A little over 2 months ago I wrote Part 1 of our Journey to Jaden and then took my time putting together Part 2. As Jaden’s 1 year birthday comes up this month, it’s hard to believe that it was nearly 2 years ago that God began to ready our hearts to navigate the adoption details. I hope this gives you a little insight into the process of adoption, how God was leading our hearts and using this part of our adoption journey to prepare us for our son.
Choosing an Agency
In February of 2015, 3 months after Dasah passed away, both Kevin and I began to sense a readiness in our hearts to take the first step of sitting down with a local adoption agency to gather information. We were not yet ready to fill out paper work or sign on the dotted line but our minds and hearts were ready to figure out what we even needed to do next on this adoption journey. We had no idea how much it would cost, what a home study was or how long that would take and knew there would be many details about to flood our minds. So we needed to be in a space in grief where we could even process some of those things.
Our hearts were still quite fragile and though we knew there would be many uncertainties stepping into adoption we wanted to be working with an agency that would know and care for us in the midst of our story, and one we would have a personal connection with. As we thought of this child that would become ours, we were growing in great gratitude and love for the mother that would carry her child to term, knowing she would not be able to parent that child. Though our circumstances of grief and loss would be quite different, there was an ache in our heart for the emotions that woman would be experiencing and a deep desire to know that the agency we would choose would care deeply for the birthparents, walking with them through the decision process and the grief they would experience on this journey.
The first agency we met with was one that good friends of ours went through and spoke very highly of. We sat down with a woman named Mandy who would soon become a dear friend. She asked us what brought us there and was so kind and tender as we shared the story of our girls. She shared with us their heart as an agency to really see God place the right families together. One of the things we loved about this agency was how well they cared for the birthparents. There was never any pressure on the birthparents to create an adoption plan and they were given counsel throughout their pregnancy to really know what would be the best decision for them. And not only counsel throughout the pregnancy but for however long they needed it for the rest of their lives.
Mandy walked us through general estimates of the costs associated with adoption and there was quite a range. So much of it depended on the needs of the birthmother in her pregnancy, at what stage she began to create an adoption plan, and legal fees that could vary. Because we chose a private adoption agency, we could expect to pay anywhere from $20,000 – $25,000 after the last check would be written.* That seems like a daunting number right? But we serve a God who owns the whole world, who has unlimited resources that He can provide at anytime. So many choose not to step into adoption because of the cost, but if God is calling you into the adoption journey would He call and not provide for the call? We knew this was the next step God was leading us into, and so the number was just a number to us that we would see God provide in His perfect timing.
*Adoption agencies vary in cost, with private agencies usually around the same range as we experienced. Foster to Adopt is significantly less, and international adoptions are typically more. But all of this will depend on the agency you choose.
A Redeemed Anniversary
We went to a meeting for one other adoption agency, because that seemed to be a wise and sensible thing to do which ultimately confirmed our decision to go with the first one we had met with. The agency we chose did not allow you to formally begin the adoption process until you were married at least 3 years (which in hindsight we see the great wisdom of this!). This was late February when we decided on the agency, and our 3 year anniversary was not until May. So with paperwork in hand we began to ask God when to officially begin. Our first 2 anniversaries were celebrated having just found out that our daughters’ would not live. They were incredibly bittersweet anniversaries, especially our 2nd anniversary as we had found out just 2 days before that Dasah would also not live.
One of our prayers was that God would ready our hearts to formally begin the adoption process on our 3rd anniversary, that there would be sweet redemption and the anticipation of life and not death beginning that day. It was a prayer He answered a resounding Yes too. Though personally, my grief was still deep and I was not ready to bring new life home, both Kevin and I knew we were ready to begin the process and step into what God would have for us to continue to bring healing, restoration and surface the places in our hearts that needed to be challenged and changed that could only come out of entering this part of the journey.
On May 13, 2015 we sat down and filled out together the first of many pieces of paperwork, wrote the first of many checks, and formally began the journey to our 3rd child. Filled with so many emotions- hope, trust, and fear, God began to lead us on a new journey of surrender, a new journey of trusting Him to be the one that would fill our home with the pitter patter of little feet, a new journey in parenthood. A journey where God would begin to rip at the seams of our hearts that needed ripping, that needed to be refocused to what He has called us to, that needed our eyes opened to a bigger story He was writing. Isn’t He always doing that, refocusing us, re fixing our gaze, revealing the things that are not of Him so that we can be filled with the things that are of Him. There is no season in our lives where He is not sovereignly at work ever drawing our hearts to Him, and this season of stepping into the adoption journey was no exception.
The Home Study
It’s funny how paperwork, and reading books, and things like a home study can be tools in the hands of God to bring about transformation in your heart. Many families I’m sure dislike this process, feeling as if somehow they are on trial to become parents when so many can so easily give birth to a child never having read a book or had anyone interview them to see if they are fit to parent. Perhaps that is more the assumption of what the home study is then what is reality. At least in our experience, the Home Study process was a sweet process for us. We knew we weren’t ready to bring home a child and so the home study was a season we knew we needed to actively continue to engage our hearts in the things God was surfacing. Our particular agency required us to read books on topics like grief, the experience of the birthparents, parenting, all of which served to open our eyes to the bigger story of what God was writing, to give us greater compassion and understanding for the birthparents, to understand the unique challenges adoption can bring and to prepare our hearts (as best as they could be prepared) for parenting.
Parenting. Something that we had only tasted, something that we had talked about together, dreamed of but those conversations were quickly stifled when we knew the parenting of our children would be caring for them as they died. It was too painful to talk about things like how would we discipline, and what do we want their room to look like, and what kind of family adventures and experiences do we want to create as they grow up. Getting to engage in these types of conversations and so many more through the home study process began to infuse such sweetness and joy in our marriage and bring healing to places of pain and disappointment.
Our social worker met with us several times but those “interviews” were truly to help her know us and help us unpack together the realities of parenthood and the unique aspects that would come with adoption. How will we talk with our child about adoption? What aspects of their family history will we share with others and what will remain private? Truthfully, I can’t remember most of the conversations we had with Mandy in those meetings but I do remember that they built trust with her and they were enjoyable.
When she came to our house we cleaned everything immaculately, made sure fire extinguishers and smoke alarms were all in their place not knowing what that portion of the home study, the coming to your house part would be like. And it was so sweet, like having a friend in our home, we never felt like we were under inspection but that she was simply journeying with us. I know not everyone’s experience with a home study is quite like ours, but I also think that the home study portion of the adoption journey for anyone can appear so much more intimidating then it actually is.
As we neared the end of the home study process, our book reports, paper work, references, interviews all complete, we became more and more excited for the day we would receive the call that a courageous birthmother had chosen us to be the parents of her child. There was just one piece left, and it was the most difficult piece.
The Final Piece
Deciding what our limitations would be on who we would allow our profile to be shown to. This was a 3- page list of possibilities for who our future child could be, where they came from, what they were exposed to, diagnosed with, have a family history of… some were simple things and others more challenging. Everything from race, to maximum age, to how many children, to here’s what they may have or may not have. Are you okay if the birthmother drank? How much drinking would you be okay with? On this drug or that drug? Down Syndrome? Cystic Fibrosis? A family history of mental disease? Blindness? Cleft Palate? It was overwhelming and half of the things listed we didn’t even know what they were. How do you say no to any of it, how could we say no to any child who may have significant needs? But some of their needs could be great and would we have the resources to care for them? And ultimately, can we trust the Lord with the health of our child, can we trust the Lord to provide the resources we will need to care for and love whoever our next child is? This would be a question we would have to wrestle with and that summer a question God would begin to use to significantly challenge our ideas for what our family would look like, for the role that our family would be called to play in being ministers of reconciliation to a watching world.
In a few weeks I’ll share Part 3 of our Journey to Jaden: Ministers of Reconciliation