Friday, June 14, 2019

Saying Yes, Hearing No

A week ago today, an email came through on Friday afternoon from our home study agency with the word URGENT in the subject line. Nothing like that to make your heart skip a beat and your knees go weak!

Skimming it, then reading it several times more slowly, it became clear that there was a fast-moving adoption situation they were seeking families for. More specifically, our home study agency had been contacted by another agency (in Florida) that was looking for possible adoptive families for a child who had already been born. And our agency had in turn contacted the home study-approved families who may be interested and were open to the unusual circumstances surrounding this case.

There were therefore some unique aspects to the situation that merited further discussion, including some medical diagnoses and tragic, family dynamics stuff. Dan and I spoke on the phone soon and emailed back and forth with our agency's director to gather more information. We had until Sunday at 5 p.m. to decide whether we wanted our profile book to be considered. And the working plan was that the baby's mom would look at books on Monday, sign papers on Tuesday, and place the baby on Wednesday. (Whew!)

It's hard to think about anything else when something like this comes up. It's hard not to constantly wonder "is this it? is this our child?" It's hard not to obsess over every detail that we were given, hash out and rehash every last "what if?" It's hard just to take a deep breath and act normally.

In short, it made for a really intense weekend. Thankfully we had few plans on Saturday so we both had plenty of time to discuss and pray together and also had nothing that would be short-changed by our extremely short attention span.

Long story short, after we were finally able to get through to the placing adoption agency to answer a few questions, we decided Sunday afternoon that we would show our book, so we began that time we know well by now of waiting for that phone call or email that could change our family's trajectory forever.

Ultimately it came on Tuesday afternoon, in the form of an email saying that the mom had chosen a different family. While we weren't shocked, we were definitely disappointed. It's pretty impossible not to get your hopes up. And that takes a while to get out of your system, to let go of the multiple thought experiments you didn't even realize you've done - imagining flying to Florida, meeting the baby, coming home as a family of four, starting this new adventure with the baby, etc. What events over the next three weeks would need to be canceled or rearranged? But nope, not happening. You get to Wednesday and instead of welcoming another child into your family and home, you're doing whatever usual thing you do on Wednesdays.

This is definitely one of the harder aspects of adoption, enduring this kind of emotional roller-coaster that can come out of nowhere. And just to clarify: our matching agency in Georgia doesn't tell us when our book is being shown, so long as at least on paper we seem to be a good match for the situation. So at least things there happen in the background, so to speak. But sometimes a situation will be more "gray" in the sense of right up against the edges of our comfort zone or some unpredictable situation that isn't definable in advance to say 'yes' to, which is when we're told in advance, by either our GA or MD agencies and situations like this one from the last weekend occurs. With those cases, it's good to have that time to discern - given that adoption is a lifelong decision for everyone and you want to discern whether you are the best for this particular child - but it's just so intense.

Also, no matter the outcome, you really do open a welcoming space in your heart, home, and prayer life for this precious child. Our hearts were certainly expanded and then broke when weren't chosen. Despite the sadness, we marvel at our how amazing it is that a child just by existing can open the hearts of complete strangers thousands of miles away? He will never meet us, but he expanded our hearts just by existing. What a gift all life is no matter the tragic circumstances and believe us when we tell you that this was a very tragic circumstance to the point that many people would consider it a life not worth living - so sad, they know not what they say!

And going through these experiences makes us feel our infertility more keenly, how difficult it's been (comparatively speaking) to grow our family. Thank you God for the gift of our precious Zelie to lift our spirits (and keep us busy) but the questions of "Why us? Why do we have to go through this?" inevitably surfaces. We're asked again to accept this cross we didn't choose, and to try to do so joyfully, knowing that these are opportunities to become the saints we're meant to be (as much as we stumble on that path) and to offer up this suffering for the sake of others, especially other infertile couples or couples who have had a recent miscarriage (like some of our friends).

One last thing that struck us about this experience was that despite this little one having several pretty serious "issues" in terms of health and background, multiple families said "yes" to adopting him. Hence us not getting chosen. The Florida agency said they received an "overwhelming response" - all over the span of a few days. Even in difficult circumstances, this child was loved and wanted. Pretty amazing and encouraging.

So we carry on, a bit sad and slightly bruised at not being chosen, but contemplative about the hidden graces and mystery within this situation. Please pray for us, and kudos to you if you read this far!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

While We Wait, Round 2: May 2019 (Month #4)

Adoption news: Nothing this month either. It can be disappointing, not hearing about any situations and not being matched yet. We have to remind ourselves, it's still quite early in the process (statistically speaking)! But every day we pray for God to bless us with another child. And at the same time we are thankful every single day for Zelie - in a profound sense, she is and always will be *enough* for us as her beautiful unrepeatable self - and at the same time we pray for our family's love to keep overflowing to more children! God's will be done!

In Other News: May was a big month for us! Probably the biggest thing that happened was Dan graduating with his PhD - amazing! We had a cookout celebration the Saturday before, attended the school's graduation ball the night before, and went out to eat after the ceremony. So a lot of celebrating was done, and he deserved every minute of it! For those not aware, Dan worked for this PhD for 10 years - the entirety of our marriage and then some. He sacrificed so much free time, endured setbacks and numerous "hurdles" (exams, languages, etc.) and worked SO hard to accomplish this.

All dressed up at the graduation ball. The highlight for Zelie was the chocolate fountain.

Silly faces with Dr. Daddy!

May was also Mother's Day. Since it was the Sunday immediately before Dan's graduation, we had both of our Moms in town, so it was lovely to celebrate with them. On Mother's Day, I felt (as I do pretty much every day) what an amazing thing it is to be Zelie's mommy - and I said some extra prayers for her birthmother and all birthmothers.

On May 28 we celebrated our 8th anniversary. Thanks to Grandma (Dan's mom), we were able to spend the long Memorial Day weekend away in Williamsburg. It was HOT but super fun. We went to Busch Gardens, Yorktown, and Jamestowne, and had a nice colonial-style dinner in the historic part of Williamsburg. 

In "Germany" at Busch Gardens.

While we were away, Grandma helped our little artist create some really lovely paintings as an anniversary gift - swoon!

In May, Zelie started swimming lessons. She's been having a blast! Due to Dan's work schedule, he was able to go to the first three with her, which was really special. She's not too keen on putting her face in the water but loves kicking and jumping in from the side. She's getting ready to enjoy the pool at Grandma and Grandpa's house (my parents) this summer!

To close: one quintessential SUMMER pictures: icy pop....flip backyard....SUMMER.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

While We Wait, Round 2: April 2019 (Month #3)

Adoption News: *crickets, crickets*

Has it only been three months?!? Oh boy. Sometimes it already feels like this is taking forever... ;) We are so eager to welcome another little one into our home, and for Zelie to be a big sister. And she is so ready! She points out babies to us all the time, especially if they are crying. And she's developing such a sweet, caring heart. There's one book we read where a baby has dropped his pacifier and is crying, and usually we get "stuck" on that page as we talk about baby's feelings and how probably his mommy will get his pacifier for him. She is going to make such a great big sister!

But all in God's timing! Just as when we waited for Zelie, we have to trust that God knows our hearts and if there is another child out there meant for our family, he/she will find us - hopefully soon!

In Other News:

April is now a super-special month for our family because of our sweet girl's birthday! We had a blast celebrating her SECOND birthday. We had a small baby-shark themed party, which she seemed to really enjoy. We watched "the" video all together, and the kids went for a "shark hunt" in the backyard, finding little sea creatures that Dan had meticulously hidden. The big treat was cupcakes - and Zelie also loved the gummy sharks! Amazing that our baby is now TWO!

April was also Easter this year, and we had a wonderful time visiting Bethany's parents in Pennsylvania. Dan's mom was with us too, which was great. On Holy Saturday we all went to Longwood Gardens, which is gorgeous this time of year. They had this magical children's garden section with lots of water features, which Zelie obviously loved:

She is a fan of flowers in general!

And Easter Sunday itself was beautiful. He is risen, Alleluia!

Anything else....our garden is coming up nicely (peas, beets, lettuce, etc.), and the weather in general was just beautiful. Zelie has been enjoying the new swingset that Dan (and friends) built for her! 

That's about it - until next month! Pray for us!

- Dan, Bethany, and Zelie

Sunday, March 31, 2019

While We Wait, Round 2: March 2019 (Month #2)

Adoption News: Nothing to report this month either. But it's still early, only month 2! Lent has given us lots of opportunities to draw close to God and ask for His will in sending another child to our family.

In Other News:

Zelie started gymnastics! She loves to jump, climb, and spin, so we thought we'd try out a gymnastics class for toddlers (18 mo-3 years). It's a weekly class for six weeks, forty-five minutes long. And it's quite a workout! Zelie's coach leads the class through basically an obstacle course: climbing over things, jumping down a trampoline, walking a balance beam (!), etc. Zelie is tired out after the class, so that's saying something!

National pancake day! Three free pancakes at IHOP - can't go wrong with that!

Yard improvement: with the Spring warmer weather, we got our garden ready for the Spring, made a Mary grotto, AND Dan and some friends built Zelie a new swingset! (The old one was here when we moved in, and was falling down.)

Finally - we enjoyed the most beautiful time of the year in DC, cherry blossom season. Two of the best places in Spring: the National Arboretum and downtown on the National Mall. 

Until next month!

- Dan, Bethany and Zelie

Thursday, February 28, 2019

While We Wait, Round 2: February 2019 (Month #1)

As we waited to adopt Zelie, we enjoyed writing up little monthly "happenings". It helped to pass the time and keep us focused on the good things in our lives without getting too anxious about when we would be matched with a child.

So we're going to do the same thing as we are now officially waiting for baby #2! We were approved very late in January, so February was our first full month as a waiting family.

Adoption news: Really nothing to report. No calls or situations. Just waiting! And also being happy to be DONE with paperwork for the foreseeable future. One neat thing is that we've been able to connect with a few people in our lives who are interested in adoption or have started the process, to give them some of our insight and experience. We are far from knowing everything about adoption, but we do know a little! And we are always happy to share.

Other stuff we did:

Dan kept busy! He ran two weekend-long retreats for adult children of divorce, one in Florida and one here in DC, and one day-long family retreat day here in DC. He loves being able to minister to people in this way, but it is tiring, too.

During one of the weekends when Dan was working, I (Bethany) met up with my parents in Baltimore to attend a children's concert at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, called Music Box. It was really fun! Zelie may have paid attention at a smattering of moments....but hopefully the lovely music (wind quintet) still touched her soul in some way. Then we had a delicious lunch of crepes and a fun walk through the city where Zelie wanted to touch everything, wave to every bus, and climb up and down every possible set of stairs. #toddlerlife

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I started a quilt for baby #2! (Finally - I got the fabric a few months ago, but toddler + sharp cutting tool + lots of tiny pieces of fabric is not a great combination.) I'm really excited about this quilt. It has the same color scheme as Zelie's quilt (royal blue, gold, and white - a.k.a. our wedding colors) but is a different design. I'm using the old pattern of "Log Cabin," arranged in a way that the finished quilt will look like a series of crosses. (Non-quilters will just have to trust that this will actually happen.)

***We got matched with Zelie DAYS after I finished her quilt, so I better get a move on with this one! (haha)

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For Valentine's Day, we had a low-key evening at home with a yummy meal, movie and drinks. Earlier in the day Zelie and I attended our parish's kids Valentine's party, which was a riot (figuratively and at times literally). Each kid brought valentines to pass out, and they made bags to collect them in. Zelie was pretty tickled at the valentines she got, especially the ones with dogs on them. Oh, and she loved the candy too. It was fun, and an example of our wonderful community here!

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She is squirming and wants to go back to the playground :)
For a date, Dan and I went to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is on the National Mall. It was an amazing, moving, and very sobering experience. Lots of things to pray about (and weep about) but also to celebrate from this rich culture that brings so much to America. We definitely recommend it for locals and tourists!

That's about it - thanks for reading! And please keep praying for us and for expectant moms and dads considering making an adoption plan.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

In the Waiting Pool & "Live"!

We last checked in in mid-October, when we were making good progress on our home study. Since that time, we're happy to say that we completed the home study and are now officially in the waiting pool once more!

After we turned in all our paperwork in October, we met with our social worker two times in November and once in December, all at our house. As happened before, one of the meetings was us split up talking with her, and the other two were us together (and Zelie, too). As expected, all the meetings went really well. We really like our social worker and it was exciting to update her on the changes in our family since adopting Zelie, and to look ahead at our hopeful second adoption.

After those meetings were done, we had to wait for our social worker to write up her official report. We received a copy shortly after Christmas, had just one minor factual edit, and then it was approved by Barker on January 4, 2019 (Bethany's confirmation saint day - Elizabeth Ann Seton). At that point we were officially approved to adopt, whenever a situation comes together and a match happens!

But we had a few more things to do to officially get into the waiting pool with Open Door down in Georgia. They had already contacted all six of their required references. Our home study and supporting documentation had to be sent from Barker to Open Door, we had to sign some commitment forms with them, and we had to fill out a form about what parameters (age, race, medical background and so on) we were open to - similar to what we did as part of our home study. We mailed all of our forms off in mid-January, and received word on January 23rd that Open Door had everything they needed from us, so we were officially in the waiting pool.

We will be setting up an online profile on Open Door's websites, and whenever they are working with an expectant mom who is looking for a family like ours, our book will be shown. We won't be notified about that unless there are some "gray area" situations that we wanted to have more information about prior to showing our book.

We are so excited to be at this stage!! We pray every day for our future son or daughter, and for the men and women who are in difficult situations and figuring out what to do. We trust that this is all in God's hands! Please pray for us!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Midterm Status Report

It's about that time of year - heading further into Fall - that schools have midterms and (more interesting to us these days) the college football season is about halfway over. Go Irish! 7-0, yeah!* So we thought it would be good to give a status report of where we are. The home study is so much about behind-the-scenes stuff, but it can be nice to review how far we've come so far - because we're making great progress!

- monthly expenses sheet
- overall financial information with documentation (bank account, retirement, etc.)- evacuation plan & floor map of our house - fire safety survey & fire inspection - our autobiographies - guardianship agreement- employer letter for Dan- certified driving records- physicals for adults- Dr. letter for Zelie and overall health history- copies of: birth certificates, marriage certificate, adoption decree, latest taxes, auto insurance, and life insurance- several "sign and date" forms, such as the fee schedule and service agreement with our agency- 4 reference letters plus 1 reference who meets in-person with our social worker (don't think the in-person meeting has happened yet, but all references are in

- fingerprints 
- child protective services background check - out for processing
- child support background check - out for processing
- meetings with our social worker - will happen once the above 3 items are completed

So we are well over halfway done!!!

Which is great news because our other big project - Dan completing his PhD - is also moving full speed ahead. The day after Columbus Day, he handed in seven copies of his printed and bound 300+ page dissertation (!!!) What a relief! Now he is awaiting a date for his defense, and of course will be preparing for that throughout the Fall.

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"I wrote ALL of this?!?!?"

*Speaking of football (can you tell we're a bit obsessed? ;)) - we had the amazing opportunity to attend a Notre Dame game at Notre Dame, thanks to one of Bethany's former coworkers passing on tickets that she won but couldn't use. It. Was. AMAZING!! We were at the ND-Stanford game, which was incredible. Such an energizing atmosphere, and a great getaway weekend for us in the midst of a busy Fall. (Zelie had just as good a time at home with Bethany's parents.)

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Happy to say that Zelie can recognize the golden dome ;) 

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Goooooo Irish!!

And afterwards, someone was very happy to welcome Daddy home :)

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Thank you for your continued prayers for us!!