I haven’t kept an exact timeline of every single application and milestone in our process, like a lot of families do. So today, I thought it would be good to write down the major milestones and memories from our process. It might be nice to have to look back on later.
In some ways it has been the longest year of our lives. In other ways it has flown by. But, in every way it was the most exciting and memorable year we have ever had… like, by a lot!
I can’t believe it’s been over a year since we turned in our first application (we’re on month 14 now).
May 15, 2016. Our fifth wedding anniversary. We had decided while we were moving to Nashville the year before that if we did not get pregnant by this date, we would adopt. I wasn’t heartbroken about not getting pregnant like a lot of women are. We never considered fertility treatments, in fact, we looked forward to starting an adoption more and more as the months passed.
As soon as we had “the talk” we knew adoption was the one and only path for our family. It was clear to us… an easy choice. So we spent the next month calling friends, talking to strangers (wow- people were so kind and helpful!) asking around, talking to domestic and international adoption agencies and figuring out what was the right fit for our family. Oh, and by the way- I wrote about why we chose the China program here.
June 22, 2016. We submitted an application to Holt International, the international adoption agency we chose.
This is also the month that we told our close friends and family that we had decided to adopt- from China! We learned the highs and lows of telling this news to family. There was a big range of reactions from couldn’t-be-more-excited, to nervous, to openly disappointed. For anyone out there choosing to adopt- don’t let these initial reactions freak you out. It took some of our family members a bit to adjust to our new plan, but everyone is totally on board now.
This is probably another post for another day, but remember that most people are extremely uneducated about adoption and a lot of people base their fears on ONE negative story they heard secondhand. You will get the job, like it or not, of actively educating everyone around you on your unique adoption process. You will explain the details more times than you can possibly imagine, and people will still be confused. So you’ll explain them again.
July 2016. We were on our annual Larson family vacation in Branson, Mo when we received an email that we were accepted into Holt’s program.
Level one, unlocked.
A couple weeks later we had our first meeting with the local agency that would do our home study. A lot of people don’t know that you have to use a local agency for your home study and a lot of the times, another agency for your adoption. It’s pretty normal to have two agencies- one for the beginning of your process, and another for the end.
August 2016. We turned in our home study documents to our local agency. This was our first big milestone! This packet of papers (pictured above) had exactly 99 pages. It had everything from medical exams, police background checks, detailed questionnaires about pretty much every aspect of our upbringings, home life and marriage (sex life… haha), financial stuff, reference letters and even proof of vaccination for our dogs and a fire escape plan I illustrated for our home…. and that’s just the stuff I remember. It was the best feeling ever to turn this packet in.
September 2016. We did our individual interviews with our local agency. Jeremy said he teared up in his, which was so sweet (unlike me, he doesn’t cry daily).
October 2016. We had our home visit, which is the thing where the social worker comes to check your cabinets and what not (haha- that’s not really what it is, but that’s how everyone describes it).
We were incredibly nervous. I was just sure she would say I had to get rid of my eight foot cactus… haha! We cleaned out all our closets, bought baby proofing stuff and a gate and moved our home bar up high. We spent weeks getting prepared and then the appointment came and went and it was perfectly pleasant and not scary at all.
In hindsight I am glad we were so nervous, though, because we got a lot done that needed to get done anyway. My blog tends to leave my house filled with things like 45 random paint cans- which nobody needs.
November 2016. At this point we were just waiting for our home study to come back and I had started on the dossier documents… which is a lot of the same stuff, but formatted differently, for China.
This was also the month we celebrated my birthday in Isla Mujeres, which was full of amazing memories and a nice mental break from all the paperwork.
And, at the end of November we finally felt it was time to share our big news with the internet. Years of being a blogger had conditioned me to expect a mixed response of both support and criticism. I was SO NERVOUS to share our news. I have never been more nervous to share anything online. I remember being sick to my stomach as I read the first batch of comments on my Instagram.
The response was so overwhelmingly positive. I am not joking when I tell you that it restored my faith in the kindness of the internet. It has meant a lot to me.
Oh and one more thing about November… the election!
We asked many, many times, throughout our process, if the election could have any effect on our adoption. The answer was (and is) always- “maybe”.
Of course, we cared about the election for reasons far bigger than our own adoption. And at times I felt selfish for thinking so much about how it could affect our adoption or our soon-t0-be Chinese-American immigrant child. At a certain point I decided to just take it one day at a time.
December 2016. I was still working on dossier paperwork in all my spare time in December (but who has spare time in December, right?). We were waiting on our Home Study and getting as much dossier done as we could. There are always a few extra papers to redo every round.
We celebrated the holidays in Missouri with our family. We hoped it might be our last Christmas as a family of two.
The holidays are my biggest trigger and weakness. Halloween and Christmas are the things I am MOST looking forward to in our first years with our daughter and so each one that goes by is a little tough for me.
This year it helped to focus all our energy on Penny, including tracking down one of those eggs that hatches toys on Christmas Eve from Craigslist- haha!
On Christmas Eve we FINALLY got to meet Ashley and Chris in person. Their adoption story was our earliest inspiration to adopt from China and to consider doing a special needs adoption… it truly changed our lives.
We had breakfast and they shared SO MUCH helpful information with us. We’ve since met two more families who adopted from China and each time we do we gain more perspective. Each story is different, yet the travel process when you go to China to pick up your child is pretty similar for most families.
January 2017. We got the first draft of our home study… almost done with that FINALLY. We sent in revisions (just typos).
At this point I was beginning to freak out about timing and any small delay. It was our seventh month and it was starting to feel painfully slow. I think it hit a mid-process wall around this time. I was crying ALL THE TIME and it felt like we had come so far, but still had so far to go. Jeremy was experiencing all the same frustrations and anxiety- he just isn’t as dramatic as I am (he’s real chill 99.9% of his life).
During this season the thoughtful check-ins from my friends and family helped so much.
At the end of January we turned in our approved home study and dossier documents.
February 2017. In early February I heard back that some of our medical forms needed to be redone because the dates had expired (or they were going to- I can’t remember the exact reason. We didn’t have to get new exams, all we had to do was get the form re-done (with a new date and a new notary seal). This should have been the simplest thing, but it ended up being this INSANE dramatic thing where for ten days I went back over and over again to the hospital and the papers were done wrong or not done at all.
It was probably the most anxiety I had the whole year. I would go to the hospital, wait in the waiting room and either my papers were lost or they would fill them out with the wrong dates or some small detail was wrong. One time the doctor signed them, but there was no notary present so I had to go home and make more copies. I know now it probably sounds a little silly, but it really felt impossible to get this ONE document that I needed. I was kind of at their mercy and they did not make it easy. We considered getting new doctors and completely new exams done because we couldn’t decide which would be faster.
One day I sat in the office with my doctors nurse and started crying, just trying to explain to her what I needed and why it had to be EXACTLY perfect. They couldn’t use white out. They couldn’t rip out the staples. It had to be done just as I said (the agency even had printed out instructions for them). She looked me in the eyes and promised me she would get it done that day. Then she went on to tell me a story about her own infertility issues and how she may too adopt, someday, “If I have to” she said. Haha! UGH- the things people say sometimes! Still, I was so happy to have this connection and someone who cared.
I called back before five… they were already closed. I went in the next morning and asked for the nurse and they said she was off for three days.
SERIOUSLY? I was so discouraged.
After this I made a new policy to trust no one and to stay until it was done. This is not complicated paper work (at all!) but nobody cared about it except for me. I was the only person who had a sense of urgency. I learned through this experience that at certain points in the process I had to be my own advocate and that I can’t rely on anyone else.
Later that day I returned to the office, with Jeremy this time. He wanted to see it all for himself. The hospital notary was off for the day. We knew that if we let it go and came back another day another ten days could so easily go by, but if we kept pushing we could get it done…. maybe.
We ended up asking every nurse we saw if they knew anyone with a notary license in the building and then calling that woman and explaining our situation. She agreed to come to our doctor’s office and do the notary and about an hour later we had it done and gave this woman a huge hug. She even gave us her card incase we needed more help in the future… what a gem of a human!
I do feel slightly embarrassed sharing this long story about a document we had trouble getting signed, but I know that someone out there is going to read this when they are going through their own process and they need to hear this. You are the only advocate you have. No one will do this for you. You have to make sure it gets done. Crying doesn’t help.
People in offices will not know that they can’t use white out or that they can’t make copies if you don’t tell them. I seriously felt like I learned some life lessons here.
In February we also did our adoption classes at our local agency. These were split up into three weeks and we did then with other families who were doing international adoptions. We learned about a whole bunch of stuff I won’t go into, but it’s a required part of our adoption and another huge milestone (check, check!). Our favorite part of the classes was when a family brought their son who was also adopted from China and told us a bunch of stories and answered questions.
March-April 2017. The most difficult months.
For these two months various paperwork was processing or being authenticated. It took longer than we expected. When we turned in all our dossier things in January, we thought it would be getting to sent to China soon, but that didn’t happen until the end of May. So this waiting period was pretty rough. The paperwork was kind of over for the time being, so we really felt the wait.
Around this time I realized that some things could have been done in a more efficient order and that our home study took a LOT longer than most home studies and I got very upset that I felt we had lost some months. It was so discouraging. We do believe that everything happens for a reason (ish). But it was a low period for me.
At the end of April Jeremy’s record was released, which was a HUGE step in his career. I was glad to be able to travel with him and support him. It has been such a special part of the last few years of our lives. SO proud of him.
May 2017. Finally….. a great month!!! First of all, Lola Valentine was born (our best friends had a baby!)
After I posted this photo we got numerous comments, DMs and even texts, congratulating us on our baby. I was so confused! Even my own mom texted me and said that at first she thought it was our baby when she saw it. HAHA! (I saved that text for our baby book, don’t worry!) I guess we were happy that everyone was so excited for us, but also we were, like, really confused.
Anyway! A lot of people expressed empathy and worried that I was very sad or jealous or struggling. And then a couple days later I got to meet another good friends’ baby (hey Arlo- I love you!) and then it was Mother’s Day.
I honestly just wanted to disappear because I didn’t want it to seem like I needed a ton of attention on Mother’s Day. I got a lot of kind messages and it was really REALLY thoughtful, but for some reason my reaction was just to want to hide under a rock.
Privately, Jeremy and I did mark the occasion (I didn’t technically consider it my first Mother’s Day, but it is still special to celebrate it when you are “expecting”) and we got a gold ring with our soon-to-be daughter’s name engraved on it. I wear it a lot of the time with my wedding bands and it fills up my heart like I can’t even say.
May 19th. We were in Palm Springs celebrating our sixth anniversary and OUR DOSSIER WAS FINALY SHIPPED TO CHINA. This is a big, huge step. Happy tears!
That same week we responded to a spotlight email from our agency for more information about a little girl. She was the cutest– like words cannot describe how cute. We were so excited about a possibility! It was a Friday when we sent the email. On Monday we heard back that there were other families ahead of us (meaning they have been waiting longer to be matched) who also requested information. I kept a little bit of hope in my heart, Jeremy didn’t (different personalities at work there). Almost a month later we heard back that she had been matched with another family.
We weren’t sad when we heard the news, we were expecting anything. But also, at this point, after all we’ve been though, we are SO HAPPY for whatever family out there this little cutie is going home to. I can’t describe how much fulfillment I get out of other people’s adoption stories. Seriously, a complete stranger’s photos can make me cry in 2 minutes. It’s just what happens!
Anyway… we call her “the one that go away“.
May, 30 2017. We had our “welcome to match” call, which was very exciting! We had been waiting months and months for this. On this call we met with one of the people at our agency who matches children with families. We gained a lot of clarity on that call. We now understand that it will probably be about six more months before we are matched (at minimum).
Ugh. To us, this feels like an eternity. So I have been making a GIANT summer bucket list and we’ll do the same thing for autumn.
June 1, 2017. This was our log in date, which means our dossier was received in China.
Now we wait.
Each month we will receive an update of how many families on our agency’s waiting list have been matched. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to share how many families are waiting in front of us, so I won’t, but it is A LOT of families. The number was overwhelming to me at first. But each month it goes down.
We recently completed the nursery! I love having it done. It’s right by our bedroom, so many times a day I walk by it and just feel a little butterfly in my stomach.
Currently, I can feel myself entering an intense period of nesting. I have a “home bucket list” to finish before we go to China…. it’s filled with fun projects like finishing rooms and not as fun projects like getting our gutters cleaned.
My three businesses have a huge lot going on this coming season, so I’ve been pretty busy this summer. I didn’t cry as much, I think I kind of just settled in and am ok with waiting now.
Well, if you’re still reading you deserve a reward! haha! Thanks for following along with us. Honestly- the main reason I come on here and write these is because I’ve found so much comfort from reading other adoption blogs. So I hope it helps someone, someday.