Practicalities

Posts about the adoption process itself

You Were Adopted

Many from the last generation seems to recall the “big reveal” in their lives; the moment they were told they had been adopted. Since then we’ve learned that it benefits a child to grow up always knowing this part of their story so they can’t remember the “conversation”…they just always knew. Those of us with conspicuous adoptions (maybe transracial so everyone knows you are an adoptive family) don’t have much choice in this matter anyway!

That’s what I want for my kids, though. When they’re older and someone asks, “When did you find out you were adopted?”, they’ll say, “I don’t know.” There are several ways we let them know this part of their story even now.

Books. There are some great books you can find, written for children about the topic of adoption. Two of my favorites for babies/toddlers are:

A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza.This is the story of a little bird who wants to find a mother so he searches and searches for a mommy who looks just like him. When he can’t find one, he comes across Mrs. Bear who does all the things a mother would do and so becomes his mommy. A great book for transracial adoptive families and all adoptive families.

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose Lewis. The story of a mom adopting her daughter from China. I would still love to find a book like this that focuses on Ethiopia (know any?), but it’s still a great international adoption book.

“So glad we adopted you.” Before we brought E home, an elderly woman at our church told my husband she had always rocked her children and told them, “I’m so glad we adopted you.” So, I do this every night. I tell both boys, “Mommy and Daddy are so glad we adopted you.” It brings adoption into our conversation and lets our kids know, from Day 1, how much they are loved and cherished.

Make a Lifebook. Lifebooks come in many varieties, but the idea is simply to tell your child’s story with pictures (and maybe words). I’ve heard of many families making this book with their children when they are older. When your kids are young, though, you can make it and read it with them. I made E a scrapbook that starts on Mommy and Daddy’s wedding day, shows his referral picture, documents our trip to Ethiopia to bring him home, etc. We have looked at it together several times, and I tell a very simplified story of his life. I still need to make one for J-Man, and I think this time I might just do a really simple, less delicate album (something sturdier so he doesn’t have to be so gentle with it). I have also made a 3 Picture Story for E, which is very easy to do. You just need 3 pictures, one of your child with his birthfamily or previous foster family or at the orphanage (whatever his life was before he came home to your family), one of “the handoff” when the previous caregiver handed him to you (we don’t have a pictures like this so you can use any picture of the day you met or the day he came home), and one of your family now (showing both parents and the child). This is the most simplified version of your child’s story and can be helpful to look at together.

Gotcha Day. Many adoptive families have a certain day they celebrate pertaining to the adoption. We celebrate E’s Gotcha Day, which is the day we picked him up from the orphanage. With J-Man, we are planning to celebrate the day we finalize his adoption as that will be a more significant day in his story. Some families celebrate the day they received their referral or the day their child came home. It’s a beautiful thing to choose a meaningful day like that and celebrate it every year. It also provides a specific day when the conversation is intentionally opened up pertaining your child’s story. Questions can be asked, tears can be shed, whatever is needed. For E’s first Gotcha Day celebration last year, we made his favorite meal for dinner, looked through his lifebook, and gave him a small but significant gift. I’ve also heard of families lighting a candle for birthfamilies on this day or visiting a restaurant specific to the culture your child was born into. Do whatever works for your family.

You Were Adopted. I can’t remember if I read this or if it was part of our adoption training, but I found it quite significant. Rather than the phrasing, “You are adopted,” use “You were adopted.” Your adoption was an event in your life; it doesn’t define who you are as a person. People will often say, “My son is adopted,” which implies this is a defining characteristic for him. We should say, “My son was adopted” as in there was a day in which we adopted him.

Adoption is part of our natural rhythm of life; it’s not some taboo topic, but simply a lovely part of our family. How do you keep that conversation open in your family?

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Laurel Feierbach

Laurel and her husband adopted their first son in 2010 from Ethiopia and are currently fostering to adopt their second son. With two 2-year-old boys, they are always hopping! Chris is a pastor and Laurel is a stay-at-home-mom. You can follow their story at God Found Us You.

Bonding Over A Bucket

“Ok, Lord, this is NOT helping with our bonding!”  I was screaming the words to God in my heart as I tried to murmur reassuring words to my retching son, willing myself not to gag.  I do not deal well with vomit.  And, ironically, I had prayed earlier in the morning for help in bonding with my new son.  He had been in our home for less than two months and I loved him but did not feel that strong maternal bond yet.

When my children have colds or fevers, I love to snuggle up with them and read books.  I whip up homemade chicken soup with lemon, hot chocolate and warm cinnamon applesauce.  But when the vomiting begins, I want nothing more than to run away.  I break into a cold sweat and hyperventilate.  My stomach twists and tenses and my gag reflex kicks in overdrive.  I hold my breath until I about pass out.  I become a compulsive hand-washer and will change my clothes and hand towels every hour.  Cuddling is not going to happen unless I am covered in towels and the child has a bucket under their chin.  Impressive mothering, huh?

So we had a sick little boy who is also grieving and emotionally needy and a crazy woman drenched in sweat and gagging as she rubs his back.  Not exactly the nurturing mother he needed to bond with during this critical time.

A few short hours later, the situation became very serious.  My son was unable to keep down even a teaspoon of liquid and he was very lethargic and unable to speak.  It was time to head to the hospital for medical intervention.  In the emergency room, I cradled his little head in my arms as the nurses tried a third time to find a vein able to support an IV.  He was so dehydrated his veins had become sticky, and they were unable to insert the needle.  He quietly cried, but did not have enough moisture for tears.  Instead, my tears were running down his cheeks as I kissed him and prayed.  “Ah, there is that maternal love I was longing to feel.  Thank you, God, for this gift.  But please heal my baby quickly.”

That day was a huge step in our bonding process.  My son was able to sense my love and devotion to him, in spite of the thick layer of towels and a bucket between us.  I was able to feel the maternal stirrings for this sweet boy instead of feeling like his babysitter.  Some days we seem to take a few steps backward but we know with patience and reliance on our Father’s unfailing love, we will continue to knit together as a family.

This post originally posted on Mom Life Today.

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Julia DesCarpentrie

Julia DesCarpentrie, aka: Mama, hey Honey, Jewel, MOMEEEE, yo Sis, oh Mother, Julie … depends on who needs me. I answer to the love of my life (who also just happens to be my husband), a drama tween, and three very rambunctious superheroes, and toddler diva. Several years ago we handed our safe little family over to God and told Him to take control. He buckled us in on an adventurous roller coaster that rocketed us to China to adopt our youngest child, spun us closer to His heart, and plunged us into the south where foster care once again changed our hearts and family. I can usually be found behind the wheel of ‘Mama’s Monster Truck’ (aka the family minivan) on the way to dance, tae kwon do, scouts or school. The laptop travels with me and most of my writing is done waiting in the school pick-up lane. Read more of her ramblings here.

What’s in a Name?

There isn’t a person alive who does not yearn for identity and purpose. As we raise our adopted children we see that this question of identity is often more complicated for them–complicated by a missing or shattered past, by the realities of relinquishment, rejection and abandonment, by the issue of race and culture, by tough questions of “why me” or “what if….?”

It seems to me that the people who are the most whole are the ones who are settled with who they are and enjoying a strong sense of purpose in their lives. Identity and purpose are the basic ingredients of wholeness for all of us, and most likely your adopted child will require extra effort on your part to instill and call forth his identity as a son with a destiny, her place as a daughter with a calling. It has been fascinating to me to hear that even children adopted as infants often find, once they become teenagers, that this issue of identity gets confused and complicated by the realities of adoption.

One of the most effective opposing forces to your adopted child’s sense of identity is an orphan spirit. For some children their adoption into a loving Christian family has not freed them from this sense of being an orphan– one who lacks parents, lacks love, lacks protection and provision, lacks security….. Even when the lack is replaced in adoption by a loving mother and father, a wonderful home and church with lots of friends, abundant provision in every way, this sense of being one who lacks can remain and threaten to become a child’s primary motivating identity, even years after his or her adoption as a daughter or son.

Much of our work as adoptive parents is to administer this truth, day after day and year after year, that this child is no longer an orphan, but a true Son or Daughter. One who is defined not by lack, but rather by possession and inheritance! One who is worthy, acceptable, significant, powerful, full of purpose and destiny and calling, defended, safe, beloved….

What can we parents do to help our child receive and embrace their Identity as a Son or Daughter, rejecting the lies borne out of the facts of their past? Lies that tell them “you are not significant, you don’t have what it takes, you are unloved and unwanted, you are too different to fit in, you have to fend for yourself….” Lies that keep them from connecting, and limit their ability to walk in their true destiny.

There are no simple answers to this question, but I believe there are some practical things we can do to massage into our treasured children the TRUTH of their identity.

Family Name

Be intentional about using your family name. There is something powerful about a family name. It speaks of belonging, heritage, relationship, history. When we are born again into the family of God, we take on His name and the full inheritance that goes along with it,

For Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named
Ephesians 3:15

Being named is more important to our perception of ourelves than we may realize. There is something significant for our children in hearing over and over that they are Templetons. If your child is being unkind, rather than say, “Don’t be unkind. That’s not nice,” you might say, “In the Templeton [inserting your name of course!] Family we treat each other with kindness.” Look for ways to intentionally insert your family name into daily life. “We Templetons go to church and worship God.” It may seem awkward but we have found it to communicate the truth of sonship to our children, especially in those early years.

Family Meetings

Having regular family meetings is a wonderful way to impart the wholeness of “sonship” into your adopted child. Just the gathering itself communicates that they are part of a whole or a unit, something established, something that has a history. These times can take on whatever flavor or purpose, you decide is needed at the time. Because we have such a large family, in recent years we have used these meetings to share what is going on in our lives. We ask each child to share what they are doing in school, what activities they are involved in, what issues they are dealing with. That way everyone feels connected. We also find that using these times for prayer is very powerful. Praying out loud for each other (especially in response to some need that has been shared) goes a long way to establish belonging and love. Sometimes each of us will write down five things we like about each family member (younger children can draw pictures) and share. Other times Stephen or I will read aloud a story or scripture, or address a family matter that needs adjusting or correction. No matter the focus, the gathering will help you to create sense of identity and belonging.

Family Traits

Something we learned is to be sure to identify Templeton family traits in our adopted children. Just like we do when a baby is born, we search for and comment on family traits. (“He has his daddy’s nose,” or “Her eyes are definitely from her mama’s side of the family.”) For instance we might say, “You look just like your mama when you smile like that!” or, “You are so much like your daddy taking care of that dog. He always loved dogs when he was a boy your age.” The wonderful thing about these comments is that they can be said regardless of skin color or any other physical difference. They speak volumes to your child– you belong, you are a part of a family with a story, you are not separate.

There is power in a name! The question of “Who Am I?” is one we adoptive parents want to be answering within the day to day life of our family. Don’t wait for the question to be asked by your adopted child. Look for ways to communicate the Identity of Sonship in everyday life– you belong, you are loved, you are acceptable, you are celebrated, you are connected, you are a person of destiny and purpose.

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Beth Templeton

Beth has been married to her husband, Stephen, for 25 years. They have seven children, ages 16 to 22. Several years after giving birth to three girls, God called their family into the adventure and blessing of adoption. In 2000, they brought home a brother and sister, ages 5 and 10, from Russia. Then they returned to the same orphanage 18 months later and brought home two more brothers, ages 7 and 10. Stephen and Beth serve as leaders in their local church. Beth leads a ministry called Hope at Home, dedicated to help adoptive and foster parents encounter the Father’s heart for their families, partnering with God to transform orphans into sons and daughters. For more parenting insight and encouragement in the Lord go to the Hope at Home blog.

Encore: 20 Ways to Become an Adoption-Friendly Church

Posted on We Are Grafted In on November 19th, 2010

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  • Pray – Pray that potential couples will be sensitive to the Lord’s leading in their lives. Pray that the church as a whole steps up its involvement in assisting adoptive families.
  • Preach key passages on caring for orphans and spiritual adoption – Passages like James 1:26-27 remind us that pure and faultless religion emphasizes care for those who are least able to care for themselves. Ephesians 1:3-5 portrays the act of physical adoption as a great object lesson for spiritual adoption in Christ.
  • Invite guest speakers to raise awareness of adoption needs and opportunities – Those who lead adoption ministries can share their passion with your church. Give church members the opportunity to hear about these needs while giving them ways to help.
  • Make adoption resources available to the church family – A wealth of adoption resources—both secular and Christian—can be helpful to couples considering adoption. Most of the time, misconceptions about the adoption process keep families from considering adoption. The church can provide helpful facts for couples to make informed decisions.
  • Freqently list proadoption ministries and organizations – List them in your church bulletin and have a “resources” link on your church website connecting to these fine ministries. You help these ministries by making them known to your people, but you also assist your people by providing accessibility to helpful resources.
  • Encourage couples facing infertility to connect with adoptive parents – Some couples hop onto the emotional roller coaster of infertility drugs and in the process incur huge medical expenses. Graciously counsel those couples to consider the privilege of parenting an adopted child (before their emotions and finances are exhausted).
  • Regularly have adoptive parents and birth mothers share their testimony of God’s goodness and grace – Testimonies can be powerful reminders to the congregation of what “good” can come out of a “bad” situation as ordained by God.
  • Education your church family regarding the costs involved in adoption – Members may be unaware of the expenses involved in adoption such as to pay for home studies, background checks, attorney fees, airfare and travel costs (especially for international adoptions). Adoption costs vary from a few thousand dollars to $20,000 or more. The cost should not scare off potential adoptive families but should motivate the church as a whole to “count the cost” and offer assistance.
  • Encourage the church family to give financially to adoptive couples – Giving financially to adoptive parents is one of the most—if not the most—significant things you can do. As potential couples take the giant step of faith in the adoption process, one of the biggest concerns will be “how are we going to pay for this”? A monetary gift along with a note of encouragement can greatly encourage the couple by affirming their decision to pursue adoption.
  • Create a standing church fund for adoption costs – Members can contribute to this special fund that adoptive families can utilize (either an interest-free loan or one-time gifts to these couples). Churches can also take up a special Deacons’ Fund offering.
  • Challenge Sunday School classes and small groups to raise money for adoptive couples – Love offerings help lessen the financial burden of adoption while exhibiting how members of the body of Christ can encourage and support each other. Imagine the surprise on the couples’ faces when they discover that their own Sunday school class sacrificially gave to help in the adoption of their child.
  • Establish an adoptive parents’ small group – Get a key person in the church to take this on as a ministry. Meet on a monthly or quarterly basis as needed. This support group provides encouragement for those couples who have adopted, are in the midst of the adoption process, or are contemplating adoption.
  • Create email list-serves of adoptive parents for support and encouragement - Since the adoption process brings emotional highs and lows, staying connected by email can prove helpful—especially when a couple needs a timely word of encouragement.
  • Connect with local social service agencies – Most counties and states have child welfare and foster care programs in which Christians should be involved. Many times there is financial assistance for those families who are foster parents or are in foster-adopt programs.
  • Use attorneys or case workers within the church family – Some lawyers specializing in family law are willing to donate their time and expertise to assist a church family with the legal documents for adoption. Such volunteers provide both financial savings and peace of mind.
  • Sponsor a child – Find ministries of like faith and encourage members to pray for and financially support orphan and adoption ministries.
  • Participate in mission trips to orphanages abroad – What better way to raise awareness for adoption than to experience the desperate living conditions of others?
  • Maximize special holidays to emphasize adoption – When adoption needs are presented with sensitivity and discernment, Mother’s and Father’s Day can be an ideal time to raise awareness of adoption. A special offering could be collected for an adoptive couple. An adopted child or adoptive parent could give testimony to God’s gift of a family to them. At an annual Sanctity of Life day, typically the third Sunday each January, discussion of adoption can be a poignant reminder to the church of the devastation of abortion and, at the same time, a powerful prompting for the church to become adoption-friendly. Recognize Orphan Sunday in November, using the myriad of resources available online to focus on the needs of orphans worldwide and the blessing of adoption.
  • Celebrate adoption as a church family – Affirm those who pray and encourage others to adopt. Encourage those who give financially to adoptive parents. Celebrate the living object lesson of Ephesians 1:3-6.
  • Support adopted kids as they struggle with attachment and questions of identity, abandonment, or rejection – Adoption is the ultimate expression and outworking of loving the modern-day orphan. While not every Christian will be led by God to adopt, the church can and should do what it can to encourage and facilitate adoption.

Will you help your church become adoption friendly?

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Paul Golden

Paul has been married to Marbeth Showers for over 11 years. They are the parents of Jeremy through adoption (8 years old) and Joy (7 years old). Paul graduated from Baptist Bible Seminary in 1995 with his Master of Divinity degree and serves as Director of Admissions at BBS. During his off hours, he enjoys playing keyboard on the worship team, doing pulpit supply, and short-term mission trips. He is also a sports fan of the NY Yankees and NY Giants.

Encore: Fundraising Facts 101

Published on We Are Grafted In a year ago today

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Many of us in the adoption world are affectionately referred to as “fundraising families.” For the purpose of this post, we will go with FF for short. Our numbers are growing…and for good reason.

Those who “affectionately” refer to us are basically…well…US! We are a tight bunch. We empathize, sympathize, strategize, rationalize, visualize, and sometimes even hypothesize on what all this fundraising stuff really means.

I don’t have hard numbers, but I heard it said not too long ago that the number of families entering the adoption journey that will be fundraising will be 8 out of 10.

80%!!!

So, being a FF in the homestretch of this part of the journey, I thought I would share a few thoughts on what I have learned thus far. I guess I’ll start off by being a “negative Nellie” and then end on a super positive note.

Fundraising Fact #1

It’s hard.

There is no easy way around it. It is simply hard. And, with hard comes not always fun as well. Oh, it is loads of fun when the t-shirt orders are pouring in, and the agency deadline is far enough away you are pretty optimistic it will all come together before it’s due. By the way, we missed the deadline more than once with our agency. But, there are the many days where there is just silence. One of the plagues in Exodus was darkness. God’s word says the darkness was so strong it was felt (see Exodus 10:21). Well, in fundraising, there is silence. Often, the silence is so loud, it is heard. And, that silence leads to discouragement, loneliness, and even despair, leading us right back to hard and not always fun. Even those in the cyber community who make it look easy will admit it is hard, but each will also admit that the hard is worth every single tear, cry, and groan.

Fundraising Fact #2

The 80/20 rule applies.

Actually, according to other FF’s, it is really more like the 90/10 rule. In other words, 90% of the funds raised seem to be given by only 10% of the people with whom you are journeying through life. And, while your heart is strengthened by these generous donors, you realize the entire 30-34K (estimated cost of an international adoption) cannot be obtained by these precious few…and they realize it, too. Which leads us to…

Fundraising Fact #3

“Where did everybody go?”

They didn’t go anywhere; you did. They are where they have always been and probably where you once were as well. You have in your life your “go to” people—always there for each other, always will be. But, the fact is many others are just not going to understand with their heads or their hearts where you are going. It just is what it is. They may smile and admire what you are doing, but the truth of the matter is they just don’t get it and THAT IS OKAY!

When my 12 year old was questioning the lack of support at one point, I tried to put it in a way he could understand. I asked him if his sister were kidnapped, and I needed a million dollars ransom to save her, could he help me? He looked at me long and said, “I can’t, I don’t have it to give.” You can’t give something you don’t have to give. For some reason, known only to their hearts, these “where-did-everyone-go” people don’t have the support to give—money completely aside. You have got to let yourself off the hook with this one. The time and heart energy wasted on trying to convert even closest friends and family members is not yours to take on. Surrender it, and give it back to God. It’s His job. Can He use you? Sure, but probably not in the way you envision right now. Let it go. Or, at the very least, put it on the back burner for now.

Cause here’s the deal…

God has called you to an incredible journey. He is entrusting you with that which breaks His heart. It is so clear in His word He favors the orphan, widow, and the least of these. He trusts YOU to steward this journey, not them, at least not now. Whether these people around you ever “get it” or not, whether they come around and support you with a financial gift or fundraising support or emotional support or not…

That is THEIR journey!

Take your eyes off them, and put them on Him. He will amaze you with new people who will encourage you in so many ways. Some of the people I thought would walk shoulder-to-shoulder with us simply cannot or will not. Others I knew only as acquaintances I am now “doing life with.” Further, some people I have never met in person have provided faithful support and encouragement. God is drawing together a community. He’s good like that. I was discussing the plagues in Exodus with my husband and was amazed at how God continued to harden Pharaoh’s heart over and over. But, you know, others needed to see. They needed to see God’s power and believe. The same is true for some hardened hearts watching your journey.

Fundraising Fact #4

God funds what He favors.

I know on the “silence” days, you really wonder if it will all come together. Let me let you in on a simple truth I wish I had embraced early on. It’s real deep; steady yourself. It is four simple words but full of truth:

It is already done.

I told you it was deep. It really and truly is already done! It is already accomplished. It just has not been delivered yet, and the reason it has not been delivered yet is because God has a purpose greater than the adoption costs going on here. Your journey will look like what He needs it to look like; fraught with struggles and successes; covered in tears and triumphs; filled with hope, dreams, faith building and worship. Because, it really is not about you, and it really is not about the orphan. It is about Him, and it is about the Gospel. Each of these little journeys is a picture of the Gospel. No wonder it costs so much. For Jesus, it cost his life. No wonder it is so hard. No wonder others don’t have it to give. No wonder.

Being the picture person I am, I liken the journey of my family and your journey to pieces of a big, beautiful painting, sort of picture tiles building side-by-side and on top of each other to form the final masterpiece. As I said before, our “tiles” will take as long as He needs them to take and will look like what He desires them to look like so that He can draw from the other tiles pieces that will form around ours and continue to form the grand picture . Wow. I’m sure that is full of theological holes, but that’s what I wish I had known from day 1.

I would not for a minute dissuade you from entering the journey of adoption due to lack of funds but rather encourage you to take the next step. You don’t have to have the end in sight. You don’t even have to have the step after the next step in sight. You just have to start. A fence is no place to sit. No matter how you dress it up, a fence is a fence, and it’s just a barrier. Hop off one side or the other. You’ve already been on “that” side. And while it may be safe, your “picture tile,” is losing its color. Watch as He blows your socks off with what He will do with your story. In the end, there WILL be enough, because He is enough.

He promises.

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Kim Jewett

Dale and Kim have been married for 24 years and are busy parents of three childen (14, 12 and 9). Although they thought they were “done” and even made it official they would not be enlarging their family, God led them to His heart for the orphan. They are now waiting on a referral of a toddler girl from Ethiopia. They consider it an privilege to steward the fundraising journey and have agreed to “never say never.” You can read more about their family and follow their adoption journey on their blog.

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The Waiting Game {Maintaining Your Sanity During the Wait}

During our paperwork phase, I learned that adoption can really turn you into a loon.

I think this is especially true when the waiting starts.

For you non-adoption folks, you should know adoption is one wait after another. Waiting for a referral. Waiting for a court date. Waiting to travel. Waiting for an embassy date. Waiting, waiting, waiting. It’s just the way it goes. Some of my friends that are starting to understand this will ask me, “So what are you waiting on now?”

I’ve compiled this little list of ways to remain sane when the wait starts to get intense. I am not saying there is anything wrong with thinking about adoption or the baby coming home, but I often see mommies get downright obsessive over it, and that’s just not healthy! So, after nearly losing my mind a time or two, these are my ideas on (hopefully) not going nuts during the wait:

1.) Get off the internet. Now. Stop reading blogs about adoption. Stop reading Yahoo and Facebook adoption groups. Stop checking your e-mail all day long to see if there is any news. To keep this simple, I have a little rule for myself that I never get online when my children are in the room. Some days I do a better job of this than others, but it’s something to shoot for anyway.

2.) Try having conversations without using the words, “adoption,” “referral,” or “travel.”

3.) Go on a diet. Yea. I know that sounds strange, but it really is helpful to have a non-adoption goal you are working toward. Taking advantage of this time to take care of your body before your child comes home just makes sense.

4.) Pick a project (preferrably a non-baby related one) to occupy your mind. I am redecorating my kids’ play area in the least expensive way possible. I find that sewing – even though I’m not great at it – is very therapeutic.

5.) Find exercise you enjoy and do it. What does exercise have to do with adoption? I don’t know, but I do know that my daily Jazzercise class releases some endorphins and helps me clear my head. It gets me out of the house, forces me to girate my hips at 9:30 AM in a church sanctuary, a win-win situation all around.

6.) Focus on the kids you have now (assuming you have kids.) A friend gave me some great advice about taking the time before the baby comes home to give your other children some extra attention, or just to enjoy them before the family goes through the transition period of bringing a new sibling home. I did this with Cade before having Ellie, and we had some really special times together during his last few weeks as an only child.

7.) Consider revising some of your routines so there is less of a shock when babe comes home. I started thinking about the things our family normally does that we will need to change before our child comes home. For example, I am guilty of leaving the TV on as background noise while I go about my day. I switched this to the soft piano music of David Nevue, and I can’t explain what a difference it has made!

8.) Research. If being proactive helps, try spending some time researching good sensory toys (as many children from orphanages suffer from sensory deprivation) or even make some sensory kits of your own. Filling a tub with dried rice and beans and hiding small toys in it is an inexpensive and fun sensory building activity.

9.) Stay connected with your real life friends. In the throes of adoption, it becomes all too easy to seclude yourself to the world of adoption blogs and groups. It is so important to continue to nurture relationships with your real life friends though. Even if it feels like they don’t understand what you’re going through, focus on all of the things you do have in common rather than the things you don’t. And just a hint, don’t talk about adoption all the time. It gets old for other people.

10.) See the unique beauty of this time and seize it. At the end of each pregnancy, I would find myself thinking of how soon life would never be the same. Rather than wishing this time away, cherish it as a season of life that will not come again. Rest, get healthy and energized, so that you can do the work of parenting that God has called you to.

Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14

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Lara

Lara is a Jesus-loving, book-reading, coffee-drinking, kid-chasing farmer’s wife of 5 years. She and her beloved farmer, Jon, have two kids, Cade (4) and Ellie (20 months). They are waiting, waiting, and waiting to adopt from Uganda.

Go With the Heart

As our travel to China approached, I was a bit obsessed with reading books about adoption. Adoption and attachment, sleep, and eating.

Obsessed.

Then, we met Grace.

I’ve read them all. I have. But, when she was finally with us. It was time to throw the books out the window and go with the heart.

That first week in China. She slept. It was GREAT. Other families in our travel group were fighting with the kids to get them to go to sleep, to get them to stay asleep, to have them sleep soundly (mind you…they were all older than Grace). I was feeling blessed. We were sleeping.

Then, we came home.

Then, she had surgery.

Now, we are not. Sleeping, that is.

Our three biological children have never spent one single night in our bed. They have slept in their own rooms, in their own beds since they were about 8 weeks old, and we moved them from the bassinet next to our bed to their crib in their room. And, none of them every looked back.

But, we also never even gave attachment and bonding a thought. Why would we?

I knew parenting Grace was going to have to be a different. Sleep arrangements would be one of them.

So, for the first 2 months home, Grace’s crib sat just feet from our bed. We would lie with her to go to sleep. We picked her up and cuddled her with every peep she made. and…we let her snuggle up close to us in the middle of the night when it was quite obvious she wasn’t going back to sleep in the crib. alone.

Recently, we moved her crib to her room. She has adjusted to going to sleep on her own without us laying with her or patting her on her back.

But, she doesn’t STAY asleep.

And here is where I have to just…

let. it. all. go.

Here I have let my heart lead me.

My heart says…

Hold her.

My heart says….

let her sleep WHEREVER she is most comfortable.

My heart says…

I am grateful that comfort to her means sleeping between the two people who LOVE her the most in the world.

My heart says…

I will NOT regret this. Ever.

I spent 5 1/2 LONG months with a picture of Grace by my bed. It was the last thing I looked at when I went to sleep at night and the first thing I saw as I rolled out of bed in the morning.

So, if I have to spend the next 2 years or more with this little one making our bed seem oh-so small…

I will remember the 5 long months when I saw her face but couldn’t smell her.

When I memorized every crease and dimple of her chubby cheeks but couldn’t hear her breathe.

When I dreamed silent dreams of her…dreams where I saw her face but never did she make a noise because I couldn’t imagine what her voice sounded like.

I will let my heart lead me.

Forget the books.

Forget the blogs.

Forget the fears.

Just go with your heart.

In the end, this is what adoption is all about. Actually, that is what being a Mom is all about.

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Deb Migneault

Deb has been married to her husband, Steve, for 10 years. They have been blessed with four children, ages 9, 6, 4, and 1. The littlest is from Henan Province, China and joined their family in February 2011. You can follow their ups, downs, giggles, tears, and chaos of their family, now a full family of 6, here.

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Don’t forget to go back and read this post to enter our giveaway from The Invision Project. Entries close on Saturday night at midnight.

An Open Adoption? (Part 2)

Read Part 1 here.

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The phrase, “Adoption begins in pain” kept echoing in my mind and heart. Yes, but how does it end? What is the best way to bring healing? Open? Closed? Semi-open? And, if it’s open, what does it look like???

Enter bloggers! Grace in My Heart informed me that Small Treasures had experienced both open and closed adoptions and could talk about both perspectives! After reading her story I was amazed at her experience and stunned by how positive it was. I emailed Kristen, and she wrote back right away. Her email was like an IV of Peace. It flooded my system and instantly relaxed my fears. She explained that having experienced both, she actually preferred open, and NEVER would have guessed that she would feel that way! She told me how she loves knowing where her daughter gets this or that trait and that she’ll be able to share that with her daughter. She also informed me that birthmoms need to move on with their life and that contact may not continue in such a regular manner.

Another blogger gave me her phone number and we talked for almost an hour. She said a few things that really struck me, the most profound was, “There is a God-given relationship between a birth-mom and baby, and I respect that relationship.” True. Another statement to get tossed around in my heart and mind! She also spoke of the joy of developing a relationship with the birthmom during her pregnancy. In her case, they talked on the phone everyday. This, she pointed out, would greatly help my fear that the adoption would not work out, because you get a direct feel for how she is feeling about the situation. Is she wavering? Dead-set? Does she have the support of friends and family?

She also gave advice that put my husband’s fears at bay. Right now, the birthmom is totally in the driver’s seat. She’s calling the shots and saying what she wants this to look like. But, after the adoption is final, we’re in the driver’s seat. And, if the relationship was no longer healthy, we could cut off contact. Now I would never ever ever promise to do one thing (contact) while planning on doing another. But, as the Daddy wanting to protect his family and baby, it brought my husband (and me) peace knowing that we COULD take action if it was absolutely necessary. Furthermore, the birthmother realizes this, too, and as a result, respects the relationship.

***Please read that last paragraph in the spirit it is meant. Again- I would NEVER promise something without intending to do it. And anyone planning on such action would be dead wrong and guilty of moral sin, in my opinion.***

I also spoke with a friend who was adopted about her experience. Her adoption was closed, and she has no knowledge of her birthmother. She doesn’t know her medical history, what her birth parents look like, or the reasons for the adoption, and she has hurt as a result. She speculated that openness would have helped heal these wounds.

And what of Scripture? One of the special things about adoption is that WE have been adopted. Adopted children have a very real experience of what that means. As I discovered in Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches by Russell Moore, adoption is identity. It tells us who we are in the Lord. “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15). So, what kind of adoption do we have?

Biblically, we have an open adoption. We know our birth parents. In fact, it is SO open, that He allows us to be raised by our birth parents and to keep returning to our old ways. The parallel is not exact, but you get the idea. We, as parents, are entrusted with these children while they are on earth, but they are not ours. They belong to the Father. Whether we are birth parents or adoptive parents, our children are His, made in His image and given His name. In fact, in the Catholic Church, His body and blood even run through their veins through the Eucharist.

Finally, we watched Catelynn’s story on 16 and Pregnant. I had blogged about it here in the past. My husband had not seen it yet, so I suggested we watch it together. It was an incredible experience even the second time to see what Catelynn went through and to see her perspective. As we connected with her story, we completely understood her desire to stay connected to the baby, and we saw how healing that could be.

As we continued to pray about this option and speak to friends, we felt confident that this was the direction the Lord was leading us. In fact, we went from being terrified about open adoption, to okay, to excited about it! There are still major question marks in our head as we begin to discover what THIS open adoption will look like, but we know that He gives us “just enough light for the step we’re on.” We may not know what this will look like in 6 months or 6 years, but we know that He will guide us and provide as abundantly as He has in the past!

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Lauren

Lauren is in love with the Lord, the man of her dreams, and her new daughter. She and her husband married in June of 2006 and thereafter began their journey of infertility and adoption. Despite the many wounds, heartaches, and suffering, she has experienced not only healing and grace and but also the profound beauty of the Resurrection through her relationship with Jesus Christ and the Sacraments of the Catholic Church. She seeks to “magnify the Lord” through her marriage, adoption, and blog. After three unsuccessful adoptions, they brought home their baby girl, Abigail Chiara, in September 2010.

An Open Adoption? (Part 1)

So here we are…moving towards a baby and an open adoption. We’re going to be PARENTS!!! The reality has not sunk in at all! There are so many unknowns in adoption. Should we start buying things? How can we not? How can we? But, there are even more questions about what an open adoption is and what it looks like. The Lord has opened my heart beyond belief in this, and I want to share the process with you here.

As I freaked out prayed about the reality of an open adoption, I did what any other rational woman would do. I googled it. (Turns out the birth mother did, too!) As I browsed through blogs and websites, I found four words that struck me to my core: “Adoption begins in pain.”

“Adoption begins in pain.”

“Adoption begins in pain.” I kept turning the words over and over in my mind. I thought about them while I showered, cooked, cleaned, and folded laundry. I kept mulling them over pondering their truth, significance and implications. Then as I was drying my hair one morning, I felt God calling me to my old faithful journal.

I wiped the dust off and cracked my old friend open only to find the last words I had written six months ago. “Your fears are a passport to a new state, to a higher level, to a greater joy” (from A Call to Joy – Living in the Presence of God by Matthew Kelly).  Could that have significance here, I wondered?

I began to write about the pain involved for the birth mother, adoptive parents, and adoptee.

Birth mother: to lose a child, to place him in the hands of another, to trust a stranger with your most precious gift- your own flesh and blood, to relinquish all control and possibly knowledge. Oh…my heart broke as I truly pondered her pain.

Adoptive Parents: adoption usually begins with the pain of infertility- the emotional roller coaster each month now compounded with that of adoption, to want to be a “normal” family, to fear the questions, hurt and anger the child will have as he grows. Would he shout at me as a teenager, “You’re not my real Mom!” Would others ask if he knows his real mom? Am I his fake mom? In an open adoption- to fear unclear or overstepped boundaries, judgement or regret by the birth mother, to feel like you’re sharing a child, or worse, co-parenting.

Baby: and what of the child? Research shows that a newborn can identify their biological Mom. Do they suffer emotional pain as they are torn away? Will they suffer from attachment issues? Later in life will they hurt with unanswered questions of origin and the reason for the adoption?

The statement, “Adoption begins in pain” seems to be true. But does it heal? How? In closed adoptions, are adoptive parents able to pretend? Can they imitate a “normal” family? Does that bring them healing? And what does it bring the child and birth mother? Would an open adoption bring healing to all? At what price?

To be continued…

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Lauren

Lauren is in love with the Lord, the man of her dreams, and her new daughter. She and her husband married in June of 2006 and thereafter began their journey of infertility and adoption. Despite the many wounds, heartaches, and suffering, she has experienced not only healing and grace and but also the profound beauty of the Resurrection through her relationship with Jesus Christ and the Sacraments of the Catholic Church. She seeks to “magnify the Lord” through her marriage, adoption, and blog. After three unsuccessful adoptions, they brought home their baby girl, Abigail Chiara, in September 2010.

Questions to Ask Adoptive Families

I explained in this post that I was a researcher. Just to prove myself, this post should give assurance that I’m truly anal retentive a listmaker (wasn’t quite sure which to strike out there).

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When we were in the process of choosing an adoption agency, calling agencies, scouring websites, and reading through lots of materials we got in the mail from them was very helpful. I became a bit of an information-hog. But, I realized that more helpful than all the 2-dimensional literature were conversations with other adoptive families, some whom the agencies provided as references and some who we found on our own. We quickly learned that the adoption community was full of families many of whom genuinely desired to help other families and encourage them in their process honestly. And, that is really what we needed.

As you are exploring adoption agencies and, more generally, if adoption is right for your family, take advantage of families who love to “talk adoption” and want to encourage you in the journey!

Here are some questions you can use to get you started as you reach out to adoptive families. I didn’t have these when we were initially talking to families and just at the beginning stages of our adoption process. But, I started listing them as time went on. And, now, as an adoptive parent who gets a good number of people asking me about adoption, I often use these to help me structure some of my words to them when they don’t know what to ask. In a time where blogs are prevalent and email is so easy, you may want to consider using blog comments or emails as a first way of connecting. But, you will learn much more and make a much more personal connection by speaking on the phone. Don’t be afraid to ask a family if you can call them to talk more. It’s so much easier to speak on the phone than type out all their thoughts anyway–as long as you don’t mind some background accompaniment of little children! And, you are likely to get much more accurate answers as they spill off their tongue!

As you get your phone and notebook ready, consider some of these questions to get you started:

  1. What agency did you use and why did you choose them? At one time, these families went through the same process you are going through. It’s helpful to hear why they made the choice they did.
  2. Would you choose them again knowing what you know now?
  3. What do you see as your agency’s strengths?
  4. What do you feel like your agency is not as good at? No agency is perfect. It is good to go into it knowing what challenges you may face with a particular agency and be prepared with how you will handle those challenges.
  5. Were there any surprises in the process (e.g., in paperwork issues or finances)?
  6. Were they true to their word? Was their anything they told you early on that was not accurate? Obviously, the adoption process can change dramatically and without much (if any) notice. But, it is helpful to ask this question to see if anything they could have controlled changed from the time a family started and came home with their son or daughter.
  7. How did you primarily communicate with them? Email? Phone? How quickly did they respond to your questions or concerns? This is so very important, particularly if you are entering a program in which time is of the utmost importance (as in the China special needs program, for example).
  8. Do you feel like the agency cared for your family on an individual basis? When we started, I knew I would need a lot of “hand holding” in our adoption process. So, this was very important to me.
  9. Do you connect with other families from your agency? In what capacity? Families are able to share with you connections that the agency may not share themselves—yahoo groups or email lists that the families themselves manage.
  10. What was your in-country experience like? This was absolutely crucial to us. We knew many agencies would be able to facilitate our adoption. But, we knew we would need them most when we were in a foreign country where we could not speak or read the language. We wanted to know that we would be with an agency with a good reputation for making sure the trip went as smoothly as possible.
  11. How has the transition been for your child and for your family? Has your agency provided any support to you during the adjustment time? Where have you found your support? Not only will this help you learn from their adjustment experience, it will show you any postadoption support the agency provides. And, it will help you establish a list of other resources you may want to explore as well for yourself.
  12. What advice would you give a family just starting the adoption process? Allow the family to share anything else on their hearts. You may find that God speaks to you clearly as they answer your question.

Keep your notes and the families’ information somewhere you’ll be able to find it again. Speaking from personal experience, it is a real blessing as an adoptive family to hear back from someone we talked to a while ago to get an update about their process and maybe even a picture of their new child.

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Kelly Raudenbush

Kelly is a stay-at-home mom/manager to 4 children–the youngest of whom is from Baoji, Shaanxi, China. She is a part-time editor and part-time blog-surfing junkie, always on the lookout for good resources and essays to post on this site that are way better than what she could come up with. She is always willing to “talk adoption” and share about how God brought their family to the place they are now. You can learn more about their adoption story as well as follow day-to-day life on their personal blog.

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