Tuesday, November 22, 2016

My Youngest Baby

Today, while on a mommy date with one of my littles at a small coffee shop, we overheard some very sad things. Two young women seemed to believe that no one really wants to adopt children and those who actually do adopt a child do so only because they are infertile or they feel a sense of obligation. They went on to express that the result of the infertile or obligated couple adopting a child is extreme bitterness and misery due to settling for a second best option, and that the couple and child will spend the rest of their lives in regret, looking back and longing for what they can't have (a biological family). They said they've never met anyone who was happy they'd chosen adoption to grow their family.

Today they met me. If you feel the way they do, you should meet me too, because there are a few things I'd like to share with you.

I'd love to tell you how my heart ached for my youngest son for so many years, long before I knew exactly who he was. Infertility didn't play a role in our decision to adopt, but if it had, our choice to grow our family through adoption would be no less valid. I want you to know how after we said yes to him, I missed a person I'd never met in ways I didn't know were possible. I want to tell you that the Christmas without him brought a pain to my soul that I'd never felt before. I prayed for his safety as he grew in the orphanage in the same desperate ways I prayed for my biological children's safety as they grew in my tummy.

I wish I could express to you how it felt the moment I first held him. How my heart was ready to burst- with a fierce mama love that knows no limits and simultaneously, an empathetic grief for all he was losing. How the moment I looked in his eyes for the first time, I knew I'd give my life for his if it ever comes to that. How absolutely amazing he felt in my arms and how our cheeks fit together perfectly every time he snuggled his face into mine. How quickly his precious baby scent and the sound of cries became so familiar that I could recognize them anywhere. How there could be an ocean full of the tears I've cried wishing I could have known him sooner.

I want you to hear how proud of him I am. I'm proud of how strong his little body is and the way he can climb and jump higher than many kids on the playground. I'm proud of the many ways he shows bravery and courage. I'm proud that when there are dumplings on the table, he can out eat just about anybody in the room. I'm proud of the his finger paintings and his rendition of the ABCs. I was never prouder of him than the first moment he showed empathy for another person. I'm so very proud every time I pick him from preschool and he runs to me, yelling "MAMA"!

I hurt for him. The first time he had blood drawn, I wanted to grab him and run out of the hospital. I tear up every time he looks so small and vulnerable as he lays on big cold tables for yet another surgery, test, or procedure. Sometimes he grieves, because he's been through so much, and when he does, I grieve too. I wish I could take away the hard things that have left scars for him to carry for the rest of his life. There are moments when his grief is so real and overwhelming that he can't even let me touch him, but when that happens, I stay quietly close by, waiting for him. I do my best to make our home a safe place for him, and I hope he'll always feel loved here. It's the same hope I have for all 3 of my children.

You should know that love doesn't just magically make a family happen. We work hard to be a family. We pray a lot. We read and ask advice from social workers and other parents who have been there. We cheer at every success and we resolve to try again tomorrow when it's been a bad day. But you might be really surprised to find that in many ways, we're just like any other mommy and son. He grabs food off my plate and I let him have the last bite when he gives me the sad puppy face. He laughs when I blow raspberries on his tummy and I laugh when he tries to blow raspberries back but ends up just slobbering on me. Sometimes he spills his milk, and I get impatient with him, and sometimes I raise my voice, and he gets impatient with me. We read books together, cuddle on the couch to watch cartoons, and tickle each other. We bake cookies, I push him on the swings at the park, and I make him clean up his own toys and make his bed in the morning. I take pictures of him sleeping, and playing, and decorating the Christmas tree, and hunting Easter eggs, and his messy faces, and of him just being him.

I'm Angi and I have 3 beautiful children. Our family was created through biology, adoption, love, and hard work, and everything in between. And I couldn't adore it more.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Stepping Out of the Boat

My mom has this saying when I'm afraid to do something... "Go ahead and step out of the boat, Ang". It comes from the recording of Peter walking on water and it basically means "Ready or not, it's time to leave your comfort zone now to do what you know you need to do".  Stepping out of the boat means my world is about to be upset and it's probably not going to look the same again for a long time, but it will be changed for so much better. I'm about to step out.

I'm leaving for an 11 day trip to China in just 6 weeks (minus 1 day). This time, I'm not bringing back a precious boy. Instead, I'll be visiting and leaving many behind. And to get there, I have to leave my 2 darling boys, 1 beautiful girl, and handsome hubs here. 

Of course, I can think of lots of reasons not to go. There are always reasons to just stay on the boat. My boys might miss me too much. October is too busy of a month. I might miss out on some fall events. It costs too much money. I'm just a mom and housewife. My Mandarin isn't where I hoped it would be. My heart will get broken. I'll probably be changed and I hate change. It's just too hard.

I could dwell there, on the reasons to stay home. And sometimes, for a minute, I do. But then I remember. I get to spend 10 days in my son's birth country. I get to learn a little more of his story. I get to give a week to the staff and kids living in the same orphanage my baby lived. I get to share my life and gifts with sweet ayis. I get to tell them (through my actions, because you know... my Mandarin) how much they matter. I get to meet precious waiting children face to face and then I get to advocate for them! I get to see another perspective, and likely never be the same.

I'm stepping out of the boat. I'm not gonna lie, the water is scary. But it's where I need to be.

I'm looking forward to the journey ahead and I plan to update here when I'm able.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve

Five years ago, I waited and waited for the Christmas season. I knew the sooner we got through Christmas meant the sooner I'd be holding my first child in my arms. To our surprise, our daughter came early and that Christmas Eve, we were able to take her to church for the first time. There are no words to express how it felt to breathe in the Christmas story while snuggling my tiny 2 week old Gracie close. For the first time, my mind really processed the thought that God His son to us, as a baby. Christmas Eve has never been the same.
3 years ago, I sat in a new (to us) church building in Alabama, 38 weeks pregnant and knowing no one there but my own family. My heart overflowed again as my precious baby son kicked and moved in my belly while we sang Silent Night in the candlelight. The anticipation for Liam's arrival was great and once again, I felt the Christmas story in a whole new way. Dear Mary, in a strange place, giving birth to her baby, our Lord. Today is Christmas Eve. Tonight, we gather with our church family and listen to the most beautiful story in the world. I will have my beautiful Gracie by my side and my handsome Liam in my lap. But one will be missing. Here I am, another Christmas Eve, waiting and anticipating the arrival of our dear second son. This Christmas, we are forced to trust God more than ever. I can't hold him in my arms yet, and wrap in blankets and warm clothes to keep him warm. I can't protect him in my belly. He is here, on this earth, but he is not with us. Tonight, we will sing Silent Night and think about all that Christmas means and I know I will shed some tears thinking about my boy. Because this is hard. Waiting for him is hard and celebrating Christmas without him is hard. But even though Xavier is not, God is with us. And He is with Xavier. There is no place God can't reach. There is no place God won't go. He came to us. He joins us in the deepest parts of our pain, grief, and emptiness and offers joy, peace, and redemption. That is the beauty of Christmas. And they shall his name Immanuel, which means God with us. Matthew 1:23

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Precious Words

Today, I am recording some excerpts from four e-mails from four different people that I have received about precious Xavier over the past 2 weeks. They have all been music to my heart and balm for my soul as I ache to hold him myself.

"I heard you are waiting to bring home one of my buddies! …. We're excited to pray over him again for you!"

"I noticed him right away because he reminded me of my two year old son. He is so cute he melted my heart. I went over and picked him up and held him. I rocked him in my arms and sang Jesus Loves Me. He fell asleep and slept in my lap for about 30 minutes. He loves to cuddle and be loved on. He is a beautiful little boy…"

"Ahhhhh!! Yes of course I recognize him. Wow God is amazing. I was elated when I found out he was matched….I can tell you clearly what I remember thinking about him, He's perfect…”

"That is definitely where my hubby is going....and GUESS WHAT???? He is assigned to that age groups room!!! So he will be able to love on him for you! I have to say I LOVE how God works- He signed up for this trip the night before we met you two."

Isn't it wonderful that he is so loved?! He may be an "orphan" by definition, but he is so, so loved. So very much.

*I have removed a few words here and there that possibly contained a little too much identifying detail than what we're able to share at this point.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

We are Rejoicing!

We found him! Our son! Our story to him is long and complicated, but I wanted to share some of it.

During the month of August, we were feeling so discouraged with our situation and really beginning to feel like a match through our agency was a very long time away. We began to look into the possibility of switching agencies, but as we explored possibilities, it just didn't feel right. That was a hard time. We received many photos and files of darling children during those few weeks and it was very difficult for us. Many of these children seemed like they'd be a wonderful addition to our family, but something was holding us back. We just didn't know what.

On August 31, we received a text saying an agency had many boys waiting and no families to match them with. We had family visiting and it was a busy day, so I kind of just shrugged it off for a bit. Eventually, I looked up that agency's site. That's when I saw our boy for the first time. There were many beautiful children listed, but he captured me right away. We still weren't sure though. Switching agencies felt like such a big deal. Later that week, I called his agency, just to get some details. They connected me to an awesome case worker right away. She asked if I had looked at their site and if there was a particular child we were interested in. I still didn't feel right about choosing a child, so I said no. I told her we just wanted to know if they felt like they could match us and get some details about switching. She told me she had a boy in mind, but didn't say who.

The next morning, she called again and asked if she could send a file. She had spoken with their director and they both felt they had a great match for us. It was our boy, the one I had seen earlier in the week who had stolen my heart.

From there, there are just lots of small details that all just lined up perfectly and confirmed that he is ours. Of course, there were also heart wrenching moments that made us gasp for breath thinking we might lose him. I'm not gonna lie, I wasn't getting much sleep during that week. We had 2 weeks to make a decision and we used almost the full amount of time. We wanted him so badly, but we wanted to know for sure he was our son before we said yes.

We are so happy we were able to say yes! We can't wait for him to join our family! He is almost 2 years old, just 1 year and few weeks younger than Liam. His birthday fits right into our family "birthday season". We can't share many more details publicly at this time, but we are more than happy to share about him in a more personal setting. And though I can't share photos yet, I can assure you... he ties Liam for the cutest boy on the planet. ;)

We are rejoicing!!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sewing for Him

We made the official decision to move forward with international adoption in November 2012. I'm just not going to lie here... the wait is getting long. We didn't contract with our agency until early May 2013, so we're still within their expected time line for sure, but it's just starting to feel very intangible. We're finding much too easy to lose focus, to feel like it's never going to happen, to question decisions made, and to just feel discouraged over all. We've been done with paperwork for a while, so during this waiting time, sometimes it feels like we're not doing anything at all. We've been reading and educating, and you can never do enough of that, but even reading is getting old. We are exhausted with answering "Still waiting..." every time we are asked how things are going. Please keep asking though. Knowing people care far outweighs the frustrating answer. Knowing our baby is loved and thought of by our friends and family is the second best thing to knowing who he is.

Last winter, I took my very novice sewing skills and learned how to make little tag blankies. I started with 4 fabrics and began to sell the blankies to put towards the adoption. It has turned into somewhat of an obsession. I found that choosing fabrics, matching ribbons, and sewing gives me a little bit of creativity that is good for me. More importantly, I'm finding that sewing and selling these little blankies makes me feel like I'm doing something. It makes me feel like I'm preparing for him. I think of him, and of all the children waiting while I cut and sew. I like being able to financially contribute to our little adoption account. It's been good for me.
Proof of my obsession!

Recently, I took it a step further. I made one for him. I know, I know... "He" might be a girl. I definitely don't have a good track record for guessing the gender of our children. But I had to do something. So I just did. Really, there is a really, really good chance our baby is a boy. I spotted this soft, sweet flannel and I just knew it was for him. It's not what I planned. I had planned on waiting until he we know who he is and choosing from several other fabric choices I had in mind. This fabric is not anywhere close to what I was thinking of. But I just couldn't help it. It's all full of love and it's all for him.

So I wait. And I try to keep focused. Enjoy being a family of 4. Love on the current "baby" of the family (even though he is trying with all his might to be big boy). Make sure our house is ready for another person. Work on getting ourselves as healthy as possible (we're going to have to keep up with 3 kids!!). Pray for our caseworker and for our partnership orphanage. Try not to think about the fact that our baby is another month older and we can't be with him... yet. Hope he's being well cared for and loved. And sew. ;)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Shelf of Hope

This week, we went through the agonizing process of declining another referral. I share this news because, although sad, it is part of our adoption story. We were pretty optimistic about this little one, so excited to receive the call, and hoping so very much that he was the one we've been waiting for. His file looks great, so we were shocked when we found out that there was more to the story. It is quite the miracle that we know what we know, so we are grateful for that, but gosh, it's still hard.

This referral just happened to come right as we are getting some closure to our declined referral from last October. That beautiful little girl is in the arms of her forever family, finally! They are still in China finalizing her adoption, but are coming back the U.S. soon. We are so happy to see her in the arms of her parents. They look perfect together. It has been awesome that we've been able to follow their story all along the way.

It grieves us that so many children are waiting for families. It hurts our hearts that we cannot welcome them all into our family. But as we grieve, for this little boy we had to say no to, and for all of the precious waiting ones, we remember with hope that soon one less will be waiting and our family will be one person bigger. As much as he is waiting for a family, we are waiting for him. We want him so much.

In preparation and as a tangible expression of my hope that he will be home with me soon, I cleared a shelf for him today. There's not much on it yet; Gracie has stolen his books, Liam claimed his stuffed panda, and we're hesitant to purchase much without knowing gender and size for sure, but it's all his. And I'm sure it will fill up soon enough. :)