Monday, April 29, 2013

Easter Lily

As soon as I hung up the phone with the case worker, I frantically called my mother.  She did what she does best and put me at ease.  She emotionally expressed her love and her faith and continued to pray, as did all our family. 

We arrived at the hospital and met the case worker.  She explained that the birth parents were taking time to talk things over and come to a decision and that hopefully we would know either way shortly.  So we sat together in the hallway and waited.  And waited.  We were right there!!  Only footsteps away.  We had come so far only to be stopped right at the door.  I wanted to see Lily's Birth Mom.  I wanted to give her a hug and express my love.  I wanted to give her the gift I had for her.  I felt completely powerless but as Shane and I talked through things, we felt calm.  Shane had expressed weeks and weeks earlier that we would not walk into that hospital feeling entitled, feeling that she was OUR baby.  That didn't sit well with him.  Instead, he felt that we needed to just go with open hearts and open arms, ready and willing if our birth mom felt it best to place this baby in our arms.  Until that happened, she was not ours.  But we would be there, ready.  How do you prepare to love and bring a baby into your home...and also...maybe walk away with an empty car seat?  I'm not sure how you do both.  Our hearts were ready but we loved our birth mom and loved this baby and wanted the absolute best for both of them.  So we waited and then waited some more.  And though we could have focused on doom and gloom we didn't.  Not even close!  We knew it would all be fine either way. 
I love this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

"Adopt the pace of nature.  Her secret is patience."
After about an hour and a half of waiting, I sent her a text letting her know that regardless of their decision that we loved them and still would love to meet them and Lily.  She quickly replied that they were ready to see us.  Insert small freak out moment!!!  Minutes later we went and knocked on their hospital door.  Our case worker lead the way....while Shane and I stood still at the door.  My feet wouldn't move.  I was completely terrified!  Shane had to push my back to get my feet moving. 
As we walked in and I saw her, the sweet person I had been communicating with for the last 2 months, my eyes stung.  Then looking over and seeing the birth father holding Lily, my heart was overcome.  I walked over and gave him a hug and he offered Lily to me to hold.  I took Lily into my arms and immediately walked over to her birth mother and gave her a hug.  Here we were with these people we had come to know and love at such an intimate level, holding the most beautiful little girl you have ever seen!!!  The second I think on this moment, my eyes fill up with tears.  For minutes, I just stared at Lily.  She was perfect.  So unimaginably perfect.  I kept staring, trying to take a mental picture in my mind.  I wanted to remember this moment for forever.  At this time, we still were unsure of how our birth parents were feeling and what they had decided.  And we didn't ask.  We just started talking.  It came easily.  They were both so gracious and open.  We learned more about Lily's delivery and her first day in the world.  Together, the 4 of us just focused on Lily.  It really was beautiful.  Their love for her was palpable and was felt deeply.  With time, we got a sense that they seemed to be moving forward with the adoption.  We visited with them for about 3 hours and then started making plans for hospital discharge and gave them some time alone.
Lots of hospital paperwork and then we made our way.  We were approved to transport Lily in our car to the agency office for placement.  I rode in the back with her and couldn't take my eyes off of her.  It all felt so unreal.  I couldn't believe this was actually happening! 
I won't go into all of the details of placement.  It takes hours just to complete all of the paperwork.  We were there for 3-4 hours.  After all the papers were signed, Lily spent time in the arms of her birth parents.  It was difficult to watch them.  That moment is hard to even talk about without crying.  My heart was so heavy and I felt giant sobs ready to erupt from the inside of me.  They told her they loved her and gave her kisses.  To watch Lily's birth mom place her in my arms is something I will never forget.  It was a sacred moment.  Two emotional ends of the spectrum, coming together with love.  As we all cried, we exchanged hugs and words of love.  And walking away from each other felt difficult.  This happened for us on Easter Sunday.  It was a day that the Atonement of our Savior was ever present in my mind.  It is because of Him and that miraculous event that we are able to be healed, cleansed, comforted, and made whole.  How fitting it was to have this experience on Easter.  We had our Lily.  Our Easter Lily.  
It was an exhausting day, in every sense of the word.  It was a day of miracles for our family.  The way that it began and the way that it ended were very different and we felt overcome with gratitude for the blessing and gift that was given us.  We were buoyed up by our families who were hundreds of miles away.  Our entire family, immediate and extended, was completely united in prayer, and we felt it.  We hope that Lily's birth parents felt it too.  There is such power in family and power in prayer.  As a family, we had a sweet experience that day.  At one point, I received a text from my Sister in Law in Chicago expressing her love.  She said she felt connected to the family and knew it was because we were all praying and pleading together.  She went on to say that she was in tears as she walked in on my brother in his room down on his knees at the very time that placement was happening.  What a tender moment.  When I talked to my mom later that night, I expressed as best I could with my emotions running high that we had felt of their strength, love, support, and faith.  It helped to carry us through with calm hearts and we were close to the Spirit.  I can't express enough the love I have for my family.
Through this whole process, I have learned so much from Lily's birth mom.  She is one incredible woman.  She is strong, brave, courageous, kind, funny, beautiful, faithful, and full of love.  By the time Lily was born, her and I had exchanged over 30 pages worth of emails.  She has taught me so much about what it means to be a good mother, as she has been just that for Lily.  She loves her with everything that she has, so much so, that she was willing to break her own heart in order to give Lily what she thought was best.  She put her daughter's needs above the wants of her own heart.  I am still amazed at her strength and will be forever grateful. 
Thomas S. Monson said it best:
“One cannot forget mother and remember God. One cannot remember mother and forget God. Why? Because these two sacred persons, God and mother, partners in creation, in love, in sacrifice, in service, are as one.”

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Baby is Coming!

Our baby girl was born in California.  As the due date drew closer, we made arrangements for our boys while we would be away.  We were planning on about a week in CA, maybe more.  It all depended on how quickly Idaho would approve of the paperwork and clear us to take the baby out of state.

A birth plan was put into place.  After meeting with a case worker, Lily's Birth Mom was able to put a more concrete plan into place as to how she wanted things to go while in the hospital and the days following placement.  During the hospital time following delivery, she had a strong desire to have her baby with her at all times.  This was her one day with Lily and she wanted that time and space to be hers.  It would be easy to worry that more time with the baby would only decrease her chances of placing, but we knew she needed that time and space and didn't want to feel rushed.  We would be able to visit her and the baby in the hospital only after she and the birth father had time alone with the baby and also time for her family to see the baby and have closure.  We let her know that we loved her and wanted to do our best to support her through this...any way that we could.  We felt that the way we could show our love was to honor her wishes and supporting her birth plan.

Lily was due on March 28th.  Our birth mom kept us updated on all of the doctor visits and progress that was being made.  She sent me ultrasound pictures and was wonderful at helping me to feel included in those last few weeks of pregnancy.  I asked her to send me some pictures of herself while she was still carrying Lily so that I would have them for Lily's baby book.  She loved the idea and sent me the most beautiful pictures.  She is so naturally gorgeous and has the best smile.  I was so filled with love for this woman.  I thought about her day in and day out.  Still do.  My heart felt heavy for her as the days leading up to delivery shortened.  I knew she was struggling and very emotional.  As I prayed for her I couldn't help but to cry.  The pain and loss on her end was so very real to me.  That's why adoption is such a miracle.  From unimaginable pain and heartache comes indescribable joy and happiness.  I felt like I was feeling both ends of emotion all at the same time.  I was so excited and happy but I was not ready to watch this woman who I loved dearly experience such grief and pain.  So when we got the call that she was in the hospital and that the baby was coming, a flood of emotions hit me like a giant wave.  Was this really going to happen?  I wasn't sure I was ready. 

We took the boys to our family in Twin Falls, gave everyone tear-filled hugs good-bye, and started driving.  It was Friday, March 29th.  Our drive was pleasant.  To have that time for just Shane and me was so good.  We were calm as the hours passed.  We didn't hear any update on the baby for the rest of the day.

Saturday was spent relaxing and catching up on lost sleep from our late night drive.  We finally got a call from the case worker late morning that the baby had been born Friday night after a very rough delivery.  She entered the world at 10:12pm.  She was healthy and they were both recovering.  That's all we knew.  We didn't push for more information and didn't set ourselves up for a visit that day.  Case worker called us later Saturday night after a brief visit at the hospital.  She said that our birth mom seemed in good spirits, her family was there visiting that evening, and that the baby was doing well.  We planned for a visit on Sunday morning.  Time of hospital discharge was still unknown.  In California, placement papers cannot be signed in the hospital, so we planned on meeting at the agency office directly after hospital discharge where placement would then take place.

Sunday morning came.  It was Easter Sunday.  We read scriptures and prayed and prepared to meet Lily and her birth parents at the hospital.  So much anxiety and anticipation!!  What would it be like?  What would we say to them?  How would we feel when we saw Lily?  After so much time waiting, the time had finally come.

While driving to the hospital, only minutes away, we got a call from the case worker.  She told us that our birth mother was having second thoughts and didn't feel she could place. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

What's In a Name?

So we began our hopeful preparations.  It was hard to know how to prepare.  You see, we were cautiously excited and were hopeful of a new addition, but we were not blind to the reality that our situation could change at any moment.  We had the fear of heartbreak lurking in the back of our minds.  It was hard to know how to move forward.  We wanted to throw a party and celebrate til the cows came home, but we refrained.  We knew there was still a very real chance that this beloved baby would not be ours.  It is clear to me that fear and faith are complete opposites.  One cannot have faith while focused on fear and vise verse.  We made the choice to just have faith.  Not faith that she would be ours, but faith in the Lord's will...for us, for this innocent baby, and for the birth parents.  It would all work out, even if that meant no baby for our family.  Even in hard stressful times, we can find joy in the journey, and we did.

We decided to tell the boys the news.  They needed time to prepare and time to ask questions.  We knew that it would be confusing to them if it all fell through and that we were taking somewhat of a risk in telling them, but we wanted to move forward with faith.  That included telling our family and close friends and doing our best to prepare what we could.  We would deal with any change in the future as it came.

To see our boys anticipate the arrival of their baby sister was incredibly sweet.  They have been asking and asking for this, and have watched friend after friend bring babies into their homes.  Carson was mostly excited that there would be a chance for us to have also have a van added to our family!  And Cade's first comment was..."well Mom I'm just NOT going to change her poopy diaper!"  They told everyone they knew...our mail carrier, their teachers, neighbors, Fred Meyer Playland workers, bank teller, and the check out lady at TJ Maxx.  Everyone!  They are funny boys.  We had lots of family discussions on the meaning of adoption and the changes that would be coming for our family.  They started including baby girl in their prayers, without any prompting from us.  It's like they knew and understood as they told their Heavenly Father that they would "love her forever."  Carson and Cade are such blessings.  In the beginning, I really felt that because we already had our boys that our chances of placement dramatically decreased.  And maybe that's still true.  But how interesting that our Birth Mother was drawn to these two specific boys, in a very real way.  She grew up with 2 older brothers, so that spoke to her and brought her comfort.  She fell in love with Cade and Carson and felt so happy knowing they would be her baby girl's big brothers.  Makes me think back to Shane's comments about just being you and being our own unique and genuine family unit.  If He was willing, Heavenly Father would provide an opportunity meant only for us.

For that last 2 years or so, we have loved the name Molly.  Specifically Molly Jo.  If we were to have a girl, she would be our Molly.  So naturally as those first emails were coming in, we thought...could this be our Molly Jo after all?  That's who she was in our minds.  Once we were officially chosen, we started calling her Molly, even though we knew it could change...maybe?  Our Birth Mother had indicated earlier that she was very attached to her baby and had even given her a name, but understood that the family would most likely change it.  I didn't ask any further about the name.  I wasn't quite sure yet how we would handle that.  Do we decide together?  Do we just decide and hope she likes it?  What if she HATES it?  When do we tell her?  All these questions I didn't have answers to.  So I just kind of left it there for the time being.

Our Birth Mom called us on a Wednesday morning to tell us the good news of her choice.  Two days later on that Friday, I told Shane that another name had randomly popped into my mind.  That all of a sudden I was really feeling like maybe her name was Lily?  I had never previously considered the name.  He said, "I thought we were pretty much set on Molly?"  I told him I still loved the name Molly but that I just wanted us to think about Lily.  That night I couldn't sleep much and I thought and thought on this name.  By Saturday morning, I was pretty well set on Lily and Shane was too.  I told my mom and sister that afternoon.  It was a quick change but I felt very certain.  Now I just needed to know how to tell our birth mom, with hope that she would approve.  Monday morning I received an email from her.  In it she asked if Shane and I had considered any names.  She said that she knew we would want to name her ourselves but that she had been calling her Lily...from the very beginning.  As I read the email and then read it over and over again, I about fell off my chair and tears rolled down my cheeks.  I immediately called Shane and then her to tell her the name we had felt and decided on.  She was Lily.  Our Lily.  What a beautiful tender mercy that was, for everyone involved.  It was a moment when everyone's hearts were sent peace and comfort.  Our sweet Birth Mother needed that comfort.  So very much.  It was such a special spiritual experience for me and something I will always hold dear to my heart.  The Lord was very aware of us.  That much was very evident.  We may not always see the direction we are going, but as we take steps into the dark, He gives us little bits of light.  And we hold onto that light and keep moving forward with faith.               

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Needle in a Haystack

Have you ever browsed adoption profiles?  From any agency?  I did like crazy before and after our profile was complete.  To the point that I just had to stop.  Stop looking.  Stop comparing.  This was a really good way for me to get down on myself and something that made me feel inadequate and deflated.  How in the heck would we ever be "chosen"??  I also don't love the word chosen.  It reminds me of standing out on the playground waiting to be chosen for the game of tag.  Or dodge ball.  Or softball.  Or...whatever!  Immediate panic and self-doubt.  Thinking about Birth Moms browsing profiles and deciding who they liked or didn't like was a little unnerving.  Mostly because I felt that we would never win this popularity contest.  Now, I know it isn't actually a popularity contest.  And I had to change the way I thought about it.  I needed an attitude adjustment.  I prayed for the Spirit and comfort and guidance in this regard.  Rather than thinking that we needed to be "chosen," I really felt that we needed to be "found" instead.  Our Birth Mom needed to find us.  And if we were meant for a specific child, then we would be found.  She would find us, with the help of Heavenly Father.  Like finding a needle in a haystack, but we had faith that if that needle needed to be found, then it certainly would.  So the fact that we got even a single email from any potential birth mom is a complete miracle to me.

Our first email on February 4th was brief.  She indicated that she had been looking at many profiles and asked if we were interested in an open adoption.  I can't tell you how your heart jumps to read such a simple email but one that can mean so much.  My fingers shake at the keys trying to figure out how to respond.  It's got to be just right, right?  This is me over-analyzing.  Shane reminded me time and time again...just be you.  Don't put up a front.  Don't try to act like who you think she will like.  Just be you.  And I took his advice to heart.  I really was just me.  Genuinely me, with hopes that she would have a clear picture of who we are and feel of our sincerity.

I responded quickly to that first email and from there we emailed back and forth regularly.  Every day.  Sometimes multiple times a day, doing our best to get to know one another better.  She had been in contact with a few families in the past, all of which fell through.  She was beginning to feel that maybe this road wasn't right for her since things just didn't seem to be falling into place.  Thankfully, she pressed forward and reached out to us and one other family.  We learned that she was due in only 7 weeks with a baby girl.  With every email, we got more and more excited.  After a few days of emails, we talked on the phone briefly.  I was a nervous wreck while we chatted and I don't think I hid that very well.  But she was wonderful and it felt comfortable.  So...we kept moving forward...all while trying to keep our excitement under control.  She was, after all, still in contact with another family.  We weren't sure how she was feeling.  How she was feeling about us.  We felt connected to her but we didn't yet know her side of things.  Our emails continued and they were oh so good.  She opened herself up to us, sharing such a deep and personal side of herself.  And with every email, our love for her only grew.  Lots.

Week after week went by and our contact remained.  We felt comfort, even though we were so unsure about the outcome.  But regardless, we loved her, we supported her, and we were grateful to get to know such a lovely person.  On February 27th, three weeks after our first initial email, we got a phone call.  It was her!!  My heart was outside of my body.  That's the only way to describe my nervous excitement.  She was so cute as she told me that she had met with her case worker and had officially chosen us to adopt her baby girl!  Insert tears down my face.  Really??  I mean...REALLY???  Was this really happening?!  What do you even say after someone offers you the most amazing gift?  "Thank You" just isn't enough.  Everything I said felt completely inadequate.  I felt so much love for her.  She is so kind, beautiful, selfless, faithful, and so very brave.  I felt like I was just floating...for days after receiving the news.  It felt surreal.  Still does.

There were still unknowns, pieces that needed to be added to the puzzle, and much that still would be worked out.  But we moved forward with faith and hope.  So much faith.  We had only 4 weeks before baby girl would make her debut.           

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Let's Start at the Very Beginning

It feels hard for me to put into words how I feel.  I stare at my computer and don't know where to start.  I know my words will not be adequate enough and will fall short.  But I will do my best.

Our struggle with infertility is no secret.  For Shane and me, it has been with us from day one.  Almost 10 years.  We are no strangers to the heart ache and pain that come with this struggle, but the miracles,blessings, love, and joy we have experienced along the way put all that heart ache to shame!!

Miracle #1 goes by Carson Shane.
Miracle #2 goes by Cade Monroe.

I could go on and on and ON about the miraculous journey through modern medicine, pregnancy, bedrest, birth, and infancy of these two boys.  But they've had plenty of time in the lime light.   So let's move on!

Miracle #3 goes by Lily Annette

As I sit and stare at her, I still cannot believe that I get to call her mine.  With all the daunting and impossible-seeming steps that had to happen to welcome her home, I feel stuck in a dream.  And have this perfect little spirit in my care really is dreamy. 

Our journey towards adoption was not a quick trip around the block.  It took time.  It was not always in our plan.  Hind sight is 20/20 right?  It is so absolutely clear to me NOW that this is always where we were meant to end up, even though during our drive, we didn't have a map of the stops and bumps and turns we needed to take to get us to our final destination.  It is only now that I can hear Google Maps in my head telling us, "You have arrived!"

I may have shared this experience before but I am still so grateful for the Holy Ghost, who touches our hearts and directs our steps, if we seek his companionship.  It was in an ordinary Sunday Fast & Testimony meeting that I felt the impression to pursue adoption.  And not just to casually think about it, like we had briefly done in the past.  But really seriously consider it and start moving our feet.  It was so unknown to us.  Scary even, but I could not deny what I had felt.  Nope.  Couldn't do it.  It was only days later that I called and scheduled a meeting with a case worker at LDS Family Services.  We needed concrete information.  The nitty gritty...and that's just what we got.  We are thinking...."Holy lots of work!!!!!!!!!"

After that first meeting, Shane and I were talking about how we felt.  Shane keeps things so simple.  He doesn't over-think it.  He doesn't get stressed.  Simple.  I love this about him.  He explained that it didn't feel wrong.  He wasn't worried.  There were many unknowns and an outcome with a giant question mark, but it didn't feel wrong.  He felt completely fine about moving forward and starting the process of completing our Home Study.  Shane is my favorite.  He brings me so much comfort and we moved forward together.  The home study process is a bear.  A Grizzly Bear.  No...FIVE Grizzly Bears!!  Amazingly, we were All-Stars and completed ours in a short 3 month time period.  Phew.  Go us!  We started in February of 2012 and our profile was live and ready for potential Birth Moms to view in May of 2012.

Many people ask us about our thoughts on "open adoption."  Another unknown and, most often, misunderstood by many.  While completing our home study we attended a few educational classes.  One of which was a Birth Mom panel.  There were 9 Birth Mothers there to share their experiences with us as potential adoptive parents.  We were surprised when we walked in and immediately recognized one of the birth moms.  We knew her.  Knew her well.  She was our boys' babysitter for a time.  We had no idea.  It was no coincidence that she was there to share her story the night we would be in attendance.  As she talked about her experience, both Shane and I were emotional and so touched.  This woman that we knew and loved shared thoughts meant for us.  She put us at ease.  She was an answer to prayer, especially for Shane.  He had felt uneasy and unsure about the idea of open adoption in the beginning.  By the time our evening was over, his heart was softened...into pure mush!  He had received the confirmation he had been praying for and was ready to embrace all that might be before us.  Open adoption no longer felt scary.  It really is all about love, and we knew that we never wanted our adopted child to EVER question the love of their birth parents.  Ever.  It would be known and felt.  It would not be a mystery and our child would not have to look very far to find it.  It is a natural need for people to know who they are and where they come from, especially in regards to adoption.  It is a given, and we no longer feared that our openness would jeopardize us as parents and our family as a whole. We felt this the beauty and hope of open adoption.    

Once our profile was completed, then the waiting began.  Lots of waiting.  They tell you that on average, most families wait for 2 years.  We were contacted in July by a potential birth mom, just 2 months later!  We were thrilled.  And while we were not her family, we were grateful for the contact.  It was yet another tender mercy.  We were reminded that this was something that we wanted.  Our hearts were in it and we were being prepared.  Then began a whole lot of nothin!  We started to question whether it would happen at all.  Oddly enough, we felt very calm about it, knowing that it was out of our hands, and that we needed to do our best with what we had...with what was right in front of us.  We focused on our family of 4 and felt so genuinely happy for the many blessings in our lives.

At the top of the year we knew that sooner rather than later, we would need to decide whether or not we would pay to renew our profile for another year.  We weren't sure what we would do and felt that it would be clear to us when the time came.

On February 4, 2013 we received a first email from another potential birth mom.  Our birth mom.    

Sunday, April 14, 2013

some things are worth the wait

Lily Annette
Born March 29, 2013
7lbs 12oz
19.5 in

Lovingly and courageously placed in our arms 
by her beautiful birth parents
March 31, 2013

Our hearts are full