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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

16 Months Waiting (AKA: The Month We Got Matched)

This post covers a bit less than a month but that's okay...there is PLENTY to discuss ;) It covers August 7th - August 29th. Our 16th month into the adoption process! If you'd like to catch up on all of our journey you can visit our adoption page here! 


When I ordered my "in waiting" cards from Lemon Treehouse I only got through month 18...luckily I'll only need 1 extra month! Whoop whoop!!!


Things Learned and Accomplished This Month:

It's SO crazy and awesome how things often work. Last month was the toughest month for us yet in this journey. Three "nos" in a row were rough to hear and I was in a pretty rough mental place when I wrote my last monthly post (which you can read about here). 

The day after that post was the first day of school for Kye and Britt AND Zach's birthday. It also happened to be the day that we'd view the situation that would end up being "our match." It was a pretty insane day as a whole and I really didn't even have the emotional readiness to be receiving another expectant mother situation. I was still very down over the week prior and was just kinda numb to it at that point. 

Zach and I read over it, as we always do, and I did get my hopes up a little when I saw that included in our packet were photos of this birth mother's children. I noticed instantly how much they favored our kids and thought "well dang, if this mama doesn't pick us then no one will." I didn't feel overly excited. I didn't have some gut feeling. I think my emotional well was REALLY dry at that moment and I felt more numb to the process at that point than anything else. 

As part of Zach's birthday evening we spent a good hour or so working on a personal letter to submit with our packet to this birth mom. We've kinda been using a standard letter for all of the situations prior. I wrote it for the very first mom we presented too and then just reworked it a bit each time to fit whatever particular situation we had at the time. Zach made the point that maybe a total overhaul of our letter would be helpful in getting a match. We felt like our kids were the main reason we weren't getting chosen over and over again and decided to talk about our kids up front in the letter in hopes that a potential birth mother would see that our children are eagerly waiting a sweet baby too! 

This is the letter the birth mother we're now matched with received from us. These are the first things she learned about us and her very first impression about who we are :)


August 8th was a cluster of a day. Tess had been up all night the night prior coughing. I felt like crud. And Britt, on the second day of school, woke up with pink eye. I had to take her to the dr. and had a nightmare experience at the pharmacy waiting for her meds. Needless to say, even our visit to the UPS Store to get all the materials sent off to present wasn't very special. I was NOT in the mood and even kept telling the guy that I felt like all I was doing at that point was helping UPS stay in business with all the money I've spent shipping stuff and how I was sure I'd be back in again the next week to ship off more stuff to another situation and we'd just be spending our lives sending books off to be rejected. Yup, I was in a pretty low-low. ha! 


The last birth mom presentation mailing and I didn't even know it!


Zach and I talked about the wait and after the let downs the month prior we decided to focus on the house. There are lots of projects we want to accomplish and I figured I had the time, why not use it wisely? Robyn has been going through a ton of stuff with their home and they've been in theirs 3 years longer than we've been in ours. I figured it'd be smart to get a head start on making improvements! Fix up our house, do some updates, etc to help make the time of waiting go quicker and to have something to show for the wait too! 

From smaller items like getting the kids shoe storage 


To bigger things like changing our door BACK TO BLUE (whoop whoop!)


Honestly once I sent off the stuff to this birth mom, I didn't really think about it much. We had a lot going on. I was staying busy with back to school. I knew the books wouldn't even be shown to her for a couple weeks so I didn't focus on it much (of course that didn't mean I wasn't still obsessively checking my email either ha!). 

During that time we also got word from one of the moms who had been a "no" the couple weeks prior that she did not end up matching with the family she chose so we allowed them to show her our book again. And we got rejected, again. But it didn't sting this time. I guess when someone has already told you "no" that hearing it a second time isn't so bad! ha!

We also had our family photos done (reveal coming soon...they are AWESOME!) with Captured by Colson and now we know they will be our last photos as a family of 5! SO EXCITED!


Around the same time that we submitted to this birth mama, I randomly saw a situation on Facebook about a birth mom due any day out in California. It felt sketchy. It seemed EXTREMELY unlikely to get chosen but it was also free to submit so I figured "why not?" I now see that it was a beautiful distraction for me. It was such a weird situation with so many elements to it that it took up a lot of my time and energy and made the wait to hear back from the birth mom we submitted to even easier! 

Kye and I went up to Zach's office together to copy some stuff in order to submit info for the birth mom in Cali (we did NOT end up actually presenting...it kept sounding more and more and more sketchy). 



Tess's first day of school was on August 15th. Once I got her settled in at school I headed to town to wrap up a lot of the items needed in order to update our home study. I got all my fingerprinting done and background checks finished etc etc. I had put off a lot of the home study renewal stuff (which I heard is common) because I just felt down about having to redo it all with no baby in sight for us. When I was already feeling low, it was like a stab in a wound to have to do everything again that a year prior I'd been SO PUMPED to do. By the time Tess started school though I was in a WAY happier mental spot and felt positive and upbeat about the renewal. It may have been an update, but I felt confident it'd be the LAST ONE ;) 


I took this same picture in the same spot a year ago when getting fingerprinted for our original home study! 


When we submitted to the birth mama we were told they'd be showing books on Monday August 14th. On Wednesday the 16th I got an email at noonish letting me know that the mama had just picked up the books that morning. It was a bit of a letdown but I knew it'd mean we'd hear something either way within a few days. Typically when we submit we don't hear anything for 3-5 days after the mom picks up the books. So I was TRULY SHOCKED when an email came through that same day at 2:45 that said this:

Y'all. I died. Literally. (Well not literally but you know what I mean). I crumbled in my chair and threw off my shoes and started just instantly, uncontrollably sobbing my eyes out. Ugly crying mixed with like the happiest laughter ever. I looked like a crazy person.

I fell to my knees and just said "thank you thank you" over and over and "please pick us, please Lord pick us." Which totally isn't the proper "adoption pc" type thing to say but whatever ;) I went into Tab's room and just cried and cried.



This may sound super stupid but y'all I DID NOT UNDERSTAND. I emailed our consultant and asked what the phone call meant. In my head I'd just ALWAYS assumed that a "no" would be via email and a "yes" would be a phone call. I just had always pictured this random phone number calling me and saying we'd been chosen. The email threw me off, as did the phone call request. 

When I first read the email I assumed it meant she was choosing between us and someone else or like we'd made it to a "second round" of choosing or something and that the phone call would be like an interview. I was sobbing and so overjoyed in just thinking we'd made it to a second round. It didn't even cross my mind in those moments that WE WERE CHOSEN. 

It wasn't until I emailed Casey Z (our consultant) and asked for guidance on the phone call when she responded with a list of pointers. On that list it talked about making sure WE didn't make it feel like an interview to HER. Um what? I thought it WAS an interview...of her to US? Then the pointers also said to exchange contact info and that was when it hit me. We wouldn't exchange info if she was debating between people, right?

I wrote Casey Z back and she explained that this particular law office ALWAYS has a phone call take place between the expectant mother and potential adoptive parents prior to officially matching. So this mama? SHE PICKED US. We were her "YES!" And the phone call was simply to just make sure we were all good about everything moving forward. YALL. SHE CHOSE US. 

After 7 "nos" we had our YES! 

How amazing is it to have someone else give you the news that you're going to be a mama? I always pretty much KNOW when I'm pregnant. But I had NO CLUE that this was our YES. The joy I felt in that moment, and still feel even now a couple weeks later, is like no other feeling in the WORLD. Knowing I'll be a mother again is phenomenal, but knowing that another mother has chosen me to also be the mother of her child? It's a beautiful, amazing gift. 

I called Robyn right away. Throughout this journey I've been pretty private. At first I shared everything with everyone (remember the first situation we presented to? I posted up stories and asked everyone to pray etc). But I realized that this is a walk that not everyone understands, or wants to try to understand. And that's okay. I found out by sharing with a lot of people I opened myself up to hurtful reactions (or lack thereof) so I decided to just keep things private. I also decided to look at the process like I do when trying to conceive, we don't tell people when we're TTC. We just do a cute announcement once we're pregnant. So I wanted this to be the same! After the first situation where we presented, I kept everything else just between Zach, myself, and Robyn. (Which may sound weird but I needed that female input and support as Zach is VERY different than I am with emotions. He just isn't very emotional and doesn't get overly emotionally attached so I needed to be able to have all those feelings and vent them to someone!) Zach was actually out of town working when I got the email. He works the prison system of Georgia so you can't call him when he's in a prison. So Robyn got my phone call ;) She was teaching but was SO pumped for me! 

I had a bit of a crazy afternoon because it was a Wednesday and those are always crazy. Zach would be home that night and I wanted to surprise him in a cute way with the news so I took Kye and Tess to the store while Britt was in gymnastics and loaded up on themed candy. Kye was SO annoyed about how picky I was being about treats for Daddy and kept pointing out that he doesn't even like half the things I was buying hahaha! 

I had this set up when Zach walked in the door...I get him treats pretty often so I knew he wouldn't catch on right away. His reaction y'all. It was beyond my expectations FOR SURE. He is just so genuinely both surprised and overjoyed. You can see the video here! (Also our favorite part is how much I have to CRANE my NECK to look up to him hahaha!). 


That night we both just were so excited we could barely sleep. Zach kept saying how AWESOME it felt to have such POSITIVE adrenaline. We've had some rough stuff over the past year and it was just so refreshing to feel so much PURE JOY. We read over every single detail of the birth mama's info we had received when we submitted. Neither of us could really remember anything aside from her babies looking like ours ha! When you've presented 8 times it's hard to keep it all straight! Reading over it was also with new eyes because it's not a decision of whether or not to present but rather a "this is very likely THE MOTHER of our future baby!"

From here on out I'm gonna call her Mama E as I don't love the whole expectant mother/birth mother thing. Because it's no longer some detached concept...this is real and she's a real person who is really involved in our lives and will forever be part of them! Her story is hers and is not mine to share but obviously she'll be mentioned and I feel like "Mama E" is a great way to refer to her from here on out :) 

On Thursday August 17th I talked to Casey Z on the phone for a good hour or so. She had me call her to talk through any nerves I had regarding the phone call, but really I wasn't as nervous about the phone call at that time. Usually when we receive any information on a potential birth mother situation Casey Z gives us a brief rundown and kinda her input on it along with all the info from the lawyers/agencies etc. This time Casey Z was actually NOT the consultant who sent us the presentation info for Mama E. So I didn't have her input on the situation prior to presenting. Having read over it all with those "new eyes" I had questions and really just wanted to know HER thoughts. Casey Z has adopted twice and is just an amazing source of information as well as an incredible support system to have through this. (If you're considering adoption I do wanna give a plug to Casey Z with Christian Adoption Consultants...we are 100% SO GLAD we signed on with them!).

I felt SO GREAT after talking things through with Casey Z. I'll go into more details later on in this post on some of the things we covered and discussed but she put my mind at complete ease about this situation. She said it all sounded EXCELLENT and that she had no concerns or reservations about anything moving forward regarding Mama E or us or this MATCH! 

We were supposed to have our phone call with Mama E on Thursday August 17th but some stuff happened and that call wasn't able to take place. We really weren't quite sure when we'd get to speak to her or if the future plans would be altered based on the changes that took place during that time period. I was VERY thankful that we went to visit my dad that weekend. It was perfect timing to have that distraction from the anxiety I felt over it! I know that the anxiety I felt during those days of waiting to speak on the phone with her is something we'll probably feel throughout this wait. The reality is that majority of the time life situations aren't ideal for expectant mothers who decide on an adoption plan. So we have to expect the unexpected and be flexible and understanding that things won't go according to a set or standard plan. 

The weekend was wonderful with Dad and Audrey. We did share with them our news and it was neat to have them be the first to know about our family being complete! I've never gotten to tell Dad in person about ANY of my pregnancies so that was fun :) 


They also got us a ton of super cute vintage Disney stuff! We are still figuring out how to incorporate it all in the nursery, it means so much to me that as they go antiquing that they are thinking of us and Tab!


We got word Monday morning that the phone call was back ON and it was set up for Tuesday night (August 22nd). Of course I said YES immediately and then realized I had book club! I had to dip out early for the call and I was thankful for my sweet friends for distracting me leading up to it. 


We had Mama E's number and were supposed to call her at 7:30. Basically the pointers were to make sure we didn't ask any overly personal questions and nothing about the baby etc. Which all to me seemed like pretty obvious stuff. The point is to get to know HER and I'm all about that. I was also still  FREAKING OUT prior to dialing her number haha!


We talked for 13 minutes total. And it couldn't have gone more perfectly. Zach said that I said "we're just so honored" about a billion times. I cried too. I just couldn't help it. She was very open and reminded me a lot of me as far as being honest and not really holding anything back. Y'all know how much I love some realness ;) 

When we decided to adopt I knew there would be a lot of emotions. I knew how selfless it is of a mother to place her baby for adoption. But it's just SO different actually living it. Talking on the phone with her it just really hit me how raw the emotions truly are. 

She said multiple times that she just knew it was us right when she saw us. She said our children were the main thing she was drawn too. She talked about how our kids, our Disney trips, and me baking with the girls just made her think about this baby and how he'll have a life so similar to the one he'd have with her, only better than she can give him. How do you even reply to that? I just said "we're so honored." It's so heartbreaking to think about her perspective and her feeling those emotions. My instinct was to build her up and tell her that it's not true but at the same time it's GOOD for her to feel like this incredibly difficult decision is giving her baby a "better life situation." I didn't want to devalue those emotions she's having but, whew, I cried hearing that from her. 

She also said she's been scared in this process up until she saw our book and then she's just felt so much better. When the original call wasn't able to happen she was so worried that we'd change our minds. She also said her biggest concern in this process was that someone would say they want to adopt her baby and then want to give him back. Y'all. That broke my heart. Of course we told her that never happens and would never, ever happen. I wanted to tell her that my biggest fear is the same: that she will change her mind. But of course I didn't say that (I probably just said "we're just so honored" again!). 

When we got off the phone we both felt like it couldn't have gone any better. It may not have been a super long talk but she has small children and we could hear them in the background. All us moms know how hard it is to talk on the phone with kids running around! She said she was excited to meet us and get to know us more. This is her first time walking this path and it's ours too so we talked a bit about how we'll just get to learn together :) 


I called Robyn after the call with Mama E and we were both so giddy together and she cried with me. She's been an incredible friend to me through this entire journey and her heart is so invested and it just means THE WORLD to me. I emailed the lawyer and Casey Z right after the call and let them both know we felt a great connection with Mama E and were looking forward to walking this path together with her. The way it works is we emailed lawyer, then Mama E would also talk with lawyer, THEN we'd be officially matched! I assumed we'd get that official word sometime during the day on Wednesday August 23rd. Zach and I spent a TON of time trying to think up how we wanted to tell the kids and announce the news "to the world." I stayed up SUPER late Tuesday night googling and hunting Pinterest for ideas ;) 

I knew we didn't want to wait long to make the announcement. There is a lot of debate in the adoption community about when to announce things in the process. Many people don't tell their other children or family, friends, etc until the baby is in their arms. Failed adoptions happen. That's a very real possibility for us in this situation. Things could change. Mama E could decide to parent. And that's something we have to prepare our hearts for. But at the same time, pregnancy is risky. Things can happen while pregnant yet we still announce our pregnancies. We still focus on the JOY rather than the FEAR. And that's what we're choosing to do now as well. Assuming everything goes smoothly and this IS our Tab then I want to ENJOY this last time of "waiting for baby" just as I would if I was pregnant. If we face the heartbreak of a failed match, then we will face that when the time comes. Our children will grieve that loss with us and we will be thankful for the support of family and friends if we come to need it at that time. 

I had already told Robyn over the phone and Katie knew something was up because I told her I had to leave book club early for the call but I wanted to give her all the details in person! I visited with her at work and she was thrilled too. I felt bad telling her without Zach but it was a great moment "just us" and it's been so awesome to have her through our dating, marriage, and ALL of our babies!!! She's been through it all right alongside us :) 


I tried not to freak out when the email didn't come all day Wednesday with the official news. I waited to write to the lawyer until that afternoon and was thankful when she replied right away and told me that Mama E had called them first thing that morning but that they hadn't gotten the call and were just playing phone tag all day. Even though I knew I shouldn't be nervous, I still was. I needed to see the words letting us know it was the REAL DEAL in order to allow myself to feel that full excitement! 

Thursday August 24th I met Casey at Goodwill after dropping Tess off at school. We were going shopping for outfits to wear for Casey's 30th birthday party (80s themed!) and it was a great chance for us to get some quality time together. It was the first time we've gotten to hang out "just us" in AGES so I was really looking forward to it! My plan was to NOT check my phone until I left Goodwill. I was just going to focus on the outfits and on Casey and not be freaking out the whole time obsessively updating my email. 

I pulled out my phone to show Casey a picture or something and all my emails happened to pop up on my home screen. And I saw it:


I didn't even say anything. I just immediately started jumping up and down like crazy and threw down all the clothes in my arms and my purse and everything. Casey was just like "what is it? a baby? a baby?" So of course I said YES and filled her in on every detail!!! Zach is pretty jealous that she was with me and got to see my super mega pumped reaction. I'm not a very expressive person when it comes to stuff like that so to see me TRULY excited is a rare gift ;) Hope Casey appreciates that haha!


I screen shot the email and texted it right away to Zach and Robyn!


After I left Casey I ran by to see Keeli and tell her. I would have made a bunch of trips all over town to tell as many friends as possible but it just happened to work out where Casey was with me and Keeli was at a location where I could run by quickly on my way to get Tess. So they got lucky to find out in person ;) It was so fun telling Keeli because she had NO CLUE it was happening. So I just was like "soooo we're getting a baby!" haha! She was great and excited! 


I saw Casey again at the school pick up and she gave me Tab's first official gift! 


It was just a really awesome day. On top of the GREAT NEWS the Mickey we've been wanting for the nursery finally arrived! I LOVE HIM and he's so perfect for what we'd been envisioning! 


That afternoon was a tad bit crazy. When it came to "in person" announcing we decided to keep it simple. Kids and Parents. We'd already told my dad in person (which was just a super casual thing...he was asking about adoption and we told them) so we just needed a cute way to tell the kids and to tell Zach's parents. Zach was recently promoted and is now a district coordinator so technically he's kinda Mr. Rusty's boss (ha!). I guess Mr Rusty was joking a bunch about how he's doing well and his boss should reward him so Zach used that as an "in" and told him he'd cook him a steak dinner. Both he and Mrs Charlotte were able to come that night to eat which was PERFECT!

When Zach got home he brought me a super sweet card AND beautiful flowers! He's always done a little something each time I've found out I'm pregnant. Flowers were actually what he brought me when we found out about Kye so I love that it's a full circle :) 





We debated a bunch over how to tell the kids. I liked the idea of having them walk in the house off the bus to a TON of balloons. But Zach hates balloons haha. When we had Zach's birthday he found out about this AMAZING deal on cookie cakes from American Cookie Company. If you're a member of their rewards club (which is free) you can get a cookie cake for $20 for the entire month of August. Y'all if you buy cookie cakes ever then you know how crazy (ridiculous) expensive they are so this is a STEAL of a deal! We figured why not take advantage of the awesome deal and use a cookie cake as the way to tell the kids? 

It could not have gone better. Oh my goodness. This is a MUST WATCH video. Kye's reaction is just priceless (yes, REAL tears...sweet sweet boy) and Britt was adorable and poor Tess is in for a rude awakening ha! 



Once we told the kids we all threw on our jerseys that we had made for our adoption announcement photos (remember?)  Robyn came by after work with Lorelai to help us snap a few pics for our "we're matched" announcement. I was also so glad to get a pic of us together! 


I really wanted to incorporate the jerseys and football theme. We thought about using our "step out in faith" shirts too because this is SUCH a HUGE answer to prayers...but y'all. There is still a LOT of praying to do and a lot of stepping out left to happen so we decided to stick with the football stuff ;) I loved an idea I saw of using the birth state on an ultrasound and thought that was perfect and I saw a "save the date" someone did for their wedding using a football with the date so I also thought that'd be fun!




When it came to telling Zach's parents, I just really wanted the KIDS to get to decide how to do it. It's their special news too and we wanted them just as involved in the process each step of the way. While we aren't telling the kids details of Mama E, they do know that THEY are the main thing she was drawn to about our family :) And they know when she's due and even that things could change and she could decide to parent the baby and that we just have to trust God through it all and that what's best for everyone is what will happen :) 

Big Papa and G-Mama arrived separately so the kids got to tell G-Mama first. They wanted to make blue confetti to throw at her when she walked in the door so we rolled with it ;) I kinda wanted Tess to wear a "BIG SISTER" shirt but she didn't want to so whatever! Mrs. Charlotte is always awesome with her reactions...here's the video!  We kinda figured Big Papa wouldn't freak out or anything and he didn't surprise us ;) Here's his video too!


We waited to eat until the kids were in bed so we had some quality time with Zach's parents. They had really ever known about the very first time we presented (although Mrs Charlotte knew about the others since she's a blog reader ha!) so there was a lot to talk about. Prior to telling anyone our news Zach and I had a big talk about what we would share with others and what we would keep private. This story is NOT just ours. It's Mama E's. It's Tab's. And while there are tons of details we can, and will, share, there are also lots of things that are going to be left private for them. And us too! I know that's SO WEIRD coming from me because I'm the queen of oversharing and "tmi" but we are thinking long term and we just want what is best for everyone involved. That even includes keeping things private from our families and close friends. I hope that no one is personally offended by that, and understand that it's from a place love and a fierce desire to protect this new baby. 


Honestly? A big reason I didn't want to do some large in person family announcement is because of the fierce protection I feel. I knew in our adoption process that people would have opinions and, overall, those opinions haven't offended me. They haven't deterred us from our path or caused any friction between us and people who may not agree with our decisions. But things are now different. Everything is changed for us. This isn't about a process, it's about people. A mother who is giving such a HUGE selfless gift to us and to her baby whom she loves so much. A baby who isn't even here yet but who is already so loved by his mother and our family. I want to protect them all. I want to defend them all. And I just couldn't handle anyone saying one single negative thing about any of it. 

I was even nervous telling Zach's parents! Not that I thought they'd say anything negative, but this is adding a member to their family too. And I was nervous if they'd be AS excited about this news as they have been with those grand babies brought into the family through pregnancy. I point blank had to ask Zach's dad if he'll love this baby the same. I knew Mrs. Charlotte would but I know how important the Parker name is to the men in the Parker family and I was nervous that maybe on some level it would bother Zach's Dad to have a boy carrying the name without carrying the DNA. 

And he was wonderful about it. He admitted he was a little on the fence about the whole process in the beginning (which so many people were...the common question is "you have such perfect children, why not just have another?") but especially sitting with us and sharing the details of everything and of this story he is excited and proud of us and eager to have this baby as part of our family. And he said he thinks it's amazing that he'll carry on the Parker name too :) 

Once they headed home we had our solo celebrating time with cookie cake and Big Brother ha!


The next morning (Friday) was busy for me! The first step in being officially matched is signing paperwork and submitting a LARGE upfront payment. Due within 7 days of being matched. Officially we were matched on Wednesday (even though we didn't know until Thursday) so I kinda had to get going to make sure everything made it where it needed to be on time! It is an amazing feeling to be signing the official documents matching us with Mama E. 


Tess was my errand buddy! We went to the bank and wrote out the first biggest check I've ever written...


And went together to ship it off!



Of course it also deserved a celebration treat :) 


We then surprised the older kids at school for lunch to share the leftover cookie cake with them (I HAD to get it OUT OF MY HOUSE so I wouldn't eat it all!) and just share their excitement with the news!


I'm super thankful to Robyn for snapping the pics of our announcement and to Lindsay (from Captured by Colson) for helping out with the editing aspect (I had a BIG chunk of hair across my forehead in the shot where all the kids were smiling perfectly ha!).  I worked that day on getting everything ready to officially announce on social media and sent the final draft to my Dad and Audrey. I love their excitement and since there isn't a video of us telling them I wanted to be sure to keep the text for Tab to have one day!


To say I was overwhelmed with the response after posing our news on social media is an understatement. It may sound super cheesy but I was honestly more eager and excited to announce our news "to the world" than just about telling anyone else. Y'all have ALL been such a HUGE support system for me and I feel like we're all in this together. This child has been so thought of and prayed for by so many and I just couldn't WAIT to share our excitement with everyone who has been part of the journey right alongside us. The well wishes mean SO MUCH to me and I know y'all will keep those prayers rolling! 


It still doesn't quite feel REAL to me yet! We already got started on several house projects so this "baby wait" will be a little easier with all the things we have to get done. Which is fun because it's what we do every time we're pregnant too! 


I'm thankful I had already gotten my butt in gear on the home study renewal. YES. We still have to have it updated and current! So it's important for me to get everything mailed off. Our current home study expires on Sept 13th! I got everything mailed off this morning to our case worker so she'll be able to get that ball rolling. We will need the completed home study for ICPC and to finalize everything. Assuming everything goes well though this will be our FINAL update for it! Whoo Hoo!!!

I wanted to give a basic rundown of everything we know and can/feel comfortable sharing regarding our match. I'm hoping this not only helps to answer commonly asked questions but also helps in how to specifically pray moving forward:
  • Baby is due November 16th (that means she's 29 weeks along tomorrow guys!!! EEEEK!)
  • Delivery will take place in Jacksonville, Florida
  • Mama E has 4 other children, 3 of whom share the same birth father as Tab
  • Birth father has NOT signed over his rights at this point (they are still in process of trying to locate him...while this sounds like a risk we're not overly concerned about their ability to get that handled)
  • As of right now Mama E does not want an open relationship in the future. She's requested photos be delivered to the lawyer where she can pick them up as she desires. That may change as time goes on which is something we're open to. (On a personal note I'm hopeful we'll at least always have contact info as I know at some point Tab will want to know his siblings!)
  • As of right now she is not sure how she wants delivery to take place. If she'd like time alone with him or if she'd like us there at birth. Specifics on the birth plan will be decided about a month out from due date between us, Mama E, and the lawyer. 
  • Prior to delivery we will meet Mama E in person (hopefully soon) and will continue a phone relationship to get to know each other better. 
  • In Florida birth father's can sign rights prior to birth, but birth mothers must wait until 24 hours after delivery. Which means anytime up until she signs, Mama E has the right to decide to parent. 
  • Once signed, there is no revocation period in Florida (meaning, once she signs she can't change her mind)
  • We have been told to expect at least a minimum of 5 days stay in NICU after delivery, the max could be up to 4 weeks in NICU (def something to pray about)
  • Once discharged from the hospital (so after NICU stay) then we were told to expect up to 14 business days of staying in Florida for ICPC clearance (this allows us to leave the birth state with the baby). 
  • The total cost for this adoption is $43,000 (#stickershock)
  • Adoption won't be finalized until baby is roughly 6 months old. During that time period we will have visits from our case worker and there will be behind the scenes stuff taking place to get us to the finalization (finalization makes everything "official"). 

We are beyond thrilled about everything! It's funny because when we first started the process I kept picturing a baby who would look nothing like our bio kids. I pictured dark curls and dark eyes but instead Tab will really look so much like Kye, Britt and Tess. I really love that! It's like a cherry on top of an already super exciting, wonderful situation. We were able to see photos of his siblings and Mama E as well as the birth father and we all really do look like we could be related! I'm eager to meet Mama E in person because she reminded me so much of myself on the phone and I just think we're going to have such a great bond :)

Y'all ALL know what a HUGE planner I am! I'm so thankful for the perfect timing of this match. We have 11 weeks which is the perfect amount of time. We're already past the major milestones in pregnancy. Even if Tab was born today he'd most likely be a healthy delivery which is awesome to have that peace of mind. But at the same time we have enough time to make plans. To figure everything out.

I haven't really started to figure out all the details of delivery yet. Because y'all that's a possibly LARGE chunk of TIME of me needing to be in Florida. Obviously Zach and I will want to trade off during the NICU stay so Tab will always have one of us with him the entire time. And then we HAVE to stay in Florida during the ICPC wait. I'm really, really hopeful that ICPC will fall during Thanksgiving break so our whole family can be together during that wait without worrying about the older children missing school (which I plan to discuss with the principal regarding options for that too).

My first items to deal with and figure out were getting the home study stuff completed AND deciding what to do about Hawaii and Britt's birthday. For her birthday (in Dec) this year she wanted to go to Disney again. So I booked a trip for the weekend after Thanksgiving. It MAY work out where if we are in Florida for ICPC that we could still technically GO on the Disney trip (although modified obviously b/c #newbornbaby) but I don't want to run that risk. We decided to move her birthday UP and are now going to Disney the first weekend in Oct. The older kids have fall break so they will only miss one day of school, it doesn't look to be an overly crowded time to go, and it's a perfect last hurrah as a family of 5! We also decided to make it a special birthday for Britt (since she is having to celebrate two MONTHS early haha!) and got tickets to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. We're excited! Of course I'm still trying hard to get dining and a BBB reservation as it's the only gift Britt asked for! But I'm sure it'll work out :)

The second big trip we had to figure out was Hawaii. Zach qualified for a free trip to Hawaii with Aflac! Now that he's been promoted it's going to be MUCH harder to earn these trips so we were excited to attend, especially after all the Italy disappointment AND the fact that he was on target to make President's Club for next year but can't qualify now that he's in management. The trip is in mid-October which is one month out from the due date. We debated big time about what to do. And I hated that we HAD to make a decision on it so quickly! It feels weird getting this exciting news then instantly having to figure out vacations haha but the Disney trip I had to jump on quick and the deadline to register for the Aflac trip was yesterday!

I posted in an adoption group I'm in on FB about my Hawaii "dilemma" and they ALL commented that we should GO and that at that point in the "baby wait" that it'd be the perfect getaway for us. I talked with both our consultant and the lawyer and Zach talked to Aflac. They were wonderful about it and are doing everything possible to make it work out for us and to make sure we can get to Florida from Hawaii IF we get "THE CALL" while on the trip. She'll be 36 weeks at that point so it's still early but we also know it's a possibility we have to prepare for! They are holding off on putting our reservation "in stone" so we have time if we find out a change in due date or a likelihood of early delivery!

Originally when we first learned of the Hawaii trip we had planned to add a couple extra days and try to island hop. We don't feel comfortable with that now (hello, we don't have the money AND we don't want to risk being outside of Aflac's umbrella). Instead we may skip out on the Aflac activities and just do our own thing instead. We've been blessed to visit Hawaii a few times now with Aflac and we'd love to do some exploring on our own! The first thing I wanted to do? Visit the Disney resort Aulani. While we can't swing the cost to stay...I did score us reservations for their character breakfast! I'm SO PUMPED! This will be such a wonderful baby moon for us before Tab's arrival and the craziness of life with 4 begins ;)


Now that we've got the trips all situated and the home study stuff mailed off, we can start planning for BABY. We gotta work out plans for delivery and Florida stay which is a tad overwhelming to think about but I want to plan for the longest possible situation so that way a shorter stay will feel like a breeze. Our max would be a 4 week nicu stay and then 2 week ICPC. Yes 6 WEEKS in Florida! I know we will figure it out though and I'm so super mega thankful that is is so close and so convenient and that we do have so many family and friends to help! Obviously I want to figure out meals to freeze and do all the regular things I do while pregnant and preparing for a new baby. I want to register! I want to complete the nursery! And this is my first time KNOWING the sex so I'm super pumped to SHOP. He is a winter baby while Kye was a spring baby which means opposite seasons (so funny b/c Britt and Tess are opposites too) which gives me an excuse for cute baby clothes ;) I also wanna figure out things I need to do before being out of town and then at home with a newborn for awhile. Like Christmas shopping would be smart to get done and my passport needs updating ;) So many things to figure out but they are all SUCH FUN!!!!!!!!!

Financial: 

Yes. You read that right. $43,000. I feel like it's important to share that number so people who are entering into the process know what to expect. Y'all that's not even the total cost for the entire process. We paid CAC for their consulting. We've paid for our home study (and now for the renewal). We've paid for all the things needed for the home study (TWICE). And we still have yet to pay all the travel expenses related to the delivery and stay in Florida. Adoption is EXPENSIVE. 

And I could go on a very long rant about it. Because y'all it just is kinda insane how expensive it is. In these Facebook groups I see so, so many couples who have tried and tried to get pregnant. Spent thousands and thousands on treatments and plans only to end up without a baby. Then they go the adoption route which is hard too AND super expensive. It feels very wrong that it all costs this much and it feels like a skewed system that is taking advantage of people who are in a vulnerable position. 

But what can you do? When we read over everything about Mama E we were shocked at the cost. But we aren't going to let money stop us from our path. We can figure out the funds. We can make it work. It's not Tab's fault that it's so costly. It's not Mama E's decision. It's just the way it is. We don't even have a say so. It's not like you can counter offer! The price is the price and it's part of the package. We knew it'd be expensive when we started, but we had NO CLUE it'd be this much money. But we continue to trust and have that faith and know it'll all work out!

Seeing that price makes my measly $100 earnings from the kids sale seem like a drop in the bucket haha but it's true that EVERY little bit helps!!!


Now that we know the cost, we may add in another fundraising opportunity. I've had many people suggest doing a puzzle campaign and I kinda love it. We have the perfect spot for a framed puzzle in Tab's room AND think it's such a wonderful fundraiser. It's inexpensive for contributors, easy for us, and all the earnings would go directly towards our funds rather than only getting a portion. I have to still figure out details! 

I had already planned to run another round of shirts. Mostly because I've had SO MANY people reach out and say they missed the deadline last time or regret not getting one. We have LOVED ours and everyone who bought one always comments on how comfortable they are so I plan to get that up and running again here soon. 

I have to say here that I'm super proud of Zach. This whole journey began with a calling put on MY heart. Not only has he jumped in and been equally excited and supportive, but he's been so amazing in dealing with the financial end of things. He works so hard to provide for our family and that figure is just shocking for us both, but especially for him as the financial part of our family is a burden of stress that he carries. We have both stepped out in faith in many ways through this process and the financial part is a big step in that faith for him especially! 

Encouragement:

Wow the rollercoaster of emotions! I went from such a low to such an incredible high! I've already mentioned my BIG THANKS to everyone and all the kind words and showings of support. We truly appreciate it all so very much and you'll all such an encouragement to me. I just can't stop pinching myself and have to remind myself that this is REALLY HAPPENING. Every time it hits me I just get all giddy all over again. I'm so honored and grateful and just excited!

Just as much as I'm overjoyed, I'm equally so heartbroken and sad. This process is such a raw blend of emotions. All the things I'm so eager and excited for are things that Mama E won't experience with Tab. And that's heartbreaking. Putting myself in her shoes. Thinking about what is probably going through her mind and what is on her heart. I'm so grateful to her. And I will forever be thankful to have her as part of our family too. In my joy and excitement I never want to lose sight of the love she has for him in making such a difficult choice. She's truly selfless and so, so incredible brave. She mentioned how nervous she is about his delivery and I've been there. I've delivered babies. I've held them to my chest. I cannot fathom the painful experience that will be for her to not parent the baby she births. As much as I appreciate all the excitement from everyone, please please pray for Mama E and her heart. It's truly such a beautiful story God is writing for our family and that includes all the joys and all the pains and this little boy is so blessed with so many people who love him so much already. 

This came up on my timeline and I thought it was so neat that I had adoption on my heart even 4 years ago! 


Sweet Britt before even knowing we're matched drew pictures of our family and included Tab in them. He's gonna have some awesome siblings loving on him!



I'm not usually one for cheesy quotes but I couldn't pass up this from Hobby Lobby ;) I figured even if I just get some pictures of Tab with it that it was a must buy! 


Goals for This Month:
  • Meet Mama E!
  • Send in the remaining balance due
  • Run shirt campaign again
  • Get a list going on everything needed to accomplish in the coming weeks
  • Figure out a game plan for the delivery/Florida stay
  • Get everything finalized with Disney trip (fast passes, outfits, etc)
  • Finish up ordering anything needed to complete nursery
  • House projects!
  • Decide about puzzle fundraiser 
How You Can Help:
  • Breastmilk: I read over all the details of the forms and such and we appear to be good to GO for using donor milk for Tab. I'd love to start collecting any donations NOW. It's good for up to a year in a deep freezer (which we have!). I'd be more than happy to pay for supplies needed (storage bags etc) as well as shipping if anyone has any milk they'd like to donate. I know a few people reached out awhile back, if you're still interested please email me at journeyofphood@gmail.com 
  • Jacksonville Help: My rough plan is for me to be the one to stay with Tab while in NICU. Not only would it cost a lot for hotel stays for me...but I also am super mega scared about staying alone. So if anyone lives in the Jacksonville area and would be willing for me to come stay a bit please let me know! I know I mentioned earlier planning for the longest possible situation and hoping (praying!) for the shortest so the more options I have on places to stay the less of a burden I can be to anyone. I'm planning to spend ALL my time at the NICU so literally I'll just need a spot to sleep and won't be any bother I promise
  • Florida Help: Once discharged we are allowed to go ANYWHERE in the state of Florida during the ICPC stay. At that point I'm hoping (praying!) to have ALL of my children together if at all possible. Obviously a family of 6 (one being a newborn) is a little too much to ask to stay with people so I'm hoping to use any travel funds we have at that point to get a place to accommodate us all. If you have any good deals or know of someone with a possible situation where we could stay that'd be incredible. It being "low season" in Florida I'm hoping we luck out and find something affordable even though it'll be a last minute situation since we have no way of knowing in advance when he'll be born or when he'll be discharged.
  • Georgia Help: Again planning for the longest stay...I may have to be away from home for AWHILE. We have to figure out childcare situation for the kids and may need help, especially for the afternoons during the week when the older two get home until Zach is off work (I'm thinking I can work out something with family for Tess during the days). If you're local and are either able to help OR have some solid trustworthy babysitters you can recommend please let me know!
  • Blog Posts: I know with my stay I may not be able to post a lot during that time period and I'd love to have some guest posts to share during that time so if you're a blogger or have something on your heart you'd like to share please let me know! I think it'd be especially awesome to share adoption stories from other families :) 
Prayer Requests:
  • Birth father situation handled so we'll be 100% in the clear on that. 
  • Mama E has an appointment this week. It'll be her first prenatal visit so I'm assuming they will do an ultrasound. At 29 weeks we should gain a LOT of knowledge on how the baby is doing and we'd love prayers for good news on all of that!
  • Pray for Tab. His health. His entry into the world. That it's a smooth transition for him and that little, to no, nicu stay is needed. 
  • Pray for Mama E. All the weight she's carrying with this huge decision for her and her child. For her continued strength and determination through this process. For our bond to be one where she feels comfortable and confident in her decision in choosing us for this incredible privilege and honor to raise her son. Pray for her children. Pray for all of their health and safety and relationships with the Lord. Pray that Mama E is able to make the best choices for herself, her children, and her unborn child. 
Thank you thank you thank you. I am just so forever thankful to each and every one of you. And I'm so thankful that we serve a God who is SO GOOD and who has His mighty Hand in every situation in our lives. It's crazy how "meant to be" this situation feels for both us and Mama E. I am so excited to see what else God has in store for us and to meet this precious boy who has forever altered our lives in all the best possible ways!

If you'd like to keep up with our family be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram :) I'm pretty much obsessed with IG Stories so I post a LOT in there (and always am asking for input on major life choices like if I should keep or return a dress or which vases look best on our table haha). 
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