Friday, September 1, 2017

The Waiting Game

Last time I wrote on here, we had received what felt like "the call". The call we have been waiting for on this adoption journey.  The call where our case manager shared with us about an adoptive placement and I scribbled furiously on the pages of my notebook trying to dictate every word she spoke.  The call where the kaleidoscope of butterflies in my stomach began swarming and beating their wings at fever pitch. The call that I hung up the phone and then immediately picked it back up and dialed my husband at work to regurgitate every detail and get his confirmation to move forward.

What's ironic in all this is that while this call was good and promising and exciting, it really was just a call. It was our case manager presenting a case to us like she has done before on multiple other occasions.  Yet it felt like so much more. I can compare it to the feeling of when you are trying to get pregnant and you feel the slightest bit of nausea, or tenderness, or even just note that you have a heightened sense of smell.  You don't know yet if you are expecting, but you begin to get excited and think of all the other "symptoms" you've been experiencing. It's too early to take a test, but you cross your fingers and pray that this is really it, that soon you will see those two pink lines on the pregnancy test and confirm what you already know in your heart.

There isn't much to update on since this call, but I want to share the details of this journey with you in the off chance that you have been considering adoption yourself and want to experience it vicariously first! And you know, if you felt like praying on my behalf, I wouldn't turn you down!

The call was received on Monday, August 21st. Our worker had seen a new listing fitting our search parameters on the private listing service they utilize. She had emailed the listing worker expressing she had a family that might be a good fit and requesting more information. Within minutes, the listing worker called her having reviewed the short family bio our worker had attached to her email. She said "This family sounds perfect for this case! Tell more about them! What can I tell you that they would want to know?!" Our worker took down all the information to share with us and requested photos before ending the call and calling me. After we confirmed we wanted to move forward, our worker emailed the listing worker our home study, a formal 14 page document all about our family, and stated we were very interested in moving to the next step. On Tuesday morning, we received photos. They were just candid snapshots taken on the foster home's stairs, but my goodness... all the heart eyes!

Then nothing.

No updates Wednesday. Nothing Thursday. Friday we crossed our fingers that we'd hear something before the weekend, but still nothing. The weekend passed, and with it Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday...

This waiting business is for the birds!

Our worker left another voicemail Wednesday, but texted at the end of the business day that she had not heard back.  I began to write a script of what might be happening. Maybe another family was a perfect match and was already lining up placement arrangements. Maybe the current foster family decided to pursue adoption. Maybe the listing worker was too busy and hadn't even had time to review the case.

Meanwhile, we are in limbo. I am vacillating between the hopeful giddiness of awaiting confirmation that I am indeed expecting, and the realistic/pessimistic view that we very well may not be. All the while, the nesting instinct that takes over when you are in the final days of your third trimester has creeped in. "If this is happening, I need to prepare," my mind shouts. I clean out fridges and purge through the deep freeze. I reorganize closets and sort through clothing. I kick the bathroom renovation into high gear. I even sorted my husband's tools in the garage!

Finally our worker forwarded an email from the listing worker yesterday.  It didn't say much, but it was something!! She stated they were still reviewing home studies, but that our family was still on the list. She didn't anticipate calling until next week, but wanted to send an update in the meantime.

So now we wait!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Winds of Change

We have been home study approved for just over a month.  I am learning patience is not my virtue as this month has seemingly taken approximately 3 years to pass. Up until today the most recent referral we had was a very challenging set of 3 that also had a child older than our oldest (a parameter we are not willing to budge on).

We were called on Friday about an emergency placement. We are not on the list of families for emergency placements, but our worker wanted to see how we felt about this concept and decided to share with us. Three little girls needed immediate care until at least Tuesday. These cases are nearly always temporary and do not generally lead to permanency. They are the opposite of what we are looking to pursue, yet I felt a very strong resolve to say "Yes". I conferred with my hubby, sharing all the details that were shared with me, and he was on the same page, so I called back and confirmed that we were willing.

Our worker then shared what we should expect with emergency placements - late night or middle of the night arrival, check for lice, bathe, wash all clothing, provide pjs, feed them, prep bedding for accidents and have spare sheets ready, prepare for emotionally traumatized kiddos and the behaviors that may follow.  This dose of reality was hard to swallow. Not that I was unwilling to do these things or care for these kiddos, but that this is what their night was going to be like. I took mental notes before we hung up and was thinking through how we would rearrange sleeping quarters when she called back.  "The county has declined this placement because you are located too many miles away from the placing county".  She had prefaced our initial conversation with this possibility, but I was still taken aback.  I had felt so strongly that I was being led out of my comfort zone and now was being shut down.

Talking with my sister later that night she said, "maybe that strong feeling of resolve was a push toward foster care" (vs strictly adoption from foster care).  This ran through my mind over the weekend and conversing with another friend with experience in the field made me consider it more. After chatting with my hubby about it, I called our case manager this morning and asked about foster care versus adoption from foster care. We discussed some of the ethics of pursuing both avenues at the same time, and settled on continuing to pursue adoption as well as concurrent, (or pre-adoptive) placements, and adding our names to the emergency placement list. We spent a lot of time talking about how to prepare for emergency placements, what items to have on hand, and after we were done talking, the kids and I began making lists. Stuffed animals and blankets for them to snuggle up with, plastic mattress protectors and spare sheets, pulls ups and diapers in various sizes, jammies for various sizes and both genders, bags with a drink and snack for placements that we would drive to meet halfway, and maybe another twin mattress and boxspring.

I was really in this mode of thinking throughout the afternoon and when I missed a call from my worker and received a text asking me to call her I got butterflies in my stomach. Of course we had to play phone tag for a bit before I actually got ahold of her, but when I did, she said she needed 15 minutes of my time and that I needed a pen and paper.

Over the next 28 minutes she shared with me about an adoptive placement that had just been listed. It is early in the game yet, but I feel like this was "the call"! Adoption is never simple and straightforward, so I hesitate to share anything yet, but if you felt like shooting up a few prayers on our behalf - I would be grateful!!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Quick update

Just a super-short update (for those who are following this journey) to say that we were finally home study approved on July 18th!  I figured since it is 2:00 am and I can't sleep, I might as well post here! In addition to the 6 referrals I mentioned in my last post, we have been shown two more.  One was placed before we were licensed and the other was not a good fit with our family at this time.  I am confident that God knows what He is doing and the set He has in mind for our family is out there and will join us in His timing.  Now to pray for patience!!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Hurry up and wait

Hurry up and wait. That's how I am feeling about the adoption process currently. So many friends, family, and acquaintances have excitedly asked me for an update on our process, and I wish I had something exciting to share, but I don't just yet!

We had expected to have our home study approved on June 8th when they came for our final home visit. But because another state that we lived in within the last 5 years required a separate release form for our background check, we had to sign that that day and we are still awaiting our background checks to clear before we can be approved. The most frustrating part is that we have literally nothing to check!

Thankfully, our case manager is very sweet and has sent us a few referrals to look over as we are awaiting licensure.  We are looking to adopt from foster care which means that the children we are considering have already had their parental rights terminated. In other words, we are not fostering them while they work toward reunification with their family, we are strictly adopting. When our case manager asked if we were interested in a concurrent placement - or a foster to adopt scenario - we did say that we would consider it, but that we were leaning heavily in the other direction. 

Of the 6 referrals she sent, five were adoption oriented and one was a concurrent placement.  The latter was sent more as an FYI since the format of information is a little different and our case manager wanted us to see what the differences were.

One of our main objectives is to keep our oldest biological child the oldest child overall.  We are going to be licensed for a sibling set of 2-3 with the oldest being 8 years old or younger. Of the 5 adoption referrals that were sent, two were sibling sets of 2, two were sibling sets of 3, and one was a set of 4. 

The set of four was again sent as more of an FYI and was definitely the most heart-wrenching to read.

If you allow yourself to enter into their situation while reading - 

you see past the "is a harm to them self" 
and see that they haven't been shown their self-worth; 

you read "acts like a mother hen" 
and know that they have always been responsible to care for their younger siblings; 

you know that the reason they "rarely seek comfort in times of distress" 
is because they never found it when they did; 

and when you read that the four year old child has already been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and "worries about leaving his bedroom every morning without permission", 
you want to hunt down the person who instilled such fear in their baby and teach them a thing or two.

This set of four was out of almost every parameter we have set, so they were not a good match with our family. But thankfully, they have a match in process!

Of the four remaining referrals of sibling sets of 2-3 kiddos, three had kiddos older than our oldest, and one was within our parameters for age.

The very hardest part of this whole process (outside of waiting!) is feeling like you could justify adopting every single referral you receive! You read "these children would do best in a home where they are the only children", yet somehow manage to find a way that your four biological children would somehow still fit into that mix! You see that they are older than your oldest biological child - outside the parameter you have specifically set because of many conversations with adoptive families, perspectives from adoptees, and a plethora of best practices that have come out from studies, podcasts, articles, etc. - and still you daydream about bringing them home!

All that to say that until our home study is approved, our hands are tied, but we are hoping to find out more about the one set that was in our parameters and any others that may pop up on our radar once our profile goes live!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Unconditionally

Less than two and a half days until our caseworkers come to approve our home study!!  We will go live on the State Adoption Exchange - the website that caseworkers representing children waiting to be adopted from foster care, as well as caseworkers representing families hoping to adopt children from foster care - utilize to find potential matches.  I am finding myself thinking about these kiddos more and more every day! I am so excited and anxious and nervous and antsy to get to this step!

A friend sent me the link to this song. Although the song is about a romantic love relationship, it's lyrics are so perfect for this adoption and I had to share!!

Unconditionally

Oh no, did I get too close?
Oh, did I almost see what's really on the inside?
All your insecurities
All the dirty laundry
Never made me blink one time

Unconditional, unconditionally
I will love you unconditionally
There is no fear now
Let go and just be free
I will love you unconditionally

Come just as you are to me
Don't need apologies
Know that you are worthy
I'll take your bad days with your good
Walk through the storm I would
I do it all because I love you, I love you

Unconditional, unconditionally
I will love you unconditionally
There is no fear now
Let go and just be free
I will love you unconditionally

So open up your heart and just let it begin
Open up your heart and just let it begin
Open up your heart and just let it begin
Open up your heart

Acceptance is the key to be
To be truly free
Will you do the same for me?

Unconditional, unconditionally
I will love you unconditionally
And there is no fear now
Let go and just be free
'Cause I will love you unconditionally (oh yeah)
I will love you (unconditionally)
I will love you
I will love you unconditionally

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Journal Entry 6.27.15

Almost two years ago, I was pregnant with Ingrid and we were considering adopting a pre-teen girl from foster care. I started a journal for her then, just as I have for all my biological kiddos. I've shared on here before from this journal, and even though our focus has shifted from a preteen girl to a sibling set and some of the  pronouns or references don't make perfect sense, the thoughts and feelings behind them remain constant. 

Here is another journal entry from June 27, 2015:

"We are finishing up our weeklong beach vacation and all week I have found myself thinking of you. I've pictured you as the big sister in the water wearing a matching swimsuit to your three younger sisters. Would you find it cheesy and childish, or would you revel in this small visual confirmation that you are part of a family? 

I've imagined you cooking alongside me in the kitchen as we prepare our favorite beach foods and wonder what items you'll want to add to the menu. I've envisioned you smiling and laughing as we sit and play cards late into the night. Every time I think of you, I think of this beautiful, special girl who will be so glad to finally have a family who loves her to call her own. But I know that this may not be the case… 

I do not doubt you will be beautiful and special, and I know daddy and I will love you, and pray your siblings will love you and welcome you as one of them… But you may not be glad to be part of our family. You may resent being relocated up to the boondocks of northern Minnesota. You may find me annoying or overwhelming or may clash with the sudden role of big sister. You may try with all of your energy to keep your walls up and vow not to make a connection because you just can't bear to be let down again. You may fight me, physically or emotionally, and find satisfaction of seeing me hurt like you have been… Or you may try and pretend like everything is perfect, hiding your insecurities and putting on a show, constantly trying to earn my affection and praise, and desperately trying to fit into your new family. You may make a show of attaching to me as your mother, but deep down feel distrust and fear that you don't measure up and will never be like a real daughter to me. 

Likely you will fall somewhere between these two ends of the spectrum. You will take time to warm up to us and let your guard down, but will genuinely desire to be part of the family.  You will have your good days and bad days, as I'm sure I will as well. You will struggle with feeling loved and accepted for who you are, and fitting into the cookie-cutter image you believe there to be for a "perfect daughter".

Whatever the case may be, I want to make perfectly clear right now that 
I am here for you. 
I love you. 
I want you. 
I value you. 
I cherish you. 
And I will not give up on you. 

You may find this silly or think I am being insincere. After all, how can I make all these statements, these promises to you, when I don't yet know who you are? Well, I think it's no different than how I feel when I think about the tiny baby girl I am carrying within me right now. I know I am her mother and she is my daughter, but that is all I know for sure. I do not know when she will be born, only the date she is due to arrive. I do not know if she will be healthy, or if she will carry with her a lifelong burden of illness or struggle. I do not know if she will ultimately grow up happy and grateful to be part of this family or secretly wish she was someone else's daughter. But I know that I will love her. And just as with her, bringing you into our lives and family will be filled with unknowns and uncertainties, but you can rest assured knowing that I, your mother, will love you regardless of anything else you may think, feel, or believe - and I can guarantee this to be true."

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Final Stretch

We started our adoption journey in December of 2016 pursuing a Domestic Infant Adoption.  Fast forward to March and we changed our course to pursuea sibling set Adoption from Foster Care. Now it is almost the end of May, and if the acceptance of our initial adoption application was like the two pink lines on the pregnancy test, then following this analogy, we are now in the third trimester!  

We've been plodding along since Christmas, busying ourselves with the necessary paperwork, attending the required trainings and education, and reading books and attending conferences on what to expect when you're adopting. Now we are on the final stretch! Only a few more papers to fill out and our caseworkers will be here in 2 weeks to approve our home study!  

The nesting instinct you feel at the end of a pregnancy is also kicking in! I've organized closets and begun cleaning and sorting my way through the house. We sold our dining table and now have one with 10 chairs around it! We traded in our 8 passenger Ford Excursion for a 12 passenger Chevy Express van (I know you're jealous!) I joked with my friends that if they get nervous when they see a big white van frequenting parks and other places that children play, not to worry, it's just me! Haha! I know that joke is in poor taste, but you have to be able to laugh at yourself!

The kids are getting so excited to meet their new brothers and sisters! As we were laying down before bed last night, they were sharing their hopes about this adoption. Teddy wants a brother, BADLY! Natalie wants a sister that is her age, but NOT older than her. Caroline wants a girl named Eela... she is oddly specific.  They talked about going to the pool together and camping as a family; shooting hoops in the driveway and late night bonfires; experiencing the 4th of July festivities and County Fair together; Teddy even suggested that we should adopt more brothers and sisters every year!

They know that we don't necessarily get to choose the specific ages and genders of the sibling set - we are looking at all sibling sets of 2-3 kiddos who range in age from birth-8 years old available for adoption in MN.  We have also made a point of talking about the less "sunshine and rainbows" aspect of adoption, so they know that their new siblings might be sad or mad and might not really act like they want to be here. Some of what we have shared has obviously sunk in because Teddy prayed "... please help my new brothers and sisters to not have fear". 

Adoption is beautiful, but it is also hard. Kids that are "in the system" got there because their situations at home were less than desirable. They have likely witnessed or been subjected to things we only read about in newspapers. But their past shouldn't define their future. 

Can't wait to bring my kiddos home!