Honesty – Reposted with Permission from Dalas at Crunchy Lutheran Mommy

So many people have told me that what they love most about my blog, Crunchy Lutheran Mommy, is my honesty.  That’s why I haven’t been posting much lately… I haven’t wanted to be honest, not on the blog, not anywhere.  And now I feel like I’m in a Dr. Suess rhyme all of a sudden… sigh.  I still have lots of drafts backlogged in my files.  For nearly a month I neglected my weekly pregnancy posts.  I haven’t wanted to take a belly picture because that would mean I’d need to smile for it, and I don’t feel like I can give you an honest smile today.  Or any of the days I might have had time to put up a quick post.

Every time I see someone outside of my own home (which isn’t very often as you might imagine) I get the same reaction “You look so exhausted!”  Here I am trying so hard to put on a joyful, Christ-filled, my-cup-overfloweth countenance and every single person can see right through it.  So much for being a model pastor’s wife, right?  But that’s the truth.  Exhaustion is my truth right now.  Every tiny little activity is exhausting.  Serving my children is exhausting.  Enjoying my children is exhausting.

Every once in a while my Dad asks me “Do you feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew yet?”  That’s been his concern this whole adoption, and sometimes it still comes up.  For months I have been saying no, but the question is starting to haunt me like a bad jingle I can’t get out of my head.  And I don’t even have any cutesy music to go with it.  I’m struggling right now.  That’s the only honest thing I have to say, and I hate to say it.  I hate to say it because the last thing I want is a slew of comments or messages or phone calls from people asking me if I’m ok or asking how they can help.  Just my pride talking?  Probably.

Prayer is good, but I know we’re covered in that already, without even having to ask.  So why even post?  Why not just say, we’re going through a tough transition time and I need to take a blogging break?  Why not run away?  I certainly feel like running, but running isn’t going to help me or anyone.  What might help though, is being honest, putting my weaknesses out there for the world and letting ya’ll know I am far from perfect.

It might help other adoptive families have realistic expectations for when they get home.  Did you know that the norm is actually to experience some level of post-adoption depression?  It’s very much like post-partum blues and depression, but even more common for both adoptive moms and dads, and even more complicated because of the deep sadness that naturally accompanies the reality of adopting a hurting child.  Adoption is all about loss.  We don’t like to talk about it much, just like we don’t want to talk about how redemption is all about the cross.  But the one is a living icon of the other, and the picture is poignant.

When we baptize our babies we dress them up in these beautiful white gowns and take family pictures and have a big reception and celebrate it.  Some families remember their baptisms every year (I know we do!) and we linger on the promises and the miracles that have been given to us in our gift of baptism.  But what we don’t see with our eyes as the pastor pours clear, sparkling water over that sweet child’s head is…  the blood, the death.  Because as much as baptism is about new life it is first about death, the death of the person being baptized, the gruesome death of Jesus on the cross.  There is a saying that as Christians we do not need to fear death because we have already died.  We died the death of Christ during our baptism, which means death has no hold over us – just as it had no hold over the God of the Universe.  And there, in the loss and only through that loss comes the beauty and the promise of true, abundant life.

Adoption is also about loss.  Life for these children only comes by means of very deep loss.  Everything that was their life has to die, everything that was meant to have been theirs, that should have been theirs was taken from them.  Only through that reality, can they begin a new life.  But the child isn’t the only one who loses something, the family also experiences loss.  In the end, it will be a blessing to us all.  But right now?  Wow is it hard.  We had a lovely little family.  Two perfectly healthy, bright, beautiful children – a boy and a girl.  Sweet, sheltered, secure little ones… not a real care in the world.  And then we took a hammer to all of that.  We shattered our perfect little family and we changed it forever.

Now we’re a family of broken pieces and broken hearts.  A family where half of our children still don’t understand what it means to have a Mommy and a Daddy.  I overheard my four year old daughter telling a lady the other day that the nannies dropped Hope in her crib when she was in the orphanage.  We try to not talk about things like that in front of her, but she hears and remembers everything.  There is so much her little mind is trying to process: abuse, abandonment, neglect, pain… crushing pain.  Things I never intentionally would have introduced to my four and two year olds, but now they are living those realities second hand by watching us as we try to help their brother and sister heal.

They were away from their home for two months; that was hard for them.  Neither of them have been as secure since that trip.  We spend hours a week in therapy, hospitals, referrals and appointments.  Time I could have been reading stories or making fun crafts or teaching them how to bake.  And us?  We’re exhausted emotionally, physically and spiritually from all of it.  Suddenly we are a family with trauma, a family in need of an incredible amount of healing.  Overnight we went from having it all together to picking up the pieces.  Did we choose this?  Sort of, but not really.  Were we expecting it to be hard, even this hard?  Of course.  But just because trauma doesn’t always come without announcing itself doesn’t mean it isn’t just as traumatic when it finally walks through your front door and decides to live with you for a while.

Adoption is hard.  It is inherently loss, not just for the adoptive children, but for everyone in the child’s life.  Beautiful, lovely, miraculous things come from adoption.  But we do a disservice to adoptive families and their children when we overlook where that beauty came from. It came from ashes, ashes that are blown into a home, leaving the family to clean up the great mess that follows.  It’s not pity that I, or any adoptive parent, needs.  It’s prayer.  Understanding.  Support.  We need to know that if we don’t make that phone call or we don’t send that thank you note or if we never reach out for help it’s not because we don’t care about you.  It’s because our families have just been broken, and it’s taking all of our energy and strength to pick up all the pieces.

Sometimes we need you to reach out to us because we can’t reach out ourselves, but other times we just need space.  Sometimes we need respite, other times we just need a meal we didn’t have to cook ourselves.  Sometimes we need to sit and talk with someone who understands, and other times we just need people to stop asking how it’s going.  But most of all we need huge heaping doses of grace and mercy and love.  We need to know that the people in our lives are going to see our crazy, depressed, angry emotional roller coasters and they’re going to love us anyway.

(Just as a side note, if you are a family member or friend of an adoptive parent and you’re wondering why we aren’t asking for help, it’s probably because, especially when our children came from hard places, the kind of help we need is so specific that it would be difficult or impossible to just ask for a simple hand on something.  And if we tried to ask we would either come off as ungrateful or unreasonable or both.  Unfortunately, there are just situations where there is no real help that can be given without a logistical brainstorm involved.  Our children’s needs and our new family dynamics make simple things, like bringing in outside help, much more complicated.)

So here’s to honesty.  Here’s to dispelling the myth that adoptive families are superheroes that don’t need anyone’s help.  Here’s to coming out and saying that just because we signed up for this doesn’t mean we will always have our act together, and just because we “chose” these children doesn’t mean we can’t have a bad day, or week or month… or even year. We are just like you, and just like any family, when trauma kicks off its old, muddy shoes and decides to stay a while… we’re going to struggle.  And we are.

May the Lord, in His mercy, turn our sorrow to joy and our tears to laughter.  May He bring the dawn quickly and banish the darkness from our midst.  May He orchestrate the beauty from the ashes, and give us inclination to focus on neither, but rather to seek His face in this and in every season. Amen.

~~~~~

Dalas is a mother to four with another on the way. She is seriously passionate about motherhood, adoption, being “crunchy” (a fancy way of describing how she keeps her family healthy) and her Lutheran faith. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and on her blog, Crunchy Lutheran Mommy. You can read her original Honesty post here.

Dalas

National Adoption Month Series: Mary’s Story

The chairs were cold and hard, and I was ready to leave. We sat in the gym listening to song after song, as the program seemed to run long. Finally, someone teased us about closing the ceremony, but then dashed our hopes with “just one more number.” I suppressed a huge sigh, as adults are supposed to be above such displays, but my selfishness diminished as I watched a tiny, blond imp walk forward and face the crowd. She shyly smiled and began to sing “Jesus Loves Me.” As she walked back to her seat, a brief, “how cute,” flitted through my mind and just as quickly left as we were finally dismissed.
If you believe that life is filled with random coincidences that we just happen to experience, then you may not understand the rest of this story. But I hope you will read on, despite some doubt, and learn how much God cares; not just about our needs, but our hopes and dreams as well. I personally believe in divine intervention, prayer and faith, but even I forget just how big God is. Little did I know, sitting on those cold, hard chairs, that God had not only heard my prayer, but had just placed the answer right in front of me.

I had an ache in my heart, a hole of sorts that no surgeon could repair. While I already had two wonderful sons by birth, I longed to adopt a daughter. For me this was a need, but for my husband not so much. Seven years had passed since the topic was first discussed, and I prayed first for his heart to change. But when that didn’t get results, I prayed that my heart would. I asked God to take the desire from me, so it wouldn’t hurt anymore, or cause bitterness. God was not satisfied with those limitations, and with His typical wisdom and no lack of a sense of humor, He opted for the shock and awe approach. The next time the subject was brought up, it was my husband that said, “I think we should look into adopting!” I almost passed out, but recovered quickly so I could get the ball rolling before he could change his mind!

I called several adoption agencies and was satisfied knowing that packets of information would arrive within a few weeks. Then, being a long-standing member in the, ‘it never hurts to ask’ club, I put in one more call, this time to a place more local. We were friends with a couple that managed a Christian children’s ranch. The kids placed with them were temporary wards, while parents were in jail, or couldn’t care for them for other reasons. It was rare that any of the kids were adoptable, so I didn’t get my hopes up as I dialed. My inquiry was answered with one question, “how old?” I explained very logically how we felt that a two or three year-old would be best, giving us time with them before they started school. When that was met with, “oh, that’s too bad,” they went on to tell me that there was a five year-old girl that would be put up for adoption right after Christmas. I heard my voice say, “that is too bad; It’s older than we were thinking,” and with that I hung up.

You can hang up a telephone easily, but it’s much harder to disconnect your heart. That night I didn’t sleep a wink. I laid there thinking about a five year-old girl that would soon be displaced in life. It broke my heart. I vaguely remembered a young girl with huge dimples that one of our friends was caring for at the Ranch. She met us at the door one night, full of energy, talking non-stop and proceeded to use Dale as a jungle gym. Could they be talking about her? How old was she? Was I remembering right? Was her hair blond? The never-ending questions jammed my mind and imagination all through the night. By early morning I noticed Dale was awake too, and asked what he thought about a five year-old. Without hesitation, he said “I think you should call them back!”

She did have blond hair and blue eyes and dimples! Not only was she the girl God placed on my mind that night, she was also the same impish child who sang for us that uncomfortable day in the gym!  She would become our daughter that winter. She ended up with two older brothers to torture gleefully, and parents who knew beyond all doubt that she was a gift from God. God made sure our lives were woven with threads of common friends. It has been over twenty years since we first heard her sing, and she still uses her voice every Sunday, as she now leads worship for our church.

maryphippsfam

~~~~~

Mary is the wife of Dale, mother to Matt, Nate and Maegy, and Mother-in-law to Michael and Amber.  She is “Grammy” to Elijah, Asher and Bennett. She lives in the Pacific Northwest and is a full-time pastor’s wife and part time daycare to two of her grandboos. She has a side business called “Leaf It To Me,” making and painting cement leaf castings and speaks for various women’s events around the NW. She has guest posted on M2M before, which you can read here and from time-to-time you can find her sporadic ramblings at http://marylphipps.blogspot.com/.

mary

National Adoption Month Series: Donna’s Story

Parenthood is an amazing adventure. It is a road riddled with twists and turns and unexpected bumps. It’s also a journey filled with wonder, grace, and joy.

Pat and I never intended to have six children. When we were first married and talked about how many children we would have, I wanted four. Pat wanted two. In the end, we did both. Our first three sons arrived the conventional way. Our next three children arrived through the miracle of adoption.

My older boys were in their early teens when Pat and I became foster parents. One beautiful June evening, we were asked to open our home to a three year old girl and a seven month old boy, both of whom had the chicken pox. A few hours later, Patty arrived clutching a much-loved doll. She had big, brown eyes and a fearful, but beautiful smile. Anthony came into my arms and snuggled into my heart. A few years later, a judge made official the adoption that took place in our hearts that night. We had four sons and one daughter.

Shortly after Patty and Anthony’s adoption, we learned that their birth mother was expecting another child. We agreed to accept this child also. While my boys wondered who would have to share their room and Patty and I wondered if this baby would be another boy or if Patty would have to share her princess status, my husband wondered if we were nuts. When we received the phone call that a baby boy had arrived; I laughed and said, “We needed another one of those.”  We picked Connor up from the hospital when he was just three days old. 

Adoptive parents never really know for sure exactly what we are getting into, but birth parents don’t either. There are days in the lives of every parent when you want to tear your hair out and cry, “This is not what I signed up for!” I have been picking up Legos for 29 years. I have finally graduated out of car seats. I have slept in hospital beds with my arms wrapped around a sick child. I’ve worried when they’ve come home late. I’ve attended hundreds of parent-teacher conferences and countless holiday performances. I’ve lent my son an earring. I’ve overseen enough homework assignments to fill a library. I’ve had pool water spit in my face and baby spit-up on my shoulders. I’ve been blessed with tadpoles and dandelions crushed in a chubby fist. At one point we had one son in the Navy, two sons in college, and our baby in day care. I can bore you to tears telling you about my kids’ accomplishments. I am fiercely protective of them and want only the best for them.

We do not know a lot about our children’s birth mother, but this one thing I do know, she loved her children. She loved her children enough to give them life and we are so grateful she did. Our children, all of them, have enriched our lives far beyond what anyone could have told us.

~~~~~

Donna is a wife of 34 years to Pat and blessed with quite a lot – 5 sons, 1 daughter, a daughter-in-law, a dog and a cat, a house, a bunch of furniture, and a garage filled with everything but a car. You can follow her on the blog, HoliMess, where she shares about noticing God in the midst of our daily life through crafts, recipes, devotions, comforting words, and encouragement.

Donna

National Adoption Month Series: Lauren’s Adoptee Story

I was born on August 11, 1985 and adopted by my parents at five days old in Phoenix, Arizona. My birthmom was 19, not ready for a baby and even though my birthdad wasn’t in the picture, she didn’t want him to have any part in raising me, so she chose adoption.

I grew up knowing I was adopted. While it was legally a closed adoption, my parents made the selfless choice to stay in contact with Ginger, my birthmother. They sent pictures and letters back and forth throughout my life. And although they didn’t know it at the time, she lived only a couple miles from them, even shopping at the same grocery store when we lived in Phoenix. Naturally, this probably freaked my mom out when she found out later.

When I was seven, my mom and dad moved my siblings (biological to my parents) and me to Holland, Michigan to be closer to my mom’s family. The letters with Ginger continued but began to wane as time went on. I grew up knowing I had a biological sister named Tayler, seven years younger than me who my birth mom decided to keep and raise on her own. I was always excited to know I had another sister.

At 14, when email started getting popular, I asked my parents if they would be okay with me emailing Ginger sometime. My mom, although a little nervous and insecure about it, agreed, and contacted the adoption agency in hopes of getting any up-to-date info on her since we didn’t have her email address. When we got it and I wrote my first email to her, I was so nervous. What should I write about? Teenager things, I guess. Honestly, I don’t even remember what I wrote, but it started my first line of communication between my birthmother and me. We didn’t email every day, just once in a while to say hello. Ginger had mentioned we should keep it to a minimum to respect my parents and not make them feel like they’d been replaced or that I wanted to go back to her. I agreed.

Two years later, in my junior year of high school, we began to email regularly, learning more and more about each other. We talked about our personal lives and I learned that in addition to Taylor, I also had a little brother who was two at the time, from her new marriage to her husband. Inevitably, the conversation about meeting in person happened. I was so excited, but so nervous, when I got that email. How would my mom feel? Would she be mad that even came up? Would she be angry that we had been communicating as much as we had?  Maybe she’d be okay with it if she came along to meet her? And so I had that conversation with her. To my surprise, she was thrilled, cautiously thrilled. Of course I’d expect her to be insecure about it. After all, I’m HER daughter. She’s the woman who raised me, fed me, took care of me when I was sick, disciplined me, taught me everything about life, hugged me and told me she loved me. But she was so excited I asked her to go with me to meet her. And so we booked our tickets to Phoenix.

We flew out there the week before I turned 18. I had just graduated from high school and was ready to find out where and whom I came from. My mom was a wreck on the plane; she hates to fly. I waited anxiously while my mom squeezed my hand the entire four hour flight. We landed in Phoenix and my heart began to race. Walking through the terminal into the lobby was surreal. I wanted to vomit, smile, scream, dance around, but instead, I just walked.

And then, there she was. Blonde hair, green eyes and short. It was like looking into a mirror. We hugged for what seemed like hours; I couldn’t let go. This was my mother, the woman who birthed me. The woman who chose life. This was the woman who selflessly gave up her firstborn daughter to a family who desperately wanted a baby after trying for seven years to have one of their own. The woman who gave birth to me on my daddy’s birthday, August 11th. I suddenly made sense. The first thing my mom said to Ginger and me was, ‘Wow, you both are shrimps! Now we know where Lauren gets her height!’ We all laughed and the ice was broken. I met her husband, Dane, my little sister Tayler, my little brother Mason and we all headed out of the airport a little less nervous.

lauren1

I spent the entire week with them, while my mom stayed with relatives in Phoenix. I asked Ginger every question I ever had. Why didn’t you keep me, but you kept Tayler? Why did you choose adoption? Why didn’t you fight for me? Why, why, why? She answered everything without sugar coating or dodging, just straight forward, which is exactly how I answer questions. I realized the concept of nature vs. nurture. I wasn’t raised by this woman but our mannerisms are the same, we sleep the same, laugh the same, smile the same, speak the same. Our personalities are so similar, it’s insane. I am bold, stubborn, kind-hearted, forgiving, strong-willed, direct, and I don’t take crap from people. Now I get why I had such an identity crisis as a kid; I am so different from my family in terms of personality, even down to my delivery of words and my thought process. I am all Ginger. Looks, personality, everything.

I also met my grandparents for the first time. I am the eldest of the grand kids, so it was very special to meet them. They cried and called me their granddaughter. I met my cousins and aunt and uncle for the first time and still have a great relationship with them. We celebrated my 18th birthday together with my mom and relatives before heading home, both of us feeling great about everything that happened that week. But also relieved it was over and excited to see my new family again in the future.

That was twelve years ago and there hasn’t been a year since where we haven’t seen each other. I visit Arizona every year and they have also visited Michigan a few times. I have taken vacations with them, been there for birthdays and holidays, surgeries, and various other events. Ginger has been by my side, watched me grow into an adult, heard listened to me talk about my silly relationships, met my husband and embraced him like a son. She attended our wedding on June 30, 2012 and my little sister Tayler was a bridesmaid. She and Dale look forward to being grandparents someday.

I’ve been able to watch my little sister grow into the woman she has become and watch my little brother grow into the feisty teenager that he is. We are family. I can’t say she is my mom, or an aunt, or friend, or whatever label you want to put on her. She is my family; her whole family is my family. There isn’t any other way to describe them. All I can say is that I am blessed. I am blessed to have parents who were so accepting of Ginger, allowed me to grow up knowing about her, let her be a part of my life, embraced her when she was a physical part of my life, and consider her family. I am so blessed to have a birthmother who is so strong and selfless, and respectful of my parents. She never stepped on their toes as parents, she is grateful to them for raising me how they did and proud to be a part of our family. She will always be there for us.

I am so blessed to have more family that loves me and who I can love. I am so blessed to have a husband who has only been supportive of the relationship I have with my birth family and eagerly waits for our next trip to visit them. I am so blessed to have a ‘dad’ in Ginger’s husband, Dane. He accepted me as part of his family, considers me his daughter, even though he came into the picture years after my adoption and encouraged Ginger to connect with me.

~~~~~

Lauren Haveman is a real estate agent for City2Shore Real Estate, She and her husband, Todd, reside in Hudsonville, Michigan with their two dogs, Dweezel and Lola and enjoy cooking, camping, and living the Michigan seasons to their fullest. Ginger and her husband continue to live in Phoenix AZ and Lauren and Todd still visit them every summer; it feels like their second home.

lauren

National Adoption Month Series – Christina’s Story

My husband and I tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant for 16 months before we pursued fertility options. At our first clinic visit they ran some tests and called me a week later with the results. They discovered that I have what’s called “diminished ovarian reserve” and told us it was unlikely that we would be able to successfully conceive on our own.

I was extremely saddened by this news, but I refused to stay depressed over it. I gave myself 24 hours to cry over it and then my husband and I discussed our options. Despite my disappointment, I felt relief amidst the pain. Neither of us can actually remember who thought of adoption, but we both always knew we were open to it and immediately decided to pursue that route instead of additional fertility treatments at the clinic.

My mother suggested meeting with her and my dad’s trust attorney, who was very passionate about adoption and could possibly represent us as we moved forward. When we met with him for a consultation we overwhelmed with the many different types of adoption to choose from. He encouraged us to sleep on it and see how we felt the next day. When we did, our hearts leaned toward private domestic adoption, so on Easter Sunday we announced to our family that we were pursuing adopting a U.S. baby through our new attorney.

I got straight to work on our paperwork and home study and I couldn’t help but also start to create a nursery for our hoped-for little one. The crib came first, and one of my best mom friends took me to Babies R Us to register for gifts. I was definitely excited! Since I hadn’t yet experienced any heartbreak on our journey to having a baby, I viewed an empty nursery with hope and it wasn’t painful for me. If anything it made me more joyful.

I must have emailed our attorney three different times, asking if there was anything I should change in our profile. I was politely reassured that we should be as authentic as possible and that someone would love us and pick us for who we are. Nine weeks later, we got a call with a match and were informed that we were their second choice. I have adoptive couple friends that had experienced failed matches and placements that fell through, so I tried not to get my hopes up, but I was still ecstatic.

We met with the expectant mother and father a week later, along with our attorney. We immediately hit it off, exchanged numbers and began texting. Over the next few weeks we took them to lunches, shopped for maternity clothes and even got to go with them to a doctor’s appointment and see the baby girl on 3D ultrasound! It was really important to me that they agreed with the name we had chosen for our daughter. I wanted them to see her in their minds and call her by the same name that we would raise her with, even though I knew we had the final, legal say in the matter after the adoption was finalized.

Not long after, our birth mom showed early signs of labor and was admitted to the hospital. Finley was born nine weeks early with minimal complications. In a normal birth situation in our state of California the birthmother will sign relinquishment papers upon being discharged from hospital. She then will have only 24 hours to change her mind. But due to legalities and because our baby came so early we had to wait about three weeks before she was able to sign. I was nervous, only because I was growing so emotionally-invested in this little baby that I could now hold and help care for. And I could tell that our birthmom was in love with Finley, too.

Our baby was in the NICU for a total of five weeks, and I was there around the clock the entire time. The birth parents also visited frequently and I realized that we were about as open as it gets. It was odd to most of the nursing staff and one social worker kept encouraging our birthmom to call and get updates on her baby. She made me feel like a bad person, questioning my reasoning for requesting that I be the only one to hold Finley skin-to-skin. I had asked our birthmom not to hold her this way because I wanted Finley to bond solely with me and to get used to my scent since we would be taking her home. But, for some reason the social worker continued to call our birthmom with updates, even after the medical rights were released to us.

Needless to say, I learned very quickly that some people just do not support adoption. I was filled with what-if’s and life-changing emotions that I had never experienced before. It was truly one of the most difficult times in my life. I also struggled with guilt as I watched our birthmom grieve her loss, and I literally cried myself to sleep one night over it. Who wouldn’t? Someone had placed their firstborn child in our arms. My husband and I believe it is the most generous thing one can do for someone else. It’s just indescribably amazing.

After the birthparents terminated their rights, they still visited each day and it was as though nothing had changed. The hospital staff was very confused, wondering why I would let the birthmother still see and hold the baby. I knew that some adoptive moms are very sweet and open with the birthparents but as soon as those papers are signed, they change their tune. I didn’t want to be one of them. I wanted to build trust. I knew we were going to be forever attached with this couple.

This relationship we share is unique; bonded by a baby. And on top of that bond, we also have a friendship. We discuss life, interests and experiences; probably more so than we discuss Finley. The first year after she was born we had visits about every six to eight weeks because we live fairly close and my work schedule was nonexistent. We have open communication and I text photos every Friday. Our open adoption works best this way. Of course, I understand that life can and will change things as time goes on, but as long as my daughter knows she was carried and placed in love then I am happy.

We finalized our adoption this past summer. Finley is now 14 months old. I’ve thought of her as our daughter from the beginning so I didn’t think that officially finalizing it would be that big of a deal. I literally thought it’s just signing another paper, but as soon as we sat down in court and the judge began to speak, it hit me like a ton of bricks! I cried the ugly cry and could barely get out my words. We were able to profess our love for our daughter in a courtroom. The official terminology they used alone is enough to make you cry and it was by far one of the best days of my life. I got to sign my first birth certificate. You can watch the court finalization video here.

Two days later we had Finley dedicated in our Christian church, and her birth family came to witness it. It was so beautiful to me because the first open adoption picture I saw on Pinterest was of birth parents and adoptive parents together at their child’s baptism. I still get emotional thinking about how I accomplished the exact moment that I longed for!

To say we are blessed is an understatement. Our placement happened very quickly and our daughter came so early. She’s a happy and healthy baby with many people that love her. I want to continue to create awareness about adoption and educate everyone I can on the importance and origin of open adoption. And we look forward to adding to our family through adoption again in the coming years.

~~~~~

Christina Smallwood is a 29 year-old business owner from Southern California. She loves God, her family and taking photos of everything. Her greatest joy is living a simple life as mom and wife!

Christina

National Adoption Month Series: Elysa’s Adoptee Story

The drive felt like it took hours even though it had only been minutes. My dad stopped the car in front of a white house, and I felt my heart stop beating for just a moment. Pink balloons decorated the inside of the garage where unfamiliar faces gathered. I took a deep breath and somehow got the feeling back in my hands so I could open the door. I was only 16 and I was about to walk into something most 16 year-olds don’t ever do.

I had wondered and questioned for so many years, and the time when I would see her face to face was here. I got out of the car, wearing one of my favorite outfits and my hair done up in curls. I started walking up the driveway which felt like miles and miles. Then I saw her: someone I had never seen before but felt a connection the moment our eyes met. With tears filling her eyes, she ran to me and hugged me as tight as she could. I mutually embraced her. She couldn’t let go of me as she cried.

The last time we saw each other was in a hospital room 16 years ago. She was my birth mother. She made a courageous choice 16 years ago. She chose life for me and for a family she knew could give me a better life than she could offer. She blessed a young couple who couldn’t have children of their own with me, and in return, she blessed me with a wonderful family to spend my life with.

I was adopted when I was 3 days old. My adoptive parents already had a daughter they had adopted a few years earlier. Adopting another child was not necessarily in their plans at the time, but it was certainly in God’s plans. My birth mother sought counsel from the Crisis Pregnancy Center knowing she did not want to go through an agency for my adoption. With this being an unfamiliar situation for the counselor, the founder of the center became involved. God’s hand was at work in incredible ways, for the founder was a dear friend of my adoptive parents. She immediately contacted them and told them about a 19-year-old girl who was pregnant and needing a home for her baby. They felt this was clearly God’s plan for them to adopt me, and I became part of their family.

Growing up, I always knew I was adopted. In fact, just the other day, I was discussing this with my parents, and I thanked them. I thanked them for raising me with the knowledge of my adoption. It showed that they saw my adoption as a beautiful thing and were proud of it. For anyone who has adopted or is considering adoption, no matter the situation, telling your child about their adoption is the best gift you can ever give them. Not only is it the honest thing to do, but being adopted is so beautiful and special: in fact, it was God’s idea.

Knowing that I was adopted growing up was wonderful, but I always had many questions. My parents were always very good about answering them the best way they could. But as the years went on I wanted to know about my birth family: Where is my birth mom now? Where is my birth dad? Is there anyone that I look like…share the same personality with? Does my birth family ever think about me? Do I have any siblings? The curiosity was something I could never help. I had the security of knowing that I was truly blessed to be adopted into a family that took me in as their own, loved me unconditionally, and always respected the fact that I was going to have questions. Still, there were a lot of unknowns,

My curiosity increased as I got older. When I was 15, I talked to my parents about taking steps to contacting my birth mother. My parents, understandably, were hesitant because of how much was unknown. There is a risk in taking these steps. After 15 years, we didn’t have any idea where my birth mother was in life. Would she want to hear from me? Would her reaction to my contact be healing, or would it affect me negatively?

After much prayer, my parents agreed that it was the right time, and I began to work on my letter to her. At first, it was hard to think of where to start. What do you say to someone you have no relationship with, don’t know at all, but still have a deep connection with? Eventually, I found the words I wanted to say, wrote the letter, and included a few pictures in the envelope. Once again, God’s hand was working.

Overjoyed upon receiving my letter, my birth mother wrote back to me. Words cannot describe the feeling I had when I opened that letter. Pictures of her, my half-brother and some of her friends were included in the envelope. My heart was beating so fast as I looked through the pictures and read her words. I could feel the emotion in her letter, and I felt so much joy in knowing that she wanted nothing more than to know me.

After many letters back and forth between the two of us, my parents agreed to take a trip to North Carolina to meet my birth mother. That is when my relationship with her began. In all honesty, building a relationship with a birth mother is not easy at all. It takes a lot of learning along the way and a lot of understanding. You see, I wasn’t in need of a mother at all. In fact, God blessed me with an incredible mom who adopted me and called me her own. To learn how to have a relationship with someone who can feel the need to mother is hard at times. It has taken several years for me to learn how to separate things and make the relationship a friendship in respect for my adopted mom who has dedicated many years to being my mom.

The last several years, I have continued to build relationships with my extended birth family. My uncle has become an incredible part of my life and has been a great support and encouragement and I have loved getting to know my birth grandma who has always shown such love to me and has taken the time to get to know me. But what I have appreciated the most in my process of getting to know my birth family is seeing how truly blessed I am to be raised by the parents God gave me.

There is a lot of divorce in my birth family and, unfortunately, a lot of relationships there are broken and estranged. That was all very new to me. Growing up, I never experienced divorce in my family or my extended family. Everyone loves each other, everyone forgives and respects one another. Being part of my birth family’s life is truly a gift, and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but I am beyond grateful that I didn’t have to grow up in divorce and broken families. God had a plan for my life, and His sovereignty in my life is overwhelming to think about.

Now, at 24 years-old, I continue to be in relationship with my birth family. Just this year I met my birth dad for the first time. It took many years for him to agree to meet me and it was many years of me having to remind myself that it’s not my fault that he didn’t want to take that step. It took a lot in me not to feel abandoned by him or hurt from him. I knew that if God intended for my birth dad to be a part of my life, then it would happen someday. What helped through that process was the fact that I was adopted by the best daddy a girl could ask for. I didn’t need a dad, but there was still an empty space I had before meeting my birth dad. It was a space I could have lived the rest of my life having, but I am thankful I didn’t have to. After meeting my birth dad, I learned a lot about him and have gained understanding about why he wasn’t ready to meet me right away. I felt the same feelings when meeting him as I did meeting my birth mother eight years ago. I’m not sure why I lose the feeling in my hands every time I step into these situations, but it has happened twice now! But meeting my birth dad was so special for me! I am truly grateful for the relationship I am building with him today and for his interest in my life. I love having him a part of it.

Today I have an even stronger appreciation for adoption. God’s sovereignty is what comes to mind when I think about the story God has written for my life. Being adopted is a huge part of who I am, and I intend to raise my own children with an appreciation for it as well. 24 years ago, a 19-year-old girl faced an extremely difficult choice: a choice that affected not only one person, but many. She chose life.

~~~~~

Elysa is a mommy to three and a wife to one incredible man. She is a business owner, photographer and has a heart for ministry. Following Christ and striving to live a life Glorifying HIM in all that she does. You can catch some of her writing at the collaborative blog, www.artichokeheartsblog.blogspot.com.

elysa

National Adoption Month Series – Aubrey’s Story

Since the time I can remember, I have always wanted to be a mother. The day I married Craig was a joyous occasion and day of celebration for it marked the day I began my own, forever family. As time moved forward, the yearning to have a child more than consumed me. But one year went by, two years, three, and then four. My whole heart and soul longed for a precious baby, and instead I was left with the emptiness that seemed to fill my entire being. During our struggle with infertility, my husband supported me every step of the way, whether it meant having invasive surgery, another procedure done, more tests, or just holding me as I cried myself to sleep at night.

We had always talked of adopting one day, so in the summer of 2008 we finally decided to take the step and had adoption papers in hand. But for some reason unknown to me at the time, I felt that we should hold off on turning them in. I couldn’t understand such an answer as I had already waited long enough for a child, and we had been told that sometimes it could take years before a baby would be placed in your home. I knew there was a baby girl who was supposed to be in our family, and I tried to wait patiently for that time to come.

After much prayer and consideration, along with the power of priesthood blessings, we finally received the answer I had been waiting for. In May of 2009 Craig and I applied for adoption through LDS Family Services and were approved two months later. Soon after that we received an email from a birth mother who was due in December with a baby girl. Her name was Jennifer, and little did we know how much she was going to change our lives. Exactly one month later she announced that she was going to place her baby with us. During the next months ahead, I watched as Jen’s belly grew bigger, along with the love I had for her. She was going to give me something that no one else could give. She was giving me the gift of being a mother.

Before we knew it, December arrived and we were at the hospital awaiting the arrival of our little girl. On December 11, 2009 our precious baby was born. What joy and gratitude filled my heart when I held Elizabeth for the first time, knowing this special spirit was the answer to our prayers. I knew without a doubt that she was meant to be in our family.

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When we returned to the hospital the following morning, and opened the door to Jennifer’s room, we found her sitting in a chair rocking Elizabeth with tears flowing down her cheeks. My heart began to break for the words I knew were coming but did not want to hear. With her head bowed, Jen said that she didn’t think she could sign the adoption papers. Since Craig’s parents had just arrived at the hospital, he left to go find them and explain what had happened. Feeling as if I could not breathe, I turned and left the room as well. Outside the room, I could not hold it in any longer and broke down in tears. Jennifer’s mother soon found me in the hall and wrapped her arms around me as we both cried together. She whispered words of encouragement, but all I could feel was despair.

A kind nurse found Craig and me a quiet room and offered me a box of tissues. The tears continued to fall as I stared out the window while Craig paced the floor, both of us feeling helpless and not knowing what to do. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with the spirit telling me to ask for a priesthood blessing. I immediately told Craig to find his father, and upon his arrival, the blessing was given. I cannot recall the words of this blessing, but never in my entire life have I felt such an instant feeling of comfort and peace as I had when they placed their hands upon my head that day. I knew then that everything was going to be okay, and that it was important to have faith in the Lord’s will.

A short while later Jennifer left her room to go for a walk with a case worker from LDS Family Services so they could talk things through. While she was gone, we stayed with Elizabeth and I watched as Craig held her tiny hand and touched her tiny toes, trying his best to hold back the tears. When Jen finally walked back into the room, she stood before us with tears in her eyes and said, “I can’t take her away from you…” The tears flowed down my husband’s face and we all embraced.

On a rainy Sunday morning two days later, Craig and I returned to the hospital to pick up our baby girl and bring her home. We both knew that the day ahead would bring tears of pain, tears of sorrow, but also tears of joy. Upon arrival we met with our caseworker while Jen spent time with Elizabeth, holding her, rocking her, and saying her goodbyes. After all necessary papers had been signed, we entered Jen’s room. Watching her hold Elizabeth with tears in her eyes, my heart swelled with the love for the mother who stood before me. Jen’s act of love, just like every birth mother, was putting the needs of her child above the wants of her heart. And when anyone asked her why she gave up her child, she simply replied, “I’m not giving up my child; I’m giving her something better.”

When the time came for Jen to place Elizabeth in my arms, I was softly reminded of the words she had once spoken to me, “from God’s arms, to my arms, to yours.” Many tears were shed and warm embraces shared when we said goodbye that day. After Jen had gathered her belongings, I watched as she walked down the hall with her parents by her side, never looking back. The sacrifice she had made that day was greater than any I have ever known in my earthly life. I looked down at the miracle I held, and felt my husband’s love surround me. I cried and thought to myself, “My arms are empty no more.”

Motherhood has been everything I have ever hoped for and more. It is not easy, but I would not have it any other way. As I look upon my daughter each day, I am reminded of Jen and the sacrifice she made. An adoptive couple we knew once said, “We believe birth mothers have a right to choose. If she has the courage to place, she has the wisdom and right to choose her child’s parents. Our daughter’s birth mother is her first mother.” And so we feel the same for our daughter, Elizabeth, Jen will always be her first mother. And as my daughter grows, I will always help her remember that Jen will always love her.

There is a special poem that was given to us on the day our birth mother announced to our families that she would be placing her baby girl with us. It is befitting of the two women who bonded over the love of the child they both share.

Once there were two women
Who never knew each other.
One you do not remember,
The other you call mother.

One gave you a nationality,
The other gave you a name.
One gave you the seed of talent,
The other gave you an aim.

Two different lives shaped
To make your one;
One became your guiding star,
The other became your sun.
One gave you emotions,
The other calmed your fears.
One saw your first sweet smile,
The other dried your tears.

The first gave you life,
The second taught you to live it.
The first gave you a need for love,
And the second was there to give it.
One gave you up,
It was all that she could do.
The other prayed for a child,
And God led her straight to you.

And now you ask me through your tears,
The age old question through the years;
Heredity or Environment,
Which are you a product of?
Neither my darling, neither;
Just two different kinds of love.

~~~~~

Aubrey, Craig and Elizabeth live in Highland, Utah. For the past three years, they have been hoping to adopt again and look forward to the day when Elizabeth gets to become a big sister!  Aubrey loves every minute of being a full-time mommy, and both Elizabeth and her daddy are working on their education.  Elizabeth attends preschool three days a week, while Craig will be finishing Nursing School this upcoming spring.

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