November is National Adoption Month & next week I’ll be sitting on a panel to share our story. I got an email a few days ago containing some questions for our panel, and most of them were similar to the ones I get all the time. “How did you know you were ready?” “What are the steps I need to take?”etc. I thought this would be a good time to share our story here as well.
As to the first question, honestly, it was just a deep, gut-wrenching need that I knew to be a calling from God. I didn’t hear any voices, I just felt a very heavy void and I knew in my heart that this was the way to fill it, the same way that you know eating a sandwich will help you fill the void in your stomach when you are hungry. It was primal and instinctual and I didn’t see it as my choice to make. At first Eddie didn’t feel called at all. In fact, he told me more than once he thought I needed to see a psychiatrist. We’d only been married for about 6 weeks and we were only 22. It was a test of our marriage, but I was very convicted I couldn’t go wrong following what I believed to be a calling from God. So I did what any good wife would do, I nagged. A LOT.
As to the steps to take, they are very different in every situation. We went through foster care in the state of Florida, because that’s where we were living at the time. Private and international adoptions are very different, other states are different, and most adoptions in Florida are different than the way ours went down. All I can tell you is our story. And it’s a long story, one that spans over the course of several years, so I figured the easiest thing to do would be to share it as timeline. Then I will post a Q & A session with some of our most commonly asked questions.
Here we go…
Our Journey Into Parenthood:
June 2006-Eddie moves to Florida to start his first job after college. Steph follows a few weeks later, on June 19th, after finishing her first year as a teacher, to start looking for a teaching job. She finds a temporary summer job at a gym in the meantime.
September 2006-Steph and Eddie get married and are starting a new life in a new city, Tampa, FL.
October 2006- Steph starts obsessing about adoption & Eddie thinks she is nuts (She also started a new teaching job this month, which came with an incredible amount of stress, and is dealing with the ramifications of leaving her previous job, which did NOT end well. Those are both stories for another time.)
Winter 2006/2007- Steph spends 6 months nagging nagging non-stop and researching adoption.
March 16,2007- Nicholas is born in Tampa, practically 9 months to the day after Steph moved here. We believe this was not a coincidence.
April 2007- Go to orientation with the foster agency, Eddie reluctantly agrees mostly so Steph will shut up. (We don’t know it yet, but our son is 6 weeks old and living with his birth mom in the Salvation Army homeless shelter. He will enter foster care in just a few weeks.)
Summer 2007-Get fingerprinted, fill out paperwork, get approved for classes
September 2007- Take a 10 week parenting class, during which Eddie’s heart changes dramatically. (We don’t know her as his foster mom yet, but Debbie, the woman taking care of Nicholas, visits our class to share her story and we meet some of her children.)
Fall 2007- Several home study interviews
January 2008- Home Study is approved
Winter/Spring 2008- Wait……Our family is presented at a few “match” meetings (when the social workers meet to decide which family they think would be the best match for a foster child) but we are not selected. At this time, we think we are waiting for a child over the age of 6
April 17,2008- Driving to a meeting after work, Steph gets a call that there is a one-year-old little boy available. Because of his age and the fact that he is not a minority, he is not eligible for adoption through the state, although he is in foster care. It is considered a private adoption, we have already been chosen, there will be no match meeting, providing we can afford to pay $5,000 in legal fees and his foster mom agrees that we are a good match for him. We can meet him tomorrow. There will also be none of the normal services, like Medicaid until age 18 and, in the state of Florida, college tuition, since this is now being considered a private adoption.
April 18, 2008- We meet Nicholas and his foster family at a McDonald’s.
Mid-April-mid-May 2008- The social workers want the transition to be fast because he is so young. We’d been preparing for an elementary school-aged child for a year, now we have 3 weeks to prepare our home for a baby. Steph’s co-workers throw an adoption shower and are very helpful donating clothes and furniture. For a few weeks Nicholas is not allowed to spend the night with us, we start visiting with him every day for a few hours, moving up to more and more time.
May 14, 2008- Nicholas moves in.
May 15, 2008- Nicholas has to have a surgical circumcision. It had been previously scheduled, but the timing could not have been worse. His first day with his forever family & our first full day as his parents, we spent the morning in the surgery center, then Eddie went back to work and I spent my first day as a mother getting “baptized by fire” because the anesthesia made him very sick.
Summer 2008-Being a teacher, Steph is off from work and stays home with Nicholas. There is a 90 day trial period before we can go to court and make everything official. Social workers visit to check on us and Nicholas is still getting his medical care through the state because we can’t put him on our insurance until we go to court. We also discover we are pregnant with Abby and decide to move closer to family. Eddie’s company agrees to let him transfer to Pennsylvania after the adoption is finalized. Steph’s principal agrees to let her keep her job until it’s time to move. The Florida housing market has collapsed and there is no telling how long it will be before we can sell our house, but we put it on the market and Steph’s dad helps us buy another house in Pennsylvania.
October 1, 2008-We can finally go to court and sign the papers. We are even given a new birth certificate with our names on it. Nicholas is ours. It’s been 2 years since we started thinking about adoption.
November, 2008- We get an offer on our house. We are going to lose more than $50,000. We have to take it.
December 12, 2008- Family and friends help us pack and make the drive from Florida to Pennsylvania. We drive through the night hoping Nicholas will sleep. We get a flat tire at 1am. What should be a 17 hour drive winds up taking 23 hours. Steph is 5 months pregnant.
February 2009- Steph is 7 months pregnant and hospitalized twice for early labor/contractions & put on modified bed rest. We need to hire a part-time nanny to take care of Nicholas.
April 21,2009- Abby is born.
That is our story. Some of the details might not seem important, but they turned out to be vital later when we discovered that Nicholas had many more attachment issues than anyone thought he would, considering he was only 13 months old when we were placed with him.
Regardless of the trails we have faced with him, or maybe because of them, Nicholas is just as much ours as our biological children. I’ll talk about that more in my next post.