God's Child, Our Joy

An adoptive family's journey in faith and life


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The time has come…

Happy New Year to you all! Once again it has been a while, but while it has been busy (as life always seems to be these days), it has been pretty uneventful. Unbelievably, Eva turned 5 right before Christmas! That’s right, we were blessed with this wonderful miracle 5 years ago already. Where has the time gone?

As she has grown, she has also started to ask more questions about her family and her beginning. People often ask us: Do the kids know they are adopted? Do they see or talk to their birth mother? How much do they understand about adoption? My replies often follow something like this: “We have regular contact with their birth mother. We speak of adoption and how they were in her tummy, but she was unable to care for them, so she asked us to be their mommy and daddy. However, I don’t know how much they actually understand.” Eva has said things in the past that makes us think she understands quite a bit, but we aren’t sure. She has also recently started talking more about her sisters and about missing them.

Well, tonight it happened and I wasn’t quite prepared. We were sitting and coloring…just the two of us…and she starts talking about her older sister, the one that lives with their birth mother. I’m not paying really close attention because this is not something unusual for her. Then I hear something about what it was like when she (Eva) lived with them. I calmly respond, “Oh honey, you didn’t ever live with them. You have only lived with us.” Eva, while still coloring, says, “She just gave us to you because she didn’t want us?” I look up from coloring and my heart breaks. This is the exact thing we are supposed to protect adopted children from thinking and feeling. They were not rejected! They were loved! They were so loved that their birth mother knew she wanted better for them! I look at her, with my heart pounding, thinking, I can’t screw this up. This is the moment. Why didn’t I prepare better for this? Once again, I calmly responded, “Of course she wanted you! She loved you so much, but she didn’t have a place to live and she didn’t have the things to take care of you. She wanted you to have a place to live forever where you would be loved and cared for the way she wanted you to be.” Eva continues to color and doesn’t say anything, so I ask, “Is it okay that you live with us?” She looks up briefly and says with a smile, “Yes! I just miss my other family…my old mommy, daddy, and sister.” With all sincerity, I say, “It’s okay to miss them and they will always be your mommy, daddy, and sister. We are just your mommy and daddy, too.”

That was it. The conversation was over. She began talking about the nutcracker she was coloring. The moment was gone. As I reflect back I wonder if I handled it right, if I made her feel secure and loved. I also know this is only the beginning. The strange thing in it all is that I meant every single word. It is okay for her to miss her birth family. They are her mommy and daddy, too. When we first started this process I thought I would be so jealous and insecure about my kids having another family, but now that I’m living it I know how important it is for their sense of identity and well being. And still, she is my daughter and he is my son. Every fiber of my body and mind respond as if they are my own flesh and blood. Five years later, I thank God for the opportunity to know this kind of love.


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All up in my feelings…

As the kids are getting older, I started to worry that I would not have any adoption related stories and information to share. I am beginning to understand that every chapter of their lives will bring new adoption emotions and situations. Good news is that means the blog will keep going 🙂

A few weeks ago, I was perusing Facebook, only to see a post written by the newest birth sibling’s adoptive mother (I hope you followed that description, you might have to read over it a couple times to understand who I’m talking about.) The post began: “2nd trimester cravings…”. My heart began to pound, and I began reading the comments to make sure I really understand it correctly. Sure enough, it appears she is pregnant with their 3rd child (they had one biological child before adopting). Anger welled up inside me. I was furious and hurt. But why???? Shouldn’t I be happy for her? Of course I should be. It’s wonderful news! But I’m not happy, I’m angry…and now, very confused. I tell Scott the news and he says something along the lines of, “Wow! They are going to be close in age. Probably 15 months like ours!” I try to explain to him my feelings, but I don’t understand them enough myself to express them. I try to push it to the back of my mind and move on.

A few days later I’m on a walk with a friend and ask her about it. She says, “Well, are you worried that ‘Grace’ (not her real name) will be left out and and not loved as much being the only adopted child and the middle child?” I was floored! How could I ever think that? I love my kids like MY kids! There is no difference. And yet, something about that statement nagged at me. Now, based on other information I have regarding the family, I believe this was probably an unplanned pregnancy. However, I think there is a part of me that feels like ‘Grace’ should be with us. Somewhere deep in the dark places of my brain, it feels like this mother does not care enough for ‘Grace’. She is replacing her with a biological child. She is going to get lost in the middle. She will have trouble identifying with her siblings later in life and feel like an outsider. With us she would have had where she came from in common with her siblings. Even writing this I feel like a horrible person for even thinking all this. I know ‘Grace’ is loved. I know she is in the right place. She even looks like her older sibling…not really like our kids at all. I pray that all will work out, and she will be a beam of sunshine in the middle of their family.

I think the anger…and sadness…also came from another place that I have buried for the past 5 or 6 years. That place where I thought that maybe someday that would be us. That someday we would add a biological child of our own. I am truly happy with my family. I would be happy to consider our family complete. I could not imagine Eva and Eli not a part of our life. They bring a joy I didn’t know if I would every experience. However, last night after bath, I looked at Eva and saw her birthmom…she is the spitting image of her. It reminds me that no matter how much we love them, there is someone out there that loved them first; someone that loved them enough to give them life and to know they wouldn’t be able to give them everything they needed; someone that chose us. My joy started with someone else’s greatest sadness. I know someday our kids will question us. Someday they will use the hurtful excuse, “But you’re not my real mom.” I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready for that one even though I know it will happen. We knew all this when we chose to adopt, but I thought my yearning to would stop. I think, as a woman, because I didn’t do the hard work to bring them into this world, I almost feel like I have missed out on a part of motherhood. Sometimes I feel like less of a mother because I didn’t endure 9 months and a painful labor. There is that awkward part of mom group conversations where they talk about their labors…while I can add information about the kid’s birth stories, the labor was not mine. There is also that biological clock that I can hear ticking away deep in the recesses of my body. Now that I am 35, time is beginning to run short. I have told Scott I will get rid of all the baby stuff when I turn 40. Five years left…

Unfortunately, for anyone reading this post looking for answers, I’m sorry. I don’t have any. I’m just putting my feelings out there because hopefully I’m not alone. As happy as adoption has made me, there are still emotions I struggle with. Emotions that I think only adoptive mothers may fully understand.


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Adoption Day – A Day to Celebrate!

Okay, so it has been a while again. Unfortunately, I don’t have any good excuses. Believe it or not, we started this blog over 5 years ago now! When we started, we had no idea where this process would lead. Five years later we have two wonderful children that happen to be biological siblings as well. Even five years later, I still stand back and ask myself, how did this happen?! Am I really a mom?! In the days after Eva was born and we brought her home, it was almost surreal. Not sure if this happens to moms when they give birth as well, but I remember thinking over and over, “is this real?” Being in the day to day chaos of raising two toddlers, we often lose sight of just how lucky we are. Today is a day to step back and let it all sink in.


Four years ago today, Eva’s adoption decree was signed. She became a part of our family forever. We have never really celebrated this day before. It has been on the calendar, but sadly, we have never made a big deal out of it.

I had thought about writing a post, and I still will at some point, about how much our kids know about their adoptions and their birth family, but in the process of discussing that post with Scott, we ended up having an interesting discussion. I happened to mention to him that while I know our kids are adopted and I am thankful for them, I don’t find myself thinking about adoption every day. Most days, they are just my kids…not my adopted kids. Remembering back to the adoption class we took as we started this journey, the adoptive parents often spoke of this exact thing. One said something along the lines of, “We would never introduce our kids, ‘this is our son Ryan, and this is our adopted son Jake,’ they are just our kids. There is no difference in our minds.” I was feeling proud of the fact that I truly felt like these kids had fully enveloped my heart and made me feel like the mother I thought I may never be. As I said that initial statement, that I don’t think about the fact they are adopted every day, Scott shocked me by replying, “I know. I was going to write our five year blog anniversary post about that. About how this whole journey and blog started out so focused on adoption and now it’s barely part of our daily thoughts.” Wh…what? I was stunned. I immediately felt like the worst adoptive mother in the world. How could we have such different views of how the kids and adoption fit into our daily lives now? Was I wrong? Was I supposed to be thinking about the fact they are adopted every day? My mind was spinning. Unfortunately, we never really came to a resolution over these statements, so I was left to contemplate this further.

Here’s what I think, I think that I am right in thinking how wonderful it is that I feel the kids are mine, not my adopted kids…just my kids. I have every right to feel like their mother. I have raised them since birth and they called me mom before we even started discussing their birth mother with them. If I think of them simply as my adopted kids, then I am disconnecting myself from them, from the personalities and skills that I have influenced in them, from both their good and bad habits I have helped instill. While they may have a separate DNA from me, they are my kids and I have shaped them, just as their DNA has shaped them. However, here’s what I think Scott was saying. I think he was saying that we don’t celebrate their adoption enough. We don’t talk about their adoption story enough. We don’t speak of their birth family enough. Don’t get me wrong, we do each of these, just probably not enough. The kids have books about adoption, we speak of and visit with their sisters and their birth mother, who they call [firstname]-mommy, and they have pictures up of them in their rooms. But it’s days like today, Eva’s Adoption Day, that we forget to celebrate. So, I took the first step and posted the picture above on Facebook today and announced that we would be celebrating today. For the first time ever, I did not block their birthmom from seeing a post related to their adoption. I never knew if it would bring back too many difficult memories and emotions for her, but today I let it go. And believe it or not, she was one of the first to love the post and comment on it! I think knowing that we have her blessing in our joy, gives us even more reason to celebrate. So, today we will celebrate. Today we will tell Eva her adoption story again and we will rejoice in the fact God brought her to this world and gave us the opportunity to be a part of our family. We love you, Eva!


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The Week Before

The boy’s due date is the 29th of March which happens to fall on Good Friday this year. The week of the 24th represents the most likely locations of his birth. This turns out to be somewhat fortuitous as the week before turned out to be disastrous.

The week of the 17th started out good, as Eva’s grandparents were visiting for the weekend during their spring break. Monday was back to work for Steph and I, and Eva got have a day of fun and spoils with Grandma and Grandpa (high on both fun and spoils). We returned home that day to a napping girl, but when she woke she had a surprise for us. A crusty eye, and redness below both eyes were our first indication that pink eye had returned. We didn’t enjoy it the first time, and definitely thought it didn’t require a sequel.

Plans to return back home were scuttled by the grandparents as Eva would not be able to go to daycare the next day. Steph had few precious days left to work with her students before her maternity leave, and my vacation days have been stored away for the days during and after when the boy arrives, so the offer to watch her was gladly accepted.

With the pink eye there were some concerns. Eva was sleeping in the nursery so everything would have to be replaced and cleaned before he arrived. If the boy arrived soon, Eva wouldn’t be able to come to the hospital. Would either of us contract it again? Being sick is no fun, but being sick with a newborn is downright scary.

The phone rings. Every phone call for the last week or so has come with that instantaneous query “Is this the call?” This was not the call, as it was my mother. The hopefulness of baby boy news was sunk with sorrowful news. My grandfather (Eva’s great grandpa) had been fighting cancer for twenty years, but the battle was nearing the end. A scan had revealed that it had spread into his brain in pea and marble sized nodes, and it would only be a matter of time.

This past summer we lost my aunt to cancer, and we were unable to make it back for the funeral. It happened right before Eva’s finalization, and we just didn’t have time to make it there and back in time. It was the right decision, but it had laid a layer of guilt on my heart.

A matter of time is what he has left. Could be a day. Could be a month. Maybe even a few months. We couldn’t be forced to make that tough choice again, would we? Twice in the same year to the same family.

Tuesday comes and Eva does well despite the pink eye. A trip to the pediatrician and a different anti-biotic for her. Our pediatrician offers to set aside a parking spot as we will have this visit, her 15 month checkup on Friday, and the two day appointment for the boy most likely the next week.

Grandma and grandpa stay for dinner and take off that night. Eva needs to stay home from daycare the next day, so we split the time. Even by Wednesday, the new meds are helping, and things are starting to look up. Well, until we turn the news on.

Snow. A Palm Sunday snow storm is heading our way. Being a few days out, we have estimates from 2 to 12 inches. 90 percent of the roads we would take to the hospital are well plowed, so it shouldn’t be an issue….unless we have to pickup Eva’s birth mother. Her roads are not plowed right away, so that could be an issue.

I flip on the TV Thursday night. NCAA basketball, the most wonderful time of the year. This year Dayton is hosting not only the play-in round (NCAA calls this the first round), but they are also hosting games the first and second round of the tournament (NCAA calls those 2nd and 3rd round). They host games on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday….wait.

Dayton Arena is not terribly far from our hospital. What if traffic jams up around the interstate (a guaranteed lock to happen) while we try to get to the hospital? What if labor hits on Sunday with snow and traffic issues?!

Possessing neither ability to stop Mother Nature or the NCAA, we sit back and pray to God that these issues don’t come up. By Saturday morning, the forecasts are settling into the 4 to 9 range, and the NCAA rumbles on.

Saturday morning is jam packed as Steph has a massage and planned on going to work to get stuff ready for her long term sub. Eva and I are playing when Steph calls me to let me know that she is skipping work and coming home. Our birth mother texted with the simple advice of keep that phone close. Nothing like getting that message to undo all the work of a massage.

So Saturday has now changed into “Get Ready” day. Fill the fridge, clean the house, make a list of things for Eva’s sitter, and make ourselves ready for this life change. I jump in the shower just in case I don’t have the chance later.

The anticipation of good news is a welcome distraction. We’ll get our groceries and make sure everything is ready for baby boy. As I’m running through all the things I wanted to accomplish today, Steph comes into the bathroom. “Your dad called. Grandpa died this morning.”

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Grandpa was a kind and decent man. Always fair to everyone he met, and giving of his time and talents to the community. He married Grandma 64 years ago, and it’s been a loving relationship that has outlasted most. Four children, six grandchildren and ten grandchildren (with one on the way) are his living legacy.

There are so many things I can remember that make me smile about him. Every time we’d visit they’d have a new vehicle. He never wanted to get bogged down with repairs. The first home I can remember them in had this sunset painted on the back wall of their bedroom. I always thought it was pretty cool (well, that and the waterbed) that I would sneak out of the guest bedroom and they’d find me in their bed.

Later they would move to a larger home in the country. It had a large yard where every year he’d play QB in the Thanksgiving game. He was a Husker fan, and a Twins fan that taught me that if they had a good spring training record they were destined to have a bad year. He introduced me to Ole and Lena jokes, and was the musician of the family. Every Sunday morning Grandpa would fire up the organ and start to play music for Grandma. Of course, it was actually his way of saying “Grandma, hurry up it’s time to go”, but still was beautiful though.

As his body began to betray him more and more throughout the last years of his life, he’d have his good days and his bad one. But it never stopped his spirit, and never changed who he was. He was a story teller, a funny man, a generous man, and a loving grandpa.

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Grandpa died around 10:00 am est. Steph received the text from our birth mother around 10:20 am. I somehow wanted these two things to be related. In death, we begin life anew. I would get to call the family and bring just some joy into this sad moment.

There would not be that joy on this day. The contractions had slowed, and were back to being manageable. Still we wait.

Sunday arrives, and snow and basketball await us. Steph sings with the choir for Palm Sunday and on her music stand is her sheet music paired with a waiting cellphone. No call though.

The snow slows a bit, so the basketball is mostly finished by the time it arrives. By morning we will have around 6 inches, 3-4 on the driveway to scoop, and no phone call. Contractions keep coming, but not close enough yet.

Monday morning I have a delay, but before I head in we receive the “Keep your phone close” text message again. I run into work and gather stuff to bring home, just in case. Just as everyday before, there would be no baby boy today.

I write this post on Tuesday the 26th, but no word today. I suspect that he will come in the next couple of days or so, but even with that new joy so close, I can’t help but think of my family in South Dakota. Today is the funeral, and I’m in Ohio. For the second time in less than a year God put me in this position of choosing family over family, and I don’t know why. Last summer I felt guilty, and now the guilt has weighed on me even more. I can grieve my loss from a distance, but I can’t see my family from out here. I want to see my cousins, some of whom I haven’t seen in years. I want to be there for Grandma. I want to hug my mom.

Eva was born in December of 2011. With time off for her birth, Christmas and a short trip back home, we never had time to bring her to South Dakota. Grandpa never got to meet his great grand daughter. In a day or so her brother will be born, and grandpa will never even get to see him. How is this fair? Why did God let the cancer take him before he could even see a picture of our baby boy? Why does He not want me to see my family? Why?

I cried in the shower when I found out. I miss my grandfather, and I feel terrible that I couldn’t bring Eva out to meet him. The only solace I had is that he is looking down at us now, that he can see her now, and that he is proud to have been her great grandfather.


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Two

Those of you who follow the blog know that we were contacted by our agency to consider being an adoption option for our birthmother and her upcoming blessing. We pondered and prayed for many days and decided that while this decision is coming quicker than we had planned (heh, planned), we would be happy to be considered. With the due date in March, we had some time to prepare.

Not long after we informed the agency, we met with her. It wasn’t a meeting to talk about #2, but just a get together for her to see Eva. Eva had a mini meltdown before we went, but once we were there she was happy. Eva wanted to pull at her earrings, and I think birthmother was happy to see how well Eva was doing.

We didn’t want to broach the topic of #2, because we were unsure of where she was with it. Our relationship with our birthmother is good, but as you can imagine it’s complicated. You want her to know you’re an option, but not pressing her to choose you. You want to express that you’re happy and excited, but not make her feel uncomfortable with where she is at in her decision process.

Towards the end, she did bring it up. We are really blessed to have a birthmother who is very open and lets us know what’s going on. Without going into details, we could tell that she’s put a lot of thought into this, and has a checklist of things that need to happen if she is going bring another mouth to the table. She’s placed a deadline of December for these things to occur.

We left feeling confident that she was making the best decision she could. If we heard in December that she chose us, we’d have time to prepare. She wasn’t pressured to make a decision. When the time comes, she’ll make it in the best interest of the baby and her family.

While that was the best scenario, that still left us with three months of uncertainty. March is in the middle of school show preparation for Steph. Do you start preparing for that scenario, when it was still up in the air?

We decided that you have to assume that it will happen. I’d rather be prepared for a child and not have one, than unprepared with one. Of course, this is an easy decision for me. Six months is an eternity. Even if assured 100% of a child for us in March, I’d being the same amount of planning that I’m doing now.

Hardly any at all.

Come the New Year, yeah, I’ll probably start to worry about things, but until then I’m focused on what’s going on right now. So uncertainty is not bothering me. My wife on the other hand…

I’ve probably mentioned before that the way we approach things are different but complementary. I feel that at the end of the day, things will work out somehow. Steph feels this way…eventually, but only after the processing power of her mind to go through each and every scenario and figure out how to deal with it. Six months out until birth, and three months to a decision there are thousands of scenarios to compile. Will she adopt or not? Choose us? Change her mind? Lose the child? Arrive early? Arrive late? What to do with school this year? Next year? Daycare? Bedrooms? Grandparents to help out that first month? Scott’s time off? Girl or boy?

As she starts eliminating the questions, the worries, the “How are we going to do this” thoughts, she began to relax a bit and maybe even starts to look forward to the fun things as opposed to the logistics and necessities. She was starting to calm.

A couple of weeks later, Eva’s great grandparents visit us. Before they came out, they ordered a new cell phone. Knowing that they’d be on the road, they had it shipped to us so they could have it the rest of the way. Delivery day came and went, so Steph went with her grandmother to the Verizon store to get it sorted out. Turns out that having a cellphone with an area code in one state shipped to another can raise suspicion, so the package was held somewhere.

So, the trip to the cell store didn’t result in bringing home another cell phone bundle. However, Steph did bring something home with her that day. A bundle of mixed emotions and a text message from our birth mother.

“Has [the agency] called you yet?”


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When To Tell

Throughout this process we have striven to do things just the same as we would if we were going about this the natural way. We’ve prepared our nursery, kept our friends informed throughout the process, and freaked out the appropriate amount of times (what are we doing?!). I’ve spent some time thinking about how we let everyone know when our girl is born and when everything is official. Friends who have had children in the past has mass texted, e-mailed, called, or facebook’d their joyous news to everyone. Usually this news comes to us the day of, or the next day.* Unfortunately, you’re probably not going to get that from us.

* With the new Facebook deciding what news was worthy of top news, it decided our friend’s announcement was not worthy of top news. It was only a few days later when they came home that Facebook decided her post was worthy. Well, there were a lot of sheep that needed feeding in Farmville that week….

Despite our birthmother non-wavering, we always have to keep in mind the chance she’ll change her mind. With the chance of devastation, we have two choices, and I think we each took one of the options. Option One is to not let yourself get too emotionally drawn in, remembering that she may not be coming home with us. Option Two is to fall head over heels, but risk falling into a dark place afterwards. Some adoptive parents who’ve had failed adoptions liken the situation to losing a child in childbirth.

So, we’ve decided that we won’t officially announce here until after the papers have been signed. Some of you may be on the short list to know before that, but it’s probably because we need something from you (dog sitter, prayer, substitute). Please continue to keep us and our birthparents in your prayers.

Before I go, a quick update. Birthmother informed us Sunday that she was feeling “fabulous”. Our girl has decided to not to kick as many organs now, and is now exploring the southern regions. She’s always been a traveler.


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Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me

So you’ve read the post about how they were contemplating inducing last Friday. At the time, I omitted my internal response to the situation:

“WAIT! I’m not ready!”

How can that be? We’ve know for 3+ months now. We have diapers. The nursery  is ready. The Vikings  have graciously decided to not be competitive this year so I’m not distracted on Sundays this month. What happened?

I think my initial “Wait, I’m not ready!” response was pretty typical. What may be different are the reasons my mind came up with. They were mostly superficial. I haven’t cut my hair, it’s going to be poofy in all the first baby pictures! We have all sorts of empty boxes at home that need to be cleaned up! It can’t happen until after Friday, that’s when my work’s Christmas party is! I have yet to rotate my long sleeve shirts ahead of my short sleevers! I’m not ready!

It’s true and not true at the same time. You can never be ready, but I can’t be any more ready than I am now. I think that the suddenness of it caught me off guard. If my dentist called up and said “Hey, I’m on vacation for our original appointment, can you come in this afternoon?”, I’d be thinking the same thing. I’m not ready! I didn’t brush my teeth extra specially good this morning. I haven’t properly fretted about my floss use. I was going to watch Monster’s Inc. this afternoon, now when will I watch it? I’m not ready!

Then time happens. You realize you can watch Monster’s Inc later. You’re no longer obligated on that future date. Fretting gets you nowhere. Most importantly, it matters little what brushing you did today, but what care you took in the months beforehand. Just the same with this adoption, it’s the preparation before today that matters the most.

Just today, we received an update from our birthmother. She’s having discomfort (not unusual for a pregnant lady), and it feels like the baby is moving down in to her pelvis more. One step closer. I’m still not ready, yet ever more ready than before.