Tuesday was a very special day in our lives. Monumental for our family, for we officially, legally finalized the adoption of our children!!!
It's all finished.
Nothing can turn reverse this adoption! (Just to clarify, once an adoption is finalized, a birth family cannot take the baby/child away. I've seen tv shows and movies that twist this truth, I guess for entertainment's sake.)
Sissy & Bubby (as we like to call them) now share our last name, and we're a forever family!!! They have new birth certificates and social security numbers, too. The fingerprint on our precious children's lives is just as changed as ours is. We go forward in life together, from here to eternity!
Let me rewind and share with you some of the journey that lead us to our children. I know that every single adoption story is different, and each family has a different experience. Ours was shorter than most, but had it's share of ups and downs. I don't have time to write nearly all the details in just one blog post, but this will give you a good idea of how fast things changed and the reason behind it all...
We really had no clue last Christmas (2012) would be our last without children, but once again we were hopeful for a miracle. That's exactly what we received! After 6 1/2 of years of wanting a baby either natural or adoptive, we started this process with gusto back on January 6th 2013.
11 months ago, I remember we went online to apply for the real application to start our home study, and while we thought we had an idea of the route to take to get to our child, we really didn't. Lol! We did know that we wanted to adopt because we had so much love we wanted to share, and we knew it was time to start. We also knew we wanted a baby under about 13 months old.
We began doing an international adoption homestudy with the intention of adopting from South Korea. This was after prayer and extensive research on the different countries, requirements, age range of children and parents who apply, wait time, and the travel time. There is a lot to consider when honing in on a country! I journaled a detailed prayer for this child and began praying that. Day after day.
In February we got some startling news that we didn't expect.
We found out the very long running, reliable adoption program in Korea was changing, and not for our benefit. This was really disheartening, but we prayed about it. We decided it was too risky for us to continue to pursue Korea, sadly. We weren't sure where to go from there. Meanwhile, this entire time we were trucking through loads of paperwork, fingerprinting, background checks, home visits, etc. Heath was busy with work, but as a homemaker, the adoption process sort of became my job. I was organized from the start, because I knew it was the only way I could have the patience and ability to get through all the paperwork. I highly recommend using a huge binder here, complete with folders, and keep a planner kept just for your adoption timeline and appointments.
Not many people know this, but last February we also went to a few meetings on fostering (to adopt) while still in the homestudy process. We decided this was not for us for a few reasons that I won't expound on here, but I think that was probably a tiny seed God planted in our hearts to even consider the idea of adopting an American child.... A different route. Up to this point over the years we had only had strong feelings towards international adoption. This is why we must be open to His plan, my friends!
God was leading...
So as we continued our home study we went from pursuing South Korea to looking into the Marshall Islands. If you can't tell already, we've been very drawn to sweet Asian children. But not only that, there you can adopt babies, which is almost unheard of within the international adoption community. We met all of the requirements, too. We were happy to get back on track, but in April we found out that the Marshall Islands had a crazy waiting list, so much that they aren't taking anymore applicants right now. Kind of strange, right?!
But God was leading...
From there, we were told from our adoption agency that there is a large population of Marshallese living in Hawaii. Many babies there are up for adoption, so we began to research it through a local attorney that has done a few of them.
This change of plans was just another kink in our decision. We felt a little uneasy about this route in HI. We never truly had a peace about it...
You know, when you have a decision to make (in our case, a big one), and there is just "something" that just feels uneasy. I know now that it was the Holy Spirit. In this case, there were just too many unanswered questions, but we knew this particular adoption was going to be a whole lot of money because it's not done through an agency, but an attorney only and because it's Hawaii. Even more than Korea, it would be around $35,000 + the cost of 2 trips to HI and back, + this route could possibly expedite quickly so and we would need lots of funds and fast!!
I know money can be an uncomfortable subject, but let's face it, it is a factor. Although, we knew if God was leading us to a baby from there, He would provide the way! At least, that is what He kept reminding me in my anxious days that I had. Speaking of, yes, I had many stressful days last winter and spring. God helped me overcome them all, but at one point I was having pretty severe pain in my neck, shoulder, & going up inside my ear! I even went to a clinic, and they couldn't explain it. I looked fine from a medical standpoint so they said it was probably due to stress. It lasted about 3 weeks. Now looking back, we both agree it was stress causing me to stay very tense, even in my sleep, that lead to awful pain. Thank you Jesus for my healing.
The adoption process is exciting because you know you're getting closer to your child, but it can be an intense process on many different levels! You --and your husband--are carrying the baby in another way... Emotionally. Mentally. Financially. Just not physically.
It was mid-April, we still were on the fence with the country, and our homestudy was about to be complete. If we were going to go with HI, we would need to revise some of the hard work of the past 4 months and complete a domestic homestudy instead of international. A big change!
But God was leading...
So as we and our parents were praying about the entire thing, we felt lead to do "straight up" domestic. Not a HI Marshallese baby, but a lower 48 states baby, from a pregnant mother who chose life and adoption (instead of abortion). Domestic like this is getting a baby from the hospital, willingly from the birth parents. The downside of this can be that usually in most states there is a waiting period of so many weeks that the birth mom can change her mind and keep the baby, before it's finalized. This had always scared the patootie out of me! It's one of the main reason I've always preferred international adoption, personally.
We both agreed, after SO much prayer and intercession with God. Seeking His plan for our lives that we would do a domestic adoption from the lower 48. We had two very reputable agencies in mind. We knew families that had successfully adopted babies through these agencies.
(On a side note: There are so many questions you may have about adoption just from reading this post. I'm sorry that I can't go into all the details here if I want to finish writing this in one day. Soon I'll write a post sharing with all of you some adoption trivia, facts, and definitions of terms to help you understand the process more clearly. :) I know how you may be getting lost on this detailed description of our journey, but it all leads up to this week!)
It's now the end of April, we're sending out announcements, and our home study is complete!!
We're at the point that we need to send in the name of the agency--along with our homestudy--that we're wanting to go with. So it begins.
Lists of pros and cons. Headaches. Trying to (start and) finish our profile book we were told to make when we decided to switch over to domestic. I was beginning to raise money with a derby pie fundraiser that was amazing but exhausting only because I was making dozens of pies a week on top of completing the pivotal profile book, on top of preparing for my very first speaking engagement (speaking not singing) at my Aunt's church the following week, on top of getting prepared to host my brother's Law School graduation party. All awesome things, all at once!
I just began to really feel pulled in a million directions. And yet the decision needed to be made, which agency to go with. Sigh.
It was May 2nd, and the speaking engagement came and went. I was left more changed than probably anyone who listened to what I had to say! Not many know this, but accepting that invitation to speak was WAY out my comfort box!! It was one of those things that was right up there with the "going to school naked" nightmare!! As much as I wanted to avoid admitting it, I knew He had been preparing me for something more. He was stretching me.
God... said, Do it! I said yes.
I knew the Holy Spirit prompted me to speak. I was to speak out of obedience to God. The very night I spoke at this lovely ladies banquet, there was a tangible breakthrough in my life that I could feel. I knew something was different, and God was behind it. I had grown to a place in my relationship with God where I completely put all my trust in Him for the first time in my life. Free-falling is scary, BUT you know what I learned?
Obedience brings breakthrough!!!
One week exact after speaking at the banquet about my testimony, I was beginning to recover from the worst flu I've had since childhood. I'm a bad doctor's wife who has never gotten the shot, and for no good reason.
Why I took a pic of myself so sick, who knows, I was probably delirious. Literally!
Did I really just show you guys that!?!! Ughhh.
Honestly, I think that the previous 3-4 weeks really took a toll on my stress levels and reeked havoc on my body. It was apparent when I very suddenly became incredibly sick with the flu in May. I think my poor body needed a release and forced me to stop everything. Little did I know it would be the very last "break" for a very long time!
As I was saying, exactly one week after speaking at the banquet and overcoming -- up to that point-- one of the scariest thing I've done besides giving birth to my deceased daughter, God stretched me again.
It was 10:00 pm, I was on the couch and my husband came in the room with an expression I've never seen before. He was moved... excited... hopeful. He just listened to a voicemail from the agency who did our homestudy. They called us, out of the blue, going out on a limb considering our preference of a baby, and anxiously told us in a hurried message about 2 local siblings, a precious little boy and a little girl who needed a home right away! They wanted, despite all our criteria, to approach us about these children, just in case.
I could give you all the details, but the next few days are sort of a blur. I remember we knew hardly anything at all about them that night from the message, but we said God could give us enough love for 2 children, although their ages of 2 & 3 did scare me a bit. I was mentally prepared for a baby! Lol, I remember telling Heath jokingly how if we became their parents that my mom would probably need to move in, ASAP!
So, forgoing every prior intention and priority we wanted, we answered God's leading and told them we wanted to be on the list of hopeful families! The next day, out of the 5 couples, the birth grandparents chose US!!!!! :D
That night, my family was in town for my brother's graduation and while my parents knew the big news, I was able to share it with my grandparents face to face at a restaurant we met at. I didn't feel real good physically, but next to my wedding day it was certainly the most exciting day of my life, and I had to share the news!! I was bursting with excitement, joy, and wonder of the unknown.
On May 11th, we met those innocent, big eyed toddlers 2 days later (yes, I was recovering from the flu, yikes!) and they stayed in our home overnight.
This weekend was all so surreal....
It was supposed to be the weekend I was hosting my brother's party, but it quickly turned into the weekend we met our children!!!
The next week is almost a complete blur of cray-cray preparation, but with hard works and lots of support from friends and family, our house was ready for our 2 little blessings in only a matter of about 4 days. 4 DAYS from having a house fit for 2 adults and NOTHING for toddlers, to a newly painted room that was decorated, with all new beds, bedding, clothes, baby gates, car seats, etc! See, had we continued down a regular domestic adoption for a baby, we would've had months after the homestudy to prepare! Btw, Thank you to all of our supporters, you know who you are!!! You helped us tremendously!
So it was Mother's Day night when they returned to their bio family after one weekend together, the way it was planned, and the next Friday morning we picked them up to come back to our home. Permanently!!!
This is the morning we got them and took their precious little hearts to their new home with us. We were basically strangers to them, but God was beginning to do a miracle in their own hearts, too!
I'll spare y'all the the rest for now, but for time purposes--as they say--the rest is history. 6 1/2 months later they are Cates!!! We've doubled the size of our family this year in one swoop! Our love is so deep for our children now, and their future is so bright!!! In this time, we've taken enormous strides in how close-knit our family has become. Our home is their home, and we're a family, and they know that now! :D
God is a redeemer, faithful, and if you pray and seek Him, you'll be lead to where He wants you to be. That's most definitely the best place you could ever be, because that is just how much He loves us.
I could talk to you about our adoption journey all day and night, but I've got to get to bed!! Keep reading and you'll probably see more of that story unfold in future posts.