Big Journeys Begin with Small Steps

Its been said that some of the biggest and best journeys begin with small steps. Almost 4 months ago Brandon and I chose to start one of the biggest journeys of our lives, following our hearts and our calling toward adoption. As the last 4 months have gone by we have completed many small steps, steps that will lead us toward our licence.

Many of these first steps were explained in the post Busy Beginnings but so much has happened since then I want to give an update of where we are in the the process now. We have:

  • Completed and turned in a mound of paperwork. This included copies of all our bills, proof of insurance, car registry, copies of our license, a background survey of each of our lives and multiple references
  • Completed a Child Survey
  • Completed our 27 hours of training
  • Gotten Finger prints done
  • First aid and CPR training
  • Had our well water tested
  • Baby proofed the house with outlet covers, cabinet locks, all medications is locked away
  • Put up a crib in the child’s room (in addition to our bed we already had set up)
  • Obtained car seats for all ages
  • First home visit (Not All Rainbows And Butterflies ) and Second home visit (I will write more about this soon)
  • Our application was accepted by the state (YAYYYYY!)

We are to a point now where it will just be a waiting game for us. Our licensor is in the process of completing our home study. Once our home study is complete she will send it into the state to get approved which will take about 2-3 weeks after they receive it. In the mean time we are signed up for Trauma Informed Parenting classes that start in March.

Although it seems as if we have done a lot, we know that these steps are just the beginning within this road of adopting through the foster care system. After we are licensed we will be waiting for a match. Once we are matched with a child the process will take at least 6 months or more.  Thank you all for your continued thoughts, prayers and best wishes!

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Not All Rainbows And Butterflies

A lot of people do not like to talk about the processes of adoption because it can be very personal and it is not always smooth sailing, which can be difficult to handle personally and adding peoples questions and opinions (wanted or not) can make things even more challenging and emotional at times. However, from day one we have been wanting to be very open with our journey, a journey that isn’t always filled with uplifting moments, a journey that will be challenging and a journey that will be relying on faith.

We had our first home visit a few months ago and although we were very happy to be starting this journey, it isn’t always full of smiles and excitement. The first visit was probably the first time through our process, and surely hasn’t (and won’t) been the last, we were slapped in the face with the brutal reality adoption can have. I want to be real, I want to be honest, I want to share our story for multiple reasons but through it all I want to have a voice for topics of womanhood and family, that for some reason are taboo to talk about in society.

It started with an email. “I’m looking over your profile and I see here your paperwork states you are interested in a child 8 and younger. Our agency is only accepting families that are willing to service children 8 and older. I want to be sure we are on the same page before I come to the visit tonight.” As I read the email my heart sank and mind began to fill with wonder, “What does this mean? Will we not be able to proceed? There are kids on the adoption site that are under 8! Five of them added just this week! I checked this morning and there were two new ones since yesterday! They need homes too don’t they? They are under 8! Statics say that over 100,000 children are waiting to be adopted and the average age is 7.9 years old, we are meeting in the middle right? How can they tell us they will not work with us if we are not open to an older child?  Are we making a mistake going this route to adopt vs. other options out there? Should we look into another agency?”

I knew what I wanted to say. I knew how bad our hearts were set on this age range, but before I quickly responded, I had to take a step back. Taking a step back and taking  a breath, I reached out to Brandon on his thoughts, reminding each other that his path is being led by our faith in the Lord. I also reached out to the support staff for adoption through our church. She mentioned that she just received word all the agencies in the area just changed this as a policy within the last month or two. After looking at this in a different way we responded back to being open to children older than 8 but we have a strong preference of a younger age.

That night our licensor came into our home for the first time, and we were over loaded with mounds of paperwork to fill out, things to gather to hand in for our profile and a “to-do” list if you will to prepare our home and our selves to adopt a child out of the foster care system. Reminding us once again that they would not work with us if we did not widen our age range, so filling out paperwork we expanded on our desire to 0-10 years old. While she presented us with all this information she threw in questions from time to time and took notes on our answers, all a very weird feeling.

One of the questions I very distinctly remember her asking was “Why do you want to adopt out of foster care?” After we replied with our answer she responded with “Ok, I always like to ask that question because most people say they want to give a child a family and love they don’t have. The reality is most kids in care DON’T want to be adopted, they don’t want your love and they don’t want a new family, they want the family they once had. They will not welcome you as their parents and they will push you and they will hate you. As bad as that may sound, its not all rainbows and butterflies and I want to be very up front about that.”

Well, if that wasn’t a gut punch and a reality check, I’m not sure what was but in that moment Brandon and I looked at each other and smiled. He squeezed my hand as we both gave each other a little nod. And there it was, just what we both needed, non verbal communication that we were in this. We were still in this together, relying on our faith that this is the route we are being led down.

Through the next following minutes I checked out of the meeting. I heard what our licensor was saying and I was responding but my mind wasn’t there. My mind was with the kids. Their thoughts while in care. Their feelings. Replaying what she had just said. Although I can’t fully ever know  how they must feel and know what they truly have gone through and will continue to go through for the rest of their lives, I felt like in the slightest way it could relate to coming from a broken home as a child.

There I was no older than 6, in the back of the car riding from my moms house to my dads and stepmoms house for the weekend, angry and confused. I loved my mom and I loved my dad and stepmom but my heart was sinking. I didn’t want to go over there one bit. I wanted my dad to live with me. I wanted my parents together. I knew they were not a good fit together, in fact I had never even known what it was like for them to be together. I knew my stepmom took good care of me and I loved her too but in my gut I hated it. I was angry and frustrated that this was my life.

I can only imagine that this feeling is a fraction of how our future child will be feeling. Knowing that we care for them, knowing that we love them, knowing that our home is a better environment for them, knowing…. but for some reason knowing isn’t enough. Wanting with a strong desire something else, their birth family. Wanting so bad that they are angry and confused. If this analogy is any way  in the slightest form of what they may be thinking and how they may be feeling, I pray. I pray that God will provide our future child, Brandon and I comfort and understanding. I pray for strength and courage. I pray our future child will heal and their wounds will mend over time as mine has. Over time, realizing and loving that we…..we are family.

Bless The Broken Road in the Broke System

What happens when your life leads you down a the broken road, a broken road through a broken system, where you are not in control? The brokenness of our world comes crashing down, ripping you away from everything you know and everything you have. There you are waiting, just waiting. Waiting for a visit. Waiting to be saved. Waiting to be loved….waiting for a home…. waiting for a voice… just waiting…

This is the reality that over 110,000 children in the United States face every year in Foster Care. The statistics of the broken road for these children in our nations System are absolutely heartbreaking:

  • More than 110,000 children in the US foster care system are waiting to to be adopted
  • The average child waits neatly 3 years in the foster care system before they are adopted
  • 8 yrs old is the average age of children in the foster care system
  • More than 23,000 children age out of the foster care system every year with out a family or permanent home
  • Only 2% of foster children that age out of the system go on to college
  • 80% of the prisons population are adults that have been in the foster care system at some point in their life.
  • 81.5 Million Americans have considered adoption in their life
  • Out of those that have considered, IF 1 in 500 adopted, all children in the US would be out of the foster care system

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Children in the system need a village more than anything. If adoption is not an option, you can bless a child’s broken road by being a part of their village through various ways:

  • become a foster parent- despite some beliefs you do not have to be married or own a home to be a foster parent (or adopt)
  • Become a Supported Lodging Provider- this form of foster parent mentors children as they transition out of the system giving them advice, teaches them how to pay bills, etc.
  • Support and encourage friends or family who may be considering adoption or are going through the adoption process.
  • Contact an agency and ask to Mentor a child who is in the foster care system (especially one aging out of the foster care system.)
  • Become a respite foster parent. – a respite foster parent is licensed but only takes children for short amounts of time to give their foster parents “a break” for the the weekend or such
  • Post positive adoption articles or links on your social media site-it will create awareness and possible inspire others to get involved
  • Teach the children in your life what adoption is. Encourage them to ask you questions, and have a conversation on how to talk to kids who are adopted. (I think this one is SO important)
  • Invite a child who has aged out of the foster care system to spend Thanksgiving with your family.-get in touch with an agency, they may have a list!
  • Sponsor a child in foster care for the holiday – foster parents only receive $25 to get children in their care a gift for the holidays and some families have up to 6 foster children in their care
  • donate gently used belongings to a foster care community (an agency, church etc.)

November is National Adaption Awareness Month. Today is National Adoption Day. Bless the broken road of an innocent child that is under the unfortunate circumstances that have been placed on them. Be their village.

Proactive in Pink

Today was the second step in being proactive before Brandon and I start trying to conceive. 😬 I am so grateful that my doctor is being so proactive in this journey by not only considering my medical history but my mothers as well. Did you know that if Breast Cancer runs in your family you should start getting mammograms 10 years prior to they age they were diagnosed with cancer?

Considering my mother had breast cancer in her 40’s twice, ending in multiple sessions of radiation and chemo with  a double mastectomy, today, at 34 I had my first mammogram. This may not seem like a necessary step before trying to conceive however the reality is I am near that 10 year mark. Aside from my age and family history my doctor highly recommended this step before we start trying for few reasons.

We all know pregnancy produces so many hormones within a woman’s body. One thing that was mentioned is that these hormones can change the density and structure of the breast tissue so it would be a good idea to get a  “base line” to go from now. Thinking ahead he also wanted to clear my health fully so we are not presented with the unbearable decision during pregnancy that we have all have read about.

As we prepare for the next chapter in our lives as parents, through adoption and god willing natural conception as well, it is so important to put our own health first. As I pray for great results to come back, I also have a wish. I wish for each and every one of you to take a look at your health, your family history, your age and have that conversation with your doctor. Take a moment out of your day and make an appointment, for your kids, for your family and most importantly for yourself!

Hysterosalpingogram (HSG)

Although Brandon and I haven’t started trying conceive just yet, my Doctor is being very proactive due to my medical history.

For those that don’t know, when I was 16 I was rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night due to excruciating pelvic pain.

At 16, I didn’t think much of what was going on or the severity it. Actually, after 4 hours of being in the ER I insisted they let me leave so I could make it to school on time, but they had other plans. I was put on high doses of morphine which basically made me sleep for 12 hours until the referring doctor (now my amazing doctor of almost 2 decades) could leave his family vacation and fly up from Florida to preform emergency surgery on me.

Two ovarian cyst were found. One on each ovary. The one on the left was 8 cm and the one on the right was 10 cm. The weight of the right cyst on the ovary caused it to twist the Fallopian tube, cutting off blood circulation causing it to die and create an infection in my body. An infection that was said probably would have killed me if I would have waited another 48 hours to have the right ovary removed. Not realizing the severity of the situation and how it might impact my future I thought it was silly the doctor asked if I “wanted to talk to anyone” about it. Since then I have had 5 other surgeries on the left ovary for ovarian cyst. Between 2001 and 2006 I had a surgery just about every year, almost like clock work. Thankfully, I haven’t had a cyst since 2006. However, given the past there may or may not be complications as a result which leads us to today.

My Dr ordered a Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) to be done as a proactive measure before we start trying to conceive. A HSG is a procedure where radioactive dye is shot through a catheter they put in my cervix into my uterus. A live x-ray is taken to see how the uterus is and if there is any type of blockage in the Fallopian tube. This test provides him with information and let us know which route we will need to go down.

Although I have had this procedure done 2 other times (in my early 20’s), it feels much different now. Aside from feeling the pain because I was not under anesthesia this time because it was not being done in conjunction with another surgery. The only way I can describe it is it feels like someone is inserting a very large needle which grabs, squeezes and twist everything inside. Mentally I feel like there is more weight put on the results. Although Brandon and I will be adopting, we also would like to be blessed with a biological child.

As I anxiously awaited for the HSG test to be over to get results I remind myself to have faith. Not the hope and prayer that everything is ok and will work to our benefit, but faith. Faith in Gods plan for me and for our future as a family. Faith that we will be lead down the path he desires and faith that we will have the tools and support to walk us through everything and anything that comes before us. I remind myself that our faith allows us to be led by him and it does not use him in attempt to have him lead us to our desire.

Thankfully, the procedure lasted about only 5 painful minutes. As the radiologist and doctors praised how well I took the pain it seemed to quickly dissipate (only to reoccur at a much higher degree about an hour later). Then the results came before me as my doctor moved the live X-ray machine in front of my face. A message of good news presented, “Everything looks beautiful, your uterus and fallopian tube are lit up and look healthy. I’d like to see you in about month to discuss our next step.”

A step was made and next step awaits….one that will be handed over to faith.

Busy Beginnings

This weekend has been a busy start to the beginning of our process. We completed 1/3 of the training sessions required and started to get the house ready for our first home study. You would think that after the wedding and with a majority of the house remodel done the honey-do list would be shrinking, yet it seems as we (and when I say we I mostly mean Brandon at the moment lol) knock one thing off the list it gets filled with yet another thing! During our first home study we will get a list of specific things that we will need to do to prepare our home but there are somethings that we have already been aware of and decided to get some of them done now.

Over the past week we got our spare bed back and set up in the spare room, which will be our child’s room. I cleaned out the small hutch/dresser and a majority of the closet in that room. I still need to finish cleaning out our stuff. We decided that we are going to remodel the organizational space in that closet it would work better for the functionality of a child’s room, so we discussed a plan. Brandon checked all the smoke detectors and changed out a battery. I ran the hot water and made sure the temperature was less than 120*F. We made sure the fire extinguisher was at easy access in the kitchen and we also went to the store to get a lockable case to put our ibuprofen and other medications in. There are still so many things we will need to get done before a little one is placed in our home but it feels good to get some of these things knocked off our list!

Our agency requires 27 hours of training as a part of the process to get licensed.  This week our training covered a lot! Most things were familiar to us but they take on a different meaning when you put it in the context of your own life. The legal system, Professional Parents, Treatment Parenting, Roles and Responsibilities, Safety, Sexual Abuse & Trauma, creating a Treatment Plan & Team, Birth Family Relationships, Advocating, Family Rules, Child Development and the Impact Trauma has on development were all a part of the training this weekend. Through the training there are a lot of sample case studies that we look at then have to analyze and assess on what happened, why and what our next steps should be.

Saturday morning they finished the morning session with sexual safety, sexual abuse and how that trauma affects the child and can be brought into the home. I think one statics that shocked both Brandon and I was when they said that it is presumed close to 90% of children in foster care have been apart of sexual abuse in some way but many times it doesn’t come out until after they are placed and sometimes it may never come out to be reported. This statistic broke our hearts.

During the morning session there was a lady that spoke about her personal experiences as a foster mom of almost 60 children since 1985, and adopting a few of them. During a part of one of sections they talked about the importance of keeping in contact with someone from the child’s birth family. They gave beautiful stories of how this has helped the child and even helped the bond between the child and the adoptive parents. Since we do not plan on being foster parents and only adopting, I can honestly say that I hadn’t considered keeping a relationship with the birth family and if I’m honest it scares the crap out of me!

During our lunch break there was a moment of heavy unspoken thought filling the air as we took in everything from the morning session. As we began to talk and discuss the morning session we reflected on the fact that both of us have consciously taken people out of our lives that cause chaos, yet now we are making the conscious decision to bring that into our lives again with a child that has experienced trauma. We both agreed that this is a path we feel we are being lead to take and want to open our home, arms and hearts for a child that we know will have been through so much destruction in their lives. We are putting our trust in the Lord and trying to lean on him, through all our worries and allow him to lead us down this path of the unknown.

Please pray with us that we continue to acknowledge him and allow him to direct us down our path. We also pray for understanding and acceptance that some things may not be our desire but that they are the steps and will that need to be done for the best outcome for our path.

The Guarded Hearted

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As we walk through life our hearts get broken. Situations set us back and we are let down. Through life we have learned to build up walls to protect our hearts and mind from let downs and betrayals. Guarding our hearts, we avoid situations that may lead us in a direction that could potentially harm our inner being. As our eyes gaze on our surroundings we carefully take our next step always having one eye on potential trials that may shake the ground we stand on.

However, as I reflect on life I wonder if this has ever truly worked. No matter how much we guard our own hearts, there is still heartache. No matter how carefully we step forward, there is still set backs. Over the last few years I have been making a conscious decision to guard my own heart less and put more faith in God, yet as I reflect I still catch my self guarding my heart and trying to control situations in life.

As we started this process of adoption I was internally trying to do just that. I wasn’t planning on making it public that we were even going through the adoption process until it was finalized. I’ve heard adoption horror stories before and I wanted to guard my heart from the explanation of any set backs we may encounter during this process. Yet what would I have been guarding my heart from? Judgement, gossip, tough conversations that I may not have good answers for? Explanation of heartache or set backs? It wasn’t until Brandon shared our first step on a public platform out of excitement while I was sleeping that I realized how much I was trying to guard my heart through this process and how little I was putting my faith in my Savior, Jesus Christ.

In those morning moments of waking up, scrolling through Facebook with my eyes still half closed that I realized I was not present in what was set before me and I was not truly putting my faith in God through this process.  As I shared Brandon’s status I realized that for me it was more than informing friends and family that we were starting our process. It was putting my faith in him, allowing God to lead my path and giving him the control.

During those moments I didn’t know the impact that decision would have. Through life we always seem to guard our own hearts from the wrong doings and set backs, rarely thinking about what could go right or what good might come out of  putting our trust in him and let God guard our hearts and minds.

Over the past few days passages from Philippians, Philippians 4 specifically, have been showing up around me. Leading me to read it in its entirety, reflecting more on the past few weeks of letting my faith be in him through this process and being open with those around me. Over the past two weeks relationships with my students have flourished. I have never had more real conversations with most of my students as I have in the past two weeks. I have never seen such genuine interest and  kindness from them about a topic than I have from them in the past two weeks. Over the past two weeks friendships have strengthened and support systems have grown from places I wasn’t expecting. In the past two weeks worries and anxieties have dissipated and peace and understanding has become present.

There may be set backs along the way. There may be moments that tear at our hearts but allowing God to work us through those moments mean so much more to me than any act of guarding our own hearts would. Through those moments relationships will be made, through those moments we will be able to have a voice for adoption. Through those moments we will be able to talk to others about real, tough topics,  through those moments we will be able to learn and reflect and most importantly through those moments our relationship & our faith in Christ will grow and strengthen.

How guarded is your heart? Who is guarding your heart? As Philippians 4:13 says, I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Instead of looking over your shoulder while taking that next step,   how might it be different if you allow God to walk you down that path and give you strength when the ground shakes?