How old is Cate?
She is 2 - her birthday is December 30, 2015 and she will be turning 3!
I was totally not going to throw her a party since it's so close to Christmas but I was informed by her Mimi that "you better have a party for that baby!" And it's true - she probably has never had a birthday party before - so I am certain we will at least have cake and icecream. (Okay, Mimi?)
Why international adoption and not local?
We have been asked this question more times than I can count. Honestly - because it's what we felt called to do. Yes, there are kids right here in our backyards that need families. Yes, it's (sometimes - not always) more expensive. Yes, we know there are other ways. But China was put on our hearts over and over again - and so that's what we did. If you ask Nate - I think his original answer would also include "less strings" - meaning, we wouldn't have to navigate the open v. closed adoption situation the same way we would have if we had adopted locally. That adds another layer for families who are wanting to adopt locally to consider - and this is something we decided as a family we weren't ready to take on.
See above? HA! Also, when choosing a country - because truthfully, at the beginning of the process - it didn't matter to me - there is a LOT to consider. Each country that allows international adoption has different criteria that the adopting family has to meet: age, length of marriage, number of children currently in the house, income levels. Also - each country has different rules regarding the process: when you can start, how long the process takes, how many trips you have to take, how old the children are that are available for adoption, what medical needs adoptable children have etc. We felt very comfortable with the stability of the China Adoption program - meaning, it had been around and established for a lot longer than some programs. The number of kiddos being adopted and wait time was less than some of our other options. And the biggest draw when it came to making a head decision (in addition to our heart decision) for China - was only one trip is required. Lots of other countries make you take two. On the first trip you meet your child, continue the paperwork process and then return home without your baby while the in-country paperwork process continues - then you travel back to actually bring your baby home. I know this works for lots of families - but stomaching the fact that I would meet my child - probably in an orphanage situation - and then have to leave them there for a one, two, three months or even longer - I couldn't do it. The trip to China was long - for us even a few days longer because of the July 4 holiday - but it was totally worth it to us to bring Cate home the first time we met her.
How accurate was Cate's medical file?
As far as we can tell - it was right on. I know this is extremely rare. But from what we can tell her diagnosis in China was correct. And by diagnosis I mean, the fact that she is fearfully, wonderfully, perfectly made, of course.
We really believe her orphanage gave her the best medical care they could - and their assessment of her condition was as thorough as it could have been. This has not been the case with some of our friends who have come home - in some cases -their kiddos had none of the diagnosis that was in their file - and in other cases they had a completely different set of needs.
We went to China knowing and believing that we could end up with a completely different child medically and emotionally than what we were expecting - and an open mind in any adoption is imperative. We feel very blessed that Cate's file was just about as accurate medically as it could be.
How did you chose an agency?
This could be a post all on it's own - but I will keep this brief. When we originally started to consider adoption - we sent off for several packets from different agencies and went to ONE information meeting in Orlando for the agency we used. We felt really comfortable after that original meeting - even though, looking back - they barely even touched on international adoption - mostly just discussed local infant adoption. We didn't actually start the process for well over a year after that meeting - and we just picked right back up with that same agency after a phone conference. If you would ask me if we loved our agency - I would have to say - they did some things really really well and other times I wanted to totally quit. That being said - I would encourage someone thinking about adoption - international, local, infant, foster care - do your due diligence. Call EVERY option. Ask your friends who have adopted who they used and would they use them again. Join facebook groups -- THIS is actually where we found a BAZILLION other options and people with opinions on them all. Your agency can completely make or break your experience - and each one is very different. Choose wisely. (How's that for a super vague, not-helpful answer?)
How did you decide what needs your family could handle?
Well, truthfully, when it comes right down to it - we chose Cate - and none of her needs were on our "we can handle this" list. We had hydrocephalus down as a "willing to discuss" should we receive a referral that had this in their medical file. For us, this part of the process was met with a lot of guilt. Thankfully, our social worker was wonderful and helped eliminate a LOT of this when she said - you have to consider the other kids in your home, what you can financially commit to - and what your family has the flexibility time-wise to manage. This isn't the same as a bio baby where you don't get a choice. This is what was hard for me - obviously if a child growing inside of my body had any diagnosis no matter how severe or bleak the outcome looked - it wouldn't make a lick of difference. Yet here Nate and I sat with a three page list of needs that we had to check off basically "willing to parent". We did lots of research, lots of praying - and our original "openness form" contained a list of things we felt we could mentally, emotionally, financially care for. When we saw Cate on rainbowkids - what her file said didn't matter. We know lots of other families who saw their sweet babies faces this way - and never looked back.
** After our trip to China and meeting all the incredible kiddos from our group - and some groups not with our agency - Nate and I both agreed our openness was based on fear too. There wasn't one single baby that we met that felt "scary." I think a lot of times, special needs - of any kind - seem scary on paper, or even from afar - simply because it is so unknown. (I have no idea if this makes sense.) There is a lot that comes with parenting a medically different kiddo - and some of it is intimidating - but it is SOOO worth it.
Do you want to adopt again? Do you want more bio babies? Do you want more kids? Are you done?
HA!!! This is probably the question we get asked the most after "can you believe she is here?" When it comes to family planning - if you must know -- we have adopted (no pun intended) the "evaluate after each addition" motto. We always said we wanted a big family - and then we had Skyar. HA! Babies are lots and lots (and LOTS and LOTS) of work. With each addition comes a new set of challenges, a new normal, a new adjustment period. We are still in the adjustment period I would say - finding our new groove. Cate's doctor visits are starting to settle down and we are able to schedule set therapies, Skylar and Wyatt are in a good groove at school - so for right now we are just enjoying our time as a family of five. I would be totally lying if I said my heart feels "done". Although this answer also totally changes based on the time of day, attitudes of the hour, and overall mood in my home when this question is asked. (Right??) I truly think adoption changed everything for me. Knowing the need that is there for families - it feels very hard to say - "no more". We will have to see what the future holds for us. Adoption, bio babies, fostering, helping others through the adoption process - I don't know - all I know is we have the desire to be open to whatever we feel God calls our family too - even if it seems completely nutso to the people watching our crazy train.
I mean, it is so easy to coordinate three looking and smiling in a family photo - what's a few more, right??
Love y'all! xoxo