Sunday, October 22, 2017

How the Adoption Wait Compares to Pregnancy

Beginning the adoption process takes the same leap of faith which pregnancy requires. You have to jump- all in, without really knowing how it will all play out. You begin this process not knowing how long it will take. The wait for a match is similar to the wait for a pink plus sign. In both situations, you can do your best to ensure that it will happen, but your control is limited.

In adoption, just like the wait to become pregnant, you question whether or not this is the best path. Whether or not you will be a good parent to your potential child. This time is filled with questions, concerns, excitement and worry. When you finally get the match call, it feels like seeing your future on a pregnancy test- a jumble of emotions.

Baby bump
I have carried two biological babies. I have waited for them through months of similar ups and downs. Similar in pattern, however the degree of emotion does not compare. Our boys were with me every minute of my wait. I could feel them, bond with them, protect them. Our daughter is not with us, she gets sick without us, she reaches milestones without us.

With pregnancy, there is a predictable "end date", with adoption no timeline is predictable. Each step comes with a wide range of potential wait times. None of which are in your control. Even the parts that are yours to facilitate, rely on others to return paperwork, notarize, review, process, etc.

Hearing word of the completion of the next step is comparable to an ultrasound in pregnancy (other than the predictable timing and personal scheduling). You wait and wait and wait for the day and when it comes you are so happy- riding a wave of pride and excitement.

Preparing
When your next family member grows in your belly, it is a constant reminder to all who see you. Your family is clearly growing. With adoption, people forget. Our boys have spent months being excited about the addition of their sister, and they forget. They have stopped believing that it will actually happen. It's been a year and all we have is words on the computer and pictures from across the world.

With pregnancy, when people ask you questions about your child and when they will arrive, it is clear that you are the expert. You have all the answers. With adoption, you don't. You only know what others tell you. You are not the expert on the timeline, process, or even your child. This is the most frustrating difference for us. When others ask for news, our response is almost always, "We don't know". To not know is tough.

When you are pregnant you know that your child will come to you as an infant who will learn who they are in front of your eyes. They will grow with your love and support, turning into someone who has pieces of you within them. With adoption, your child grows with the influence of others and their love. They become their own person without you. When you finally come together, they are already beginning to become who they will always be. Everyone has to learn about one another in bits and pieces. It's not gradual and fluid, it is disjointed and full of trial and error. We haven't even experienced this piece firsthand, and yet we know it is to come.

A care package packed with hope
When we decorated our boys' rooms or bought them outfits, we felt confident in our choices. When babies are born, they don't care what outfits they wear or what paint color you chose. When it is a toddler, they might. When we shop for our daughter or plan her bedroom decor, we worry she won't like it. We worry that we will not be in-tune with her personality and we will make the wrong choice. Will this fit her? Does she like purple? Pants or a skirt? Bright colors or calming ones? Dolls, cars or both? We won't know until she's here.


At the end of pregnancy there is birth. At the end of adoption there is "Gotcha Day". Both come with strong emotions ranging from pure love to deep fear. With birth you snuggle your precious baby and still feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and frazzled. On the day we take custody, I expect to feel all of these feelings as well. Babies cry a great deal in infancy, but you are the one that brings safety, comfort and relief. With our daughter, there will be many tears, but they will come from grief. I will not be the person who she wants comfort from. Instead of calming when I snuggle her, she will likely push me away, being sad and scared and feeling alone. Our relationship will have to grow in bits and pieces. The connection will not be instant. Although I will be on paper, I will not be her mommy in her eyes. I will be a stranger.

All our babies are worth the wait
No matter which way your family grows, it is hard to wait. Emotions come and go which vary in strength and length. For our family, the things that are different seem to pack more punch. Waiting through our daughter's adoption process is far more difficult and the emotions are heightened and never subside. Good or bad, they linger.

Someday, I hope, I will look back on this process and remember it as I do each pregnancy. "It actually went by fast", "In hindsight, it wasn't that bad", "It feels so long ago". I have said all of these things referring to my pregnancies and their births. I hope that soon I will be able to say the same when referring to this wait.

There are so many ways in which pregnancy and adoption compare and contrast. Pure love is the biggest similarity. In both, your child is your child. You love them with all of your being, you sacrifice for them daily, you wait on pins and needles for the day your lives join. No matter how your children come to you, the love is the same.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Our Daughter

To the Mother of Our Daughter,

Adoption is a beautiful blessing to all. It comes with so many wonderful pieces that connect to make those of us drawn to it, whole. I can't imagine my life or my family without this piece. The name we have given her is Maylee Grace. We chose these names to blend our heritage with yours. She will always be your daughter, for she will always know how very much you loved her.

She will know of the selfless sacrifices you made to ensure that her story would have a love-filled chapter two. She will know that you still love her, each and every day. That you think about her often and miss her always. She will know that we love you, as a vital family member. One we don't get to see, but cherish all the same.

Our daughter will know everything we know about you. She will live and grow with your culture, her culture, and now our culture. We share so many things, you and I. We share love and hope for our daughter and her future. She will make us proud. She will love you, just as I love you.

Adoption is a beautiful blessing, and it comes with grief. Your grief began the day you knew. The day her future became clear. It aches still and will continue to. Her grief began that day as well. While she may not have understood, she felt the loss of her mother. She cried out for you. She grieves your loss still and will continue to.

Our daughter has now had three foster mothers. Each of these women love her as we do. Each held her close and cared for her when we could not. Each of these mothers to our daughter mourn their loss. Each of them have made selfless sacrifices-loving our daughter, knowing she would only be with them for a short time. Each of these beautiful, selfless women brought love and care to our little girl. Each of these mothers to our daughter, grieves there loss today, just as you do.

I grieve for the months and years which I will miss. The milestones passed without me. I grieve the smiles, the snuggles, and memories. I cry when she is sick and I can't comfort her. There is a pain deep in my heart each time her brothers ask when she will be home. I grieve the pieces of her story I will never know.

Our daughter has felt each of these losses as well. While being surrounded by love and warmth, she still grieves those who are no longer able to be with her. Our daughter knows loss, she knows love, and she has, and will continue to grieve for all of us.

Someday, our daughter will begin to question her past, her present, and her future. Someday, her daddy and I will share her story. Someday, we will do our best to help her process her sadness, to help her answer her questions, and to help her feel all of the love from all who have cared for her since the moment she came into their lives. Our daughter will feel your love. She will feel the love from each of her foster mamas. She will feel so many things.

Sorting it out will not be easy. None of us will know what we are doing or how to best proceed. Without a single answer, without a feasible plan, we will-You and I, We will love her, as only a mother can.

Forever Bonded in the Deepest of Love,
Maylee's Other Mommy

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Dossier Day

This past Wednesday was a day our family has waited 6 months for. It was Dossier Day. The unofficial holiday, which we have worked so hard to reach. Since the day we saw our beautiful daughter's picture and read what little information was available, we have been working like mad to get every document, to complete every class, to sign every last line, to reach the point where our dossier is complete and ready to pass on to our agency for review. Wednesday was this day!

Hours of Adoption Classes: Check!
Since we are a mere two hours away from our agency, we opted to drive that massive pile of paperwork down, rather than put it in the mail and wait on edge to hear word that it has been received. (Nothing could have convinced me to mail so much blood, sweat, tears, love, and time) We woke up that morning, anxious and a little nervous. Not only were we finally going to meet the people who have assisted us throughout this process, but we were worried that we had missed something-forgot to initial one spot, had a notary that would expire too soon, only added two copies when we needed three, etc.....

Notary Party!
We went through the morning routine to get the boys off to school and daycare, and I went through the list of requirements and each piece of paper for the (at least) sixth time. Once drop-offs were done, we headed south to our agency. The drive went so much faster than we had planned. Having a quiet car, where Joe and I could have a real conversation definitely helped. Once we got there, we were met by two of the most important women in our lives at this point- Amanda and Emily. Both of these women have supported our family through calming fears, answering a million and two questions, keeping us updated on our daughter, etc., etc. The list goes on and on, and it was such a powerful experience to meet them, laugh with them, and talk about our girl with ladies who know her as well as we do.
Saturday runs to UPS

After handing over paper-clipped packet, after paper-clipped packet, we left our agency. We were so excited to have completed this vital step in our adoption process, we were relieved to have our "To Do" list down to zero, but also extremely nervous about something not being done right or missing. Knowing that a mistake may take a few days to notice, and said mistake may take weeks (and another missed day of work) to fix and submit, we were preparing ourselves for our dossier not being sent to Korea for a while.

Immigration Appointment
I checked my email every ten minutes on Thursday, hoping we wouldn't get one saying that we would need to do more, but it didn't come. No news, is good news. I said this to myself, over and over again. Friday, I did the same. Every ten-ish minutes. While heading from one school to the other, I checked my email and saw one from Emily. Joe had already responded to it, so I saw his comments first. "Awesome!!" was all that he had to say. I then read the subject line that said, "Dossier is being sent to Korea today!". Although there was a long email with information on our next steps, I didn't need to read it just then. Our dossier was complete and it was heading to the same building, to be with the same people, our daughter sees at least once a month. The stress that I have been holding onto since November seemed to melt off of my body and a smile was plastered onto my face.

The last six months have been such a stressful, humbling, empowering, love-filled time. Our daughter is waiting and now we are waiting. Until our daughter comes home to us, we will wait: wait for EP submission, wait for EP approval, wait for a court date, wait for travel, wait to meet her for the first time, wait for the custody call, wait for travel again, and wait to have our daughter officially join the Brooks Bunch. It's going to be a lot of waiting, but guess what?? We can take it! We waited for our boys, we can wait for our girl.

Dropping off our dossier!!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Hurry Up and Wait

It's been a while since I have written a post. I haven't found the time or energy to share as many of our adoption stories, as I thought I would. Why? Adoption is exhausting....and hard....and one of the best experiences our family has chosen to experience.

Our home away from home
There are mountains of paperwork, thousands of signatures, notary appointments, many visits to the post office (the postal worker actually knows our names and runs when he sees us), classes to take, hoops to jump through, and waiting....tons and tons of waiting. But of all the hard things about this process, there are two that get to me regularly.

#1- Waiting on others: I am actually far more comfortable than I thought I would be with the waits that are just part of the process. If they are known, predictable, and typical, I can handle them. It's the times where we rush to complete our part of the process, only to wait, and wait, and wait for others to complete theirs. We have had several time-consuming hiccups which were totally out of our control (and out of the control of those we were waiting on).
Care Package #2

I am trying so hard, not to let these situations bring me down, but knowing that the extra month we waited in January and two weeks in March, has put us a month and a half further away from our daughter, is a hard pill to swallow. Waiting for what you want and have worked so hard for, is always hard, but we have a child waiting for us. Miss May is growing and learning and loving without us.

This leads me to #2.

Prepping big brothers 
#2- Thinking about our daughter: We talk about Maylee all the time. We are learning the Korean language, we have added Korean dishes to our regular menu, and we are learning all we can about Seoul, in preparation for our trips. We are preparing for her in every way possible, and I can't seem to let myself think about her.

When I focus on the next step in the adoption process, it is easier to not be overwhelmed by the sadness and helplessness that I feel, being so far away from our child. I have found myself avoiding her pictures, when I scroll through them on my phone. I talk about her to others, but try my hardest to keep her out of my mind when alone.

Picture for Maylee from Liam
Thinking of her and our future is painful. She was sick in January, and we didn't even know about it until February. I should be comforting her. I should be helping her be healthy. Instead, I don't even know about it until it has passed. As a mama, it is my job to protect my babies, to teach them, to love them. I can only do one of these things for Maylee. I can love her so much, but she doesn't get to feel it yet, and that makes me so sad.

Doing what we can
The realization has hit that we will not be with her for her second birthday and probably not Christmas. This breaks my heart. We are missing so many important things. On top of all of this, I am so sad for what she and the boys are missing out on by being apart.

For now, I have to continue to focus on the process, since that is something I can control (at least for another month or two).

I know that we will all be together soon, and all of the waiting and the hand cramps will be worth it. Dare I say, it will even seem as thought it was "not that difficult" or "actually, went quite fast". I bet it will be much like pregnancy after birth- it seems so much better, easier in hindsight.

I hope.
A message for Maylee Grace

Monday, January 23, 2017

Woodland Themed Baby Shower

When asked to help plan my sister's baby shower, I was so happy to have a party to plan. I absolutely LOVE themes, being creative, and doing as much of the prep without purchasing already-made supplies. I love to find odds and ends and use them to adjust my vision, sticking with the theme, but taking it to a place a bit off from where I began.

My sister was having a boy and she loves the outdoor, so the woodland creature theme seemed perfect. This theme was simple, easy to accomplish, yet so fun to be creative. I enlisted my boys to go on a nature walk, where they helped me gather pine-cones, which we used as table decor. They also scoured their plastic animal toys, as well as their stuffies, to find any that live in the forest. The boys loved helping me and I love that they spent over an hour sorting animals by habitat. Party planning and learning at the same time!

We started by decorating the rustic cake with some of the plastic animals, and placed it on a piece of a stump that my mama found, surrounded by silk leaves. It turned out so cute! We wanted to continue the theme throughout the table, so we put the pine-cones and a stuffed raccoon on the table as well. As for the other snacks, my mom made a super cute watermelon porcupine and I made donut-hole hedgehogs and Nutter Butter acorns.

This was a wonderful day of celebration for the beautiful boy who had, on his own time, had already joined our family. Everyone enjoyed the snacks, visiting with one another, and of course, snuggling the little guy.


Friday, January 20, 2017

Percy Jackson Themed Birthday Party

When my soon-to-be 6 year old requested a Percy Jackson themed birthday party, I was beyond excited. I absolutely love that he is so fond of reading that he chose a theme that is beyond his usual age group and not a typical party theme. I also love a party-planning challenge.....and boy, was this a challenge!

We started off by creating themed birthday party invites which, thanks to raising a "friend to all" type of kiddo (We are SO proud), went out to each and every child in his kindergarten class. We found a template, filled in our specific information, cut the edges off, and then rolled them and tied them up. Parents and children alike loved them!





When the big day finally arrived, we welcomed guests with a "Camp Half Blood" banner and a pouch of drachma (demigod money, really chocolate coins). Each demigod was given foam swords and shields, that my husband made out of dollar store pizza pans and Velcro strips, to defend the camp.





The house was also filled with yummy camp/god themed treats, including s'mores brownies, Zeus Jello parfaits, ambrosia (a half-blood healing food) and all the blue snacks we could find. Blue birthday snacks was a big theme throughout the Percy Jackson series. His mama always made him/gave him something blue and tasty for his birthday.




Finally, the big hurrah! The cupcake decorated for each of the three main gods of Olympus: Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades.




This was one of my favorite party themes and my boy loved every minute of it. I heard nothing but compliments for kiddos and their parents alike. Although it was difficult to track down ideas for this theme, the outcome was better than I could imagine.

I'm pretty proud of this one.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Home Study Hell

We have been in the adoption circle for less than 2 months and it has flown by. For the most part, it hasn't been too rough. Yes, a lot of paperwork. Yes, many appointments: fingerprinting, medical check-ups, psychological exams, welcome calls, etc. But up until now, it hasn't felt overwhelming. We have juggled the tasks pretty easily.

The hardest part of the beginning stages of adoption, the home study paperwork, is waiting on others to move on to the next task. All pieces are needed before you can be assigned a caseworker and schedule home visits. We have worked tirelessly to gather all of the needed paperwork, mail/email everything the moment it is complete, and finish all of the assigned classes as quickly as possible. The home study is a huge hurdle for all adoptive families, and it has been the most stressful piece for Joe and I. The home study is all that is standing between us and a full match with our daughter. She is ours, no one else can adopt her, but our match is contingent on our completed home study. I have compete faith that we will pass without a hitch, but to us, this feels similar to the first trimester of pregnancy.

We are waiting on one thing. One piece which should not be the last piece, because it should have been one of the easiest parts. Our medical records. Joe had his appointment the last week of November and he got a call a week later saying his paperwork was done. I went in for my appointment the first week of December. Afterward, I waited patiently, knowing that there were snow days and other things on my doctor's plate. After two weeks with no response, I called. This was when I learned that my doctor had forgotten to order one of the tests needed to sign off on my health. The Tuberculosis test.

Image result for someecards adoptionFirst of all, she didn't contact me about the missed test, I had to call her office to find out. Second, the test takes 48 hours to complete. A bit of inactive Tuberculosis virus is inserted under the skin, then you have to wait two days for the doctor to look for a reaction to the virus, which indicates that you have been exposed. Because I contacted the doctor's office on Wednesday and the medical office would be closed both Friday and Monday for Christmas, I was not able to do the test until Tuesday of this week. Today I went back to have my body's reaction checked. I waited all day to hear back from my doctor. Nothing. At four o'clock I called to check on the status of the paperwork and was told it was done and I could pick it up at the front desk. Great! Why didn't anyone contact me? But, great!

As I was about to walk out of the door to pick it up and then immediately mail it to Holt, when my phone rang. It was my doctor's office. They had noticed that the paperwork required a notary which did not expire for at least two years and said that the notary on staff was only able to go through March of 2017. We quickly checked the notary date on Joe's paperwork and saw March 2017, which makes all of his paperwork invalid to the Korean court.

Joe and I spent the next two hours trying to track down a notary who is mobile and has an expiration date of at least two years. This was not an easy task, but we finally found one. Unfortunately, now we have to pay $110 that we didn't expect to pay, so they can come out to our doctor's office and notarize all of our forms. We also have to deal with the schedules of two doctors and a notary, to make sure that they are all ready and able to meet at the same time. On top of all of this, Joe's paperwork has to be completely redone. Another week or two of waiting for an "easy step".

I have learned so much through these past two months. The biggest of these lessons: never give yourself a self-imposed deadline. Joe and I have worked hard to have our home study paperwork done by Christmas. That was our goal. It did not happen. We will likely end up close to three weeks past our self-imposed deadline and that is a difficult pill to swallow. If we have learned anything from those who have gone before us, it is that adoption is an unpredictable process and no one's timeline or experience is the same- kind of like pregnancy. I have also learned that a week or two either way, can completely change your timeline.

We want our daughter home. We want her here for the 2017 holiday season (self-imposed deadline-I know, bad news!!). Today, I am impatient and frustrated. Tomorrow, I will be those things a little bit less. I hope. I will always be thankful for finding our daughter. From this point on, I will try to focus on that.