Adopting Sevyn Grace
My wife and I are adopting a little girl. She will be coming home forever on March 15th. Kristin has been doing a great job keeping friends and family up to speed on our family blog and I’ve been posting photos daily. The past couple weeks have been a roller-coaster of emotions and expectations. We started the transition process this past Monday, so I thought I’d bring you up to speed and then do my best to give you a play-by-play from my perspective over the next week or so before the placement.
In November (2007), we went inactive as foster parents to pursue a private domestic adoption. Here’s why:
- We had been foster parents and loved it, but we were trying to grow our family. It had been about a year and we hadn’t had an opportunity to adopt any of the boy we’d cared for. So we decided to put fostering on hold for a while and pursue a straight adoption.
- We chose to look at private agencies instead of CPS because we wanted to adopt a child younger than our daughter who is 3 (almost 4). While this isn’t impossible through CPS, it’s (often) a little easier through a private agency.
- We also wanted to experience another realm of adoption. We lead the foster and adoption ministry at our church and thought, since we had the opportunity, this would be a good experience for us to go through.
- We talked about adopting from another country. Maybe someday – but foreign adoptions can get really complicated and expensive. We just felt like those things were a bit out of reach for us for now.
- All of the children we’d cared for has foster parents had been African American. For this adoption, that’s just the picture we had in our minds. We kept saying our “ideal” adoption would be of a black girl, 2 years old or younger. I think it’s okay (and even good?) to have a vision like that for your family. When those kinds of expectations become demands though, I suggest a heart-check. Moving on…
In early December, we received and email from Michael and Amy Monroe about a little girl a local agency was actively pursuing a home for. She was a 10 month old black girl. We got in touch with the agency immediately and scheduled a meeting to learn more. Throughout December we worked on the pre-application materials. We spent January working on the actual application materials an raising support. I wasn’t too keen on this idea t first, but here were the hard facts:
- We really wanted to adopt this little girl.
- We had just begun looking when we found out about her and had no savings for this.
- If we were going to adopt her, we were either going to go into debt or raise support.
We decided to raise support over taking on the debt. I was uneasy about this to say the least. I was afraid of what this would look like to friends and even to family. I was afraid people would say, “It’s not our responsibility to pay for your adoption. If you can’t afford it, don’t do it. Begging really doesn’t become you.” Never the less, we prayed and felt God’s prompting to move forward this way. Here’s what happened:
- Tapestry awarded us a $1500 matching grant. If we raised $1500, they would contribute $1500 to that adoption expenses.
- We wrote support letters. You can download it here for future reference. The support money was raised in 2 weeks.
- We crapped ourselves.
- Friends emailed us, called us, prayed for us, and sent us gift cards and checks to help pay for all the ambiguous extras that come with having another child.
- We were utterly humbled.
- Our agency awarded us a $2000 scholarship, which will ultimately alleviate all the legal expenses come finalization time.
- I learned for the first time that nothing is hard for God.
So the big question – what do we call her? We decided to keep her birth name for two reasons. We liked it (though it took a few days to grow on us) and we wanted to build a bridge with her birth mother. I think that, when it’s appropriate, it’s really good for adoptive kids to know where they came from and, as they are able to digest the information, to understand why their birth parents ultimately could not parent them. For what it’s worth, I think this is our daughter’s story to tell some day, not mine. Anyway – we kept her birth name and gave her the middle name Grace. We affectionately call her Gracie.
When our agency first asked us about naming her, they suggested we keep her birth name for her identity reasons as she grows up. To be frank, I don’t really find this a viable reason for keep ing a birth name. I can speak more on that in the comments if anyone’s interested.
The transition period
So here we are. Finally interacting with our daughter after all these months of only seeing pictures. The first couple of days were awkward. We visited her at her foster mother’s house. Foster mom has had her since she was 3 days old and has grown incredibly attached – which is good. It was strange playing with Gracie at her house – definitely a lot of unspoken tension. This has been a lot harder for Kristin than it has for me, though I’m sure if there was a foster dad in the picture, I’d be struggling just as much.
After spending sometime over there on Monday and Tuesday, we got Gracie to ourselves on Wednesday. This was a breath of fresh air. Here’s what I wrote on our family blog about it:
I (Matt) picked her up this morning around 8AM. We hadn’t been back for more than 60 seconds before I found myself worrying about showing Jaimes enough attention. Overall she (Jaimes) did really well. I could tell there was a lot going on behind her eyes. She and I took the trash out together and I asked what she was thinking about. She didn’t give me much, but I’m confident she’ll share if she needs to.
Kristin fed Gracie a bottle and held her for about twenty minutes before putting her down for a nap. It was very encouraging to see her connect with her daughter like this. It’s been an awkward week up until this point. Having Gracie to ourselves helped us let our guard down and just be in love.
We’ve been exhausted – I actually thought I had the flu last night. Turns out I was just fatigued to the point of nausea. Today was quite literally a breath of fresh air. I took the day off work and we took a family walk followed by a short jaunt to the P-A-R-K. We shot some video, which I’ll post soon, and just played with our kids. I gotta say – I love being the father of daughters. I’m sure that’ll change around 14, but for now I’m relishing in it.
We won’t see her today or tomorrow. Saturday, she’ll spend the afternoon and spend the night for the first time. We’ll spend increasing amounts of time with her all next week and then on Saturday the 15th, she’ll come home forever!
A few observations
This long transition has been frustrating. In many ways, I think gracie would be fine if we just brought her home for good today. She’s extremely easy going. As foster parents, we never got to have any kind of transition to see our kids off, and I’m really glad Gracie’s foster mom has this time to “let go” so to speak. That being said, we fully intend to keep her involved in Gracie’s world and this extended time of ambiguity is rough on the emotions.
Here’s the hidden benefit – we are gathering so many little nuggets to share with Gracie someday:
- Her foster mom’s friend calls her “Beautimus.”
- While foster mom was rubbing lotion on Gracie’s legs one evening, she grunted and said to Kristin in a deep voice, “Mmmm – she’s got healthy legs.”
- These things seem little, but they are the kind of peccadillos we can laugh with our daughter about for years to come.
As I mentioned, the fundraising was a a significant pride-hurdle for me. Aside from the obvious blessing of God’s provision, something more occurred through that process. As I scanned down the donor list, I realized that God had done a work in each of these people’s hearts. He had stretched them challenged them, and sanctified them in some way through this. Having given sacrificially for our adoption, they are different people than they were before and that has nothing to do with us. This adoption is much bigger than we are. God’s vision of family is so much larger than what we typically hope for.
We’ve got a solid 1.5 weeks n front of us before placement. I’m going to do my best to write as regularly and transparently as I can. Thanks for listening.