have some kids already?" and "Well you obviously don't want to have children." or "When are you going to hurry up and have a baby?"  I hope we're not treating singles this way too.  Can you imagine asking a single lady who isn't dating anyone "Why don't you get married already?" or "Well you obviously don't want to get married." or "When are you going to hurry up and get married?"  We couldn't do anything more about the fact that we didn't have children than a single lady could about not being married.

I was crushed every month when "the news" came.  I couldn't imagine including more than just a few people in on that.  I chose just two friends to share all the nitty gritty details with.  They got excited with me when my follicles were growing, or my uterine lining was thick.  See, you're already glad I didn't tell you what was going on!  {I know way more than I should about the female anatomy and the reproductive system.  I could teach a class.}  But it was even tiring to include them at times.  Not because of them, but I was so obsessed with the details, I just wanted to forget about it all at times.  But that was impossible.

So now that all of that is in the past, I'm finding it quite refreshing to talk about all of this.  Every woman is different in how she chooses to share this part of her life.  I know ladies who were even more private than me in regards to their fertility and other ladies who were very open.  I knew myself and what I was going to be capable of, and I went with it.

More to come,

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year

By the next morning I was more composed and we decided to spend the day hitting some New Year's sales and spending Christmas money that we were given.  Life looked a little brighter when I found a black knee-length puffer coat at J. Crew on sale to replace the flimsy one I found at Gap.  Who wants a flimsy puffer coat?  Anyways...

There is some background information needed before I can move on in our story.  In January of 2010, we had just finished our first year of fertility treatments and were deciding what our next step was going to be.  Either I could go see a Reproductive Endocrinologist who could help us find more answers as to why we couldn't get pregnant or we could pursue adoption.  We decided to go the R.E. route to hopefully find more answers.  It took 10 months before we did any more treatment.  Although the treatments were successful, the outcomes were not.

We were both exhausted by the end of 2010.  The thought of pursuing another option to get a baby was especially exhausting for Chris.  I was treading very lightly in even proposing that we look into adoption in 2011.  I had mentioned it just once to him during our December treatment as my hope of pregnancy had completely faded away.  Our plan was to just wait and see.  Slow the pace down and take a break.

Back to New Year's Day.... After a day of shopping we landed ourselves in a restaurant for a much needed dinner.  We are both quiet as we are both in need of food.  We have learned after nine years of marriage that it is better to stay quiet when you are hungry than to speak up and have your low blood sugar do the talking.  We were also quiet because of the emotional week that we had had.  There just wasn't much to say.

As the meal was coming to close {and it wasn't that good of a meal.  Flat Top Grill.  You have to be a stir fry artist to eat there.  I made poor choices and my meal was the evidence.  Chris liked his though.}  we were still quiet even with food in our bellies.  Out of the silence, Chris said "So, what would be the first thing we would need to do to look into adoption?"  Even though my heart leapt, my face remained calm and I spoke slowly.  The very last thing I wanted to do was pressure Chris into anything that he wasn't ready for.  I did not want to look back and know that we had a child because I manipulated my husband.  I wanted him to lead, and I knew that he would be heavily influenced if I were to start squealing and jumping in my seat.  Calm down lady!

Of course I immediately had an answer for him because I had, of course, done research into our options were we to not get pregnant.  I knew I wanted to work with Bethany Christian Services.  They are very structured and organized in their approach to adoption.  De speaka my language!  I knew the first step before you could apply for adoption was to go to an Information Meeting at one of their local offices.  I told Chris about the Info Mtg, and he stayed quiet.  No response.  "Okay Manda, he's quiet so you stay quiet.  Zip your lip."

We left the restaurant and hit the road to go home.  Half way home Chris said, "Could you look into one of those Information Meetings for us to go to?"  "Sure babe."  I got those two words out right before I began to weep, quietly of course, as to not flaunt that things were going as I had wished.  "Thank you."  He knew those two words did not adequately express my gratefulness for his willingness to once again move forward.

More to come,