Adoption Arguments: What’s in a name?

Just in case you think that a couple in the midst of the adoption process must have it all together and always speak gently to one another, agree on everything, and constantly bat their eyelashes in the presence of the other, I figured I’d share about our some of our differences. I think that sometimes WE even think we shouldn’t have one single disagreement ever if we plan on adopting, but I know that the enemy uses those kinds of thoughts to give doubt a foothold. He hates adoption, and he is not only a liar, but he’s smart and crafty as all get out. So I figured I would talk about a couple of different issues (over time) that we’ve been debating throughout this process.

Obviously, the first one is related to our Boo’s name. Basically, we disagree on whether or not to keep his given name once he comes home. It is a native name, and though not totally un-pronouncable, somewhat foreign to the American tongue. I said, “Listen babe, the kid is going to be dealing with adoption and DS already, let’s cut him some slack on his name.” Daddy K says, “It’s HIS name, it’s part of who he is. Everyone else can deal with it.” So, I did some research, and really there are no clear answers.

There are definitely a few considerations that we have processed through in regards to either keeping or changing his name.

What are the benefits to keeping his name?

1.  Connection to past/heritage/history. For many adopted children, their name is the only surviving link to their past. It’s part of their story, and sometimes, when taken, only heightens awareness of how different they are. Or it could signal to them that their past was “bad” or “unworthy” in the eyes of their new parents. Their name can be a tie to their country of origin, and studies show that feeling connected to their culture is hugely beneficial to adopted children.

2.  Link to birth family. If a child has lost his/her parents through disease or death (or other possible reasons), the name his/her birth parents gave them could be very important to them. It reminds them of a family who loved them, that although now gone, is still hugely important.

3.  In many cases, it is their only constant. EVERYTHING else in their world has suddenly changed, and having the same name can be a comfort.

4.  It’s how they identify themselves.  I read a book once called Someone Knows My Name about the slave trade in early America (it’s great, you should all read it!!) and I will never forget this moment in bottom of the slave ship when someone recognizes Aminata (the main character) from her home tribe and calls her name. She rejoiced, because SOMEONE knew her real name.       They knew who she truly was, and she felt anchored.

Why would we want to change his name?

1.  There are many instances of God changing a person’s name in the Bible when He gives them a new identity (Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Saul to Paul, Simon to Peter, Sarai to Sarah, etc.). He is giving them a new life, and a fresh start, and He gives them a new name to signify this rebirth.

2.  It is part of welcoming him to our family.  Choosing a name for your adopted child can help them to feel more like part of your family – their new parents had the honor of choosing a name that they felt would represent them for life and/or tie in with family history/culture.

3.  It’s possible he’s not super familiar with his given name at this point. Studies seem to say different things to this end. Some say that children three and below are fine with a name change. Others say two and below only. Still others say that for non-verbal children a name change is less of a big deal. I think it’s a judgment call in the end.

So, we have thought through and talked about all of these things. I think I would feel differently if his name had been given to him by his birthmother. Even though she didn’t keep him, if I knew she has chosen a name for his son that meant something to her, I would be more likely to want to hold on to that. However, in our beautiful boy’s case, we know he was abandoned at the hospital. His name was likely given to him by the first social worker who was assigned his case. And I guess I feel like, as his mama, I want to choose a name FOR him. Daddy K points out that this social worker might have come to his name prayerfully, and we don’t have any idea about the story behind his name, which is true. But we may never know where it came from, or if it meant anything to anybody.

Also, if he was much older I think I would feel differently about changing his name. But he will likely come home at two and a half, and probably not be super verbal at that time. Also, the name we have chosen sounds similar to his given name, which I think will help the transition. Right now we have half-settled on keeping his given name as his middle name. Then, we will give him a first name that matches the E of his brother and sister.

(I know, I know, I seriously wouldn’t have guessed we’d be a family that uses the same letter in all our kids’ names. I don’t know how or why it happened, but I think it’s too late. No offense to anyone else who does this! I obviously do it also, I just surprised myself here. 🙂 )

But of course, we aren’t 100% on this. Time will tell. From everything I’ve read, there is no right answer. So, like everything else, we will just make the best decision we can for our little man, and hope for the best. I trust that as long as we are open to listening to others and our Father, this will all come out okay as well. Happy Friday friends, and thanks for reading!

(Oh, and Daddy K will be single-parenting it for the next two weeks as I head off to do my Reserve annual tour in DC. This is my first time doing it away from home since either of our babies were born, so wish us both luck! And pray 🙂 )

Where We’re At: April 18, 2014

I have been enjoying too much sunshine to have energy for any sort of emotional post this week. 🙂 Sorry, Washingtonians, for mentioning the sun, but please know our door is always open! I’ve HAVE been thinking a lot about my middle boy, in all his sweetness, so I’ll be stewing on the best way to word that soon.

I figured every so often I would post a WWA (Where We’re At) summary to give you an idea of what has been completed and what is still to come.

We are still in the process of completing our home study. Our social worker has done her part and is now just waiting on us to supply the remaining documentation. We only have two forms left that we can provide, and we hope to have those done by the end of this week. Per usual, they both require a notary, so that was the hang up with one. The other form we need to finish is just an Employment form, which is just a little complicated because of my Reserve job and figuring out who can actually verify my employment, and who is willing to do that over at the legal office (on a base I don’t actually work at). 🙂

Once those get to our home study agency, they will just be waiting for our reference letters and background checks to come in. We are required to have a background check from every state we’ve lived in since the age of 18, so as you can imagine, that’s no small feat with a dual military couple. Although I think all of that should be knocked out by the end of next week also. Of course, I just got one of my requests returned today because I filled out the form incorrectly.

After that, I’m guessing it will take at least a week to finalize the home study report. So, best guess, our home study is done by the first week in May. And that’s a HUGE step!

From there, we apply to USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) for approval to adopt (officially called the 1-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country). From what I can tell, that takes about 4 weeks from the time they receive your application. Once they receive your paperwork, they schedule you for your fingerprints (about 2 weeks out), and then it takes another two weeks or so to officially approve you after your biometrics are complete.

Once we have our USCIS approval, we can send in our dossier to Boo’s country. Our dossier (official adoption application) will include our home study and USCIS approval, but also a numbers of other things like medical examinations, financial statements, birth/marriage certificates, etc. Once the dossier arrives IN country, it has to be thoroughly translated before being presented to the Central Authority. If the central authority is satisfied (sometimes they request further documents), then we are officially matched to our guy.

After match, we wait for a court date and invitation to travel. I think this timing is a little more variable. It could be four months from match to travel, or it could be six, or maybe eight. Who knows? So, he’ll be home any day now! Ha!

On the plus side, the UPS girls know our family pretty well now, and greet our children by name. So at least we are building relationships in the process! And we’ve been learning a lot through some online training, as well as a couple of great books we have started. I am definintely starting to feel like we are going into this with our eyes wide open now. Not that I was naively idealistic before, but I just didn’t know or even think about so many of the issues we are learning about. I’m so thankful for the knowledge, and it’s helping me be a better Mama to my beautiful babes home now.

Sorry for the boring update! We are slowly working toward the finish line. Thanks for caring about us!!

Our Boo…the man, the myth, the legend

Okay, maybe he’s just a sweet little boy who deserves a family for no reason other than that he was born. I wanted to share a little bit more about this handsome cub, since I forget that not everyone knows as much about him as we do. I think it is easier to pray for him and relate to our journey if you have a more tangible idea of who he is. You can sneak a peak of our little man here, but I can’t share his picture directly on our site. (Reese’s Rainbow chooses “internet” names for waiting children, since their given names are withheld to protect their privacy). But seriously, isn’t he amazing?

So, let’s get down to business: What do we know about Boo?

Well, we know he has Down Syndrome, obviously. We know his birthday, and this little man took his first breath in this extraordinary world two weeks before his brother, in June 2012. We also know he has an open oval window in his heart. What exactly that means, we don’t know. Heart conditions are very common in children with Down Syndrome, but the fact that he isn’t on any medications and/or hasn’t needed surgery for it yet is promising. Of course, until he has a full work-up here, we just won’t know the intricacies of his little body’s engine.

There is a possibility of some hearing loss. The reality is that his hearing loss could range from almost nothing to almost everything. Again, we won’t know until he’s home. Doctor reports indicate that he doesn’t react during hearing tests, but all Kojak children are stubborn. Notes from his caretakers mention responding to their voice, so that makes me think he hears something. Truthfully, this is probably our biggest medical unknown. Are we scared? No. Will we feel better when we have the complete picture and can build a road-map for the way ahead? Absolutely.

But really, our biggest unknown with Boo is whether or not he’s really ours. See, the thing is, his country (for completely understandable, ethical reasons) can’t officially match us until our dossier is complete and has been approved by the central government. In the meantime, another family could be working toward Boo, and we would have no idea. It’s not likely to be an American family, because there is only one other US adoption agency working in our country, and we have committed to him on the most prominent site where he is listed. But there could be a family growing him in their hearts in another country, feeling the same intense love for him that we do. And that’s hard. And scary.   When we learned there was a possibility we could work for months getting everything together only to find out he had JUST been matched with another family, we thought maybe we should be cautious with our hearts. In the end, it will be a blessing for two boys. Because Boo will have a family of his own, and we will be able to adopt another child, who also desperately deserves to go “home.”

It would make sense, we thought, to not get attached to this little dude in the meantime. It would be safer, less emotional, and easier on everybody to keep our hearts guarded. We can fall in love with him once we are “officially” matched, right? But the Lord doesn’t give us a spirit of fear (2 Tim 1:7), and this snuggle puppy snuck right in.   If I stop to think about all the things that could possibly happen, then yes, I start to worry. But right now, what’s the point in thinking about any of those things? I am being called to love him, and love him fully, recklessly, and completely. Is cautious love really worth it anyway? It’s possible I’m loving him extra hard for another mama, and in the end, that has to be okay. Make no mistake, it will be extremely painful, but still worth it.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

We also know that Boo has lived in the orphanage his entire life. He went “home” from the hospital to his orphanage, and it’s the only family he has ever known. We feel lucky in that it seems like he is being taken good care of, and is loved, and is clearly well-fed. 🙂 But honestly, realizing we will be taking him away from the only home he has ever known breaks my heart a little. Okay, it breaks my heart a lot.

Can you imagine? You can only remember waking up in one room, with children all around you. One of your “mamas” comes to change you and feed you. You have a very predictable day, and a routine that makes you feel safe. Each day, you know what to expect. You don’t feel the loss of a family because you aren’t old enough to know that it’s supposed to be any other way. You just feel like you. This is who you are. This is all you need.

And then one day, two strangers come and take you. You can’t understand what they are saying. They separate you from your room, from your home, from the only people you have EVER known. From the only people you love. You can’t understand them, and nothing looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You heart has been smashed into a million pieces. I hate that. I hate that I have to hurt him, even though I know he will heal. I hate that I will be the source of so much pain.

I think you dream about picking up your baby, and you think SOMEHOW they will just KNOW you are their mama. They will reach for you and (as an amazing soundtrack plays in the background) you will drink one another up, eyes locked, minds melding. Even though I know that’s likely not my reality, I can’t stop those daydreams. But the truth of situation is that I will be a stranger to him. A stranger who takes him away from people who have loved him since the day he was born. And I worry about how that will feel for all of us.

I said in an earlier post that we shouldn’t be afraid of hard, because hard almost always turns into something beautiful. But how do you explain that to a two-year-old? So start praying for his heart now, friends. Please. We will all hurt, and we will all cry, and we will all undoubtedly feel the ache in our bones from the pains of growing as a family.

We’re not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us;  we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.

C.S. Lewis, Letters to An American Lady

In Redemption Group, we talked about how God’s picture of redemption always includes pain and trial. Say what?? I know, it doesn’t sound right and it doesn’t make sense to our flesh. We like it easy. But if Jesus had to suffer for our redemption, why do we expect it to be easy for us?   Adversity reveals our deepest beliefs about God – it shows us what we are expecting from God and what we believe to be most true about Him.

I can’t help wanting to tell God what MY picture of redemption looks like in this case. I mean, it would be beautiful, it really would. But here’s the thing – it actually doesn’t hold a candle to HIS picture. We just have to be willing to do the work to get there. We can’t be afraid just because we don’t understand, just because it’s hard. And in His story, I will be the source of unbearable heartache for my child. I hate it, but I trust Him. I know the ending (no matter how many years it is in the making) will be more incredible because of it. So I just trust. And obey.

The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self–all your wishes and precautions–to Christ.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Baby boy, I’m so sorry. I really, truly am. But we just love you too much to let you stay. I know you’ll be scared, and lonely, and confused, and hurt…and I can’t make any of that magically go away, although I would give anything if I could. But I promise I’ll be brave for both of us – I won’t let you go, and I won’t leave you, and I won’t give up on you. One day at a time, it will get better.

In our family we generally do a better job of explaining how we really feel through music, so this one’s for you Boo. Mama loves you.

***Update:  I just recently learned from other mamas from our country that a good number of their babes were listed with hearing issues.  No one has turned out to have significant hearing loss.  Sometimes it has been multiple ear infections and ear tubes issues, but no actual hearing loss.  Of course, this actually guarantees nothing, but I thought it was interesting.  We will love this boy just the same, of course.


Adoption Anxiety

Since I said I would be honest, you should know that I sort of spun of out control the last two weeks. Not in a super noticeable way, but in terms of my stress and anxiety levels (which I am VERY good at compartmentalizing and working around). But I have spent MANY hours lying in bed, unable to sleep, thinking about all of the things I still need to do to even make a dent in our paperwork process. I become so overwhelmed with the enormity of it all that I am almost paralyzed by my nerves, and then for a couple of days I do almost NOTHING related to the adoption at all. It’s not healthy, and it’s not necessary, because for the most part there’s not a lot I can do except handle one thing at a time. But I’d like to think it’s fairly normal, as you officially dig into the whole international adoption process, to feel a bit overwhelmed, and wonder if it will actually be possible for you to make it to your child one day.

When you hear people say they are having a “paperwork pregnancy” or are in the “paper chase,” I think it’s hard to imagine what it is they are actually doing. I mean, how HARD could it actually be? And to be fair, it’s not like anyone is expecting me to do advanced calculus, and my anxiety stems from being unsure how I’m going to show work for all my proofs. (Is that even how you say that? I was always terrible at math!) But it can be super tedious, and at times seems pointless, so I think it messes with your mind a bit.

For example, Daddy K and I had our adoption physicals this week. In and of itself, pretty low key. It’s a typical exam, and includes a decent amount of lab work and immunization checks. But here’s the tricky part: the actual original copy of your exam must be signed by your examining doctor in the presence of a notary. And your doctor can’t sign the exam until your labs and blood work come back. And you can’t have the form in the meantime. So you have to figure out how to have a notary come with you (in our case, onto a restricted military base) to your appointment. It’s not impossible, but it’s a logistical nightmare.

Oh, and any form that is a required part of your dossier (a fancy term for the application that is actually sent to the country you are adopting from), must NOT ONLY be notarized, but apostilled. Yep, that’s a real word. And it basically means notarizing the notary. So these forms need to be taken and/or mailed to the issuing state capital, where someone can double check that the notary was, in fact, a real notary for that state. Oh, and don’t forget, the notary’s seal can’t expire within the next 18 months, and they MUST sign exactly the same as the information contained within their seal!!! Um, yeah, it makes my eyeballs bleed.

To further invite you into our exact pain experience, and maybe help you understand why my anxiety took the reins for a bit, let’s chat family birth certificates. For us, those come from three different states. Each person’s birth certificate needs to be re-ordered from the issuing state, since the certificate has to be less than 6 months old. And it HAS to be a pen-and-ink signed and notarized copy with an official seal. I literally just spent $100 ordering 2 copies of the kids’ certificates (because I know I’m the person who would lose one). Then, once I receive those forms, I have to send them BACK to the issuing state to be apostilled. Nope, for our states it can’t be done all at once.  I missed two official “certificate” deliveries in one day.

So, as you can see, it starts to feel a little overwhelming, and I started to panic that I would never remember how to do everything right, or that I would forget something super important and ruin the whole thing.

My Holy Grail

My Holy Grail

I had post-partum depression symptoms after I had Sissy. It was really interesting (although I didn’t think so at the time 🙂 ) in that they didn’t really manifest until she was almost 8 months old. And I think part of it might have been triggered by a medicine I was taking to increase milk production, but the truth is, I’ve always struggled with anxiety. God just choose to use this experience to show me what a vice-grip on control I had… and feeling like I couldn’t mother perfectly nearly wrecked me. I am very Type-A, and I thrive on routine and predictability. My baby didn’t get that memo, and I wasn’t able to go with the flow as easily as other mamas. It was a very tough 3-4 months, but I am super thankful now for the experience.   I met with a counselor (a MFLC — if you are military and don’t know about this amazing resource, please contact me, I can’t say enough good things) who really helped me work through my feelings. She had me read an interesting book about depression, and one section focused on ten to twelve common thought distortions in most people. We worked through them to see if any were pitfalls of mine, and one clearly stood out (although I lean toward a couple, this one was big). It’s the ALL OR NOTHING mentality. So in this specific case, if I had one bad hour in the afternoon (my girl crying inconsolably, or not sleeping well, or refusing to eat, etc,) then for me, the entire day had been terrible. Basically, it’s like it sounds. For me, it was all of nothing.

Just recognizing this tendency made a huge change in my life. I feel truly lucky that all I needed to start feeling better was someone to help me work through the WHYS of the way I felt, and assure me they were totally normal. I recognize it almost immediately now, and I try to combat it with the Truth of all the good things that have happened in any given day. This adoption, with all it’s related stresses, has brought out the same tendency. I start to feel like it’s all or nothing. And if I hadn’t checked off enough boxes in one day to feel like I was making significant progress, then I felt like I had done NOTHING productive in the adoption arena. Basically, what I’m saying is that adoption can be stressful. 🙂

Thankfully, I got a sweet email from a new friend who recently came home from our same country with her little boy. They are also a military family, so she understands some of the unique stresses I am feeling. And she reminded me of two HUGE things: One, I should be enjoying this journey. It will take the time it takes, and it does me absolutely no good to dwell on any areas I think I’m not handling perfectly. This should be a fun experience for our family, as we learn so much about parenting and each other, and grow closer preparing for this new chapter. And it that same vein, the second things is that I should ENJOY my children and family now. When Boo comes, things will never be the same. And that’s okay, we are comfortable with different, but I want to be mindful of enjoying our family the way it is. When I was pregnant with Bug, I remember trying to soak up every minute with my girl. I don’t want to waste the next several months of our lives being wrapped up in stress and anxiety. Life is too beautiful to waste playing mind games with myself. And the last few days I’ve been resting in His peace, and I’m able to let all the little frustrations of this paperwork madness slide away. It WILL happen, one step at a time.

I keep these two quotes from Francis Chan’s Crazy Love on a note in my phone, because I need to refer to them often. 🙂

WORRY implies that we don’t quite trust God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives.

STRESS says that the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, lack of grace toward others, or our tight grip of control.

The thing is, friends, He really does have it all under control. And I actually don’t even WANT that kind of responsibility. Especially not when it comes to an international adoption. If I honestly thought this whole thing depended on ME, I’d lose my mind at some point. During one of our first conversations, I told the liaison from our placing agency, “I’m actually ecstatic that God is the one in control of all of this.” Now, please just keep saying that back to me for the next 9-12 months!!