Monday, June 30, 2008

the weekend

Get ready, because I think you’re about to get chills. At least I’ve had chills more times than I can count this weekend, so I hope I’m able to relay what took place in a way that can at least give you a glimpse of the amazing, God-orchestrated weekend we just experienced. The “we” includes 8 of us: Yvette, Kim, Christy, Kenzie, Emily, Karen, Chrissy, and me. From all over the country, from every kind of background, we were drawn together because of the common bond of loss, to meet face to face after months of loving each other through the hardest time of our lives.

When I got on the plane to head to Atlanta I felt like I was on my way to meet up with life-long friends, and it wasn’t until I tried to explain to the person next to me on the plane what I was doing, that I realized from the outside looking in, it appeared a little strange. I laughed as the words “I’m meeting my friends who’ve I’ve never seen before” caused heads to whip around in skepticism. The guy ahead of me gave me the precautionary, “You can never be too careful meeting people from the internet,” while I smiled and assured him, this was safe.

The impetus for the trip was the Deeper Still conference, featuring Kay Author, Beth Moore, and Pricilla Shirer, and it turned out to be the perfect backdrop to our time together. We were anything but incognito as we went everywhere in a pack of eight wearing our matching t-shirts that Emily had designed. On the back of the shirts was the phrase “Our little ones are dancing with Jesus now,” was followed by the names of each of the nine babies we represented, along with the amount of time they lived. Who knows how many people we were able to share our story with while we moved in and out of the 19,000 women who packed out the arena. I hope that through that, we were able to point to God, giving Him the glory for where He has brought us.

It’s crazy to feel so completely comfortable, completely in your element, with people you’ve never met before, but that’s exactly how it was. I can’t give you a play by play of our time together, but I want to at least give a run through of the highlights. We piled onto two beds each night, laughing, talking, sometimes crying, into the wee hours of the night—or sometimes the early hours of the morning. We caravanned through the unfamiliar interstates of Atlanta, defying death as we tried to follow a temperamental GPS system. We had the opportunity to meet Beth Moore and have her pray over us, laying her hands on each of our heads and asking God to give us victory and make Satan regret the day he attacked and tried to bring defeat. We ate milk duds and chocolate while we signed brown canvas placemats symbolizing the mat from Luke 15 that we promised to hold each other on when one was too weak to continue alone. We felt God speak to us, showing us how He is using the wilderness season of our lives to bring about His greatest work. We cemented life-long friendships.

I don’t know if we’ll ever get a chance to do this again. I know we want to, but who can see the future and where each of us will be but God? But whether we do this again or not, I will always be so grateful for the three days I spent with these beautiful, funny, godly, and compassionate girls. I am a better person for having known each of them, and I will always count it as one of my highest privileges to have been able to walk this road by their sides.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

the end of one, the beginning of the next

Yesterday was a momentous day for me. After about four months of working on it on and off, I finally finished my book! My goal was to have it finished before we got a baby, but as always, this timing was better. I was able to include Adrienne in the final chapter of the book, and in a way, the story would not have been complete without her. This chapter of my life did not end with Poppy's death, or even with the grieving in the following months. No, in order to see the full picture, you have got to see the new life that came out of her death. God placed new life in my heart first, and then he brought new life into our arms. Now I truly feel like this chapter in my life is closing while the next is just beginning.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The In's and Out's of Adoption

Adoption can be very confusing, especially from the outside looking in. I've had numerous people ask me about different parts of the process, so I thought I'd try and give a broad overview of adoption as I understand it. I'm not an expert, and I'm sure many of you reading are more proficient in the in's and out's than I am, but I think I have enough information to give the basics. I've come in contact with several people who are considering adoption right now, so I hope that this might serve as a springboard of information for those who are trying to decide where to start.

After considering the different types of adoption, Nathan and I decided that we felt led to pursue private domestic adoption. We looked into two different places before deciding to go through our local crisis pregnancy center, and it wasn't until we were nearly done with our paperwork that I realized that it was accepted and quite common to go through multiple agencies in order to increase your chances of being chosen sooner. By the time we found this out, we had already set our hearts on this one place, so we never began the process with another agency. However, from what I understand, it is not double the work if you do decide to go through multiple agencies since much of the paper work can be used twice.

Private adoptions do not involve any waiting lists. Instead of being chosen when your name gets to the top of the list, you are chosen when a birth mom selects your profile, which consequently means the time period for this type of adoption is impossible to pin down. Someone could wait a week, a month, a year, or in some cases never be chosen. I was told a very broad estimate at one place we visited that most people waited about six months after all the paper work was complete, but they were very careful to tell us that this was simply an average that they had seen over the past several years, and it had no bearing on individual cases. So basically there is just no telling.

Another characteristic of private adoption is that the expense varies since the rate is based on a graduated scale. The percentages vary for different agencies, but our particular agency charged 15% of last year's income. This is called a placement fee and is not paid until the child is placed in your home. There are also several fees incurred in addition to the placement fee, and these vary based on the necessary legal fees involved. One nice thing we discovered along the way is that the government gives a $10,000.00 tax credit for adoption, so that helps to cut the cost and make it more affordable.

In order to be approved for private domestic adoption, there is a rather lengthy check list to go through. We had to get a criminal background check, fingerprints, physicals, life insurance, and references. There was also an extensive application process involving pages of questionaires, financial information, biographical info, and a list of specifics regarding the child you adopt. On top of this, we created a picture profile and wrote a letter to the birth mom. We finished the application in two weeks, but I know we were definitely on the speedy side of the spectrum.

Once this was complete, we had a series of interviews, including an official homestudy. Once this paperwork was finalized, we received our official acceptance letter and we were put on the waiting list. Being on the waiting list simply means that our profile was eligible to be viewed by a birth mom. It depends on the agency at what stage in the pregnancy the birth mom looks at the profiles and makes her choice. In our case, we knew the agency didn't show profiles until sometime in the last trimester, but as it turned out, Adrienne's birth mom didn't contact our agency until she was in labor, so she ended up choosing when Adrienne was already 6 days old.

Private adoptions also involve a wide range of "openness." We were told that completely closed adoptions are beginning to be a thing of the past, since there is so much evidence that openness can be very positive to everyone involved. Our agency encourages contact between us and the birth parent only if both parties are on board with it, but even then, they don't recommend the child be involved. They also require that the adoptive parents provide pictures and letters every two months for a year. Contact can be continued after that if it is mutually agreed on. I don't want to say a whole lot on this since there are so many possibilities. But, I do want to get across that from what I learned, openness in adoption is not anything to be frightened by! It doesn't threaten or undermine the adoptive parents in any way, but instead it can prove to be very valuable for the child.

Once you have been chosen by a birth mom, she still has the right to change her mind. She does not surrender her rights until after the baby is born. In Tennessee this can be done on the fourth day after the child is born, and then after she signs she still has ten days to change her mind. The time period differs state to state. This is of course one of the hardest parts, knowing that even after you are chosen there is still a possibility of things falling through. Adoption demands at some point you put the heart on the line, and I can tell you from experience, that's never easy. There aren't any guarantees that it won't be broken, and being vulnerable is one of the most difficult things at all. Ultimately, it's a decision you have to be willing to make. Love is always a risk, but it is worth it every time.

The father's rights are an entirely different ball game. He has the option of surrendering his rights before the child is born, or he can choose to do it after. If the father is unknown or unreachable, the rights have to be surrendered through the court system.

Finally, when all the rights have been surrendered and the time period for changing minds is up, then the child is legally yours. Even then, it is several more months before the paper work is signed and the adoption process is officially complete.

I know that this is long and full of details, but I just wanted to put them out there as a reference for anyone who is curious. Please remember that all of this stems from my experience, and I know that experiences differ greatly where adoption is concerned. If you have a question about something I didn't mention, feel free to ask. I hope this will prove to be helpful to somebody!

Monday, June 16, 2008

coming home

It's been 10 days since I wrote last, and each one that has passed has gotten us one day closer to today, which is the day that marks the end of the "change your mind" time for the birth mother. I felt such an overwhelming peace about her decision that I honestly haven't been living on pins and needles waiting for it to get here. But knowing that the final obstacle has been cleared simply serves to cement the permanence of Adrienne's place in our family. Her home is with us. She is a part of us forever.

The twenty days since we brought her home have been everything they should as we have gotten to know our baby, and we've jumped in head first to the world of adjustment, loving the good and the bad. Our greatest adventure so far has been going through with the vacation to Missouri that we had planned long before we knew about Adrienne. The seven hour car trip had it's bumps. In fact, it was mostly bumps with a few smooth places in between, but I wouldn't have traded getting to take her with us for anything. We found out she's a lake girl to the core. Each day we watched her live it up on the covered dock, taking most of her naps in the breezy outdoors while we played with Marianna in the lake. It was great. She had her first smiles, she cried some tears, she continued to sleep all through the night, Marianna poured out affection on her one minute, then completely forgot her the next. All of it was totally normal stuff, and it's exactly this kind of normal stuff that we've been praying for.

Can I say enough how grateful I am? No. I can't really get to the bottom of it myself. I just feel like we have been blessed beyond what anyone has ever been blessed, and the crazy thing is that I can say that after having lost Poppy just 6 months ago. Only God can do something like that. I know He works in different ways. I know that He works in ways I will never understand or be able to explain. But most of all, I know that He is faithful, and good, and loving, and merciful to an extent that my mind will never be able to comprehend. Yes, I am so grateful!

And as if there isn't enough, I'll add one more thing. Today I made all of arrangements to be able to go to Atlanta with 7 other moms who I've met through this journey. One of these moms had the terrific idea to get together and her plan is going to materialize at the end of this month. Again, just another part of this story that exemplifies God faithfulness to me.

I hope the purpose of this blog continues to be clear as long as I write. I am writing because I want to express what God has done. I want people to see the beauty that came from the death, disease and darkness that surrounded me. I want people to see hope in a world that doesn't see it often enough. I want to share the depth of the love that has covered me, protecting me from being drawn into despair and hopelessness. And through this love we have been given an actual life. Adrienne will always be a symbol of this love to me.

Friday, June 6, 2008

good news!

I promised that when you saw a picture it would mean good news... I just really didn't know if it would come this soon! The sweet birth mother surrendered her rights today-something so precious to us and undoubtedly difficult for her. I am so grateful to her!

These were taken a week ago on the night when we brought Adrienne home. It's really feeling real, and that is a very fantastic feeling. I have much I will be sharing in a few days, but for now, I just wanted you to see the four of us together. Thank you for your prayers!

Sunday, June 1, 2008


I'm sitting in my living room with Adrienne sleeping peacefully a few feet away in her swing. It's a little amazing to me that she can be sleeping at all, because I realized shortly after putting her in that the swing has acquired a squeak in the months it has lay dormant in the attic. But even more amazing is the first part of what I wrote: I'm sitting in my living room with Adrienne. My third daughter.

It was six months ago today that Poppy was born, and six months ago that she went to heaven. Just six months! As I try to absorb everything, it's almost impossible. I think back to this time on December 1st, just a few hours after Poppy had left us, and I remember the loss and the grief and the joy. I couldn't think past the moment at the time, but had I been able to consider the future, I could not have fathomed where I find myself six months down the road. I would not have thought it possible that I would have a miracle child in my arms in less time than I would have been physically able to carry a baby. It absolutely blows my mind!

Thoughts and emotions are swirling around without a lot of definition when I try to take it all in. I know a big part of me feels unworthy. Not in the sense of parenthood in general, but in the sense of haven gotten chosen when there are so many other wonderful families out there waiting on a baby. Part of me is in total amazement that in two weeks my life has been turned upside down in a very good way. Some of my thoughts and feelings are focused on the future, as I consider the lack of finality our placement has. Parts of me are bewildered that I could forget so much about what it is like to hold a tiny baby in my arms and care for one so small and helpless. Much of me is tied up in the pure joy of watching Marianna and Adrienne together, hearing Marianna talk about her sister and tell Adrienne when she cries "It's okay, your sister is here" even though the crying is often a direct response to some of her affectionate, but not always infant appropriate, loving. And then more than all the others is the intense feeling of gratitude. Gratitude to the birth mother who chose to carry this precious life and then entrust her to me, and then gratitude to God who has overwhelmed us with His love, His provision, and His blessings.

As I look back over the past six months, I'm reminded that life has twists and turns, ups and downs, the expected and the unexpected. It is filled with every emotion under the sun, and everything has its season. Right now I am soaking this season up, living in the goodness of what God has given me in Adrienne Christine.

Now for the nitty gritty. Adrienne has been fantastic. She cries because she is most certainly a baby, but the great majority of the time she has been on her best behavior-especially at night time! Let's just say that she hasn't cried once during our three nights with her. I wake her to give her some food, but other than that, she's down and out for 10 hours. I didn't know that kind of thing was even possible =). But in the good moments and the bad, we are simply enjoying every bit of it.

I wish I could post a picture of this beautiful little baby girl, but until some loose ends are tied up that isn't possible. But believe me, I can't wait to share her with you! Please be praying for the day that you see a post with her sweet face because when you do, that means we've had very good news and the adoption will be finalized! Because of that, I'll just leave you with the picture of us right before meeting Adrienne for the first time.

I love you all, and I am so grateful for your faithfulness to me and my family!