Thursday, October 19, 2017

Andrew's Adoption Story

I stared at the computer screen. There were nearly two dozen tabs open at the top of my browser about “starting the adoption process”. We were 15 minutes into this whole adoption thing, and I was already feeling overwhelmed. David had his laptop open doing the same Google searches.
“Where do we even start?” He asked me.
“I have no idea” I responded.

When we started dating we discussed adoption the way many couples talk about where they want to live or places they’d like to travel. It was a “someday dream” that we were now trying to make a realistic possibility.
A few months into marriage, we learned that our odds of having children naturally were slim, and were officially in the "infertility" category, so we made the decision to adopt. We already knew it was something we wanted to do, so it was an easy choice. However, I was still jealous of friends who had babies, I was sad that I wouldn’t experience pregnancy, and I was mad that we would have to go through a maze of paperwork to have kids while the crazy lady in line behind me at Walmart had 4 that she couldn’t even keep track of.

Around this time, I started listening to the book “Uninvited” by Lysa TerKeurst. This quote stuck with me: “It is impossible to hold up the banners of victim and victory at the same time.” I felt very convicted about the fact that I was spending a lot of time focusing on "what could have been" rather than what God was calling us to. I finally began embracing infertility as part of my story instead of disparaging it as a cross to bear. By God’s grace, I slowly stopped comparing my story to everyone else’s and started getting excited about the story God was writing for us. I promised I would share God's goodness with anyone who would listen, which is the basis for this post.

After a lot of prayer and research, we decided to pursue a domestic, infant adoption. We were ready to start our home study -- which is the first step. A two-inch thick envelope showed up in our mail, and I set a goal to finish it by my birthday in October, which was 4 months away. October came and went, and we were nowhere near ready. Finally, at the beginning of May 2017 after interviews, trainings, physicals, and more our home study was complete. We could now officially start the process to find a baby to adopt.

In August, we got the phone call that would change everything. A birth mother had chosen us - we were matched! She was due in Mid-September with a baby girl. We were surprised at the quick turn of events, and thrilled that our dreams were becoming a reality. We signed papers on a Thursday, went shopping for a few baby essentials on Saturday, and watched the solar eclipse in our backyard on Monday.
When we came in after watching the eclipse, our expectant mom called me. She had been to the doctor and wanted us to know they were monitoring her closely. She wasn't sure what to expect, but the one thing she was sure about was the baby wasn't a girl - it was a boy! We were shocked and thrilled that we were getting closer to meeting our baby. We packed our bags just in case we got the call, but ultimately knew it was going to be day by day for a while.
That Thursday in the middle of my first class I got the call that our birth mother was going into delivery. I left school in a frenzy, David came and picked me up, and we started our trek to Florida. We got a call on the way down that the baby was here, and we couldn't wait to meet him.

We arrived at the hospital around 11pm. Walking in all I could think was "don't faint." When we got up to the hospital room, we were greeted by his biological family, and baby Andrew was handed to us. He was so handsome with his squished up face and head full of hair. It was surreal - I wish I had the words to describe it. All I can say is our smiles were huge and our hearts were full. Our dreams were coming true right before our eyes, and we were just doing our best to soak it in.

Our little man needed to spend some time in the NICU. We were hoping it would be a 5 day stay, but a few days in we learned we would be there for about 3 weeks. We made hotel arrangements and settled into our new normal. At the 10 day mark, just as my mom was coming into town to stay with us for a few days, Hurricane Irma became a threat. Her path was unknown; the stores' shelves were empty and gas supplies were dwindling. We began preparing to "hunker down" by searching for water and keeping our gas tank full.
Thankfully Andrew was improving faster than anticipated. We learned that he would get discharged after only 13 days in the NICU -- three days before the hurricane was expected to hit. The day of his discharge, we got word that we could leave the state of Florida -- which we weren’t expecting for another few days. All in all, everything came together perfectly for us to get home and out of harm’s way.

Through this whole process I kept going back to the song “Teach Me Lord” based on Isaiah 40:31. My favorite lyrics are as follows:

Teach me, Lord, to wait - down on my knees.
Till in your own good time you'll answer my pleas.
Teach me not to rely on what others do.
But to wait in prayer for an answer from you.

There were so many times that I wanted things to happen in my own way, but I had to wait on the Lord until in His time He answered our prayers.

For instance, David got a new job in 2016, so we had to move and sell our house. When I bought that house in 2009, I was nowhere near getting married or starting a family, but God knew that in 2016, the housing market would be hot. We were able to sell my house in less than 48 hours with enough equity to cover most of the adoption costs thanks to our renovations. Additionally, when we got the call that we were matched, the full payment for the adoption was due within 48 hours. (Ill let you do a Google search for the average price of a domestic adoption). We were about $9,000 short on having the cash on hand. That night, my student loan finances came through and $9,117 was deposited into our bank account.

Also, I got a new job when we moved, so I wasn't eligible for maternity leave until I had been there a year -- which was a couple of weeks before the adoption happened. I had 5 school days to get my curriculum together for my long term sub. She came to shadow me on a Wednesday; our birth mother delivered on Thursday. Furthermore, my curriculum was updated this summer, and it was fully comprehensive and able to just be handed over to the sub. People who are teachers understand what a blessing this was!

My mom came to see us in Florida. Her flight was scheduled to depart the day the hurricane was predicted to hit. She went to the airport on a whim after David and I had safely left, and was able to catch a flight that same night to make it back to Kansas City quickly and safely after being told multiple times there were no flights available. Speaking of the hurricane, Andrew was born 25 days early. He was in the NICU for 13 days. He was discharged 3 days before the hurricane hit. If he had been born at any other time, we would have been caught in the midst of the storm either traveling to him or staying with him.

When we first started our home study, our social worker told us that she firmly believed if God was calling a couple to adopt, He already had the baby planned. We have no doubt that God had Andrew planned for us all along. God's hand was in every single detail, and we can't wait to see what He has planned for this precious boy. We are so grateful for those of you who have been and will continue to be part of his story.

Photos by Cherish Andrea aka The Best Photographer Ever

Monday, April 24, 2017

We're Adopting!

It's no secret that I love children. In high school, I worked at a daycare where I would rock babies to sleep after school and play with four-year-olds out on the playground. In the summer I would pick up baby sitting jobs and spend all day at the pool playing diving games. I decided to become a teacher, so I could spend all day with kids. When my friends started having babies, I would spend more time with the kids than the adults. So it probably comes at no surprise that David and I are excited to bring children into our family.

We've spent the last ten months working through the home study process, which is the first step in adoption.  On July 20, 2016, we got an envelope that was about two inches thick with all of the paperwork we needed to complete. I optimistically thought I would be able to complete it fairly easily, but starting a new job, finishing my dissertation proposal, and just settling into a new home in a new state got in the way. We got it done at the end of January, and then we had a few interviews, a home inspection, a physical, and background checks. We are now literally licensed to parent! (I have a sinking suspicion that isn't going to make the whole parenting gig much easier.) In other words, the home study portion of the adoption journey is over.

Our next step is to file with agencies - which means more paperwork. The agency will show our profile to expectant parents who are considering adoption, and if an expectant mom chooses us to parent her baby, we will be "matched". At that point, we will have a better idea of when a child could be entering our home. Right now, we are just praying that God will guide us and the birth parents to each other.

We've decided to pursue domestic adoption. Ideally, we will be matched with a healthy infant, but we are open to many possibilities including sibling groups or various health concerns. We are following God's prompting, and we trust that He has the perfect story planned for us. I'm not going to lie. It stresses me out to not know the timeline.  I'm really worried about the finances. I fret about the many unknowns that come with adoption, but we know we can trust in God's plan.

It's like that hymn says, "Tis so sweet to Trust in Jesus, How I've proved Him o'er and o'er." Now we just pray for grace to trust Him more. That's our anthem right now. Trust in Jesus. He called us here, and He will lead us where we need to go.

Feel free to check out our adoption website if you would like to know a little bit more about our story.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

2016 Photo Book

When I was in high school, one of my extra-curricular activities was the yearbook. I loved photographing moments, writing about different activities, and putting it all together in a keepsake. I've always wanted to make yearbooks for my actual life, but I've never figured out a system that works. Having all of my photos and memories in one place was a far off goal achieved only by people who could lock themselves into a room for hours on end to complete the task, but in 2016 I found a secret weapon that allowed me to catalog my memories without dedicating my entire life to the process.

Over the years, I've tried several things to keep track of my photos. For a while, I used Chatbooks,  but that wasn't a great solution for me since I don't post most of my photos on social media. I also tried to make digital scrapbooks for special occasions, printing my favorite photos, and just reminiscing via TimeHop, but none of those systems satisfied my desire to have everything contained in one book. It stressed me out to think I was taking dozens of photos a week, and they were just sitting on my phone. I set out to find a way to organize my photos and get them all together in one album.

This led me to the website Modern Photo Solutions, which introduced me to a cell phone app called Project Life, a simple digital scrapbook system. This was a game changer for me because it allowed me to make my a photo book using my phone. I could pull photos from my phone gallery or Google Photos (which is what I use to backup all of my photos, including those from my "real" camera. It is another photo game changer, but I'll leave that for a different post!) Additionally, I found myself using pictures that told the story, rather than ones that would look good on Instagram. The Project Life app let me combine my photos with color and journaling cards to give my book a scrapbook feel that truly captured the event and describe what was going on if I wanted.

I started using Project Life to bring my photos together into layouts that would eventually become pages for my end-of-the-year photo book. I worked on it while waiting for a doctor's appointment, standing in line at Wal-mart, or sitting on the couch watching TV. It is so easy to use - each layout took me about 3 minutes once I got used to the app. Sometimes I would make the pages for a group of photos within 24 hours of the event, and sometimes it was months afterward. Once the page was done, I exported it and saved it in a folder until I was ready to put all the layouts together into one book.

When the year ended, I went back through my photos to make sure I hadn't missed anything, and I uploaded all of the layouts I had been saving to Mixbook to create my 10x10 photo book. Three days later, a beautiful book with all of our memories was at my door.

All of this to say, the Project Life app is the only reason I was able to pull a photo book together this year. My memories are no longer jumbled in a plastic shoebox shoved in our guest closet. Instead they are organized, display worthy, and archived. In fact, my 2017 photo book already has a few pages made.