11/30/2015

5 Ways to Support An Adoptive Family

Leigh lives in the metro D.C. area with her beautiful family.

Over the past 5-years, they've learned a lot about adoption.
National Adoption Month
"It has been trying and beautiful and hard and amazing," she said. "But we wouldn't change a single thing."

Here's Leigh in her own words on how to best support an adoptive family:

1. Be excited. 

When a family first announces they are adopting one if the biggest fears is that people won't accept this path they are going down.

They are a ball of emotions, excited, overjoyed, nervous, scared!

Instead of jumping into a round of 20 questions, listen to their hearts!

Be excited for them, dream with them about their child.

Be there to listen to all the paperwork details, check in on them the day of their home study, celebrate the little steps of mailing off paperwork or getting signatures on documents!

Having friends that walk the little and big steps with you is invaluable!

2. Step into the fundraising. 

Many adoptive families have to fundraise in order to go through the process.

It's costly, there isn't insurance, but boy oh boy are these children worth it.

Maybe you don't have the funds to donate some huge amount but you have a huge front yard perfect for a yard sale!

Offer to put one together for your friends.

Host a Noonday Collection trunk show for their adoption, gather some friends and do a lemonade and bake sale, buy a t-shirt from their fundraiser. And share with your other friends, maybe via social media!

You never know who might be looking to help a child become part if their forever family.
National Adoption Month
3.  Understand the boundaries, even when you don't.  

Once this sweet one is home many families will have boundaries.

It can look vastly different depending on the child, age, type of adoption and family.

We had boundaries with both our children but they were very different.

With our son's adoption (international at the age of 3 1/2) we really limited contact with people unless they were grandparents or aunts and uncles.

When people were finally around him we asked that they not hug, kiss, hold, offer food or help him.

We needed to bond with him and establish our role as parents and primary caregivers.

He needed a healthy relationship with us first so that he could have a healthy relationship with others -- And it worked!

With our daughter (domestic infant adoption) we were the only ones to feed her comfort her when she cried, rock her to sleep, bathe and diaper change for the first 6-months.

It might not make sense to you, you might really want to snuggle that little one and your feelings might be hurt.

Try not to take it personally, it has nothing to do with you!

I promise these parents have researched and sought council, and they are making these hard decisions because they believe this is what is best and safest for their child.

4. Find ways to help. 

They are home!!!

While they might have these crazy boundaries, there are so many ways to show your support.

Many adoptive families night say they are good but really they are overwhelmed and exhausted. They are new parents and it takes time to adjust.

Be specific!

Say things like "I'm going to bring dinner Monday night! Does that work for you or would something else be more helpful?"

Dinner might not be their biggest need but that will open the door to hear what they need.

Offer to go to the grocery store or Target.

Ask if you can come by after the little ones are in bed, bring your friend's favorite indulgence (my girlfriends knew to bring wine and dessert, love them for that!) and just chat.

This can make parents feel so much more human.

Our best friends came over multiple nights a week after our little guy was in bed.

Those times are truly what got me through those first few months.

If the adoptive family has children already in their home, offer to take those children out for a play date -- New siblings can be hard on them too!

They might only need extra hands and help for a few weeks or it could take a long time for them to find their new normal.

Stay in touch, and be that person that is just a text message away; they need you even if it feels like they don't.

5. Be understanding when their parenting style doesn't look like yours.  

Most children that have been adopted have experienced a lot of loss and trauma.

There might be things you do as a parent that your friends have chosen not to do with their children. Instead of giving unsolicited parenting advice, take a step back and remember that they are dealing with issues that you have never had to.

A lot of adoptive parents might not share their whole story with everyone or share the issues they might be dealing with at home.

What you see is probably not the full picture.

Don't judge them, encourage them, love them, support them -- They need that more than you know!
National Adoption Month
Bonus: Learn healthy adoption language.

Things like "placed for adoption" not "given up for adoption," or, "birth parents," not "real parents," or, "biological children," not "real children."

And help educate others!

Always remember that little ears are listening and what you say matters.

Don't ask sensitive questions with the child standing right there. You never know what kind of hurt you could be stirring up in their little hearts.
National Adoption Month
Special thanks to ALL guest post submissions for National Adoption Month

11/25/2015

Joy in an Open Adoption

I've been featuring stories for National Adoption Month, and the extension of this family through open adoption is so beautiful.

Jessica and her husband are adoptive parents in New York. 

While their story took some unexpected turns, they've found hope and healing in their twin boys.

Here's Jessica in her own words...
National Adoption Month
Jessica and her husband with their sons, their birth mother and older siblings.
Adoption has brought us more joy than I could have ever imagined.

Adoption gave us the gift of family, the gift of parenthood.

When we entered into this journey, we had no idea what was ahead of us.

We had already been struggling for several years with infertility, undergone IVF, which resulted in 3 failed transfers and the loss of 6 little lives in the form of embryos.

We were emotionally and financially drained, but felt like we were supposed to move onto adoption. It felt like we tried every avenue and God just kept shutting the door.

Finally we fully surrendered and agreed become foster parents which we weren’t sure was right for our family at that time.

But even that door was shut as weather kept preventing caseworkers from getting to our house for our home inspection.

I just didn’t understand why God was closing all of these doors...
National Adoption Month
Then we received the email.

Would we consider twins due in April…one  of whom would be born with Down syndrome?

We weren’t open to Down syndrome, and to be entirely honest, I wasn’t sure I really wanted to walk that road.

It felt unfair after waiting all of those to be asked to adopt a child that wasn’t what we envisioned as “perfect."

But it also become blindingly clear that THIS is what God had been preparing us for the last 5 ½ years of waiting.

We said, "Yes," and we were chosen by their incredible and loving birth family.

On April 14, 2014, our twin boys entered the world at 6:04 and 6:08 a.m., and let me tell you...

They were BOTH perfect. 

The past year and a half has been filled with the struggles that come with raising twin boys, one of whom has special needs, but it has been also filled with more joy, hugs, laughter and smiles than ever before.

With Lucas, we charge at full speed ahead, never stopping because he moves a mile a minute.

We're always amazed at how quickly he picks up on everything.

And with Asher, we have had to learn to slow down. We can’t rush each precious milestone, but they come at their own time and they are that much more special when they do come.

Our hearts are filled with so much love that they feel as though they could burst.
National Adoption MonthWith these two sweet boys, we have also gained the blessing of extended family in the form of their birth family who we get to see at least 4-5 times a year or more.

They have so many people who love them and no child can have too many people to love them.

We are blessed to be parents, to have children that fill our home with love, laughter and a few tears here and there...to have gained extended family through their birth family, and to now refer to our own parents as “Grandma and Grandpa" --  a title they carry with pride.

We are blessed to be made a larger family, through two little boys that tie us all together.
Are you interested in submitting a guest post for National Adoption Month? This Family's Journey is featuring your stories all month long! Contact me for more details.

11/22/2015

Hope After Heartache: Following God's Plan for Our Family

Sometimes our life journeys can be filled with unexpected detours and heartbreak.

But I'm a believer that there is always hope. There is always joy in the midst of brokenness. And this story is proof.

Today, an Illinois mom introduces you to her family -- and it's a beautiful one.

Here's Marsha in her own words (warning: some of you may need a tissue for this one)...
National Adoption Month

My husband lost his wife in 2004 due to complications after open heart surgery.

He was 46.

I lost my husband in 2005 to cardiac arrest.

I was 43.

By the grace of God we found each other, and through grief and healing, we married in 2008.

Kent has four children (yours) and I have two (mine), and when we married we never envisioned we would have an “ours,” but God had a different plan.

That happens sometimes.
National Adoption Month
Our church has a rather large adoption ministry; there are over 50 adopted and foster children in our congregation.

It was on an ordinary Sunday morning that found us sitting together in our Sunday School class listening as another couple was advocating for the adoption of a sibling group of five children.

She passionately championed their cause and warned us that if not adopted, the kids would go into the foster system and be split up (possibly not even in the same state).

We listened and shook our heads in approval because supporting adoption was our “thing,” but actually adopting children was for other families.

As the story of the “Fabulous Five” unfolded, there seemed to be an urgent concern for the oldest boy, Brandon.

One family in our church had committed to adopting the youngest girl, and the middle three were going to live with the couple sharing this story, but this 15-year-old boy had no forever-family possibilities.

We prayed together--and then walked out of class, and something changed.

For the next week -- I couldn’t get this 15-year old out of my head or my heart.
Everything I did, each task I performed, every word I wrote; every prayer I prayed seemed to end up back to him. 

Fairly confident that my husband would think I was outside of my mind, I finally approached him with the fact that I felt God might be speaking to me about adopting this young man.

I couldn’t have been more surprised at his response:

 He said, “Let’s do it!” 

WHAT??

Let’s do it???

Seriously???

We met Brandon with no expectations.

He was obviously street-smart, but with the biggest heart and gentlest spirit of anyone I had ever met.

It was quickly apparent to us that he would be our son.

From that moment on, in our hearts and minds, he has been just that.

Brandon came to live with us until his adoption could be finalized.

Daily, we began to love him more and more.

He called me “Mom” fairly early, but “Dad” did not come quite so easily.

We prayed that some day he would realize what it meant to have a father -- one who loved and really cared for him.

About a year after he came to live with us he uttered the word “Dad” for the first time and tears welled up in my eyes.

We enrolled Brandon in the school district where I teach, and he began his 8th grade year as a full time student -- something he had not really been for the former two years.

He joined the football team, a sport he had never even watched on television. And from there, he never looked back.

Adopting a teenager is not for the faint of heart, but as I look at Brandon’s life -- at his endless possibilities -- it has been worth the journey. 

We did not have the privilege of raising Brandon from infancy, nor he the benefit of growing up in our household.

There have been many late nights of talking ... there has been much give and take ... there has been blending and forcing ... there has been flexibility and constraint, but most of all there has been grace ... lots of grace ... on both sides of our relationship.
National Adoption Month
Four years have past, and a week ago we stood on the 50-yard line at our school’s football field celebrating senior night.

We could not be more proud of our son.

People often tell us how blessed he is to be in our home, and I will argue every time that WE are the ones truly blessed.

When you open your heart and allow love to permeate your life, blessings abound.
National Adoption Month
Are you interested in submitting a guest post for National Adoption Month? This Family's Journey is featuring your stories all month long! Contact me for more details.

11/21/2015

Adoption: What Not to Say [and what to say instead]

National Adoption Month
Melonie is an adoptive mom in Iowa. Like many parents via adoption, she's had her fair share of questions that can be hurtful.

Here's Melonie in her own words with 5 questions NOT to ask an adoptive family:

1-What do you know about their “real” mom?  

I am their real mom.

This statement should in no way take away from their birth mom.

We respect and admire her more than words can describe.

She chose an adoption plan.

She is their mother.

Out of pure unselfish love she chose to give her baby a life that she could have never given her.

She chose us.

I am the one who feeds them, clothes them, provides for them, cares for them, loves them, tucks them in at night, and will do anything I can to protect them, make them feel safe, and keep them healthy.

I am not their babysitter, their daycare provider, or a substitute.

I am their mom.

My kids get confused when they hear people ask about their “real” mom.

We do talk about their birth moms and they know they are adopted but I am the only mom they have ever known and I am real.

I am their mom.

And they are my “real” kids.

They are not substitute children, second best, or a consolation prize.

They are my children.

When people ask that question I simply respond back with “Oh, you mean her birth mom?"  to gently remind them of their word choices.

If people feel the need to ask/know about the woman who gave them birth a better way to ask would be, “What do you know about their birth or natural mother?”
National Adoption Month
2- Are they sisters?  

Yes, they are sisters.

They share both a mom and a dad.

There are so many ways now to form a family that this question always shocks me.

There are full biological sisters, there are half-siblings, there are step siblings, and yes there are sisters through adoption.

If you are wanting to if they are blood related, you could ask, “Are the biological siblings?”

The important thing to understand is no matter what, they are sisters.

3-When did you get them?  

Oh this is a tough one! I didn’t run to the store and pick them up.

We spent 8 years on fertility drugs and 5 years in the adoption process, so to insinuate I just went and “got” them one day takes away from all the pain, anxiety, excitement, love, and blessing of adoption.

For us, we “got” them on the day they were born.

Even people that know we brought them home from the hospital will say things like, “It was right about the time you 'got' her?” 

I would prefer, “It was right about the time she was born.”

Instead talk about her birthday.

If there is a family that did not have a child from birth ask, “How old was she when she joined your family?”

4- Why did their mom give them away?  

This one also hurts my heart.

These women--these birth moms--did not just toss their children aside.

She made what I would imagine as the most difficult decision of her life.

She chose an adoption plan and carried a child for 9-months taking care of herself and the baby.

She went through a physical pain, a pain I will never know, when she delivered them.

She went through an emotional pain, a pain that I cannot even comprehend, when she walked out of that hospital without a part of her.

Asking why she gave them up minimizes the tough choice she made.

I pray daily that our children birth moms are at peace with their decision and now how very loved these little girls are.

When asking that question, please honor my kids birth moms by instead asking, “Why did she choose an adoption plan?”

5- Why didn’t you adopt through Foster Care? International?  

There are different ways to form a family- through birth and through adoption.

There are also many ways to form a family through adoption- step parent adoption, foster care, domestic, and international.

There is no right or wrong.

There are choices that are made as a couple, choices that not only impact you but everyone around you.

It is a choice that will affect you and your child for the rest of your lives.

It is a choice that is never taken lightly.

It is a choice that needs to be respected.

I don’t question people on why they chose to have biological children so why should I be questioned on how I chose to complete my family and which avenue I took based on that choice?

Respect our choices for you do not know what transpired to create those choices.

One more thing that I feel is important to add is something I am sure a lot of adoptive families deal with.

It is not really a question but a statement; please do not assume my child's behavior is because she is adopted.

Things like, assuming my child's shyness is because her birth mom screamed the entire pregnancy so my child withdraws when there is confrontation, assuming my daughter is a good sleeper because she must have been drug affected, assuming my daughter must have attachment disorders because she was adopted.

These are all assumptions and quite frankly ridiculous.

Are there adopted children that suffer from real things like this? Absolutely.

Are their families that have biological children who also deal with these issues? Absolutely.

I was talking to someone one day about my oldest daughter's behavior and how she does not like any arguing or confrontation of any sort.

She is growing up and things are changing in her body. She is having new emotions that she has never experienced.

As I was discussing with a friend on how I should approach this with my daughter to help her through this, I was shocked by her response: “You got her from birth, right?”

Wait, what?  

What does any of this have to do with her being adopted?

I am her mom, she is my daughter, and she is struggling with a situation that I am seeking help with, end of story.

Assuming my daughter is quiet, shy, a good sleeper, out of control, disrespectful, suffers with a learning disability, or any other trait that a lot of kids have simply because of the fact that she is adopted is offensive.

My family wants adoption to be more accepted, and I love answering questions.

They're a great way to spread the word and educate people.

So ask away, but please remember when asking those questions to chose your words carefully.

These are my children, my family, my whole world, and my entire heart.
National Adoption Month
Are you interested in submitting a guest post for National Adoption Month? This Family's Journey is featuring your stories all month long! Contact me for more details.

11/19/2015

Waking Up Today

Waking up today was different.

As I shuffled out of bed and made my way downstairs to brew a cup of half-caff, I couldn't stop thinking about our news yesterday.

Another girl! 

My heart bubbles with excitement just thinking about our three girls growing up together. All of them brought to us in special ways but bound together by the love and commitment of our family.

Sure, there will be squabbles and hormones and cluttered bathrooms...

There may be boys and proms and weddings (oh my, weddings...), but the thought of being chosen to raise three daughters is simply overwhelming.

I am so grateful.

Seven years ago we prayed for a family.

We begged God to allow us to be parents not knowing the rides of infertility and adoption and pregnancy we'd have ahead of us.

And while some days were tough and the heartaches were real, we'd do it all over again knowing it'd lead us here.

These moments -- and all three of our daughters -- have been worth it all.

Related links:
It's A...
Announcing Our Pregnancy
The Truth About Getting Pregnant After Infertility and Adoption
The Beauty of an Open Adoption During Pregnancy
|Pregnancy| Is This Really Happening?
At the Doctor's Office

11/18/2015

It's A...

Gorgeous cupcake, right?!
Gender Reveal Cupcakes
But what's inside is even sweeter...
Gender Reveal Cupcakes
After weeping over the images of our miracle baby at our 20-week appointment this morning, we took a sealed envelope to our favorite bakers at Scratch Cupcakery who cooked up somethin' special.
Gender Reveal Cupcakes
Our family has a history of sharing big moments with cupcakes. 
Gender Reveal Cupcakes
From announcing our plans to adopt and finalizing the adoptions of our daughters, we knew we had to order these sweet treats from Scratch Cupcakery to continue with our trend :)
Gender Reveal Cupcakes
Plus, we wanted to find out whether Baby S is a boy or girl as a family and Olivia loves frosting, so it's kind of perfect...dontcha think?!

Wanna know what else is perfect?
Gender Reveal Cupcakes
THE PINK FROSTING INSIDE!!
Gender Reveal Cupcakes
IT'S A GIRL!
Big Sis-To-Be!
We are so excited to have another girl in the family and continue to be amazed with the miracle of this pregnancy.

What a blessing it is to be chosen as the parents for three sweet girls!

Related links:
The Truth About Getting Pregnant After Infertility and Adoption
The Beauty of an Open Adoption During Pregnancy
|Pregnancy| Is This Really Happening?
At the Doctor's Office

11/17/2015

4 Things I Want You to Know About International Adoption

Kristen and her husband Derek are an Iowa family that continues to open their hearts and home to children.

Not only have they adopted internationally and domestically, they're also in the process of finishing their foster care license!
National Adoption Month
Here's Kristen in her own words...

I met my husband Derek on a college ministry Spring break trip.

We dated for five months, got engaged and then got married on our 14-month anniversary.

After being married for just under a year, we decided that it was time to start a family.

We tried getting pregnant for about eight or nine months, but I found that it was causing me more stress than joy, and I did not want that for myself or for our marriage.

Both of us knew right away that the answer for us was not going to be spending money on fertility treatments; the next option was adoption.

We looked into domestic adoption, foster care and international adoption.

All avenues are terrific and God honoring, but in the end we decided on international adoption.

“Around the world, there are an estimated 153 million orphans who have lost one parent. There are 17,900,000 orphans who have lost both parents and are living in orphanages or on the streets and lack the care and attention required for healthy development. These children are at risk for disease, malnutrition, and death.” (More statistics can be found here.)

We could not ignore some of the facts we were reading:

“…international adoption has declined significantly over the past several years, with just 7,092 adoptions in 2013, down from 8,668 in 2010, 9,319 in 2011 and 11,058 in 2010.” 

During the next 7-months we received and lost our first 3 referrals, then got our third referral, Viola.

We began the necessary preparation to become a family of three, and then a few short weeks before we were scheduled to head to Uganda, our caseworker asked if we would be willing to add another child onto our case.

Our little man, Gideon, was just two at the time and we were thrilled.

After spending 73 days in Uganda, working night and day to get our children cleared to come home with us, we landed in Cedar Rapids on November 2, 2012, with Viola Ann Kimball (age 4) AND Gideon George Kimball (age 2).

Fast forward another year and a half: We were so in love with our family of four and thought it was complete for the time being.

It seems God had another plan for us.

We were approached by a family friend who knew of a single mom working at Burger King who was looking for someone to adopt her baby.

After thinking and praying about it for a few weeks and actually saying, “No,” a couple times, we said, "Yes."
National Adoption Month
I was fortunate to be at every appointment starting at 20-weeks, including a very special appointment in July of 2014 where I had the honor to watch the birth of our daughter, Charlotte Abigail Kimball.

This is our story of how adoption has formed our family, but what I have learned is that everyone’s adoption journey is different and everyone’s adoption journey is beautiful.

Here are four things I want you to know about International Adoption:
National Adoption Month
1. Bonding doesn’t happen over night.

A lot of people ask about the first time we saw our kids.

What were you feeling? Did you instantly fall in love with them? Were they excited to see you? Did it feel like the missing puzzle piece was found?

The truth of the matter is that meeting the kids was an amazing day I will never forget it.

But, if I told you that I felt instantly bonded with them or even instantly in love with them, it would be dishonest.

As we drove down a bumpy, red dirt road in Uganda, we parked the car and began walking towards Viola’s home.

As soon my feet hit the dirt, I was full of so many different emotions but mostly I was excited.

I had dreamt about this moment for my whole life; the first time I would lay eyes on my child.

Unfortunately, my dreams were not a reality.

Our sweet girl was so terrified of us that she would not come out of the stick hut to see us.

The translator tried to get her to come out, but she had a tight grip on one of the hut’s support sticks and was not moving an inch.

After about 30 minutes, I tried entering the hut.

However, anytime I got close to her, she would yell and fight.

Of course my heart was broken, but I saw utter fear in her eyes and my heart hurt so badly for her.

Derek and I quickly decided that we were not going to take Viola with us that day.

We saw her at court a couple days later and then visited her village two more times.

On the third visit, we were very nervous.

This was the trip where we had to bring her with us.

We prayed so much for her little heart.

Her elderly grandmother had been preparing her as well.

So on that day, we watched her grandmother give her a bath, put her in a new dress and whisper in her ear.

That is when Viola turned around walked up to me and allowed me to hold her hand.

We later found out that her grandmother whispered to her that Derek and I were going to take care of her and buy her rice and cookies.

The next few days were rough, to say the least.

She was not very fond of me and would hit, kick, spit and bite to make sure I knew to stay away from her.

Almost three years later and you would never know that scared, violent child was the same person as our sweet Viola today.

She is such a caring friend who looks out for the people she loves and is thriving in our home.

Although I never had a moment where I instantly felt bonded with her, we have had such a journey getting to know each other and that journey is far from over.

2. Their culture is important

We never want our kids to forget about Uganda.

They had two and four years in that beautiful country, with beautiful people and Derek and I believe that to not talk about their experiences would be a huge mistake.

You will often find us all laying around in front of the TV, watching videos and looking at pictures of their friends, families and experiences in Uganda.

My dad has even spent many precious moments with them in his kitchen, making Chapatti, a Ugandan staple.

3. Just because they were put up for adoption, doesn’t mean they were not loved and wanted.

There is no truer statement than this when it comes to the biological families involved in our story.

Viola’s grandmother loved her more than words can express and did not want to see her go.

However, she was 87 years old and knew she would not be around much longer.

She was fearful for what would happen to Viola after she passed away and wanted so much more for her granddaughter.

We were able to say goodbye to her grandmother one last time before flying to the states and she could not stop smiling.

Viola did not want to go back to her grandmother that day, but that just made grandma laugh and smile bigger.

She kept saying, “I’m so happy, thank you.” 

Gideon lived with his maternal grandparents who were also caring for 11 other orphaned children.

Gideon was the youngest and was having some health issues.

His grandparents could not afford to feed all the mouths in their home, and just like Viola’s grandmother; they, too, wanted a better life for their grandkids.

The love that the whole household had for Gideon was obvious, and you could tell that the older kids would miss him.

I’m so thankful for all of the pictures and videos we have of him with his family and although he doesn’t remember them well, he enjoys talking about them.

4. I am a lot stronger than I ever thought I was.

I am an anxious person.

I have struggled with anxiety for many years and in the past it has even been debilitating and meant midnight trips to the ER.

August 19th, the night before our plane was set to leave the states, I was sitting in my living room with my husband and two of my best friends.

I remember getting this overwhelming feeling that I was absolutely not getting on the plane to Uganda the next morning.

But one of my friends looked at me and said so simply, “Yes, you will. You don’t have a choice. It is not about you anymore, it’s about your kids."

The next morning I got on the plane (maybe a little weepy), and we took off from the Cedar Rapids airport for a “6-8 week” trip to Uganda.

Much to my surprise, we spent over 10-weeks surrounded by red dirt roads.

During that time I had to do things that I never thought I would have to do. I talked back to government officials and police officers when they were trying to take advantage of us and spent more than 24-hours at the Ugandan passport office.

I learned very early in the process that I had absolutely no control over ANYTHING.

The day I decided to give up all control and let the process work itself out was the most freeing day of my life.

There are so many hurdles to jump over while adopting, and if you try to run the show, you will fall flat on your face.
National Adoption Month
I will never forget the feeling of riding down the escalator and seeing our families holding signs and balloons and sporting the biggest grins and happiest tears.

I am not a crier, but boy did the tears flow that day.

I was full of pride and sobbed the words, “We did it,” as I hugged my dad for the first time in 73 days.

There are so many moments in my life today where I get anxious and feel like I want to quit, but all I have to say is “I lived in Africa for 73 long, challenging and stressful days, I can do anything.”
National Adoption Month
Are you interested in submitting a guest post for National Adoption Month? This Family's Journey is featuring your stories all month long! Contact me for more details.

11/15/2015

Hope of Adoption After Infertility

Sometimes the road to building a family can be really, really bumpy.

That's been the path for Kim and her husband Wes in Iowa.

I love Kim's ability to reflect on her journey through infertility and adopting her son through a lens of hope, and I think it'll inspire you as well.
Here's Kim in her own words...

Adoption has been the biggest blessing in life next to meeting and marrying my husband.

We have a very special little guy and are waiting to add another child to our family to complete our family of 4!!

This has not come without years of pain and heartache as we faced infertility. But after the first time we held Gus all the pain was worth it all.

Every since I was a little girl I wanted nothing more than to be a mommy and my husband wanted to be a daddy to teach children about the family farm.

Many times I have wondered over the past few years if that would even happen.

I was diagnosed with Endometriosis when I was 19. I endured seven surgeries to remove the Endometriosis by time I was 30.

But I was always told with the right medicine I will have my own kids, it just might be a little harder.

From the start I knew it was going to be a challenge, but doctors can help and I had no worries.

After we started seeing a fertility doctor in 2010, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis along with PCOS.

So the battle to get pregnant began and we faced a long journey ahead.

We tried 3 rounds of Clomid (man that stuff makes you crazy and very hormonal), 4 cycles of IUI’s and then 3 rounds of IVF along with a round that had to be stopped due to over-stimulation.

Each new round offered another negative pregnancy test, and yet the doctor said, "Don’t worry, we'll try a different medicine next time. We'll get there."

We trusted them month after month after month...

I remember each time begging and pleading in my prayers to just let us get pregnant this month; I wouldn't ask for more, just please let it happen. I couldn't face another negative test.

Finally, I gave up testing. I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Then my cycle would be a day late only to get my hopes sky high and to be dropped to the ground leaving me feeling like a failure.

I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.

Maybe I wasn’t laying down enough after the IUI or IVF. I could come up with a million excuses even though I knew that wasn’t the case.

It was just hard to understand why something so simple for others was so hard for us.

And why us?

After all these treatments and procedures and still no pregnancy, I was done. I couldn’t take another shot or doctor's appointment.

Infertility is a very lonely and dark place even with all the love and support we had.

It felt like no one really understood what we went through each month and treatment cycle.

I know everyone meant well, they didn’t know exactly what we were feeling. But we could have never gotten through it without all our family and friends.  

Every pregnancy announcement was another stab in the heart and pain like no other reminding me how broken I was.

Still, we were expected to put on a smile and be happy.

It’s not that we weren’t happy (I don’t want any of our friends to think that).

It was an ache for something we wanted so bad and yet a jealousy that in a way will never go away.

I knew the feelings that I was experiencing, and I can’t imagine what my husband was going through.

He was and still is my rock, and there is no way I would have made it through without him.

After 3 ½ years of continuous infertility treatments, we had enough.

I didn’t have anymore in me to try it again.

I was broken and grieving for something that would never be.

Can we ever really be happy without kids?  

Along our way we had met some friends new and old that talked to us about adoption and shared their stories and this got us to thinking...

Could our families and friends love our children being adopted like they would have our biological children?

Could we love them the same? 

We knew too that no matter flesh and blood, they would be our own.

In January of 2014 we attended our first adoption seminar and knew that this was the right thing to do. No questions asked except, "how can we afford this?"

It seems a little unfair.

We loved American Adoptions and chose them to help us with our first miracle.

After months of home study paperwork and stacks of documents to have signed, we were officially active in May!

The first situation presented to us, we had to say no. We were going to pass. To me, it was like another failed pregnancy.

Then two more situations came our way, and we didn’t get picked to be the adoptive parents.

July 4th we awoke to the text of, "Do you want us to present to a birth mom in Colorado?"

After much thinking and talking to family we decided to go for it. It felt right.

And then talking to the social worker, we found out it’s in California. We didn’t care where it was!

She chose us that afternoon to be his adoptive parents!!!!!

We were excited beyond belief only to have the end of the conversation be yet one more issue: The baby was in state custody right now, and it’s going to be a fight to let him be adopted.

Our hearts were crushed.

Two days of the unknown came down to the last hour: Either he will remain in state custody or the judge will let us adopt him.  

Finally, at 3:25 p.m., on July 8th, 2014 the call came to ask how fast we could get to California to pick up our son!

I’m pretty sure I didn’t hear another word as I was in complete shock.

Getting to call my husband and say, "You are a Daddy!" was the best thing next to hearing them tell us we have a son.

The next few hours were a complete blur.

Walking into the nursery to see Augustus Walker was the greatest gift in the whole world.

He was absolutely perfect and most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen.

I’m not sure where this past 15-months have gone since bringing Gus home, but it has been without a doubt the most blessed time for our family of three.

Seeing my husband and Gus bond makes my heart melt.

He has blessed our lives beyond anything and taught us to take life slower and cherish it all.
National Adoption Month
Life is a true blessing.

Going through infertility was one of the worst things ever in my life, but without every heartache and pain, we would have never been able to bring Gus home and love him like we do.

I can’t imagine a second without him smiling or laughing at the craziest things!

He is truly a blessing from God and has blessed our lives more than ever thought possible.  

We are now in the waiting process of adoption #2 and can’t wait to become a family of four, and Gus is going to be the best older brother ever!

National Adoption Month
Are you interested in submitting a guest post for National Adoption Month? This Family's Journey is featuring your stories all month long! Contact me for more details.

11/10/2015

How Adoption Has Blessed My Life

Amy is no stranger to This Family's Journey [this adoptive mom's words on infertility were featured here in March].

And her sweet family? They've been on quite a journey themselves! From infertility to adoption, she'll be the first to say it hasn't always been easy, but they're blessed.

Here's Amy in her own words...
Adoption has blessed my life beyond measure and my heart is overjoyed to get to share some of the many ways it has been a blessing.

I know that at first thought my answer should be “adoption blessed me by giving me the family I always dreamed of.” Well, I mean…yes, of course! 

However, there are so many other ways adoption has blessed me too.

Yes, my son is my greatest of the blessings, but I think it is so incredibly important to know that you’ll gain much more than family when you allow yourself to step out in faith and trust God has you on a journey towards adoption for many reasons that you may not yet understand.

Adoption blessed me with a sense of hope I thought was lost forever.

Or, maybe I never even had to start with?

When I hit my lowest during our battle with infertility, I was in a very dark place.

When I thought God had taken away my dreams of being a mother – He placed adoption on my heart – and that is when hope started to plant its seed in my heart.

Adoption gave me hope that I could have my family.
Adoption gave me hope that while I was in a really hard season of life, I wouldn’t be in it forever.
Adoption gave me the hope that I can trust in my Heavenly Father to write the best story for my family.

Adoption blessed me with a faith that can move mountains.

Trust me, if you’re walking the path of adoption your faith has to be bigger than your fears.

Your faith has to be bigger than your own desires.

Your faith has to rise above all so that you can remain confident that all of the hard work, all of the heart break, and the waiting and the bumps in the road are all just part of this bigger plan that God has His hands on.

Before adoption I certainly had faith, but it easily wavered when things didn’t go my way.

Now, when my life hits a bump in the road I know that I don’t need to worry because God’s plans are bigger than my dreams, and I need only be patient.

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." -Matthew 17:20

Adoption has blessed me with a new understanding of love.

When God calls you to adoption He always calls you to love.

My heart is so much softer.

My heart is much more understanding.

My heart now chooses to see a different side of people than it saw before.

Adoption has taught me that to love a child with my whole heart and soul doesn’t mean that it has to happen biologically.

Adoption taught me that I can love a woman who would chose me to be the parent of her child like I love a sister.

Adoption taught me that my heart has room to love in a capacity that it has never loved before. Adoption is love and love makes a family.

And, to wrap this all up with a beautiful little bow…

Adoption has blessed me with my son. Adoption blessed me by giving me the gift of family.

I now get to call myself a mother.

I now to get to hold my precious child in my arms and there is no greater blessing than that.
Are you interested in submitting a guest post for National Adoption Month? This Family's Journey is featuring your stories all month long! Contact me for more details.

11/08/2015

7 Insider Tips on Waiting Well

Kristin and her hubby have had quite the journey.

They're a New Jersey couple waiting to be chosen as a forever family, but I've watched them from afar and the way they're waiting is admirable you guys.

That's why I'm thrilled Kristin wrote about the WAIT!

I hope those of you in a season of waiting will be encouraged by her words...
Waiting Adoptive Mom
Insider Tips on Waiting Well

Congratulations!

You’ve spent the last few months stressing over paperwork, interviews and home visits.

You’ve finished your profile book and have taken classes that have prepared you for this moment. You are officially on the books and beginning your “wait."

You may be thinking that you’re in the home stretch.

You may think you’ve gotten to the part where you can take a deep breath and relax. I’m here to warn you about the “dangers” ahead. I won’t claim to be an expert on “the wait” (my 3 months waiting may seem like a drop in the ocean compared to some), but I have learned some things that I hope will put your mind at ease. (Or at least make you feel like you’re not alone!)

You’ve made it this far, and you should be so proud of that, but here are some of the things (GOOD and BAD) they didn’t tell you about “THE WAIT.”

1. Make Every Penny Count

Remember those $80 sushi dinners every week? Daily morning coffee runs? I consider those things special treats now.

Adoption is expensive, you know this, but because of this you will learn the meaning of a dollar.

Sure, parenthood is not cheap these days, but you’ve had to find 40k under your sofa just to become a parent.

You may have started an online fund, baked cookies, made t-shirts, started couponing or held a yard sale.

Whatever way you’ve funded your adoption you’ve become an expert on making every penny count.

So next time the customer service person at the grocery store rolls their eyes at you when you ask them to refund a coupon you forgot to hand to the cashier, just remember that you’re making IT happen, and there’s no shame in however you do it.

2. Expectations can Lead to Disappointments

I had big expectations when I handed in that profile book.

I dreamed of getting “THE CALL” that weekend.

If only my 3 month older self could go back in time.

We did get a call within a week, and the rush and excitement is REAL.

So is the disappointment when you’re told the couple pursued a different option.

Upon hearing our agency’s statistics it felt only natural to have certain expectations.

As we enter our third month of waiting I’ve finally learned that when you enter the wait it should be with no expectations.

I know that no two adoptions are alike, but the same is true of waits.

You’ve heard it before, but I’ll reiterate what you have already heard a thousand times.

Your child will find you in perfect timing.

Having expectations of when this may or should happen to you only leads to frustration.

Go into the wait with a clear head, and NO expectations.

3. Welcome to Adoption Advocacy

You’ve taken all the classes and researched until your head was about to explode.

You know the correct language to use, but the vast majority of the general public (or more specifically a certain co-worker or neighbor) has no idea that they are offending you by saying certain phrases.

You have many options based on the type of responses you receive to the simple phrase, “We are adopting."

I have encountered some that are just that rude where the nicest thing I can do is not respond and walk away.

However, the majority of the time I’ve taken to educating those around me.

This will become a part of everyday life, and sometimes you will struggle.

That’s why we’ve taken those classes and researched until our heads are full, to find the strength and grace in responding to those that don’t have the knowledge that we do.

4. Patience. Need I say more? 

Every step of adoption calls for this virtue.

So does parenthood.

Congrats, you have a head start, consider yourself lucky.

5. So Long, Privacy

You thought you were gaining a bit of privacy back after you handed in your profile book? Take that back, before you know it you’ll be on your way to renewing your home study.

Say so long to privacy.

It’s no secret that adoption is all about digging deep and due diligence.

Wondering what those after placement home visits look like when you haven’t slept in a week and the dishes and vacuum haven’t been run in what seems like a month? (Yeah, me too)

This again is only preparation for when your two year old has become your shadow and all you want to do is go to the bathroom with the door closed.

6. Welcome to the "Family"

Whether you have a blog, Facebook page or Instagram account you’re bound to connect with others that are facing the same challenges as you.

This is one of the best gifts that adoption gives us (Besides the obvious greatest!).

Whether it’s the blog post that read your mind or someone that cheers you on when you post a “passing the time” photo, it’s sure to lift your spirits.

This support is exactly what we need in this exciting and confusing time.

It can build relationships that will last a lifetime and really that’s one of life’s greatest pleasures, right?

So blog, Instagram and Facebook your adoption journey away!

7. It's Worth It

This wait is a trial and a gift all at the same time.

It’s such a rush of every emotion at every turn or step of the way, and we all have those days where we have no idea if the system is working and all you need is your husband to hug you and tell you it’ll be worth it in the end.

Believe me, there’s lots of those days.

However, we wouldn’t trade this experience for anything all because we know someday we will have a family.

Plus, what’s a few bumps and bruises on the journey if for nothing than to make you stronger and more grateful in the end!
National Adoption Month
Are you interested in submitting a guest post for National Adoption Month? This Family's Journey is featuring your stories all month long! Contact me for more details.

11/03/2015

Life Lessons From Moving My Daughter to a Toddler Bed

What I Learned from Daughter
So this happened.

Our baby girl moved to her "big girl bed" -- one she excitedly picked out at a furniture store a couple of weeks ago.

As I watched my husband put it together and disassemble her crib, her face lit up.

"Big girl bed! Sleep in big girl bed!" 

The thought of sleeping in a new bed was exciting for her.

After all, it's much more spacious for her and her stuffed Sesame Street friends.

A few hours later, though, when it came to brush her teeth and say prayers that night, the tears started welling up in her eyes.

"Mommmmmmy! Dadddddddy!" 

She cried. She screamed. She cried and screamed some more.

The reality of sleeping in a new bed was scary for her.

I tiptoed into her bedroom long after we had hoped she'd be sound asleep.

And I nestled my head next to hers onto her tear-soaked pillow.

Through my own tears, I told her how proud I was of her for staying in her big girl bed even though she was scared.

I acknowledged how scary it must be trying to sleep in a bed that's so different than the one she's slept comfortably in for two years.

And I reminded her that no matter the changes Mommy and Daddy will always love her.

And then it hit me.

Sometimes life throws us curve balls -- you know, like leaving a career you love, a relocation much sooner than anticipated, or a surprise pregnancy after years of infertility.

And when we go through these life changes--no matter how big or small--it's okay to be scared terrified.

It's okay to mourn the loss of "what-was" and be cautiously optimistic about "what-will-be."

I don't know what's going on in your life right now--if you've got something heavy weighing on your heart or if you have big changes with your job or health or family circumstances on the horizon...

Whatever it is, keep loving yourself through the unknown.

And remember, all that's comfortable in your life right now was once something new, too.

Yep, even that bed of yours.

Related content:
What I Learned From Crying Over a Frozen Pizza
What I Learned in the ER

11/02/2015

3rd Annual Gingerbread Run for Adoption

National Adoption Month
Since its inception, our lil' fam has been honored to speak at the statewide Gingerbread Run/Walk for Adoption.
National Adoption Month
The 5k raises money to promote foster care and adoption as positive options to grow Iowa families.
National Adoption Month
There's something about seeing so many of your friends and family members in a sea of hundreds of strangers who all share a similar heart for adoption. 
National Adoption Month
Phil, Lindee (sister) and Raegan of Clive; Jess and Joe (brother) of Pella; Sara and Greg (cousin) of Waverly; with our family.
It's pretty powerful.
National Adoption Month
Our dear friends Miki and Tyler with their son Jonah of Cedar Falls.
Every year we meet new people, see familiar faces and love on families that have grown and children who have found their forever families.
National Adoption Month
We are grateful for the opportunity recognize adoptees, birth families and foster and adoptive families in the state of Iowa.
It's an honor to be part of this village.

[Special thanks to my sister for snapping such great photos; additional photos can be found here.]

11/01/2015

5 Reasons I Love Open Adoption

Adoptive Mom Writes About Son's Open Adoption
Today's guest post is written by a lovely adoptive momma Shannon from Indiana.

Shannon and her hubby are the proud parents to a silly, lovable 2-year old boy. When they adopted him, they added even more members to their family.

"Adoption, in general, is an ongoing emotional journey for all involved. And for our family, having an open adoption has guided this journey," she said.

Here's Shannon in her own words...
Open Adoption: 5 Reasons I Love It

1. It’s Not as Scary As You Think

I remember getting the news we had matched with our son’s birth mother, it was one of the best phone calls I ever received. I could tell you exactly what time it was and where I was!

That night, we would talk to her on the phone for the first time.

I was a nervous wreck.

During one of our more recent conversations we had, she had shared with me that she was too.

We both had our insecurities and worried what the other person would think.

Neither one wanted to say or do the wrong thing for fear the other person might change their mind or pass judgment.

Through the short time before our son’s birth we talked, texted, and sent pictures.

We even spent a couple of days together waiting for him to make his way into the world.

I grew to not only care for the child she was carrying, but for her and her family as well.

I also think that adoptive parents, we feel so vulnerable.

Many things are out of our control and we’ve invested so much emotionally to the process.

The unknown is so scary, and I think adoptive parents can worry that roles will be confusing to those involved.

The important thing to remember, for example, is that each woman is a mother to the child in a way that the other woman cannot be.

Each plays an independent and important role in a child’s life.
Biological Brothers Open Adoption
2. Continued Connection

To be honest, I’m fairly new at being part of an adoption triad as an adoptive mother, so I don’t pretend to have all the answers.

I’m not sure exactly how things will evolve as our son grows, but being able to communicate with his family and share in each other’s lives has been a blessing.

I also understand that every situation and every family is different.

For us, we’ve enjoyed is the open communication with our son’s birth family.

It’s not been without hiccups, but because we can talk about it, we work on it!

We exchange cards, pictures, gifts.

We Skype and we visit in person.

He knows who she is, and knows his biological brother.

As he gets older, I hope he’ll ask us all questions and understand that we all love him very much.

3. It’s an Extension of our Family

Two families came together for the love our little guy.

I see them as an extension of our family tree, they are a part of our son and he is a part of them.

We want to do all we can to honor that.

When we arrived for his birth, they welcomed us with open arms during one of the most difficult times of their lives.

We are forever grateful.

I want our son to know its OK for him to embrace this large, specially formed family.

4. We Talk About it Candidly 

I find that those unfamiliar with adoption or interested in learning more, want to know about the “openness” of our adoption most of all.

I love being able to speak about it and dispel any misconceptions people have.

It really opens up the door to talk about what adoption really is about and what it means for all involved.

Our hope is that our relationship as a family formed through adoption can be encouraging to those around us and show adoption in a positive light.

Like any family, we’re not perfect but we’re all here because we all love one special little boy.
Birth mom love
5. “Ah, that’s where he gets it!”

As silly as this may sound, I love looking at our son and seeing how much he looks like his birth mother, he’ll make a facial expression and I’ll think to myself, “Oh my gosh, it’s her!”

I know that he’s picked up our mannerisms, but I love knowing where his little quirks, looks and preferences come from!

I hope to encourage others to consider open adoption if it’s a good fit for your family.

Like any relationship, it takes work, communication, time and trust, but it’s been worth it!
National Adoption Month
Are you interested in submitting a guest post for National Adoption Month? This Family's Journey is featuring your stories all month long! Contact me for more details.