The Visits Are Over

15069030_10207195973766892_4018589824086735397_oWell, it’s a wrap! On Tuesday, March 28, Stephen and I had our fourth and final home study visit. We have a few more pieces of paperwork to complete (tax returns, medical forms) and 30 minutes to complete of our 10 required education hours, and then we are good to go. I don’t think Allison, our adoption counselor, expected us to go through this process so quickly! Our first visit was on March 3, and here we are, wrapping things up within a month. When Stephen and I set our minds to something, we’re kind of an unstoppable team. 🙂

Many people have been asking about these visits and what goes on during the meetings, so I thought I would give a short breakdown of each one. Some of the stuff we have covered is personal (challenges in our marriage, how we budget our finances, things we argue about, etc.), so I won’t get into the nitty-gritty details. But, if you’re thinking about adoption, this will give you a high-level overview of what the process looks like (for our agency at least).

The First Visit

The first visit took place on a Friday afternoon at our home. (Side note: Although this process is called the “home study,” only one visit was actually at our house.) Goodness, y’all. My house was sparkling clean. The Wednesday before the first visit, I sent Stephen off to church and Rosie to my in-laws so I could scrub the floors. Over the course of that week, I cleaned the baseboards, organized linen closets and scrubbed the windowsills. On that Friday, I left work early so that I could make a batch of chocolate chip cookies. I complained to Stephen that I didn’t get the opportunity to mop the garage floor (don’t ask).

As it turns out, she didn’t look once at my linen closet, didn’t inspect my garage floor (and laughed when I told her I wished I had time to mop it), and didn’t eat the cookies. She simply went through a checklist to make sure our house was clean, safe and ready for a baby. I stressed out for nothing.

During that visit, we turned in the first (large) batch of our paperwork, answered questions about our relationship and marriage, and discussed how we share chores, argue, budget, etc. It lasted about 2.5 hours.

The Second Visit

For the second visit, on March 16, we went to our agency. Stephen and I were interviewed separately about our upbringing, childhood, and family. We were asked about our relationships with our parents and siblings, how our families disciplined us and how that will translate to our own parenting styles. After our separate interviews, we were brought back together to discuss the values and standards that we want to instill in our own children, fears we have about parenting, and ways we want to discipline and encourage our children.

The Third Visit

This visit was also at our agency, and we narrowed our focus on learning more about birth mothers. We discussed our feelings about open adoption and how we have a desire to have a relationship with our child’s birth family. We talked about how every woman’s situation is different, and their reasons for making an adoption plan are across the board. We also talked about how to answer questions people have now (be on the lookout for a future FAQ post!) and how to address potential questions in the future, particularly related to a transracial adoption. This was a fantastic informational meeting, and we learned a lot.

The Fourth Visit

Our final visit was short, sweet and to the point. Originally, we would have discussed transracial adoption and the potential challenges related to that. However, the night before our visit, we attended a panel discussion where two parents talked about their journey through a transracial adoption and covered several of the topics we had planned to discuss. So we were able to bypass that discussion. We filled out the last forms stating we wouldn’t abuse our child (isn’t it sad that they actually have to ask people to sign that?) and acknowledging appropriate forms of discipline. We turned in our profile books, and then headed out, celebrating with lunch at Puckett’s.

Now, we’re just finishing up our required education hours and then waiting for our adoption counselor to write the home study report. Once it’s finished, we’ll start playing the waiting game!

Words Have Power

adoption language (1)I’m a word girl (obviously). Our words have the power to encourage, tear down, inspire and destruct. Our words—the way we talk and write—are indicative of what we think about and value. Words are powerful.

That is why it is important to think about the words you’re using when discussing adoption. Positive adoption language—words and phrases that highlight the beauty of adoption—helps people get rid of the notion that adoption is “second best.” It’s a reminder that adoption is simply another way to build a family. One way is not better than the other.

For example, I’m often asked if we’re going to have children of “our own” one day! I have to laugh, because I think to myself, “Um, duh. What do you think this adoption process is about?!?” But I know that’s a (uneducated) way of asking if we have plans to have biological children. I don’t know if that will happen one day or not, but I can tell you that every child—no matter how they come into our family—will be “our own.”

Some of the negative language—give up, an unwanted child, etc.—can also paint the birth family in a negative light. I never want my child to be told that his birth mother “gave him up.” I want him to understand and know that his birth mother loved him so much that she made a plan for him. I never want him to feel like he was unwanted and loved—I want him to know and understand just how much he was wanted and loved.

Here are some more examples from Adoptive Families magazine (a fantastic resource!).

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Jumping on the Podcast Train

THREEI’m late to the podcast party. I’m fully aware of that. I’m pretty sure Steve Jobs introduced the podcast software to the world back in 2005, but here I am, 12 years later, just jumping on board.

I’m usually behind the times. That is, until now!

I was scrolling through Instagram one day when I discovered a woman named Jamie Ivey. She seemed fun, she is an adoption advocate, and her husband is a worship pastor. I thought, “Hey! I’m pursuing adoption and my husband is a worship leader. I think I’ll follow her.” It didn’t take long (like 5 minutes) for me to discover she hosted a weekly podcast called “The Happy Hour With Jamie Ivey.”

Honestly? My first thought was, “A podcast? Seriously? Who even listens to those anymore?” Well, apparently, millions of people. (Remember, I’m behind the times.) After a few days of following Jamie on Instagram, I decided I’d give her podcast a whirl. I scrolled through the endless apps on my iPhone until I found “Podcasts” buried in the folder that I keep my “pointless” apps in. A quick search for Jamie’s name revealed more than 100 episodes with some of my favorite Christian women—Shelley Giglio, Beth Moore, Ann Voskamp, Jen Wilkin, Gloria Furman, Trillia Newbell. Um, hello. Sign me up. That next day, I turned on Bluetooth and set my phone to play over my car speakers, and I listened to Jamie chat with Amy from the Bobby Bones Show as I drove into work. After that episode, I was hooked.

So I searched for more podcasts—and now I have three favorites, which I want to share with you!

Happy-Hour-Logo-Clear The Happy Hour With Jamie Ivey | I love listening to Jamie, and I love and admire the way she listens to the guests on her show. She knows how to ask questions and then sit back and truly listen—that’s a quality that a lot of people don’t have. I love the Happy Hour, because I get something from every episode. Jamie talks to her guests like she’s talking with a girlfriend—they talk about kids, marriage, life issues, favorite books, things they’re loving, but throughout it all, Jamie manages to point back to Jesus. I’ve never met Jamie personally (though I want to), but it’s so evident from the way she talks to people that she is just overflowing with the love of Jesus. My favorite episodes are #82 with Shay Shull, #108 with Beth Moore and #132 with Heather Avis.

annie-artworkThat Sounds Fun With Annie F. Downs | Confession: Sometimes I feel like Annie Downs and I are really good friends. That’s so not true, because we’ve never met in person (although there was that one time that I sat a few rows behind her at a Dave Barnes concert and didn’t  say hi). I’ve read her books, and I just love her. Annie’s podcast is just fun. You can tell she truly loves the guests on her show by the way she talks to them and interacts with them. I laugh every time. I loved, loved, loved the Episode #25 with Rebekah Lyons, Episode #27 with Ellie Holcomb, and you know I adored the two-part episode with Dave Barnes.

M-banner Marked by LifeWay Women | Fun fact: I actually do know the host of the Marked podcast. Mary Margaret and I worked together when I was at LifeWay a few years ago. In fact, our offices were back-to-back. The podcast is self-described as one for “women who are marked by a hunger for God’s Word, a longing to impact culture, and a desire to discover and live out God’s calling in their lives.” My personal favorite is a recent episode: Mary Margaret’s interview with Ellie Holcomb.

 

Letters to My Child

Letters to my ChildWhen Stephen and I first started trying to get pregnant, I kept a journal. Yes, a handwritten journal—you know, something that can’t be read by anyone and everyone. In that moleskin notebook, I wrote out my prayers, thoughts, fears and excitement. I wrote about what I imagined the baby would look like, what traits of mine or Stephen’s the baby would have, and whether the baby would have Stephen’s blonde hair or my dark brown hair.

After months of keeping that journal, I grew restless and frustrated. I was writing about this child who didn’t even exist. I thought to myself, “Girl, you are absolutely crazy. It would be one thing if you were actually pregnant and carrying this child, but you are acting as if you can write this baby into existence.”

 And so I quit. I tucked the journal away and didn’t look at it again. To be honest, I don’t even know where it is anymore. I may have thrown it away.

Before I quit writing, however, I ordered a different journal from Shutterfly. I wanted to write letters to my child—letters filled with prayers, hopes, dreams, etc. So, obviously, I wanted a nice notebook. The spine says “Dear Baby Hamby” and the front says “You are my greatest adventure.” I think, somewhere deep in my mind, I believed I would use it one day soon.

It was delivered to the house right around the time that I decided to quit writing that journal. I tucked that special-ordered journal in a drawer in our guest room, and I didn’t look back.

Fast forward 16 months to February 2017.

We had just made the decision that we were going to be moving forward with adoption. We signed up for an informational meeting, and we let our parents, grandparents and siblings in on our plans. As we were sitting at the dinner table one night, I told Stephen that I wanted to make a dedicated effort to write letters to our child. I told Stephen that one day, I want to give our child a journal full of Mom’s prayers and thoughts. I want him (or her!) to know that my love for him began the day that God opened my heart toward adoption. I want him to know that God did a mighty work in my heart. I want him to know that before we ever finished the home study, before we were ever matched with a birth mother, before we even knew anything about him—we loved him.

Stephen got up from the table, walked to the guest room, and pulled out the special-ordered journal from months ago and said “here.”

Isn’t God amazing? I thought that journal would stay tucked away and never looked at again, but the Lord is so gracious. The words on the front—“You are my greatest adventure.”—describe adoption perfectly. What an adventure.

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I won’t share much about the words written in that journal, because they’re private and not meant to be shared. But recently, I was referring to Scripture when writing out a prayer. I referenced Psalm 139:13—“you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” I praised God for the woman who will one day (if not already) carry the child who will be placed in my arms. I’ll forever be grateful to her. But then I continued writing, praising God for not only knitting that child together in his birth mother’s womb, but for knitting that child together in my heart. The Lord is so gracious, and I praise Him daily for giving me the ability to love a child I haven’t met yet so deeply.

 

Worth the Wait

Worth the Wait“Paper pregnant.”

That’s a term I didn’t really understand until we started the adoption process. Sure, I knew adoption required a lot of paperwork, but I don’t think I truly understood how much. But gosh, y’all. It’s a lot. We each had to write autobiographical statements, telling our life story. There were about 43 questions we had to address in this statement. Mine was originally 12 pages, but I finally edited it down to seven. I’m sure our social worker was thankful. In the last month, we have gathered references; rounded up birth certificates and our marriage license; filled out questionnaires about our families and childhood; completed “child preference” questionnaires—don’t get me started on that; made contingency plans in case something happens to us one day; drew fire plans and marked escape routes; listed all our assets, debts and values of our house/cars/possessions; made copies of social security cards, licenses, and car, home and life insurance policies; pestered our vet to write a letter saying Rosie is happy and healthy; provided a list of every prior residence; gathered letters from our employers; made copies of tax returns; and much, much more.

It’s a lot.

It would be really easy to complain and say, “People don’t have to do this before getting pregnant!” Actually, I have said that. I said it right around the time I was drawing floor plans for our home and marking every possible escape in case of fire. I grumbled and muttered under my breath, “No pregnant woman has to do this before her baby is born.”

But, y’all, it’s so worth it.

The moment a baby is placed in my arms, I won’t care about the hours spent making copies and tracking down the necessary information.

The hand cramps from signing our names on 50+ pages of paperwork? They won’t matter.
The frustration I felt after the 17th revision of our profile book? It will be forgotten.
The hours spent writing an autobiographical statement? It’s in the past. 

It’s worth it. I keep reminding myself of that, because I know that this is only going to get harder. The waiting period, I know, will be one of the most excruciating times of our lives. But the frustration, pain and anxiety I feel now can’t compare to the joy that is coming.

It’s worth the wait.