The older and more mature I get, the more I realize not everyone’s life is how it is portrayed from a distance or in social media (Facebook or blogs). Every family or individual has struggles, and most prefer to keep those private. Some may share certain issues with friends or those who can give support, but a lot of things we keep to ourselves, pushing through each challenge as it comes, in a private way. It may not be until we open up about certain struggles, that we find others have been along a similar path, and we had no idea. So, it is partly for this reason (and for our own family record) that I share our private struggle we have been through these last couple years.
When our youngest, Cami, was born we knew she was our last child. It was a hard pregnancy and scary delivery, which was so different from each of the other three pregnancies and deliveries. Neither Chris nor I felt like we could easily go through that experience again. But, as the years went on, I began to wonder if maybe I would be up for it. Every time I mentioned it to Chris, he was still decided he couldn’t risk it. Fair enough.
Still I struggled with this decision. Were we really done having children? Were we officially ready to move into the next stage of life? I began having feelings of jealousy and longing when friends would announce they were expecting. I secretly hoped I would become pregnant and that would take away having to make the decision. The worst was feeling like I was struggling with this on my own, as Chris obviously didn’t have any of these feelings. I finally decided that I wouldn’t be okay with knowing that our family was complete until Chris and I had prayed about it together. When I finally approached Chris about it, he already knew my struggles and said he had been feeling like someone was missing from our family as well, and wondered how I felt about adopting.
I was overwhelmed with how right that statement felt and completely grateful for an understanding and loving husband. We had a sweet discussion and before I knew it, Chris had researched adoption agencies as well as what the process would be for us, as expats. It wasn’t going to be an easy or inexpensive process, but we were both ready and willing. We knew the kids would be all for this decision as they had been dropping hints and asking questions about having another baby, but we just weren’t ready to get their hopes up quite yet.
Chris and I dove into all the preliminary preparations to even apply for adoption. We had a pile of paperwork to fill out for our social worker in Germany and another pile to fill out for the adoption agency in the states, all requiring something different.
New Scotland Yard
We requested criminal checks from a couple different states, asked a few friends to write reference letters, and made a trip to New Scotland Yard for some fingerprinting.
Visiting for Fingerprints
After most of the preliminary work had been completed, the adoption agency wanted the kids to be involved in writing letters to birth moms, etc. so we decided it was time to tell them. We had just come home from our trip to Iceland and it happened to be Mothering Sunday in the UK, so it seemed the perfect time. We gathered everyone together and gave each of the kids some little things we had gotten for them from Iceland . . volcanic rocks picked up from the beach and an Icelandic coin each. Then they unwrapped a gift to share – a journal. I admit that I was already crying at this point, and the kids were pretty clueless why they jointly got one empty journal and Mom was an emotional mess. Hannah finally put some of the pieces together and asked if it was a baby journal like we kept for each of them. When we said that it was, she asked if we were adopting a baby. Caleb had come to put his arm around me, to comfort me and when Chris said we were specifically adopting a baby boy, Caleb broke down sobbing. I was really surprised and wondered if we had misread the kids’ desires as well. But, when we asked Caleb if he was okay with this decision, he just nodded and said that he was so overwhelmed; that he had always wanted a younger brother. At that point, Hannah had joined the two of us in crying and everyone else was all smiles. Chris and I were grateful those were the reactions we got.
Having the kids ‘in the know’ definitely added a new level of excitement and frustration. Every time we felt we were getting closer to our final approval, there was a new batch of requirements – FBI checks, medical physicals for the whole family, etc. Finally the time came for our home study. A social worker who specializes in American adoptions abroad came to visit with us for about 4 hours. The kids were really nervous as they felt they were on trial to see if they’d be good siblings. They had put all their nervous energy to work before the visit by cleaning and organizing their rooms . . . even reorganizing the shoe basket by the front door. They all wanted to ‘pass’ so we could get approved to adopt “Buddy” (our nick-name of our unknown baby).
After a few months, our final approval came and the adoption agency asked for our profile. We thought this was just a letter to the birth mom with some pictures attached, however, they wanted it in book form. This seemed like a big project, but Emma kept urging me on and I found I really enjoyed my time working on it. With Emma’s deadline of getting the book done in a week, I powered through it and we all loved how it turned out.
Profile Book Cover
1st Page of Profile Book
After we sent 8 copies of our book off to the adoption agency, all we could do was wait. This was almost harder than getting all the preliminary paperwork done, as it was all out of our hands. Here it was, now July, and our lives felt on hold. We could be called at any time to come to the states to pick up a baby. We canceled a big trip and put off others, not knowing what the next few months would hold. We all felt a bit stir-crazy and anxious. Emma started knitting a baby blanket to keep her hands busy!
Emma’s Big Yarn Ball
We would get profiles of birth moms frequently from the adoption agency. We then would respond to indicate which birth moms sounded like a good match for our family. There was one in particular that was ‘perfect’. She didn’t know the sex of the baby yet, so we waited a couple more months when she found out she was indeed having a boy. We were so hopeful that this mom would choose us, but one day the call came that the birth mom had chosen someone else. This one felt different than all the other ‘she picked someone else’ emails as we had been hoping and praying for this one specific one for so long. We were sad but kept hopeful someone else would choose our family.
On 7 December, as we were walking out of ‘Scrooge‘, Chris leaned over to me and said we had been chosen by a birth mom who was due the end of February/beginning of March. He had just gotten the email during the show. We were both ecstatic but didn’t want to tell the kids right there in the middle of the sidewalk, so ended up telling them the next day after Chris and I had a chance to talk about it. We were all thrilled!
It just so happened that we were going to be in the states for Christmas. So, Chris and I took a quick trip to Utah to meet the birth mom and the adoption agency counselor. While we were there, we took the opportunity to spend a couple hours with my sister, Eliza.
Salt Lake Temple
Temple Square with Eliza
We had a great time with the birth mom and got a little nervous when she said she was already experiencing labor-like pains. She had two other little boys and both were extremely early. We felt a little bit panicked as we had to start making plans to, literally, come back from London at any time between then and the beginning of March!
When we returned to London, we started to get our ducks in a row. We moved some things around in our house to be ready for a crib and other baby paraphernalia. But, I also had school plans and copies to ready so Caleb and Cami wouldn’t be behind while I was away.
Months of School Preparations
Chris and I also felt we should get the birth mom a gift that would be special to her and feel like a connection to her baby. We had such a hard time finding something that was ‘just right’, until we found this necklace on etsy.
Birth Mom Gift
As we were making all these preparations, we continued to stay in touch with the birth mom and her counselor through once-a-week phone calls. We looked forward to these talks and enjoyed hearing all the updates. Then one Monday in late January, we got a call from our counselor at the agency saying that the birth mom and her partner had left Utah to return home to Arizona. We were floored. We had just talked to her the week before and everything was fine. She was so close to delivery, why did she leave?! It was quite frustrating on our end, because now all our legal preparations for Utah were obsolete and we had to hurry to find the same legal help in Arizona. However, the laws are different from state to state so we were really struggling to find someone who could help us with our expat status. We had help getting in touch with the right people, and finally got that worked out and were back on target.
Then in the middle of February the birth mom told us her doctor had told her it was ‘go’ time and to be on the ready. We confirmed earlier flights than we had originally booked, okayed changes with our babysitters, and packed our bags for an extended trip to the states to welcome our new baby! Emma had her baby blanket finished so the long wait seemed worth it. We couldn’t believe the time had finally arrived!
Buddy’s Finished Blanket from Emma
Our flight was to leave early Monday on 18 Feb. On Sunday morning around 12:30 a.m., we got a call from our adoption attorney saying the birth mom had changed her mind and the adoption wouldn’t be going through. I was still half asleep and felt this was all a bad dream. I was awake for most of the remaining night, convinced this wasn’t happening. But, it was. Chris and I went through all the motions on Sunday but were in a bit of shock. When we came home from church, we told the kids what had happened. They were as shocked as we were. Surprisingly, they weren’t upset with the birth mom, but just hurt and shocked. We asked them if we should keep trying and they all said yes.
All Packed with No Where to Go
We let ourselves have a hard emotional family day, but then we tried to ‘pull up our boots’ and move forward. Not many people knew about the adoption (just family and those who we had asked to do our reference letters, etc.) so we dealt with it quite privately. We thought it would be easier that way, just in case; and here we were dealing with the ‘just in case.’ Our adoption agency updates of birth moms slowed down and we started having to ask for updates. We started getting disheartened as we realized adoption agencies are more businesses than truly helping each individual match with an adoptive family. As the time approached to renew all our homestudies and other paperwork, we struggled with what to do. We had a couple more close opportunities for being chosen by birth moms, but they never panned out. We struggled with knowing why this felt so right but our prayers weren’t being answered. But, now for some reason, we felt the time was now past and we needed to move on.
We may never know why we had to go through this long process to still come out on the other end without a new little baby boy. But, we continue to trust in Heavenly Father that He has a plan for us. This was not an easy road to take, but it was a road full of growth for all of us as a family. It’s hard to believe that this last year has gone by, always wondering what our ‘Buddy’ is up to with his birth family. He is probably walking and talking now, after having just celebrated his first birthday. I now wear the heart necklace we intended for the birth mom. It is now my special connection with this experience. This year of healing has been good for all of us, but also a great reminder of how grateful we are for each of our children and the special part they each play in our family.