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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Why I absolutely cannot recommend adoption

I want you to know I absolutely cannot recommend adopting.
Financially, you'll have to make some adjustments by adding a child to your home. You might end up with a child who has special needs. And some of those needs might not show up for years down the road! Physically, it can be exhausting to take care of an additional child. And their emotional needs can be downright draining. You'll have other adults in your life telling you what you should do with your child, and what you shouldn't. You'll have people asking personal questions about your own fertility and family planning methods. Honestly, you risk a pretty significant loss if you grow to love a child, and then you lose them. 

 I guess by that standard, I have to say I absolutely do not recommend getting pregnant either.
Financially, you'll have to make some adjustments by adding a child to your home. You might end up with a child who has special needs. And some of those needs might not show up for years down the road! Physically, it can be exhausting to take care of an additional child. And their emotional needs can be downright draining. You'll have other adults in your life telling you what you should do with your child, and what you shouldn't. You'll have people asking personal questions about your own fertility and family planning methods. Honestly, you risk a pretty significant loss if you grow to love a child, and then you lose them. (And with pregnancy, you put yourself at some pretty serious health risks too.)

So yeah. Growing your family -- pretty risky business. And I can't totally recommend it.
Other than to say -- it is absolutely, 100% worth the risk.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fostering-to-Adopt: Our story, Part 1

Our Maddy.
On the vacation where we truly started the foster care process.

Today, I saw a post on Creating a Family's Facebook page on the merits of adopting from foster care. And, naturally, there are several comments talking about how it's unethical to foster-to-adopt, and it's not in the best interest of children or families. And there are equally as many comments on how it's the perfect way to adopt and costs absolutely nothing.

Since I can't whole-heartedly agree with either sentiment, I thought I'd take some time to tell you about our experience with foster care.

(And -- it's probably long overdue anyway.) :)

Plus -- I know many of you (my readers) struggle with infertility or the inability to keep a pregnancy. If you are already wondering about adopting, I really want you to have this information.

First, a few statistics.

According to AdoptUSKids, "each year more than 20,000 children age out of the foster care without being adopted. Today there are 104,000 children in foster care waiting to be adopted ranging in age from less than a year old to 21."

And just how many children are in foster care, anyways?

"More than 250,000 children in the U.S. enter the foster care system every year. While more than half of these children will return to their parents, the remainder will stay in the system. Most of these children are living with foster families, but some also live in group facilities."

Ok -- just in case you didn't really get that . . . I'm going to repeat it.

A quarter of a million children enter foster care every year. EVERY YEAR.

Got it? Quarter of a million.
Like -- A. Lot. Of. Kids.

Half go to their original families. Half stay in the system until they age out or are adopted.

So that's 125,000 children every year that will need a new family.

Just to make sure we're all on the same page here . . . there are A LOT of kids that need a home.

You likely know some foster children and don't even realize it. Most of us foster parents don't go around actively saying, "Hi -- this is so-and-so. She's my foster child." (Actually, in my state, it's illegal to do so. For good reason. So really, there are more kids you run into who are in the system than you probably ever realized.)

Alright -- so now that we've got some statistics out of the way, I'm going to ask you to do me a favor. Take a short little break here, and read THIS post on why I chose to adopt from foster care.

OK -- are you back now? Fabulous.

So, for my family . . . we choose to adopt from foster care because we wanted to make a difference in a vulnerable child's life. For US -- it did involve some sort of "rescue mentality." (Some people are critical of that -- but that's my heart, and I'm being true to my journey.) I will say at this point, that some people adopt from foster care not necessarily to rescue a child, but because they want to add to their family. There is no judgment from me either way on what your motivation is. Both, to me, are equally valid motivations.

Now that you know the why, I'm going to tell you our "how."

When Maddy was almost 2, I felt strongly that we should start classes for foster care. Ryan was on board. I contacted the state, and they sent me a little package with very little information. Mostly just a case worker's contact info, and the class schedule. They told me (over email, I believe) to sign up for a class. So I did.

We got babysitting the first night of class, and drove to the building the class was held. Only to find a sign that said that DSHS was closed that day for a state holiday.

"What?? How did a state employee tell me to register for a class that was supposed to be held in a closed building due to a holiday?" And just like that, I decided that if the state couldn't get it together enough to actually get me to a class correctly, there was no heck of the way I was letting the state into my home. I contacted the social worker about my dismay -- and didn't even hear back again for about 6 months. And it was another email, kinda like, "Hey -- we missed you at class half-a-year ago. Are you still interested in foster care?" I didn't respond.

And that was that. At least for while.

At work, two friends started the process to adopt from foster care. They had gone through an agency called Youth For Christ. I was still skeptical -- but after watching how different their experience was, I asked for more information.

While I was gone on vacation, I contacted Youth For Christ, and we ended up chatting for about an hour on what our family was looking for. When I got home, I had a very detailed package waiting for me with tons of information on foster care and adoption. I was impressed at the difference I saw right away between working with the state and an agency. (I'll talk more about the perks of using an agency in a subsequent post.)

Ryan was again on board, and we started the paperwork right away. And there was A LOT of it. (And by a lot, I kinda mean like the whole 1/2 a million statistic. A LOT!!)

It took me several months to finish all the paperwork. We had a home inspection. We completed our state's requirement of a 36-hour-class. (Which, by the way, is like taking on another full-time job in one week.) We became certified in CPR and first-aid. We got finger-printed and had background checks. We had several friends and family become references for us. We had a home inspection, and did a homestudy interview -- where you basically allow a stranger access into all your private details.

I have a history of depression and anxiety. I was concerned that this would be an issue, but the licensor was OK with it, as long as I had a plan (medication and counseling) if I had a setback.

We disclosed all of our medical histories, as well as our family backgrounds. We bought a new crib as was required, even though Maddy's crib was barely 2 years old and in fabulous condition. We locked up all our medicine, got a correctly sized fire extinguisher, and made sure we were current on all our immunizations. And made sure our home passed a checklist about 4-5 pages long of safety issues. Oh, and we got physicals to verify that we were physically fit to parent.

The whole process from the first phone call to receiving our license was a little over 3 months.

We chose to get licensed for a child ages 0-5. We wanted to keep the birth order in tact, so we would really only take a child in if they were 2 or under . . . but we needed to be licensed for longer in case the child would be with us for several years.

We also wanted to take a child that would likely be available for adoption. We knew that our goal as foster parents would first and foremost be to promote reunification with their biological parents. But in case that wasn't what the state had decided would be in the best interest of the child, we wanted to have them be apart of our forever family.

To "minimize" some of the risk of heartbreak on our end, in case we grew very attached to a child and have to say "good-bye", we asked that we only hear about children who would likely need a forever home. For our situation, this would include a mom who gave birth but the court had already deemed her an unfit mom and the child would immediately go into an adoptive situation. Or a child who had already been in the system for over a year, and the state was adding to the reunification plan an alternate plan to adopt the child out. Or a child that was already legally-free that met our other specifications. (I know this sounds like custom-ordering a car, or something. But I do believe you really need to be specific about what you and your family are up for or not.)

We also chose no significant health needs (as I didn't feel capable of handling severe special needs).

Naturally, we hoped for a call right away. Because that sometimes happens. But that was NOT our journey.

About one month after getting licensed, we found out we were pregnant with Olivia. Once she died, I realized I really, really, really wanted another biological child. All my efforts from that point went to getting pregnant and trying to keep the baby. Several times after Olivia died, I questioned whether or not we even wanted to pursue fostering anymore.

I conveyed such questioning to our licensor (something that really had ramifications for us . . . but I'll talk about that later).

We found out we had ANOTHER 36-hour class to attend, and I just wasn't ready for the commitment. I was at a crossroads whether to continue to keep our license up, or just to let it all go. (You can read about this part of the journey HERE).

In the end, we chose to continue and attend the class. But this time, my husband was able to do it by himself, so I could just watch Maddy and it all worked out.

A few times during this time we were asked to provide respite for another foster family.

In this case, respite basically means state-paid-for overnight babysitting. The first time we were asked, we readily agreed. The deal was we would pick up the one-year-old at her daycare and have her for the weekend. I was leery about the arrangement -- what one-year-old would be OK going home with perfect strangers?? -- but that was the plan and we stuck to it.


Ryan went to go pick up the girl, and she wasn't there. Panicked, he called me. "Great," we're both thinking. "This is our first time fostering, even for a weekend, and we've already lost the child!" Turns out it was a miscommunication, and the parents decided to opt out of getting respite that weekend. They thought the caseworker told us. She thought they had called us.

So our first respite was a total flop.

The second time we were asked was for a little boy for Christmas Day. How strange, again, that someone wouldn't want their foster child on Christmas Day? This time, for the sake of the child, we said no. He screamed a lot and didn't handle transitions -- and our Christmas Day is ALL about going back and forth from family to family from 7 am-midnight. We felt our Christmas plans would not be enjoyable or relaxing to him at all.

A full year after getting licensed with NO other call for a child (respite or otherwise), the director of the agency asked to come meet with us.

It turns out that since I had mentioned my hesitations to our licensor, our "file" was put on the shelf. Meaning, when a child needed a home -- we weren't ever put forward as a potential home. Which explained the pretty much full year of silence.

We were actually at the point where we DID want a foster child in our home, and conveyed that to her. And we were put back in the running.

And one month later, FINALLY -- we got our first call for a placement! WOOO-HOOOO!!!

At this point, I was desperate (and yes, I do mean desperate) for a child to be in my arms. At this point, I had two children die while I was pregnant with them in the last year. And my 1-year-anniversary with Olivia was coming right up. And it was just a few days before Christmas. I felt that the timing was great. Plus, this was a perfectly healthy newborn girl, born just the day before, who would likely be adopted because the mother had already been deemed unfit to parent.

So, before our director could even get the question out of her mouth, I was already (practically) shouting, "YES! We want her!"

Sadly, the way the situation unfolded was something that left me heart-broken (even more), and I was totally unprepared for. While it was not a true loss, having the hope of this little girl then "losing her" to another family absolutely tore at my heart and left me broken.

When was enough enough???

And then came Leyla.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Getting a child -- giving up bread -- and everything in between

Hi everyone!

Sorry it's been so long since my last post. (Ok, Ok, I know you were not exactly holding your breath or anything.) But if you were -- we are still alive!

So the big news since my most recent post is that last week, we officially adopted our daughter Leyla. :) Yay! She has a name! And she is an official Lewis!

This was Leyla's first foster family, who had her from birth to age 1.


The high from that day has worn off some, but I'm still very thankful that finalization is behind us and we can move forward as a family now.

Ryan and I have chosen to keep our foster license open for now. We are not sure if/when we would accept another child into our home -- but for now, we are going to enjoy a little bit of a break from social workers. (We like our social workers and all, but still, it's nice to know they don't have to come check in on us.)

As for me, I feel like I'm crawling out of the pit I was in. A woman I respect very much has said, "Every time you crawl out of the pit, you launch a new version of yourself."

And I definitely am feeling that way.

I am choosing to take my business to the next level -- and have chosen to attend our yearly conference in Vegas. While I know that it is going to be full of grief-triggers -- HELLO being surrounded by 18,000 fertile women -- it is still very much something I need to do. Maybe I'll take a few extra breaks by the pool or something. ;) Who knows?

More than just business, I'm really trying to focus on God more. And friends. And the good things I have in life.

I'm still not sure if I'm up for trying again to have a biological child. That decision doesn't have to be made now, and I'm thankful for that. But I do go back and forth on whether or not I'm up for it. Or if my family is.

For now, I'm thankful to see my girls together. And I'm thankful that we have a few things to look forward to! (Can you say, Great Wolf Lodge???)

I must confess I am doing terrible these days at being gluten-free. It's strange because I was doing great for so long (months!!!) And then this last week, it's all fallen apart. I think I lost a good bit of my drive when we miscarried last, because I was hoping getting rid of gluten would help me keep my babies. I WILL say, however, I still don't feel well when I eat gluten -- so at least that is some sort of incentive. So I must just say, I'm gluten-reduced. Not gluten-free. At least for now. Ok. Now I at least don't have to feel like a hypocrite the few times I cheat!

My brain has been somewhat preoccupied with writing a book. I'm a tad overwhelmed at the process of writing a non-fiction proposal and then actually trying to get it published. And I'm a little unsure of what the structure and overall feel of my book will be.

(Well, maybe not so much the feel. I think I'll write just as I always have. I'm just wondering how much will be my personal story -- and how much will it be my thoughts on loss, etc? And how many other people's stories will I include? And should I include the physical processes in my miscarriage story? Or should I focus only on the emotional aspects?)

Anyway -- you can see I don't have it all hammered out yet, but my brain is working full-time on it. (Again -- not total truth. My brain is never on one thing full-time when I have two littles around. But at least it's as full-time as it can be.)

So you tell me -- what has gone on in your world this last week? Have you ever gone gluten-free? And what should my book be about? :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Choosing forever

The following is the post I wrote for little miss the day we were asked to be her adoptive family. Before my husband and I even said yes, I knew that I knew that I knew I wanted her in our family . . . forever.

There is the cutest, sweetest little creature. You haven't met her yet. But she's real. I so wish I could post a picture!

I have a few photos of her, and every day I scroll through them (ok, multiple times a day.)

Sometimes I simply appreciate her absolute cuteness. Other times, I pray for her. Most of the time, I just wonder if one day soon she will be ours.

I hope we get to keep her.

As I relish in her cuteness, I remember this isn't just a baby we might adopt. She is a child, who will one day be an adult. As a baby, child or adult ... She will be a part of our family forever.

FOREVER. What a big word. Sometimes I wonder ... am I really old enough yet to be making decisions about FOREVER?

It is so easy to imagine dressing a baby up and proudly showing her off at the park, church, restaurant, zoo, mall, grocery store, the north pole. Seriously. I mean what woman doesn't want to tote around the most gorgeous little creature and have everyone looking, and smiling and cooing at your precious bundle?

But forever reminds me that those are just moments in a lifetime. There is still a lifetime to go.

One day, we'll be helping this little one potty train. We'll get through the terrible twos, and threes, and thirteens. We'll work until midnight on her science fair project. We'll clean her up when she's sick, and brush her off when she's fallen down. We'll cry with her when the Junior High girls don't let her into their clique. We'll remind her life will go on when a boy breaks her heart. We will watch her graduate, cheer her on at games, and walk her down the aisle.

We'll teach her about Jesus. We'll tell her how God loves us so much, He wanted us to be apart of his family forever.

Just like we love her. Just like we want her in our family.


Today, we chose forever on paper.

But a year ago, I chose forever in my heart.

We love you little miss. Welcome to your forever family.





Wednesday, April 9, 2014

One phrase you MUST NOT SAY to an adoptive mom -- and 8 reasons why

I've heard it. You've heard it. Maybe you've said it.

You know someone. I know someone. Maybe you know 10 someones.

And yet saying it is seriously not cool.

 "As soon as you adopt, you'll get pregnant."

Ok, ok, I have an idea of what you're thinking.

"Rachel . . . seriously. Lighten up. It's just a little joke. You know, a little wink wink nudge nudge. Could you just not be so serious all the time!"

So, I take your challenge. And let me assure you, I do have a sense of humor. I'm even used to being teased. My husband is awesome at it. So is my dad. In fact, in my family, teasing IS a love language. (The first one.) So for most things, I'll let you slide. I'll even laugh a little.

But on this one thing -- could we PLEASE just stop saying this.

In case you aren't convinced still, let me tell you why I don't like it. (And to my knowledge, very few people who have adopted DO like it.)

1  -- No one likes a "know it all."

When a friend adopts a child, then announces a pregnancy later (no matter how much later), please just zip up this little phrase and keep it far from your lips.

When you say, "I just knew you'd get pregnant as soon as you adopted . . . ", you are in essence saying, "Everyone knew exactly what was going to happen to your uterus the moment you added a child to your life. Aren't you so glad you know now what the rest of us have known forever?"

Instead say, "I'm so glad *adopted baby* will be a big brother/sister."

2 -- You assume that they are adopting because they can't get pregnant.

The first time I was told this awful phrase was from a co-worker. (OK, you're still not convinced it's awful. Give me a minute.)

I had excitedly told her we were starting the process to get licensed as foster parents, with the hope of adopting. Her response?

"Now that you're adopting, you'll get pregnant."

I was TOTALLY taken aback. Our daughter Maddy was 2. We conceived her from just skipping a few birth control pills on accident. We had no losses. . .  no reason to believe that if we didn't just skip a few pills, we wouldn't be pregnant with another healthy child. In fact, I was convinced I was Mrs. Fertile Myrtle herself.

We weren't adopting because we couldn't get pregnant. We just wanted to adopt!

Instead say, "I'm so happy for you."

3 -- You take the focus off the child being adopted.

Imagine going to the hospital to meet a friend's brand-new baby. Instead of ooh'ing and ahh'ing over their precious little bundle, you say, "Now that you've had a baby, you are SOOOO going to get pregnant again right away.  It always happens. It happened to a friend's cousin I once knew."

Of course, your friend likely doesn't want to hear commentary on her fertility at that point. She just wants you to celebrate the beautiful addition to her family she has RIGHT NOW.

Instead say, "Your child is such a blessing."

4 -- Adoption is a way to add to your family. Adoption is not a fertility treatment.

"You know. We've tried IVF. We've tried ICSI, and IUs. We've run every test. We've given you every medication we can. In fact, you've had the best science has to offer at your fingertips. But -- have you ever thought about just adopting? So many women get pregnant THE MOMENT they adopt. It happened to one of my patients years ago. Come to think of it, why didn't we do that earlier and save you all the money and pain from the treatments??  Yeah . . .  So, go adopt, and see me again when you've gotten that positive pregnancy test. Consider that a prescription." -- said NO reproductive endocrinologist EVER.

If fertility doctors aren't saying it -- please -- please -- please -- don't you say it.

(Besides, adopting doesn't take away the pain of infertility either. Trust me on this one.)

Instead say, "You've had a long journey to get here. We're here for you all the way."

5 -- Adoption is not a consolation prize. And pregnancy is not First Place.

Whether you mean it to or not, this hated phrase sounds a lot like . . . "Now that you've gone through adoption, you can get what you REALLY wanted all along."

Adding to your family through adoption is not a lesser way to have a child. Neither is pregnancy the Holy Grail of family planning.

Instead say, "I love that your family chose to adopt."

6 -- Speaking of family planning, it's not really your business.

I'm guilty of this. (Although, recently, much less so.) For some reason, we think that the way others plan their family is totally our business. (It's not.)

If someone chooses to pursue pregnancy at the same time as pursuing adoption, by all means let them. (Without your commentary.)

Maybe they are adopting an older child and want to have their children spaced just-so. Maybe they weren't sure which would work out first -- adoption or pregnancy. So they were working on them both at the same time. Maybe they have a condition (me) that makes their biological clock tick much faster. Maybe they've had multiple losses while they've tried to adopt, and it just so happens that the baby they were able to keep coincided with the child they were adopting.

Instead say, "I'm here to support you as you grow your family however and whenever you choose."

7 -- It makes it sound like infertility (if they have it) is just all in their head.

Ok, I know this one is a stretch. But follow me out on this one.

The idea behind the "just adopt so you can get pregnant" philosophy is that someone has an aching need, a need so great and so big, it's self-destructive. They don't have something because they want it too much, or are just trying too hard.

And finally, once that need (aka a baby) is filled through adoption, their body magically opens itself up to more babies. Ta-da!!!

So the reason they weren't getting pregnant wasn't that they had poly-cystic ovaries. Or their husband had crappy sperm. Or their uterus was an abnormal shape. Or they had an autoimmune disorder. Or they had a chromosomal abnormality. Or their fallopian tubes were blocked.

No. None of that. It was just all in their head. Right?

Instead say, "I wish I could have spared you from all the pain you've endured on your way to growing your family."

(Please only say this if you know for a fact they've endured pain. Again, don't assume infertility unless you know for sure.)

8 -- This phrase never gives someone warm fuzzies.

Along our adoption journey, I've had this said to me every time I've gotten pregnant. I've been pregnant 4 times since we started this process -- and each baby did not make it.

Now that we will have officially adopted (as of this Tuesday), I fear that I will hear this whenever we get pregnant again in the future.

Adopting, or starting the process of adopting, did not save any one of my much-wanted babies. Having my adopted child to hold and love has NOT solved the fertility issues I now face.

If we get pregnant again, and carry to term, it will be an act of God. And will have nothing to do with adoption.

In this time of adoption -- and in the subsequent time of maybe having another biological child if God allows -- please do give me lots warm fuzzies.  And not cold pricklies.

(And if you were still confused, the "you'll get pregnant now that you've adopted" is definitely a cold prickly to me.)

Instead say, "I love your family. And am so glad to be a part of your life." And trust me, I know that you do. And I love being a part of your life, too.

Monday, April 7, 2014

We have a date!!!

"HELLO WORLD! I'm about to become a Lewis -- for real!" 

We have a date!

April 15 -- otherwise known as the day you pay the government money -- will have a new meaning for our little family.

On April 15, little miss will be ours forever. And we will be hers.

Betcha can't wait to see photos of her in court in an adorable outfit, can you?

Me neither. :)

Quite thankful for something amazing to look forward to.

Story of a forced abortion

Dear anonymous --

I think I speak for all my readers when I say, I am so, so sorry for what you went through. I can't imagine losing twins -- enduring that at a young age -- and having no choice in your abortion.

Wishing you much love and healing.


A story of two lives lost, one life forever altered

I just read your blog about miscarriage, I also read many of the comments and didn't notice any about losing a child to abortion. Maybe I didn't read enough comments?

I had an abortion 30 years ago. I was 13 years old and my mother gave me no choice.

They were twins, I do not know the sex of them nor did I name them, but I grieve for them still till this day. I think of what they would be like, just as I think about my 2 living children's futures and lives. I grieve for them always and await the day I am reunited with them.

 -- Anonymous

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