Monday, November 30, 2015

Adoption series 2015 - A Father/Daughter Story - Tashley's Story











The last adoption story I am sharing here on the blog is one close to home.  My eldest daughter was adopted by my first husband.  Tashley has loved her father before he was  officially hers on paper.  We are both glad he chose to be her Dad. Here is her story in her words.


Hey there everyone, my name is Tashley, you all know my mom, Julie, pretty well, but this is my first time really introducing myself on her blog. 























As you all know, it is Adoption Awareness month, and although it’s not something I think about much, my father adopted me when I was two years old.  I say that I don’t think about it much because I can tell you first hand that there is no difference in the love shown to a child by adoption, rather than blood. Those who don’t know my story, don’t even know I’m adopted. 

My father was only 19 and taking on a responsibility that not many 19 year old guys would. I wouldn’t know it until many years later, but he sacrificed so much to be a father to me. Although he didn’t officially become my father on paper until I was over two, he was  my father while my mother was carrying me. He was there, in the hospital the day I was born. He took on the task of raising me as his own. He worked full time to support our family, while he attended school full time. He showed me more love than you can imagine.























I knew, at a young age that my dad had adopted me and that somewhere else in this world there was a man that shared my DNA. Years passed, our family grew, many changes occurred, but even with my parents’ divorce, my father stayed my father. He supported me through every stage of life, whether it was boys, getting good grades, introducing me to college, the struggles I faced during college or even when I told him that he was about to be a grandfather at the ripe age of 40.
My parents told me the story more than once. The story of how my father adopted me. The story where one man, wasn’t ready to be a father, yet this one, stepped up and became the best father I could ask for. Naturally, as I became a teen, I was curious about this other man. I wanted to know more, but it was a very touchy subject.

I remember I found out his first name, and I knew he was the same age as my parents, so I did what any teen would do…I snooped! I looked into my mom’s yearbooks and I found 3 guys with that name, I knew just by the picture which one he was, and that is pretty much all I had, were a couple old high school photos of him. When I moved out, I got his address and spent months perfecting a letter to him.  I remember not wanting to come off “needy” because honestly I didn’t need him, I had a father. But there was something in me that yearned for him to know I knew about him, I needed him to know I knew about the situation and that I was open to a conversation, at least. The day I received a response letter, well, let’s just say for once in my life I was speechless. It took me an hour to even open it. I tried to brace myself because there was no telling if I was about to read that he wanted nothing to do with me or not to contact him again or if he was actually going to want a father-daughter relationship that I wasn’t sure I was ready for. Eventually, I opened it, to my relief, it was a generally nice letter. He said he wondered if I would ever know about him, if he would ever have the opportunity to meet me. He told me about his wife and three sons. He told me that if I ever needed anything, not to be shy and that if it was something I wanted, we could meet. 

So I emailed him, and we set a time and place to get together. I don’t think I had ever been that nervous before. It was kind of calming to find out we had a few things in common. Looking at him I saw facial features that were similar and I even noticed we made similar gestures as we spoke and we even ordered similar food. It was weird, but calming. I felt comfortable with him. We hugged at the end of our meeting, which was awkward, but over the years, our hugs have became warm and our relationship has become a friendship. After knowing him for almost 10 years now, I am grateful for that opportunity, but at the same time, I know that my life was enriched by my father taking on the role he did.























My biological father wasn’t ready for that responsibility, but I was lucky enough to have someone in my life that was. My dad has shown me the strength it takes to be a parent, the love it takes to love a child that may not be of your own blood and the blessing that comes with it. I have used that knowledge in my life, especially now as a stepmother. I know, no matter what I do, my father is there behind me, standing strong and loving unconditionally.



Monday, November 23, 2015

Adoption Series 2015- Dropping the Step & Always Feeling Just A Parent - Michelle's Story

When I was contacted by Michelle to participate in the series this year I didn't hesitate at all to say yes! There are a couple reasons, I've experienced my own close relationship with a step-parent.  The other is that my oldest daughter was loved by a young man from the day she was born that didn't share her DNA.  I eventually married him and he adopted the little girl that had his heart from even before she was born.  Michelle and I attended high school together and I am so happy to share this story.  

Adoption comes in many forms and love can be felt between a parent and child without being carried in the womb or sharing of DNA.  Just as I have, Michelle has experienced loving her children.  The ones that she carried and the ones that she did not in the same manner.


Michelle met her son's father while in high school, he was older and graduated before she did.  They dated about year though.  During that time they had actually discussed children and what they would name them.  She mentioned that Anthony Michael would be her boy's name of choice.  Little did she know that the future would hold just that for her, a son named Anthony.
















Time had passed and Michelle was busy with college.  One day her mother let her know that someone had left a note on a vehicle at their home for her.  To her surprise it was from R, which she had not spoken to in three years!  In that time R had been married, had a child, and divorced.  Michelle and R began dating not long after and she found herself not only in love with R but that beautiful 18 month old boy Anthony Michael.  














The relationship grew, R and Michelle married.  Michelle took the role as mother quite seriously.  Not only because Anthony's biological mother didn't visit him hardly at all, but because it was meant to be.  It tore Michelle apart everyday, as she couldn't understand how someone wouldn't participate in their own flesh and blood's life.  She knew that God had a plan though.

Michelle felt like his mother, she cared for him like a mother would, but she wasn't legally able to take him to the doctor or sign forms or do any of the legal things a mother does.  The bond grew between them and around age 4 Anthony started asking why Michelle couldn't adopt him.














It had been two years since his biological mother had been in contact or seen him.  So Michelle and R started to discuss adoption with the biological mother.  Unfortunately she was not willing to allow Michelle to adopt Anthony.  Michelle stated she was devastated.  She found herself wondering if something happened to R, would she lose her son.  Anthony in all forms except legal was her son.  He was hers but she had no rights.
Confusion and worry were present often during this time.

At the age of 5, Anthony's father decided to try one more time to make some headway with the biological mother.  He knew how much it was tearing Michelle up.  This time, ten days later, they received a letter stating that Michelle could adopt Anthony!  Michelle was overjoyed that this precious child would be hers!

They contacted their attorney and forty-five days after receiving that letter Anthony Michael became Michelle's son (legally). She looks back on everything now and is so thankful to God for allowing her to be Anthony's mom.  She told me HE chose me to raise Anthony and love him.






















That is good stuff right there folks!  Thank you Michelle for sharing your adoption story with us!  It's inspiring and shows what a loving person you are! 

Thanks for stopping by!
Julie

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Kindness Cookies

The past few months have seemed like I have spent more time juggling my calendar and not really providing much kindness to others.  This makes me look back with some regret that I have allowed my schedule to be so full I've lost track of what is a key ingredient in my life.  

Fortunately, I have a tradition that another friend and I began a few years ago that needed to be completed to continue it as an annual event.  I quickly realized this last weekend and contacted my friend that helped last year.  I decided that filling glass jars might be a larger task than I felt up to and she has two littles, so we opted for Kindness Cookies!  






















We each made two types of cookies and came together this past Saturday hoping to bag the cookies, decorate the bags, and be on our way to share some kindness.  The November weather was quite cold and the wind was blowing as well, which is normal for Kansas.  This changed our plans but don't worry, the bags of cookies will still get dispensed!





























We decided to take them to church and not only the ones that we normally deliver to will enjoy them but a few others as well!  Making the cookies with my family, coming together with friends to share the work, and watching others enjoy the surprise was well worth the time!  This is one item on my calendar that will be there annually for sure!






















I hope this post has inspired you to show some kindness in some manner. It not only does wonders for the recipient but the one giving as well!


Thanks for stopping by!
Julie

Monday, November 16, 2015

Adoption Series 2015 - Robin & Scott

The next family in our adoption series is Robin and Scott.  Robin and I were classmates in high school.  I am so happy to be able to share their story of adoption.  This story includes a son that Robin gave birth to.  Many families grow their family through adoption before or after giving birth to a child.  It's done for many different reasons and today you get to hear theirs.  Just like many, their adoption story has twists and turns, but in the end joy was brought to their family!

In the fall of 2003, we had ended our attempts at fertility treatments to get pregnant.  I was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted.  I mentioned to my husband that I would love to adopt, I felt that God had shut (more like slammed) the door on pregnancy.  Yet I felt He was leading us to adoption.  Scott, at the time, was adamant he could not love a child that was not physically his.  I let it go for awhile, as I was in nursing school and just needed time to clear my head and not think about babies for awhile!  

One day Scott came home from work, (he owns a carpet store) and said he had measured someone’s house that had adopted. After visiting with them he was all over adopting!  I think God knew what he needed!  Like I said, I was in nursing school so it was the spring of 2004 before I got all our stuff to two attorneys.  It was hard balancing school and my family!  

We got a call from one attorney shortly after we submitted our paperwork. The birth mother had participated in using illegal drugs so the baby had some medical issues from that experience in the womb.  The mother had also been diagnosed with AIDS.  At that time, we did not feel we could handle caring for the child.  We did not proceed with it.  

The seasons changed and soon it was winter, I was working part time now as a nurse and really enjoying life!  One Sunday at the end of January, my husband mentioned that we should turn the baby’s room into an office. After all he didn’t think we would adopt, he had given up hope.  I left the room and cried!  

God's timing amazes me as two days later, we got a call from the attorney in Wichita.  He had a young girl who did not look at our profile, she only asked that we were catholic, mother works part time or less, we have pets, we had fertility issues and the kicker, was the baby was biracial.  We were elated to get the call!  We immediately said yes!  

That was February 1, 2005, the baby was due in early May.  In late March, the attorney called and said the birthfather may fight the adoption, we were devastated!  Not only that, the birth mom's mother had googled us and found out everything about us for $50.  Needless to say the birth mom was livid!  She wanted it a closed adoption.  The attorney was able to get the mom calmed down and things began to proceed.  

The birth mom went to Minnesota to live with a family they were close to so she could deliver there, as her dad was a physician in the area they live, so there would be no privacy.  It was decided to induce her on April 28th.

We purchased plane tickets to fly up that day, as she didn’t want us there for delivery, but we could be there later.  So, after all the uncertainties, I went baby shopping on Monday the 25th.  

As soon as I got home the attorney called and said things might be sooner!  We went and ate dinner and then I went to work on my older son’s float.  I got a call that the birth mom's water had broke and delivery would be soon!  I called my husband, we called the airlines, they would not budge on changing our tickets! So my husband said, that’s our son, he needs us there, we are driving! We packed, my brother came and got our 5 year old, we took the dogs to the vet and hit the road around 9 p.m.!  We stopped in Liberty, MO at 12:30 to sleep.  At 6:45 the attorney called and said he was born at 5:19 am and he was healthy!  We quickly got ready, grabbed breakfast, filled gas and was on the road again by 7:45 am!  We arrived at the hospital around 3:15 pm.

No use of this photo is allowed without approval from owner

















Our son was in a level 2 nursery and had one nurse who was with him the whole time for security.  They did not realize that we knew he was biracial, they were relieved when we told them we were already aware!  He was perfect!  

That evening the attorney called and had notified the birth dad.  He said he would fight for custody.  We were allowed to go home the next morning after he was circumcised, we drove the whole 10 hours!  After we got home the battle began.  I would feed him at night, and wonder how I could give him up, I prayed that God would not allow that to happen!

A hearing was set for the end of May.  We wanted to have our son baptized in the Catholic faith in early June.  The priest told us to go ahead with it, because baptism is a sign you are turning your child back over to God, for His will to be done, and he felt God would honor our faith!  

After the hearing we waited 4 weeks for a decision from the judge!  The attorney called in early July and told us we were granted our son!  We had to wait 30 days for the father to contest, before we could finalize the adoption.  Well, at the end of 30 days the Sedgwick County Courthouse was on lockdown so BTK could tell his crime stories.  So on August 26th, his 4 month birthdate he officially became ours! 

No use of this photo is allowed without approval from owner




















There is more to our story, so don't stop reading now!  For 3 years we heard nothing from any birthparents!  Then one day we got a call from the attorney,  the birth mom's family had googled themselves and found an online ad looking for our son, which mentioned the family’s name and that he was biracial.  But it was up to us what we wanted done, so we asked it be removed, and we get a health history and pictures from the dad.  He was married by this point and had a daughter exactly 1 year younger than our son.  Within 10 minutes he was at the attorney’s office with the required papers.  

The birthfather asked for pictures too. We sent a letter written from our son’s point of view about his life to that point along with pictures of him and sent it to the attorney for the dad.  We knew where things were going now!  A few weeks later we got a packet from the attorney and it had tons of pictures of the dad, his family, his daughter and wife, along with letters.  

Then a couple of weeks later, we got a call from the attorney, the birth father  was being sent to Afghanistan (he was in the Air Force) for a year.  We agreed to meet at the attorney’s office, we felt this was the least we could do for him. He is a great man, he truly cares, but unfortunately did not know how the laws work to keep his son.  He is perfectly happy with how it all ended up.  After the meeting we had them to our house for dinner, one thing, him and his wife have also included our older son as one of their kids too!  While he was serving, he was almost killed in the line of duty.  After his return we had regular dinners with them, they have watched our boys for us and we have watched their daughter for them.  

Unfortunately, he is in the military and so a few years ago, he was moved to Georgia!  We still keep in contact, he always calls on our son’s birthday, they remember both boys at Christmas and their birthday!  We had so many struggles, but God knew the grander plan and He knew what was in the future. We still don’t have contact with the birth mom, but we have mutual acquaintances that keep us informed as to what she is doing now.  We still send a Christmas letter to the attorney and current pictures every year, in hopes that some day she will want to meet him.  We were told that she said that if our son chose to meet her she would agree, she didn’t think he should ever suffer!  

Our son still does not know he is adopted, and honestly, I rarely think of him as that, he is ours, but when he questions it, I will be honest and tell him his unique story.   While adoption was wonderful for us, I do understand it truly is not for everyone.  To me, it was harder than labor, emotionally but in the end it was all worth it!  He is the perfect piece to our family puzzle, God truly knows what he is doing!  


















I'd like to thank Robin and Scott for sharing their wonderful story with us. They have a fine looking son and I agree, he was the perfect piece to their family puzzle!  May they have many blessings in the years to come!

Thanks for stopping by!
Julie

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Adoption Series 2015 - Advice from Koren










Koren became a mother in 2014 through an international adoption from South Korea.  I wrote about their adoption story this week.  Koren was open and offered so much information I felt that having two posts might benefit us all.  This is presented in a question/answer format.  Please feel free to comment with any questions or comments you might have, as always be respectful!


Since it was an international adoption what resources do you use or do you to teach your child about the heritage of Korea? 

The adoption agency we went through specializes in Korean and Chinese adoptions.  As a requirement of adoption we had to take classes, read, etc…  We met quite a few families in this process.  We were introduced to a family who already had an adopted boy from Korea and was going back around the same time as us to get new little boy.  We have stayed in touch with this family and find that they are a great match to our parenting style and can show us the ropes.  Also, our agency has family adoption day gatherings approximately once a season.  We have not attended one yet but hope to soon.  Also, Denver is pretty diverse so we have gone to a Korean festival and just keep our eyes open for interesting events.  They also have a Korean Heritage camp in the mountains that we have been invited too.   This takes place next Spring.

What experiences have you had when people learn that you adopted?  Would you mind sharing how you handle those whether positive or negative? 

It is very obvious that our son is adopted.  We’ve only had one bad experience and this happened prior to us adopting.  A friend of a friend found out we were adopting from Korea and started machine gun questioning me about everything and before I could answer any questions she was on to telling me that I would be stripping him of his identity especially because we were changing his name. 

Because of how this interaction started I actually didn’t engage much in this conversation.  This lady obviously had her mind made up, about something she knew nothing about, and I wasn’t going to change it.  I merely said: from everything I’ve read, the classes I’ve attended, and the people I’ve talked to who have gone through the process – EVERYONE changes their child’s name and this doesn’t seem to be a problem – and I walked off.  My personality does not need/lead me to fight.  I could tell that I was going to get nowhere with this person so I didn’t try.

Other than that we have had nothing but positive interactions regarding our adoption.  It also helps that Logan is so stinkin cute! I know some people are sensitive about how the question is asked: “is this your son” but I don’t get offended because you can tell from their tone they don’t mean to be insulting that they are just curious.

Parents that are looking into adoption or waiting for that phone call they have been chosen, what advice would you give them? 

I’m not sure there is any good advice for this.  It’s so stressful and you’re just longing to hear ANYTHING……..just try to remember to keep living your life.  Don’t live for the adoption.  Remember to keep going out with friends and keep doing activities/hobbies you like to do.  Maybe you don’t feel like it at the time but once you are meeting with friends or whatever a little bit of weight is gone for a little while.

When you were waiting to adopt or it was final, is there a special gift or something someone did that made it extra special? My sister gave me a necklace that says “Logan – Forever Family 12/1/14” I wear this all the time (and I’m not much of a jewelry person).  We were in Korea when we received custody and we had to stay there a few days to finalize things.  So no we didn’t really do any gifts.  Logan was enough of a gift and he had plenty of stuff waiting for him in his new bedroom.

Do you celebrate things such as Gotcha Day or Adoption Day? We are just coming up on our first Gotcha Day.  I do want to celebrate this but I’m not sure how yet.  A lady I know, who was domestically adopted, said her parents always gave her a little present and a cupcake.  The present wasn’t as extravagant as a birthday or Christmas present but just a little something to celebrate/acknowledge the day.  So I’m planning on doing something like that.

Adoption is expensive and the paperwork alone can be overwhelming.  Do you have resources you would recommend to help those considering adoption?

Buy a binder with those slip sheets so you can easily get your paperwork in and out.  Try to stay on top of the paperwork as it comes if possible.  I know that at the beginning you get a bunch of paperwork all at once.  I just did one little packet of papers every few days.  I didn’t try to overwhelm myself by doing it all in one day or as fast as I could.  I didn’t go super slow but what’s a few days….you have time to breath in between packets of paper. 

To help with expenses we did a “go fund me” page.  Also, our friends helped us put on a BBQ to donate money.

Share any tidbits of your adoption story you care to here. Anything from where you were when you got the call you had been chosen, or when your child had questions about being adopted. They can even be your experiences as a first time parent. 
Again, as I said earlier, remember to live life as the adoption is going on.  It really does help to get out there and see friends and such.  I wanted to just dwell on what could I do to make things go faster…..there was nothing I could do.  So I needed my husband to remind me to keep going out and doing things instead of shutting myself in and worrying.  I have told many people that this was the hardest thing I had to go through but the sting of it all gets less and less everyday as we enjoy Logan more and more everyday. 

























I can relate to Koren's answers in so many ways, even though our adoption was domestic. Thank you Koren for sharing your insight and truthfulness in our adoption series this year! And yes, Logan is so stinkin' cute! :)

Thanks for stopping by!
Julie


Monday, November 9, 2015

Adoption Series 2015 - Koren and Chris- International Adoption

Our guests today on the blog are a young couple that grew their family through international adoption.  They made the journey to Korea after waiting a long time.  The following post is authentic in facts and emotions and I appreciate them being willing to share their story with us.  

I'd like to introduce you to Koren, Chris, and their son Logan.  



Koren and Chris' story began back in their college days, which eventually led them to be married in 2005.  After three years into the marriage they decided it was time to grow their family!  For a year they attempted to became pregnant which was not successful.  They met with a fertility doctor. Koren would not be able to carry a child without assistance.  They attempted three times, using all the eggs gathered to become pregnant through IVF.  This was not successful so rather than gamble, they chose to make their way into the land of adoption!

Koren shared with me that they chose international adoption because they felt leery of the US adoption process. The other reason is that they did not want to share their child.  She wanted their child to be fully a part of their family.  I commend Koren for being honest and sharing her true feelings.  Koren and Chris were truthful from the beginning and stayed the course to what they knew was right for their family.  Each family and what works for them is different.  

Choosing South Korea for an international adoption was done so because at the time there was not a long waiting period.  The children are placed in foster care at the beginning of their lives.  The thought is that while they will be attached to their foster parents, they are given all the love and attention they need and it's an easier transition.  This in comparison to orphanages that is.

Logan was six months old when Koren and Chris signed up for the program.  The process was to take a year and a half and for an additional fee they could have someone from Korea accompany him over here to the United States.  
























After a few months in, the process Korea had in place changed.  The entire  process was shut down while Korea re-wrote the rules.  They were finally informed that Korea had decided to add a few more steps.  Not only would social workers there be reviewing the files more thoroughly, but after their approval the file would be sent to a family law judge in Korea for review! There were a great deal of people  waiting for their paperwork to be approved and then also for a court date.  The court dates were only done twice a week and they only had two judges!

Another change in the course of this families adoption journey was that they would have to travel to Korea twice.  On the first trip they met their child and then would go to the court date where the judge would ask them a series of questions.  Most wait times for approval were two weeks.

From the time they signed up with the adoption agency to when they actually brought Logan home it was a two year wait.  Logan came home with them when he was 2.5 years old. That was December of 2014.


















Adoption is not always an easy journey as we can see from Koren and Chris' story.  The stress levels were increased by the change of S. Korea policies and the wait time in any adoption is hard.  But they made their way through and it created a family with a beautiful little boy they can call their own!

Be sure to check out Wednesday's post where we share some advice that Koren offers when adopting!

Thanks for stopping by!

Julie



Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Adoption Series 2015 - Our Stop Along the Way

We've started the adoption series and the response has been great! We hope you enjoy this little different post about our adoption journey this year!  

Since we have already shared ours previously, today I am going to write about the stop we made on our "growing the family" journey.  This "stop" was on our way, not after our adoption!

Milton and I married in 2003, prior to our marriage we did discuss growing our family.  This was important, especially to Milton as he was not a father yet.  Although he loved his step-daughters, they were half grown by the time we married. He longed to have child that would continue the family legacy. I was unable to carry a child any longer.



















About a year after we were married I felt that it was time to move forward.  We were both already in our 30's and I had started my life of being a mommy at age 17.  I began researching surrogacy.  One of our good friends offered to help us in our gestational surrogacy.  

For those of you that do not know what that is let me explain. The egg and sperm were retrieved from Milton and myself and the child was created in a dish.  It is then placed, well actually a few are placed, inside the woman that was going to carry our child/children for us.  The hope is that all will go well and good news is given a short time later that the surrogate is pregnant.

This was not the case for Milton and I.  We attempted twice to create a child from our own DNA. Due to the emotional and financial hardship on us we decided not try any longer in this manner to grow our family.  

I want to mention here that the person that offered to be our surrogate was married with a family of her own.  She love us and we love her.  There is something special about her and her family that they would do this for us.  I can still see the look on her face in my dining room when she had to tell us she was not pregnant.  It hurt her as much as it hurt us.  But with all things God has a plan.  


We took some time to grieve and although my husband thought we would not have children together, I kinda knew differently. Here is where I get really honest.  I felt guilty for not being able to carry a child for him.  I felt this before and after our attempt at gestational surrogacy.  I knew that I would not be able to live with myself if I did not try other avenues to grow our family.  Even if I was way into being a mother (teen children) and my 30's.

You have to remember that I started early at being a mother and had a 13 year old when we started the adoption process.  I thought I was done when in 1992 I gave birth to my now middle daughter.  Let me tell you though, when my heart was changed it was for the best.



















We did not know much about adoption but I did LOTS of research.  I educated people even if they didn't want to hear our story! :)   We waited two years and our little bundle of joy arrived just before we were about to call it quits! (No joke folks!)

Our experience with fertility treatments was not easy.  My spouse gave me shots, our friend took shots, we made many trips to the clinic an hour away from where we lived.  We had our hopes brought up high and sunk to the lowest of low.  We fought, we cried, we grieved.  It is not an easy path and I have a whole new outlook since taking that stop in our adoption journey for those that go through fertility treatments.  It takes a great deal of strength.


As I witness that middle daughter of mine deal with her own infertility issues I know the road ahead will not be an easy one. As her mom, I wish I could fix it for her, I want to make the journey easy.  I pray for her and my son in law daily that God's plan occurs and that whatever that is, they will find joy and peace in it.   

Read more about PCOS at www.pcosgirl.com or click on the photo!





















To our friend that was our surrogate we always feel thankful. When someone loves you that much to offer to share their womb and their body and their time, you know they really do love you.

I hope sharing our journey helped someone today.  If you have questions, please feel free to comment or email us at betweenthesunsets@gmail.com.  

Thanks for stopping by,
Julie & Milton