Friday, July 27, 2012

Chapter 4: Three Became Four

We got the call on a Monday that "Tina", our birth-mom was in labor.  This was agony for me.  Agony to not be with my child as he was coming into the world.  Agony to not be the first to hold him and hear his cry and soothe him with my voice, unfamiliar as it might be.  It did not feel right at all.  But you have no choice and you know as an adoptive parent it's the first of many things that you will have to let go of.  Before you even meet your child, it hits you like a ton of bricks that this CANNOT just be about wanting a's about the Gospel...laying down your own terms to make a complete stranger a full-fledged member of your family, come what may.

Soon, Aiden was born and as we stayed in communication with our social worker, Tina felt sure that she wanted to go ahead with the adoption.  So while she spent her precious 48 hours with her son, we began to make the preparations that we couldn't bring ourselves to do before.  We went shopping and we made phone calls and we cleaned house. I will say again, that I was really quite certain that Tina would change her mind during these 48 hours. New Life did a good job of preparing us for that conclusion. Here, God was so very gracious to give us the ability in those 48 hours to prepare physically, but to hold our emotions steady. He gave us that grace and it did not go unnoticed.

Tuesday afternoon, Tina was very kind to let us come see Aiden at the hospital, a courtesy she was not required to extend. Gladly, we accepted, and Casey and I met our son.  It was one of the strangest hours of my whole life: I'm looking at my son...although he's not really my son someone else's hospital room...someone else who endured many painful hours of labor...he's still hers...I want to respect that...but I want to see him as my son, too...I want to bond with him in these precious first hours...I want him to know MY voice...I don't know what to think or feel...this is weird.

And it was so weird. I vividly remember saying that over and over in the car after we left.  It was wonderful to hold him and change his little diaper and hear about how he was eating, but it was so very weird.  She seemed so happy to see us, and genuinely glad that we were there with her.  She assured us one last time that she was not wavering in her decision, despite how much she loved Aiden.  With only 24 hours left, we went home and started opening things. We washed onesies and put in the car seat and set up his bed and the rocker in our room.  It was really happening.  "IT'S REALLY HAPPENING!" I would think to myself.  After 4 long, hard years of waiting I was actually going to have a new baby in my home. Finally! Our lives were about to be changed forever.

Wednesday. Adoption day. We heard from our social worker that Tina was having a much harder day, which goes without saying, but she was ready to sign her papers.  She wanted what was best for Aiden and she felt that that was with us.  Wednesday night, at around 9pm, we met our social worker in the lobby and we held her SIGNED relinquishment papers in our hands.  With tears and knotted stomachs we signed our own set of papers and we made the dreadful walk to her hospital room.  It was dreadful. This is no happy moment.  Tina and her mom were there in tears. She was holding her son, dressed in clothes she had picked out for him.  Nothing about this moment feels right.  How she didn't order us out of that room that very second, I will never know.  She held him until she was ready. She told him again and again how much she loved him and then she gave him to me.  How do you muster up the courage to do it?! How do you will your arms to let go? I held him and her together. Everyone was crying and quiet and it was just horrible.  There's no other way to describe it. Thankfully, our social worker took over at that point, and lovingly assured Tina that we would be back in touch with her in 6 months, and in the meantime she would receive pictures and updates via email.  We said our last goodbyes, I guess...however you do that?...and Casey, Aiden and I were ushered out with the nurse to go over new born baby things.  The urge to give Aiden to Casey and run into the bathroom and sob was so unbearably strong. All I wanted was to be alone, but there was no time...the nurse just took us to this little room like we were any other parents and like robots with this stranger baby we followed her.

We walked into the room that was much brighter than the hospital room and the hallway.  And I looked at Aiden and I thought to myself, "This is your son now, Stephanie. You've got to pull yourself together and be his mother." And somehow, I did. I wiped away my tears and I held him and listen to instructions and I looked at him...and then it was like I couldn't look away.

A question every adoptive parent struggles with is, "Will I be able to bond with my baby?" If the family has biological children, the question gets a little more complicated with, "Will I be able to bond with my baby like I did with my biological babies?"  I suppose the process is different for every parent, but I'll close with my experience, little as it may be.  The first night we had Aiden I spent holding him, of course.  But I realized I was holding him like I would hold a close friend's baby.  Closer and more affectionate than a stranger's baby,  but not as freely as I held Braelyn when she was born.  I remember so clearly when Braelyn was born that I would put my face to hers and touch our noses together and there wasn't a spot on her face or hands or tummy that I was afraid to kiss. I just did it without thinking.  And it hit me that I didn't naturally feel that freedom with Aiden.  But I was his mom. And if I was going to bond with this baby I had better dive in and love him without hesitancy or reservation. So I intentionally kissed his little cheek and touched our noses together and showed him the affection that says, "You are mine."  And it was over for me. I loved that little boy. I wasn't worried about the bonding anymore. I knew that God's spirit in me was going to make me capable of loving this baby that wasn't my own, AS MY OWN...because that is what HE does with us...His adopted...He makes us His own...come what may.  

So our family of 3 was finally 4, with another baby on the way. For the first time in a very long time, I felt a smile start to grow in my soul.  Caution and warning still lingered, for sure. But happiness was daring to creep out. It was a sweet time. And I will thank the Lord for it as long as I live. 

(Photo by Lori McConnaugie)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sent Half of My Heart to Kenya Today

A snuggly goodbye.

Braelyn and I, with misty eyes and lumpy throats dropped the Hubs off at airport this afternoon for a 10 day trip to Kenya.  In 11 years of marriage, this is the longest we have ever been apart.  As much as I hate being half a world away from him, I'm so excited for him to have this opportunity. I know he is going to encounter the Lord there in such a beautiful way. I can't wait to see what God does. 

The only bright-ish side of having a husband in another hemisphere is that I might have a little extra time for blogging, as my evenings will be very quiet. I think. Along with some good blog time, I'm hoping to get my rear in gear for the upcoming school year, which surprisingly, I'm really looking forward to. (A hearty thank you is in order here to our Wise and Wonderful God for creating summers, without which all teachers and homeschooling moms would quit. Amen.)  So, yes...I am delighted to say that I'm feeling great about homeschooling, great about Classical Conversations, and great about sharing more of our homeschool journey with you very soon.  Hopefully, these next 10 days will give me a chance to do some of that. 

If you are here at the end of this post and wondering if there was a point to this at all, I'm sorry to say there really wasn't, except that I just wanted to touch base, tell you that chapter 4 is coming soon, and that my hubs is in Nairobi, Kenya for the next 10 days, and to ask you while I'm at it to pray for him and our friends that are there with him.  

Now that I am completely embarrassed at having spent this long writing a blog with no point, I'm off to bed.  

I love you Casey Cease! And I need you! Obviously!...If you were here you would have stopped me from writing this horrible blog post. Come home soon! My readers are begging you! 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chapter 3: The Waiting Room

Alrighty, back to business.  I realized that I left out an important detail in Chapter 2.  This little photo sums it up nicely…

I forgot that on the day we met our birth-mom, she told us the gender of the baby by giving me this sweet bracelet...A BOY! We also learned his name...Aiden.  Part of the New Life policy is that the adoptive family use a name that the birth-mom has given her baby. I always assumed that we would probably use it as a middle name, but we liked it so much that we told her we would proudly keep the full name that she gave him.

Anyways, whenever I see this picture I can still feel the shock and craziness of that had to throw that in there.

Moving on...

March 3rd, I woke up with the knowledge that within the year I could have two new babies, or no babies at all and there really wasn’t anything I could do about any of it.  A few days later I went into the doctor’s office to get blood taken to start keeping track of my hormone levels and all of that. The next day, Casey and I went in to get the results and to our great relief my numbers were amazing.  In fact…they looked at little too amazing.  The last time I was pregnant my HCG level struggled to get over 200. Not good.  This time, at only 5 weeks pregnant I was well over 2000! So of course, Casey and I took our first real breath in several days, but something about the way my doctor raised his eyebrows at my tests results made me ask, “What…what is that...that you’re doing with your eyebrows?  And he said, “Those are just really, really good numbers.” And I said, “What do you mean? Like, TWINS?!” “Well,” he smirked, “with these numbers it's very possible.”

Oooooooooh Mmmmmmmmy LORD!

So we go home.  And we contemplate all the potential combinations of babies that could be blessing our home within the next year. 1? 2? 3?! 0?

Needless to say, I was thanking God that this pregnancy was looking significantly better than any of the previous 4.  This one did feel better somehow.  At the same time, I told the Lord that I could see He was thoroughly reiterating and reinforcing our roles in this matter and I humbly acknowledged the futility of trying to manage and control the situation.  Rather than being in the passenger seat of my life, I just straight up went to the back seat and put my feet up…it looked to be a longer road than first anticipated.  And it was freeing.  My own life felt like a movie and the next act was a complete mystery, which was kind of exciting.  Completely terrifying, but kind of exciting.  

So that's where we lived for a a sort of waiting room.  Waiting and hoping that my pregnancy kept progressing. Waiting and wondering if it was one baby in there or twins. Waiting and praying and preparing for a precious baby boy to come into our lives at the end of that very month, which proved to be such a complicated task. 

I don't know if any other adoptive parents out there felt this way, but I just found this "time of preparation" to be nearly impossible.  Prepare my home and my heart for some poor mom to put her baby into my arms through blinding tears and unimaginable pain. How do I do that? Prepare my home and my heart for a baby, when all that may come is a phone call that says "never mind." How do I do that?

We were meeting with our birth-mom pretty much every week until the birth. We had built a great relationship with her. We felt comfortable to be open and honest with her (we did tell her about the pregnancy), and I believe she felt the same about us. I think all of us were looking forward to an on-going relationship after the birth.  In one of our meetings we expressed to her that despite our longing to be Aiden's parents, if in the final hour she couldn't go through with it, we would understand and we would love her regardless.  I mean, who could blame her? You can't tell a woman before she gives birth to a child what it's like to give birth to a child.  There are no adjectives to describe that moment when you see your baby for the first time. So how could I fault her for not knowing what she couldn't possibly know?  But sure enough, as the due date approached she seemed more and more resolved to stick to her adoption plan.  Despite her confidence, I just couldn't let my guard completely down.  I knew that after the birth she had 48 hours with her baby before she could legally sign her relinquishment papers, and after experiencing the hard work of labor and the miracle of childbirth...that just seemed like a good amount of time to reevaluate her decision.  So, for me, as the adoptive parent, I was really struggling to simultaneously prepare for a baby to come home with me AND to prepare for this young girl to change her mind.  What does that look like? Do you buy baby things? Do you decorate the nursery? How do you talk to your 5 year old about this delicate situation? I found it to be an impossible tension. Besides praying a lot, here's what we did...we decided not to buy anything until the we got the call that she was in labor, and even then we would wait to open things.  I resolved not to decorate anything until Aiden was at home with us. And as for talking to Braelyn...we did. We were very honest with her.  We talked about how wonderful it was going to be to have a baby brother and all the important jobs she would have as his big sister, but we also told her that his birth-mommy might change her mind and we would just have to trust Jesus that He would do exactly the right thing.  It was a little confusing to her, but we talked about it as much as she needed to and answered her questions as honestly as we could.  I am thankful that we did; hiding the situation from her would have made the situation so much more complicated and messy...especially considering...well, I guess we haven't gotten to that chapter yet.

Before I close this chapter, I will tell you that at my first ultrasound I was nothing if not relieved to see one...just ONE...perfect little peanut with a perfect little heartbeat.  I hadn't seen that since I was pregnant with Braelyn. How I wish I would have grasped the kindness of my God in that moment! I was thankful, of course, but I was still so guarded that regretfully, I was a bit stingy with my thanksgiving.  I just didn't know.  But really...the Lord is worthy of my whole-hearted praise and thanksgiving even when I don't know how the story is going to go. Oh how I pray that I will remember that lesson the next time "I just don't know."

Who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been His counselor? 
Or who has given a gift to Him 
that He might be repaid?
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. 
To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
Romans 11:34-36

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Homeschool Room Makeover Reveal

Well...this weekend's homeschool room makeover just about did me in. I am completely and utterly worn out! My pelvis...which isn't quite right when I'm not pregnant, aches significantly worse now that I am pregnant...and after working hard for two days straight...well, I feel like an 80 year old woman and I'm moving around like one too, which is...well, hot is what it is. Anyways, despite the fact that I am now walking with a cane, the good news is that we completed our makeover and I am quite pleased with the result. I am so excited to be doing school in here this year!

Here's the view as you walk in.
(And can I just tell you real quick? I would adore a sweet little pink chandelier instead of the fan, but I was given a very exaggerated eye-roll and told that it was impractical. So there's a fan. :/ )

The reading corner again and the left wall.

Here's a view a little to the right as you walk in.
Our little square folding table is not ideal. I'm hoping to do some garage sale shopping and upgrade to a slightly larger rectangular one, but for now it works. for my curtain.  This is the fabric that will be on the window some day, but as you can see in the photos hasn't made it up yet.
Sad story. As Casey was finishing up the paint this morning, I went straight to work on my curtain.  I got it all cut and pinned, ready to be run through the sewing machine, but I as I went to set up my machine I could not find my foot pedal.  What in the world?! I ALWAYS put it in my red sewing basket, but it was not there. For the life of me I have no idea where it is.  Needless to say, I was so frustrated and had half a mind to light myself and my curtain on fire, but I thought better of it (as I might be accused of overreacting) and resolved to put my little project on hold.  So, up went one of Braelyn's old curtains (that quite honestly, I had forgotten about, otherwise I probably would not have considered making my own in the first place - fail).  Thankfully, I think the pink polk-a-dot drape will work beautifully for the meantime and my mad hunt for the foot pedal will continue after we get back from Florida.  So you see...such a sad story. What's a girl to do but to make due and chalk it up as a lesson in looking through all your crap before you go making something you already have?!

Oh dear. I can see that the day is taking its toll and it's time for me go to bed.
G'Night, all! ;)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Work Day in the Cease House

Hey folks!
Still here.  Last week we were at a camp in Livingston with no Internet, and then I had a 3-day Classical Conversations training I had to attend, and now it's moving time around here! We're switching the homeschool room with what was (loosely) set up as the nursery.  We had Braelyn's room and the nursery right together, and then the homeschool room closer to our room, but after thinking about it, I'd rather have the nursery close to our room for those late nights and Braelyn's room and homeschool stuff grouped together. So...lots to work to do this weekend.  Both rooms are quite a mess, and since it looks like we are going to be homeschooling for quite some time, I want to set up the room for real. (Last year, it was just kind of thrown together and nothing special.) We spend A LOT of time in there so I want it to be a fun, pleasant place to be.  So we're painting and organizing and hanging curtains...well, that it to say, I bought fabric and we will hang curtains if I God miraculously blesses me with more sewing skills than I actually possess and I somehow manage to produce a curtain. ;).  Good luck, to me with that! So anyways, I just wanted to let you know that I'm anxious to continue blogging, especially about some more meaningful things, but due to the tasks at hand I'm afraid the more serious blogging must be put on hold a bit longer.

Thankfully, Casey has a camp in Florida Monday through Friday and the fam is tagging along, so while I'm sunbathing on the beaches of Florida I will try to get in the next chapter of our baby/adoption drama and whatever else I feel like chatting about...there's SO much to catch up on!

So, I hope this post finds you well on this Friday morning. I'm off to "help" in the "moving day" activities! (By help, I mean watch Casey do all of the heavy lifting and painting by himself.) 
Have a great weekend!
See you in sunny Florida!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Chapter 2: The Meltdown

So, it was 2am and for a good 45 minutes, Casey and I sat staring in disbelief at the two strongest, unmistakable red lines that appeared on my pregnancy test.  "Well this cannot be right!" we said.  So, what did we do? Took the other 2 tests in the box, of course. And again...with the two red lines.  The one thing I most wanted to see in this world for the past 4 1/2 years was now looking back at me...and you know what my first thought was?...Oh my God...this is amazing! You know what my second thought was?..."NO! WAIT! God...why are you doing this to me?! Of all the months I've prayed and prayed before now...NOW IS THE TIME YOU CHOOSE? What in the world?!" I was not happy. I was not thankful. I was mad.

Now, I can just hear you.  "But why, Steph?" "This is wonderful news! God answered your prayers! He is pouring out blessing upon blessing," you say. "Why would you be mad, of all things?"

Here's why.  Because adoption is scary. Adoption is hard. Nothing is certain. I wanted to give my whole heart to this new baby that may (or may not...should mom change her mind) come into our lives and our family. I wanted to be ready for anything and everything that came with this baby. 

But how could I fully focus on all that when there was a whole other baby to think about now? 1000 questions ran through my brain.
How do I have a 7 month old and a new born?
Where do we put 2 new babies? Together? Do we put them in separate rooms?
How do I nurse my biological baby when my my adopted baby is crawling into some dangerous senario that I can't think of right now?
How do I homeschool with 2 new babies?...OH MY GOSH! HOMESCHOOL!
What are we gonna do about school?!?!?!?
And on and on it went, until my brain got to this question...
What if I lose this baby like I've lost the 4 babies before this? And it was one of those moments that just took the wind right out of me. I stopped crying. I stopped panicking. I just froze in a numb terror.

I cannot...I absolutely CAN NOT handle adoption and a miscarriage right now! Why would God put me through that, right now? WHY?

Now, I really try hard not to ask God "why?".  Most of the time I feel like I'm pretty clear on our roles and our resumes: "Okay God...well, I graduated from UofH, (thanks for that last football season, btw!) and I made good grades. I taught 1st grade...You know how hard that was, God! We talked a lot about that, so a few points for me there. Been married for 11 years, that's not nothing these days! So, overall, not too shabby.  Okay, so You on the other hand, You created the entire universe out of nothing and You parted the Red Sea...that was a big day...oh and, there was the whole Jonah in the whale thing...You're so creative! And also how You gave Your one and only perfect Son to die...okay, okay, for arguments sake, we'll just say that you're probably more qualified to make this decision, so right...we'll go with your idea."  

RIGHT?! I mean, come on?! Who am I to question HIM?!

But, I'll tell you. That night, I questioned what He was doing. I questioned why He would put me through so much pain when I was just trying to do the right thing? Why was He testing me SO much? What did he have against me?

Casey and I got to the point where we just couldn't think anymore.  Just couldn't cry anymore.  So we did the one thing there was left to do...we begged God for help and strength and understanding.

I have never felt so out of control of my own life ever.  For maybe the first time, I gave up managing and thinking through answers and solutions and rational steps forward.  There was nothing else to do, but to step away from my own life and let God do what He was going to do.  He was obviously doing something.  So there, out of frustration and exhaustion and stubbornness...I handed over the reigns.

When I woke up the next morning, I was still mad and hurt and confused and so very scared...but I was keenly aware that the Lord was working on something here...with me...with my family...with "my" babies...and all He wanted from me was to sit back and watch Him play it out.

What else was there to do?