Monday, March 30, 2009

Day 336

Things are still unsettled with the new agency and attorney. We decided not to sign anything until we get a little negotiating in (can't hurt, right?) There have been a few unprofessional moments, on their end, over the past week (and I mean UNPROFESSIONAL), so we were able to go in with both guns ablaz'n. After three days of no response, I sent a very pointed email to all parties involved and reminded them that even though they've started conversations with Rebekah without a signed contract (unprofessional issue #1) we have in no way committed to using their services. Ben read my email and said "God help the unfortunate soul that tries to stand between us and our son." You've got that right.

Now that I feel like we're back in the driver's seat, I've been able to take a deep breath and get back to the fun part of preparing for baby boy!

It's begining to look a lot like BABY...Everywhere you go
(in our house!)

Cousin Nya decided to share her little baby spa - as lovingly named by my BFF when she saw all its bells and whistles- with her new soon-to-be cousin! I love its presence in our living room and can't wait to see baby boy swinging/rocking/vibrating/lulling to sleep in it! Thanks, Nya!

I did a little shopping with my sisters this weekend and stumbled upon a Children's Place Palace...and I DO mean palace. I have never seen anything so grandiose in all my life...okay, well grandiose in terms of shopping! I later learned that it's a Children's Place Megastore and only 10 exist in the country. Thank you, Jesus, there's one within driving distance from our house! Check out all this loot:

Cute stuff, right? It's even cuter when you know the price. All three hats were $ .99, the sweatshirts were $2.99...and everything else? $1.99!!!!!!! You better believe I'll be making four trips a year! (This was their end of season sale)

A sale may seem trivial...but God has a great habit of making my heart smile, just when I need it most. After another full day of not hearing from our new attorney and agency, I was frustrated to the max. Until I came home to this...

My sweet, sweet bloggy friend, Dori, sent me a box bursting with baby boy clothes! And they're the cutest little clothes you've ever seen. Look at how sweet...

And boy, oh boy, THE SHOES! I've been going ga-ga for shoes, lately, I just can't get enough. They are SO stinking cute!

I literally cried as I unpacked the box. It wasn't just the was the hope my friend brought me, today...knowing that her sweet miracle son wore the same overalls, the same onesies...the same shoes...only a few months ago.

Our miracle is coming...And Ben's right. Nothing can stand in the way of us bringing our son home. Hope lives on.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Day 333

Ahhh....the 27th. Today, marks 11 months since we made our decision to adopt. It's been a crazy ride to say the least, but my sweet son is worth the price...I would do it all again...and I haven't even met him, yet. The last few weeks have been chaotic for sure (Sidebar: Many of you have asked/commented....We have researched every angle of our situation and unfortunately we have no options. Rebekah's state requires us to be agency represented, so going the attorney route is not possible.)

There are two very shining lights, however, that have made my heart smile, this week.

#1 Baby Boy's cradle is setup, laundered, and within arm's reach of my pillow. You wanna know the best part? My dad built it. And I slept in it. So did my sisters...younger brother...and little Nya (my sister's baby). There is something so precious about its existence; I can't wait to see my sweet boy sleeping close.

Love, Love, LOVE it!!

#2 Baby Boy's Life Box. I have been looking far and wide for the perfect box to hold pictures and letters from Rebekah to baby boy. You may not be able to tell in my picture, but the outside is made of beautiful hammered metal, while the inside is lined with felt. I hope that it's too small and one day will need to be replaced with a giant box...but until then, it's perfect.

I am thankful beyond words that I can spend this 27th dreaming of my hope-filled future.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Day 332

I am seriously concerned for my mental health. I have to laugh, because if I don't, I won't ever stop crying! Our current situation is so complicated I've avoiding blogging all the details because they change every day! I don't know if I want to punch the new attorney in the face or storm capitol hill. This process is nothing short of insanity and the hoops we're having to jump through are out of control.

Let me offer another bulleted sequence of events that led me to this rant:
  • I squawked enough at the old agency they ended up waiving our supplemental fees and returning the money we had in escrow with an agreement that we would have to pay post placements, out of pocket. Great News.
  • New agency's attorney emails me our new contract and asks that we send it in ASAP, with the outlined monies, so that they can start working on our case, meet with Rebekah, etc. Okay, Great.
  • Not great. New contract comes with an expense sheet called "Exhibit A" (if that doesn't sound like a murder weapon, I don't know what does). Exhibit A does not reflect the information written out in the contract and we have a small [scratch that...HUGE] problem with the fact that they wanted us to pay $11,000 upfront and within two days. they know we're in a recession. Maybe there are people out there that can get that kind of money within two days...but we're not them!
  • I call new attorney and tell her my beef with some of the language in the contract. For example, it was written that we must communicate with Rebekah through the agency. We don't want to communicate through the agency, we're doing a fine job on our own. The attorney's response to this? "Go ahead and just cross it out and write in what you feel more comfortable with."
  • Um. Excuse me, cross it out? Should I do that with all the elements I'm not comfortable with? Frankly, I'm not comfortable paying at all. You do know that you're asking us to sign a legally binding contract, right? Not to mention the thousands of dollars you're asking us to pay you, for coming up with this paperwork. Call me crazy....but we should be receiving 5 star service here. That contract should not only be tailored to our needs, it should be laid in gold!
  • Caseworker at original agency calls to tell me that she was concerned about one of the questions I asked and had their attorney call the new attorney. When I clarified all the fees that would be owed, new attorney briefly mentioned there was a $3000 (additional) finalization court fee. I asked original agency about this (our final court hearing will be with them, here in MI) and they had no idea what the new attorney was talking about. MI court hearing will only cost a couple hundred dollars. I'm satisfied with this answer, chalk it up to varying state law, and move on.
  • New attorney tells original attorney that the $3000 isn't actually a court fee. It's a filing fee. A filing fee that we are required to pay the new agency. Even though the original agency is doing the hearing, new agency will be filing the finalization. What?!? And that costs $3000 additional dollars? YOU HAVE TO BE FREAKING KIDDING ME.
  • I'm headed to the loony bin.
Way back when...okay, just a year ago....when we first started this process, I snubbed my nose at all the adoption naysayers (there's a plethora of them). They think it's all about the money, the agencies are only out for themselves, it's not about the kids, yada-yada. My tunnel vision chalked it up to ignorance...they simply didn't understand this process.

I've been tainted. If adoption was truly about the children, why would it be this difficult? I'm not lumping in every agency and attorney, but from my limited experience let me tell you...this system is corrupt.

On a much lighter side....
Thank you for following our story, encouraging us, and lending your support. I have no idea why my side ticker isn't updating how much money has come in....and I simply haven't the mental capacity to worry about it! In two days we've brought in $200.00! I am so thankful for all of you. Many of you have emailed me privately and offered your encouragement. Others are sending me sweet packages and I know countless people are praying. Thank you. Thank you for walking this road with us. It has been more than a little rocky...but in the end...WE WILL CELEBRATE, together.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Day 330

A big thank you to my sweet friend, Kari, for suggesting I add a fundraiser link to my sidebar. The thought never really crossed my mind that friends and family might want to help us, financially, bring baby boy home. It's humbling for sure. I hate asking for money. A few weeks ago I asked Ben if we should do a fundraiser (the only thing I could come up with was bowling!), but we both agreed that it would probably be more work than it was worth (by the time you pay the alley) and everyone seems to be stretched to the max right now, in these hard times.

I'm not completely freaking out about the additional $8000 that we need to pay the new agency by June 1st and I think it's because I have a pretty laid back attitude when it comes to money. I mean it is just money after all. I feel that we've been good stewards and are as disciplined as they come...what else can you do? In the end, if we have to put all $8000 on a credit card then that's what we'll do. I'm not going to let anything stand between me and my son.

All that to say....if you would like to help us, there's a link on the sidebar you can use. All money is securely filtered through Paypal. Please don't feel pressured. I expect nothing and know so many of you are in the same shoes we are. I'm simply providing an outlet if you're able/feel led.

We would really covet your prayers in this matter as we try to cover all our expenses. The $8000 is for the adoption only and doesn't cover our travel or my maternity leave (I decided to take a full three months). We did submit an application for the Shaohannah's Hope adoption grant. I asked for $8000, but I know their general contribution amount is about $3000. I also know that they are only able to help 30% of those that apply.

It's all good. I know that God will make a way. I used to sing a song when I was a little girl....

God will make a way,
Where there seems to be no way
He works in ways we cannot see
He will make a way for me
He will be my guide
Hold me closely to his side
With love and strength for each new day
He will make a way...He will make a way.

I'm crying as I type. This process has ripped my faith from me and this sweet song reminds me how passionately I've pursued the Father through my lifetime...It reminds me of just how BIG our God is and the miracles I've experienced in him.

I grew up a pastor's kid and money was never in excess. I can remember numerous occasions when God showed up in a very BIG way for our family. One time we were visiting a church that my dad was guest speaking at. At the close of the service, a love offering was taken, to bless our family. There was a set of keys in the basket with a note attached (something to the effect of "Please see me after service.") As the story unfolds, the Lord spoke to a man in the congregation during my dad's preaching. He was asked to give our family his van. Yes, van as in vehicle. See, our family of five had been driving around in this beater of a car and my mom was pregnant with baby number four. You'll have to bear with my memory because I was only 7 or 8 at the time...I don't know if my parents were praying/hoping for a van or even thinking about it at all. I just remember driving home and thinking, "God knew what we needed and just like that he gave it to us? And we didn't have to do anything?" It forever rooted my faith.

I didn't plan to go this route with this post...but maybe God is reminding me to return to those childhood roots....asking me to trust him. He knew what my family needed then and he knows what my family needs now.

Thank you, Father, for being so good. Thank you for loving me through my faithlessness and continuously reminding me of your provision. I trust you with my life...and Ben's life...Baby Boy's life...and Rebekah's life. I trust you, alone.


Edit: $165.00 has been raised so far, my ticker won't update for another couple of days because I'm waiting for our bank information to be verified. Once it's all set, the ticker will update automatically.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Day 326

Because there is nothing "normal" about this process, I have no idea if we're walking uncharted territory here or if the complications and frustrations we're experiencing are all part of the game. I hate to even write this post because after my last few, this is going to sound so manic. It's strange how you can have the highest of highs and then days (or even hours) later you're back to the lows. I can tell you this much...this is one rollercoaster ride I am ready to get off.

This story is months in the making and would take too long to scribe every painstaking detail...but here's the gist.

When we first started researching adoption agencies we thought we should go with a national one...larger agency, larger pool of birthmoms, yada yada. But when we realized how much cost (and travel) was involved with an out-of-state adoption, we figured it was better to stay a little closer to home. We then picked the largest agency in Michigan with the most placed adoptions and signed on the dotted line.

[enter irony...we're now in the middle of an out-of-state adoption]

There were things along the way that I wasn't totally impressed with (i.e. finding "Ben and Jessica" in our homestudy), but stuff happens and we were excited to just be moving forward. Our agency frustration hit an all time high when the agency announced their doors might be closing and slapped a $1000 fee on us (due two weeks later). Ben and I walked away from the meeting with the understanding that once we were linked we would no longer have to pay "supplemental" fees, which were scheduled to continue every few months until the end of the year. As irony would have it, Rebekah called our agency three days after I sent our $1000 check in. We were too excited about the baby to care and were happy that we no longer would have to pay them...

[enter menacing music]

Several weeks ago our case worker told us that we would need to get another agency involved (in Rebekah's state) so that she could have a case worker close and to save us money (we pay a hefty hourly rate that would get out-of-control if our case worker had to fly to Rebekah multiple times). She also explained some of the interstate laws (ICPC) and what would be required of us.

I really didn't get hung up on the details. Everything with Rebekah was beautiful and I knew it would all get hammered out eventually. Mentally, I sort of took a deep breath, let down my hair, and boarded the fun train...well, until yesterday.

For a faster read, let's look at yesterday's events in bullet point:

  • We receive a bill in the mail for the next supplemental fee installment from our current agency (I was told we heard wrong at the meeting and could still have $1200 to pay before baby boy is placed with us).
  • Case Worker (CW) emails me all the new contact information for the new agency/attorney, lists the fee schedule ($7,000 more than we expected to pay), and includes many "to-do" items. I wonder what the heck we're paying all these people to do.
  • I call CW and calmly explain my frustration and question the rightness of us paying additional supplemental fees (Remember...Rebekah found us and now we're being handed off to another agency...)
  • CW recommends that I call the new agency to make sure I understand the fee schedule (i.e. don't freak out until you see it for yourself) and reminds me that my adoption is still within the $18,000-30,000 range that they prepare clients for [Gee...that really helps. Thanks.].
  • I call new agency...but, oh wait. CW gave me the wrong agency information and they have no idea who I am.
  • I call CW and rip her a new one over voicemail.
  • In the meantime, the new agency has contacted Rebekah and sent her paperwork to fill out [shouldn't I have given the green light first?] Rebekah has correct contact information that I'm able to use.
  • I ask Rebekah to do me a favor and hold off on doing anything until I can get everything straightened out.
  • I have a mini meltdown and cry out of frustration. Why does this have to be so difficult? I think about all the people in my life that had sex, got pregnant and then brought their babies home without batting an eye.
  • I call new agency and finally talk to someone who knows what the heck they're talking about and is able to answer all of my questions (anyone at my agency had yet to do this). I learn that our hands are completely tied and if we want this baby (is there any question?) then we have to move forward with both agencies...and pay all the extra fees.
  • CW never called me back.
I'm frustrated on so many levels. More money, more paperwork (tons of it...we're pretty much starting over), more meetings....does it ever end?

Be thankful I gave you the censored version. It was a hot mess.

Ben and I laid on the couch last night, unwilling to do anything but soak in our misery. I told him I wanted to crawl in a hole and cry for days...he said he wanted to go punch someone...we were both stressed and I hate that.

Thankfully, we've recovered...It wasn't anything a good cry, great sex, sleep, and chocolate couldn't handle. There were some bright spots amidst the chaos...and I was able to seem them clearly, this morning.

Bright Spot #1: New agency is more than competent. They are AWESOME. Their licensing allows us to have an expedited relinquishment process and settle the adoption out of court. Which means...Birth father rights can be terminated 60 days before the due date. (This news was a huge relief to Rebekah as she has been concerned about it) and we can forgo the awkwardness of us all being in court.

Bright Spot #2: Because our case won't require a hearing, we simply have to wait for ICPC paperwork to be approved and filed. We'll be able to go home in 10-14 days! (That sure beats the 6-8 weeks we were anticipating!)

Bright Spot #3: Baby Boy is now 26 weeks. He's just shy of 2 lbs, 14 inches. He's inhaling and exhaling like a champ and his boy parts are "descending" (apparently this takes 3 days...who knew?) Ben held me close last night and we looked at our little miracle. He is worth all the trouble in the world...

Bright Spot #4: I got a new belly shot from Rebekah and talked to her on the phone. She is the sweetest, most considerate, compassion person I've ever met.

My world is right side up again as I muddle through the new details. Our plates are a little full right now...but we're keeping it all in perspective. I had a dream last night of me putting baby boy in Ben's arms for the first time...and it was nothing short of amazing.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Day 324

Only 99 days until we meet Baby Boy! I've been waiting to hit the under-100-mark for weeks now! And I am SOOOOOOOOOO EXCITED!!!!!!! Of course, he could surprise us at any time before or after June 25th....but I have to have a goal date or I'll go nuts!

We have made the decision to drive the 22 hours to the hospital...our social worker thought I was kidding when I told her...and you might think we're nuts... Obviously, we really want to be there for the birth (and I'm hopeful we will)...but when we added up the cost of two last minute airline tickets to a city that doesn't offer direct a rental car for 2-3 weeks...and the extra cost of shipping all our stuff, the pros outweighed the cons. Now, we'll be able to have all our essentials (including our own wheels!) without having to worry about conserving space (to a point).

I'm hopeful that we'll make it in time because the doctor has already mentioned C-section and induction to Rebekah (due to her pre-eclampsia). I know that we could very well miss the birth and not get to meet our little man until the next day...but I'm surprisingly at peace about it. God's hand has been so directive in this, I can't help but trust him with the fine details. Rebekah really wants us there...and we want to be there....but if it doesn't work out, than I'm going to believe that God wanted Rebekah to have that time alone with her son and family.

We're not sure how it will all go down....if she still hasn't had the baby by the 23rd or 24th of June we may just start driving...We totally have to take it one day at a time! My psychotic process for planning has begun and the goal is to have everything....and I mean everything done by June 1st. I want to be able to jump in the car and go...completely worry free!!

P.S. There are a lot of details to consider when you're leaving your house for weeks at a time....and bringing another small person, completely dependent on you, home...oh and you've never taken care of a small person before!

If you could only see my sweet, bloom embossed notebook....It contains 10 important and very detailed lists on what needs to get done each week until our ready date! Can you believe it, I only have 10 weeks!?!

P.S.S. I'm SO glad we did the nursery and shower early!

My lists cover every spectrum of chore [and don't be "chore," I mean fun. I love to-do lists and even more than that I LOVE preparing for a baby!] From setting up the out-of-state pediatrician to preparing birth announcements to washing all the baseboards and dusting the walls, I have plenty to keep me busy over the next several weeks.

Nothing on earth is going to compare with holding baby boy in my arms for the first time....I want to spend the rest of my life devoting myself to him [I'm seriously not sure if I'll ever put Baby Boy down or let Ben hold him].

Here's the way I see it: Devote the next 10 weeks to years worth of house projects and cleaning and the next 10 years of life to Baby Boy....After that point, the furniture will all need to be moved and everything will need a good dusting again! [smile]

We're counting down the days and making everyday count!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Day 317

Rebekah got to see Baby Boy on the big screen, again, today!! He was being a little stinker and didn't want to show his face for the camera, but we can see his nice healthy spine, here (and his little ear!):

He may have been shy about showing his face to the world, but wouldn't you know, he had no problem showing his goods...such a boy. I haven't seen many of these before...but doesn't it look unusually large? When I shared it with Ben he was quick to respond with, "He'll fit right in with our family then!"...again, such a boy.

His Renal Pelvic Dilatation is still present on his left kidney, but has corrected itself on the right. The doctor is monitoring him closely, but seems to think he will be fine. Rebekah said he was "moving and grooving," and kicking all about when the doctor was trying to get pictures, causing Rebekah to giggle [how cute]. Baby Boy is breach, but I guess that's normal [I really know nothing about these things]. Rebekah doesn't have swelling and her blood pressure medication seems to be helping! So, overall both Mom and Baby are happy and healthy.

I will be having a little heart-to-heart with Baby Boy, however, when we go out to meet Rebekah and her family over Easter. Poor Rebekah is not getting any sleep with Baby Boy using her womb as his own personal jungle gym!

It's been such a great day! I got to see my little man lucky am I? I got to talk to my sweet Rebekah...again, how lucky am I? And I received an email from Rebekah's daughter that had me rolling on the ground laughing, while crying at the same time.

Rebekah's daughter and I have been emailing back and forth. She's almost 13 and, naturally, questions the adoption as she works out her teenage emotions. Her emails crack me up because she is such a free spirit and reminds me so much of myself when I was her age. Up until this point, our emails have been pretty light and know, clothes, school, music, etc. Today, however, she wrote me a really sweet note asking if we could be friends through life. She's seeing a counselor right now to help process the adoption and asked me if I would mind being her friend when she's done talking with her counselor. I hate to quote someone without their permission (I did ask her mom!) but, this is too priceless to re-phrase. After asking me if I would be her "grown up" friend she said... "i kinda wanted to consider you my 2nd mother know...your going to own my brother. What do you say?"

Well, who could turn down an offer like that?

I am honored that she would even want me to be her grown-up friend. I am so priveleged that I have earned the confidence of this precious, precious young girl....I told Rebekah about our shared email and asked her how she felt about it (after we laughed, of course)...She was so thankful that her daughter is reaching out, as she's been the most distant through the adoption.

I love the story God is weaving together in our lives and although it's too good to put down (and I furiously want to read the last page), I'm soaking in every word...every page...every moment.

I never knew life to be this good.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Day 313

I got my first belly shot, today!! I can't believe my baby boy is in there...

Baby does have a name now...but it's on super secret lockdown! We were deciding between a couple of names so I asked Rebekah which she liked best. She and Ben agreed on the same name, which won me over. I love that she loves our choice and was able to be a part of it. How cool is that? When we talk back and forth we use baby boy's name and it warms my heart...every time.

Baby Boy is gaining 3 oz each week, weighs approximately 1.3 pounds and is 12 inches long. His eyelids are well formed and if born at this stage could live (although we pray he stays with Rebekah a little bit longer!!) He has started to practice his breathing, suck his thumb, and has formed taste buds. What a growing boy!

I am in awe of God's goodness and eternally grateful for Rebekah and her desire to share this experience with me. I've never known a process to be so miraculous.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Day 311

Okay, so I got the second best phone call a girl in my shoes can get [technically it should probably be the third best phone call, since baby boy being born would be the second...]

Rebekah called me last night! We had exchanged phone numbers last week, but I left the ball in her court for the first call, because I wanted it to be on her schedule, when she was ready, etc. I had punched her numbers into my phone so that when she called I would know it was her.

The phone rang just as I was getting my pj's on and slipping into bed for some laptop time. I jumped out of my skin when I saw her name and started running around like a mad woman (she'll probably laugh when she reads this because I played it "cool" when I finally did answer!) Do I say "hello?" Do I go grab Ben? Yikes, what do I do? I don't know why I was so nervous, but I felt like a young girl being asked out on a date for the first time!

I ran to my room, jumped in bed and had the best two hour conversation I've ever had...and it was with my baby's mama!! I'm not a huge phone talker, but I could have talked to her for hours [oh, wait...we did!] It was so fun hearing her voice and heart (in real life) for the first time. Our social worker had already prepped me that she was bubbly and full of life. She was right.

We talked about everything under the sun and I left the conversation with an inner confidence that we would be friends for life. We talked about her kids, the baby, our upcoming trip out there, our infertility, her choice for adoption. It was as natural as talking to my best girlfriend.

I was thinking about our conversation this morning on my way into work and I had a small "aha!" moment. The reason Ben and I have such an incredible, through-the-roof, kind of marriage is because we've chosen to view each other through the eyes of God and we love each other more than we love ourselves. Rebekah and I have the same relationship. She wants what's best for me, I want what's best for her, and we both want the best life possible for baby boy. We consider each other's feelings and prefer the other Rebekah.

It's such a beautiful picture of who God is...and Rebekah is a direct reflection of him.