Forever Ours! And Our Letter to The Boys’ Birth Mom
December 19, 2016 at 10:34 pm 1
15541409_10105725927497241_5661743435355020599_n The boys are ours!!! We finalized our adoption of Henry and Jack today! Happy adoption day, my boys! I can't begin to express how awesome it feels to know they're really really really ours. They've been our sons since we first met them in August, but having a judge tell us that they are as legally ours as Clara is just makes us feel so at ease. And no more social workers or home studies or adoption lawyers or paperwork! (Although we have the best social worker and adoption lawyer!)  Adoption is a lifelong journey, but this part is OVER! 🙌🏼

This morning I finally sat down to write in the card I bought our boys' birth mom when the process first began. It's customary to give your child's birth mom a note and small gift when the child is placed with you; our open adoption relationship hasn't been textbook, so we did it today!

Since we were matched with the boys through a private attorney, she never got to see our profile book. Funny story, it actually came in the mail the day we got the news that we were chosen!

In addition to our book (so she could learn more about our family, where we live, what we do), we had a pendant made for her with the boys' birth date and an infinity symbol, and a small keepsake box. We also included our card, tons of photos of the boys (with descriptions written on the back) and an update letter with the boys' weight, milestones and other fun things.

Before writing the letter, I did some Googling for inspiration on what adoptive parents have written their children's' brith mothers/parents. I found nothing! I wanted to share what I wrote to her in case any other adoptive parents need inspiration for pulling together all those emotions and feelings of thanks into a few sentences!

Dear ____,

We are forever connected, and forever grateful to you, for you chose us to parent these two perfect baby boys you grew right under your heart. Thanks will never be enough. Instead, we hope that you feel security and joy that Henry and Jack are forever loved and cared for, and that they will always know you and the selfless choice you made for them. We couldn’t possibly love these boys more!

With lots of love, Richard and Ashley

Three Things That Have Surprised Me Since Adopting Twins
September 27, 2016 at 4:15 pm 4
twin boys one month

Happy one month!

Adoption— the journey to adopt, the process of adopting and the lifelong navigation of post-adoption— is complex. Every single day my ideas about adoption are changing— they've (thank Jesus) shifted from a me-centered mindset to one that (strives to) focus 100% on what's best for the boys— and also, in many aspects, their birth mother. I'm by no means an adoption expert. And I'm definitely not a perfect adoptive mom. But since I am obviously an adoptive parent, I'm doing my best to support others considering adoption and share what our journey looks like. All while trying to avoid putting my foot in my mouth ;) The boys' birth mom chose us just about a month ago and we've had them home from NICU for about two full weeks now. I still can't believe these beautiful boys are ours! In the past several weeks, here are some things that have surprised me...  

My Heart for The Boys' Birth Mom

We have an open adoption, but we haven't met the boys' birth mom yet. And this breaks my heart. I'm surprised by just how much I care about her— both for who she is to the boys, and because she's automatically a valuable person to our family. We're waiting on her lead, but I hope we can explore a relationship with her soon.  

The Amount of Attention They Bring!

Transracial twin adoption— our family has become a walking billboard for adoption. Twins get so much attention— and how they joined our family often comes up. I don't bring up adoption, but it comes up (often just because I don't look like I just birthed twins). This is awesome! They are conversation starters and we've been able to learn so much more about our community— and total strangers! We hope we can provide support for those considering or navigating adoption.  

That Our Love Would Be Immediate

I am surprised at how immediate our love for our boys developed. From the minute we received the call that we were selected, they were our kids. We wondered how this would play out, but I am so surprised how fast our attachment developed considering we didn't have that nine month warmup.    

“We should not be asking who this child belongs to, but who belongs to this child.”

—Jim Gritter

And then three grew to FIVE!
September 10, 2016 at 6:33 pm 10
In absolute perfect timing, our family has grown by two. The past three weeks have been such a an exciting whirlwind, and the amazing story of how our two boys joined our family is still so unreal to me! 14022289_10105249866217861_1527031842190632955_n Here's a look at our adoption timeline: 5/26/16: Application for adoption submitted 8/2/16: Home study started 8/18/16: Babies born 8/19/16: Found out about babies through a Facebook post. We knew some of the medical issues, other concerns and basic information... but little else! We hadn't yet seen photos and our home study wasn't complete, but we knew we had to apply. The boys' birth mom was working with a private attorney, so applying for their case was outside of the adoption agency we had been working with. 8/20/16: We quickly completed and overnighted a 24 page application and just three photos for the boys' birth mom to consider. We had actually just completed our profile book (20 pages of photos and text for an in-depth look at our lives) a few days before. I was worried that the birth mom might not get a complete look at who we are as a family. But we waited, prayed and tried to not get our hopes up. 8/23/16: Eight couples ended up applying to adopt the boys. We were told the birth mom would be reviewing all applications that night and that we should find out that day. Each hour crawled by. When we had to go to bed without hearing anything from the attorney, were sure it meant we weren't selected. 8/24/16: Mid-morning, we received a follow-up question with some concerns the birth mom had. We did our best to answer... and then waited more. A few (long) hours later, we received the call. She thought we were the perfect family to raise her boys!!! We could not believe it. Minutes later we arranged for friends to watch Clara and drove two hours to meet the attorney! Then we met our boys!! We also chose their names this night. After just a few hours, we headed home for the night to be with Clara. (Let's be honest, I couldn't sleep!) 8/25/16: Since we didn't have a completed home study yet (totally bent every rule with this), our social worker moved mountains and completed our final visit the morning after we were selected and rushed writing it to be done the very next day (compared to the 6-8 weeks it was supposed to take). We finished the home study, packed all our things and headed to be with the boys in NICU after picking Clara up from school. 14054198_10105258913941151_5354034537218042225_n We stayed with the boys for nearly two weeks in NICU. We're so thankful for the Ronald McDonald House for not only taking us in, but for being a great support to Clara and our growing family! This charity is wonderful and we hope to help support them in the future. Baby A (Henry Owen) was released from NICU before his brother. We stayed in our room at RMH a few days after Henry was released so we could continue to visit with Baby B, but it was challenging since the kids aren't allowed in NICU. We switched off: one was with Baby B in NICU while the other held down the fort with an adjusting toddler and little preemie in a new city. We had to head home to get settled... make places for TWO boys, get Clara in school, catch up on work and adjust to life with Henry. Of course it's breaking our hearts to not be with Baby B every day. Our attorney is wonderful and visiting him for snuggle time, and we are making individual day trips just to hold him and talk with the nurses. It will definitely feel unsettled until Baby B can join us. img_4080 We learned that the birth mom narrowed it down to two couples and ultimately chose us because we wanted an open adoption with regular communication and visits. We haven't met our birth mom yet, but we hope that will take place once Baby B is out of the hospital. Since we weren't planning on twin boys— much less this soon in the process— we had so few things ready for them! Our friends and community were wonderful to get together so many boy clothes, a second carseat and other things for us to bring the boys home to. img_4066 I can't begin to express how much we love these boys. We loved them from the moment we heard that we were selected. I thought the bond might take longer to develop than it did with Clara (we had 42 weeks of getting to know her before she was born), but Richard and I haven't felt that at all. I'm amazed at how immediate and strong the love we have for them developed... these are our sons! Clara was unsettled the first few days of traveling and being without one of us all the time as we were in the NICU. She cried more and threw fits. Once we started taking intentional lunch breaks from the NICU and giving her totally undivided attention, she mellowed out. Now she loves her little brothers and is nothing but helpful and sweet. img_3964 We know adoption will be a lifelong process for our boys. We are praying for the boys' birth mom and can't wait to meet her. We'll be navigating race (the boys are biracial), the loss of their biological family and our relationship with their birth family for a long time. But for right now, we're holding our boys close and making sure they know just how loved they are. To everyone who has sent messages of support or congratulations, thank you! We feel so loved and are thankful that so many can experience this wonderful time with us!    
4 Misconceptions About Adoption
August 9, 2016 at 11:53 pm 1
baby crib We've come across so many misconceptions about adoption since first deciding to start the process earlier this year. Honestly, many of these were things we believed, too. Richard's mom and uncle were adopted and I grew up with foster kids in our home for a time, but we still knew so little. After hours of training, reading and talking to both birth moms and adoptive families, we've learned a few things about what adoption looks like in 2016... though we still have so much more to learn! In the mean time, here are four misconceptions about adoption that make us chuckle.  

“You can get a baby for free through foster care.”

First off, leave “get” at the door. (How we talk about adoption is so important.) Second, of course we checked into adopting through foster care before committing to almost $30k to grow our family! Foster care provides safe places for children while their parents work to fix whatever went wrong in the first place. The ultimate goal is always to reunite the parents with their children— not adoption. Social workers will work with the parents... and then the immediate family... and then the foster parents to find the best home for children. Also, young children are very rarely adopted out of foster care in Florida. The main reason is that everyone wants a baby, so birth families usually find a way to keep the child in their family. Birth order is important to us and we want a sibling for Clara now, so domestic infant adoption is the best option for us.  

“International adoption is faster and cheaper.”

HA HA HA. While this might have been true years ago, international adoption went on a diet to prevent human trafficking. Now many countries have closed international adoption, and others have set strict guidelines. Many countries have specific age and financial qualifications adoptive parents have to meet to adopt from there. While the actual adoption fees might be lower than adopting domestically in the US, the additional travel costs will usually run up a bill much higher than what we anticipate. Also, the process can take much longer even after being matched with a child. And since we'd like a child younger than Clara and also, um, yesterday, international adoption isn’t for us right now.  

“Get the baby and run!”

Shifting this idea has probably been the biggest change with our thinking since beginning the adoption process. We thought what was best was to adopt a baby and pretend like his or her story was no different than that of our biological daughter. While our love for this child will absolutely be the same, this baby’s birth story will be such an important part of his or her life. Now we hope for a completely open adoption where our child has so many people who love him or her and never has questions about where he or her came from.  

“Can’t get pregnant? Just go adopt!”

The thought that adoption is an easy alternative to birthing a baby is just laughable. The application, the classes, the home study, the cost, the waiting, the chances of a failed adoption… not only is adopting almost always a longer process than carrying a child for nine months, but it can be much more invasive and expensive.