open adoption and trust

Milo’s birth mom wouldn’t mind you telling me this. She’d say the same thing. Her major hang-up with adoption was a fear that adoptive parents would take her baby boy and never be seen or heard of again. Most of her questions the first time we talked with her were veiled pleas for reassurance. And we understood this and respected it. She wanted to know that she could trust us.

In our adoption, and most adoptions, I assume, there is no thing that legally binds us to communicating with her. Parents have and will turn on the charm, accept the placement of a baby or toddler or child, and go off the radar. Our agency contract stipulates letters and photos at pre-determined intervals. Milo’s birth mom wanted an open adoption that includes regular contact and visits, and we welcomed this gladly. 

From our first communication, we’ve been building mutual trust. She trusts us to care well for Milo, to love him, and to remain committed to him no matter what life brings. She trusts us to communicate with her, to involve her, and to allow her to be a regular part of his life. We trust her to remain in contact, to stand by her commitment to adoption, and to be honest with us about her journey in life.

To build trust, we’ve worked to exceed the commitments we’ve made to her. We’ve flung wide the doors of communication, even though yes, it is strange to be so open with a near-stranger so early on.

Some snippets of how this has worked for us:
+ We gave her our full names and our phone number and our address early on.

+ While waiting for clearance to travel home, we regularly updated Milo’s birth mom about what we were hearing. We communicated that we wanted to see her again before we flew home, and we followed through with that. It meant waiting an extra day to go home, and it was worth it.

+ We gave her space to process and grieve, but we told her we were open to more contact and more pictures and more whatever she wanted whenever she wanted.

+ We’ve exceeded the communication we agreed to in our agency contract by sending her regular mail for holidays and her birthday. We text message nearly every day!

+ We’ve been upfront with her about the progress we’ve seen toward Theo and Elliot coming home. We’ve communicated how this transition will be hard and how we will be stretched to meet the needs of each of our boys. But we’ve communicated how much we love and are committed to Milo.

+ We have updated her about Milo’s health. I text her after his check-ups with his weight, height, and any concerns the doctor had. We have also involved her in decisions we have made for Milo’s health. He may require surgery later for a couple issues, and we’ve talked those through with his birth mom.

She truly entrusted him to us, and we love seeing the ways that trust has grown. 

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sponsored: Huggies #UltraHug + Safe Families

This summer, we expect to frequent a couple of our favorite parks and the Y pool with Milo. But it won’t be the first time for us to take a child to any of those places, because we’ve been to all our favorites with the Safe Families kids we have hosted.

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When we moved to Indianapolis two years ago, we immediately became approved by Safe Families to be a host family.
Though we love adoption and feel it is a great option in some situations, we also want to be a family that supports initiatives that keep families of origin intact. Safe Families, providing temporarily housing for children whose parents are in crisis and are receiving services, is that sort of program.

Two summers ago, I drove to the Safe Families office in Indianapolis with a never-used car seat in the back of my car. I met Mr. M, a spirited, inquisitive 2-year-old. He said a tearful goodbye-for-now to his mama and got in my car. Because Dan was still on vacation before starting his new job, the three of us spent two full weeks exploring our new city. Neighborhood splash pad, Holliday Park, 100 Acres, and watering and rewatering the plants on our porch.


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M was the first of six kids we have hosted through Safe Families. Six kids who have benefited from the services Safe Families provided to their parents during a time of uncertainty and need. Because of the services Safe Families offers, biological families can weather hard times, stay together, and set out to explore Indianapolis as a family again this summer. 

This summer, Huggies is graciously awarding $2,000 to 10 nominated community projects. Suggestions for projects include parks, playgrounds, beaches, and rec-centers. I love several of these types of projects in our city, but Safe Families in Indianapolis is the community initiative dearest to my heart and the very reason I first experienced all that summer in our city has to offer.





Would you like to nominate your own favorite community project? From now until June 25th, Huggies will be accepting all selfies of you + your baby with the hashtag #UltraHug and a description of your nominated community project. The pictures are featured in a collage on the campaign landing page. On July 6th, voting will begin to narrow down the 20 finalists to 10 winners who will win a $2,000 grant from Huggies for their nominated community initiative.

To enter the #UltraHug contest: Take a selfie of you and your baby and upload that selfie to Twitter or Instagram. Make sure to use the hashtag #UltraHug. Include a text nomination (approximately 100 – 120 characters) with the name and/or identifying description of a community project in the US, which you would like to nominate. Make sure the community project is something near and dear to your heart.


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Milo: months 4 + 5

The biggest change in the past two months is that this boy is much more active! He’s always kicking and flapping his arms and trying to grab things. He has started rolling… He first did it while swaddled and ended up face down and angry in his crib. We’ve since changed to a Swaddle Up 50/50, so we can transition to his arms being out. His little “flappers” seem to keep him from rolling quite as much. He frequently gets his legs stuck between the crib rails. He bats his arms around while we feed him bottles or scratches at the arm of the chair.

He has quiet moments, too, when he “talks” to the toys on his playmat and jumperoo. He seems to read books along with us, too. He loves being cradled and having conversations. I’m pretty certain he becomes more fun and even cuter each month. That’s gotta stop sometime right… Maybe when he’s two? :)

 Sleeps: We’re still using a lot of the principles found in Baby Whisperer and finally bought a copy after renewing the library’s a maximum number of times. (It’s really Babywise, without the cry-it-out stuff.) Milo has now dropped to two longer naps — one in the morning and one in the afternoon — and one short nap in the evening. We tried everything to get Milo to nap longer than 45 minutes again, and he is! What worked? Swaddling both arms! Apparently little bubs was coming out of the sleep cycle enough to startle himself awake with one arm swaddled out. He now naps between 1.5 to two hours or longer for the first two naps.

Though he consistently slept through the night from about two months old to four months old, he’s waking once a night again. (Though It’s possible we’ve been letting him nap too much during the day or he’s just hungry or it’s just a weird baby thing. Talking to other moms, I know we’ve got it good, so we’re putting on a smile for those new middle-of-the-night wake ups. 

Eats: We’ve transitioned from four ounces every three hours to five ounces every 3.5 to four hours. We give him a six ounce bottle at bedtime and for his “dream feed” before we go to bed to stock him up for the night, and he tolerates those well. During the day, he spits up a fair amount — possibly reflux — and we’ve found burping him in the middle of the bottle and sitting him up in his mamaRoo for a while after helps quite a bit.

We have received donated breast milk from three friends, and one friend is regularly pumping and donating frozen milk for us. This has helped with the spitting up, too! We usually do about half breast milk and half formula in Milo’s bottles. (This sweet friend recently told me she prays for us and our family when she’s pumping for Milo. We have such a sweet community here!)

We’ve gone back and forth on when to start solid food, wondering if it will help him sleep through the night again. Right now, we’re going to focus on feeding him bottles at regular intervals throughout the day. We’ll probably wait until six months for solids!   Likes: Most everything! He loves to be where the action is, so we frequently wear him or sit him in the Bumbo in the kitchen or dining room. He loves watching us and Oscar walk around. (See the cutest video in the world below!) He loves laying on the floor with us crouched above him talking to him. He still really likes the mamaRoo and playmat. He’s enjoying the jumperoo more, and he likes to babble at the little plastic bear on the front of it. He likes reading books, and I truly think Go, Dog! Go is his favorite. He likes taking baths and doesn’t mind his head being wet at all.

A video posted by Natalie (@natalie_e_s) on


Dislikes: We most recently discovered that he hates the loud blast of sound from the motion-sensored, super strong hand dryers in public places. We stopped at a gas station on our way home from Chicago, and Dan took him into the men’s room to change him. I heard Milo scream-cry both times someone used the hand dryer. Sorry, men in the gas station bathroom.

He’s still not a fan of tummy time, but it’s improving. He also seems to get frustrated when he can’t get something (like a big ball) into his mouth the chew on. He’s getting a lot better in the car, and getting his face wiped off doesn’t seem to bother him anymore.

Firsts: Skype with big brothers (!!), trip to the farmers’ market, lonnnnngggg road trip (to NYC), subway ride, boat ride

 Milestones: Much more steady when sitting with assistance, much more core strength, seeing way further (smiled at people smiling at him from across a restaurant!), trying to hold his bottle, arching his back, rolling from his back to his front all… the… time… and then crying until we flipping him over and doing it all over again

Stats at 4-month appointment:
Weight – 17 lbs 11 oz (93%)
Length – 26.25″ (90%)
Head – 42.5 cm (60%)
If you look at his 2-month stats, it’s apparent the previous nurse miscalculated. The ped told us not to worry about the seemingly shrinking head!

Disclosure: Affiliate links used, because I really like the products I mentioned!

reclaiming my days

At the recommendation of a friend, I recently started listening to a podcast called The Longest Shortest Time. It’s about parenthood, and the name really drew me in. Some days as a mostly-stay-at-home mom of an infant are really, really long, though this stage seems to be going so quickly. 

Our international adoption feels like it’s on the brink of something big. Yet each day, we wake up and there is no email or announcement or news that indicates our wait is over. So, add in the extra layer of being a waiting adoptive mama to two boys I’ve known of for more than three years, and there’s a potential for really long, dissatisfying days. 

A day in my life before deciding a change was needed:
Wake to baby crying earlier than I want to get out of bed. Feel sad that my days of sleeping in are long gone. Haul baby out of bed and change his diaper. Feed him. Lay down on the couch to eat a huge bowl of cereal while he plays happily.

Put him down for a nap. Force self to take a shower. Watch Ellen  with wet hair while sitting in a robe. Get dressed. Watch The Price Is Right.

Get baby up. Lay next to baby on the floor and read books. Check phone often for emails about international adoption.

And, basically, repeat all day.I decided I needed to reclaim my days. Because guys, if I can’t find joy in the mundane and even disappointments with one child, how am I gonna do it with three?

Nothing monumental has changed, but I’ve found a little more routine and structure. I’ve been happy to see it makes a difference!

A reclaimed day:
Wake to baby talking in bed. Greet him, smile at him, make him laugh. Dress him in a cute outfit and feed him. Put him in his favorite spot: the playmat. Do quiet time and journaling while eating breakfast.

Cuddle him, talk to him, rub his back. Put him down for nap. Take a shower, get dressed, and put in a load of laundry. Answer emails or write a blog post. Read a book.

Get baby up from nap with smile on my face. Put my phone in a basket on the kitchen table. Interact with him, take him on errands, take him on walks.

Accept that this is my day. Deeply enjoy the little things: mail from a friend, Mindy Kaling on Ellen, kind comments from a stranger at Target.

Stop being lazy and get stuff done. Leave the house in a more arranged state than it was when husband left for work. Great him with a smile, and enjoy the heck out of an evening with my husband and son.

After I wake up, my day can grow in disappointment and weariness, or it can grow in joy and contentment. I’m gunning for joy and contentment and gratitude over here these days.

seeing something that isn’t tangible

I loaded Milo into the car for an early evening attempt to preoccupy us both before bedtime after a long, fussy day. As I turned from one street onto another, I looked into the rearview mirror to see the other mirror positioned facing Milo in his car seat.

He had one fist raised — always his left fist — and he was studying it. I saw him watch the sunlight from the low sun cover his arm, then just his fist, then just a tiny part of his fist. It flickered, and it was gone. He squeezed his eyebrows together and slowly lowered his arm.

I think his little mind was trying to understand how he could see something that wasn’t tangible. My mind is also trying to understand how I can see something that isn’t tangible. But it is understanding. I am seeing that which isn’t tangible.

I am seeing growth within myself as I look back the past five years of singleness, impatience, marriage, adoption, impatience, and motherhood. I am seeing understanding and deep, deep care in my husband’s affirmations as I express my fears and doubts.

I am seeing a general sense of I’m-familiar-with-you-and-comfortable-with-you in the way Milo settles into our arms and routines. I am seeing trust in the way a friend shares her struggles and mistakes with me.

I am seeing more waiting in my future, but I am also seeing a God who has my best interests in mind. I’m seeing that He loves me and wants my best and wants what’s best for me. I am seeing, at least for today, that I trust Him.

I can see the light. I watch it stream in the upstairs bathroom window at just the right time of the evening. I watch it dance in a leaf-like pattern on the white-tiled kitchen floor.

And I can see the Light. I can’t touch the Light, but I can feel the Light. And I’m happy to be in the Light. 






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shared decisions and blame

I’ve been a grump-a-lump* the past two days. 

I’m not certain what started it… It could be the overwhelming weight and privilege of being a mama to one (and hopefully soon, THREE) adopted sons. It could be that our lives remain in a continued state of uncertainty as we wait for news about Theo and Elliot’s adoption. Or it could be this post-vacation discontentment I always get. Whatever it was, it all came crashing out at Dan.

Yes, you’re right. Sinful and stupid, isn’t it? I’m sharing because maybe you’ve experienced this, too, and maybe you know how to put the brakes on this yuckiness.

I feel overwhelmed that I am the wife of a medical resident who sometimes works lots of hours and has infrequent shifts. I feel overwhelmed that I am a friend to women who are experiencing real hurts and tough situations. I feel overwhelmed that I am a mama to a biracial son in a rather scary world. 

And then, on a more shallow level, I feel overwhelmed with the amount of laundry we have. I feel overwhelmed with the amount of money we spent on this thing or the other thing. I feel overwhelmed with putting a baby to bed who just doesn’t seem to want to sleep.

When I feel overwhelmed, I get stressed and upset. And I want to place blame for decisions we made together, because blaming myself feels yuck. So I blame my husband. Example: Why didn’t Dan think about how it would be really challenging for me to do bedtime alone with two boys who may or may not have a lot of grief and anxiety stirred up at bedtime and an infant who kind of really likes his bottle and rocking and singing? Why didn’t he choose a career path that would ensure he is home in the evenings every day, 100% of the time?

Funny how the addition of a child makes you start to do yucky things and see yucky things in yourself, right? (Not funny at all!)

It started looking like we needed to turn up the communication dial once again, and we did. I laid on the couch and cried, and Dan gave me permission to “get it all out,” and I did. We talked about the need to evaluate how different aspects of our lives are working and the need to share the blame when something just doesn’t work well. Dan reminded me to find joy in all the really awesome, good gifts we have truly been given by God, and I agreed. 

My independent little self still often forgets that my husband is my teammate and that we have the privilege of making team decisions and coaching our boys in life. 

And God reminded me He is even more on my team than Dan can or ever will be. He considers me His masterpiece, and He created me for a purpose. He has equipped me to share decision-making responsibility with my husband, and He has equipped me to thrive.


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*This comes from a form of chunk-a-munk, a nickname that formed itself for Milo. He is occasionally a grump-a-lump, but he’s mostly just a chunk-a-munk.

adoption cocooning: our plans to become hermits



Moth No. 2 by Peter Loves Jane



Moth No. 2 by Peter Loves Jane

I want to approach this carefully but honestly. Here’s the bottom line: We plan to cocoon once Theo and Elliot are here, and we don’t want you around.

What is cocooning? 
In the adoption world, cocooning is the practice of keeping days calm and consistent while the adoptive parents act as the sole caregivers for an adopted child. Some families do this for a week… Some do it for six months or longer.

Why cocooning?
Cocooning is a way to foster safe, secure, loving attachments among adoptive parents and children during the sweet, important weeks after homecoming. In our case, it appears that Theo and Elliot are securely attached to their foster parents, with whom they have lived for two-and-a-half years. We want to effectively transfer those attachments to us. Though we could do a big old welcome party, we’d prefer to start this attachment work as soon as possible. 

What will we be doing, really?
We plan to lay low and act as Theo and Elliot’s sole caregivers for three months. This timeline is just a plan! We hope to be insightful enough to be able to evaluate our progress and decide if more or less time is needed. And we’ll probably make some exceptions along the way. We all are gonna get stir crazy, friends!

During these three months, we will be focusing on nurturing the boys while still setting firm boundaries. We’re going to work hard to keep their routine predicable and fairly consistent. Hello, visual schedule project! We’re going to keep the number of toys and clothes and activities simple. We’re going to minimize outings and avoid chaotic places. No Children’s Museum on a Saturday. We won’t be taking them to Sunday school or leaving them with babysitters.

As a family of five (!!) — six, counting Oscar — we’re going to spend time focusing on attachments within our family structure. Theo time playing with Milo. Mama time reading to Elliot. Papa time singing to Milo. Theo and Elliot time throwing the ball for Oscar and learning that he isn’t scary. (I’m worried about this one, y’all!) Mama and Papa time sitting on the front porch rehashing the struggles of the day and our total exhaustion. 

What you can do?
Understand that we may step away from social media and our phones for a while. It won’t be because their transition is miserable, it’s because we want to focus on our kids! Please also understand that their transition might be horrible! We want to be mindful about sharing this part of their story in a way that does justice to the reality of adoption but still respects their privacy.

Please don’t ask if you can stop in “just real quick.” We’re going to be firm on this one! If friends and family desire to bless us with meals or other necessities, we’re going to accept these, but we’re probably going to ask that you do a stealthy porch drop-off.

Know that we aren’t pulling away from family, friends, and our church community. We are simply relying on you in new and different ways. Adoption is different than childbirth. Adopting three-year-olds is different than adopting a newborn. We’ve been waiting for this for three years, and we don’t want to regret not making clearer goals for developing these attachments.

You all have been so kind and supportive of us. Thank you, and we can’t wait to introduce these sweet ones to you when the time is right! 

For more on cocooning and these first weeks home: A formal, educational perspective and a real-talk perspective from Jen Hatmaker

international adoption update: getting closer

As always, I’m not comfortable sharing specific details. But here’s what I can share + here are answers to many questions we’ve gotten recently:

We are finally seeing some positive movement toward processing adoptions in Theo + Elliot’s country. As far as we can tell, there are two more steps we’ll need to pass before we receive the approval to bring them into our home. These are new steps, though, so we’re uncertain of a timeline. This could happen very quickly or very slowly! And honestly, it still feels unreal. We’ve seen slow-downs enough that we’re cautious about this.

We are uncertain who — Dan, me, my mom, or a combination — will travel to pick up the boys. We want to still be mindful of the ongoing bonding that’s happening with Milo, and the little guy is too young to travel with us. We’re going to make this decision as best as we can with the information we have when the time comes. Story of our lives.

Theo and Elliot turned three years old in February. They have lived with the same foster parents since they were six months old, which means awesome things for their adjustment and attachments! They primarily speak French, and as far as we can tell, they know very little English.

They’ve had some recent bouts of malaria and typhoid, but as far as we know right now, they’re generally healthy. We will be taking them to an international adoption clinic and diving into several medical tests upon their arrival.

We plan to cocoon when they get here, and we’re excited about it. More about that soon!


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adoption: when I thought they’d never be in our home

These days, we’re feeling much better about our international adoption. (I’ll share more about that soon… in the same vague way I’ve always shared about it!) I feel myself crawling out of a hole of despair I had dug for self-protection. I am still cautious, but unlike the previous fears I’ve had that Theo and Elliot would really never come into our home, I’m very hopeful. 

I was recently asked by someone in a similar-but-different situation how I coped with the fear and true possibility that children I love but have not met would never come into my home as we have hoped and planned and prayed. 

I spouted off a list of strategies. I’m not sure many of them would go under the “coping well” category, but that’s the thing about it. You can try hard to cope well, and you may fail, but God pursues your heart, peace, and stability still.

Here’s what I shared:
+ I distracted myself with getting a job, working, planning trips, going on trips, decorating and organizing our home, completing projects, and pursuing new hobbies.

+ I went on a “preparing freeze.” I didn’t get their room ready, buy new clothes, make plans that involved them, or change anything about our home and lifestyle that would suggest the addition of two children.

+ I stopped mentioning our adoption to those who didn’t ask about it and especially to those who didn’t know about it. It hurt too much to try to convey the long, hard journey in a way that did justice to the story God is writing.

+ I considered that God probably had greater plans for them in their country of birth than He did for them in our home.

+ I believed that God still had my best interests in mind which, at times, can look like “severe mercies.” For example, maybe He hadn’t really equipped me to parent them and meet their specific needs and He was being merciful toward me by not putting them under my care.

+ I allowed myself to call what I was feeling grief and to identify the stages of grieving as I went through them. The anger stage lasted for a while.

+ Similarly, I kept an eye out for depression. I was a few days from seeking professional help before the depression stage lifted and the acceptance arrived.

+ I threw myself into caring for my relationships with those who have been placed in my circle right now… Husband, friends, acquaintances.

+ I mentally considered and eventually researched next steps for adding children to our family. We didn’t pursue Milo’s adoption because we thought Theo and Elliot wouldn’t come into our home, but we did pursue it because we accepted they might not come into our home for a long time.

+ I accepted that though those feelings were absolutely miserable and hard to put words to and hard for others to understand, my God has bigger plans for me and my family than I will ever know. I prayed that I would find the purpose soon, but I accepted that I may not fully understand until heaven.





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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