Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Day 9: Where is the love?

It is kinda crazy, you know? To love a child that doesn't exist to you yet.

I mean, when I found out I was pregnant with with my children, both times the love was instant. I found out super early with both of my pregnancies. I fell head over heels in love with a tiny cluster of cells. Like all consuming love. I would think and dream about what they would look like, who they would be.

With every passing week, I would fall more in love with them. I had never met them. I had never seen them, but I knew I would love them. They were mine. They were ours. I would lay in bed in the morning, just to have a few minutes of solitude to feel them kick and roll around. My pregnancies were not easy, but I cherished those quiet moments. The moments when I wouldn't have to share them. They were just mine. I grew them for almost 40 weeks. They survived off of me. How could you not fall in love with the tiny little human that you are growing?

Now, I am not pregnant in the conventional sense, but we are embarking on a journey to bring our daughter home from China.

How can you love someone that you don't know? Someone you have never seen? Someone you can't feel but know they exist?

I don't know how. I just know that you can.

I am in love with a little girl that I don't even know. I haven't seen her face, we haven't even been matched yet.

And yet at night, I pray for her like I do my 2 children here. I send her love because I know she is waiting for me. I dream about what she will look like, who she will be.

But, there is so much tragedy in this journey. For 40 weeks, another woman loved her. Dreamed of what she would look like. Maybe she laid in bed feeling her soft kicks and rolls. She looked into her eyes and decided that she couldn't keep her. That someone else would be her mommy.

Can you feel the weight of that? I can. I feel that weight on my chest in many moments.

I may not know our little girl yet, but I know she is a fighter. I know that the love I feel for her is the same I felt from the minute we found out we were pregnant. I knew in the moment that we decided to move forward that I would love her and not even know who she is yet.  I lay in bed and think about this journey and I think about the fact that our daughter has probably already been born and she is waiting on us to bring her to where she belongs. With each passing week, I love her more.

This paper pregnancy will far exceed 40 weeks, but it's ok. She may not be growing in my belly but she is growing in our hearts <3

And, so you may hear me speak of her, like I know who she is. You may think that's weird. But I do know who she is. And I know she is waiting for us. For that reason, we will continue to do whatever we need to do to get the paperwork done, the fund raised and get a move on our journey to bring her home <3

Friday, February 12, 2016

Paper Pregnant!!!

I think it hit me this week just how long of a process this is going to be. Every morning, Jayce wakes up and asks me if we are getting the baby today And this morning, he told me that we need to get her soon because children shouldn't have to live without a mommy and a daddy. :(

He is only 5, and he just doesn't understand. And his heart is so big that he just wants her here with us.  But, he also doesn't understand what having her here with us could mean. It could mean surgeries, a hurting baby sister, it could mean her requiring more attention, or even a sister that is scared of him. Or even scared of us.

The weight of that responsibility is not taken lightly by Steve and I. We talk about it daily. Some days it is easy talks. Talks of her name, her nursery, even our fundraising.

Other times, it is in fear of traveling to China and bringing home a sweet little girl who thinks of us as strangers. 20 hours on a flight with a potentially terrified little girl. The trauma of this process for our daughter is not lost on us. We understand the magnitude of what this will do to a little girl who is brought home into a country where nothing is familiar and people who want to love and hug her but to her they are strangers. They are the people who took her from the only home that she has ever known.

Each passing day, this begins to feel more real and we are so excited to get beyond this home study so the true wait of being matched with our girl  can begin! <3

So, this week, on Monday we sent off our applications.

Picking an adoption agency and home study agency was not something that we took lightly. I poured hours upon hours on websites, on Facebook groups, in personal messages with other adoptive moms with their opinions and experiences. I was up late researching.

We were all set to pick a big agency, but after lots of research and talking, we picked a small agency. A small agency with 13 partnership orphanages. Picking a smaller agency with many partnerships is great because they have less parents in LID status. AKA parents waiting to be matched. Because of that, their waiting times tend to be shorter once you are LID. Madison Adoption Associates literally has never seen a bad review. So, we are very excited to work with them. They told us that from start to finish it should be only about 15 months before our little girl is in our arms.

Then comes the home study agency. This was trickier. The home study is the first SUPER important step and having an efficient agency is important. It involves SO MUCH paperwork and so many official documents, fingerprinting, more notarizing than I could be prepared for. Once our paperwork is done, it is important that our home study agency is efficient because literally NOTHING can move forward until our home study is complete. So, we considered several options but some nickle and dime you until your fees become outrageous and others could take months after we do our part. After pouring into more groups and getting more reviews, we settled on DATZ Foundation.

I sent in all of our applications that included a $500 application fee for MAA and $1900 contract fee for our home study to DATZ. I was so excited and sure we were finally getting everything rolling.

Unfortunately, on Thursday I check out a local area adoption group and someone made a post regarding DATZ. After sending her a message, I was shocked at what I had learned.

Before I jump in, I want to explain that China is a part of the Hague Convention. That means that there are certain guidelines that countries in the Hague Convention have to follow to streamline their adoptions. This streamlining allows our girl to be a US citizen the minutes the airplane wheels touch US soil. Therefore, your home study agency has to be Hague accredited. So, when looking for a home study agency, it is important that you tell them that you are adopting in China.

I did just that. I emailed the head of the foundation and asked specifically if they were able to do home studies for a China adoption and was assured they could be and that I just needed to send in the contract and the full payment of $1900.

Which I did.

Here is where the unfortunate part comes in. DATZ Foundation's Hague accreditation expired in December 2015. EXPIRED!!!!!! Why wouldn't they have told me that?!?!?!?!

I called my adoption agency in a panic. Then, I called DATZ seeing as how they had already cashed my $1900 check. The guy who answers the phone says "we have been working on it for 3 months now. We have a hearing on February 18 and hope to have our accreditation back then."

Uh. What? That is NOT good enough. He told me he understands my concerns and they will be refunding my money on Monday.

So, we went back to the drawing board and picked a new home study agency. Catholic Charities in Baltimore. Looks like we are FINALLY ready to get this home study moving along!

Here is our first stack of papers!

We are in fact PAPER PREGNANT!!!

And do you know what?!?! It is just as exciting, scary and as uncertain as that moment when you pee on a stick and see that second line, that plus sign or just the word "pregnant."

Holy crap, folks! We are expecting a baby in the next 15-18 months!!!!!


Keep those prayers coming! <3

Monday, February 8, 2016

Why? Why Adopt? Why China?

You are probably reading this because you saw on Facebook that Steve and I have decided to use adoption as the route to complete our family. 

You may have questions.

You might wonder, why not have another child the good old fashioned way?

What do Jayce and Everleigh think?

You might wonder, why not save a child in the United States?

You may wonder, why China?

I know that this decision isn't one that everyone will understand. It is not one that everyone would make. But, I also know that this decision was not one that was taken lightly. It was talked about A LOT, it was prayed on CONSTANTLY and it never left our hearts. 

I am excited to blog about our journey. It will be therapeutic when things are hard  and when the days are long.

So, let's jump into the why's, shall we?

Why not have another child the old fashioned way?  It was something we talked about. My pregnancies were not fun, my deliveries were terrifying. Steve spends 9 months terrified each and every day. While each pregnancy and delivery were 1000000% worth it, we just couldn't agree that it was what we wanted this time around. And, let's be honest, newborns terrify my husband :P

What do the kids think? Well, luckily we have been doing a lot of giving back lately and educating Jayce about all of the children that go without. So, we explained that some children do not have a mommy and daddy, and how did he feel if we brought home a little sister that doesn't have a family and that will look different than him. To which he replied,

"Another sister? I do not know how I feel about that."

And we asked him if he wanted to switch bedrooms and let the girls have the rooms that are connected with a bathroom. He told us he would love to let his sisters have his room and he will take Everleigh's room. But, ONLY if he keeps his big new bed haha!!! That kid has priorities :)

As for Everleigh, she doesn't understand. She said she wants a baby but when I ask if she wants a little sister, she tells me that Jayce can have one. 

Why not save a child in the US? THIS is going to be the biggest issue we will face with people questioning our decision. I want to clear it up, it is NOT that we don't want to save an American child. But to adopt a toddler in the US, it is done by way of the foster care system. We considered fostering with the hopes of adoption but decided that as a family with 2 young children, we were just not up for how it could effect our family as children came in and out of their lives. 

We considered the option of adopting a newborn domestically. That said, my heart said no. There are SO many parents who are waiting to be chosen by a family in the US. Many of the people waiting to adopt here cannot have a baby. I just couldn't deal with the idea that we could get picked before someone that cannot have a baby. That doesn't feel right in my heart, because we CAN have babies. 

Why China? Man, that is trickier to explain. We looked into a lot of countries and honestly, several require more than one trip to the country you are adopting from and that is not an option in our books. And, China allows your to specify more as far as conditions and gender are concerned.

No, let's talk about the process, costs and what it will look like when we come home.

The process is LONG. We have already started by applying to our adoption agency, Madison Adoption Associates. And we have applied for our home study agency, DATZ Foundation. The home study is the first step. It involves a TON of paperwork, background checks, financial statements, interviews, safety inspections, etc. The home study process can take up to 4 months.

Then, we complete our dossier. Which is complete with our home study and medical form that specifies what special needs we are willing to accept and that we are specifically requesting a girl. That all goes to China with literally enough documents to fill a 1 inch binder. Then we wait for China to approve our dossier and log us so that we are officially waiting to be matched.

Once we are in LID (log in date) status, we wait. We wait for China and our agency to match us with a young (age 0-2) minor needs girl. We are then given a file and pictures of a child that meets our requirements and we are given the chance to send the file to a doctor to confirm any health issues and we can accept or deny the file. If we accept, then we wait for travel approval which means 6-8 weeks following the acceptance, we will travel to China. That is where Steve and I will spend 2 weeks. We will pick up our girl on day 2 and we will complete paperwork and such over the next 12 days. Then we bring her home, fully adopted and a US citizen :)  If we choose to deny the file, then we go back to waiting. She will likely be between 15 and 24 months when we bring her home.

Now, let's talk special needs. If we want to wait on a completely healthy girl, the wait is over 3 years. We are not looking for a perfectly healthy girl. We had to pour over an incredibly scary medical form to decide what we can handle as parents and as a family. With each box we knew we were leaving another child as an orphan. We talked for days. I was physically ill thinking of marking the boxes and many times, Steve would shut down and not want to discuss it. I truly didn't think one form would be so hard.

We decided on mild conditions such as albinism, minor heart conditions, developmental delays, prematurity, and failure to thrive. I discussed this with our agency. She told me that cleft lip and cleft palate (CLCP) are considered minor. And thanks to a shift in China, they are keeping as many girls in China as possible and that if we truly want a girl that there is pretty much a guarantee that she will have CLCP. We thought on it for days and our hearts say that we have a daughter in China.

What does that mean for us? For her? For our family?

China considers it minor but it is nothing of the sort. It will require special bottles. It will likely require several surgeries in her first year here. It will require surgery and orthodontics as she grows. It will require potentially YEARS of speech therapy. Her first year will be full of pain, surgery and recovery. Even if it is fixed in China, it will require corrective surgeries here. 

Her first months, if not fixed in China will mean stares from strangers who don't understand her journey. It will mean fear of us as her parents every time we take her into public, worrying that someone will see our sweet girl as anything other than perfect and as a fighter. Heck, it could mean my husband or one of my sisters ends up in jail for punching an inconsiderate stranger ;) It will mean commitment to helping her heal. Fear every time she is under, and tears shed every time she hurts and doesn't understand why she has to have another surgery.

That is NOT minor. It will be long, involved and exhausting and it will be EXPENSIVE.

More expensive than the adoption.

Now, I want to take a second and talk about the costs associated with adoption and what that means to us.

The cost of adoption ranges from $30,000-$35,000. There are many grants available, but we do not qualify for them. We make good money. For that reason, as we started, we considered not fundraising. 

And then I realized that it was crazy to not fundraise. When we bring our sweet girl home, it will be costly to take care of her and deal with surgeries. So, we are fundraising to help alleviate the cost of the adoption so that we can afford to manage her medical needs when she is stateside. 

We do not plan to go crazy fundraising. At this point, I have 3 fundraisers in the works (the first will begin this week) and that is it. I never want my friends to feel as though we are constantly asking for anything. I have picked fun and meaningful ones. I have set up a You Charity account, BUT we will never post that link to ask for donations. That is not my style. It is only set up in order to collect for the fundraisers planned. 

I also hope that if you are reading this that you understand my heart. That we never expect anything from anyone except for prayers, love and support. If you choose to participate in our fundraisers, we appreciate you. If you choose to share our fundraisers, we appreciate you. And if you only choose to pray for us and love us, we appreciate you.

If you have any questions, I am an open book and will answer it :) I hope you continue to follow along with us as we proceed!