Friday, December 10, 2010

"I Can't Ever Admit This Out LOUD"

When we woke up the next morning, we willed the time to go faster so that we could meet our new baby. We ate breakfast, wandered around, took pictures, and finally, finally, it was time to go meet her. We talked about what she might look like now - the last picture we had see was when she was 8 months and now she was 16 months, would she have hair? Lots of teeth? Dimples? We were so completely expecting the baby in the photo, that we did not recognize the toddler they brought into the meeting room. And I will tell you people, it was not at all what I expected. I had expected a baby. A fuzzy, chubby, almost bald baby. The child that was brought to me was not any of those things. And forgive me, but my very first thoughts were "She is a beautiful girl. Now where is MY baby? That is NOT my baby." But I vowed never to speak that out loud because really, how awful. My mental picture did not line up with my new reality and I began to wonder what I had done. This child was set in her routines and loved the people that she was with. She would not even look at me during that first meeting! She tolerated Brian from a distance. It was clear that this was not going well at all. In the deepest, darkest parts of my heart I began to wonder if I would really love this little girl like I loved my other kids. I would talk the talk, most definitely, but could I walk the walk. This left me in a state of pure terror and panic. But not for a moment would I dare let anyone, anyone at all inside that place. What had I done? What had I done to my family? This was a big, fat mistake and I was responsible.

I am so ashamed and embarrassed to admit that. But there it is. I feel like people that are considering adoption need to know that it's not always instant connection, not always "typical", whatever that is. And please, please don't think for a minute that I don't advocate adoption. I absolutely do. Remember that this is the beginning of our story. The desire might be there, the brain and logic may be there, but sometimes, the heart part takes a minute to catch up. It was different because I did not know this child. I had no idea how she liked to be held or played with. I had no idea of the intimate details of her. I was expected to pick up the pieces of a life started in loss and I just wasn't feelin' it. I did feel protective. I did feel responsible. I felt guilt, massive heaps of guilt for feeling like I was feeling. I thought she was darling and precious and in some story book kind of way, I loved her. But it was different....

Monday, November 29, 2010

Time to GO!

So eventually the waiting came to an end and we got the news that we were cleared for travel. We made all the arraignments; the other kids would stay with my Mom in NY and celebrate Thanksgiving there, we would stay at the Guest House in Korea - also where the pregnant girls that were placing their babies stayed, we would be in country just five day and when we got home, we'd be the parents of four children.

I was very, very busy (thank God) the weekend before we traveled. I went to my dear friends' wedding in Baltimore and between celebrating with her and planning the next week in Korea, I hardly thought about what was about to happen. A 17 hour flight, meeting our new baby, meeting her foster Mom and visiting Korea again after three pregnancies and 12 years. Nervous does not even describe what I was.

When we got to the guest house, it was very late - 11 pm local time and we were exhausted, emotional and hungry! We called my Mom and I couldn't even speak to the kids because I was sobbing from missing them. We went to a small convenience store and grabbed a few things to nibble on and some drinks and tried to settle down for the night. In the morning, we would be meeting our new daughter....

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Side Bar....Please excuse the language....

So I am out with my sweet Kate today and this person says to us, "Do you ever regret taking her away from her real family?" I just stared, mouth open and then started to cry. I made a quick exit out of there, saying nothing.

Now that I'm home I have a thousand good come backs, of course. "What? You did not just seriously say that! Who do you think is currently providing for her? Her fake family? Well, where are those people when she has a stinky diaper or is screaming for no good reason? Where are they when she needs to be held and snuggled all day? Tell them I want some child support!"

 I get that we are not a "typical" family and that people have questions. I generally overlook the questions and try to understand that people are curious. It's really ok, I get the opportunity to talk about adoption and why people choose to adopt and all the ways that they could help, if they are interested. I try not to be defensive when people ask where she is from or how much she cost us. (By the way, we paid for adoption fees, not a child, per se.) I get it that a lot of people don't understand why someone of  child-bearing age and three bio kids would chose adoption over having another bio child and I'm usually ok with answering super personal questions, in the grocery store, in front of Katelyn and my other kids, right out there where anyone can hear me. It's not necessarily a welcome intrusion, but it's ok. And even though I may bristle at the "do you love her the same"  or the "did you just pick her out of a book, hahahaha" questions and comments, I will usually respond politely. Before I actually started the adoption process, I am quite certain that I said silly things too. We all do it.

But this one was too much for this thick-skinned, seasoned mama! I have been feeling a bit emotional about things anyway because we are approaching the 29th of November and am remembering this time last year when we were in Korea (more on that later) and meeting our new baby and preparing to bring her home. It's an emotional time for families then and now. And I have been hanging in there, until today.

"Do you ever regret taking her away from her real family?"

In the 3 seconds it took her to voice those words, this person unglued my brain and all those feelings of uncertainty, guilt, fear, disconnection and shame at not always appreciating being allowed to parent this baby came into the light. It was like she knew just which button to push to send me over the edge this week. I don't think she intended to hurt me, I think she was just talking because, well, I don't really know why, but I don't believe that she intentionally meant to hurt me. Kate was fussing and I was impatient and she just said it. And I  know that I am Kate's mama. I know that she is my daughter. That we are a family. So why am I so sensitive?

It's because deep in my soul I know that I did not chose this path for us. I know that God chose it, He divinely willed it to be so. We heard His call and obeyed, that is it. We always had a choice. And that He knows this path that we are on because He has paved it. I have faith in Him. But then again, I don't always have faith in me and my abilities. I just wonder why it looks so odd to people on the outside looking in. And I wonder if we will always get these questions (probably) and how we will handle them when Kate realizes why they are being asked. She may not understand them now, but she HEARS them, have no doubt about that! I fear that she won't feel like we are her "real" family. That she will feel a disconnect and long for her "real" mama and daddy. And that fear is as deeply rooted in my soul as my faith is. I desperately want to get this right. Desperately. I don't want Kate to look at me with her beautiful brown eyes and see someone that is not her "real" mother. I am struggling already to stay afloat in this sea of never ending emotions and this comment today seriously rocked my boat......

Sunday, November 21, 2010


As we waited for the paperwork to be completed and tried to manage the fees that were piling up, I started to think about our little girls' life and how many hard things she had had to endure before she was even a year old. She had been hospitalized for the first two months of her life as she was very premature; just 2 lbs 6 oz at birth. She was fighting to develop normally and grow and be strong. She was a tough little cookie, for sure!

I also started thinking about her birth mother and what she had gone through in order to complete our family. I thought about how she must have felt when she made the decision to give her precious baby to a family that she didn't even know. Was she sad? Relieved? Does she think about what Katelyn is like? I believe in my heart that she does, because she made the most unselfish choice she could for her baby. I don't know a lot about her circumstances or the reasons she choose adoption over parenting, but I am eternally grateful. I have struggled with feeling grief for her, though. I have mourned for the emptiness she must feel. The sorrow she must feel. I want her to know how much she gave us, the impact that her choice has had on our family.

Our agency told us that if Kate ever had a sibling that was available for adoption that we would be the first family contacted. I was a bit dumbfounded at first because I had never even given a thought to the possibility that this could happen again. I (naively) assumed that having to give a child up once would prevent a repeat unplanned pregnancy. I was shocked at how desperately I wanted her birth mom to NEVER go through this again! I wanted her to have a whole and happy life and to have children that she parented in a loving relationship. I wanted her to know as much as she wanted about the baby we shared and about our family. I pray sometimes that she will contact us one day so that she can have closure if she needs and so that Kate can be blessed by the woman that chose to give her life. Which then led me wonder what would happen if Kate ever does have same-blood siblings. Will we know? Will her birth mom think to contact the agency to share the information? I have no idea what will happen, but I now feel a bit of what Kate will inevitably wonder about. I wish I had something to give her that wasn't so intangible. Her medical history is so important and I am so grateful that we have many pieces of the puzzle, but I wish I could give her answers to the "why's"  she will undoubtedly have. I pray that we can love her enough to fill those wounds that will eventually open and I hope that we will be able to guide her through those times in her life with compassion and with reverence for her birth mom and help her develop pride in her roots.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


When a family decides to adopt they must complete a homestudy as part of the process. This is a very, very detailed description of your family and lives in print, done by a social worker that works with an adoption agency. You are stripped bare! Everything about every aspect of your life is up for grabs; finances, personal history, employment history, medical background, everything. Our agencies had friends of ours write letters about our marriage and character. Our values and morals and child rearing skills. We had our finger prints taken and our criminal records checked. We spoke with our social worker in her office together and separately. She came to our home when the children were here and when they were at school. She explored each room in our home. She asked extremely personal questions that made me squirm a bit, but were all together freeing.

We passed. We were deemed fit to raise another child in our home and thank God because we were already raising three! After our homestudy was complete, it was submitted to Holt and then forwarded on to Korea. And we waited some more as they read about us and explored our lives on paper. This part of the process was a tad stressful because I was afraid I had forgotten to share something vital and that they would discover it later and take away our passing grade. I would have dreams about trying to explain myself and not being able to articulate what I needed to say. I worried that I was too over-protective and they would see a smothering mother. I worried that they would look at my house and see a woman with OCD issues. I was afraid that they would see me for who I am and not like what they saw. They would see my heart and find it undeserving and lacking.

But, we passed. Our "paper pregnancy" was progressing along quite nicely except for the financial side of things, those were a bit slower....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

She Will Never Be Ours.

This was my mantra while we were waiting to see if we would be chosen to parent this beautiful child. I am so lacking in my faith sometimes - I believed that she was meant for our family in the depths of my soul, but didn't trust God to clear the path for us. I felt so unworthy. There were six (yes, six) other families that had expressed interest in parenting this baby and I was sure that someone else would be chosen. So I kept myself busy while I waited, exploring grant options, choosing a local agency to do our home study with, lurking on the chat boards, you name it, I did it. And I filled out an enormous amount of paperwork! We waited and waited and waited. A lot of you know how absolutely hard being patient is for me and this was pushing my limits! We continually got medical updates with a few grim predictions; deafness, possible cerebral palsy and so on. It still didn't matter to us and I can't explain that except to say it was God's divine peace placed in my heart. I am a worrier by nature and this time, the only thing I could worry about is that there were better parents for her.

One by one, the other couples fell away. Each time we heard of this happening, I was elated and scared because I truly wanted the best for this child and if we were not it, then amen, let it be so. And then the miraculous happened! We received the phone call! I remember exactly where I was; in the Fort Campbell post office parking lot. I was expecting the call because I had known that the Board at Holt was meeting regarding her placement, but when I saw the number flash on my cell, I almost couldn't answer. My heart was beating so fast! Of course I eventually answered and our sweet agent said the most amazing words - "she is yours"! I screamed and cried and laughed and Brian and I were all hugging and cheering and our agent joined us. We talked for a moment afterwards because we had not even begun our home study which is somewhat unusual, but then so are we. We knew that the match was contingent on our paperwork and that it was time to get moving! I work best under pressure and to say I was under pressure (self-imposed) is an understatement. I was just so excited and I didn't let myself stop to think about anything but getting our new daughter home. I hindsight I wish I had savored these moments just a bit more. Enjoyed them a bit more. Thought about the reality of our choices a bit more. But it was good and although we thought we'd have more time to save for the expenses we knew that God would provide and we went forward. So very quickly.....

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

February 2009 - It begins....

I have told this story so many times, I can't even tell you how many, but it's a lot! I love reiterating it because it reminds me of how selfless children can be; how completely loving and giving and full of kindness they can be. How my very own can be these things in a way that is not coerced or forced, but simply just is. 

Brian and I have considered adoption since before we had children mainly because we liked the idea of providing a loving home for a child that needed one. I don't know exactly how this desire came about though, because neither of us has had any experience with adoption in our lives previously. We have both always been drawn to Korea, Brian is half-Korean and we lived there for a year when we were both Active duty, but it's not as though we said that Korea was "the place". Although we had talked about adopting through the years, there was no real plan for when/where/how. As you will come to see, this is generally how our life is; we think of something we want to do and then do it, no plan, no net, we just go! It's seriously funny that we live that way too because both of us are slightly type A (me more than him) and have difficulty deciding what to have for dinner without a plan, so you'd think that the big decisions would be well-planned. Marriage? Just did it after 4 months together. Baby? Said we'd like to get pregnant soon and so it was, even on birth control! No real plans.

So back to the original intent - the story:

Lu had just turned four and I was in that "I want another baby" mopiness that sometimes hits me after the kids turn a year older and was torturing myself by watching The Baby Story and regaling in the fact that it had been 4! years since I had given birth. Ah the joys of being pregnant (whaaaaat?) and delivering (HUH?), I was missing it all and whining to Brian and he just casually said that maybe it was time to start our adoption. Really? Really, really? I was all, "you had better not be playing with me, Mr.!". And then we decided. Just.Like.That.

We waited a few days before talking to the kids because we needed to form a plan (at this point, ya kinda need a plan) and because we needed to pray and talk and settle it between ourselves before we could intelligently consult them. This is what that conversation looked like for us:

Us: "So guys, we have some money saved up and we were wondering what you guys thought....should we take our trip to Disney like we've been planning or should we start our adoption?" Let me say that we were totally prepared to hear a resounding "DISNEY!!!" and would have done that happily.

Josh and Jay: "Adoption!!"

Lu: "Yeah, 'doption!!"

Stunned and now crying, me: " Are you guys sure? This will mean a lot of changes around here. A new baby is a lot of work, you know."

Josh: "Yeah, we know. I'm choosing a brother. From China. Can we go play now?"

Brian: "Well, we were actually thinking of Korea, buddy, what do you think about that?"

Josh: "Ok, Korea. Let's go play Jay."

That is it. No further thoughts of Disney, no backtracking, nothing. Man, I love my kids! 

So over the next few days we asked others about agencies and the process and decided that we were most comfortable with Holt International. They had been assisting Korean adoptions for 40+ years and really knew what they were doing. They helped us every step of the way. We submitted our application and upon approval, starting asking ourselves some tough questions. What age are we thinking of? Could we handle a child with special needs? A sibling pair? We didn't really care if we were matched with a boy or a girl, but decided that a girl might be a nice balance to our family. We also decided that we could accept some minor special needs such as a cleft palate or something that could be surgically corrected, but also because a severe disability might be a lot tougher on our family unit as it was already. A lot of our time and resources could be used just to adjust to a disability and we felt like that wasn't really fair to our other kids. We chose to seek a child that was two years or younger as well. These were not flippant choices. They were made after much consideration, prayer and self-analysis. We pressed forward and our agency happily accepted our choices, told us about the waiting period (at LEAST a year) and suggested that we start our home study so that we could get the ball rolling. 

And then I found the Waiting Child list. This is a list of children that have special needs of varying degrees and are waiting for a forever family. I spent a lot of time reading descriptions and staring at tiny faces, thinking that a family would need to have such strength to adopt one of the children. All precious, of course, but not something I felt we had the abilities to handle. Until I saw this picture:

Ga-rin - "pretty jade"

And I knew. I just knew she was meant for us. Not born from my body, not sharing our blood, but ours just the same. It didn't matter what issues she faced. And everyone else agreed. This is where the journey started in earnest. This sweet face, so small, so round, so beautiful. And so ours. I just knew......