Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It's Official!!

About a month ago I sat down and wrote a terribly long blog post to update our story.  It took me a couple of hours to write it and I felt like I had done a good job explaining all that had gone on since my last update.  I saved the draft and intended to proof read it and add some pictures before I posted it.  Today I deleted it.  I felt like it was a little too personal to post and that it may have portrayed Ella's birth mom negatively, even though it had nothing to do with her.  When I reread it, I kept in mind that this is something that Ella may read some day and I want her to know that her birth mom gave us the most incredible gift when she made such a tough decision and that we love her for it.  End of story.

But since this is the story of how we came to be a family, I feel like the important parts should be included.  And the 110 days that passed between May 17 and August 27 were very important.  For those 110 days we thought we were going to lose our daughter.  We received the terrifying news on May 17 that Ella may not be able to stay with us.  It wasn't because of anything we had done or anything her birth mom had done.  There was just a set of circumstances that we all feared, but didn't let deter us when we brought her home in January, that had come to the surface and our future with Ella hung in the balance.

For almost four long months we got our legal ducks in a row and prepared to fight for our daughter.  We cried, prayed, held Ella tight, held each other tight, pushed each other away, prayed, fought, cried, and prayed some more.  I'm a pessimist by nature but I knew in my heart that God hadn't brought this little girl into our lives the way He did just to rip her from our arms four months later.  I can't even begin to explain the fear, frustration, and uncertainty we felt knowing that at any moment we could receive the word that our daughter was no longer going to be ours.  Those of you who are parents may be able to imagine.  The child that you have loved with all your heart for four months and who has changed your life in every way, may or may not be able to stay with you.  It was terrifying.  Terrifying really doesn't even begin to cover it.

On August 27 we finally received the good news that Ella was not going anywhere and we could proceed with our adoption.  The relief we felt is almost as indescribable as the fear we felt during the wait!  We could finally take a breath after four months of waiting.  We could begin to look toward the future and not feel like we were living on a day to day basis with our daughter.  We could let our guards down again and get back to our perfectly uneventful life that we had grown to love!

A little over a month after our good news, Chris, Ella, and I (along with our close family members) headed downtown to the Circuit Courthouse with our attorney and stood in front of a judge to tell him that we wanted nothing more than to love Ella and be her parents for the rest of our lives.  And on that day, we became her legal parents and she became a Bay!  Finally!  Our eight month long process had come to a close and a new beginning opened up for us!  No more legal business...just love for our family!  It was the best birthday gift I could have ever imagined!

We would like to thank our friends and family who never stopped praying and supporting us through this process.  We never would have been able to hold it together without all the encouragement we were given.  I remember how agonizing that time was for our family but I also know that it is because of Ella and this experience that my husband and his grandfather gave their lives to Christ and made our family and relationships even stronger.  Everything truly happens for a reason! 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Where Are We In The Process?

Today is the last day of my maternity leave.  I could technically take two more weeks but I've chosen to save those just in case our adoption makes it to court this year.  I hoped that my last weekend off would be spent with Chris and Ella, cuddling and doing fun family things...but instead we've spent it ripping out carpet and putting down new floors.  Ugh.  I wanted to take a minute to get our story up to the present, because I'm sure this whole working mom thing is gonna be harder than it sounds!

The Monday after Isabella came home with us, *Jane* went to court.  The judge would not allow her to sign a voluntary termination of parental rights because she felt like it was too soon to make that decision.  She set another court date for the following month.  In the meantime, Chris and I talked to our attorney about what we should do.  He said that since this is a kinship adoption, there was a possibility that the state would pay the fees and do the homestudy required for adoption and not just temporary custody.  After a little investigating, we found out that you have to make less than $40,000 per year as a household to qualify for this "streamllined" adoption.  Our attorney suggested we hire an adoption agency and gave us several suggestions.  One of the numbers he gave us led us to Leigh at Heart to Home and she came to meet with us to get the ball rolling.

To be approved by the state for adoption, you have to let them know everything about you.  You have the legal part (child abuse and neglect check, Kentucky State Police check, FBI fingerprinting and background check, etc.)  and the personal financial part (credit references, paycheck stubs, tax information).  We had to have letters from our employers, the vet to ensure our dogs were up to date with vaccinations, and physical exams. We had to fill out a Family Profile which was page after page of questions.  Where did you meet?  When?  How long did you date before you were married?  What do you like about your partner?  What would you change?  How do you fight?  And the list goes on and on.  We also had to answer questions about our plans for parenting.  How do you plan to discipline?  How do you plan to talk to them about their adoption?  How do you plan to talk to them about their birth parents?   We also had to provide three letters from personal references and have another home study conducted.  None of the things we were asked to do were particularly hard, but they were time consuming and a little intrusive at times.  Add taking care of a newborn to the equation and you'll understand why it took nearly two months to complete the process. 

Tomorrow, the Kentucky State Police check should be back and our adoption agency will be submitting our home study report to the state.  At that point we wait for approval.  After approval is granted (which could take several months), we will file a petition for adoption after Ella has been in our home for 6 months.  That will be on July 29, 2011.  Before we can file the petition to adopt, we must have Jane's parental rights terminated.  At the follow up court date, the judge told her again to take some more time to think about her decision.  I'm not sure why she feels so strongly that she wait, but all we can do is what she says. 

It's been a busy and emotional journey and we aren't even halfway to our destination.  We will be lucky if the adoption is final in August.  Until then and every day after we will just continue to love this baby girl and take care of her and spoil her completely rotten!  We love her so much and can hardly wait for the day that she shares our last name and we never have to look back! 

For the next several months we will need your prayers.  Please keep us in your thoughts as we continue along this road.  We hope everything will continue to move along smoothly.  I'll do my best to keep this updated as we have more information.  I'll leave you with a picture of the sweet baby girl that I am so blessed to wake up to each morning!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Welcome Home!

After our shopping trip Friday night, we went home to get everything ready.  My friend Brandi and her husband Chris came over to bring the Pack and Play they had so generously bought for us.  We set up her temporary bed in our room and strapped the car seat base into my car (Chris had researched the crash test ratings for both of our cars and surprisingly the Scion was safer)!  We were as prepared as we could be when we went to bed that night!

Saturday morning Chris had to work.  We were told the nurse would call when the pediatrician made rounds and signed her discharge paperwork.  I picked up Brandi and we headed out for a little last minute shopping!  We got a few things that we had overlooked the night before and I asked Brandi a million questions!  When I got home, I packed a diaper bag and straightened up, anxiously awaiting the call from the nurse!  Around noon, my phone rang and it was the call we had been waiting for!  The nurse said the doctor had signed the paperwork and Isabella was ready to come home!  I called Chris and he left work early.  When he got there, we grabbed the diaper bag and the car seat and hopped in the car.  

On the way to the hospital we called the minister who had married us just two months before.  We talked to him for most of the drive.  He voiced his concerns about our new marriage and said that while a new baby wasn't the ideal situation, he knew that we were in a strong, healthy marriage and he had no doubt that we would be fantastic parents.  We talked about ways that we could continue to build a strong foundation for our marriage while we were building a strong foundation for our baby girl.  He suggested family counseling to prepare ourselves for the questions and issues that will come with adopting a child.  Before we got off the phone, he prayed with us and promised to continue to pray for our new family!

We arrived at the hospital around 2 pm and headed straight to the nursery with our diaper bag and car seat.  This time we knew we wouldn't be leaving empty handed.  We walked in and I scooped up Isabella and sat down with Chris and the nurse to go over discharge paperwork.  We talked all about feeding and changing, bathing and sleeping.  We signed the paperwork and verified our custody order with the hospital social worker.  We were ready to go!  We changed her diaper and her clothes and strapped her into her car seat.  That Saturday, Isabella was 13 days old.  No one had been to visit her since the day after she was born when *Jane* left the hospital.  It made me so sad to think that she had been all alone with no one holding her for nearly two weeks, but that was clearly not the case!  As we were walking out the door of the nursery, several nurses gathered around.  They had all become very attached to our baby girl in the last two weeks, often taking turns holding her while they did paperwork.  They gave us things they had made for her, hats and bibs, and loaded us up with diapers and bottles!  I will never forget one nurse who took me in her arms and gave me the sweetest hug.  With tears in her eyes, she said "We've been praying for someone to love this baby girl and we're so glad our prayers have been answered.  Congratulations, Mommy".   With that, we were all crying!  Isabella's nurse carried her in her car seat to the door where Chris had pulled the car up.  We clicked her car seat into the base and I hopped in the backseat with her and we were headed home.  With our daughter.  :)

We got home that afternoon and settled in.  My dad and his wife came down to bring us a rocking chair and meet their new grand baby!  Chris was a nervous wreck.  He ran around like a crazy person all night long, checking and rechecking our stock of diapers, formula, and other supplies.  I was considerably more calm than he was which shocked me since I'm usually the one over reacting and he's usually the one calming me down!  Isabella wasted no time breaking in the couch with a little vomit action and we laughed about the fact that it was the first of many messes we would be cleaning up.  We took turns holding and loving on her until it was finally time to say goodbye to our visitors and head to bed.  That night Isabella woke up twice.  Every three hours she was up and ready to eat but went back to sleep quickly each time.  It was a pleasant surprise for me since I had been preparing myself to be up all night with a baby that refused to sleep!  

Sunday we had a few more visitors and continued to adjust to life as new parents.  We were both tired but so happy to have our baby home.  For the first few days, I cried every time I looked at Isabella.  Chris thought I was crazy and it was hard for him to understand that I was just happy and so in love with our daughter...and maybe a little sleep deprived!  Those first few days, we also had something extra on our plate that a lot of new parents don't have to think about.  We began the long journey that would lead to our legally becoming a family.  The adoption process.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nice to Finally Meet You!

Friday morning, Chris and I woke up at 5:30 to get ready for our day.  We were in the bathroom getting ready and I asked him "Do you hear that?".  "Hear what?"...."The last time it will ever be completely silent in this house!".  We were both nervous and neither of us knew what to say.   We had an hour and a half drive ahead of us.  We were picking up *Jane* and heading to our meeting with the social worker.   It was going to be a long day.

We picked up Jane and her mom that morning at their home.  It was the first time I had ever met them.  I didn't know what to say to her in the car.  I was afraid to say anything at all, for fear of saying the wrong thing or upsetting her.  I couldn't imagine how she was feeling.  She was doing such an incredibly difficult thing.  An unselfish thing.  The right thing.

We got downtown and went into our meeting where we all sat around a table and discussed the situation.  The goal of the meeting was to make sure no one was making a quick decision that they would later regret.  We all needed to be on the same page.  Jane told us and the social worker that she knew she was unable to provide this baby with all the things she would need and she knew we were more than capable.  Her mind was made up and she knew she was doing the right thing.  But it's not always as easy as just signing some papers and Voila! you're parents.  The social worker said the best approach was to go to court that afternoon and ask the family court judge to grant Chris and me emergency custody and to meet again on Monday to sign a termination of parental rights.  Everyone agreed and the meeting came to a close.

As we were leaving our meeting, we told Jane that we were going to the hospital to meet Isabella and asked her if she would like to join us.  She was quiet for a minute and then told us that she didn't think she wanted to go.  I understood why she made that decision.  I have never been pregnant.  I've never carried a child for nine months or given birth.  But I can only imagine the bond you form and how hard it would be to see that child again and know that you just weren't able to take her home.  We took the two of them back to their home and I got out of the car and hugged Jane.  With a giant lump in my throat, all I could say was thank you.  That wasn't even close to everything I wanted to say, but it was the most important part.  I would never be able to explain what a gift she was giving us.

Our next stop was the hospital to meet Miss Isabella!  In the meeting that morning, Jane had given us the proofs of the photos that were taken of her in the hospital!  She was the cutest little thing I had ever seen...and I'm not just saying that!  She had a full head of brown hair and big blue eyes!  We couldn't wait to meet her!  The night before, we had made a quick trip out to pick up a few things to take her.  We knew we weren't bringing her home til Saturday and we wanted her to have some new outfits for her last two days in the hospital and a soft blanket that was not hospital issue.  So we grabbed her things and headed toward the nursery!

For three days, I'd been so worried about whether or not I had that maternal instinct.  I worried that since I didn't carry this baby and I had so little time to prepare for her, I might not know what to do or even know how to love her like I should.  To say I was nervous walking in to meet her is an understatement.  We got to the door and peeked inside and I saw the nurse holding a baby against her chest.  I knew right away that was my daughter.  We washed our hands and I walked over and took the sweet baby girl into my arms.  She was so small and so perfect.  We made our way to the back of the nursery, where there were two rocking chairs, and just looked at this precious baby girl who was changing our lives in such a big way.  I held her for a while and finally passed her to her daddy.  I never thought I could love my husband any more than I did until I saw him holding our baby girl in his arms with a proud smile on his face.  I will never forget that moment.  All the concerns that I had about loving her or knowing how to be a mother were instantly erased and I knew that I was meant to be this little girl's mother.  She was my daughter and I would do everything I could to love her, protect her, and give her everything she deserved. 

We spent about six hours taking pictures and videos, texting friends and family members, cuddling and kissing our new baby girl.  I fed her and changed her diaper.  We changed her clothes and wrapped her in her new blanket.  She was perfect!  We picked the nurse's brain all afternoon, asking her a million questions.  We both had friends with children and Chris had two younger step brothers but we were new parents and we wanted to be sure that we were doing everything right.  I'm sure the nurse was ready to see us go, but neither of us wanted to leave.  We talked about staying the night but then we thought about all the things we needed.  We didn't have one single thing in our home that a baby would require!  We kissed Isabella and hugged her goodbye, promising to see her the next day.  We returned to our car and started the long drive home.  I think I called everyone in my phone to tell them about my perfect baby girl!


From the hospital, we went straight to Buy Buy Baby for a serious shopping spree!  If you've never been there, it's a very overwhelming place!  Imagine Bed Bath and Beyond but with all things baby.  Stocked floor to ceiling, wall to wall, everything you could ever need, and lots of things you don't!  We walked every inch of that store.  We agreed to just get the essentials, but for a baby...there are a lot of essentials!  At one point during our shopping trip, an employee approached us and asked "Are you two okay?  You look like you need to sit down!".  We used her knowledge for a while and a few hours and lots of money later, we walked out, confident that we were ready to bring home our baby the following day!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

You Mean This Saturday?

On what seemed like any other Tuesday in January, I was at lunch with my coworkers when Chris called me.  If you know the two of us, you know that we never talk on the phone.  We text constantly and when he is working, we email.  We save phone calls for when we have a quick question or an emergency.  So, when I saw his name on my phone, I thought something was wrong.  I picked up quickly and he asked if I could talk.  It was loud in the cafeteria but I didn't think this would be a terribly important conversation so I stayed where I was.  He sounded stressed, like he had something on his mind.  I asked if something was wrong and he said "Do you still want to have a baby?".  I almost fell out of my chair.  He explained to me that *Jane* had had the baby his mom had told us about and she had gotten in touch with him that morning to tell us that the baby was being discharged from the hospital on Saturday.  She told him if we were still interested, she wanted us to be the ones to take her home.  All I could manage was "You mean this Saturday?". 

I can't begin to explain all the emotions I felt at that moment.  I excused myself from the table and practically ran back to the lab.  I am fortunate enough to work with my close friend Leslie.  She knew about the possibility of this from a few months before and I ran straight to her.  I was shaking and sweating and as soon as I saw her, I started crying.  I could barely tell her what was going on.  We shut the door to her office and I shakily explained what Jane had said.  Isabella was born on January 16 and was still in the hospital due to a minor health concern.  She was set to be discharged this weekend.  Jane had spoken with a social worker and told her that she wanted us to be the ones to take Isabella home and proceed with adoption.  I did my best to pull myself together and get back to work, but as the information kept coming from Chris, who had spoken with the social worker and already contacted an adoption attorney, I could barely focus. 

I found my supervisor, who I have become very close to in the last 5 years, and asked her if she had time to talk.  Not only did I want her advice, but I needed to fill her in since maternity leave may be in my near future.  We spent about an hour in an exam room crying, talking, and hugging.  She told me that she supported me and she would make sure my maternity leave was taken care of.  I called Chris again and told him maternity leave would be no problem.  He filled me in on what he'd found out since the last time we had spoken.  The social worker had let him know that since this was a step-family member, he would need documentation to prove the relation.  He had to track down birth certificates, marriage certificates, and divorce decrees.  We were also informed that we would need a home study before we would be allowed to bring her home.  We would have to provide bank statements, paycheck stubs, child abuse and neglect checks, state background checks, etc., and we would need to meet with Jane and the social worker, all before we could bring home this baby girl.  What a huge amount of work we had ahead of us, all to be completed in just a few days.

That night, when Chris got home from work, we were both very quiet.  I think we were both so overwhelmed, we didn't know what to say.  When we started talking, we both expressed our concerns.  We were scared to death.  Just a few weeks before, we had talked about all the reasons we weren't ready for a baby and here we were, bringing a baby girl home in four days.  We discussed all the issues and what we were going to do about them.  By the end of the night, we had as firm a plan as you can put together in an evening when you've just found out you're having a baby so soon!  We both had a pretty fitful night's sleep and headed back to work the next day.  Chris set up a home study with a social worker here in Lexington who had volunteered to stop by after work on Thursday, just so we didn't have to change our schedules.  He also scheduled a meeting with Jane and a social worker for Friday morning.  We finished our workday after staying in near constant communication and headed home again.  I wanted to go shopping.  I felt an overwhelming need to get ready for this baby and buy all the things she needed, but level headed Chris thought it was more important to straighten up the house and get all the documents together for the following evening.  After all, if the home study didn't go well, we wouldn't be bringing home a baby anyway! 

On Thursday, I decided it was time to tell my coworkers.  I think they all knew something big was happening with me, but they weren't sure what.  One had even asked me if I was pregnant!  Close...but no!  My supervisor gathered everyone in the office and I told them that Chris and I were being given the opportunity to adopt a baby girl and if all went well, I would be on maternity leave beginning the next day.  Everyone was thrilled for us!  There were tears and hugs and a list began circulating immediately for people to sign up for gifts!  I seriously have the best coworkers.  That afternoon they all wished me luck with our home study and our meeting with Jane the next morning.

Our home study went perfectly.  The social worker was so sweet and understanding.  She talked with us about what this meant and asked us lots of questions.  She collected all the documents she had requested and took what seemed like a million pictures of our home.  At the end of the meeting, I asked her if she thought it would be silly for us to go shopping for the baby and she said we better...since we would be bringing Isabella home this weekend!  The social worker had set up a password with the nursery and we were able to call and speak to Isabella's nurse that evening about how she was doing.  It was good to hear that she was doing well and should be able to come home on Saturday.  It was also very scary!  A baby!  In TWO DAYS!!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

We'll Think About It

The afternoon of our wedding reception is a blur.  I don't know if I blame the champagne or the stress and excitement of watching a wedding we'd spent months planning flash by in what seemed like minutes!  One thing I do remember was when my brand new husband came to me toward the end of the evening and asked me if I wanted to adopt a baby!  I thought it was a strange time to talk about adoption, but I listened to his story.

During the mother/son dance, his mom (who has a tendency to exaggerate) told him that one of their family members was pregnant and wasn't able to care for the baby.  She said she had already told her that Chris and I wanted to adopt.  What?!?  While Chris and I had discussed our desire to adopt, we weren't planning on pursuing it for several years.  Chris wanted to finish his degree and save some money and we wanted to spend some time as newlyweds before we started talking about babies!  He told me that his mom was probably exaggerating but he told her we would think about it.  We didn't think it was something that we needed to discuss any further.  The rest of our wedding day flew by and early the next morning, we were off to Jamaica!

For the week of our honeymoon, we relaxed.  We swam, we ate too much, we drank, we danced, and had an amazing time.  But we also had several serious conversations.  Neither of us could stop thinking about what his mom had told him.  We wondered if what she had said was true.  We discussed what we would do if this scenario really did play out.  Would we take the baby?  Were we ready?  We were newlyweds.  We had only been married a few days and by the time the baby was born we would only have been married a couple months.  We finally decided that we needed to enjoy the rest of our honeymoon and talk about it when we got home.


After the honeymoon, we returned to real life.  We went back to work and resumed our daily routine as newlyweds.  Occasionally, the subject of this potential adoption would come up and we would talk for a while.  After a month, when we still hadn't heard anything from this family member, the conversations slowly came to an end.  We assumed that this was just another misunderstanding or exaggeration on his mom's part.

For the next month, I came down with a serious case of baby fever!  It seemed like everyone I saw, scanned, and talked to was pregnant!  I had never really been one of those girls who dreamed about marriage and babies, but my husband had changed my mind about the marriage part and I think the baby we had spent a month talking about had changed my mind about the baby part too.  I began to beg Chris to have a baby.  Every day I would bring it up in some way or another.  Whether it was a joke, a comment in passing, or a serious conversation, I was constantly talking about babies.  Finally, when Chris had had enough, he confronted me and told me that there was no way we were ready for a baby.  We needed more savings, we needed to do some things to our house, we needed a new car, he needed to finish school and find a new job, I needed to talk to my doctor and see how my Crohn's disease would be affected by pregnancy and he needed to talk to his to see if his pituitary issue could be hereditary.  So many practical things that he was thinking about and all I was thinking about was bows and nurseries.  I decided that he was probably right and eventually dropped the subject. 

I think I went a whole week without talking about babies before Tuesday, January 25.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Our 2010 Whirlwind!

I guess the best place to begin our story is at the beginning, which wasn't too long ago!  I met my husband, Chris in January of 2010!  He worked at Chase bank and I was a customer there.  I went in one Monday to take care of some issues and he just happened to be the one to help me.  I was immediately attracted to him and his sense of humor!  I flirted excessively for the hour that I spent in his office.  I texted my friend Brandi when he stepped out to tell her about the cute banker I'd met!  She encouraged me to ask him out since he wasn't wearing a wedding band, but I was just plain chicken.  When I left the bank, I already regretted not asking him if he'd like to get together, so the next day I found his business card and sent him an email...what's the worst that could happen, right?  Well, he responded right away and told me that he was in a relationship.  Ouch!  Shot down! 

Chris and I stayed in touch over the next several weeks and he explained to me that his relationship was ending.  At the end of February, when he was officially single, we had our first date. Well, we had such a good time on our first date, that two days later we went on a second date, and the day after that, a third!  If Chris were telling this story, he'd say I showed up to his house on our first date and never left.  That's pretty close to the truth...hey, when you know, you know!

Four and a half months after our first date, on July 6th, Chris asked me to be his wife and I had never been happier!  My Mom's only stipulation when he asked for her blessing was that we wait until January because she thought it was important that we know each other for at least a year.  But four months later, on November 20th, we stood in front of our family and friends and became husband and wife, and my mom had never been more proud!

That afternoon at our reception, our current story began...