Adoption Profile Book Spotlight: Kristina + Hunter

I am so excited to be sharing Hunter + Kristina’s profile book on the blog today! In case you don’t know Kindred + Co. was born out my own adoption process. I knew nothing about domestic adoption when my husband and I decided to switch from International to Domestic, I knew nothing about the process or the need for profile books. I was desperate to read stories about people from all sides of the triad – I wanted to learn and I wanted to read first-hand stories. But I couldn’t find one place for this kind of community. I saw community within agencies, but not one place for everyone, full of different  perspectives. That is a big reason that I started Kindred. The other reason was to help hopeful adoptive families with their profile book! The profile book is intimidating! And many agencies give you very little support on how to go about making one of these books. I was thankful that I had a background in design and marketing and could make my own, but I kept thinking about the families that might be so overwhelmed by this task – adopting is overwhelming enough! After my inbox was full of requests from people to help them with their profile book, it gave me even more reason to start Kindred + Co. One of my favorite parts of the book process is getting to know the couples we work with. They are determined and vulnerable and full of so much grit. Each story of what brought them to adoption is so unique. I love getting to know them and creating a book that authentically represents who they are and what their lives are like. I have been so busy creating books, that I haven’t taken enough time to SHARE these books with you – and so I am starting this series of Profile Book spotlights, so you can get to know Kindred couples, hear their story, and get a glimpse into their profile book! I was thrilled to work with Hunter + Kristina, they are such a vibrant couple, and their situation was a little unique – They had already had a profile created, but they didn’t feel like it represented them well – so they came to us for a redesign! And I just loved how it turned out. Okay, enough of me. Enjoy this interview with Hunter + Kristina! – Hannah


Adoption profile book | Kindred + Co.What led you and your husband to grow your family through adoption?

We ended up pursing adoption in the midst of a long battle with infertility.  It’s not something I had ever pictured for our family, but Hunter was open to it from the beginning.  God spoke to him clearly about it first, about a month before He spoke to me, but Hunter didn’t say a word about it because he knew it was something I would have to come to on my own.  In my mind I knew the same thing, that adoption couldn’t be Plan B just because we weren’t able to have biological children. It would have to be Plan A – and that’s exactly what it became.

What did you learn through the adoption process?

Honestly I could go on and on about what we learned – there’s so much to unpack.  I could talk about the logistics of the process but the most profound things I learned were personal.  The adoption process is scary, uncertain, and completely out of your control.  It’s also beautiful, exciting, and mysterious – it all depends on your perspective.  There were several days I was completely gripped by fear, consumed by the fact that I couldn’t control the choices our child’s birth mom was making which would affect him for the rest of his life (even though I didn’t know who she was yet).  The hardest and biggest thing to learn was to trust God in all of it.  And I’m not talking about a lip service, trusting-God-because-He’s-God kind of trust – I’m talking about a gut wrenching, you’ve written our family’s story and I trust you as the Author to write it no matter what it involves, complete surrender kind of trust.  The reality is, control is a facade that we think will keep us safe – and we think we have control over our family if our child is growing in our belly.  But adding to your family is a journey of surrendering control regardless of how your children come to you.

Adoption Profile Book, Kindred + Co.

What is your advice for someone starting their adoption?

When we started the process, I was overwhelmed to say the least just thinking about all that was ahead.  Would I be ready when we got the call?  Would I be able to love an adopted child as I would a biological child?  Would I miss out on the process of falling in love with our child because he wouldn’t be growing in my belly?  Would my maternal instinct kick in (and how)?  What would our child look like?  How would I answer questions about him in the grocery store?  How would I answer his questions when he got older?…and on and on and on.  And listen, I know I’m not the only one who struggles with those kinds of questions – aka struggles with getting WAY ahead of myself.  The best thing I can tell you is to focus on the next thing in front of you and do that.  Just do the next thing and your heart will follow.  Your heart will grow and be prepared for your child as you prepare, whatever that looks like for you.  It’s literally the hardest advice to follow because it means being present and not getting ahead of yourself, but the days that I was able to live that way were the best ones in the process, and the ones that I felt the most free to enjoy the the mystery of it all.

Adoption Profile BookWhy did you choose Kindred to make your profile book?

The design of our profile book was very important to us.  The way we saw it, our book was the only thing that a birth mom would have to understand who we were and we wanted it to speak clearly and represent us well.  We also are REALLY busy and didn’t have time to make our book what we wanted it to be! When we came across Kindred we were thrilled because their design style lined up with what we had envisioned for our book and we didn’t have to think twice about it.

Adoption Profile Book, Kindred + Co.

What is your favorite part of your profile book?

I love the page that highlights a few of our favorite things (pictured above!).  The picture that Hannah pick for it was one of my favorite photos we had taken for our five year anniversary, but I never framed it because I couldn’t find a good place for it.  I was so happy when she suggested using it for that page, and the way she laid it out is so much fun!

What was the most overwhelming (or hard) part of your adoption process and how did you work through it?

The hardest part is the part we’re in right now – our adoption is not finalized yet and we’re working through some challenges in the process, so the future of our family is still hanging in the balance.  The honest truth is that no matter what point in the process I had been asked that question, I probably would have answered, “right now!”  Each step is uniquely challenging in its own way and requires a deeper level of trust as you move forward towards growing your family.  That’s the beauty of it: the process is constantly requiring you to go deeper, and you have the opportunity at each step to be present and embrace it – and if you do you’ll find more beauty waiting there than you could have imagined.

How does your profile book represent who you are? 

Somehow Hannah made it exactly what we wanted: clean and simple yet personal.  It really feels like US when you flip through the pages.  I was excited for birth moms to see it knowing that, when the one we had been waiting for found it, she would have a real introduction to our family.  Having that confidence in presenting our book was a game changer and calmed a lot of our anxieties!

We had so much advice thrown at us when we were working on our book…people have different opinions on what should be included, and it’s hard to know what to do.  We felt a lot of pressure to include certain information, certain types of pictures, and to represent ourselves in a certain way.  One day we saw an adoptive family out at a restaurant and started chatting with them about their story.  They said that they were intentionally authentic with their book, regardless of what advice they received, because they ultimately wanted to be chosen because of who they were and not some version of themselves that seemed more presentable. That stuck with us and we agreed we wanted our book to truly feel like us, no matter what advice we received. 

Adoption Profile Book, Kindred + Co.If you know – what stood out about your book to your child’s birth mom?

Our match story is kind of crazy.  Our birth mom had a stack of something like 30 books to look through from our agency, and after going through every single one of them she only wanted to meet us.  She then handed the stack of books to her grandmother and her aunt, not telling them who she chose, and they both chose only our family as well!  It just goes to show that there is a child and a birth mom specifically intended for each adoptive family and the story God is weaving is much bigger than we can understand.  Ultimately, our birth mom said that it was the letter we wrote to her at the beginning of our book that set us apart.  It was personal and real about our struggle to grow a family, but we also shared how we had been praying for her which touched her deeply.  Aside from that, she has a lot of the same interests that we do and has an artistic eye so the photographs and design of our book really caught her attention.

Now that your son is home – how has your life changed?

I think an easier question would be how my life hasn’t changed!! I feel like nothing is the same since bringing him home, and anyone who has welcomed a child into their family can relate.  It’s only been six months but I barely remember what life was like before him (and what in the world I did with all my free time).  The best thing that’s changed is my perspective – of what’s important in life, of what motherhood is, of myself.  Somehow, in bringing Benjamin home, the depths of pain of infertility aren’t so deep anymore.  Trust me – the pain is still very real when pregnancy announcements are sprung on me or when conversation revolves around how a pregnant friend is feeling or how cute her bump is. Because, even though the deep desire to be a mother is being fulfilled, the desire to experience pregnancy is not.  But that’s the thing: the desire to be a mother is deeper, and that’s the joy of what I’m experiencing now.  So when I see a pregnant woman out in public, I no longer see her as a reminder of what I lack, but of what I’ve been given.  My husband and I were talking about it the other day, and he said something that stuck with me: don’t let nine months dictate a lifetime.  Being a mother, no matter how we come to be one, is something that lasts a lifetime.  And I’m so grateful to be on the journey, stewarding the greatest gift I’ve been given.


If you are interested in Kindred + Co. profile services, learn more here!

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Meet our November Featured Waiting Family!

We are so excited to introduce you to Kim and Ryan, our November Featured Waiting Family! Yesterday we launched our new Kindred Kids shirts, which will be available for 18 more days – when you purchase a onesies or a toddler tee, proceeds will go back to helping fund Kim and Ryan’s adoption. We love partnering with waiting families and sharing their story!

We asked Kim to share a little bit about how they got here!

Like most couples who start the adoption process, we started this journey with no clue of how to begin or what to do. We took one step and day at a time. We are now finished with all of our documents for the home-study. Hallelujah! The stack of documents seemed insurmountable… but jumped in and completed most the paper work in 2 weeks! Most of our “to-do” lists have been checked off, our i’s have been dotted and our t’s crossed. Now we get to settle in for the winter with our pumpkin spiced lattes and brisk sunset walks on the beach. While we wait to get that call that we have been praying for. The call to meet our child or children.

For those of you who don’t know our story, here is a little snapshot on how we arrived here. We have been married for almost six crazy years! I met a boy with coke bottle glasses and long, unruly hair at a Superbowl party who is now my husband. Sometimes I feel like I am living a dream. How did I get the chance to be with this guy who brings me coffee in bed? Thank the Lord we got married and we both gave each other a shot. There have been so many fun times that we’ve experienced over these last few years. But, at the same time, we have been through some major tragedies, loss and many miscarriages. I would not want to go through this with anyone else.

Adoption has always been on our heart when dreaming about what our future family was going to look like. I remember every few months Ryan meeting someone who adopted or the conversation just starting up out of nowhere. When I look back it is like we were going around a merry-go-round. My biggest concern was that I wanted to adopt from a healthy place. After going through our last miscarriage, we realized that we are never going to be fully healthy. I remember Ryan looking at me and saying, “Kim, we are ready.” I am not going to say that I am not terrified because I am. At the same time, I know that we are ready. In the areas that we are not ready, I believe that God will give us strength. From everything that we have gone through we have been prepared and molded for this moment.

To learn a little more about Ryan and Kim and their story, watch their video here! Or following along with their adoption blog here.


We are so excited to be celebrating National Adoption Month – and we hope you will join us by purchasing a Kindred Kids tee! Purchase a shirt for someone you know that is adopting, for your niece, nephew, son or daughter! We loved the simple message of LOVED for these shirts because of the wide community of people that come around an adoption – birth families, adoptive parents, friends and family. These kids are love deeply!

 

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Transracial Adoption: 3 Things I’ve Learned

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. It’s a chance to share stories, link arms with each other and grow deeper in our understanding of adoption in all of its beauty and brokenness. Adoptive parents have so much to learn from the rich stories and sharing of experiences of other members from within the adoption triad. Whether you’re new here, you’re waiting to adopt, you’ve adopted internationally, domestically or you have foster children in your home, there’s room for you at this table. If you’re a birth mom or an adoptee, welcome, we’ve saved you a seat. Your voice is valuable, needed. Let’s gather here and let our collective voices rise to a greater understanding; we’re better together.

I’m writing this post only 28 months in. I know we have a lifetime ahead; the years of raising our son, and his lifetime of experiences. But our family has this title, one we’re honored to bear, and one that’s obvious if you see us out together. We’re a transracial family. While we are still new at this and far from being “experts”, I thought I’d shed some light on what our experiences have been like so far.

In general, people are kind.

In all of my experiences in public and online, no one has been mean-spirited towards me/our family (to my face, at least) based on the way we look together. I know there are sadly always exceptions to the rule, but mostly, people are kind. I also know experiences can vary widely based on geography too. But it seems for the most part, people recognize that love makes a family and loved children can exist in a wide variety of family structures. Just like the saying goes for new babies, “fed is best”, so it seems to be true that “loved is best”.

People are curious.

If someone asks me, “are you babysitting?”, which has happened a handful of times, I try to regard their question as interest. They are asking to hear more of our story. As someone with intense interest in the stories of others, I understand the curiosity. And while I don’t invite strangers into the heart of our son’s adoption or his story, I recognize the spirit of inquiry that others have. I recognize it because I see it in myself too. Just the other day I just had my two youngest, Frankie and William and we were playing at the park. Another mom was there with her two children. After they had played together for a bit, she asked me out of earshot of the playing boys, if we’d adopted our youngest son. It turns out that she and her husband had just completed requirements for their foster care license, and are eagerly awaitIng their first placement. I remember so clearly being in the wait for our son and spotting families that looked how I imagined ours might one day. I usually, (possibly creepily), watched them as I dreamed about our reality. But I get it, and for the most part people are mostly interested in the heart of the story, and I try to extend grace. Sometimes people outside of the adoption community use all of the “wrong” language. I have felt offended, bristly and insulted by some things people have asked or assumed. Here’s the thing, a slice of humble pie: I didn’t always have the right language to use regarding adoption and cringe to think of things I might have said. When I try to answer horribly phrased questions with correct adoption verbiage it becomes a door to teach, however small.


People are there to help.

There are so many people to reach out to as resources. Why go it alone when you can ask and do it better? I have a friend who once stopped a college student at Wal-Mart to ask him what product he used in his hair. She noticed he had the same curl pattern as her African American son and wanted to try whatever product he was using. It’s ridiculous to expect every person of color to drop what they’re doing and be my teacher, but I’ve learned when it’s ok to ask questions. There are websites, blogs, Facebook groups and books dedicated to the purpose of helping white mama’s learn to better care for their African American children’s beautiful hair and skin. It’s important to read them. But nothing can replace asking someone. Ask a friend you trust; humble yourself and ask someone who knows more than you do. If you’re fortunate enough to have a relationship with your child’s birth mom/family, ask for their advice. Our son, Frankie, won the genetic lottery and bears his birth mama’s gorgeous complexion and skin. I reached out to her shortly after we brought him home to ask what she likes to use best to moisturize her skin. Since he takes after her, I figured she’d be the best person to ask what might work best on his. Ignorance isn’t bliss, but learning from each other is beautiful.

This post isn’t meant to be a “how-to”, there are so many beautiful resources for entering into transracial adoption, and you should read/watch/listen to them. It is meant to serve as encouragement and maybe even a push forward to bravely pursue transracial adoption if it’s on your heart. Maybe someone reading this is in the midst of paperwork and hovering over certain boxes on that (dreaded) preferences page. I hope this serves to encourage you to move forward bravely and chase love.

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I am OK.

A very close friend announced her pregnancy a couple of weeks ago. As I sat there at the table, I waited for the feelings of jealousy. The pangs of hurt to come. The aching. The questioning. I waited. And I waited. And they didn’t. They didn’t come even a little bit. There wasn’t a hint. This has NEVER happened. And as I embarked on my 1+ hour drive home after a fabulous dinner I had a realization. I am ok. In fact, I am better than ok.

You see the thing is, adoption was never a plan B for us. It was always part of our plan A. Regardless of biological children or not. It was always something we wanted to do. Something we hoped for our family. To be honest, I can’t pinpoint something exactly that caused this shift to happen. It’s something that has definitely happened over time. But how did I go from leaving Target in tears because it felt like everyone was pregnant to not even noticing? I think one of the things I’ve really realized maybe as I have gotten older is that everyone’s stories are different. Everyone’s experience is different. Families are different. Some are built biologically. Some are built through adoption. Some through marriage. Some through foster care. And the thing is, it doesn’t matter. They are all beautiful. At the end of the day, a family is a family is a family. Luca is our daughter. And as our daughter sits across the table from me slurping oatmeal and singing “You are My Sunshine” I know that things have worked out exactly the way they were meant to. This was always the plan for our family.

I’ve realized that in this season of life, those desires to grow a child inside me are gone. It doesn’t mean that they may not come back some day. And that’s ok too. But I am ok. When I think about growing our family now, there isn’t a little voice in the back of my head saying “I wonder if we should do IVF”. That voice is so loudly and clearly saying “I cannot wait for us to adopt again”. I believe in this beautiful story for our family. And hopefully someday soon we will get to add to it again.


PS:  I have gained SO MANY beautiful, wonderful friendships through this world of adoption. And Luca has made so many little buddies. We have been so blessed to have so many people walk alongside us in the journey and we have loved walking beside other families as they bring their babies home. One of those mamas just happens to be on her way to meet their baby girl RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND. They have had a long journey to grow their family and just found out yesterday afternoon they were matched with a baby girl who had already been born. They are a little short of the funds they need to bring their sweet girl home. Prayers are so greatly appreciated as they go from a family of 3 to 4 today and if you are able please head over to their YouCaring page to help them meet that final goal!

 

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Chase the Yes

Can I be honest with you guys for a minute? Like real honest? Sometimes I feel guilty that our adoption was so easy. I know adoption is hard as a general concept. It is. It’s hard for a lot of reasons, and those challenges extend into the life of being an adoptive family day in and day out, and those are challenges that we expect to continue now through the life of our family. But I’m talking about our actual bringing-baby-home-story. It was without hiccup. It was freakishly smooth.

For those who are familiar with our story, you’ll know that everything before our adoption was the opposite of smooth. It was infant loss and more infant loss, back to back, all within a few years, and all within the first few years of our marriage. It was devastating ultrasounds and appointments full of weeping. It was panic attacks and depression. It was too much pain. Pain that we are still working through day after day as we reestablish our foundation as a family. I sometimes think back to my young 23-year-old self, pregnant and excited to grow our family biologically, and I can barely recognize the memories.

But, goodness, since entering the world of adoption, I know there are so very many stories of families struggling to get pregnant, struggling with loss, struggling with heartache like we did, only to enter the world of adoption with a big YES to then get hit in the face with no after no after no after no. There are many of you who have fought hard to put your “yes” on the table and are now wondering if you should ever have said yes in the first place because nothing is working out the way you thought it should. From failed adoptions to never-ending birth family presentations, to getting your hopes up time and time again only to have them crushed.

I’m here to sympathize with you, while at the same time not knowing how to help. I’m here for you the way my pregnant friends were there for me through my pregnancies…with a lot of hugs but not necessarily any answers and maybe a little bit of guilt because I just want to fix it. I want to hand you an adoption story that is as good and beautiful as it can be. One of the scariest parts of adoption is the complete and utter lack of control. Outside of filling out your paperwork correctly, you’re pretty much not in control of a n y t h i n g.

I’m here to say that we are all capable to endure through so much more than we think we are, but it’s okay to be upset sometimes. It’s okay to feel that envy (dare I say anger) you feel when you get another notification on your phone about a match. But please, if there is one thing I’m asking you to do, it is to not take this hard road as a sign that you chose wrong. The messiness of adoption is a reality that is often not conveyed as well as it should be. But we are here for you and we are rooting for you to cross the finish line, whether that finish line is placement, reunification, finalization, or just to love your adopted children well. The entire reason this little community exists is to make one thing clear: we are better together and this is all too hard to go at alone.

If you’re sad today, it’s okay. If you’re angry, that’s okay, too. If you’re one bad phone call away from throwing in the towel, we hear you. Tell us about it. But don’t for a second believe the lie that your “yes” won’t be worth it after all this pain you’re enduring. Don’t believe the lie that everyone else deserves a successful adoption story and you don’t. You want to know something about my little family? We’re as imperfect as imperfect can get. Come over to my house on any given Tuesday and you’ll see for yourself. It’s human nature to begin to doubt everything we ever thought about parenthood and growing a family of our own when it seems like one big fat no after another. Fight that lie and put your yes back in the forefront of your mind. Come hell or high water, remind yourself that it’s not over. Because as long as I’m standing, no “no” will ever be the boss of me and I won’t let it be the boss of you either. Okay? Okay. Chase the yes.

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A worthwhile kind-of “Yes”

I was always afraid to do foster care.

I had a huge heart for adoption and for vulnerable children, but I was afraid to do foster care. 

I was afraid that my heart would be too open, too vulnerable, too susceptible to breaking if and when the foster babies would have to go. But here I am, after having four foster kids in nine months in our previous Colorado home, pushing through the piles of paperwork and waiting to be approved in New York to do it all again. It’s a hard “yes”, but it’s a worth-it-kind-of-yes.

My husband and I had tried ‘traditional’ adoption options for years and came up against many strange, frustrating, unusual and somewhat unbelievable circumstances (which I’ll save for another time). We had come to the conclusion that adoption just wasn’t going to work out for us and maybe we should just move to Africa where there were lots of orphans that needed to be loved. It may sound drastic, but we were desperate to love children and after all we’d been through with many different agencies in the U.S., we thought that might be the easiest route. We had plans to visit an organization to see if we might get some confirmation to be house parents to a big group of orphaned children who were facing homelessness. We were ready and willing,  and were praying that if this was the place we needed to be, that God would make it clear. On the way to Uganda, Dan and I both assumed we’d be flying home in ten days to pack our bags, move back and start our new lives as house parents on the other side of the world.

We spent 10 full days in different parts of Uganda and loved our time there. We fell in love with the culture, the people, and of course, the beautiful children. Despite our incredible time there, it was on the plane ride home that we both realized that we weren’t supposed to live there. We couldn’t explain it at the time, we just knew- and it surprised us.  But one thing we did know as we were traveling across the world back to our home in Colorado, is that we were being called to take care of the vulnerable in our own community. 

Despite the many fears and all the excuses we were tempted come up with, we decided to come home and sign up for foster care training. What happened over the next year feels like a blur and yet, at the same time, feels like a lifetime. We got certified in March of 2016 and a few days after our home study was finalized, we got our first call. Two boys under two. It was quite a shock to our system to have a two-year-old and a six-month-old show up on our doorstep to live with us. We didn’t sleep for days. We cried every night. I’m not sure I even had a meal. It was chaotic and overwhelming, but it was an unusually quick placement and to our (somewhat guilt-ridden) relief, they returned home after five days. We cried when they left. That began the whirlwind of our foster care experience where we opened our home and our hearts to two more sweet boys over the course of those next nine months. The emotional and physical ups and downs of foster care are wide-ranging, and as most significant things in life are, it’s difficult to put the experience into words. One thing I know from this experience; it literally takes a village. I’ll be forever grateful to our beautiful community that surrounded us during those first weeks of each placement. It was life-altering to have a child show up at my home and all-of-a-sudden be charge of their 24-hour care. It takes time to learn them, to learn what they need and what they like and don’t like. It takes time to adjust and figure out new routines and work schedules. It’s not a slow process but a dive into the deep-end kind of process. The people who came around us offering meals, baby clothes, formula, diapers, and a helping hand were the ones who kept us afloat. The other thing I know from this experience, is that the “Yes” is terrifying, but it’s worth it. Of course, the first days and weeks of each placement rocked our world and if I’m honest, often felt like we had made a terrible decision. But as time went on and we learned new rhythms, it got easier to breathe and go about our days together with the new little one in our home. And as many would imagine, we fell in love with each boy. The falling in love part was the best. To get to a place of a healthy attachment and to see the child’s face light up when I came into a room was deep joy to my heart. To know that this boy felt safe and loved was such a gift to me and I know to his heart as well. The falling in love didn’t come without the ache, though. The ache of knowing that this boy wasn’t “mine” forever. The ache of saying goodbye when the time came for each one of them to go back home. Brene Brown says this well in The Gifts of Imperfection; “Joy is as thorny and sharp as any of the dark emotions. To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees- these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain.” 

Today I sit in my kitchen in a quiet home after a full-night’s sleep. We have no little ones to care for at the moment as we wait for paperwork to get sorted out and the final approval from the state. My third foster boy whom we had with us for almost half a year turns three this week. This time last year we were planning a party for him alongside of his mom who loves him dearly. We had already seen him return to his mom and had our fourth foster baby living with us at the time. It was a full house as we celebrated this little one’s life. I remember being exhausted but with a grateful contentment of knowing we were exactly where we were supposed to be. And as I wait here today in anticipation of our fifth placement, whenever that may be, I can walk forward with confidence and joy, knowing that it’s a worthwhile kind of “Yes”. 

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Always Rooting for You

I sit here and cannot move. My mind is going a million minutes. My heart is throbbing. my fingers won’t stop clicking and scrolling. Having a semi-open adoption without contact leaves me always wondering. Always curious. Knowing our daughter’s first mom is somewhere in our area always has my eyes wide open. Searching. Investigating.

One morning I was driving home and saw a women in one of the worst possible circumstances. My heart sank. That familiar lump back in my throat. My heart saddened. My knees weakened. I didn’t turn the car around this time like I have in the past when I thought I spotted her. I didn’t want confirmation this time. I didn’t want to see the truth before my eyes. I didn’t want to know that she was in the condition as the women I saw. Maybe some things are better left unknown.

Is ignorance bliss?

I continued to drive. I kept looking back at my daughter who was drifting off to slumberland. I kept replaying the meeting I had with her birth mom in the hospital room right after delivery. I remember her charm and it didn’t match the women I saw this morning. The twists and turns of someone’s personal life can benefit one but deteriorate  another.  I literally couldn’t stop thinking about her. That women. The one to place her baby in someone else’s arms, my arms.

As I was feeding Brooklyn before laying her down, I hopped on my phone to dig further. I yearned to settle this feeling in the bottom of my stomach. The pit. Something I haven’t done in awhile or felt in a while. I searched her name. Saw nothing new. I hit the back button and there, new, different information I have never seen before. Months of videos, pictures, affirmations, bible passages. All very uplifting and inspirational. That women I saw this morning, was NOT who I thought and I have never been more relieved. She is everything opposite of what I saw that morning. I hate to admit and realize the assumption I had placed on her. I also have no idea what her daily life looks like, so every day I choose to pray for her.

When we started the adoption process I had no idea what an open adoption would look like. As with my own, I have never known my biological parents. I have always been unaware of their likes and dislikes; where they grew up; what they did for a living; or sadly, if they are even still alive. Since we do not have direct contact with my daughter’s birth mom, I am always thinking, wondering, assuming as I am with my own adoption.

I am always thanking her in my heart for choosing a life for Brooklyn that she has for herself. Every day I think about her. I wonder how she is living her life. I hear so many people who have open adoptions that are equally thankful for them as well as have their reservations. I can’t help but to think if our lack of contact is something that is beneficial or harder. Is it different for me than my husband simply because I am adopted and I am always curious about my birth parents. I always think about what would be easier; to have more communication or less. What is the healthiest. Does healthiest even match up with difficulty. Even when our child is placed in our arms, has our last name, I am still always thinking about the what if’s, the how comes, the how are yous. I don’t have dreams about an ideal relationship because adoption isn’t an ideal situation. It’s complicated. It’s a never-ending journey of boundaries, questions, loaded answers, future plans, bravery, heartache, selfless love. I do, however, dream about my replies to my daughter’s questions regarding her placement. Answers that make her questions feel welcomed and answers that always provide love and support. I want to have open communication with her even though we may not have that with her biological family, and may not have all the answers. But we can sit with her in the questions.

To my daughters birth mama, wherever you are, I am rooting for you. Your daughter is rooting for you. Our family is rooting for you. I pray that you continue down the path you are on and keep yourself the main priority. Because of you, your daughter is well loved and taken care of.

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The Next Step

I’ve shared our adoption story to our beautiful third son pretty openly. There was a lot of brokenness and a lot of beauty that paved the road to the hospital in a sunny Florida town where we first met him. There’s one vulnerable piece I have only shared with a few. It’s hard to share because I always think of people within the adoption community as having so much grit, and strength. And here is where I vulnerably admit that I didn’t always. I think it’s important to share because I lost hope, and I’m on the other side with a beautiful son. It’s important to share because I wanted to give up, and I wonder if that’s something more of us might have in common too.

In the weeks leading up to the (unexpected) arrival of our son, Frankie, not a lot was going right. Our new spring roof had a sudden summer leak, our basement was flooded and our attic collecting water. A storm brought a giant tree limb down across our patio, shattering a string of patio bulb lights and narrowly missing our older boys. We had no news to share when kind friends asked about our adoption, and no updates to give our family who had generously poured into helping us raise funds to bring our child home. We were bleeding financially and rapidly losing hope. We had made it through several years of unexpected infertility, two failed adoption placements, and now here we were. Still in the wait.

Potential situations trickled in, but so many requested families with no biological children. So many were “no’s”.

It was summer; we filled the days with sun-soaked hours at our neighborhood pool, evening games of baseball, popsicles and catching lightning bugs in mason jars. But while the days grew longer, my heart grew weary and restless with the wait. Maybe we weren’t meant to grow our family. Maybe we would support adoption in other ways. Maybe giving up would hurt less than the waiting, and hearing no, and hoping.

One night after our oldest son, Henry’s baseball game, I stood in the parking lot with a dear friend. She asked me how we were doing, if there was news. Truth and tears that had been buried, hidden, bubbled up to the surface, “We have no news. Nothing. Honestly, I just can’t see it happening.” There’s so much optimism required in the process. I felt like I needed to be incredibly positive all the time, and couldn’t show my worry or doubt. It loosed something in me to tell the truth to this trusted friend. She listened and gently nudged me to hold on and to take the next step.

And then, a few weeks later, a phone call. Asking us to consider a situation. We had no doubts. In fact, when our adoption consultant couldn’t reach me and called Patrick he answered for me; for us. Yes, consider us. Holding on to that strand of hope. That phone call was the first time we heard about our son. 24 hours later he was swaddled in our arms.

We didn’t know if we’d ever hold him, and walked through times that we strongly doubted we would.  What I now know is that we couldn’t speed up becoming his parents simply by trusting enough, or thwarted plans to call him son by losing hope in the process.

I believe in sovereignty and grace. Lots and lots of grace. I believe in truth telling and finding community with people (even one other person) who you can be totally honest with. People who you trust with your fears and doubts. People who listen, and then point you back to truth, and hope.

Sometimes we feel like we are called to something great and we have to go from where we are to something great. But the truth is you just have to go from where you are to the next step. Maybe the next step is filling out an agency application, and maybe it’s buying a cute crib sheet. Maybe it’s waiting for a court date, or for results from a doctor’s appointment. Maybe it’s acknowledging your doubt and fear, and then walking forward anyway. Every time you feel doubt or fear rise up, let hope overtake that fear, and just take the one next step. You’re not going it alone; link arms with us. We’ll walk forward together.

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Naming My Grief, Moving Forward Towards Healing

 

“ The pain doesn’t stop because we are more educated, but the healing can become more effective.”

– Ashley Mitchell, President Lifetime Healing, LLC


I never wanted to hold him after he was born.  I thought “if I hold him I won’t ever be able to let him go, I will be too attached.”  You want to know something funny?  I was already attached.  When you carry a baby to term, when you are the life source for that unborn child, whether you wanted this or not, you are attached!  Before I could stop myself, I leaned up toward the doctor to take that tiny new baby boy into my arms.  That sacred sound.  That first cry of my son. It is a sound I will never forget. And I know that on the other side of the door was his mother, and she wept.

At the age of 25, I found myself in an unexpected pregnancy.  I was alone and terrified.  The only reality I could grasp was that I pregnant and I needed to not be pregnant. There was only one way I knew how to do that. A fear based decision. Abortion.

As I sat in the clinic and waited for the results of my ultrasound I remember every inch of my body screaming, get out!  I couldn’t be here, but I couldn’t move.  I was glued to that spot.  This was my new reality.

I couldn’t face society with an unplanned pregnancy.  I couldn’t destroy my family with an unplanned pregnancy.  I was broken at what I was willing to consider, to sacrifice out of fear and protection for my loved ones.

The nurse said something that changed the course of my life forever, that changed the very identity of who I am today.  “You are too far along and we can’t help you.”

I walked out of that clinic and never looked back. Adoption became my option.  

I never had 100% clarity that what I was doing was right.  I don’t know if that is ever possible.  I think you do the best you can with all the information in front of you.  There are always forms of coercion, there are always mis-steps, there are always going to be options.  For me, I made a choice based on the circumstances and the education and I live with those consequences every day, for the rest of my life, good and bad.

You prepare yourself for the days ahead.  You read and you listen and you ask questions.  You study the “medical” process of giving birth and you are proactive in your potential emotional outcomes.  But nothing can ever prepare you for the reality of what is ahead.  

As I prepared to leave the hospital after spending three sacred and amazing and devastating days with my son it was time to say goodbye.  Say goodbye.  But he was still alive, he was breathing and healthy and perfect.  Grief.  Pain. Trauma.

As I walked down the hall of the hospital I was empty and broken.  My father was carrying most of my weight as I leaned into him.  And then I saw them at the end of the opposite hall.  Celebrating, laughing, bright balloons and joy.  I felt as if my son had died on one end and on the other, a celebration of life.

That is adoption.  Great love and joy built from great loss and brokenness.  

I spent the next years of my life in a limbo that about killed me.  Everything about me had shifted, the very identity of who I was.  I couldn’t go back to my old life but now I was a mother without a child, that ambiguous loss and grief kept me stuck in my own personal hell and I didn’t know how to escape.  No one was talking to me, no one was helping me to understand my emotions, my regrets, my loss.   Why was no one talking to me?  Why were they so afraid to see what was happening to me?

For me, the answers came at a tragic cost.  After years of self-destructive behaviors and carelessness, I almost lost my life.  And almost cost another their life.  After a week of lock-down in a mental health facility, time in jail and lots of counseling the fog started to lift.  I had a name for what had happened.  I had answers on how to cope.  I had clarity and forgiveness for myself and for others.  

I am a birth mother.  I am a birth mother forever.  He is a part of me and I think about him every single day of my life.  I am learning to coexist with the pain and grief every single day of my life.  The grief doesn’t get smaller, it doesn’t go away.  But I have grown, learned to make room for it, learned to have a healthy relationship with it and I respect it.

11 years post placement and I have changed so much.  I have talked with countless women that have shared similar paths.  That wished so deeply that there would have been something available to help them, something that could have helped them heal and cope in healthier ways.

That is why I created Lifetime Healing. Lifetime Healing provides support and empowers adoption agencies to give birthmothers the type of post-care they deserve. To walk with them through their grief, not only in the first six months after placement but whenever they need it. To raise the bar and set the new national standard for post placement care.  Women are going to choose adoption, and when they do they will need support for life.  We don’t ever just get over it.  

Our call to action?  We invite you to share Lifetime Healing, LLC with the agencies, law groups, hospitals, parent resource centers and other adoption professionals in your area.  We hope to see this curriculum available FOR ANY WOMAN that chose or that will choose to place her child(ren) for adoption. If we are going to stand with these women during the destruction, then we must stand with them in the rebuild.  No woman should be left to grieve on her own.  Isolation is the destruction of the human soul.

I believe that adoption can be done well.  I am blessed, after many years of darkness, to be in a respectful and honest open adoption relationship.  Just like any other relationship in my life I work at it.  We have hard conversations, we respect boundaries and we learn to compromise and remain flexible.  We understand our rights, roles, and responsibilities.  We understand that our son matters, his voice matters and we will continue to do things to honor his needs and desires, even when it is hard, even when it hurts.

I will never stop loving and hurting and questioning and wanting and needing and growing and becoming.  I am a birth mother forever.  Stand with us so we can stand with others to provide a lifetime of free post placement care.

Adoption is truly the most complex and beautiful thing that I have ever had the privilege of being associated with.  I will never stop fighting for best practices and higher standards.  Join me won’t you?

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When Transracial Adoption Hurts

I go to one of three grocery stores every week, depending on my mood and my errand route. There is one in particular that is very close to my home, and I often prefer it due to the fact that it’s most usually near empty. It’s easy to get in and out of and there is always that one shopping cart available for Shepherd. The car one that is so incredibly heavy to move around, but brings him enough delight to fill my whole shopping trip with smiles and toddler “vroooom” sounds. There’s only one problem with this grocery store, and it’s the woman whose shift schedule I clearly cannot avoid.

You see, when I first started coming here, I always thought she was in a bad mood the days I came shopping. But over the course of the last year and a half, I have discovered what I now know to be true: she doesn’t approve of the way my family looks.

I would never make such a grand judgment call if I were not positive and if they were not proven through a series of weekly events that have made me passionate enough to write about it here. We enter the checkout line politely and unpack our groceries onto the belt. Shepherd loves this part. He repeats, “Help you? Help you?” as he leans forward over his car steering wheel and grabs each item clumsily, then flopping it onto the counter. Meanwhile, the woman refuses to make eye contact with him or me. Eye contact is pretty much a standard if you’re working in customer service, in my opinion. But if the story stopped there I wouldn’t be writing this. She scans my items, never saying a word, never looking at my face, and never even telling me my total. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a brash, “You can scan now,” though oftentimes our entire checkout process will be in complete silence. And so I load my bags into my cart in awkward silence and push our cart away. Every. Single. Time.

You may be thinking, “This lady is just grumpy, how do you know it’s about race?” Well I’ll tell you. You see, I don’t always shop with Shepherd. Sometimes my husband will hang with him and I’ll run out for a few things alone. These times, I make it a point to enter her line (avoidance is not my forte,) and when I am alone my experience is not just different, but it is as if I am talking to an entirely different human being all together. She greets me with a lovely smile and questions, “How are you today? Did you find everything okay?” I respond politely, but her chatter doesn’t stop there. She inquires about the food I’m purchasing and even asks what I plan to make for dinner. It feels as if she’s an old friend. She tells me my total, asks me if I have my grocery store membership card, asks me about my day and my plans, and talks to me as I finish the transaction and walk away.

For the first six months, this happened 100% of the time. She would act one way when Shepherd and I were together, and the other way when I was alone. There was never an exception. So, for those first six months, I came to this conclusion: she must not like children.

Except over the course of the next year, I collected a variety of store experience with her sandwiched in line between white parents of white children, and the situation was even more obvious and disheartening. She would chat and giggle with the white children and their parents, and I would get the cold, harsh side of her personality. Only to begin exiting the line to hear her begin chatting in a bubbly fashion to the family behind me.

I do not think she knows, when I am alone, that I am the mother of the black son, because she never looks at my face when we are together.

This has happened time and time and time again over the last year and a half, to the point where I decided to ask a friend, a black male friend, if he experiences this often around here. He said yes. He then told me something I will never forget, “It no longer matters that you are white. When you are with him you are in the presence of racism, you will be treated as if you are lesser.” This perfectly summed up my experience in this one example amongst many I have encountered. Lesser. That’s the feeling I was feeling. Inferiority.

Transracial adoption is a delicate subject, just like anything involving matters of race and ethnicity. But however delicate it is, as a mother and father of a black child, our voices should rise up as those in favor of treating every individual as one deserving love and respect. For us, skin color has never dictated how we are to love, and from the moment Shepherd’s mother found us fit to be his parents, our love for him has interwoven into every fiber of our being, and it was all founded upon her decision to place him into our arms to love and raise and nurture.

I imagine that our experience as a family of differing colors is quite different than the family the next town over, the next state over, or across the country and world. Every territory has it’s own culture, all within one great big culture that is always growing, always shifting, and hopefully always progressing towards improvement. However, this truth does not make the sting of racial injustice less painful.

I cannot claim to know what racial injustice feels like on a personal level, but I feel it for my son. And that is enough for me to say this: don’t let transracial adoption scare you. You will love your child the same, no matter what they look like. However, the world may not. And that, my friends, is all the more reason to raise your voices and let your love fight battles that cannot be fought with fire.

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Kindred + Co is a brave adoption community. Sharing stories of beauty and brokenness, hope and redemption as we walk through life together.

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