Monday, November 30, 2009

Adoption Application Progress (and a few prayer requests)

We are almost finished with our adoption application!


Main application
Pre-adoption class registration
Previous residence history since age 18
With Eyes Wide Open, 3 chapters of homework
Copies of Marriage and birth certificates
Adoption Expense Reimbursement Contract
Monthly Budget Form
Savings and Assets, with copies of all account statements
Application payment Form
Employment letters
Tax return and W-2
Proof of health insurance
Proof of mortgage or rent
Procedure for Adoption (just a signature needed)
Corporal punishment statement (just a signature needed)
Signed Medical releases
Adoption program disclosure statement (just a signature needed)
Affidavit regarding Adoption Program (just a signature needed)
Child Abuse Release Form (Florida and Maryland), mailed
Child Support Release Form, mailed
Driving Records, from Maryland, still waiting to receive the ones from Florida
Rabies certificate for Annie
State and FBI Fingerprint clearances, mailed
Fire Safety Inspection
Sanitation Inspection (hopefully the inspector will send in the form, she wouldn't give us a copy!)
Reference letters requested
Family picture (taken by my stepmom)

Still in the works:

Doctor's appointments on Wednesday for John and I, please pray these go well.

Self study (approximately 14 essay questions) - I am going to be working on mine Tuesday and Wednesday evening - please pray for me to have the right words and not stress over having the perfect answers. We are hoping that they will allow us to submit the application and still attend the pre-adoption class on Dec 11 without John's self study. He is in the midst of studying for finals so he will have to complete his after he takes his last final on the 11th. Please also pray for John's success on his finals.

I have been a terrible blogging friend, but as you can probably tell I have been keeping pretty busy. I am so looking forward to catching up with all of you very soon. Please forgive my lack of comments. I think of you all and pray for you often.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

I have much to be thankful for despite the difficulties and loss of this past year.

Last year at this time I was in the midst of my 2ww following my first IVF cycle. That cycle came to a devastating end, but it was followed by a time of healing that brought peace and closure to many old wounds and for that I am very thankful.

This past year we said a difficult good-bye to amazing friends in Florida, and were reunited with old friends here in Maryland. I am so thankful for our friends, our small group, and our church family in Florida. Not sure I would have made it through this past year if not for them. I miss you all so much! I am thankful for the friends I already had in Maryland, a support network waiting for me as soon as I got here.

This past year we let go of the dream of a child half me and half John, but then we began the exciting journey of international adoption.

This past year I had to put my dream of being a stay at home mom on hold. But the Lord provided me with a job before I even started searching, even in this economy. For that I am grateful. My salary is how we are funding our adoption and paying John's parents back for the money we spent on infertility treatment.

This past year I began to work with an organization that supports North Korean refugees. I have experienced unimaginable joy in this work and I am so grateful the Lord has allowed me to be a part of His work. I have begun to see how God is redeeming the greatest hurts of my life and using them for good.

This past year we returned to the church where we were married. I am looking forward to reconnecting with old friends and making new ones as we become part of this local body of Christ.

This past year John and I have grown even closer together and have learned to find the humor in every circumstance. I am so thankful for my best friend.

This past year I learned what it meant to be "joyful in God my Savior" Habakkuk 3:18. This verse is one of my friend Wendi's favorite verses and one she relied on during her battle with infertility.

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior."

To be honest when I first heard this verse it didn't resonate with me. But after we lost Johannah, when I was in my darkest hour, broken, and unable to imagine how God would allow us to lose a baby we had tried to conceive for four years, I came to understand this verse. Because no matter what has happened or will will happen in the future, there is one truth to take hold of - God is my Savior. I need never again to doubt His love for me no matter what happens because the Cross fully demonstrated His love. "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" Romans 5:8. He died that I might have life, and have it abundantly. He died that I may enter into a relationship with my Father in heaven. He died so that an exchange may take place, my sin for His righteous, so that I could stand before the Lord God cleansed of all my sin. How amazing is this! I would listen to "There is a Fountain" over and over again and be filled with unspeakable joy as I reflected on this truth, "There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel's veins; and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains." I will simply never get over God's amazing grace; what He has done for us is astounding and I am forever grateful.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"Don't Give Up"

I have heard these words from a number of people after telling them John and I were pursuing adoption. On the surface, they sound very positive and encouraging and I fully recognize how well intentioned they are. I should preface this by saying there is no anger at all behind my words. After I wrote a post on what not to say following my miscarriage, I had a number of people tell me they were worried they had said something wrong. So I want to reassure my readers not to worry. Most likely you haven't said anything wrong, and if you have I understand you meant no harm. I guess I am just a little perplexed by these words and I want to write about it in the hopes that it might educate. The thing is when someone says "don't give up," they are not referring to not giving up my hope of having a child, they are saying don't give up on pregnancy. They are usually followed by a story about a miraculous pregnancy or someone who tried for many years who finally got pregnant, all meant to let me know that it might still happen for me. Even worse are the stories about someone who started to pursue adoption and then got pregnant. While these stories are encouraging and it is true that God could perform a miracle if He wills it, I don't think these words quite convey what the speaker is trying to say.

The problem with these words is they imply adoption is "giving up" to pursue a lesser option, that somehow an adopted child is inferior to a biological child. They imply that pregnancy is the ultimate goal and anything else doesn't quite measure up.

My response is that I had not realized I was "giving up." We are not giving up and pursuing a lesser option. We are pursuing a different a option, but one we believe is God's best for us. A child no matter how he or she becomes part of a family is a gift from the Lord. We have committed to allowing God build our family however He chooses because we believe His plans for us are far better than anything we could plan for ourselves.

So I say I am not giving up, I am adopting!!!!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Our Journey towards Adoption

I realized I had never written about how we came to decide to pursue adoption. I have always viewed adoption positively, meaning I liked the idea of it. But I was certainly not aware of all it entailed and probably had a bit of an idealist viewpoint of it. When we first got our diagnosis, I initially wanted to pursue adoption immediately. You can read about our infertility journey here. John felt we needed to give treatment a try before moving forward and he was absolutely right. At that time, I wanted to pursue adoption from a place of fear. Going through infertility treatment was so scary to me. Adoption seemed to me at the time like a guaranteed path to parenthood. We decided at the outset we would do no more than two cycles. By limiting the number of eggs, we allowed them to attempt to fertilize (contrary to popular opinion doctors can't fertilize an egg even with ICSI), we hoped to avoid having any that had to be frozen for future transfer. We were committed to transferring any we had, but we did not end up with any, so 2 cycles was all we did. In a way, it was the equivalent of doing 2 fresh and 2 frozen cycles which we felt was more than enough.

Part of me always expected to pursue adoption, so when I got pregnant after my first IVF it was quite a surprise. You all know how that ended. For whatever reason, I did not have high hopes for my second cycle. I am sure the news we received in the midst of it didn't help matters. I remember sitting at my friend Wendi's house in the midst of IVF #2 and spending almost the whole time talking about adoption. Even at that point I was mentally preparing myself for the next step. There was a part of me that just wanted to get through that second cycle so that we could move forward. I was actually afraid of getting a BFP because I felt like I couldn't handle another miscarriage. Of course it was difficult when the BFN officially came and the realization hit that it was the end of the road for us as far as biological children. Nothing about that cycle went well. God had given us a clear no. We took some time to mourn this loss and let go of this dream as God prepared us for the next step. What many people don't realize is that there are losses associated with infertility that adoption doesn't solve: creating a child together; announcing your pregnancy to your husband, friends, and family; the experience of pregnancy and childbirth; breastfeeding (I know adoptive breastfeeding is possible with hormones); and parenting a child from birth (possible only with domestic infant adoption). These are very real losses that must be dealt with and accepted before you can move forward with adoption with an open heart. What I realized is that for me the pain of seeing a pregnant women was less about the experience of pregnancy and more about the child that would come. I want to be a parent more than I want to be pregnant. I know also that the pregnancy I would want to experience is one I can now never experience - one not colored by infertility and the loss of Johannah. The pregnancy I would want is the one I could have experienced before infertility and pregnancy loss was something I knew way too much about. Even if it hasn't happened to me, it has probably happened to someone I know through blogging. For this reason it was easier for me to let pregnancy go. I still believe it is possible for God to do a miracle in my womb, but if He never does, I am at peace with that. What I want is to be a mom. I see adoption as an alternate path to parenthood, but one that is equally as good as parenting a biological child. It is not second best or Plan B. It is God's best for us. Going through treatment prepared us for God's perfect plan to unfold in our lives. I have been told and I believe it to be true that once we are holding our child in our arms, the time it took to get to that point will not seem as long and all we have been through will seem totally worth it. I am excited about watching God's plan unfold!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pulling out of Bethany

In my last post, I said I had called both Bethany and CHSFS. When I spoke with the person who answered the phone at Bethany and explained our situation to her, she thought it would be an independent adoption from Korea (there is no such thing). She went on to say that they would not be able to do our home study if Korea was one of the countries they worked with (she told me to check their website to see if it was one of the countries - it was). I said I would still like to speak with the social worker who deals with international adoption to verify the information she had given me. I didn't get a call back from her until the end of the week. Meanwhile, I had already gotten accurate information from CHSFS. I missed the call when Bethany called me back and since we were already in contact with CHSFS I didn't want to waste their time by calling them again. To be honest, this was just one more thing I found myself disappointed in with Bethany.

It led me to the question of why we went with them in the first place. As I wrote before, I did have a peace about Bethany and did sense God pointing us in that direction. Prior to making that choice, I had a conversation with a very good friend who pointed out to me that sometimes we just have to make a choice. We can be so afraid to take a step forward, afraid that somehow it is going to wrong and we will have irreparably messed things up. When we think this way, we miss the grace of God. "See to it that no ones misses the grace of God" Hebrews 12:15. She reminded me that His grace is sufficient and if I don't get things quite right He still works it for good. What I realized is that I had to stop being fearful and take a step forward. That was the peace I had about taking the step of filling out the application with Bethany. I also realized that God would continue to guide me if I continued to listen. So often I hear from God and then set my course and go. I don't continue to listen for the course correction that may need to be made along the way. This time He has given us not just a course correction, but a change in course. So was I wrong about Bethany? I don't believe so, at least not at that time. It was all part of God teaching me and preparing me to pursue international adoption from Korea. Before, I was far too overwhelmed and fearful of the adoption process. The formal application with Bethany served as a nice practice run. I wrote before that every time I thought of going in a different direction besides Bethany (usually a quicker one) I had no peace. The thing is, had we gone with another agency with a faster timeline, we would have been so far along in the process that I would not have been open to this situation. Because all we have lost is $100 and an afternoon filling out an application (which as I said will only help us this time around), we are not upset or concerned about this change in course at all. In fact, we are very excited, something that was missing before.

Our formal application to Bethany was submitted September 26th. The next step was an informal interview with our social worker. I knew she would be calling at some point to set up the interview. I hoped to have an answer as far as the Korea adoption situation before she called. We had our first meeting with CHSFS on Wednesday, Oct 28th and she still had not called. I planned to call her Monday to pull out, but she called me late Friday afternoon so I had to tell her then. I was wondering if I was going to feel scared about officially pulling out and the thing is I wasn't. I felt relief and excitement. I have already seen the Lord work in a mighty way in this situation. I am looking forward to how He will continue to show Himself as He fulfills His purposes.

Monday, November 2, 2009

6 Year Anniversary!

I will write more about pulling out of Bethany tomorrow, but I want to take a break to celebrate our anniversary. Yesterday we celebrated 6 years of marriage. We went to church in the morning - the church where we got married with the same pastor who married us. Afterward we went to brunch at Mrs K's (my favorite restaurant). John had to get back to studying after that, but later in the day, he surprised me with a dozen white roses.

Together we have been through several difficult times - living on an enlisted members' salary while John got his nursing degree, 14 months of separation due to military service, almost 5 years of infertility, a miscarriage, and now a very stressful graduate program for John. But through it all, our marriage has only gotten stronger and my love deeper. I am blessed to be married to my best friend. He knows me like nobody else does.

This is us on the day John asked me to marry him almost 7 years ago.

And our wedding day, November 1, 2003.

I am so looking forward to the next stage of our life together as we hopefully become parents. There is no one I would rather have by my side. John will make such a good dad. I can't wait to see him holding our little girl in his arms.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Change in Course

Back in August, right around the time of Johannah's unfulfilled due date, the Lord spoke to me through Isaiah 42:8-9, "I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you." I had a strong sense that the Lord was telling me to be prepared, that He was going to be bring about something. I actually thought I might be pregnant, something I no longer think each month like I use to. I even took a pregnancy test, but like so many before it, it was negative.

Fast forward to September 9th, when I decided to believe God is who He says He is. I wrote about it here. What I didn't say was that later that night my friend Stephanie told me about a possible adoption situation. She knew about it through the work we both do with the organization that assists North Korean refugees (I talked about it in my last post). The following day I was able to hear a bit more about the situation from the program coordinator (I'll call her K) of this organization. It turns out she had been asked to find a family for a one and a half year old little girl that is the daughter of a North Korean refugee. She said she thought of John and I immediately. She asked me what I thought about everything, and what came to mind was that it would be "immeasurably more" than I could "ask or imagine" Eph 3:20. I remember saying that if it was going to happen the Lord was going to have to bring it about because I had no idea how to go about it.

About a month went by without anything happening and in fact I was starting to think nothing would come of the situation. We proceeded ahead with filling out our application for Bethany. On October 3rd, this all changed. That night we held an event at my house to raise awareness of the situation in North Korea and some of the work that is being done to help. K also came to this event and after everyone else left, she stayed to pray with John and I about the situation. About 11:30pm I get a call from Stephanie to call K immediately. I call her and she tells me that she just got a call from South Korea. She tells me that while we were praying, the pastor in charge of this organization was meeting with the child's mom and that she had decided to place her with us (goosebumps). The one question K asked is if we would be willing to still have contact with the birthmom. From the beginning, we have felt strongly about having an open adoption so of course we agreed. A designated, open international adoption - I am still amazed.

On Monday, I put in a call to Bethany and Children's Home Society & Family Services (CHSFS) to try to get more information. I really didn't know if it was even legally possible or how we would go about it. CHSFS was recommended by A (Thank you!) back when I had asked for recommendations as we were beginning the adoption process. When I first started volunteering with the refugee assistance organization, I had been interested in hearing about unaccompanied refugee minors who needed homes. I found out these children are not available for adoption and for that reason we decided it was not for us at this time. It was during this research that I saw that CHSFS was 1 of 3 agencies that is able to place children from Korea in the state of Maryland. Even after we decided not to pursue this, I kept their website in my favorites and sometimes I would go visit to read about their Korea program. On Tuesday, I got a call back from CHSFS who put me in touch with their Korea Program Coordinator. I felt like this women was sent from God. She was so helpful and told me exactly what would need to happen. She was even familiar with North Korea issues and the refugee situation. We had planned to meet with the birthmom via Skype the following Friday, but were advised that this would be illegal and would have jeopardized the entire adoption. She also advised us not to give any financial support to the organization because it could be perceived as us trying to buy a child. We had planned to begin donating money, but just had not gotten around to it. I felt God's hand of protection on us in both these instances. I found out that Korea does not allow independent adoptions of any sort. The birthmom must work with 1 of 4 agencies in South Korea, each of whom has a partner agency in the U.S.. Eastern is the partner agency of CHSFS. The mom will have to relinquish to Eastern (or one of the other agencies) for designated placement with us. On our end, we proceed with all the normal steps of a Korean adoption through CHSFS. The only difference is the final matching step. I passed all this info along to K who passed it on to the pastor. He met with Eastern who gave him the name of a man in the Maryland office of CHSFS. He had K call last Thursday and K and the gentleman ended up getting in an argument. I thought we were done at that point, but I asked God to bring about a change of heart in this man. Later that evening K called and said he had called her back and was willing to help. The Lord has shown Himself at every turn in this situation. I spoke with the man that same night and set up an appointment with him for Oct 28th. He was a very curt and so I was very nervous about the meeting. When we got there he snapped at the social worker right in front of us when she stated she would also be meeting with us. He ended up not being a part of the meeting! The meeting ended up going very well. We discussed the situation with the social worker and talked to see if there was anything that would disqualify us immediately from the Korea program. She didn't think we had anything to worry about as far as history of counseling, etc. We also discussed the riskiness of this situation. They wanted to know if we were willing and interested in rolling over to the regular Korea program should this situation not work out. Our answer was absolutely. It was very scary to think about all the time, money, and effort we will be putting in to this situation. It will be heartbreaking if it does not work out, but at least everything else will not be for naught. They sent the formal application packet that day! They offer classes the second Friday of every month so there will be no delay as there was with Bethany. The social worker had even mentioned us possibly attending the Nov 13th class if we got everything done in time. After seeing the application packet, I don't see that happening. We are aiming for Dec 11th.

So one way or another we are adopting from Korea!!!!!

I am so excited! I had a peace and some excitement about taking a step forward when we filled out our formal domestic adoption application, but not an excitement about the adoption itself. Something about it never felt quite right (for us specifically not domestic adoption in general). The joy and excitement that were eluding me have been found. This feels right.

P.S. I will write another post about Bethany and the withdrawal of our application with them, but this post is already long enough :)