Sunday, April 20, 2014

Home Study

The first big step in any adoption is a home study. There are different requirements for domestic and international home studies so if you are contemplating adoption and want to start a home study you need to make that big decision first. Our agency, Lifeline Children's Services, has an office in South Carolina so we are considered an "in-state" family. This basically means a Lifeline social worker can handle all of our pre and post adoption needs as far as the home study goes (pre adoption) and post placement visits required by our daughter's country.

We started our adoption process in November of 2013 (see the timeline on the right). It was a busy time of year and we kept running into holidays but our social worker worked really hard for us and was able to schedule our visits pretty quickly. The home study isn't just a house inspection. While the social worker did spend time in our home and we did take her on a tour most of our time with her was telling her our entire life story. She interviewed us together as a couple and individually. We talked about every possible thing under the sun related to our marriage, parenting and adoption. We did a marriage assessment and talked over the results with her. Between our visits and phone calls we did a lot of education. Because we are adopting from a country that is part of the Hague Convention we had more education to complete. I found most of it really interesting and helpful. It was encouraging to see how much education is provided to help parents make appropriate decisions as part of the adoption process.

After we finished our meetings we waited for all of our criminal clearances, child abuse registry clearances and reference letters to come back in while she worked on writing up a huge report all about us. When she finished writing it we were able to give feed back to her as well as her supervisor and she made changes based on that. When a final copy was completed she sent it from Columbia (where she lives) to Charleston to be signed by her supervisor. Once it was signed by her supervisor she sent it back to Columbia to the South Carolina DSS (South Carolina has an extra step in the process where our home study has to be approved by the State). Unfortunately, our home study took the longest trip ever from Charleston to Columbia when it got stuck in the "epic snowstorm of 2014". It finally made it . . . just in time for President's Day so it got to sit at the UPS center for another day or so before it was finally delivered to DSS to await approval.

The home study process feels long . . . it is long. There is a lot of document chasing, meeting, reading and watching online videos. I remember feeling like I had done SO much yet I couldn't check a single thing off the "master adoption to do list". Everything I was working toward was just to check of that first thing - home study.

I've tried to take photos along the way of this part of the process because it is the very beginning of the story of our little girl joining our family. I look forward to showing her all of these pictures one day when I tell her that we were pursuing her before we even knew her.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Miracle of Life

I think about the very first moment I saw my children's faces. That moment when you behold your child's face for the very first time . . . there is nothing like it. I remember thinking "Oh, so this is who you are!" and they felt instantly familiar. It was as though I had been longing for them forever. Their faces were just blurry and I couldn't quite make out who they are. In that moment their faces came into focus and it felt so right.

It was also a bit shocking.

Especially the first time I gave birth. I knew my daughter very well. I knew her movements, kicks and rolls. I knew the adorable quiver of her hiccups several times a day. I remember waddling into the hospital to go to work as a nurse and feeling as though we were a team. I shared my life and my body with her for 9 months and we had a relationship. I talked to her, prayed over her and even read to her. On her birth day, when after hours of labor, I finally saw her perfectly formed, marvelous little body emerging from my own . . . it was shocking. There. was. a. baby. in. there. What?? Even after feeling her kick and roll around and even seeing ultrasound images of her it was still startling and overwhelming to me. Simply a miracle. With the boys, I knew what to expect and that just added to the anticipation. Still, in that moment it is so amazing to fully appreciate the beauty of birth and the miracle of life.

It would seem that our journey to meet our newest daughter would be quite different but I actually see many similarities. This entire phase of the adoption is sort of like the throwing-up-every-fifteen-minutes-and-going-to-bed-at-8pm phase. Not too much fun but still the promise that it will be worth it . . . one day. The next phase is when we see our daughter's face in a photograph for the first time. It will start to feel more real as we have an image of who she is and learn a little bit about her story. Excitement will set in as we anticipate her arrival. The final phase is one last painful push of paperwork and travel as we make our way halfway around the world and walk into an office building and she is placed in our arms. That moment, I believe, will be very similar to the first time I held my 3 other children for the first time. There are likely to be tears from both of us and I fully expect to feel the same overwhelming sense of shock that this . . . is . . . our . . . child. There really is a child at the end of this process. This is who we have been falling in love with all of these months, waiting for, working for, saving for, sacrificing for. This is her.

Her face is a bit blurry right now in my mind, even in the photos we will eventually see of her we won't fully see her until she is in our arms. I expect to feel the same shock that I felt the first time I experienced such a miracle.

I can't think about the birth of my biological children and not think about the birth of my adopted child. I know her birth mother had a relationship with her before she was born. She felt those first little flickers of life kicking in her womb. She felt those flickers grow to kicks and rolls as time went on. Perhaps her birth mother felt the same shock I did when she gave birth and saw her child for the very first time. I may never know any more than that about our daughter's birth which is really difficult for me because I know it will be difficult for her one day. But as a mother I do know that life and birth is a miracle and I'm confident that every mother shares in the bond of that miracle. So I share that bond with her birth mother also. I also have the privilege of looking at the same little face she saw and experiencing that miracle again.

The Long Road

The road leading us to this child, this adoption, has been very long. My first realization that I wanted to adopt came when I was a child and saw a 20/20 report on the orphans in Romanian. The images of those children- shaved heads, starving, rocking themselves in their cribs - seared into my soul. My immediate response was that I wanted to help a child like that one day. My heart has always been soft toward children in need (hence my chosen profession of pediatric nursing). The images of those children were a small seed planted many years ago.

When I was in nursing school I had the opportunity to visit Haiti and work in clinics with a clinical mentor who also ran an orphanage. This was a pivotal experience in my life for many reasons. One of them being that I really fell in love with the kids and developed relationships with them. Thankfully, I was able to visit Haiti many times over a several year span and continue those relationships. They weren't just "orphans" to me. They were children who had unique personalities, senses of humor and talents. They just lacked a family (for a long list of reasons). At that point I could definitely imagine adopting a child. When Rhett and I were getting serious in our relationship I told him he had to come to Haiti with me if he wanted a future with me. Thankfully he came and also fell in love the the kids and we talked about adopting "one day".

Life moved along, we married and started our family. Claire was born and 21 months later Ford came along. By this time we were making plans to move overseas. While adoption was something we loved and supported it didn't seem possible for us at the time. Gus was born 6 months before we moved to Kenya. We said the whole pregnancy that this was probably our last biological child. Rhett would say it definitively while I would say it half heartedly - mourning the end of that baby making season of our life. I definitely wanted to add to our family and after having 3 children in less than 3 1/2 years the idea of adoption did sound like a great option! We had our first visit to Lifeline Children's Services around that time. We learned about their different programs, timeframes and wait times. We went to Kenya thinking that when we came back we would adopt.

While we were in Kenya I watched my baby grow into a toddler and passed the point where I was usually pregnant again. I started to really want another biological child. In the meantime, our cross cultural experience living in Kenya had challenged us and changed us. We wondered if international adoption was really the best thing for us. Rhett was content but I was yearning for more children. The adoption spark dimmed in my heart and I entered a long season where I really desired another biological child. There were times that I would consider adoption as a way of adding to our family again but I was honestly so focused on having another biological child that it seemed very distant and not really a viable option anyway. When we moved back to the USA we were starting from scratch. We were in no way prepared to financially to start an adoption. Having another biological child seemed like the only option to have a child at all. Obviously we never had that biological child or I wouldn't be writing this.

One day I woke up and realized the pursuit for another biological child was over and we needed to move on. We had another serious adoption conversation. I really desired a newborn because my heart was yearning for another baby. I am one of those people who love pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, newborns, babies . . . all of it - I LOVE EVERY SLEEPLESS MINUTE. We considered domestic newborn adoption and had some hang ups. I remember praying and telling God that if He didn't want us to have another baby then He would need to change my heart. I didn't really think He would. I mean, I l.o.v.e. babies. How could that change? Well, imagine my surprise when over the course of a couple months it did. I saw people with newborns and realized how great it was to not have any children napping, or sitting in a high chair, or even needing a stroller! I thought of lugging around an infant car seat again and instead of having nostalgic pangs for babyhood . . . I didn't feel anything. How strange? What was God doing?

That led us to a decision to adopt . . . a toddler or young child (younger than our youngest was our thought). We decided to look into domestic options. We prayed, sought wisdom and made decisions as we researched what those options were. In the end we were surprised to find ourselves contemplating international adoption again. It seemed as though we had come full circle.

We were both a little surprised when we realized we were adopting a child from Asia! Asia isn't familiar to us. We've spent a lot of time in Haiti, traveled around Europe, lived a short time in South America and two years in Africa. We've spent 24 hours in Bangkok once and that was as close as we felt to the whole continent! It is neat that God is stretching us in that way. Giving us a gift we never expected.

Everyone has a different story of how they came to adopt. Ours is a long, winding tale that spans years. So many times we thought we had a plan. We thought we had the best plan. Sometimes wrestling those plans out of our hands was a long painful process. When I finally stopped and sought God and asked Him to change my heart (not give me what I longed for) He gave me a wonderful surprise. A route I never really imagined to our daughter in Asia. If I'm honest, I kicked and screamed and had hissy fits leading me to that point. I thought I had a better plan, an easier plan, a cheaper plan. My heart is so full of thankfulness at His MERCY. I can't tell you how often I think "I'm so glad I didn't miss this" - and we don't even know who our child is yet! I'm so glad I didn't miss this entire process and being part of the AMAZING community of people who I have met as an adoptive parent. My heart is full of thankfulness that I didn't miss this opportunity to be a part of something so much bigger than me and my plans. I'm thankful that adoption is a part of our life, our family and our story.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Ex-pect verb 1. to look forward to; regard as likely to happen; anticipate the occurrence or the coming of 2. to anticipate the arrival of one's child origin: Latin ex (s) pectere: to look out for, await

Yes, friends we are expecting again. In them most marvelous and wonderful way, that only God could orchestrate, we are expecting (looking forward to, watching, looking for and awaiting) our next child. There are a lot of unknowns with this precious little one. Instead of doctor appointments and ultrasounds we have had social worker visits and fingerprint appointments. Instead of my waistline growing I have a bulging binder of documents on my table. To see our family you wouldn't know that we are expecting but we are praying for and dreaming about our little girl who is on the other side of the world right now. We are pursuing her with love as we step out in faith to open our family and home to a little girl who has neither.

Being "paperwork pregnant" is definitely a strange experience. So many questions and not a lot of answers at this point. Just waiting and waiting. We are thankful that our daughter's country has a very solid adoption process. We know exactly what the steps are and approximate waiting times for each step. We celebrate each milestone we reach and move on to the next wait. We are a busy family with 3 young children so as difficult as the waiting can seem we aren't really suffering very much with as full as our life is in this season. However, there is a precious little girl waiting for us and her waiting is much more difficult. I don't yet know what her circumstances are. Perhaps she is in a loving foster home with an adoring foster mom and dad or perhaps she is in a great orphanage that provides love and meaningful interaction. I like to think and hope that she is in one of those situations but the honest truth is that she may not be. She may be in a more difficult orphanage situation. When I think about the way my first three children spent their early years and how that might compare to where our daughter is right now my heart breaks. It drives my sense of urgency as I work toward bringing her home and redeeming those years without her.

But for now we wait. We look forward, we anticipate and we watch for her. We pray that God will supernaturally love and protect her until she is in our arms. We pray that He will send others to love her so that she is better able to receive our love one day. We welcome you to follow along on this journey with our family as we bring our daughter into the love of our family . . . forever.


I've read a lot of adoption blogs over the years. It seems surreal that this blog now carries that title too. I am excited about recording our journey here for our family as well as an encouragement to those of you who might be considering adoption as a way to grow your family however some details aren't appropriate to share in this forum. I am very aware of the fact that our daughter will likely read this one day and I want to respect her privacy. I also want to protect the adoption process for others who will come behind us on this journey by being respectful of her birth country in East Asia and the process they have set forth for the adoption of children from her country. If details seem cryptic or sketchy as I write this may be the reason. I'm happy to correspond with you directly so please don't hesitate to post a comment.