8.17.2014

pressing on



Tomorrow I was supposed to be wrapping up a road trip with my mom and arriving in Oklahoma. Had things gone differently, the next day I might have been sitting down to lunch with the expectant mother who had chosen Joe and I to parent her baby girl. By the end of the week that same baby girl would probably have been nestled in my arms while I went from feeling overjoyed that our wait was over to feeling heartbroken that another woman's pain was just beginning. Adoption is so complicated.

Instead of doing these things, I'm at home. I got to spend today with both of my sweet boys, P and G, under the same roof, which almost never happens. Instead of being in Oklahoma waiting impatiently for the courts to process paperwork, I'll be helping P get ready for kindergarten and walking him to the bus stop in a few weeks. Instead of worrying about how we'll budget for adoption expenses and whether or not we have everything ready for a baby, I'll know that we are more than prepared with budgets outlined and baby bags packed. I've been able to count a lot of blessings in the last week.

Of course, blessings don't erase the fact that we are grieving. When I got the information on Monday that baby girl, the little one we thought would be ours to love for her whole life, had been born and her mother had chosen a different family to adopt her, I spent a few hours crying ugly, snotty tears. I was just so tired of being on this journey and experiencing disappointment. It's tiring to hope and enter into each new possibility with the same energy that you took to the last one. I don't regret one minute of planning and prayer that we poured over the mother and her baby girl or the time that we have now spent praying for the new adoptive family. It was all worth it. Still, I'd only be painting half the picture if I didn't also say that this journey feels like it may never end.

I sat in church today listening to the music and cried again. With each new bend in our road it is brought home to me more clearly that Christ did not die so that I could be happy, but so that I could be redeemed, so that when I am crushed by the things that come to my life, grace and love pour out of me instead of anger and bitterness. It is one of my deepest desires that God would add children to our family, that we would see redemption for the these years that sometimes seem full of struggle and empty of result. But, if at the end of our adoption journey the only thing I walk away with is the ability to love others better, to extend greater compassion and grace, I think I'm beginning to believe that it will be it's own reward.

"Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own." Philippians 3:12

7.22.2014

second call

I got a text first thing this morning that another expectant mother wanted to interview us!!!! A few hours later I got a call from our assistant (our worker at the agency) to tell us all the details. I am so excited about this interview, which probably means that I will be equally disappointed if we aren't chosen. But for now, I'm just riding the crest of this wave and enjoying it.

Update: The interview was quick, but went really well. We got to spend a few minutes chatting and then had the opportunity to pray for her, which was so wonderful.

Update to the update: WE'VE BEEN CHOSEN!!! Baby girl is due at the end of August!!

7.16.2014

on tea and toilets and the importance of community


It all started more than a year ago with my need for iced tea. I was certain that a beautiful glass pitcher of homemade iced tea was going to solve all of my problems. When life feels out of control, I surround myself with simple things, controllable things with precise and beautiful outcomes. These desires sometimes don't make a whole lot of logical sense, but I've learned not to question or criticize myself for my whims because the silly little things do bring me peace in the chaos.


Except for this time.

This time Joe was hundreds of miles away on a business trip. This time I had a toddler who had just come to our home a few weeks before and was still struggling. This time I poured an entire tea kettle of boiling water into a glass pitcher, not thinking of the potential repercussions until the whole thing exploded in a shower of glass shards and water hot enough to scald your skin off. And boy, did it ever. The water and glass storm broke right over my legs and feet soaking my running shorts and burning its way down my thighs. I screamed, one short scream, and said a whole bunch of monosyllables that probably would  have been curse words except that my two kids were in the next room. I heard little feet headed toward me and a new kind of panic made me forget my pain for a second. "STOP! Don't come in here," I shouted at them. There were glass shards everywhere. I gritted my teeth, grabbed my phone off of the counter, and herded the boys in front of me down the hall until I managed to corral us all in the master bathroom.

By this time my whole body was shaking from shock and adrenaline and pain. I started the water running into the bathtub and frantically splashed it over my legs. My running shorts had taken the worst of the explosion and had mostly deflected the boiling water away from my skin protecting my upper thighs. I had two perfect lines where the shorts had ended and the water had burned its way down the rest of my legs. When the bath filled up, I lowered myself into it fully-clothed, gasping and sputtering when it hit my burns. I was a hyperventilating mess trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do with two little ones who were barely keeping it together while I was trapped in the tub. I called Joe, even though he was in Seattle, because there is no one like my husband to keep my head on straight in an emergency. Within a few minutes we had his mom on the way to take care of the kids and I was mentally going through other people who might be able to help while trying to comfort the my 16-month old who had devolved into full-blown hysteria.

I'm ashamed to say that the list of people I was willing to call for help was painfully small. Life had been crazy in the last few weeks. The house was a mess, the kids were dirty and hadn't eaten dinner, I couldn't remember the last time I'd showered, and I could see dog hair floating in my bath water (most likely because I hadn't vacuumed in more days than I'm willing to admit and the stuff was everywhere). It was the dog hair that really put me over the edge from embarrassment to deep mortification. There were simply not that many people in my life who I was willing to see me sitting in pain, dirty and disheveled, waist deep in bathwater with floating dog hair. It was too much!

When I finally did reach for my phone, it was only to find it missing. After looking around the small bathroom space, I asked my 4 year-old if he knew where it was and he promptly and politely told me that my screaming toddler had put it in the toilet. I didn't believe him, but opened the toilet anyway and lo and behold there was my phone sitting at the very bottom. This was the point that comes in many mild crises when your options are to panic or laugh. I laughed. I was sitting in my bathtub with blistering burns on both thighs, a hysterical toddler, about to reach my hand into the depths of my not-too-clean toilet and I had felt that it was necessary to consider my dignity before calling someone for help. What a joke. In that moment, it seemed very clear how ludicrous I had been in putting off the hard work of building a community for myself and my family. How stupid it was to hold off on connecting in real and vulnerable ways with the people in our circles because I wasn't sure our lives were presenting quite the right picture - the house not updated enough for entertaining, the kids not well-behaved enough for guests. How shallow it had been to be so concerned about how others might perceive me as needy or overbearing if I asked them to share their time with me and my family. I'm not naturally a community-builder or a people-gatherer.  I don't connect easily with new groups in new places, but as I sat there in the bathwater I knew that all of my reasons for choosing not to LEARN how to do these things better were flimsy at best and at worst revealed a dangerous pride that would only end in my being isolated. Like I was now...with my hand down the toilet.

Fortunately, Joe's mom arrived a few minutes later with a friend in tow and between the three of us we got the boys fed and in bed. I still consider it one of my crowning achievements as a mother that I got out of my tepid bath, half-swore in my monosyllabic way, and hobbled down the hall to rock my baby to sleep. Joe managed to get a hold of some friends who came over with all of the medical supplies I would need to survive the next few days, as well as two kinds of chocolate for which I was especially grateful. I spent most of the rest of the night alternately taking Ibuprofen and applying burn gel to my legs. My burns took a few weeks to heal and I still have a discolored scar on each thigh, but I find that I don't mind them as much as I thought I might. They remind me not to value my dignity more than I value my friendships, to invest my time and energy in building a community around my family, and to take chances that may leave me vulnerable in reaching out to others and connecting. I'm still not very good at it, but I'm getting better and being intentional about practicing hospitality, friendship, and openness is bringing me progress.

I'd like to wrap this up with a quick tribute to my phone which survived its dunking and stayed in use for another year (after 24 hours in a bag of rice). I also want to be sure to mention that I learned my lesson well about the dangers of tea-making and these days I stick to making sun tea out in the vegetable garden - more idyllic, less chance of shrapnel.

7.14.2014

our first call

Today we got our first call. A birth mom wants to interview us tomorrow! We are excited, but maybe not for the reasons you think.

At CPO, birth moms are encouraged to interview as many couples as they want to. The decision to place your baby is a huge one and no mom is ever pressured to make that decision quickly or without enough information. This means that it's completely possible that nothing will come of our interview. However, one thing that we can be 100% sure of is that when we interview we will get to meet one of the courageous women that CPO is helping. We will have an hour or so to get to know her and have her get to know us. We will hopefully get to spend that hour showing her the love of Christ and pouring encouragement and love on her. And we are SO excited about that prospect!

As of right now, we aren't feeling nervous. I'm sure it will all hit me just before the interview. I'm never one to feel things right now when I could put off feeling them until later (it's the Scarlet O'Hara in me). Probably tomorrow around 6:10pm I'll be losing my mind trying to figure out what shirt will look best on Skype and wishing that I had actually made that appointment to get my hair cut, but no use fretting about it now. This is just the first of many steps that will lead toward new relationships and expanding our family.

6.25.2014

expecting


So...we're adopting a baby. Really! We are! And we are all very excited about it!

We are also happy, joyful, nervous, conflicted, scared...ALL THE FEELINGS, people...all the feelings. 

I keep waiting to announce this, hoping that somehow our situation will suddenly become simpler and I won't feel like the only answers I have for people's questions are "I don't know," which just sounds stupid, or "We're just trusting God," which trends a little more toward holier-than-thou than I like. But both are true. I really don't know what's going to happen with this adoption (who am I kidding, I'm pretty vague about what's going to happen in the next 48 hours) the whens, wheres, whos, and hows are all up in the air. We are basically just trusting that God will place the right birthmom and baby into our family at the right time and everything will work out. And, honestly, I'm mostly ok with that.

Let's just be completely transparent here for a minute. There are days when I'm bitter, frustrated that we couldn't just try for three months, have a baby on the way, and start planning our future. Days when I'm angry that working for kiddo number two involved 25 single-spaced pages answering every question under the sun in order to determine if we would be good parents, a three hour interview, and tax returns from the last three years. It's our story and I accept that, but it doesn't mean that I don't sometimes have big feelings about it.

On the other hand, there are so many days when I just feel so grateful. Grateful that we have such supportive family and friends as we navigate all of this. Grateful that we are a self-reflective couple who is comfortable with our "stuff," so interviews and intrusive questions don't make us feel threatened or defensive. So, so, so thankful that I love words and have the education to put together 25 single-spaced pages that are both coherent and present a clear, honest picture of what our family is like. Happy that adoption has always been in our hearts and on our minds and that we have both come to terms with the fact that we may not have biological children without the devastation and disillusionment that strike so many couples (this last one is nothing but God's mercy on us and believe me, we are GRATEFUL!).

The other thing that I've been realizing in these last three years is that as much as our road is not easy...no one else's is either. I think we all grow up with this illusion of "normal" pieced together in our child-brains from reality and dreams and media. And then we become adults and life doesn't fit that illusion. Some things are harder, some things are easier, but none of it really aligns perfectly with our childhood thoughts of what life should offer us. I think that has been the biggest hurdle I've had to get over: admitting that NO ONE is living their illusion, that we are all struggling, and that the struggle and overcoming, the loving and supporting each other through these things is really what makes life sweet and beautiful.

I had another one of these realizations this past weekend as we sat at our agency in Oklahoma and went through adoption training with other waiting families. In speaking of birthmoms, the director mentioned that she often gets asked "Why is my decision [to place my baby for adoption] so painful if I know it's right? Why am I crying every night and struggling so much?". Her answer spoke to me in a really profound way. She said, "Just because a decision is right doesn't mean that it will be painless." We believe that we are supposed to be pursuing domestic infant adoption right now, even though it breaks my heart every time I have to say no to a new foster placement because of it. We believe that we are meant to be working with our specific adoption agency, even though it is located 2,000 miles away and the travel back and forth is hard on us and on P. We are trusting that God will grant us the strength and grace to navigate our relationship with an expectant mother in crisis and to remain committed to supporting her no matter what her ultimate decision is about placing her baby. This journey has the potential for infinite pain and infinite redemption and we just don't know which one will fall to us. But we trust that there are good things in store, that struggles will bring with them growth and depth, and that ultimately our God is able to make all things beautiful.

So, we're waiting expectantly for a baby to join our family. For a birthmom and birth family to become a part of our journey. For miracles to happen and new things to come. We are excited...and brave and happy and scared and overwhelmed...so keep us in your thoughts and your prayers. I will do my best to keep things updated as we wait, but there are many unknowns. This could happen tomorrow or not for years and anywhere in between (and to be honest not much is going to happen until *boom* EVERYTHING happens).



In the meantime, here are some things that I've been reading and loving on this part of our journey:

When you just don't know...
But I do know. I know Him and He knows me. The hairs on my head and the number of my days. He knows my thoughts before I have them and every word before I speak it. He knows my coming, going, lying down and rising.
Because He knows all things I don’t have to.

My trust is not in the certain outcome but in the Certain One.

And, in this there is peace.
On being chosen again after a failed adoption
We are humbled and grateful for this opportunity. Choosing a family to raise your child must be the most difficult decision a person could make, and we don't take it lightly that they chose us. We hope and pray that no matter how this ends, whether with us bringing home a baby and loving her until she's old and gray, or J choosing to parent and love her herself, that this child will grow up knowing love, knowing that her life is infinitely valuable, and that this situation will be somehow redemptive for all of us involved.

A beautiful adoption birth story


P.S. I know that some of you might have some questions about what's going on with P's case. The short answer is that things are moving forward toward adoption and we'll be able to share more soon. We have some legal hurdles to get through in the next few months, but we are hopeful that he will be legally free by the end of the year. He is also over the moon about having a new baby around...actually, he's requested 10 babies and alternately names them all Teeter, Totter, or Ichabod. He is a wonderful brother and we are very excited to see him back in that role. :)

P.P.S. If you have questions about our adoption process, infertility journey, or foster care, please, please feel free to ask. Email, facebook, comment, call me. While there's a chance that my answer might be "I don't know," we love to share what we do know about all of these things. :)

5.23.2014

preschool graduation

I submit that there is no finer free entertainment than that to be had at a preschool graduation. Or really any school performance.

P graduated from Pre-K last night. He is officially on his way to kindergarten. And boy, did he ever go out with a bang. He spent the first half of the program waving his hands in the air like an airport ramp agent on too much coffee and the last half posing as a t-rex in various states of life (t-rex resting, t-rex preparing to hunt, t-rex attacking his prey, t-rex realizing that his arms are too short to eat said prey, it was a scintillating reenactment). I exaggerate, but only slightly. Between all of the arm waving and t-rexing, he managed to look adorable singing "the whole world in His hands" with a gusto only possessed by people under the age of 10.

All in all, it was yet another satisfyingly hilarious school gathering. At one point a boy roughly the size and shape of a barber pole (blue jeans, white shirt, and all red on top) was shaking his handbells so hard and with such determination that I was sure he was going to tumble headfirst into the crowd. And later a tiny girl covered from headband to sparkly shoes in vibrant pink recited the Ten Commandments with a severity and volume that would have done Jonathan Edwards proud. I'm sure I wasn't the only person in the crowd taking stock of my sins and considering confession. As if the entertainment and opportunity for soul searching wasn't enough, they ended the night by serving us dessert. Specially made ice cream sandwiches, full of creamy delightful goodness. Free.

I tell you if haven't been to a preschool graduation recently, you're missing out. So grab your nearest 4-year-old and get thee to the auditorium. Or better yet, come with me to our next one. I'm not sure I should face the little pink girl on my own with all of this hyperbole on my conscience.

4.09.2014

baby g moves home

Baby G moved home today. We are exhausted from all of the back and forth of transitioning him. Trying to cushion this shock with increased visits, social stories, hugs, and sometimes just sitting and crying with him while he struggles with the confusion of loving so many people and seeming never to have a permanent place. I tell him one hundred times a day that I love him, that I will always love him no matter where he is or how many miles separate us. I make him look me in the eyes when I say it. I think I'm hoping that somehow it will sink deeply into his two-year-old brain and heart that he had a mother and she loved him fiercely, that he was not abandoned yet again, but lovingly covered in prayers and hopes and wishes for a life surrounded by love and family. As much as we rejoice that G's family is doing well, our hearts are breaking with missing him.

Baby G is such a strong, sweet boy. He came to us shut down and confused. He'd been in so many homes in such a short span of time and ours was just one more. He wouldn't sleep at night, wouldn't eat during the day, and screamed if I wasn't holding him or if I was sitting down while holding him or if I happened to not be holding him the right way. He screamed a lot. After 48 hours with G, I remember crying in gratitude when he finally slept for a three hour stretch. It was the first sign that we all might survive this.

I have so many beautiful memories of G. Even at just 2 years old he was full of personality. When P would get in trouble and cry his way over to the time-out spot, G would follow him in stoic silence and sit down next to him. He wouldn't say anything or make any noise, he would just sit with P while he cried. It's one of my favorite memories of the boys as brothers. When G would learn how to do something new especially if it is something he is NOT supposed to be doing, he would grin so wide his whole face lighting up. I have a video of him the first time he figured out how to jump on a bed and he just cackles and cackles and I can't count the number of times I turned my back for a minute only to find that he had climbed on top of the dining room table and was sitting smack dab in the center of it grinning like the Cheshire Cat. So mischievous, so sweet, so full of life.

Update 5/14:
We're very thankful to have such a good relationship with G's family. We will get to continue visiting with him for the foreseeable future and hope that we'll get to be a supportive presence in his life throughout his childhood. I remind myself daily that this is what we got into foster care for and while one part of us is grieving the loss of his constant presence in our lives, the other part is cheering on his family as they continue on their journey to healing and restoration. It is worth it.

3.06.2014

on foster care

"A child born to another woman calls me Mom. The depth of the tragedy and magnitude of the privilege are not lost on me". - Jody Landers

When I wrote my last post, I knew that I'd need to to a follow up about foster care to make a few things clear. The timeline format left very little room for some important explanations about what went in to our decision to become foster parents and I want to explore that a little more now.

First and foremost I want to say that when we chose to be foster parents, we were acknowledging a calling that we felt on our lives to become a part of the team that reunites families. The primary goal of foster care is always to keep families together, and we support that goal wholeheartedly. While we recognize that some of our kids might end up needing permanent homes and we are committed to providing that for them, we would never wish the loss of their first family on any child. It is most important to us to be a soft place for these kids to land when circumstances outside of their control launched their worlds into chaos, to create safe spaces for them to grieve and heal and return to their families stronger. Disclaimer over.

Foster care first came on our radar in 2010 while I was working at the Boy's and Girl's Club. We had families from all kinds of backgrounds and some of the kids were or had been in care. I was very ignorant about what foster care meant at the time and even more ignorant about the kinds of kids who ended up in care. I think I held some of the general preconceptions that most of us have about the unknown, that it's frightening and chaotic and dangerous. Of course, meeting the kids at our Club who were in care rearranged all of those preconceived ideas as is wont to happen when you shed some light on an aspect of life that was previously in the dark for you. I loved all of our kids at the Boys & Girls Club, but I especially loved the kids who had struggled through so much. Joe and I had talked about adoption being a part of our future off and on, but it was sort of this vague, out there, kind of idea. Then one day I said to him, "What about foster care?" And he cocked his head to one side, looked at me for a minute and said, "Yeah, I think we could do that." And so our foster parenting dreams were born.

We went on with life, hoping for Joe's pilot job to come through, hoping for a house that we would love, hoping to start a family soon, and the years passed. Foster care was still on our minds, but we were working on getting our other ducks in a row. About two and a half years ago, we finally felt ready to get serious about starting our family and we had to decide if we wanted to pursue foster care first or having a baby. We both agreed that we'd rather get some experience with home-grown kids and then return to the idea of foster care after a few years. As the months went by and we didn't get pregnant, we brought up foster care off and on wondering if we should change course. Then we got those first bad test results and it was a no brainer for us to redirect to pursuing our certification as foster parents.

It felt like FOREVER as we went through the home study and training, but in the end it was actually only about eight weeks (this is completely unheard of!) and after about 10 weeks we we're welcoming our first little boy into our home. It's crazy to look back and realize that what felt like so long was actually such a whirlwind. We have loved being foster parents. It is not easy, but we had a realistic mindset going in and we have two wonderful teams of professionals working for our boys. I can't say enough how much of a difference a good caseworker, lawyer, therapist, etc. makes when working with children who have a trauma history. Foster care is risky business, it's an adventure that comes with some very high costs from your time and emotions, but it's so worth it. I would encourage anyone who is leaning in that direction to research the foster care system in their state and get in touch with a state worker or agency. And just so it's easy for you, here's the link :)

Foster Care Information Websites by State


2.27.2014

Three years ago...

Lately, I've had this thought in my head over and over about the importance of authenticity. About how being who you are means being brave with your story. About how struggles and trials that remain hidden can never see full redemption because we find the most peace and comfort in community. So, tonight I wanted to try to share a little of my story, our story.

Three years ago, we decided to have a baby. I'm sure that you can guess how well that's worked out.

Two years, six months ago, I decided that I would get serious about this babymaking thing. If you know me, you know that meant research (otherwise known as copious amounts of time spent on google). It meant alarms and thermometers, charts and calendars, and a number of other things that you have no business knowing about my personal life. Life was strict and regimented, and I still wonder how Joe survived it. I'm militant in my pursuit of success.

Two years ago, I was pretty sure there was a problem. My anxiety was intense. My google research amped up to previously unseen levels. I contemplated making doctor's appointments at least 30 times a day. It affected every aspect of our lives including my work where my boss finally had to pull me aside for a serious talk because I simply wasn't getting anything done.

18 months ago, I went to my annual appointment with my OB. She ran tests. They weren't good. I was basically standard. Joe was not.

16 months ago, I redirected all of my energy into licensing our home for foster care. I quit my job (on the date that Joe and I had previously agreed would be the longest I would work after our baby came). I painted and cleaned and bought furniture. I waited impatiently for social workers and systems.

14 months ago, we were licensed as foster parents. And three weeks later, a beautiful, wild three-year-old boy came to live with us.

1 year ago, Joe re-did his testing. Results were a lesser version of bad. I returned to my research and emerged with a list of supplements and a pill box with the days of the week on it.

8 months ago, a 15-month old little boy with sad eyes and a determined spirit walked into our home. We didn't sleep for a week.

5 months ago, I had another annual OB visit. She referred us to a specialist for a diagnosis.

4 months ago, the specialist called to say that something was wrong and that there could be a tumor in Joe's brain. I now cringe whenever doctors call.

3 months ago, we retested and the specialist sent us to another specialist.

2 months ago, we took a month off, playing at home and hiding in SLC for a week.

4 weeks ago, we saw the new specialist for more tests. "No tumor," he said, but also no diagnosis.

This week, the new specialist sent us back to the old specialist and the merry-go-round began again.

Today, we have two beautiful boys, four chickens, a dog, two cats, and one very large garden full of plants depending on us to get up in the morning and feed them. They also all bring immense joy and adventure to every day. We have very few answers as to what exactly is going on with Joe's health. It's very possible that we'll never get an official diagnosis. It's also entirely possible that one day we might spontaneously find ourselves pregnant. We're trying to stay open to all possibilities and not dwell too deeply on any of them. We can't know the future and our present is a pretty awesome place to live even with it's uncertainties. 

The bottom line: infertility is an awful, awful disease that isn't well-understood or easily curable. Right now, that's the reality that we're dealing with and your thoughts and prayers and well-wishes are so welcome. We feel blessed to be surrounded by such amazing friends and family who have supported us through every adventure and battle and so thankful to know that you will all be with us in this one too.



Finally, for anyone uncomfortable about what to say/not to say regarding infertility, I wanted to share a few links that I've loved:

Your Infertility is Safe Here, from The R House
I won’t try to fix your infertility. Or offer advice. I can’t explain it away. I hope you always know that you can come to us if you have questions or would like recommendations, but I won’t ever pry. I’ve been where you are before and it’s no bueno. 

The reason I won’t say those things is not because I don’t care. I do care. I care enough to let you come to me. With a disease that robs you of your power and your timing, it’s the least I can do to show you love. Let me empower you with your own story, your own timing, your own words.

Baby makin' in the light, from Adding a Burden
Adoption doesn't solve infertility; it solves childlessness. Infertility brings with it a host of emotions. Shock, despair, sadness, anger... all the emotions of grief. There is no sidestepping that grief and no way to just "get over it." It is something each person needs to work through and learn how to live with. Adopting a child will fill the childless void after infertility, but it can't fill the void of pregnancy or the feelings of bodily brokenness a person experiences in infertility. The experience of infertility and the act of adoption are often related but still distinct and each person will work through the related emotions on their own time and in their own way.
 
Infertility Etiquette, RESOLVE