the question I wasn’t prepared for

I’ve gotten the question many times now. Several times while we waited in Utah for approval to bring Milo home. Twice on Mother’s Day. Always at the pediatrician’s office. Often when I’m dressed younger than my age would convey.

“Is he your first?”

When asked by a stranger in places we don’t frequent, my answer is “yes.” When asked by a stranger I may actually see again, my answer is “yes and no.” Those who know me well don’t even have to ask.

My initial reaction was to feel a little ho-hum-I-am-sad about the question. All the answers just feel blah. I don’t seem to be doing justice to the story God has written for us if  I don’t give the full, long story which includes all the growth and learning and clearly awesome steps of our journey to parenthood. And on Mother’s Day, I just kind of felt an overwhelming frustration about why God chose to write this story this way. 

But, our story and this question are worth celebrating, right? Yes, Milo is our first! And yes, Theo and Elliot were also our firsts! Technically, we have never had one first, because we have twins! And our road to parenthood is fun and unique. God has given us a unique story to tell, and it is our privilege to tell it to strangers and good friends through our words and actions. 


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my adoption attachment experience: Milo


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Attaching to Milo was not automatic. It maybe wasn’t even really easy early on… I want to be honest about that!

I felt a little bit of “who is this stranger baby in the back seat” as we headed back to our rental home in Utah. It felt very similar to the times I picked up Safe Families kids. In those situations, I was anxious to get to know them but prepared to not attach too much. But this time, with Milo, I wanted to attach quickly and fully.

Because he had spent three weeks with his birth mom (and nine months in utero prior to that), I knew he had already formed attachments to her. He knew her voice, her smell, and her touch. I knew he knew I was different, and it made me a little sad. Beyond that, his birth mom knew him so much better than I did. I didn’t know what it felt like to have him nuzzle into my shoulder or clutch my shirt while he eats, like she told me he would do. 

The first few days were precious and sweet much of the time. Each time he looked straight in my eyes or relaxed in my arms, I felt my attachment to him growing. But at night, with the frequent waking, it felt a lot like a miserable babysitting job. I couldn’t see his little eyes, and he took a while to settle back to sleep after each feeding. We all were a little bit on edge and a little bit out of place. Then the weariness set in. I was tired, and we were living in a hotel room. Dan had to go home before we were allowed to go home with Milo, and I missed him a lot.

As I got more weary from lack of sleep and lack of being in my own home, I didn’t feel super excited about another feeding or diaper change, and I more readily accepted help from Dan and my mom. I think this was okay and necessary to “get by” at that time, but looking back, I may have attached more quickly if I had pushed through and accepted those duties more joyfully. (I am seeing how the cocooning process in adoption is a choice that benefits children and parents. More on that when we are expecting Theo and Elliot!)

Once home, we welcomed our families for a short visit with Milo. Though I am glad we did that, I again felt a little disconnected from him as I watched him passed from person to person. It felt good to be home, but there was still a transition phase as you would maybe expect with a new roommate. Our house suddenly felt small and cluttered with the addition of a baby and his belongings.

It all quickly clicked for me, though. Dan went back to work, and Milo + I found our routine. After about a week of work, Dan had two weeks off, which we used to hunker down and focus on attachment and bonding. I bought a book I had previously only skimmed, Attaching in Adoption, and researched different attachment-building activities for parents and little babies. With life quieting down again, we were able to focus on really getting to know Milo’s developing personality.

And then the smiles… Oh, the smiles! He was laying on his changing pad for diaper change number five of the day, and he smiled a big smile right at me. As he’s gotten older and more aware, my attachment to him has quickly snowballed. It is a joy to spend my day with a baby who recognizes me, makes eye contact with me, smiles at me, and “talks” to me. He stops fussing when I come into view. He coos when I talk to him in the car. He looks for me when being held by someone else. By seeing the obvious signs of his attachment to me, my attachment to him has grown. 



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Disclosure: Affiliate link for book used

 

my adoption attachment experience: international v. domestic


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I’m thankful to have learned a lot about adoption attachment process for children and parents early in my pursuit of social work. And I’m really thankful for those who have spoken honestly about post-adoption depression. I think the attachment process can be thwarted by depression.

And I’m thankful for a husband that “gets” all this, too. Dan and I talk a lot about expectations and emotions. It’s really necessary for me, and really kind of him to learn how necessary it is for me. As we started submitting our profile for consideration by women making adoption plans for their children, I got a quick taste of how this would be different for me than our international adoption.

I have known about Theo and Elliot for almost three years now. I have longed and prepared for them, specifically. I know what they look like, and I have an idea of their personalities and preferences. Though I have not met them, I am emotionally attached to them. I am working hard to have realistic expectations for them, but I do have information to base my expectations on.

With domestic adoption, I would become emotionally attached to women for different reasons. Because they lived in a city we love, because they played an instrument I do, because they loved to read like I do, because they had a name significant to our family. Though the birth mom does come home with you in many figurative ways (for which I am grateful!), her child is the one physically placed in your home. Her child is a stranger to you, really, and I think it’s good to admit it. And you may not have even had much more than 24 hours to prepare to know and love this specific child.

It makes sense that the attachment process would be different. Learning and accepting that gave me the freedom to give myself a lot of grace. More tomorrow!

McDonald’s smiles


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Milo, our dog Oscar, and I set out on our first road trip yesterday. Five-and-a-half hours in the car. Longer with stops. My husband, Dan, wasn’t able to come with us. With Oscar in his crate in the back seat, I couldn’t reach Milo easily to soothe him. Trouble.

Despite my genius planning, more crying occurred than I expected. It was sad and frustrating. I pulled off at a McDonald’s to feed Milo in the hopes that he’d settled down and sleep. McDonald’s was not my ideal stopping place, but it was all there was.

I ordered an ice cream cone for myself and slid into a booth, juggling chubby Milo, his bottle, and the cone. I tried to give him his bottle, but he wouldn’t stop smiling at me enough to eat it. A guy saw him and said, “He really likes you!” I smiled and agreed that he does.

It was really nice to have a stranger recognize our bond. The focus in adoption is how the child is attaching — as it should be — but parents take time to attach, too. This baby who was a stranger to me three months ago feels so much more like a son as the days go on. And I really like him, too.

I want to share more about my process of attaching with Milo soon. I wouldn’t say it was automatic, and I can’t imagine it is for most people. This post by the amazing Katie Davis has spurred a lot of reflection for me. 

Mother’s Day: the other side of the wait


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I am a mother this Mother’s Day. The kind of mother that has a baby she calls a son who lives in her home who has been entrusted to her by a woman she respects deeply and a God she loves fully. After three Mother’s Days praying and waiting for children, I am on the other side of the wait. 

If you’re on the side of waiting, you’ll see a lot of blog posts in the next few days. They’ll encourage you to wait with grace and to perhaps consider adoption and to embraces the ways you’re already a mother in your heart. I hated these posts.

The wait sucks. I read verses about “enduring suffering” in the Bible, and I thought: Yes! I have! I am! Make it end. I got annoyed when everyone didn’t acknowledge that I was already a mother to two boys across the world. I got teary in church seeing chubby hands grasped around mamas’ necks. I cried in Dan’s shoulder at the end of the day. Please, feel free to do all this on Mother’s Day, too.

Each sting of pain you feel might just be intensifying the love and commitment you’ll feel when the baby is placed in yours arms or the foster child walks into your home or the toddler is brought crying into a room in a foreign city. You will still remember the pain quite freshly. Some may say you won’t… but you’re better for it if you do, I think.


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And I want to remind you of this. And this… it may hurt you a little to hear. Being a mother does not solve it all. It doesn’t take away all waiting. It doesn’t bring constant joy. It brings a lot of happiness — I won’t deny that — but there are even some days it doesn’t bring much happiness at all. Here’s the one opportunity I’ll take to preach: Christ is the only source of true joy. He is in control. Your striving may make you feel good about the wait for a bit, but He will bring your desires to fruition in His time. Blah, right? I wish many days that I could get want I want if I work hard enough. 

So, this Mother’s Day. Surround yourself with people who love you and encourage you. It’s probably okay to avoid those who share quippy cheeseball “encouragement” like “everything happens for a reason” and “it’s worth the wait.” Befriend mom friends who share all of it with you. Not Pinterest crafts and stain-free carpet. Allow them into your pain. And be honest with your husbands about how much the waiting is dragging down your days.

I’m still a little teary thinking about this day coming up. Two birth moms of my sons, a lot of friends aching and waiting, friends who have lost children, friends who had non-present moms. There are reasons to be teary, even with a son in my home, and it’s nice to acknowledge that I have desires nothing in this world will satisfy. 

adoption: three years ago


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Three years ago, my husband and I left our two-bedroom apartment to walk around our neighborhood, talk, and make a final decision. We had been married less than five months and had been seriously researching adoption for three months. As two students, we knew we could not send the initial application or advance any further in the process without an income. But a few days before with graduation a week off, I had been offered a job. We could do it now, but should we do it now?


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We did. We emailed the application to our agency, and we were approved the next morning. At that time, the process was expected to take about a year from start to finish. Here we are, three years later. Hopeful. With a son. But not anywhere we thought we’d be.

I’ve been asked if I’d do it again knowing what I know now. But that’s not at all the point. The point is that there are many decisions I’ve made and experiences I’ve experienced that I would not have chosen knowing it all. The sweet spot of not knowing what is to come is where God capitalizes on my weakness and shows me His strength.

In the past three years, I’ve experienced my lowest lows. I’ve fought with my husband about the decisions we’ve made together. I’ve doubted the method we’ve chosen to grow our family. I’ve wanted to quit. A friend told me adoption would transform me, and though I didn’t even understand how it could at the time, it has and it does.

Adoption has transformed my weaknesses. I have found stamina amidst impatience. I have found a peaceful, level-headed nature amidst instant tears and dark pessimism. I have found sweet letting go amidst the strongest desire to control every little thing. In the river of well-being, I have learned how to steer myself down the middle.



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Adoption has transformed my relationship with Dan.
Our new little marriage was sent through the ringer as we hit unexpected delays in the adoption process. It brought out the worst qualities that I had sufficiently pushed down during the year-and-a-half we knew each other before walking down the aisle. We learned to communicate even when the last thing we want to do is communicate. We learned to put words to our fears and share them readily.

Adoption has transformed my view of God. I have accepted that He makes all things work together for my good. I have believed that He has my best interests in mind. I have believed that He has the best interests of Theo and Elliot in mind. I have felt Him slowly easing the burden of control off my shoulders and onto His. I have sensed how fiercely He loves me and my boys.



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I didn’t know these areas needed to be transformed.
I thought I was set. I was not set. I needed — and still need — this continual transformation. It’s painful… really painful some days. I am weak. I don’t like emotional pain. I don’t like the unknown. But He is strong, and He knew it all, and He’s guided me through it with purpose. 

Milo: months 2 + 3

We met Milo a few days before his 1-month birthday. We have known him for more than two months now, and he’s already changed so stinkin’ much. I didn’t really consider doing these updates here, but Dan said I’ll want to have it all documented. And considering the length of this post, he’s right. He’s always right! Here it goes.



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Sleeps:
 
Sweet boy was waking up a lot during our time in Utah. We realized fairly quickly that we were confusing tiredness for hunger. He has no I’m-full-signal, it seems, so we kept feeding him. Learning that he initially only wanted to be awake about 60 minutes at a time was life-giving. Seriously.

We read Babywise and then Baby Whisperer. We learned that more sleep during the day means more sleep at night, so we started more frequent naps during the day. Who knew? He has always gone to bed between 8:30 and 10p. He always gets up between 7 and 8a. Soon after getting home, Milo went down to waking up just once between 3 and 4a.

One day, we focused carefully on a 3-hour routine of eat, play, sleep, and he slept through the night! We’ve kept at it, and he’s almost always sleeping through the night. Daytime naps have been a little spotty in the last week. He usually takes four naps a day about 1.5 hours at a time, but lately we’re lucky if we’re getting 45 minutes. Because of this, he’s woken up in the night a few times this week. Growth spurt? I think so! I’ll take it, though, because I fully realize this is still really good and it make not last.



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Eats: 
We’ve slowly upped the amount Milo eats from two ounces when we met him to four ounces now with the occasional six ounces.
Keeping with the 3-hour routine of eat, play, sleep, we feed him four ounces every three hours during the day. Before we go to bed around 10:30 or 11p, we do one dream feed — a feed without changing or unswaddling while he’s basically asleep. If his last bottle wasn’t after 8p, we usually give him six ounces for the dream feed, if he’ll take it.

He’s has some reflux issues, but burping frequently during the bottle and keeping him upright for a while after feeding has helped tremendously. He’s on formula, but I’m always patrolling opportunities for donated breast milk.

Likes: Everything? No, seriously. He has been a very content baby. He was definitely more fussy at the start — as is expected — but his fussing and crying these days is very minimal. He loves our 4moms mamaRoo (though he didn’t early on), IKEA play mat, books, fans, toys, baths in the Puj, Oscar’s kisses, the outdoors, walks, music, the sound of his rattle, and rides in the car (as long as we don’t hit too many stop lights). He started sucking on his hand in the last week, and he likes it when we rub his face with different textures of fabric. You can almost certainly get a smile out of him by singing “Milo… Milo JAYden” or saying “Hey, cute boy!”



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Dislikes: 
Getting his face wiped off, getting his nose sucked out with the NoseFrida, being in the car seat when the car isn’t moving, and doing tummy time (check out those head stats below!).

Firsts: First walk in the stroller, road trips (Plymouth, Cincinnati), trip to IKEA, wedding, Costco

Milestones: More alert, smoother movements, stronger neck, tracks us walking past him, coos, gurgles, smiles at people, grasps toys and bib often, sucks on his hand



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Stats at 2-month appointment:

Weight – 13 lbs 14 oz (87%)
Length – 23 in (48%)
Head – 44 cm (99%)

Disclosure: Affiliate links used. Because I believe in saving you time spent Google-searching. 

adoption, clothes + Instagram

Congrats to Becky V.! She won two baby headwraps.

The frequency of my posts may come and go these days. Having a tiny human in your home who relies on you for every single thing is no joke. It is a joy, and I am loving it. And we are all sleeping really well now. But, um, does someone want to come clean our bathrooms?

In addition to Milo, we are praying and advocating for our sons in Africa. We believe they will come home, and we are choosing expectancy each day.

Meanwhile, I have lovely friends who are considering adoption, pursuing adoption, and welcoming adopted children into their homes. I love begin able to support and encourage them. Kayla is one of those friends.


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About ten years ago (what! how am I that old?) Kayla contacted me after reading a blog post I wrote in response to what I learned attending an adoption conference as a single not-even-dating college student. We discovered we lived in nearby cities and worked at the same place and became fast friends. She has encouraged us and celebrated our addition of Milo. Now I get to encourage her and celebrate as she and her husband pursue their second adoption! Here’s a bit from Kayla and information on how you can support them… It involves clothes and Instagram, friends! Two of my favorites.

Every morning, I stumble out of bed, grab my Coke-bottle glasses, and shuffle my way across the hardwood floors into the kitchen. Our four-year-old waits patiently for his oatmeal, and his hand always seems to find mine as I make breakfast in the early morning hours. I pour myself coffee as our two-year-old, his bedhead just as wild as his little heart, comes hustlin’ out of his room.

Motherhood, you guys. It’s chaotic and sleep-deprived and sweet and 100 kinds of awesome.

I became a mom in a fashion that only God could create. I was a young, twenty-something newlywed learning more about the world, and more about its creator, every day. We were stumbly and we weren’t perfect, but we couldn’t help but sense that God was leading us both down a path to parenthood that, in the world’s eyes, was a bit unconventional.

My husband and I both started to feel the tug on our hearts for children who didn’t have families. We both grew up in safe and loving two-parent homes, and we couldn’t shake the idea of little ones not growing up without the structure and nurture a family provides. We knew we couldn’t do everything, but we could be open to doing something. We prayed, and asked God to lead.

One billion “only-God” stories later, and we were getting off a plane, welcoming our incredible one-year-old son into our arms, forever. Joseph joined our family via adoption from West Africa (you can learn much more about that here), and our lives have been so radically blessed by his presence. We grieve for what he lost with his fist family, but we praise God that he writes beautiful stories from brokenness.

Fast forward two years, and we welcomed a second son into our lives, this time the old-fashioned way. Asher fits into our family perfectly, and it’s a joy to see my sons grow and learn and play and explore life together.

And now, our hearts are open to more. And we continue to believe that God will form our family once again through adoption. There are children here and abroad waiting for safe and loving homes, and it’s at the core of our heart that we might have the privilege of being a family for another little one (or ones). Due to logistics, this time our process will happen in the U.S. instead of abroad. We’re not quite sure what this adoption will look like, though we know we want to be a family for a waiting child.

Over oatmeal and apple juice in sippie cups, we talk about adding a new brother or sister to the mix. “I know, Mommy!” Joseph says, scooping in another mouthful of breakfast. “We’re going to have two sisters! And name them Mommy and Daddy!”


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So, there’s a tiny glimpse into the big story God is writing. It’s a humbling, profound privilege to parent a child or children not born to me, and it’s not something I take lightly.

As we walk into the unknown and trust God that he will form our family in the ways only He can, we go through all of the paperwork and processes to ensure everything is done correctly and ethically.

We have just completed our home study, the giant 500-billion-page document written by a social worker who has poured over every detail of our lives to ensure that we are approved to be an adoptive family.

Adoption, as I’m sure you’ve probably heard, can be costly. Social workers, attorneys, agencies — each are compensated to ensure things are handled the right way. We’re a young family that has been saving for a second adoption since we completed our first. Every Christmas gift, every extra bit, has gone into a special account for “someday.” And someday is here!

My husband is a pastor who took on an extra job as a high school speech coach this year, and I’m a freelance writer/editor who has taken on extra projects to make this adoption a reality. We are also trying to think of creative ways to tackle the fees.

Here’s where the fun part comes in: We’re hosting a GIANT shop-our-closets sale this coming Monday, April 27 at 7 p.m.

  • I gathered more than 10 of my most stylish friends of all shapes and sizes, and together, we cleaned out our closets.
  • We have around 200 gently-worn items in quality brands (think J. Crew, Banana Republic, Gap, Free People, Anthropologie, Sevenly). Basically, my basement looks like an amazing women’s boutique right now. You’re going to want this stuff!
  • We’re selling it ALL (think 25+ dresses, 75+ tops, skirts, ethically-made jewelry, scarves, heels) in a HUGE Instagram auction-style fundraiser to combat adoption fees.
  • To join in on the sale: Follow us at @craigsadopt, and get those bidding fingers ready!
  • Each item will have a fairly low starting bid price, though we hope you have fun and bid generously! The sale will go on for 24 hours.
  • To bid, you must have a PayPal account. If you don’t, go sign up here!

These shop-my-closet sales have become so popular on Instagram, and I love them! (I love scoring thrifted treasures — you can have on-point style on a budget!)

Think of this sale as us doing the dirty work for you — all you have to do is sit back and bid away — knowing that 100 percent of all money is going directly to our adoption account. You’ll get some crazy-awesome deals, and you’ll be entering into the work God is doing to provide waiting little ones a permanent, loving family.


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baby product: headwraps

Before we knew that our newest baby would be a boy, I became fascinated by little girl hair accessories. I cranked out eight or so tiny bows on the sewing machine, and I attached them to little clips. I searched Etsy for headwraps and headbands, and I found Coco + Lulu Handmade (formerly Sweet Child Shop).



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Coco + Lulu has two styles of headwraps for baby girls: non-stretchy one-size cotton headwraps and stretchy knit knotted headwarps. They have also recently expanded to include adorable drool bibs and beanies. I love a baby in a beanie!



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I would love to give away the two headwraps I have!
The mint headwrap is non-stretch, one-size-fits all. The stretchy black and white headwrap is sized for a newborn. Use the widget below to enter!



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The giveaway is open to US winners only for only the two headwraps pictured above. The giveaway will run from now until April 20th at 12a. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

hiding behind words + the Pancheros lady

Read my first post about her kindness here.



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Woven Pieces 1 by Oh So Suite

After breaking into tears in Pancheros a year ago, I’ve largely avoided going there. I did feel led to send a thank you after an employee there hugged me and gave me free lunch shortly after brain surgery and our family dog dying. In my thank you, I shared that my mom underwent brain surgery a couple of weeks later. I expressed my gratitude for her kindness and thoughtfulness and humanness. 

In the year since then, I’ve gone in a few times. But when she was working behind the counter, I avoided eye contact. Another time, when she started walking around the tables, I left hurriedly to avoid talking to her.

You see, I like hiding behind words written in thank you cards and on online platforms. Whether because of introversion or insecurity or impatience, I dislike having in-person conversations with those who know bits of my life but still care deeply about me. I feel it at Pancheros. I feel it when I go to my hometown church. I feel it when I run into a blog reader at a conference. I feel it when I see an old classmate at Target.

I like sharing about myself and then dodging your further questions. I like making you like me and relate to me and care about my life without having a two-way conversation about the sadness I’ve felt while pursuing a much-delayed adoption or the fear I felt being told I had a brain tumor or the selfishness I’ve discovered within myself as a new mother. But it’s lonely and it’s sad and it’s pathetic.

A few days before we heard we had been chosen at Milo’s adoptive parents, I stopped at Pancheros for lunch in the middle of a bunch of errands. I was wearing the same royal blue coat I was wearing the day I broke into tears. My coat triggered the Pancheros lady’s memory. While yet again sitting with my back turned from the front, she came up to me.

“I’m sorry if this is awkward, but did you come in here about a year ago after brain surgery and your family pet dying?” “Yes,” I said, embarrassed. “Oh my goodness,” she said, sliding into the seat across for me. “You look great! How are you feeling? “How is your mother?” “Did your parents get a new dog?” “I am so happy to see you are well.”

We had a brief but meaningful conversation before I finished my lunch. This time, I waved to her as I left and got in my car smiling. Her unexpected kindness one year later touched me in a way I was not expecting from a lunchtime stop at Pancheros. The way she set down what she was doing, approached me, and showed care for me surprised me in the midst of errands at other places with disengaged employees and rude customers. I wished very much I had introduced myself much sooner. 

I’m not quite sure if it’s introversion or insecurity or impatience that has previously kept me from these kinds of conversations in different settings. And I’m embarrassed to admit it could be all three of those. But my dear Pancheros lady has taught me much about the ways brief interactions can mean much in the life of a person.

Today, when I went into Pancheros, I kept my head up, looked her right in the eyes, smiled, and asked how she was doing.