Saturday, November 11, 2017

"From Zero to Zelie"

Happy National Adoption Month! :)

A friend asked us to write an article about our adoption journey and what we've learned, and we were thrilled to do it!

"Adoption is very near and dear to our hearts. After six years of marriage, and many prayers for a child, earlier this year we welcomed our daughter Zelie-Louise Layla Rose into our family through adoption. This experience has been a profound journey of faith for us—a pilgrimage—and God has taught us so much through it, and through the people we’ve encountered along the way."

Full article: 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Catch-all Life Update

It's about time for a new post! During the time of waiting for an adoption match, and specifically preparing to welcome home our daughter, we posted fairly regularly because it felt like so much was happening that we wanted to remember and share. Now that Zelie has been with us over six months (!!) we've settled into a nice day-to-day routine and haven't felt as inclined to write in this space. But it would be nice to catch up the story since where we left off, which was "Our Time in California Part 1".

Coming Home

Skipping to the main point: we made it home, all three of us :)

More specifically, we flew back from California earrrrrrly on April 24th. (Early as in, get up at 2:30 a.m. to get to the airport for our cross-country flight.) Zelie did so, so well on the plane! She slept, then ate, then slept some more.

Relaxed on the tray table
Oh my, was it a JOY to see our home state appear below us after descending through the clouds! We showed Zelie - this is Maryland! And it was oh so GREEN! California is beautiful, for sure, but we hadn't realized how much we missed the green, verdant, hydrated landscapes of our east coast home.

At the airport, both of our moms were there to greet us and to meet Zelie for the first time. We were all fairly jet-lagged and exhausted (Zelie the least since she had slept so well on the trip) but those moments were so precious, having Zelie's two grandmas meet this much prayed-for and hoped-for baby.

Much cuddling was done!

Upon arriving home, Zelie greeted us with to-date her BIGGEST diaper blow-out ever.....while we are scrambling to get more diapers, and wipes, and clean clothes, all on basically no sleep and a screaming baby! Definitely a memory. And thanks, baby, for saving that until we were off the plane!

Adoption news since coming home

The time after bringing a baby home (really, after parental revocation papers are signed) is called the post-placement period and (surprise!) there's quite a bit of paperwork, haha. Since we are finalizing in Zelie's birth state of California, we received a quite sizable packet of forms from the social worker who will be handling our case. We hunkered down and filled out all of those - quite a few that were similar to what we did in our home study, but they just needed their own copies. 

We also had to have three post-placement visits with our local Maryland social worker, the same one who did all of our home study visits. She came for the first time the week we got home, again about two months later, and for the third and probably final time in September, when Zelie was 5 months old. ["Probably final" because there's a chance that California will ask for one more - that is pending.] Those visits were really special! Our social worker has known us from the beginning of our adoption journey, did one yearly update with us, and now got to meet our daughter. Pretty cool. She has been throughout such a wealth of knowledge about adoption and now about child development too, so it was great to be able to ask her questions and get her input on situations that we weren't sure how to deal with. 

Another thing is that when Zelie had her pediatrician appointments, we had to fill out extra forms to send both to California and Maryland - just another check that the baby is doing well.

gratuitous adorable picture

The whole post-placement period, before finalization happens, is all about making sure that the baby and parents are adjusting well to their new family structure, and of course (worst case scenario) to make sure there is no abuse or neglect going on. Sad to say, I'm sure it does happen and of course the baby shouldn't be in that environment. But there's not a question of whether Zelie will stay with us or not. The revocation of parental rights has happened already, and barring fraud, the adoption proceeds toward finalization. At finalization Zelie will be issued a new birth certificate with our last name on it, plus a social security number.

Per California rules, Zelie has to be with us for six months before the social worker writes her report. So now that that's happened, we are waiting for a copy of the report, which will also be sent to the CA courts. We're not entirely sure when it will all be finalized, but it would be really special if it happened before or around Christmas!

Non-adoption happenings

The other big thing in our lives lately is that Bethany is now a full-time stay-at-home mom. She ended her job of 7+ years on September 1st. It was a fairly emotional time, saying goodbye to wonderful coworkers and stopping a job that she enjoyed and put a lot of heart and effort into. But of course this has been our dream for so long, and it has been such a blessing to have her at home taking care of Zelie day in and day out! During the week she takes care of a friend's baby too, so the days are still full but in many different ways.

We did a bit of traveling over the summer with Zelie: to Orlando for a work trip, where Zelie went to the pool for the first time: 


And we spent a wonderful week vacation with two close families, here at our house, a night at the beach, and in Virginia. So Zelie got to see the Atlantic Ocean! Not many 5 month olds can say they've been to both coasts already :)

Other than that, Dan is proceeding with his dissertation. He finished his third chapter in September and has started work on his fourth and final chapter, so if all goes well he will graduate in the Spring, about a month after Zelie turns one!

It has been a complete joy to be Zelie's parents and we are grateful for every little moment. It has also been so beautiful to see how our friends, family, church and community have welcomed her with open arms. We detect some budding friendships already between Zelie and babies her age.... :) And it has felt really healing to get to experience so many firsts with Zelie, from first time grabbing a toy to first time rolling over to first time eating food and everything in between. Thank you, God!

We'll plan to note here on the blog when Zelie's adoption is finalized and other happenings!

Until then, a final adorable shot of our priceless little girl:

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Becoming a Mother Through Adoption

Soon after we found out that we were matched with Zelie, Bethany was asked to write a column for the organization Fathers for Good, run by the Knights of Columbus (a Catholic men's organization, and also Dan's employer). We worked on it together, and it was published in the May issue of Columbia magazine (p. 23).

Here is an excerpt, followed by a link to the full article. What a blessing it was to write this!

Called to Adopt

Four years after our wedding, my husband, Dan, and I were still childless despite our fervent desire to be parents. After prayer and discernment, we decided to embark on the journey of adoption — specifically, domestic infant adoption. We quickly learned that welcoming a child through adoption is a calling. It requires sacrifices of time and money, as well as the willingness to open your relationship, health, home and finances to evaluation. We call our adoption journey a pilgrimage, a walk of faith, with daily — sometimes hourly — opportunities to deepen our trust in the Lord.

Full text: 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Our Time in California Part I

Here's a bit of a run-down about what our time in California was like. There is just so much to say, so many grace-filled moments, challenging moments, exhausting moments...we feel like we've crammed months of life into three weeks!

Tuesday April 4: We woke up early and Dan's mom (who house-sat for us while we were gone) drove us to the airport. The car was packed with stuff! A suitcase each for me, Dan, and baby; a pack and play; a backpack, roller bag, car seat and stroller. Getting through security was crazy - our stuff took up the whole conveyor belt! Thankfully the people around us were patient, but wondered where the baby was! We told them we were adopting and people were very kind. Once we got through the line, we had over an hour before our flight, so a chance to catch our breath, and get some coffee and breakfast. We were able to gate-check the stroller and car seat to our final stop, so it was nice to be down to only a backpack and roller bag for the flight.

Ready for our adventure!

The flight to Oakland was quite long but smooth. We dozed, read a bit, and looked out the window. The descent into Oakland was really neat because we circled close to San Francisco and could even see the Golden Gate Bridge! In the airport we had about 40 minutes to hustle to our gate, buy some Chinese food for lunch, and board again.

We landed safely in Ontario (east of LA) and all our luggage arrived, yay! We were met at the airport by a friend's dad and mom, who were kindly lending us their extra mini van. (Unfortunately, we had to get a rental car a few days later because our car seat didn't work in the van...but it was really sweet of them and saved us some money!) We drove to our rental (airbnb) in Riverside, pinching ourselves that were were finally in California!

Jet lag really set in that evening...we went to a nearby grocery store and were just barely able to get some essentials before going to the apartment and crashing.

Wednesday April 5: We slept in (as much as you can when you're on Eastern time still...) and got bagel sandwiches at the ironically named East Coast Bagel. Then we ran some errands and drove to the hospital to check it out. It was an easy 20-minute drive and the scenery was really striking. Lots of hills in the distance (including some with snow on them), palm trees, long vistas - it seemed like something out of Jurassic Park or Lord of the Rings.

view from the hospital

At the hospital, we found the maternity ward and introduced ourselves to the head nurse. She showed us the waiting room and said to announce ourselves when we arrived tomorrow. It was surreal being in the place where the baby would be born the next day! We were happy to see that the hospital was clean, the staff seemed friendly, and it was small, not nearly as loud and overwhelming as hospitals around DC.

We went out to eat before going to bed early in anticipation of our VERY BIG DAY tomorrow.

Thursday, April 6: We got up super duper early to get all of our stuff together and get to the hospital. We knew that Zelie's birthmom was asked to be there at 5 a.m. but the nurse said we didn't need to get there before 7:30....we got there around 6, haha - just too much anticipation!! To our pleasant surprise, Zelie's birithmom asked us to come back to her room right away to meet her. What a special moment that was! We were able to visit for quite a while before she had to get prepped for the c-section. We also met a few members of her family, which was special.

Around 9 or so, we went to get something to eat. The hospital actually hosts a farmer's markets on Thursday so we had some delicious fresh berries, a breakfast burrito and some pastries - yum.

We went back to the waiting room, and another very pleasant surprise - Bethany was asked by Zelie's birthmom to be present for the delivery. So she suited up in the mask, head covering, robe, shoe covering, and was taken into the operating room. It's impossible to describe the incredible honor this was, both to be present to Zelie's birthmom during the c-section, and also to hear Zelie's first cries and see her in the very first minute of her life....we will be forever grateful for this memory. Bethany also got to cut Zelie's cord after she was born and hold her. Her birthmom was still on the operating table but got to give Zelie some special mama kisses.

Zelie then went to the recovery room to be weighed, measured, etc. She got to spend some special time with her birthfather there, and a bit later Dan was able to meet her and to help give her the first bath as doctors checked her out. All of these moments were so rich and happening so fast, it was impossible to take it all in - we just tried to receive each moment as a gift as it came.

My first time seeing Zelie! So overwhelmed with joy! I fell in love at first sight :-) 

Saying hello, what an adorable face!

A bit later, Zelie and her birthmom were taken to a postpartum room, where we joined them. When her birthmom was able to eat again, we asked what she wanted to eat (knowing hospital food is bad!) so she requested sushi. Dan drove half way across town to get the finest sushi :-) . Later that evening, we were invited by her birthmom to stay in the hospital room overnight - what a privilege that was. So we went back to our rental to get pajamas, etc., and then returned to the hospital. It was a big double room and we each had a single pull-out bed on one half. We loved spending time bonding with Zelie and feeding and changing her. It was such a joy to spend all of these moments with Zelie and her birthmother.

Friday, April 7: We spent all day at the hospital with Zelie and her birthmom, other than going back to the rental to shower and going out for food. What a special time this was, and always will be for us and for Zelie. We had lots of time just to talk with Zelie's birthmom and get to know her more, and also to appreciate all the little things about Zelie. Of course nurses and doctors were in and out pretty regularly, so it wasn't completely restful, but it was a wonderful experience.

One of her 100,000 cute faces. She is so expressive!

A funny story: in the middle of the night, Dan got up to quiet Zelie and change her diaper. Knowing that she generally screams during diaper changes, he decided to push her cart into the hall so as not to wake the ladies. Well, that is a soon as he got in the hall, a voice came over the loudspeaker: "Sir, please put the baby back in the room." Oops, the baby had an alarm on her leg which he set off!! He insisted he wasn't trying to steal the baby, just change her quietly! Lesson learned, he changed the diapers in the room from there on out.

Saturday, April 8: The day was similar to Friday, lots of time with Zelie and her birthmom, not a whole lot of sleep! In the morning, the doctors let us know that Zelie and her birthmom could be discharged today - yay! We were all ready to get outside, together - we'd been able to go out singly but of course someone needed to stay with Zelie, who could not leave the room (see above). Of course there was lots of paperwork to do before discharge (more so because of the adoption) so we didn't end up leaving until later in the afternoon. The birth father visited as well which was nice. But what a wonderful moment to leave the hospital! Zelie had her first elevator ride, first breath of outside air, and first car ride all in quick succession.

1st car ride!
We were honored to take her birthmom and birthfather to their homes, which gave us all a little more time together. We also got some photos printed on the way (Walmart) so Zelie's birthparents could have hard copies. Tonight was the first time we had Zelie on our own, which was very special. She slept like a normal baby! Up every few hours to eat, but generally easy to comfort.

Holy Week: Sunday, April 9 - Saturday, April 15

We were able to spend some more time with Zelie's birthparents on Palm Sunday, which as always was very special.

A lot of this week was spent just getting used to having a sweet little baby in our care! Zelie had her first check-up on Monday morning and did great. She had dropped in weight a little, which is normal, and was very healthy, praise God!

Snuggle time

On Monday at 5 p.m., Zelie's placement into our family became irrevocable. Her birthmother had chosen to waive the 30 day "revocation period" in California and entrust her to us early. We happened to be in the car at 5 p.m. and said a Rosary for Zelie's birthparents, knowing that this was likely a difficult time for them, despite their conviction in choosing adoption for their daughter.

Tuesday our friend Fr. Jon visited and gave Zelie her first blessing. Dan and Fr. Jon were college roommates and good friends, and Father is a priest in Los Angeles. What a blessing!

Our priest friend Fr. Jon feeding Zelie!

Zelie's first blessing by Fr. Jon!

On Wednesday we ventured out to a vineyard with Bethany's brother Ben and his girlfriend Natalie, who live in Los Angeles. It was gorgeous weather! And very pleasant sitting in the shade, sipping wine and talking. A great way to pass the time. Zelie enjoyed meeting her first uncle.

All of us at the vineyard! So beautiful!

Zelie's happy Uncle Ben! Check out those cute flamingo pants and sun hat! She is a model :-) 

Enjoying the vineyard under a veranda together!

Thursday was Zelie's one-week birthday! Good job, Zelie!!

On Friday we took Zelie to church for the first time, to the Good Friday liturgy. The church near our hotel, St. Martha's, turned out to be quite lovely with wonderful music. They had a full choir for the service and the church was packed! Zelie slept through the entire two-hour service.

Zelie's first church service! Can you find Zelie?
On Saturday we went back to the vineyards, this time meeting up with local friends who had also recently adopted!

Easter Sunday: April 16

We went back to St. Martha's on Easter morning for Mass and it was even more crowded than on Good Friday. People were spilling out the back doors where we stood. After Zelie had a bottle and a diaper change, she again slept through the whole service. It was her first Mass! After church, we visited with Zelie's birthmom for the afternoon and did a fun Easter photo shoot with Zelie - bunny ears and all! Here are some cute pictures from the day.

Zelie after her first Mass! She enjoyed it sleeping peacefully in the Lord!

Like we said, isn't she a cute little model? So beautiful!

Little family snuggle time together.
We are so blessed by Zelie, the joy is overwhelming! We feel very surrounded by God's grace. More to come later about our time in California and our travel back to Maryland!!

Please continue to keep us, Zelie, and her courageous birthparents in your prayers!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Introducing Our Daughter Zelie!

Wow, the last week has been such a whirlwind!! We are overjoyed to announce the birth of our daughter Zelie-Louise Layla Rose, who was born on April 6, and entrusted to us by her birthparents on April 10. Welcome to the outside world, Zelie, and to our family!

There is so much to say about the last few days....and we are operating on significantly less sleep than usual, so this will probably be short-ish, with more posts later. Here are some thoughts for now:

We were able to meet Zelie's birthmother and several members of her birth family prior to birth, which was really special. We ended up staying in the hospital on Thursday and Friday night, sharing a room with Zelie and her birthmother. That was a really precious time for us, and we hope that we were supportive to Zelie's birthmom too.

About her name: Zelie is pronounced like "Kelly" but with a Z. Zelie-Louise comes from two French saints, St. Zelie and St. Louis Martin, who were canonized in 2015 (we were there in Rome for the canonization!). They were a holy married couple. Google them if they're unfamiliar. One of their daughters is more well-known: St. Therese of Lisieux. Louise is also special because of our friend Louise who passed away in March. Layla Rose is a gift to Zelie from her birthparents, who chose that name for her. Rose is a family name for us too (Dan's paternal grandma was Rosina so we were happy to name her after his Grandma as well), and as a few friends have pointed out, St. Therese is associated with roses, so it all fits together! As we have been saying: it's a long name packed with a lot of love.

About Zelie: she is a delightful baby! Praise God, she is fairly healthy. She only had to stay in the hospital until Saturday and then was discharged at the same time as her birthmom. She is eating great, sleeping like a normal baby (she prefers to sleep in our arms but does okay in her pack and play too), she makes all kinds of cute noises and faces, and is just a pure joy. We love being parents for her! They also say "sleep when the baby sleeps," but it's hard when the baby is just so cute and you want to stare in wonder at her!!

About her birth: that really is her birthmom's story so we won't go into detail. One special thing to note is that her birthmom asked Bethany to be in the delivery room, which was such an incredible honor, and Bethany was able to cut the umbilical cord. We were impressed at what a strong and nice woman her birthmom is, and we have enjoyed so much the opportunity to get to know her while we're in California.

That's about it for now - more later! We'll leave you with a few more pics of Zelie :)

baby headband!

baby burrito!

She is listening to "ocean," like a true California baby :) 

Her Maryland outfit!
Eyes open and happy!
Some daddy and daughter cuddle time! More pics to come later...

Monday, April 3, 2017

Prayer List & Goals for our time in California

On the eve of our trip, in case you would like to pray very specifically for some intentions:

1. For baby and her health and safe delivery on Thursday morning
2. For baby's mom, her health, peace, wisdom, clarity, good health, speedy recovery from c-section, and everything else she needs at this time
3. For baby's father, extended family, and everyone who cares for them: for peace and good health and that they can be a support to baby's parents no matter what happens
4. For our safe flights, particularly that predicted thunderstorms tomorrow morning do not materialize or affect our flights, and that none of our luggage is lost
5. For all the doctors and nurses giving care to mom and baby, for wisdom, kindness, gentleness, and respect for the adoption situation
6. For our lawyer, his staff, our home agency social workers, and all the adoption professionals involved in this situation, for wisdom and kindness, and in gratitude for the help they've offered us all so far
7. (Not adoption related, but on our hearts) For the peaceful repose of Grandpa Meola & Louise, and for comfort for those who miss them
8. If the adoption proceeds - that we can give this little one all the care, presence, love, closeness, and everything else that she needs in the first few weeks of her life
9. If the adoption does not proceed - that even in our disappointment we can pray for the baby and her parents, and accept wholeheartedly that this was not meant to be our child
10. That we would stay in good health and stay close to each other throughout our trip
11. That we would decide on the perfect name for this baby!! :)

And some of our goals for the next few weeks (also prayers that we can do this!):

1. Pray intently for the baby, her birthparents, and all involved in their lives and the adoption.
2. In whatever way we can, show love to the baby's mother, father and anyone else from their family we get to meet.
3. Receive every moment as a gift.
4. Entrust the outcome of the adoption to the Lord, trusting in His perfect, providential plan for this daughter of God.
5. "Roll with the punches" and be open to the unexpected - "semper Gumby" (always be flexible)
6. Open our hearts to everything we will experience the next few weeks, no matter how difficult, unexpected, demanding, and so on

One Day Til Go Time, Final Prep & Another Loss

On Thursday we learned that baby will be arriving by c-section on April 6, so we booked our flight to California for April 4 (!!!) aka TOMORROW Oh wow is this exciting.

The mood - "One Day More" from Les Mis...........energizing!!

If you would like to pray - we fly out of Baltimore/Washington at 8:10 a.m. We are keeping baby and her parents in our constant prayer as the day draws near. We found a place to stay for a week when we arrive, an airbnb apartment rental that has a full kitchen and is about 20 minutes away from the hospital. After that, we'll see! Hopefully we'll have a good read on the situation: where we need to be, how close to the hospital, etc.

Preparations are going well for our trip. Bethany was in charge of packing baby's suitcase, which was a challenge! Mostly difficult to decide what adorable outfit NOT to bring.....we chose a medium-sized suitcase to keep it all reasonable. Only four pairs of baby shoes.......! haha (totally necessary, right?)

Dan chose his favorite onesie to take along (says Daddy's Girl). 

And here's our packing list - mostly checked off! (We are so not travelling light.....thank you Southwest baggage allowance.)

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Dan's mom arrived on Saturday evening. She's going to house-sit for us the whole time we're gone, which puts our mind at ease. On Sunday we introduced her to many friends at our parish so they can say hello at church and maybe have her over for dinner. One friend offered to mow the lawn for us, which was really sweet. We are so thankful for our church family! We've only been in Bowie since July and already it has become such a supportive place. 

Other preparations: we had a great hour-long conversation with a social worker at Barker (our home study agency) about what to expect at the hospital. Realizing that the situation will likely be fluid, emotions will be high for everyone, how to be respectful of the baby's mother, legal considerations, and so on. It was really helpful. 

We got a letter from the adoption lawyer to bring to the hospital social worker when we arrive. They will send a copy directly to the hospital. Since we will most likely be arriving before the birth, we plan on going to the hospital on April 5 to get a feel for it and maybe meet the social worker.

Monday was our final day of work. What a surreal feeling, saying goodbye to coworkers for several weeks/months. 

In sadder news......on Sunday afternoon, Dan's dad called to let us know that his grandpa had passed away early that morning. It was a bit of a shock. Even though he was 93, his health was fairly stable and he was still at home, with the help of Dan's dad, aunt, and other family members. What sad news to receive. Thankfully Dan visited him in Erie just a few weeks ago - he had debated travelling the 7 hours because of preparing for the adoption, but now is so glad he did. (Bethany had a work trip the same time, unfortunately.) Grandpa Meola was such a special person in our lives. He was an immigrant from Italy and kept a love for his native country alive, especially through food. Christmas and New Year's were feasts in Grandma & Grandpa's home. We've shared many a cup of espresso with him. He was a fixture in Dan's family and in our experience of visits to Erie - Sunday lunches, afternoon visits, and of course holidays. We are going to miss him so much and visits to Dan's hometown just won't be the same. (Grandma Meola passed away a few years ago.)

We miss you, Grandpa. Cheers to you.

Plus the sadness of not having Grandpa meet our baby....that hurts. We are now down to one grandparent (Dan's Grandma Cullen) and we for sure are going to get that baby up to Erie asap for a 4 generation picture!! And we know that Grandpa, and Louise, are still close to us and will be smiling down - can't wait to see them both again one day!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Life Since Match

Goal: to record & remember what has happened since the match.

Start with....the happy stuff:

It probably goes without saying that there has been a lot of joy!! No matter what happens, we are ecstatic at the chance to love this little girl from a distance, and to prepare our hearts and home for her. What an absolute privilege. So, lots of happy moments and giddy joy feelings - especially right after the match.

We were showered with love, twice! First at Bethany's work: her kind and generous coworkers arranged a lunch where we could eat together and celebrate our adoption through cake.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing and food

Funny story: before the lunch, we went to Mass (at work) and received a special blessing. The priest gave it after the homily - we stood up and he prayed over us. Well, the blessing was about parenthood, yes, but didn't mention adoption at all - so afterwards, several coworkers who didn't know about adoption congratulated us, asked "when are you due?" and had hilarious reactions when we said "April! ...Oh, we're adopting!"

Anyway, the lunch was lovely. Bethany feels so blessed to have such a supportive work environment with so many people who have become friends. #love

And, we were showered with love once more at our house! Two good friends offered to throw us a shower, which ended up being on March 19, which is usually St. Joseph's feast day, although it was moved this year because March 19 was a Sunday. Our two friends, plus their husband/fiance, plus my parents and another good friend, did all the decorations and food. We enjoyed a lunch out and then came back to a house full of lovely people and JOY!

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This is approximately 2/3rd of the attendees - the others are in the kitchen or backyard or out of sight

We requested a coed party and said people could bring their kids, so it ended up being packed - standing room only - and so much fun! Thankfully some snowy weather in the morning cleared away so the older kids could run around outside. 

Several of our guests had sent presents in advance (since we didn't know when we'd be leaving for California), so our hostesses devised this really neat present-opening system: everyone wrote what they brought on a popsicle stick, and then when we read it off, they'd give us the present. There were a lot of fun surprises! And people were so very generous!!

It felt like a tornado of love had swept through our house. Afterwards we went to bed around 8!

Overall, it has been just so exciting to think of being parents in a few weeks/days. We've talked about a name, set up the nursery, washed a bajillion baby clothes, packed our suitcases, and so much more all in preparation. 

The more difficult stuff: 

Even with such a happy event on the horizon, there have been sad parts of the month too. Most especially was losing our dear friend Louise, who died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 93.

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From her 93rd birthday party at our house

Louise was a special part of our lives for the past five years. We first met her through mutual friends who asked us if we could take her grocery shopping. We did that for a long time, then after she got more unsteady we brought her groceries. Then she moved to assisted living and we visited her regularly. She became a really good friend - very fun to talk with, always interested in our lives. She did not have children or any family to speak of, so we and some other local friends really were her family at the end. Dan and I had the privilege of planning her funeral and helping with some of her affairs after death. It has been hard to say goodbye, and a bit challenging to deal with all the logistics on top of all the adoption preparations, but more than anything it's been a blessing to know such a special lady and get to play a special role in her life.

Adoption related hard, so many emotions. And honestly a lot of anxiety. There is the anxiety over whether the adoption will happen in the end. We trust and pray that the baby's parents will make the right decision for the baby & them, and we don't currently have reason to think that they'll decide to parent. But it's never certain until it's certain. So there's that anxiety.

There is the anxiety of the travel itself. We have all our bags packed pretty much, with the exception of toiletries and last-minute items (which are all on a list so we don't forget!!). We're waiting until we get word that either mom is in labor or a c-section is scheduled. So we don't have flights or a place to stay yet, which is a bit nerve-wracking - but it will come together, we're sure. Dan's mom is coming down from Erie to house-sit for us, which is wonderful and puts our minds at ease about our house.

There is the anxiety of baby's medical needs, which we have some indication of from what we've been told but of course don't know the extent until birth. Will we be able to meet baby's needs? What will it all be like?

And there is simply the anxiety of such a HUGE change in our lives. Very, very wanted - but still a change. We've both worked really hard the last few weeks at work to set things up so there is a smooth transition from us being there to others taking our projects for a while. It's strange now to be working on projects that we may or may not see the conclusion of. It's just strange in general to think of being away from home and all that's familiar for the next few weeks. It's hard to envision what it's all going to be like...

So that's what it's been like in a nutshell since match. A lot of different emotions! Trying to take it one day at a time! Pray for us!

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

FAQs about the Match and What's Next

Here are some common questions we've been asked since we've been matched. Please don't hesitate to ask us anything! As you'll see, there are some topics we're not sharing much about, but still ask. We love talking about adoption!

Will you get to name the baby?
Yes, we will. Although in adoption, it's a little more complicated than usual... The birthmother chooses the name that goes on the baby's birth certificate at the hospital. Once the adoption is finalized and we are the baby's legal parents, she will be issued an amended birth certificate and we can choose the name that goes on that and will be her legal name going forward. (Finalization with CA cases generally happens 6-8 months after birth.)

Also, many times with adoption the adoptive parents use some or all of a name suggested by the birthparents. We think this is a beautiful way to show the birthparents' love for their child, and to honor the child's birth family. In our case, the expectant mother did share with us a name that means a lot to her and the father, and we are taking that to prayer as we decide on a name.

What will you name the baby??
We're going to keep this a surprise! :) Although at a party Bethany's work hosted for us, many helpful suggestions were given like Dorcas, Minerva, and Hedwig....keeping those in mind, haha ;)

How long will you have to stay in California?
We don't know for sure, but likely a few weeks or more. The baby has some medical issues that will require a stay in the hospital. Once the baby is born and discharged from the hospital, ICPC starts. ICPC = Interstate Compact for the Protection of Children. During this time California and Maryland have to exchange paperwork and approve us to leave the state. If we leave California before we're approved, it's a crime and the same as kidnapping. (!!) This process tends to take between 10-14 business days, and since it starts after the baby leaves the hospital, if baby needs some extra post-birth care then we can't start the paperwork right away. That's why it's just an estimate at this point. Hey, a few more days to go to the beach! j/j :)

Are there medical issues with the baby?
We do not want to go into detail about that as that is very private. Long term the prognosis is very good and we embrace whatever medical condition there is or may come. Come what may, we love this child as our own.

Will the baby go home from the hospital with you?
That is the plan. The lawyer we're working with does what's called "direct placement" adoption so after birth, the mother signs a form making us the temporary guardians of the child and giving us the right to make medical decisions for the child. The baby is then in our care ("placed" with us), so when she is ready to leave the hospital, she will go with us. (FYI: some agencies, including our home study agency in Maryland, have what's called "cradle care" where the baby is not placed with the adoptive family right away but in a temporary foster home during the revocation period.)

What's the revocation period and how long does it last?
Even when an expectant mother makes an adoption plan before her baby's birth, she has a chance to change her mind after birth. This is called the revocation period and it is a different length in every state. In some states it is as short as 72 hours (maybe even shorter?) and in other cases it is much longer. In California, that time period is 30 days, so after birth the mother has a 30 day time period within which she can decide to parent after all. However, California, after third-party legal counsel, also grants the mother the ability to sign a waiver of this revocation period in which case the revocation period lasts 24 hours. We leave this decision completely up to the birth mother. (The rules are a bit different for fathers, and we won't attempt to spell that all out here....the lawyer will be guiding us throughout this whole process.)

Wow, that's a long time for the normal revocation period. Isn't that nerve-wracking?
We are sure there will be SO many emotions during the revocation period! It's a risk for us, and something that we knowingly accept. It will certainly be an emotional time for the birthparents, too. We believe giving this time to prospective birthparents is essential to make sure they make the very serious decision to place their child for adoption freely and with a lot of confidence. (It's interesting to debate what the "ideal" revocation period would be, but that's kind of irrelevant since the state's law is the law.) A good lawyer or agency will help adoptive parents know whether there are any noticeable "red flags" in a situation that indicate that the expectant parents might decide to parent after all. Our lawyer has been helpful in this regard. Yet, it is nerve-wracking. We will try to approach this time with faith in God's providence and also with the motto (shared by an adoptive mom friend) that no matter what happens, "Love is never wasted."

What is the story of the birthparents?
While we completely understand people's interest in the baby's parents, the only information we'll be sharing about them is that they live in California (hence where the baby will be born) and they made the heroically generous decision to place their child for adoption. Regarding everything else - we're not intending to be secretive, but rather are respecting their privacy and the fact that this is the child's story. The child needs to hear from us everything we know about her birthparents (or even from them, if that is possible), and then she can decide what to share with others. This is a principle we learned in our adoption training and we think it makes a lot of sense. We see ourselves as stewards of our child's story and will share it with her as she grows up, so that she knows where she comes from and can share that information however she wants (or not share, if she doesn't want to).

Will this be an open adoption?
We hope so! To clarify, open adoption is when there is ongoing contact between the adoptive parents and birthparents. Every situation is different. This could mean simply exchanging pictures and letters, or talking on the phone, or even meeting in person from time to time. We have spoken with the expectant mom on the phone, which was an amazing experience, and we really hope to meet her in California (and the father, and extended family - whoever wants to meet with us). We know that the expectant parents are interested in having some kind of ongoing contact, although we'll have to talk (guided by the lawyer) about what that exactly will look like. On our part, we believe that open adoption benefits everyone. Our child could have a chance to know more fully her biological background and heritage, and the birthparents can have greater confidence that their child is loved and cared for. As the child grows, we would get ongoing guidance from our Maryland home study agency about how to navigate this unique relationship (they have a full-time person who deals solely with post-adoption care).

Are you just so, so excited?!?!?!
The answer to that is a resounding YES!!! We can't wait!!

If you have another question please let us know! Either in the comments or by email:

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Novena to St. Joseph for our adoption

St. Joseph's feast day is coming up - March 19.* St. Joseph is an amazing intercessor for adoptive families, being the foster father of Jesus. (There are good reasons we could call him Jesus' adoptive father too, but that would take another post!)

We're going to be praying this novena to St. Joseph provided by the USCCB Respect Life office. It's really beautiful!! There are prayers each day for the different people involved in any adoption. We are going to be praying for the people involved in our adoption. If you'd like to join us, here is the link (opens a PDF):

St. Joseph, pray for us!!

*this year it's technically March 20 because March 19 is a Sunday...but close enough!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

We Are Matched - Long Story!!!

Here is the much, much longer version of our "match." Part of the reason we're writing it up is to remember these extremely special moments. Be aware that we are not including all the information we have about the baby and the expectant parents, partly to protect their privacy and partly because as we have learned in our adoption training, fundamentally this story is the child's story. We won't be sharing medical information, diagnoses, parents' background, etc., that we would want the child to hear second-hand.

But that still leaves a LOT to say!!

Back-up to Monday, February 6. Right after we got home from work, we realized we had a phone message from the director of St. Joseph's Adoption Ministry (the original agency we had signed up with over a year ago). It was about a little girl in California, due April 1, with some information about her and the situation, and were we interested?

We needed a little more information, and after we got that from the attorney in California who was working with the expectant parents, then we said yes the following day (Feb 7) to showing our profile.

Then came some looooooong and somewhat torturous days of waiting (per usual). We knew that the parents were given our profile on Thursday, February 9, and initially we thought that if they liked us, we might be setting up a phone call with them that night or shortly thereafter. But no. The next week started, and when we checked back in with the attorney's office (he and his staff were always very gracious) we were told the parents hadn't yet decided but that they were looking at our profile and others. The attorney was also helping the parents with some crisis-level problems, which was understandably occupying everyone's time.

So we waited some more, and mid-week that week, the attorney's assistant let us know that the parents were now considering our profile and ONE other family's. (!!!!) It felt like we were *this close* to winning the lottery and yet something even better because c'mon, what compares with the great gift of a child?! The tension just kept increasing....

Then they told us on Friday, February 17th that the expectant mother would make her decision by the afternoon. ...But no call came. One more day passed and we were both at a family event on Saturday. Dan, in particular, thought all hope was lost on this case. He was very sad; we both thought this would end like other cases, with a "no". Another day came and went, and it was Monday, February 20th. Dan emailed the lawyer's office and asked politely what the answer was, even it was a "no" so we could grieve and move on. He got what seemed like an ominous email, "Dan, could you please share with me the best number to reach you and Bethany today, in case the lawyer has to call you?" We thought it was just a formal call to say we were not chosen. Instead, the lawyer called and said that the mother wanted to talk with you!!! At the time, we were sitting on our porch enjoying the unseasonably warm February weather, enjoying our day off (President's Day); the call came during the 3 o'clock hour, which in our Catholic tradition is the hour of mercy.

About ten minutes later, we are talking with the expectant mother! What do you say in such situations? Come Holy Spirit! (And we needed a lot of the Holy Spirit, too, because there was a bad phone connection! Ugh! Thankfully, we don't *think* we missed any important details.) We ended up talking for over an hour and it was one of the most amazing and unforgettable conversations.  We can't go into those private and intimate details of the conversation, but we were really blown away by the beauty of her desire to do what is right for her daughter. We assured her that she would always be viewed as a hero by her daughter for this heroic act. We really enjoyed talking with her and we look forward to getting to know her and the father if they want to get to know us. We also wanted to affirm her that no matter her choice with who she chose for the adoption, that she was courageous for what she is doing and she is giving a great gift to her daughter.

In short - it was truly a holy hour, and no matter what was a chance for us to encourage a woman facing a difficult situation. What a blessing.

The call ended around 4:45....and we had friends coming over for dinner at 5! We had done nothing to prepare but they were so gracious when they arrived and found us scrambling around, giddy and kind of spacey after such an intense time!

Then more waiting came... Would she choose us? Did she like us from our conversation? We prayed a lot that evening for her, the father, and the child. As providence would have it, we had a Eucharistic holy hour to go to that evening and we were able to go to this holy hour with two really great and holy sisters from the religious order Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy (St. Faustina's order) who work with Dan. All of us prayed and prayed that evening for a successful match, for the mother and father, and just tried to rest in Christ's love during this anxious period of waiting.

Tuesday, Feb 20

The morning was uneventful, which we expected because of the time zone difference between MD and CA. At Mass - wow - the Gospel included this line: "Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me." That word....receive! Chills!

Around 3:30 p.m. (again the hour of mercy) Dan received a phone call from the lawyer! He had his supervisor in his office for a meeting and had to quickly ask him to leave! How embarrassing, but his supervisor was gracious and understood the importance because Dan mentioned it was an adoption lawyer. Would it be good news or bad news? Another rejection or the miracle we had been waiting for, waiting for almost six years?

Dan's experience:

The lawyer said, "We have an adoption plan." Dan, confused by this language, asked bluntly, "Wait does this mean...we are matched?" Lawyer: "Oh sorry, yes!" Dan: "Wow, this is incredible..." (stumbles for words and thoughts) as the lawyer continues to talk about all the details of what happens next. Dan quickly waking up to his senses then shot off a quick email to Bethany. Lawyer went over a few more details about paperwork and the situation and then the phone conversation was over. It was about 4:00 p.m.

Bethany's experience:

At about 3:30, Dan emailed Bethany saying "might be running late - talking with the lawyer." Bethany responded "And???????" Oh boy - what suspense! Dan emailed back "can't talk"; Bethany said "I am literally dying over here" [using "literally" improperly in a fit of emotion]; and finally Dan emailed "it is good!" Bethany left her desk and went down to the chapel on the first floor - so filled with emotion, thanking God, feeling just overcome with gratitude, relief, joy, so much... Dan called a few minutes later: "Are you sitting down? ....We're matched!"

Bethany then left work and began walking up the street to the Shrine where Dan works! She stopped in Mary's Garden (where Dan had first asked her to date) to pray and cry - and then on to the reliquary chapel at the Shrine. She lit a candle to John Paul II for the baby, parents, and everyone involved.

This is how she felt! (Elinor)

We met in the chapel with one of the happiest of smiles and biggest hugs we have ever had in our marriage. Tears rolling down our faces, we said a quick joyful prayer together to the Lord in front of a first-class relic of Saint John Paul II and prayed for his intercession (and thanked him too since we know he was working with Christ on this one!).

We felt like this too:

Then we were off to fill out paperwork, but we had to first buy a printer and set it up. We had been putting off that purchase for some time! So it took some time to set up the printer and finish the paper work (a big long contract and other forms). It was about 9:30 p.m. when we were finished and all we wanted to do was shout from the mountaintops with joy. Should we call someone to tell them the news or wait until tomorrow? How could we wait with such joyful news?! So we called friends and family! The last call was at 10:40 p.m.! Yup, we woke up more than one friend that evening :-) But it was so amazing to share and to hear the joy in their voices and the tears that were heard through the phone! We are blessed to be surrounded by so many wonderful friends and so much love...

Yes, our future little daughter (with chills of humility we write those words), whom we barely knew, was already beginning to have a huge impact on the world, sending a ripple of joy through the hearts of so many throughout the country she has yet to meet. Isn't it amazing the joy one child in the womb can bring to hundreds of people, but especially to these two hearts of ours?! We're overcome by the beauty of it all.

We are so excited to be parents and to shower this child with much love. For close to six years throughout the suffering of infertility, we have prayed and waited patiently to be a father and a mother and we know that all the waiting is not in vain, but just served to strengthen our love for this little one. And so many already have shown immense love to our child, especially the ones reading this blog. We feel the prayers and support of each person.

We know that between the next few weeks hold uncertainty - after birth in California, there is a 30-day revocation period within which parents can decide to parent and not place their child for adoption. We realize this is a risk. But more than anything, we see this time as an opportunity to LOVE this precious little girl and her parents - to prepare our hearts and home to welcome this little one and to pray every single day for her and her parents. No matter what happens in the weeks to come, this is an incredible gift. We move forward with cautious optimism and hopeful JOY!

However, despite our immense joy, the last words of this post have to be love and admiration toward the heroic expectant mother and father for choosing to place their child for adoption in difficult circumstances and suffering. While we cannot fathom to know what it is like for them and how difficult it may be, we pray that our joy will become their joy in some mysterious way, a joy of knowing that their child will be safe, loved greatly, have a wonderful home, and think the world of them for this heroic choice. We pray God sends them peace, health, strength, perseverance, comfort, love and whatever they need through this situation. We look forward to being there for them - if they would like us to have contact with them - because our hearts are full of love for them too, especially the mother who makes such a difficult sacrifice here.

Thank you for choosing us; we are so deeply humbled. We will not let you down, we will love your daughter as our own with a love that is greater than mere human love, a love that reflects Christ's own love who sees in every person at every point of their lives a precious son or daughter of God's from their toes to the depths of their souls. Thank you God for mysteriously working through this situation to bring this greater love of yours to the world.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

We're Matched - Short Story!!!

Oh boy oh boy oh boy or should we say oh girl oh girl oh girl - this is the news we have been waiting for...before we give allllll the details, here is the cliff note version:

On Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, an expectant mom chose us to adopt her baby. The baby is a girl and is due on April 1 in California.


Really, really long story to follow...stay tuned...


Please pray for us, our future daughter (wow - can't believe we just wrote that), and the incredible and heroic birth parents.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

While We Wait: January 2017 (Month #13)

Happy New Year!

Adoption stuff:

In January, we were presented with one possible situation, but after a week's wait, we found out we weren't chosen. More about that here.  It was a roller-coaster experience as usual. Another chance to trust in the Lord's providence for us, and his plan for our family. And another opportunity to have several concrete, real people to pray for: the child and his parents. We wish that this "lucky month 13" would have ended with exciting news, a trip to Georgia, jumping into the adventure of parenthood....but we continue in the "waiting" phase of our pilgrimage.

We attended a "waiting parents" meeting at our Maryland agency this month. The topic was "cradle care" and it was really informative. Cradle care is when a vetted foster family takes care of a child after birth but before the revocation period passes. As a reminder, every state has a different revocation period - this is the time after the birthmother (and possibly the birthfather) sign papers to have the child adopted, but before those consents are final. During the revocation period, the birthparents can change their minds and decide to parent, no questions asked. It's a sensitive but hugely important time period for such a big decision. In Maryland this period is 30 days; in Georgia it's 10; other states are as short as 72 hours. Cradle care families provide a safe, loving home for the child to be while his/her birthparents confirm their decision for adoption - and it also helps provide some emotional distance for the prospective adoptive parents, in case the placement does not happen.

At the meeting, we met some of the cradle care families who work with our Barker agency. They were wonderful! Even though we wouldn't be working with them, since we are 99% likely going to adopt out-of-state (Open Door has its own cradle care program), it was reassuring to see how warm-hearted these families were. They provide SUCH a beautiful service, to take in a child in need, knowing that it is going to be temporary - to give a little one a good start of love knowing that he or she will be leaving in a week or month. The families talked about how much they enjoyed being with the babies, even for just a short time. It was really inspiring.

Other stuff we did:

  • Family time around New Year's! Bethany's parents and Dan's mom visited for New Year's and it was really fun all being together. We taught them a new board game (Puerto Rico) that Dan's mom won twice in a row! And we made cookies together and ate a LOT - balanced out with taking the dog for a walk.

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Penny wins the festive attire award
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Making "bellybuttons" - yum
  • Bethany supported friends of ours who are adopting from Colombia by attending a "painting party." It was really fun, and we both thought the painting turned out well!
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some serious art is happening here
  • We marched for life! It was cold, cold, cold but really wonderful to show our support for life at all stages. There was a great turnout and it was fun (as always) running into friends from near and far. If you can't read them, our signs say: "Adoption is a Loving Choice" and "Birthmoms are Heroes for Choosing Life." We wanted to send a message of support for adoption. It actually was mentioned a lot in speeches at the rally, which was great. And we had a few people who wanted to take pictures of our signs. Dan even met a birthmother who shared with him a website - - which is by birthparents, for birthparents, with information about adoption, dispelling misconceptions and that sort of thing. Really great to see!
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before the rally
  • We celebrated Dan's birthday! This year we took a little two-day trip to the Eastern Shore (the part of Maryland on the east side of the Chesapeake Bay, for you non-locals). It was really relaxing. January is the off-season but the weather cooperated for some nice walks. We enjoyed a scrumptious dinner at Limoncello in St. Michaels.
we both had our first limoncello martinis - wow is all we have to say

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on Kent Island, in the Chesapeake Bay - the Bay Bridge is in the background

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about to enjoy a flight of beer
  • Finally, we had some nice surprise visits from out-of-town friends this month: one from a couple Bethany knew in college who now live in Kansas and were in town for a wedding - we had brunch together one Sunday; and one from a college roommate of Dan's who is now a Dominican priest, in town for the March for Life.
We hope 2017 is off to a good start for you! Please continue to keep us in your prayers - we are SO grateful!