I know it's impossible to "make things equal" for all of our children, but I REALLY try super hard to make sure that each child/pregnancy/newborn is made to feel special. With our decision to adopt, it's even more so important to me that the child who enters our family feels equally loved, desired, and cherished.
Pregnancy is such an exciting time filled with a lot of changes and things to update about! For each pregnancy I did a weekly blog post covering what had happened that week regarding my pregnancy, how I was feeling, things I was doing to prepare for the baby, and pictures to show my belly growth. While adoption is a completely different ballgame, there is still a waiting period. A time period where we are eagerly waiting to have that baby in our arms, much like we eagerly waited while I was pregnant. I thought it'd be neat to do monthly "while we're waiting" posts in a similar fashion to how I did the pregnancy weekly updates!
Since I've never walked the path of adoption before, these posts may change from month to month but I'm going to try to follow the same pattern as much as possible for them!
We officially decided to adopt on April 25th so this post will cover our first month waiting which was April 24th - May 25th!
I want to thank The Lemon Treehouse for working with me to design these awesome "months waiting" cards!
Things Learned and Accomplished This Month:
This was the month we made the official decision to adopt! I wrote about our path to adoption here and included all the details of my special dinner with Lindsay when she helped me gain the perspective and clarity I needed to finally start moving forward with the adoption process :)
Throughout this first month Lindsay was the only person aside from Zach and I who knew our decision to adopt. I'm thankful for her kind, encouraging words through that month!
As soon as we made the decision, I got to researching. I was CLUELESS about the process to adopt. I had told a few close friends that we were considering adoption to complete our family and Robyn's father in law worked in the state system AND she has a friend who adopted through the state. I spent a night on the phone with her to learn more about that process. I knew fostering to adopt would be the by far cheapest option but I also knew nothing about it.
I was pretty overwhelmed with everything I had to learn but tried to take it one step at a time. I was thankful to Robyn for walking me through the DFCS (department of family and child services) path. Pretty quickly we realized it wasn't a path that would best suit our family. The waiting time for straight adoption through that path is LONG and we'd have very little say over anything. The foster to adopt route is very difficult as well. Our desires for a caucasian son would be very, very difficult to match and the goal of fostering is really to reunite the child with the birth parents in most situations. I can't imagine putting myself or Zach or our bio kids through the heartbreak of having to reunite a child back with their birth parents who we were attached to and wanted to be part of our family. It's a BEAUTIFUL thing to foster to adopt but it just isn't what is meant for us.
I was glad to X one off the list and move on to the next! I had a difficult time finding private adoption agencies in our area. There is one in Thomasville called An Open Door. I called and talked to them for an hour or so. I have a few friends in Thomasville and asked them about the agency. They both gave glowing reviews and knew people who have personally adopted using them who also gave glowing reviews.
The talk with them was VERY informative for me. I learned the order of how things go with adoption (home study being our first step). I learned that it's FINE to have specifications of what we are hoping for (son/Caucasian/etc) but that we also had to be realistic in those expectations (it's fine to want as healthy of a baby as possible but we had to know going in that birth moms typically smoke and don't always make the best life choices).
I also learned that adoptions are SO different today than they used to be. You don't hardly ever see completely closed adoptions anymore. Majority of adoption situations are semi-open or open. Semi-open meaning we'd be in touch with the birth mom through a third party (usually the agency or case worker). We'd set up a system for sending pictures of the children throughout the year and letters etc. Open is where we'd be in direct contact with the birth mother (or possibly father too!). We could potentially visit often, become friends, etc. It all really depends on the birth mom's wishes, our level of comfort, and what is best for the child. That was a BIG thing for Zach and I. It's hard to wrap our heads around that situation and how it works. But it's something we aren't overly worrying about right now, we know this whole thing could play out a million different ways so we'll cross that bridge when we get to it!
This agency only works within Georgia but would make sure we'd be matched with a birth mother who lives at least 15 miles away. I'm not going to lie, that part worried me a bit. Being hit with the whole open adoption situation and that the birth mom would live in our state? It was a bit much for me. I also didn't feel very comfortable with the 10 day revocation period that Georgia has where the birth parents have the right to change their minds 10 days after signing over their parental rights. I LOVED our talk and think very highly of An Open Door agency as a whole and am not ruling them out as a possibility down the line but those factors along with the long waiting period they have and the high upfront cost did make me want to check into other options before signing on.
I had started following a fellow blogger who has two bio kids and is in the adoption process (Ruthie Hart...you can read about their adoption here!). She mentioned in her adoption faq post that they decided to use an adoption consultant. I had NO clue what that was but decided to look more into it and specially started with looking into the consultants she was using called Christian Adoption Consultants.
I called and spoke for over an hour with one of their consultants. I learned a TON. They use a multiple agency approach where our book would be sent to 5 or more agencies. This means their wait times are less than if we were to go with a single agency. Most often they are able to match a family with an expectant mother in 6-10 months! They explained to me that Georgia is not an "adoption friendly" state and that most of their adoptions go through Florida. I LOVED that as with the more open relationship with the birth family I liked the idea of some distance, plus Florida is EASY for us!
The role of an adoption consultant is to basically be the "wedding planner" for our adoption. The agencies are there to support the birth parents, the adoption consultant is there to support us. They will walk with us through the entire journey and help us minimize the risks of failed adoptions.
I felt really good about them after our talk and many of the concerns I had about using the local agency I felt like weren't concerns if we were to use the consultant path. I began researching reviews about this particular group and looked up other similar consultants so I could call around and have some options. I'm a big believer in ALWAYS calling three people before choosing. With our wedding I always called three venders for each thing before making that final decision!
I had also asked Lindsay if she knew anyone or had any connections about anything adoption related to let me know as I was wanted to research and learn as much as possible! I had JUST gotten off the phone with Christian Adoption Consultants when Lindsay texted me and told me she had a friend who had experience with adoption and had some recommendations. She sent me a text of their convo and NO JOKE the friend of hers mentioned Christian Adoption Consultants by name and said she was friends with one of the consultants!!! I felt like it was such a God moment for Lindsay to text me out of the blue right after I got off the phone with them and for the only person she knew who had adoption experience to recommend the exact people I had just spoken to!!!
I decided to contact the person who Lindsay's friend knew personally. Even though it was the same group, I liked that common thread and we talked a couple days later. I INSTANTLY felt a connection with Casey Z. She's a mama of two little (adorable) boys who were also adopted and she shared a ton of detailed information with me. We talked through the entire nap time ;)
My original plan was to start the home study process when school started back in the fall as Tess will go a couple mornings a week so I'd have a lot of time to work through everything without interruptions. In talking with Casey Z we decided to go ahead and start the home study stuff sooner in hopes of having it finalized early fall and then we can put our account on hold with them until we are ready to see about being matched! I told her our timeline (we'd prefer not to have a baby in our arms until after May 2017) and she agreed that it'd be smart to go ahead and start the process! It's crazy to me that it can move faster than I had originally thought adoption would work!
I felt a lot of guilt over having bio children and being able to get pregnant. I know the potential birth moms look through several books and choose who they think would be the best fit for their baby. I worried that 1) no one would want us because we already have three biological children and that 2) we'd be "taking" a baby away from a couple who couldn't have kids naturally. Casey Z was awesome about reassuring me and making me feel better about those concerns. Another God moment happened when she told me she had JUST THAT DAY blogged about a family who had three bio kids and adopted a 4th! (You can read that post here).
I looked online some and couldn't find a single negative thing about CAC. I also found a couple other similar type consultants but they were more expensive than CAC. I had SUCH a great feeling about Casey Z and about Christian Adoption Consultants. My motto is "step out in faith" and I'm trying super hard to just let the Lord guide us in all the decisions regarding this adoption. I felt strongly that He was showing us this was the path for us through the random text from Lindsay and the blog post Casey Z had posted!
We decided to go ahead and sign on with Casey Z and got the application filled out and sent in!
I also made my first purchase related to our 4th baby this month! My special adoption motto ("Step Out in Faith") bracelet from Farm Girl Paints!
We feel called to do this and we aren't going to let numbers cause us to have any fear or prevent us from what we feel lead to do. I found out that the government gives a tax credit of up to $13,600 to cover adoption expenses. I also found out our "insurance" (Christian Care Ministries) will give us $3,600. Which is awesome and a HUGE help (even if you can't get either of them until after the adoption is finalized).
I felt a little overwhelmed at the costs of everything but was just committed to taking it one step at a time. I've been casually selling Advocare since 2012 and have been thankful for the added income to our family. I always set aside money from my Advocare earnings to give to God and to pay taxes if needed. We ALWAYS pay God first and I have enjoyed using the Advocare God money to glorify Him in other ways than just the donation plate at church on Sundays (which is very important too of course!). I used a lot of it to purchase Muscle and Shovel books to send out (it's a MUST READ!) a couple years ago (remember?) but hadn't used it for anything else in awhile. I had some ideas of how I wanted to spend it but when I added up how much I had (and how much I had saved for taxes that never ended up being needed) I actually had exactly $4,000. Which would completely cover the two up front costs we were looking at! The cost to work with Christian Adoption Consultants AND the cost of our home study! It truly felt like another God moment for us!!!
My Feelings: As I mentioned in our path to adoption, I was SUPER crunk then when we made the decision I felt a TON of anxiety and fear. I was overwhelmed and just didn't know where to begin. It truly is like being a first time mom! I remember feeling SO CLUELESS and like I had SO MUCH TO LEARN. This is exactly the same way! It's exciting and I never wanted to turn back, but it's also just an entirely different and new experience.
I felt WAY better after talking with each person who helped me navigate the order in which to do things and helped us decide the best path to take for us. I feel 100% positive that signing on with CAC was the best decision we could have made! As soon as we signed on she sent me a HUGE stack of papers to read through and it got REAL. The paperwork began! I felt overwhelmed all over again just seeing the stack and just decided to take it one step at a time. I skimmed through it all but wasn't going to stress over things that weren't important right now.
Encouragement: The minute we decided to adopt the devil went on the attack. On the one hand it helped us to know that it was FOR SURE the right decision because Satan won't attack someone who isn't on fire for the Lord, right?!? But it also was super stressful and frustrating and discouraging.
The way Satan chose to hit us hardest was financially. We have worked hard to spend smart and have JUST recently (like a couple months ago) completed Dave Ramsey's Baby Step 3 which is to have 6 months living expenses in savings. We just met with a financial planner and got our mutual funds set up for retirement.
When we talked about the costs to adopt we talked about possibly taking a "loan" out from ourselves. Put the mutual fund stuff on hold and borrow from our 6 months living expenses to help cover the costs of adoption rather than take out a loan where we'd have to pay back interest. Although our nest egg wouldn't be enough to cover all the costs, it'd be a big help!
That idea quickly went out the window when Zach needed back surgery. He was out of work for 2 weeks. The surgery is over $30,000 in medical bills. That our insurance won't cover because it's pre-exisisting. There goes that nest egg, all the time and work we put into building it, AND the back up funds we were hoping to have for the adoption.
On top of that we got slammed with just random expenses. We had MASSIVE plumbing issues. We had to have a plumber come out over 4 times and at one point they thought they'd have to rip up our kitchen floor to repair the plumbing issue.
Nothing better than having POOP WATER fill up your dishwasher, sinks and washing machine anytime you try to do laundry...
I read this passage in my devo (One in a Million) and it just hit home in such a big way and was exactly the encouragement I needed:
I also texted Lindsay some about my overwhelming feelings and LOVE what she told me "Just take it one piece of the application at a time. There's no need to rush...enjoy every part of this process, exactly like you did your pregnancies!" It was a great reminder to just BREATHE and divide everything up into small sections. Yes, I'm a big picture person but taking all of this on at once was too much, breaking it up made more sense and allowed me to just focus on the task at hand!
In my research on adoption I also found a couple of quotes that inspired and encouraged me:
- "He is mine in a way that he will never be hers, yet he is hers in a way that will never be mind, and so together, we are motherhood." - Desha Woodall
- "There is an instinct in a woman to love most her own child - and an instinct to make any child who needs her love, her own." - Robert Brault
I also saw this on IG and LOVED it:
Goals for the Coming Month: My main goal for the month ahead was to read through all of the CAC stuff and start looking into home study options!
Prayer Requests/How You Can Help: At this point in the game no one even knew we were adopting. I was DYING to tell everyone as I knew I'd have my stress levels lowered by being able to share things with my friends and family and being able to write about it all here! I plan to blog these posts "current time" once I catch up on them so I can use this area to inform y'all on ways you can help us in this process and also ways to specifically pray for us!
Of course if you're reading these posts and have ANY info or insight to offer us through this process please don't hesitate to contact me :) Same goes for ANY questions!!! I'd be happy to answer anything as I know I'm learning so much and want to help others who may be learning as well :)