ADOPTION

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We're adopting

The next phase of our adoption process, which lasted from July until January was the HEAVY paperwork phase. In an international adoption there are two really big groups of paperwork you have to do, the home study and the dossier. For us, the home study was longer, but the dossier took more time to complete.

Now, this phase is so long and boring that it scares a lot of people off. And after having gone through it, I understand why. Aside from the expense of adoption (which is enough of a barrier for most middle class families- ouch!) the paper work is a massive time commitment. There were months where I felt like it was my part-time job.

I tried to take breaks and pace myself, but the drive to finish is INSANE. I have never put so much pressure on myself in my entire life.

When the time comes to do it again, I feel like I’ll be able to go faster because I have a basic understanding of all the paperwork now. I will definitely set aside 2-3 months, with no travel, because travel slows you down. I will have timeline goals and a checklist from day one. And I won’t have to google every single adoption term six times… haha! But honestly, no matter how organized you are- everyone has unexpected bumps and hurdles in their process. It just happens.

So, in July of 2016 we met a social worker locally, to begin our home study process. Now, this is no regular application. We worked on it every day and it took us almost two months to complete. There’s a lot to it, like each of us writing an autobiography of our lives and answering the most personal questions you can imagine about your marriage and every aspect of your lives.

At the end of August we turned in our 99 page application, kind of the first of the two big groups of paperwork. Included in that were all kinds of things that we had to get notarized, old documents we had to request from Missouri, reference letters, a fingerprinting appointment… all kind of things. It was overwhelming at first, but then once we got into it, it was pretty damn exciting. And honestly, we’ve never felt so LEGIT.

We were so proud of every step, every trip to the post office, every night spent filling out questionnaires. Adoption is no joke. They kind of force you to be prepared in every possible way, I mean- I wrote a fire escape plan and map for our home. We have life insurance, we know our exact net worth and we have had a multitude of backgrounds checks and medical checks… even our dogs had to have official paperwork proving their vaccination history.

It doesn’t get much more adult than that.

The home study also includes the infamous “home visit” where a social worker visits your home to supposedly check all your cabinets and closets and peep in all your drawers. In the weeks leading up to our visit we went a little crazy cleaning, organizing and baby proofing. Buying a baby gate was one of the cutest days ever because we got to feel like REAL parents for, like, five whole minutes. haha.

The home study day came and went without a hitch. It wasn’t as scary as I imagined it would be. It was honestly pretty simple compared to all the paperwork.

After we turned that stuff in (in late August) we thought it was all downhill. We were told the dossier was “much easier”.

Then I started the dossier documents. Ha!

I think I cried the first night I really went though it and saw what all was on my checklist. Lots more supporting documents, letters to write, reference letters to have written, photos of our home (no pets allowed!)… you get the idea. It had its own set of doctors notes, separate from the ones we’d already completed. The list goes on…

Much documents. Many revisions.

I had one document, in particular, that I had to go back to get redone so many times. I had a couple mini breakdowns over that one. I cried to a complete stranger. It was honestly pretty embarrassing. But I was desperate and I did what I had to do to get my papers. I begged another stranger to drop what she was doing and come notarize something for me. Then after I finally got it all completed and turned in, it got rejected (over a minor detail that I still don’t completely understand) and I had to start over.

There were days it felt impossible. There were tears. There were late nights and early mornings. Almost all the appointments happen during working hours (doctors, police stations, notary etc…) so we spent our lunch breaks in this way multiple times each week for about six months. Let’s just say, our notary know us very well by now.

I struggled with guilt. I eventually had to draw new boundaries in my life. I realized that in this season of our life our family has to come first, that means our marriage and our adoption. After that my biggest priority is my work, we own two companies now. It takes more than ever to keep up with and balance these two priorities. After that I barely have time for our close friends. I had to realize I have zero time to go out and make new friends. As much as I want to, I don’t have the bandwidth for new girlfriends and cute coffee shops and girls nights. Maybe someday, but not today.

For almost seven months we did paperwork and more paperwork.

And then one day it was over.

So we turned in our dossier and completed home study (which is basically a 20 page reference letter, written by a social worker, detailing every aspect of your lives). Next, we started immigration applications. And finally… it was all turned in. Our to-do list was empty.

Now that’s not the last paper work we’ll be doing, but the really time consuming ones are behind us. Now it’s basically just waiting on things to come in the mail and keeping up with next steps for the next few months. We are now entering a waiting period. Our dossier documents are processing. And for the next who-knows-how-long (we’ve been told to expect a wait of up to 10 months) we’ll be waiting.

We’re waiting for a match (also called a referral sometimes). This is the magical day when you get an email with a child’s photos, sometimes a video and their medical history.

Until we have been matched we won’t know the timeline of when we’ll be traveling to bring our daughter home, we won’t know her age or her medical conditions. These are all things I am incredibly anxious to find out.

During the applications you fill out a medical condition list, which includes a checklist of maybe 40 medical conditions. You check off all the ones you are open to. We studied and studied, talked to medical professionals, talked to other adoptive parents and talked to each other for hours on end. Checking off those boxes was not easy. There are so many unknowns.

In the end, we just went with our instincts. You also have the option to choose the gender and maximum age for your match. There’s also an option to adopt twins or siblings. We feel really good about everything we checked. In my heart I feel like I have some premonitions about our child… but I could be wrong. I’m curious to find out.

Now we wait.

I am using this season to decorate a nursery and a playroom. It’s the biggest joy to me! I also made some personal goals to keep myself busy. Will I get anxious- obviously, yes. But it’s fine! This process wasn’t made to be easy. It tests every part of you. And in the end, I feel like it might be the most beautiful human experience of our lives.

We can wait.

  
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jeremy-elsie-larson

(This was our first application photo. #memories)

Today we’re excited to share with you how we came to choose adoption for our family and what the first eight (!!!) months of our process have been like. If you’re in the mood for a long post, you’ve come to the right place. Grab a coffee or a tea and get cozy. (this is all just from the first month- haha!)

One thing we’ve already learned is that the adoption process can look drastically different for different families, so keep in mind that we are just here to share our unique story.

I knew I wanted to adopt from a young age. I always assumed I would have biological and adopted children. It’s just how I envisioned my family.

The first (or maybe second?) year we were married we followed the story of Ashley’s adoption. She adopted a baby girl from China through the special needs program. Her daughter had an unrepaired cleft lip and palate that required a series of surgeries after they got settled at home.

It was our first time following a story like this and it MOVED us deeply.

Her story was unique. We watched the ups and downs. Watching the process leading up to her adoption, which isn’t easy at all. It looked painful. And then the beautiful weeks that Ashley and her family traveled to China to meet and bring home their daughter. Then, later on, the surgeries and milestones they went through together.

At one point I remember sitting in bed looking at an Instagram update from Ashley and Jeremy said he could see us adopting a baby with special needs. My heart exploded. After that we didn’t talk about adopting for a couple years, but it was kind of always in the back of our minds. It was like a little door in our hearts that always stayed open.

On our third anniversary we decided we wanted to start a family. At the time we felt equally open to pregnancy and adoption and intended to grow our family both ways. I looked into adoption through China and found that we wouldn’t qualify to adopt until we had been married five years (which I now now wasn’t accurate, but oh well) so we decided to try to get pregnant and then if we didn’t get pregnant by the time our fifth anniversary rolled around we’d start the adoption process.

We tried to get pregnant on and off for two years. I say on and off just because with travel, moving, vacations (etc) we didn’t try super hard (as in charting and all of that) for most of it. But we also definitely were not preventing pregnancy. I guess we kind of fell in the middle I know people who tried much more extreme measures that we did as far as planning, special diets and things like that. But we weren’t NOT trying. Ok… you get the point.

So two more years went by. Everyone close in our life knew we were trying. It started to get awkward.

Some of our family members were concerned, worried, asking us to see specialists, inquiring whether we’d be open to fertility treatments. I had some social anxiety when people asked me those questions, but through it all Jeremy and I never really stressed.

And the crazy thing is, I never cried, not once. And I cry A LOT (over television shows, medium-sad commercials, good things happening to my friends, bad things- everything- I’m a big cry baby!). When I finally realized I had never cried over not getting pregnant, not one single time, I felt really good about the potential of adopting. Maybe it was just meant to be? Maybe this was our story.

Like I said above, not getting pregnant in the time we were trying wasn’t devastating to us. It was disappointing each month, but when I read other people’s infertility stories I feel like there’s another level of pain that we just did not experience. Never for a second did we feel like it was important to us to have children that shared our DNA.

Honestly, once we really had the talk and decided we were both open to solely adopting, it felt great. It was a huge relief in a lot of ways.

As our fifth anniversary approached, and our home renovation was almost complete we both felt completely ready to become parents. Like, immediately. Like, yesterday.

The day after our anniversary, we had a long talk and we were so perfectly on the same page (something that doesn’t always happen in marriage- haha). We decided we would start the adoption process and that we wanted to adopt two daughters. We just knew.

We spent the next month doing lots of research, talking to people from different agencies and programs. At one point we talked to an adoption lawyer who specializes in (fast!) domestic adoptions. We could have had a baby by Christmas, you guys. But with every step we kept coming back to the China program and the beautiful story we had followed as newlyweds.

(side note) I cannot emphasize enough how different each adoption can look. There are a LOT of options out there. A lot of choices. Big picture, it’s amazing, because there are options for all different types of families and lifestyles. But in the moment, it was intensely overwhelming.

Even though we were being intentional to keep all options open, each conversation we had seemed to be end with China. We just couldn’t shake it.

Next, we received a referral from inside our family for a program that seemed like the perfect fit for us. We were done researching. The next day we sent in our first application.

I’m glad we explored all the options, but looking back we both feel like we always knew China was the right choice for our family. Once we made that choice it felt like things started happening in fast-forward speed.

After a couple short applications and a few phone calls we were officially in the China program! It was July and we were on our annual family vacation, surrounded by nieces and nephews, when we got the acceptance email. It didn’t feel real yet, but we HIGH off our excitement.

It was a dream come true. It was finally happening. I was crying CONSTANTLY, over everything. Happy tears on the DAILY. 8 months later, I still cry basically every time I get alone long enough to think.

Once the process began we became obsessed with learning, reading books, watching documentaries, reading other people’s stories and preparing our lives for this next chapter.

Jeremy warned me that it might take him a while to catch up to me emotionally. Totally fair. But a month later I was seeing his first tears I can remember (ever) and he was having dreams that we were parents (!!!!!) Our hearts have opened up in ways I never imagined.

A couple years ago my dad told me that the happiest time in his life was when we were all little kids. (Ouch- my heart!) And now I can see that our happiest time is just over the horizon. And there’s just nothing more exciting in the whole world.

Everyone keeps telling us to appreciate this last season of being a couple with no kids, the freedoms, the date nights. And we are thinking of that every day.

TO BE CONTINUED….

  
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favorite-adoption-books-for-kidsFirst of all- I am blown away by the love and positive energy that came our way this week. You’ll never know how thankful we are.

Soon we’re going to begin sharing our adoption story, step by step! But first I thought something more lighthearted might be nice. Ever since we found these adorable books I’ve been looking forward to sharing them with you!

One thing I’ve learned in these past six months is that more and more families who choose adoption are choosing to not only tell their kids about their adoption story from the beginning, but celebrate it!

I cried the ugly cry the first time I found out that celebrating and “adoption birthday” each year is a thing. Wow! I really love the idea of it and we can’t wait to add that special day to our calendar each year. Beautiful!

One of the first things we purchased when we first started our home study sessions this past summer were some children’s books intended to teach about adoption at an early age. We quickly learned that some are better than others, like WAY better. If I can just be straight with you for a sec- a lot of the adoption books we read were either kind of boring, or kind of weird. Some of them made me question whether or not it would be appropriate for a little kid. Obviously there are some dark and very difficult things that come with adoption, but I don’t see myself reading about them to a toddler before bedtime. You know what I mean?

The other thing is that a lot of adoption books are incredibly specific. You can tell it was written FOR somebody’s kid, but not necessarily for all adopted kids. There are adoption books for domestic adoptions, for international adoptions, for older kids, for babies, for Christian families and the list goes on and on. Sometimes it can be challenging to find a book that applies perfectly (or even just “pretty well”) to your unique adoption story.

That said, we’ve already found a couple of gems that are just SO good. I thought I’d share the best of what we found so far incase you are adopting or know a family who is. These would make great gifts are are the sweetest stories. Plus- I know it might be vain- but these are pretty. I like pretty books, especially children’s books. It just matters to me.

i-wished-for-youI Wished For You This book had me sobbing. It’s about a little bear who asks his mama bear to talk about how much she wished for him. It’s my favorite and so full of love.

all-bears-need-loveAll Bears Need Love This book is also so sweet. It addresses multicultural adoption, but is a great story in it’s own right. The illustrations are really beautiful as well.

And the next book on my list is The Littlest Family’s Big Day. It’s new so it wasn’t out yet when I ordered these.

If you know of any other great books you can send me a DM or leave a comment on Instagram. I haven’t done much baby shopping yet (saving it!), but my Amazon wish list is almost completely kids books. I can already tell I’m going to go a little psycho. BOOKS!!!! ♥

Ok- we’ll be back soon to start sharing our story.