Today though I wanted to answer the questions I've received since posting our news. If you missed it check it out here :) By the way guys...awesome questions. I expected really simple stuff to come at me but instead they were all so deep and personal and I LOVE IT. It makes me want to do more question/answer type posts in the future. Hearing your thoughts and seeing how personal you got with me made me feel so great b/c my goal in my blogging is to truly be MYSELF and I feel like your questions showed that I'm def achieving that goal so far. THANK YOU :)
Did you know having Tess that it was your last pregnancy? No! I fully planned at that point to go through the pregnancy experience again. But I'm GLAD I didn't know it was my last time. I think if I'd known "this is it" that it would have been very difficult for me emotionally. I dealt with some postpartum depression after having Tess and I think that would have been much more intense if I knew she was my last pregnancy experience. I did truly embrace my pregnancy with her (as well as her labor, hospital stay, etc) and I realize now that maybe the reason I did enjoy it all so much was because God was already putting it on my heart that it was my last time!
How do you feel about not getting pregnant again? I really have felt good about it overall! I didn't get sad as I started to go through the girls' baby clothes to sell (gotta help fund the adoption!) and knowing we'll still be having another baby makes it easier. I also had SUCH an amazing birth experience with Tess that it was really the perfect note to end on! I did have a break down moment when Zach was in back pain and I offered for him to sleep with my pregnancy pillow to help his back. I got sad realizing I'll never use that pillow again! I'm sure it'll come in waves and like Zach said even if I went through pregnancy 10 times I'd still be sad about that phase of life coming to an end.
Do you already know the child you are adopting? No! Most likely the child we will adopt isn't even conceived yet. We are EXTREMELY early in the process. We are working through our home study now and may even take a "break" before looking to be matched. Ideally we'd prefer to wait for the addition of a newborn to our home until after May of 2017. Of course this is ALL God's timing and not ours (whew, this process has already shown me how little we are in control of things!) so we will see where He leads us, but our preference is after May so we can enjoy our 10 year anniversary before beginning the newborn phase again! Originally we planned to wait to start the process until August (Tess will go to school a few mornings a week so I'd have TIME to work on things) but when we learned about how out of state adoption works we decided to go ahead and get started on things.
Are you adopting a certain gender/race/health? Yes! With adoption it's a faster process if you are willing to accept any gender, race, health etc. But for us we really want another son (Kye is SO PUMPED). We LOVE our girls, of course, but Zach always wished he had a brother growing up and we want our sons to experience that brotherly bond. If we'd had two boys naturally then we'd be adopting a girl b/c I always wished for a sister and want that bond for my girls as well! We also decided the we feel the best fit for us is a baby with a similar race to ours. We are SO blessed to have so much family surrounding us and I just want this baby to feel like he's 100% a PARKER and I know that would be even more of a hurdle for him from a racial perspective. It's also a lot about where we live. Transracial families are such a wonderful thing but it's just not something you see often around here. I felt guilt about it for awhile there are a LOT of negative articles gears toward people who have adoption preferences. I've felt like I'm being selfish when SO many babies need forever families. However we know our family and I've talked to many people in the adoption realm that have made me feel a lot better about our decision! We have GREAT support systems and both our consultant and our case worker helped us see that it's OK to be specific! It's what is best for our family and (most importantly) our future child! When it comes to health we are still in a learning phase of that decision. We do not feel equip to have life altering conditions but right now are open to drug exposure or other genetic concerns. Like I told Zach...if someone was wanting to adopt one of our current babies they may turn them away due to genetic concerns (Mrs. Charlotte and Courtney both have serious auto immune diseases)! Family history doesn't really overly concern me...I know personally that there is SO MUCH that the love of Jesus can take care of!
Drug exposed? Yes. It sounds scary! I'm still learning about it and still grasping with it. Most people think of Juno type situations when they adopt but that's not typically the reality. Usually pregnant women who seek out adoption are doing so because they are in a crisis type situation. It was hard to understand at first but it makes sense once you think about. Typically if someone has a great support system and a healthy lifestyle they will probably choose to parent their baby, even if it's unexpected. Even teens are likely to choose to parent if their parents are supportive. It's not a guarantee that our baby will be exposed to drugs in the womb, but it is something we have to be willing to consider. Usually it means a time period of the baby withdrawing from the substances. Sometimes it's a nicu stay from days to 6 weeks long. The exposure can cause lingering affects but most are mild, if any. (Which SHOCKED me. I mean when I'm pregnant I'm so careful to drink organic milk and take my vitamins...it's beyond my mind to be able to grasp that a baby can be born with drugs in their systems and be fine. Thank you Jesus for blessing these sweet babies!) This is an EXCELLENT, easy to read, article that Casey Z shared with me that really helps understand the risks of drug exposure (alcohol exposure is actually THE WORST thing!)
Were you and Zach on the same page about completing your family? Zach and I have ALWAYS had the "big picture" things in common. Religion, where to live, number of kids, how to raise 'em. Everything. We really never struggle with big stuff b/c we ALWAYS agree and see eye to eye. God put adoption on my heart many years ago (can't wait to share my story!) and it's not something He initially put on Zach's. Over the years he's grown and changed and has had more of a ready heart for adoption. He was very surprised when I approached him about adopting baby #4 (and boy was I nervous to tell him) but he's 100% on board and EXCITED for this journey! We both agreed that we felt like 4 children is "our number" and that we will be complete at that. I was more interested in adopting a toddler or older age child at first but Zach really wants to have that newborn experience one more time (he said "I don't want to miss a single thing in this baby's life!" SO SWEET) and we both agree on that as well! We also agree that keeping birth order is important so this baby will for sure be younger than Tess at the time we adopt!
Why domestic adoption? Zach and I both believe strongly that our mission field is in our own backyard. We don't feel called to do missionary trips (at least not at this phase in our walks) but feel more lead to do things on a more local level. When adoption was originally placed on my heart I actually felt like our child would come from Ukraine. But when the decision was made to adopt and I began researching things it's just VERY hard to adopt internationally at this time due to so many places in war zones and other red tape issues. Zach and I agreed that we both feel most comfortable with domestic adoption and the opportunity we have to reach out to a family in need here!
Why not through the state/foster care system? When we first were looking into adoption options this was the route I initially looked into. I love the idea of truly helping in our local community and I know there is SUCH a huge need for foster parents. But it's actually very difficult to adopt through that situation. The goal of fostering IS to reunite the child with birth parents if it all possible. I think people who foster are truly called to do so and it's a HUGE blessing. At this time, with the ages of our bio kids, it's just not something that would be best for our family. I can't personally imagine having to part ways with a child, but expecting my children to go through that difficult experience would be unfathomable right now. I have thought about possibly fostering someday when our children are older if the Lord puts it on our hearts at that time. The state process to adopt would be cheaper but it's very much "you get what you get when you can get it" type thing and I prefer the hands on help through private adoption process. When I first spoke to an agency (who we didn't end up using) I felt like THIS is our calling and our path!
What about funding? Whew. It costs SO MUCH MORE than I had even expected it to cost! We are BIG believers in spending smart and we don't have any special funds set aside for this purpose (as it's just a decision we came to recently!). It's overwhelming to think about the cost and we just have to trust God to provide. I do plan to do some sort of fundraising (t-shirts most likely) and to sell everything I can from the girl's stuff to help offset costs some. There are several grants. I assume we won't qualify for most of them based off our income level and our desire to be specific in our adoption preferences. There is some great tax credit and our insurance gives a good chunk too for adoption but both of those only are given after finalization and of course you need all the money for the adoption up front. In the end we may need to take out a loan and that's okay! I've already looked into it and some banks offer no or low interest loans for adoption. We have no other debts (aside from our home) so we will be okay financially if we have to go that route. We are persistent in our paying off of any debts and trust that this is the right decision for our family so it'll work out! I plan to post details about raising the money and how much we are spending as we go through the process. I know in my googling I had a hard time finding real life examples of the spending. I'd love any funding suggestions as well! Zach said basically we need to be prepared to be an ATM for awhile ;)
What about breastfeeding? This is also overwhelming for me so I've kinda put it on the back burner for now. I researched some and def plan to nurse even if it's just for the bond and not for nourishment. My body has always responded SO WELL to breastfeeding and I've made milk so easily that I do feel like it's something I may be able to do! Breastmilk is something Zach and I both value and would love to provide for our child. However, I'm nervous about it as I don't want to take a lot of drugs in order to do it (most of the drugs aren't fully tested to see if they affect the milk) and I don't want it to be a bad experience. I feel like we may already be dealing with so much (especially if drug exposed) that it may be too much ya know? I am REALLY praying about it and hoping to do a combination of milk from me (even if it's just that comfort situation) and am hoping that I'm able to get in touch with moms who are nursing who would be willing to donate milk to us (we will probably start collecting any donated milk in January as it stays good in the freezer for a year...if this is on your heart PLEASE let me know!) I'm sure I will post more in the future as well. I did look into purchasing milk via internet and omg it's so shady that I don't trust that at all! But I know my readers are legit people and trust y'all more than some random site ;)
Did you know Tess would be the last child (most likely) that you are able to breastfeed? No I didn't have a clue at that time. I'm truly so thankful for the AMAZING breastfeeding relationship she and I shared. It was the first time (out of three times!) that it all just clicked and went SO WELL (so well, in fact, that the child HATED bottles). I know after nursing three babies that no breastfeeding experience is alike. Each one is different and if I did have a 4th bio baby there is no guarantee that it'd go nearly as smoothly as hers did. Again, I'm sure this will come in waves but if I'm not able to nurse our last baby I do feel at peace about ending that experience with Tess! Much like my delivery experience, my nursing experience with her was a perfect end note!
Where are you in the process? Our first step was the toughest b/c neither of us have ANY personal experience with adoption. This is truly a time where we are letting God guide us and it's been AMAZING to see what He's been doing already! We will not (most likely anyway) be adopting out of the state of Georgia. Georgia is not considered an "adoption friendly" state as they give the birth parents 10 days to change their minds. We are working with Christian Adoption Consultants (shout out to Casey Z) which I will blog about more in detail at some point (as God was ALL OVER this decision!) who is basically like a wedding planner but for adoption. She helps us from start to finish in the process. Answers questions, helps guide us. And when it comes to the portion of matching us with a birth mother, she helps us make those decisions as well. She's an advocate for US which is such a blessing already! Through her recommendations we will present our book (what the birth moms see to help decide who to go with for the adoption of their child) to multiple agencies. Most likely Florida but it could also be other states as well. If you have any agency recommendations please send 'em over! After signing on with Casey Z (I'm going to always call her "Casey Z" b/c of MY Casey and I don't want to confuse the two!) we started the home study process. Again, God helped guide us in a BIG way and I'm SUPER excited about our case worker (we are using Hope for Adoption)! We are working through that (it's legit 60 pages long...SO MUCH STUFF) and once that's done we begin the waiting game (so much of this is hurry hurry hurry then waiiiiit)
How do the kids feel? I cannot WAIT to share a post about how we told them! The videos are precious! I knew Kye would be overjoyed! We've mentioned adoption to them before but they are all very excited about it. I think it is such a new thing for us all that we will get to learn together. I'm so excited about how this experience will not only bless Zach and I, and the new baby, but also our biological children. I know they will be amazing siblings and will do so wonderful in the adjustment process of everything! Britt carried around that little jersey we used for the pics and has a baby doll that she's calling her baby brother already and Kye has told us we HAVE to name him something that goes well with his name ;)
How will you pick a child? My knowledge about adoption was basically limited to movies and tv shows. And that's simply not reality. I also got really discouraged when I started googling b/c there is SO much negativity surrounding adoption. I refuse to let the devil steal our joy in the process or let the fear he's putting in our path to change our course! The way it works is that our book (filled with pictures of our family and info about us) will be sent to several agencies (giving us a better chance of being matched sooner). When a situation comes up a birth mother will be given books from families/couples that fit what she's looking for. The agency will kinda try to pair us with a good fit for us and pair her with a good fit of her. At that point we will be notified of the situation. We will get all the info they have about the birth mother and father and we will decide IF we want to present. If we choose to present and she picks us then we are considered matched! She may not choose us and then it's back to the pool of books and waiting to be chosen again. There is also a chance we may have a "stork drop" where a mother decides to give her child up for adoption after birth. In that case we'd get a phone call and make a decision on the spot! Typically it's not a "pick a child" scenario. It's much more of a wait and pray and let God guide it type thing. Most likely we will be matched with an expectant mother who is at least 20 weeks into her pregnancy. This helps lower the risk of her changing her mind and allows us to know more about the baby! I mean I kinda think the stork drop thing would be amazing b/c then it'd be no waiting period between being matched and the baby being born ;)
What is the out of state process? This is something I didn't anticipate. I heard to save for "travel expenses" but I didn't realize the length of TIME needed for the traveling. I assumed we'd go to the place where the baby is born, get the baby, bring the baby home. But that's not how it works. IF the baby needs an extended stay in the hospital (as may be the case if drug exposure is present) then we will obviously need to be in the home state until the baby is discharged. THEN after discharge we have to remain in the home state for 10-14 additional days. It's very important from a legal standpoint that the baby cannot cross state lines. Basically we moved our plans up earlier to adopt because we are aiming for summer so the kids can be with us and it would make the stay a little easier. We are also praying for Florida as it's SO CLOSE and we have so many people we know that may be able to help us with a stay. And we could even possibly rent a place just over the state lines which is only 20 min from home so Zach would be able to be there the entire time as well. Plus hello Disney World and a newborn meeting Mickey would be SO PRESH (Zach says to get that idea out of my head haha!)
Open or Closed Adoption? This is another new area to me. All I've ever heard about is closed adoptions. Where the child never knows their birth family or anything about them or sometimes as an adult seeks to "find them." That's not really the case anymore and majority of adoptions are open on some level. We are open to any type of adoption depending on the specific situation. We feel the most comfortable with semi-open which is where we'd exchange letters and photos but not meet face to face. But I can see the blessings of open adoption as well (I'm in a group on Facebook with a lot of adoptive parents and they invite the birth family to birthday parties even!). So we will just see where God guides us on that situation! Right now we are remaining completely undecided on it and just going to let things fall where they fall. So much of it will depend on the relationship we form with the birth mother and her personal wishes and our level of comfort at that time. Of course the #1 concern is what is best for the baby! We will cross that bridge when the time comes!
How are you feeling? Prior to Zach proposing to me, getting engaged was ALL I could think about. I was obsessed with being engaged and wanted it SO badly. Then he (finally) proposed and I freaked out. That's very similar to how I'm feeling now. When we were first in the decision stages of adoption I was obsessive about it. Researching, thinking, talking (and talking and talking) about it non-stop. Once we made the final call about it though, Satan has been ON THE ATTACK (I plan to post more about this too as it's SO much a part of the process). He has been putting fear in my path and giving me a general overwhelmed state (which I don't do well with). He isn't deterring me from our path though and, if anything, the constant flow of craziness he's throwing at us is only reminding me JUST how called we are to DO IT! I told Zach that I feel like I'm going to vomit as I read over everything we have to do in order to adopt, but at the same time I've NEVER been so sure about something in my LIFE. On an episode of Nashville (random but stay with me) a kid decided to join the army. His dad asked if he was scared and the boy said "Of course I'm scared to death but I'm also so sure that this is the path for me." 100% how I feel! God is calling us for this and we are stepping out in the faith, trusting Him and are excited to see where this will take us! It's such a new experience and I'm truly pumped to learn about it all and especially to meet our precious son!!!
In the monthly posts I plan to do I plan on asking for specific prayers related to what we have going on at that time in the process. To avoid my own overwhelmed feelings, I'm trying my best to take it a step at a time! Which y'all know is NOT easy for me by any means! There are a lot of unknowns in this entire process so I will be better equip to answer more questions as time goes on. I just would REALLY appreciate being lifted up in prayer! And right now it's a great time to contact me if you, or someone you know, has gone through this journey. I'd love insight and suggestions!!! We are open to any agencies as well (Christian Adoption Consultants will help match us with agencies but we are also able to use any additional ones) so any recommendations are wonderful. Also any fundraising ideas and ideas for obtaining breastmilk will be much appreciated! Most of all though just please pray for us in this process and especially for our future birth mama and baby boy.
I'm truly SO blessed by you all. You are my family. We have to have recommendation letters and I wish I could get a community letter from all of YOU. I always feel so much better about anything life throws at me when I blog about it. Your support, love, encouragement and prayers truly mean the WORLD to me! I know we shared our news very early-on but I couldn't hide it from you guys any longer! I was more excited to blog about it than I was to tell a lot of "real life" people!!! Thank you thank you thank you!!!
Hopefully I answered all your questions! I'm always open to any questions you may have and my goal is to be very transparent through this process so get ready for info overload ;)
If you aren't already following along with me on other social media outlets now is a great time! I post a lot on both Facebook and Instagram! My IG is private (creeper issues) so I do go through and typically request to follow anyone who asks to follow me so I can make sure everyone is a legit person ;) I really am due for a big blog overhaul so if anyone has any suggestions on someone to help with that let me know (the person who did my last blog update is no longer doing it!).