Kyle and Ashley

Our family journey

Joyful, Patient, Faithful

Well, we are almost one month into waiting and no news yet, which is pretty normal. This is definitely the most “boring” part of the process, but at the same time very nerve-racking. It is comforting, however, to know that we have done all we can do and the rest is in God’s hands.

Lately, we have been trying to find things to keep our minds off the wait….

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Yard work…

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Hangin’ out with Genei…

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Soaking up the last bit of warm weather…

House projects have taken up much of our free time, as we get ready for winter (and the possibility of a new baby in the house).

Among other projects, Kyle and his dad have been working on turning our “mystery room” into an amazing walk-in closet. It’s been in the works for a while and I am excited to finally move in! It will even have a little area with a vanity so I can have a space to do my hair and make-up without taking up the whole bathroom. So exciting!

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The first pieces are in place!

Once the closet is done, we will be able to clean up the small bedroom, where everything is currently being stored and start transforming it into a nursery. It’s hard to know how fast or slow we should move, since we have absolutely no idea when it will be needed, but we are excited to get started anyway. We even made our first purchase for our baby-to-be (because my sweet husband lets me do whatever I want, even if it is rather pre-mature)… the crib and mattress arrived in the mail last week! IMG_2604

After waiting so long for the opportunity to build our family, the whole thing feels almost surreal. We are beginning to collect little things here and there and thinking about what we will need, but at the same time trying not to think too much about it, in case it takes longer than we hope.


Besides the house projects, we have also been keeping busy by finding ways to better ourselves. As we get closer to becoming parents, we want to use this time to improve on certain aspects of our lives. We want to be better friends, better Catholics, better home-owners, better people…

As part of our little journey to self-improvement, we signed up for our very first 5K and have been training hard to *hopefully* be ready by early November. We figured this would be a good way both to get into better shape and keep our minds off of other things. IMG_2522

We are running (read: shuffling along at an amusing pace) in the “Mt. Brighton Hot Cocoa Classic” on November 8th, and looking forward to freezing our buns off while we race towards that chocolate at the finish line!


Anyway, that’s about all for now…  Please continue to pray for us, as we learn what patience is all about.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” 

Romans 12:12

Time to swim!

That’s right… we are officially “in the pool” of waiting families!

 

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At this point, all we have left to do is wait.

As I’ve mentioned before, the way it works is basically this:

An expectant mother comes into the agency to make an adoption plan. Our social worker (Elly) will then email all of the prospective adoptive parents who fit the situation (based on our answers to the “child you can parent” checklist). She gives us any information that she has on the health of the mother/child, the situation with the birth father, the expected due date, etc. We then decide if we want to be considered for this situation and respond with a yes or a no.

The expectant mother (and father if he is involved) will be shown the letters from each couple that has said they would like to be considered. From those letters, she will usually only pick a few whose profile albums she would like to see. And from those few albums, she will choose the adoptive parents for her child. Occasionally, a mother may decide that she wants to meet two or three of the couples in person before making her decision.

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If we are chosen, Elly will call us to set up a time to meet with the expectant mother for the first time at the agency.

The first meeting is usually pretty awkward (so we’ve heard)… with us trying to find a connection with this woman we’ve never met, hoping that she likes us and praying that she doesn’t change her mind, and her trying to picture these strangers as parents for her precious child and probably hoping that we like her, too.

The waiting feels like the hardest part. So much uncertainty. It could be next month, it could be 4 months, it could be a year… we really have no idea.

Our profile is being shown for the very first time tomorrow, to a young woman whose little girl is due mid-October. It’s incredibly unlikely that we would be chosen so soon, but the possibility is exciting! All we can do is wait and pray, knowing it is in God’s hands. If she is meant to be our child, she will be… if not, we will wait for the one who is.

As always, we ask that you continue to pray for us and know that you are in our prayers as well. We truly appreciate having such a wonderful circle of family and friends…it makes this long process a whole lot easier!

And please join us in praying for this expectant mother who has a very difficult decision to make tomorrow… whether she chooses us or not, we hope she finds what she is looking for.

Our Profile Album

We finally got our profile album and letter finished up! We made our book through Shutterfly (after debating for some time whether we should do a handmade book or a digital one) and it turned out really nice.

It took us about a month to do the album. It was so hard to decide what to say, what pictures to use and how to present the whole thing in a unique way that would make us look like the most awesome, fun, interesting couple in the universe (because we are, right??)… in short, we had to fit everything about us and our lives into a 25 page book. And then we had to take that and cram it into a two page letter. Phew!

But it looks great. We are happy with it, Elly and the girls at the agency are happy with it, and hopefully it will do the trick.


 

The first thing a birth mother will see is our letter. Out of all the letters she sees, she typically only chooses to look at a few of those families’ albums, so it’s super important that the letter catches her interest.

We tried to make ours stand out by skipping the typical letter format and opting for a more unique look that highlights the most important things about us…

Letter-back

 

So if she likes what she sees in our letter and wants to learn more about us, she gets to look at our album, which we also tried to make unique and fun. We tried to include a little about every aspect of our lives while focusing on the things that are most important to us. The main goal is to give her a good idea of who we are and how a child would be raised in our home…

The pages are a little hard to read (because I forgot to take real pictures of it before we turned it in to CSS…) but you get the idea.

Enjoy!

 

 

page1

 

hello

 

childhood

 

courtship

 

marraige

home

 

pets

hobbies

 

friends

 

faith

tradition

 

kfam

 

 afam

 

end

We are really happy with how it turned out and hopefully it does a good job of showing who we are.

We turned in our profile (the album and letter) last week and now we are just waiting for the home study papers to be finished and signed (which we will do early next week).

As soon as we have approved and signed the home study, we will be in the pool of waiting families and could be chosen at any time!

Please continue to pray for us and, more importantly, pray for the mothers who will be looking at our profile. As much as we want to be chosen, we cannot even begin to imagine how difficult it is for her to choose. We are so grateful to her for choosing life and for considering us as parents for that precious life she carries so selflessly.

Open Adoption: What is it?

It might seem easier to choose confidential adoption because the child would not be placed with us until he was legally available for adoption, we would know very little about the birth parents and they’d know very little about us, so the risk of them reclaiming their child would be slim. Confidential adoption would make it seem like our child would only know us as parents and not be confused about who her “real” parents are.

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Open adoptions, it might seem, would open us up to the potential for more loss and heartache. Some misconceptions of open adoption say that since the birth parents would know where we are, they might try to kidnap or reclaim their child, and that child might be confused about who her “real” parents are. There would be a greater responsibility on our part because we’d have to maintain a relationship with people who gave us their most precious child and WHAT IF THEY CHANGE THEIR MINDS?

At it’s essence, however, open adoption means only that there is a continuing relationship between the adoptive parents, the birth parents, and the child, hopefully built on honesty, honor and respect for the losses suffered by all. Because adoption is built on loss – for everybody.

Only by working through the pain and loss of infertility are we able to commit ourselves to an open adoption. Only by working through the pain and loss of choosing not to parent their own child are the birth parents able to commit themselves to an open adoption. Only by making and living that commitment are we able to lessen our child’s pain and loss of not being parented by his/her birth parents.

Open adoption is often compared to the relationship of in-laws. When two people marry, they marry because they love each other and make a commitment to each other, but there are others in that new family equation. Sometimes, the in-laws don’t meet until very near the wedding and don’t get the opportunity to form a relationship beforehand. Nonetheless, the bride and the groom actively choose to make a relationship with their in-laws because they love their spouse; in-laws actively choose to make relationships with their child’s spouse because they love their child. Granted, not all spouses and in-laws would readily choose each other but sometimes, like in ours, the chemistry is right and we’ve formed close personal relationships outside of our common bond.

Open adoption is, in some ways, the same thing. With an open adoption, the birth parents and the adoptive parents meet relatively shortly before the child is born and because of their mutual love for that child, choose to form and maintain a relationship for that child.


 

There are many misconceptions about open adoption. Hopefully, your fears will be eased as ours were as we learned more about good open adoptions. Sometimes, it is easier to define something by what it isn’t rather than by what it is. Following are some common myths about open adoption and the truths that dispel them:

Myth: Open Adoption is Legally Insecure

The legal security of an open adoption is a matter of process. The birth mother does have a short period of time after the child’s birth to change her mind and if she chooses to do so, we are legally required to return the child to her, and rightly so. Making the decision to not parent your own child is a difficult one, and sometimes she finds that it is just too hard. Who are we to say that we have more rights to this child than the woman who gave him life? For that reason, she has until the hearing (up to 30 days, but usually much less) to change her mind. However, after she has signed the consent to terminate her parental rights, she can no longer reclaim the child and the adoption is, in that sense, “legally secured.”

Myth: Open Adoption Fixes Problems

Adoption will not “fix” our infertility, and adoption will not “fix” an untimely pregnancy. These are issues that we must work through before we can be truly ready for this journey through open adoption. For us as the adoptive parents, the issue of our infertility may always be in the back of our minds, but pregnancy is a means to an end, not an end in itself. It’s not about being pregnant, it’s about being parents.

Myth: Open Adoption is Co-parenting

No! A child adopted through open adoption is not co-parented. There is only one set of parents, only one set of people the child calls Mommy and Daddy, only one set of people who can make decisions regarding that child: the adoptive, legal parents. Us. Decisions on raising the child are not made in consultation with the birth parents; there are no visitation rights as when divorced parents have joint custody. The only people co-parenting our child will be the two of us.

Myth: Open Adoption is Like Baby Sitting

Open adoption is not taking care of a child until the birth parents are ready to parent the child themselves. Open adoption is forever. The common reaction to this myth is that the adoptive parents will raise the child for 20 years then she will go off and leave the adoptive parents. But isn’t that the point of parenting? Our primary job is to prepare our child to be an independent adult with all the resources, skills, and self-knowledge necessary to make sound decisions.

Myth: Children are Confused About Who Their Parents Are

There is only one set of legal parents, and only one set of parents the child is attached to. There is only one set of parents the child knows will be there in the middle of the night when the monster is growling under the bed. There is no misunderstanding of who that child’s parents are.

Sometimes, the birth parents are considered like close family friends or a special aunt or uncle. While it’s easy to pin those labels on that relationship, it’s important to remember that the child and the birth parents, no matter how attached the child is to her adoptive parents, will have the unique bond of birth. We will do our best not to be threatened by that bond and to honor that bond.

Think about today’s society in which a child can have multiple parental figures. There’s mom and dad, dad’s first ex-wife and his current wife, mom’s second husband… And don’t forget to count the various grandparents and step- and half-siblings! Open adoption can’t be any more confusing than what a child in that situation has to deal with.

Myth: There is No Privacy in Open Adoption

There is privacy in open adoption because the amount, location, and type of contact between the birth parents, adoptive parents and the child are all agreed to. The agreement made at the time of placement is not binding and will probably change over time. The important thing is that all the parents have committed to maintaining that relationship because that’s what is best for the child. And, as always, we have the final say in the amount of contact between us, our child and the birth family. While we will do everything we can to maintain a good relationship with the birth family, we will always do what is in the best interest of our child.

Myth: Birth Parents can/will Reclaim Their Child

When birth parents choose who raises their child, can watch their child grow, maintain a relationship with them, and can be assured that their child is in a loving and nurturing environment, the are less likely to want to reclaim their children. This is due to the fact that they have the truth; there is no fantasy about the child and no fantasy about the adoptive parents. They don’t have to worry (so much) about their baby. And, as we’ve previously discussed, a birth parent cannot legally reclaim their child after parental rights are terminated.

Myth: Open adoption leads to Power Struggles

Hopefully, power is never an issue in our open adoption. Hopefully, we and the birth parents of our child will continually put our child’s best interest ahead of our own. Hopefully, power will be in our child’s knowledge of who he is, where he came from, and ALL the people who love him. Nonetheless, throughout the adoption process, the one with the “power” is defined as the one with the legal guardianship of the child. That would be the birth mother from the time of conception until she signs the termination of rights, and us from that time forward.


 

As we wait to begin our open adoption, we know that we are blessed beyond compare. We have families with whom we are very close and friends so close they are part of our family. Things will change once our child comes into our home, just like they change when a child is born into a family. We will host all the requisite rituals and gatherings like everyone else; baptism, birthday parties, confirmation, recitals, baseball games, graduations…you know, the usual.

For all of these things, we hope you will join us. For all of these things, we hope our child’s birth parents will join us, too. For all of these things and because we will all love this child, we hope you will welcome our child’s birth parents with warmth, respect, and honor because they will be a part of our family also.child

The “dreaded” Home Visit

Elly emailed us last Friday and said she was ready to set up our home visit and asked if we could do it this week, before she left for vacation. We thought we would have a lot more notice, so we (meaning I) went into panic mode. We originally set it up for Monday, but there was a birth that morning so Elly had to stay and help the birth and adoptive parents get everything sorted out, and we rescheduled for Tuesday.

That gave me a total of 4 days to prepare. Ah!

Now, I know everyone says the home visit isn’t really that scary.. and we don’t need to worry about all that cleaning, and she won’t care if our baseboards haven’t been scrubbed, and she won’t notice if I didn’t lint roll all of my curtains, and it doesn’t matter if I haven’t washed the outside of that window in a year or two, and a million other little things. But.. I did it anyway.

And guess what? She didn’t even check my baseboards! Turns out everyone was right. She really just wanted to make sure that we were relatively normal people with a safe home in a safe neighborhood. The good news is, my house has never been so clean!

 

So Elly came and sat with us in the living room for a couple hours and talked with us about pretty much everything. She asked specifics about our extended families, our siblings, our upbringings, and our plans for the future. We talked about favorite vacation spots, holiday traditions, and what we do for fun.

We also had to come up with each other’s strengths and weaknesses, which apparently are required by the state?

Weird.

In case you wondered, Kyle’s weakness is lack of attention to detail and mine is a tendency to be a little “pessimistic” .. at least, those are the only ones we were willing to admit to!

A lot of it was just going into more detail about what we had written in our family assessment. It wasn’t bad at all, and we actually enjoyed the chance to sit and chat with Elly. Brisa did, as well.. but she was so pesty that I had to go stash her in the bedroom. Elly said she’s never seen met such a “friendly” cat.

After we talked, she wanted a quick tour of the house.

She commented of the fact that we have a real dining room and a nicely-sized kitchen (my favorites, too!).

She had no interest in actually seeing either the basement or the garage (thank you, Lord).

She laughed with us about the mystery of our “mystery room” (that’s the room off of the upstairs bathroom that has no apparent purpose, but will soon be an AMAZING walk-in closet).

And she even spent a while admiring our gallery of Maurer Movie posters. How awesome is that??

Once our little tour was over, and she was satisfied that there was no hidden meth lab or blatant safely concerns, we sat back down in the living room to talk about our next step.

She assured us that we were, indeed, “approved” and she would be sending us a copy of the home study write-up sometime within the next week or two for our review.

Do you know what that means??

That means we are close! In a matter of days, we will officially have a completed home study!

The next thing for us to do is put together our profile book, which we will be working on in the next couple of weeks. We hope to have it mostly done by the time Elly returns from vacation on the 12th.

And then we will be in the pool, ready to be shown to birth mothers. We will be a “waiting family!”

Welcome to Holland!

One more thing out of the way! Woohoo!

This past weekend, we spent all of Friday and Saturday at CSS for our adoption prep classes (and naturally, we took Prof. Puddingstone!⇑). The two day series of classes is a requirement for all adoptive parents working with CSS, to help prepare us for everything from what to expect when meeting a birthmother to what it’s like to parent a child through adoption. Elly and the other girls at the agency did a wonderful job of covering every aspect of this journey.

Day 1:

imageFriday morning, we arrived around 9am for the start of classes. We were one of six couples that were in attendance, along with several “support people” that many couples had brought along. (As a side note, we are probably about 10 years younger than every other couple we’ve met, at least!)

Friday was devoted mostly to adoption issues as faced by the adoptive parents and the adoptees, as well as the “seven core losses” of adoption and how they are felt on all three sides of of the adoption triad. Something that really stuck out to us was a short story Elly shared with us about the loss the adoptive parents often feel when moving on from the dream of having biological children. I love how well it describes exactly what we, along with so many other people, feel about finding ourselves on a different journey than we had planned.

Welcome to Holland 

Have you ever wanted to go to Italy? You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans: Rome, Florence, Venice, a drive along the Amalfi coast. You can’t wait to taste real Italian foods and wines. You learn some handy Italian phrases so that maybe you’ll be able to talk to people. It’s all very exciting, and finally, after months of planning and eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The flight attendant joyfully announces, “Welcome to Holland!”

“Holland?? Holland??” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? My ticket says Rome. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy. I’m supposed to be in Italy, and now you tell me that the pilot took a detour to Holland?” The flight attendant replies that the plane was always meant to land in Holland, and Holland is where you must stay. You cry, your scream, you huff and puff, but finally you realize you are here to stay. You comfort yourself that at least Holland isn’t a horrible, filthy place; It’s just a different place- slower-paced than Italy, maybe less flashy. You begin to notice it’s beauty and charm, the windmills and tulips, the Rembrandts and Van Goghs.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned, but somehow I got on the wrong plane.”

HollandAnd the pain of that will never, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss. But if you spend your life mourning the trip to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

 

I’ll probably never stop wondering what it would have been like to see Italy, but I know that we will have just as many great adventures here in Holland. So far, so good!

There were also a few guest speakers that joined us and shared their stories.

The first was a middle aged couple who are just about to finalize the adoption of their baby girl. Their story was unique (as we are quickly finding them all to be!) because their little girl was a “safe delivery.” A safe delivery is a law in Michigan that allows a birth mother to leave her baby at any police station, fire department or hospital if she does not feel she can care for the child. She is not required to leave any identifying information, medical history or explanation. All she needs to do is sign to terminate her rights and walk away, leaving the baby safely in the care of the state. As I understand it, this law was put in place to give women who could not parent the option of leaving their baby in a safe place rather than in a place like a dumpster or an alley.

Anyway, this particular little girl was left in the care of the hospital, who proceed to call CSS so they could find parents for her. When there is a safe delivery, typically that baby is matched with the longest waiting family on CSS’s “waiting family” list who has agreed to accept a safe delivery. Basically what happens is Elly gets in contact with them ASAP, says there was a baby born yesterday (or whenever), do you want her (or him) and you say yes or no. It’s that fast. You go from zero to 100 in an instant. The main issue with this type of match is that you know virtually nothing about the baby. You don’t know (and likely never will know) who his/her birth parents are, you don’t know if there was any substance abuse during the pregnancy, you don’t know any family medical history, you don’t know anything other than what the hospital can tell from the baby himself. This, of course, can simplify the process by eliminating the birth family from the equation, but you lose the chance at having an open adoption, which has so many benefits for the child in the long run…

IMG_1967The next family that joined us was an older couple who adopted their son in an open adoption 20 years ago, back when closed adoptions were the norm. Their son spoke with us an answered question about what it was like growing up in an open adoption and the relationships he developed with his birth family. We keep hearing about all the benefits of open adoption, but it was so great to hear it from a young man who had grown up in that situation. He was clear that he never felt any confusion about who his “real” parents were and was grateful for the opportunity to know his birth family. He talked about having always known that he “grew in Jessica’s tummy” but was never confused about her role in his life. She gave him life and his mother and father gave him a home and a family.

The third guest speakers were a family we had already met when we were still trying to choose our agency. They have a little boy through open adoption and have a great relationship with their son’s birth mother. They were matched with her before she gave birth and were able to develop a relationship with her in that time. After their son was born, she moved to another state but they still keep in touch with her and are planning to visit her soon. They are such a wonderful family and a great example of why open adoption is the way to go.

Other than the guest speakers, we went over a lot of information and learned a lot of new things. We met the pregnancy counselors and they talked about what they experience working with the birth mothers. Elly shared more stories of families she’s worked with and talked more about the process in general.

One very interesting part was the review of the legal process, which we though we had all figured out… Turns out a lot is changing this year when a new law goes into effect in mid-October!

Currently, this is how it works:

When the baby is born, the birth mother signs a temporary transfer of custody. The agency then has 30 days to file for termination of parental rights (they always do it within the first week, because Elly is Superwoman). The adoptive parents take the baby home and wait for the court to set a date for the hearing. That can take anywhere from 3-6 weeks, depending on how fast the court looks at the case. During that time, she can changer her mind at any point and the adoptive parents must return the baby within 24 hours. The birth mother must then attend the hearing and sign the consent to terminate her rights in front of the judge. After that, she no longer has any legal rights as the parent of that child. She does have a 21 day appeal period, during which she can file for an appeal but in order for her rights to be restored, she would have to have some proof that she was tricked or bribed or there was fraud of some sort. Basically, that never really happens. After the termination of birth mother rights, the adoptive family then goes into a 6 month supervision period. During that time, they must have at least two home visits and at 6 months, the adoption is finalized. At that time, the baby’s birth certificate is changed and the adoptive parents are named as the sole parents of that child, just as if he/she had been born to them.

The new process is slightly different.

When the new law takes effect, the birth mother is no longer required to sign the consent to terminate rights in front of a judge. This means that it is not necessary to wait for a hearing date. After the birth, she only needs to wait 72 hours before signing the consent, at which point her rights will be terminated and the supervisory period for the adoptive family will begin. The new law also shortens the supervisory period from 6 months to 3. Basically, the process is being condensed, going from taking 7 or 8 months to only taking about 3 from birth to finalization. That is good news for us, but maybe not so good for the birth mother, who may feel a little more rushed through the process. Hopefully it will all go smoothly. The good news for us it that we can be done with the legal process quickly and can focus on our new baby!

“It is important to
realize
that we adopt
not because
we are the rescuers.
No.
We adopt because
we are
the rescued.”

–David Platt– Adoption and the Gospel

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Choosing our agency

Once we decided that we wanted to pursue adoption, our first step was to choose an agency. There are several of them, most at least an hour drive from here, so we just started doing some research online. We looked around on their websites, read all the reviews we could find, and requested information packets from the ones we liked.

 

Home

We started with Bethany Christian Services, attending their informational meeting in March. They were by far the biggest organization that we looked in to, and had the most requirements (which we didn’t necessarily mind,  but it was worth noting). Next we checked out a small agency in Detroit called Morningstar Adoption Center. We liked that they were smaller and locally based, and had some wonderful reviews. The last agency (and the one we ultimately chose) was Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw. After speaking with the staff at CSS, we decided almost right away that they were the best fit for us but wanted to make sure we covered all the bases.

 

Catholic Social Services Washtenaw CountyWe requested references from each of the three agencies and met with a total of 7 or 8 couples who have adopted recently. We heard so many amazing stories and  we were surprised by how different every single situation was.  Although every couple loved their chosen agency (of course; that’s why they were given to us as references!), we loved that all three couples from CSS just raved about Elly, the adoption case worker whom we had already met with and loved, as well. She was very straight-forward and honest about the process, and she could give an example for nearly every question we had.

 

Some of the other things we considered and asked the agencies were:

  • The average waiting time for adoptive parents
  • How many children were placed each year, on average
  • The number of failed placements each year (when a birth mother decided to parent after being matched)
  • The type of counseling and assistance offered to the birth mother and whether pass-through expenses were allowed (money sent directly from the adoptive parents to the birth mother)
  • The total cost (which was surprisingly different at each agency)
  • The agency’s philosophy on the relationship between us and the birth family
  • The details of the home study

 

Some of the major deciding factors:

  • The expense. We know adoption is always expensive, and we are willing to do what it takes, but we didn’t find anything about Bethany that was better than CSS to make it worth paying double (seriously…we’re talking $12,000 vs. $25,000!). After all, paying more for the services doesn’t mean we get a better baby! Morningstar was pretty similar to CSS on a base level, but there were a lot of extra costs that could come up, and we weren’t comfortable with that. Both Bethany and Morningstar also allow pass-through expenses, which are funds given directly to the birth mother to help support her during her pregnancy. CSS does not normally allow this because it can cause more issues. Most of the assistance the birth mother needs can come from programs such as Medicaid. CSS works to make sure she is taken care of throughout her pregnancy without putting the extra burden and risk on the adoptive parents.
  • The Home Study. The home study process through Bethany is pretty intense; including 30 hours of training, several home visits, multiple interviews, both individual and together and a reference from our pastor along with individual statements of faith. Again, it’s not that we mind any of this; it’s just that the home study is lengthy and invasive no matter what and Bethany’s seemed to be more so than the others. The process at Morningstar felt like the opposite. They didn’t offer any actual training or classes, with the exception of some recommended reading (if requested) and they even give the option of a “rush” home study if you pay the extra fee. Thanks but.. no thanks. We love the idea of being parents sooner rather than later, but we didn’t feel this was something we, or anyone for that matter, should rush through. CSS was right in the middle at a level we feel comfortable with, where we can feel well prepared but not entirely overwhelmed.
  • The drive. Bethany and Morningstar are both about an hour and a half from us, but in opposite directions. The drive to Kalamazoo isn’t terrible, but considering how much we would be required to go back and forth, those miles would add up fast. The drive to Morningstar…was awful. I could happily live out the rest of my life without ever seeing those highway interchanges again. Seriously. So stressful. The plus side there was that we would hardly ever have to actually go to the agency. CSS is located in Ypsilanti, still about an hour drive, but closer than the others, easy to get to and in an area that we are both familiar with.
  • The philosophy. One thing we truly love about CSS is that they are committed to doing what is absolutely best for the child. The general philosophy of the agency is that children should be raised within their birth families. Adoption is an option only when the birth parent feels her family is not a resource. CSS offers pregnancy counseling to all birth mothers and birth fathers, helping them explore all their options so that they are able to make the decision whether or not to parent. Though it doesn’t make her decision any easier, if she does decide to make an adoption plan it prepares her for what to expect when the baby arrives and she is less likely to change her mind when the time comes. The scariest part of the process as the adoptive parents is the chance you take. You can be matched, wait for months and even bring the baby home, but the birth mother has the right to change her mind (for a short period after birth). They say the decision is always made twice, once during counseling and again after the child is born. We will support the decision of the birth mother either way, as I cannot even imagine how difficult it must be for her. At the same time, it would be heartbreaking to have to return a child you thought would be yours. That’s what counseling is for; to help everyone involved to ease the pain of loss.
    As for the other agencies, Bethany seemed to have a good counseling program, though they didn’t go into many details at the informational meeting. Morningstar was the most disappointing on this aspect. It may be that we just didn’t hear much about it, but it didn’t seem like they had much in the way of counseling for the birth family. We felt that their main focus was on the adoptive parents, and that is not what we are looking for. They do offer some counseling to help her make her decision, but they help her to explore all options which include parenting the child, making an adoption plan or aborting the pregnancy. We decided that we are not willing to work with an agency that would counsel a mother to abort her child. We also felt like their philosophy on birth-fathers was too stand-offish. The process may be easier without him involved, but he is 50% of the child’s identity and heritage. It is important for us and mostly, for our child to know who he is.  Morningstar seemed to have the attitude that, if she doesn’t know, all the better. CSS works diligently to identify, locate and involve the birth father. Not only does this give him the opportunity to terminate his rights by choice, removing any possibility of legal action from him after the child is placed, but it gives us information on his family and medical history that we can share with our child.

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Aside from those things, there were several other aspects that went into our choice in agency; Elly even mentioned that we had already done more research than anyone else she’s worked with recently…ha. Apparently most people don’t ask for references… Imagine that! That was our favorite part of the agency search.. We loved, loved, loved meeting with those couples! They had so much insight and advice to offer that was invaluable to someone just beginning the process.

So (in case  you were still wondering) the agency we are working with is Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County!

 

 

March For Life 2014

Waiting at the airport

Waiting at the airport

So excited!

So excited!

Without a doubt, one of the most exciting experiences we have had this year (and for that matter, ever) was participating in the annual March For Life which takes place in Washington, D.C. on January 22nd. We were so blessed to have the opportunity to attend this amazing event for the first time, having dreamed about going for some years.

Our trip was organized by the Jackson Right to Life which is a wonderful organization and attends the March every year. It was awesome being able to go with the group as they were all so experienced and made the trip so easy and enjoyable. I was grateful for their detailed plans and organization especially since neither of us had ever been to D.C. before. Having such experienced guides was really the way to go for us. We were able to follow a simple itinerary and simply enjoy the trip without having to worry about getting lost, where to go, what to do and all the other issues that arise when visiting a new place.

We flew out of Lansing the day before the march which was a nice experience and quickly became acquainted with some of our fellow Jackson marchers. I met a nice guy named Matt who was a great companion for the rest of the trip as was Fr. John from Queen’s parish here in Jackson.

2014-01-21 14.34.40Washington, D.C.

The first day in D.C. was incredible. After checking into our hotel (which was fantastic), we set off on a monument tour through the amazing city. It was a very snowy day even by our standards so D.C. was pretty much shut down. It didn’t impact our experience much, other than some of the great views were obstructed by the heavy snowfall and the marble floors at some monuments were dangerously slippery.

 

We were able to tour many amazing monuments including the Lincoln, Jefferson, WWII and Vietnam memorials. All of them were unique and inspiring and also somewhat familiar as they are all incredibly recognizable and nationally famous. It was so cool to get to actually see all of them in person.2014-01-21 15.03.57

2014-01-21 16.34.34The Mass For Life

Possibly the most amazing part of the entire trip was the Mass For Life which takes place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception which is amazing. It is the largest church I’ve ever seen and also the most beautiful.

But the church itself was not the only amazing thing. The people in the church were as well. More specifically the vast numbers. We arrived more than two hours before the mass was to begin and not only were there no available seats in the entire church, there was almost no floor space left in the church! The entire main level was filled to the brim with pro-lifers. In the end, even the lower level in the church which was equally as large was standing room only.

Sitting on the floor before mass

Sitting on the floor before mass

mass for lifeBefore the mass began, we found a small section of floor that was actually very near the front of the church and everyone in our group was excited at how fortunate we were to be in such a good spot. But then shortly before mass began, someone came by to tell a group of nuns who were in a pew next to us that they could sit in a special section up front. The nuns turned to us and offered us their seats! It was amazing! Both of our group leaders were thrilled and told us that in all the years they have been attending the Mass For Life they have never had an actual seat!

The mass itself was incredible. It began with a 45 minute procession of hundreds of deacons, priests, bishops and cardinals. There were even a few familiar faces…

Fr. Madey!!! My good buddy!

Fr. Madey!!! My good buddy!

Fr. John processing

Fr. John processing

In the Basillica

In the Basilica

The mass was also televised and we were later told by my parents and grandparents that our group was plainly visible several times during the broadcast. Awesome!

mass for life

We are the ones in the green!

The Celebrant

The Celebrant

The March

The next day was all about the march. We all had a nice breakfast together at a unique corner liquor store and then set off to participate in this amazing annual tradition. It was an incredibly cold day but it seemed to have no impact whatsoever on the numbers in attendance. Needless to say, I’ve never seen so many people together in one place. For that matter, I’m not sure where one could.

Marching through the city with hundreds of thousands of other passionate pro-lifers (mostly youth) was a moving and inspiring experience. It was powerful to see so many people from all over the country who were so passionate about the cause. Passionate enough to come all the way to D.C. on the coldest day of the year (or so it felt) and march through the city with smiles on their faces.

That everyone was so positive and compassionate was another inspiring aspect I took note of. Typically when I think of rallies and marches I picture angry mobs chanting their bitter protests and calling out the political leaders they feel at odds with. Yet that was nothing at all like the March For Life which was as peaceful as a protest could get. Everyone was praying, singing or chanting something positive and all were happy.

The rest

Puddingstone observing the U.S. capital

Puddingstone observing the U.S. capital

When the march was concluded, our group headed back to the hotel to thaw and rest. We were all frozen and exhausted and no one ended up doing much for the rest of the day.

The next day was also a blast. We started things off with another breakfast from the liquor store and then took off for a guided tour of the U.S. capital. I greatly enjoyed seeing this amazing national landmark and learning so much about our nation’s history while inside. The tour itself was not very long but was still impressive and memorable.

Following the capital tour we all hopped in some vans and were delivered to the National Holocaust Museum where we spent the afternoon. Our wonderful group leaders once again demonstrated how invaluable they were as the selection of the Holocaust Museum perfectly complimented the trip and the spirit of our mission. Reflecting on the tragedies perpetrated by the Nazis during the second world war against so many innocents certainly brought to mind the modern holocaust facing our country today and reaffirmed in us our commitment to fight for the unborn; the most innocent and helpless of all.

We wrapped up the trip with a nice dinner at an Irish pub and then marched our sore, blistered feet back to the airport.

The liquor store where we ate breakfast

The liquor store where we ate breakfast

Puddingstone in a fireplace

Puddingstone in a fireplace

Puddinstone posing with statues in the capital

Puddinstone posing with statues in the capital

Puddingstone waiting to tour the capital

Puddingstone waiting to tour the capital

Puddingstone eyeing my dinner

Puddingstone eyeing my dinner

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