Just Keep Breathing

I was startled away from a sink of dishes the other morning due to a sudden eruption of tears from my two-year-old. I knew the cry that filled the home, it was a cry of pain. I quickly ran to find my boy and realized when I did that he had slipped running and landed on the ground, his bottom lip swelling from impact.

I swooped him off the ground and began to soothe him. He’s two, so I knew there wasn’t much I could say to ease his mind. So in his hurting I sat and held him. There were little things I did for him to try and bring him back to a place of peace and comfort; I kissed his face and examined the hurt area to see if he needed extra care. I applied ice and offered him his favorite drink to help calm him. Nothing else mattered to me in that moment but ensuring that he felt loved by me. I knew he was going to be okay. But he didn’t.

What I did not feel compelled to do in that moment was examine with him all the possibilities that led to the fall. In retrospect, I’m sure there were many factors involved: how fast he was running, if there were toys in the way, if he wasn’t watching where his feet were headed, or if he simply lost his balance. In those moments of sobbing and tears, I knew that no explanation or theory or game plan for avoiding another fall would soothe the hurt he felt in that moment. I knew I simply needed to sit with him in it until he felt more at peace. I needed to sit with him until the crying subsided.

Leading up to the release of our book, I’m getting asked often what it’s about, and the best response I can give is that it’s about the time we fell and the time we were hurting and the time we were sitting in tears and in pain, and the time that we were being held but at the same time unsure of  if and when we were going to be okay.

It’s about that.

I read so many books during my pregnancies and through the loss of my first two children where there would be an introduction of great pain and tragedy, and then at the chapter end things would be looking hopeful. And the rest of the words would attempt to add value to the suffering to somehow force me into a place of heroic martyrdom instead of the disorienting struggle of grief. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. At all.

But as I read, I wanted to know about the time before they saw the light at the end of the tunnel? What was it like before that? As I read the words, my brain and heart were unable to compute if I was ever going to be okay again. Was I the only one? What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I muscle past the ache and the wounds and the anxiety and the sadness and just believe I would be fine?

Unlike a swollen lip that fades in hours or a day or two, our pregnancies continued on day after day for months while our children’s death sentences loomed over us. We spent five months leading up to the birth of our first daughter in pain and grieving, unsure if she would be coming home with us. And then we did it all again nine months later. What about those days? What about those months? What about the sleepless nights and the anxiety filled days and what about those moments when I had to keep going to the grocery store and paying my bills and existing in my community during it all?

Unlike that swollen lip, our birth stories are riddled with trauma and heartache, but the heartache didn’t end when we left the hospital. What about those days? Those hours, those moments, those weeks where we couldn’t see the end of our pain anywhere in sight.

I wrote this book in the midst of the pain. I wrote it when I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it out. I wrote it when I had five hundred questions and no answers. I knew I was being held the whole time. I could feel it. But it didn’t make the hurt go away.

I wanted every reader to know that I was there to sit with you in the pain. I wanted every word to feel like an embrace, but an embrace that didn’t try to solve the puzzle of why crappy things happen. An embrace that didn’t offer a ten-step plan to feel normal again. Yes, there are things we can do for one another in our pain to ease the burden, but I wanted you to know that we’re in this thing together for the long haul, not in the offering of fleeting condolences but in the commitment to hold you in the midst of heartache and let nothing else matter. Until. You. Are. Okay.

Even when you were never sure if you’d actually be okay. Especially then.


You can purchase “Just Keep Breathing, Unfiltered thoughts on life after loss the struggle of grief and learning to hope again” on Amazon

Or buy it from Westbow Press.

 

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Five Things I learned from Five Days of Foster Care

The moment we got the first call, my heart pounded and I started feeling an array of emotions. Excitement, anxiety, worry, hope, joy, dread…the list could go on. Dan and I had thought about becoming foster parents for years, but had a lot of “reasons” why we couldn’t or wouldn’t want to do it. After months (and a few miraculous ways that God worked on our hearts), we decided to go for it and we had our first placement of two boys under 2 years old. 

IT. WAS. CRAZY.

Truth-be-told, we felt like we were drowning. We barely slept, I forgot to eat, and could only fit in a few sips of coffee each morning (which is a BIG sacrifice for this coffee-lover). The boys became a part of our lives quickly and just as we started to imagine what our “new normal” would be, they left as quickly as they arrived. We had five days with them and then they were gone. We were shocked, tired, and amazed – all at once.

We learned a lot in those five days. I now that I’ve been through two additional placement and a culmination of 9 months of fostering, we’ve learned to stretch and grow with each new placement.  For now, here are five things we learned in that first experience:

  1. Expect the Unexpected. There are lots of moving parts when a child gets placed with Child Protective Services. Multiple caseworkers and social workers, GALs, Child Placement Agencies, Home Supervisors, Biological parents and family, Foster Parents and family, and the communities in which they work and live. From our first experience, we realized quickly that not everyone is on the same page. When we got our first call, we knew we were getting two kids, but when they showed up, one was a different age than we had heard. We weren’t as prepared as we thought we were. One was going full-speed-ahead all day and night (until he finally crashed at night after hours of trying to get him to settle). The other was a baby who did not want to be put down – even to sleep – he wanted (and probably needed) to be held most of his waking hours. And the sleeping hours were few and far between.  We were expecting them to stay a minimum of six months. They went back to parents after five days. We were expecting we could handle it a lot better. Were we in for a surprise! Maybe that’s expected for many of you out there – but for me, I realized quickly that any expectations I had were not even close to the real thing.
  2. It takes sacrifice: This seems obvious, right? This is why most of us might shun away from making the final push to become foster parents. It’s good and important work – I think we could all agree on that. But it takes true sacrifice. It takes a giving-up of so many parts of us. Depending on the age of child you are approved for, it could mean many sleepless nights. It could mean lots of tears and screaming, struggles with communication and navigating food issues. It could mean staying at home all day when you’re used to being out and about for work. It may mean saying no to many things that you’d rather be doing. It takes a lot of dying to self in order to love, nurture, and care for these little ones who need your full attention and grace.
  3. It takes a village: I don’t know if I truly understood this saying until we went through a really dark time, and then again when we started foster care with our first placement. We are not couple who has extra financial resources at this point in our lives. We rely on both of our jobs to pay our bills buy food and have a little on the side for coffee or other needs …so having people come around us with clothes and toys and baby gear and kids gear meals and gift cards was incredibly helpful and in our case,  much-needed. Not only did people support us in this tangible way but so many encouraged and prayed and lifted our spirits when we were struggling-we truly could not be doing this without our family, friends, our community and our church. If you’re considering foster care I’d recommend gathering a village of your own that will be committed to walking this journey with you in whatever way that they are best equipped to do.
  4. It will hurt: It’s hurts to have your life turned upside-down for another person. It’s painful to let go of your old way of life (for our case it was “freedom” to do what we wanted as a married couple without children). It’s painful to see your own brokenness, impatience, frustration, and even (dare-I-say) anger at times. It’s painfully hard to do this work. Loving children deeply and fully – children that you literally just met and know nothing about- doesn’t always come naturally (at least not for me). The children that come through your door may have difficult and challenging behaviors that you may or may not know how to handle well. They may not sleep or want to eat. They may not want to be comforted by you. It can be very hard.  But mostly, maybe the hardest part is letting go of my selfishness and giving up my “needs” for the needs of another who so desperately deserves it.
  5. It is worth it: I’ve always had a warm feeling about this statement – but I never taken it as seriously before as I do now. When I think about what some of these children have been through, it makes sense that they struggle in new environments. Some of them don’t know what it feels like to be cared for in an intentional way. Some of them don’t know peace and quiet so it feels strange and scary. Some of them don’t know how to be loved or soothed or nurtured. Please hear me when I say; this is not to make their biological parents sound like terrible people, because the truth is, most of them are not. Most of them may have a similar story to these kids- and maybe didn’t get the attachment and care that they truly needed when they were young. Unfortunately, trauma can become a negative cycle that affects generations. In this short time, I know and believe that it’s so vital to love these children as if they were your own. It’s vital to allow your heart to attach to them so that they can feel safe to attach to another human. It’s one of the most, if not the most, important piece of a child’s development. One of the hardest things to experience in life is the feeling of being desperately alone. When we step into the call of foster care, are stepping into holy ground- hard, yet holy. When you are called to be a presence in their little lives and called to be a voice that says to each child; “You are not alone. You’re not forgotten. You are dearly loved and always worth loving”.

Today as we eagerly wait for our next placement, people ask me if I’m excited. It’s a hard question to answer and if I’m being honest, the answer is yes and no. I’m truly excited to see who we will get to love on next. I’m excited to love and serve and welcome a child into a safe place and caring community. But I’m scared. I’m aware of the sacrifice, the pain, the challenges, the tears, all the mixed emotions and the sleepless nights that will also accompany our next placement. We will do the best we can, but it’s hard, it takes sacrifice, it takes a village, it’s painful, and yet, it’s so worth it. In the midst of it all, our deepest hope is to be a refuge, and with the help of God and our people around us, we hope that many more children will get to experience refuge and healing as long as they’re with us.

 

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3 things to ask an adoption agency (from a birthmother’s prospective)

As we get close to wrapping up National Adoption Awareness Month I wanted to say thank you for everyone that has been sharing their experiences and their stories through this journey.  It has been eye-opening, healing and so powerful, and it’s opened the door for really hard but honest conversation about adoption.  

For those that aren’t aware I have launched Lifetime Healing, LLC.  It is the nation’s first post placement curriculum and training for adoption professionals.  As we prepare to train all over the country in 2018 we wanted to bring the conversation here to Kindred + Co.  

One question that I get a lot as an advocate for post placement support is “what are we supposed to look for in an agency?”

It is so important that we hold the adoption professionals accountable for the services they are providing –  I truly believe that the adoptive parents hold so much power.  You can love and honor birth mothers well from the minute you start the adoption process.  

We need healthy and holistic adoption agencies.  We need the services that they can provide.  Without agencies, we are left with private lawyers and online matching, not that they don’t have their value or place, but it eliminates any post-placement support or advocacy work through the process.  

Here are a few things that we think should be deal breakers when choosing an agency:

  1. Do you offer separate legal representation/caseworker for the expectant mothers?
    A lot of times smaller agencies will have staff that services BOTH the hopeful adoptive parents and the expectant parents.  As you can imagine, there are few concerns with this structure.  I believe that it is unrealistic to expect the agencies to be able service the needs of both families through every need, every emotional hill and every question that comes up in this very demanding process.  The work that the adopting parents alone have to go through is enough to keep anyone completely occupied.  Each person involved deserves unique and specific attention.  It is too easy for things to fall through the cracks, for people to get neglected in times of need and it is impossible to offer true advocacy for one side when torn between both.  This includes an opportunity to serve the expectant mother in the hospital when she typically doesn’t have an advocate that can be a powerful voice for her when she may feel silenced.  
  2. Do you encourage an open adoption contract/mediation for families?  
    I know, I know!  We all have the very best intentions when we go into these relationships.  We love the mothers well and we can’t ever imagine not wanting an open adoption but the reality is WE DON’T KNOW HOW WE ARE GOING TO FEEL.  We can’t predict emotion, grief, new baby life, and more.  It makes such a difference for the women that place to have some peace of mind that you care enough to make some solid commitments.  The feeling of being used for our babies is VERY real and knowing that you are willing to put on paper your willingness to keep her in this lifelong process is powerful.  It opens the doors for trust, love and healthier open adoption relationships and this is a blessing for all involved.  Even if the agencies are going to tell you that these are not necessary, that they are not legally binding in all states, that you can just play it by ear please stand firm in your desire to ease the heart of the birth mother.
  3. Do you offer post placement care?  
    If you pay attention every agency has some sort of post placement care offering on their website but when you start to ask questions you find that it comes with restrictions, cost or limited to ONLY one-on-one-therapy with their social worker, which tends to be a huge trigger.  Agencies will typically say “if you decide you want therapy, we are here for you”.  But statistics show that less than 15% will actually come back to that form of support.  There needs to be a variety of services, community support and peer groups with women that can relate to their journey.  Lifetime support should not be a luxury that costs families more money, it should be a standard.  If the agencies are going to stand with the mothers in the destruction, then they should be there in the rebuild!  Our mission for Lifetime Healing is to not only train these agencies on how to run these groups but to provide the concrete tools to help them stay consistent and successful.  

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. One vital key to a healthy open adoption is a healthy birth mother and that is not possible if she is not presented with support from the beginning.  We need to close the gap from the time she leaves the hospital empty handed to the time she finds a group on her own.  The sooner the better.  For more information on our services or if you have an agency that would be interested in this information please head on over to lifetimehealingadoption.com.

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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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