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).



Coco + Lulu Handmade





Coco + Lulu Handmade



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!



Coco + Lulu Handmade



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!



Coco + Lulu Handmade



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.



Woven Pieces 1 by Oh So Suite



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. 

unexpected new worlds of motherhood

I have a new baby. Three primary thoughts have been: 1) I need more sleep than this. 2) We have so much junk. 3) Why aren’t affordable baby clothes cuter? 


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1) Milo’s birth mom told us he was waking up five to six times a night. After his first night with us in Utah, he was waking up three times. After his first night in his crib at home, he was waking up once. Then we got the genius idea that maybe he could sleep through the night! I skimmed Babywise, but it was a lot of information, and there are aspects of it (cry-it-out!) that are not good options for us. I joined a Babywise Mamas Facebook group to figure out alternatives while still keeping the aspects that work well for us… and whoa. The acronyms. LO, DWT, EWS. What are these? Why is that it mothers and gamers seem to be the primary users of acronyms in online forums? So strange. New world.


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2) There have been a few things we’ve mean to sell for quite some time. And then we added a baby and his needed items (which we’ve really kept to a minimum), and suddenly everything I saw in our home looked like something I could sell. A friend recommended two local Facebook groups for selling and buying used items, and I joined. I’ve felt uneasy about Craigslist lately after a strange email exchange when attempting to buy a stroller. These Facebook groups are a whole new world of selling and buying things I was certain would need to end up at Goodwill. More acronyms here, too. NWT, EUC, GUC. What? New world.


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3) Generally, I like to dress Milo like a smaller version of my husband with some added quirkiness. (I would love to see Dan in a pair of Little Hip Squeaks sweatpants and Freshly Picked moccasins!) Our friends and family have been very kind to compliment his wardrobe, and I have very much enjoyed picking out little outfits. The cute stuff is so dang expensive. I could act like I just realized this, but no, I realized this when I started “nesting” for Theo and Elliot’s arrival 2.5 years ago. Back then I bought clothes for them at full price. But recently I discovered the world of used kids’ clothes. Nearly everything we have for Milo was gifted, won in a giveaway, bought used, or bought new at a majorly discounted price. The best spots I’ve found for used clothes are Once Upon A Child (store chain), Kidizen (app), and thredUP (website + app — get $10 to spend using that link!). It is my great joy to spend an hour digging through the 3-6 month and 2T + 3T boys racks looking for good, cute, used clothes for my boys. New world. 

Motherhood is weird. 

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Disclosure: Affiliate links used

trouble sleeping

Giveaway winners: Congrats to Jennifer F. ($150 credit to Minted) and Valerie S. (Freshly Picked moccasins)!

I have trouble sleeping. My trouble sleeping has coincided with the start of the adoption process nearly three years ago. I also have back pain which gets worse throughout the night. Its start coincided with grad school. It got better — nearly went away — when I wasn’t working for six months after we moved to Indianapolis. But it’s worse again from carrying a chunk of a baby around.

I understand the source of both these issues. But I can’t seem to make it too much better. I rely on my husband — a doctor — to help me sleep better and make my back hurt less. My “relying” on him generally takes the shape of “complaining” to him. 

We had fun on Saturday night at a birthday party for my sister-in-law. We came home and put our sweet baby boy to bed. He’s put himself on a nice little schedule, and it’s best if we keep a regular bedtime. Dan and I spent some time together after Milo fell asleep and tiredly, happily crawled into bed to sleep soundly on our Costco-purchased memory foam mattress. (Best purchase ever?)

Then I woke up at 5a. Sugar coursing through my veins from over-indulging at the party and thoughts of two boys in Africa racing around my mind. I was hungry. My back hurt badly. And then I could not fall asleep again. Dan fed Milo and came back to bed and I was still awake. Miserable. I told him I planned to get up for the day if I wasn’t asleep at 6a. I took a sleep aid and wished for sleep.

And then I woke up at 9:30a. Worried about Milo and Dan and getting to church in time. Had he fed Milo? Was he fussy? Would we have time to make breakfast? Would I be able to open my eyes enough to take a shower? I’ll be honest, I miss a little bit the mornings of sleeping in and conversations with Dan while we lay in bed and taking our time to make a nice breakfast before church. (Milo does sleep really well, though, guys. We have still had some mornings like that!)

I’ve worried about sweet moments with Dan getting lost in the cries of a hungry baby. I’ve worried about tired, aching irritation overriding my desire to be sweet to my husband. I’ve worried that despite how much we value our marriage and understand prioritizing it, we’ll throw it out the window and scrape by trying to keep our kids happy.

I pried open my eyes enough to look around. And found beside me on the bed tray we’ve used about four times a full breakfast with a tiny flower. Dan and happy Milo and always-happy Oscar came in a bit later. “I had some breakfast helpers this morning,” Dan said, and smiled. 


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baby product: Happy Wrap



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Though we are loving these slow, quiet days at home with our new boy, it has been nice to still get out to try new restaurants and see new spots of our city, and the Happy Wrap has been perfect for many of these outings.
 I love having Milo cozied up on me, and he loves it, too. He almost always conks out as soon as I slip him in.

We decided to visit the Garfield Park Conservatory in Indianapolis for the first time one rainy day after the chaos of unpacking and seeing relatives and finding our routine died down. It was the perfect cold, rainy late-winter day activity. Lots of warmth, light, and green plants. We almost made it out of there without buying another houseplant. But a quirky one caught my eye, and every baby needs a plant to commemorate his first trip to the conservatory, right? (Just kidding. It will probably die quickly.)



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I’ve used my Happy Wrap a lot at home, as well as on this outing and several others now.
The benefits of babywearing are widely known, and they’re even greater for bonding and attachment with adopted babies and toddlers, in my opinion. I chose Happy Wrap, because I like the brand, and the price is more doable than some of their competitors. 

Things to know about Happy Wraps:
+ Organic bamboo: soft, stretchy, and moisture wicking
+ Pretty colors and a couple patterns, most of which look good on papas, too
+ Use for babies from birth to 25 pounds
+ Clear, easy to learn tie instructions



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Disclosure: I received my Happy Wrap in exchange for a post sharing my honest opinions. I honestly love it!

baby product: little shoes + Freshly Picked moccasins giveaway



Freshly Picked Petite Blue crib moccasins



When we started an international adoption, I never really felt sad about not having a newborn or getting to experience all the things that come with a tiny baby. I didn’t envy women who bee-lined it to the newborn section of Baby Gap. I understood that my internationally adopted twins would come home walking, and we would skip the baby booties phase.

So, when we decided to pursue a domestic infant adoption, I was surprised to find myself more excited than expected to carefully collect several tiny baby items. One tiny baby item I love are Freshly Picked moccasins. 



Freshly Picked Petite Blue crib moccasins



Yes, this interest has admittedly been fueled by social media and other moms and celebrity moms and seeing the creator on Shark Tank. So, I was excited for the opportunity to hold a pair in my hands and eventually put them on my baby. Though quite expensive, I discovered they really do live up to the hype.

I am crazy about the wide variety of color options — color lover, over here! The leather appears to be really high quality, and the design allows the shoes to stretch as little feet grow. We chose the Petite Blue crib moccasins, and the color is even more vibrant in person. They’re still a little big for Milo, but it looks like they’ll stay on his feet really well as he grows.


Freshly Picked Petite Blue crib moccasins



I am tickled to get to give away a pair of these sweet moccasins! The winner can choose any size and color of moccasins currently in stock at Freshly Picked.

The giveaway is open internationally, though any winner outside of the U.S. will be billed for shipping. Additionally, the winner can not have won any other giveaway of a pair of Freshly Picked moccasins within the last 60 days. The giveaway is open now until 3/27 at 12a. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received Milo’s moccasins in exchange for a review on my blog and the opportunity to host a giveaway. We truly love them!



Freshly Picked Petite Blue crib moccasins



our road to Milo: part 5 — meeting Milo and J

Read part 1 (failed match), part 2 (baby born)part 3 (two phone calls) + part 4 (waiting to meet)

This is the part of the story where it starts to feel more like J’s story and Milo’s story than it is my story and Dan’s story. I hope this makes sense. There’s nothing to hide or feel ashamed about. But that first meeting with J — and subsequent meetings, really — was just so… precious and private and emotional and weighty. Dan and I will tell Milo about all of that first meeting, but we will never tell anyone else about all of it. At the same time, there are significant parts of that meeting that I want to share as a testimony to the greatness of adoption and open adoption and selfless decisions and God’s goodness. 



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J’s back was turned to us when we walked into the room. She had Jayden in her arms. She put him directly into my arms, which she had told me was important to her. It was important to us, too, having read specifically about infant adoption, especially after baby and mom have been together for some time and are clearly bonded. It was a significant, sweet, ceremonial gesture, and I can’t imagine it being any other way.

 Jayden was wrapped in a blanket wearing a onesie that now will sit in his memory box as a memento from that first meeting. He was asleep. At three weeks old, he was small, of course, and he was so handsome. Perfect dark, smooth hair. Little pursed lips. Long, skinny fingers. He murmured a little as we tried to remember what it was like to hold a baby. 

We sat down with J near us. There was a bit of time when Dan and I just observed Jayden, and J just observed us. In those moments of silence, the weight of what was happening was thick in the room. She was absolutely heartbroken to say goodbye-for-now to her baby boy after nine months and three weeks. But she was resolute. And she felt God had clearly placed us in her life at the right time for this purpose. She has shared this with us many times, and each time she shares it, it seems to be more from a place of joy than a place of sadness.



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Though excited, we were hurting badly for J.
The better we got to know her, the more we took on the emotions she was feeling. The way you start to hurt and rejoice for the people you love. (And I recognize as adoptive parents we will never fully understand what the birth mom of our son has felt and will feel.) We were nervous, too. In this moment, our lives finally came parallel to each other. We shared a very intimate, personal experience with a near-stranger with another near-stranger watching. And we hoped this would be a lifetime of getting to know each other to the extent that we would consider J and her son our family.

At one point, J stood near us and shared some of her emotions. She and I share a strange unequal but common bond. I have two sons in Africa who I am apart from. I only get pictures of them and brief updates. She was making the decision to have a son who she will be apart from on a day-to-day basis. And because of my experience, I knew how much it would mean to her to get much more than pictures and brief updates. I knew how meaningful it would be for her to get daily updates and emotional support and physical visits and frequent encouragement.

I looked up at her with Milo in my arms. My voice cracked as I swallowed hard and became teary. We both now had sons who are not in our homes. 

Eventually, we left to go back to our rental home with plans to meet up with J at least a couple of times before we would return to our real home. We carefully and awkwardly put Milo in his car seat and walked out into the cool, clear Utah night. We drove through McDonald’s on the way home. I was starving but had been too nervous to eat much at dinner. Finally after travel snags and a long drive and an early morning and a day of waiting for this moment, I could feel relief that Milo was really, truly in our care.


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We got home, took him out of the seat, and changed him into warmer clothes, quickly looking over his perfect little arms and legs and toes and fingers. I leaned back on the couch with him on my chest. It felt unreal, but so good… J had been so affirming about her decision to choose adoption and choose us. And though I had told God I thought a dark brown baby girl would be best for our family, He had chosen to intersect our story with Milo’s — and more importantly, J’s — in ways I had never imagined. Our stories are those of waiting and discerning and plans not going as planned and heartbreak and loss and family and joy.

In J’s deep hurting, she chose to make the hardest decision of her life. And through that decision, she gave us hope in the midst of our own deep hurting. We love her, we love Milo, and we love our God. 

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opendomesticadoptionstory


baby product: birth announcements + $150 Minted credit giveaway

I’ll be posting part 5 of our road to Milo later today! 

There have been a few things I’ve been excited to get for a new baby for several months now. Birth + adoption announcements are one of them! (And I’ll be sharing a couple more in the coming weeks… Freshly Picked moccasins and Happy Wraps!)

We’re having family photos taken on Thursday, and we hope to choose announcements shortly after that. On the announcements, we want to recognize and honor the selfless decision Milo’s birth mom made. Since Minted allows you to customize the text, we’ll easily be able to do this.

Minted also recently added several new announcement designs for spring. It’s going to be tricky to choose!


warm welcome birth announcement by by kristie kern -for Minted



warm welcome birth announcement by kristie kern

how wonderful birth announcement by laura hankins



how wonderful birth announcement by laura hankins


woodland animals birth announcement by by cynthia oswald  for Minted



woodland animals birth announcement by cynthia oswald


so much love to give birth announcement by by genna cowsert



so much love birth announcement by genna cowsert

tailored birth announcement by by sara hicks malone



tailored birth announcement by sara hicks malone

canvas snapshot birth announcement by by alethea and ruth for Minted



canvas snapshot birth announcement by alethea and ruth


wild side birth announcement by by rebecca turner  for Minted



wild side birth announcement by rebecca turner

Minted has graciously allowed me to host a giveaway for $150 credit to their site! The giveaway is live now and will end on 3.25 at 12a. Entries will be verified!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclosure: Affiliate links used. I received Minted credit for our own birth announcements in exchange for sharing my favorites. 

our road to Milo: part 4 — waiting to meet

Read part 1 (failed match), part 2 (baby born),  part 3 (two phone calls) + part 5 (meeting Milo + J)

“So, do you think you’re ready for us to fly out?” I asked J. “Yes, I’m not sure how the rest of this is supposed to work, though,” she said. “Me neither! But we do know how to book flights.” We laughed, and I told her I’d update her tomorrow as we were on our way. Though she laughed, I could hear the deep hurt in her voice as she began to consider what it would mean to put her son in our arms.

We texted our families as many details as our minds would let us sort through. And apologized for texting and not calling. I rushed to buy a “big brother” t-shirt for J’s other son, going to two stores to find they were closed before parking in the expectant parent spot at Buy Buy Baby and finding the perfect t-shirt. Back home, we packed all the newborn boys’ clothes we had, as well as a few gifts we had carefully selected for J and her other son. I slept zero hours that night, and Dan slept deeply. Typical in our home.


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Our flight out of Indianapolis was late boarding. It was near zero degrees as we boarded, and the flight technicians couldn’t get the fuel door open to fuel the plane. We sat on the runaway for about 2.5 hours. I was anxious. I used to laugh about essential oils, but man, I had that Serenity oil slathered on. Dan and I weren’t seated together, having bought our tickets at the last minute. Once in the air, Dan started vomiting every hour or so. And we quickly realized we would miss our connecting flight from Phoenix to Salt Lake City. But we were reassured we were booked on the next available flight.



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When we finally landed, we learned we were not set to leave until 9p from Phoenix and not get us into Salt Lake City until 11p.
Because of our last minute booking, we got bumped way to the end of the “line” to get out. I ate something while Dan sucked down Gatorade. We quickly calculated that we would get to Salt Lake City more quickly driving nine hours than we would waiting for our flight. We went to baggage to ask that our bags not be loaded onto the next flight. “We have one big roller suitcase and a car seat,” I explained. “We’re adopting a baby, and we need to get to Provo as early as we can tonight.” This travel experience was similar to our honeymoon experience in a lot of ways. It’s a family tradition to hit travel snags before and after major life events, apparently. 

We drove nine hours, watching the landscape change as night fell. We talked about our hopes and expectations and fears. We kept praying for J. The stress dissipated, and we settled in for this time in the car together before our lives changed in an instant. It was a precious time… We fell in love and later figured out marriage during long drives in the car together. I felt I might burst with such great love for Dan and such great anticipation for meeting J and baby Jayden. 



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While driving, we realized we would be getting in much later than expected after getting the rental car and making a few necessary stops.
We told the social worker, and she suggested we talk in the morning about getting together with J. We understood and were thankful for one night of solid rest once we got to Provo.

I talked to J on the phone for a while. I don’t want to share details of that call, but again, our love and care for her intensified. And we again came to a strong realization of how seriously she had taken this decision and how deeply she loved her son. It was emotionally intense, but I am so grateful for the ways she has given us complete insight into her emotions. 

We pulled up to our Airbnb rental home in Provo. The front door was unlocked with the key on the kitchen island, if that gives you any indication of safety in Provo. We set our bags down and looked around. It appeared the home was used full-time by a young couple and their two children except for when rented via Airbnb. This would be the home where we would spend our first days with our son. It was strange and wonderful.


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We woke up early, ready to go for the day. We called the social worker and J. The social worker wanted to be there to facilitate our meeting, but she had become swamped with other cases and some other strange circumstances. We knew the uncertainty and delays were hard on J, so we apologized and reassured her and shared our excitement but understanding. We busied ourselves with eating waffles, and filling out paperwork, and settling, with certainty, on a name. We called J to explain our choice for his name and our desire to keep his given name as his middle name — just as we will for our African sons. She gave her blessing, and we wrote his full name on paperwork for the first time.

Milo is a name Dan mentioned several months ago. When we looked up the meaning, we were sold. Milo means “merciful” and “solider.” We love the idea of our son being a man who is strong yet merciful. A man who daily dons the armor of God. Jayden means “thankful.” And well, we have one million reasons to be thankful for this boy, his birth mom, and the ways God brought our story alongside theirs.

The day drew on, and dinner time came. The social worker was still not available, so we went out to dinner at a little Mexican restaurant. Finished with dinner, we still hadn’t heard anything, so we started driving to BYU’s campus to see the liger. Seriously, we were losing our minds waiting at that point. Then, suddenly, we heard from the social worker. It was time to meet up. We ran by the house to grab our gifts and the paperwork.

My nerves had decreased each time I talked to J throughout the day, but they were suddenly back. “Oh my goodness, oh my goodness,” I muttered as we drove. We pulled up outside where we were meeting. “Are you sure this is it?” I asked Dan. “It is!” “Okay, here we go… Deep breaths.”


opendomesticadoptionstory


our road to Milo: part 3 — two phone calls

Read part 1 (failed match)part 2 (baby born)part 4 (waiting to meet) + part 5 (meeting Milo + J)

After hearing J wanted to have a call with us and the social worker would be calling soon, I told Dan right away. It had to be a good sign, right? I nervously waited for a call all afternoon. I conducted a very distracted foster home assessment interview and went home to wait. When the social worker called, she shared more information about J. Sparing private details, they have formed a strong relationship, and the social worker knew J’s heart and emotions from the past days, weeks, and months very well. Again, we felt our love, care, and respect for J swell up. Again, we started praying for her.

We talked with the social worker about when the four of us could do a call, and we realized that night was going to be our best bet. Because of the time difference, they would be calling us around 8:30p. We were already late to our small group, but Dan suggested we go, so off we went. We didn’t feel comfortable sharing anything with the group yet, and I couldn’t manage to pay attention to the discussion on bit.


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In the excitement of the afternoon and evening, we hadn’t eaten yet, so we went to pick up food at the fastest place we know: Jimmy John’s. We barely stepped in the door and sat down, when the social worker and J called. “Hi, this is [social worker] and J. Can you hear us?” “Hi! This is Dan and Natalie. Can you hear us?”

We let J lead the conversation. She shared her feelings surrounding adoption with us, told us about her son, and asked a few thoughtful and important questions. We sensed the excitement in her voice start to grow but could still hear a good bit of the sadness she felt. The bittersweet emotions set in for all of us during that call, I think. And I’m not sure they have left or will ever fully leave. And that’s okay.

“I think this could work!” she said at the end of our call. J told us what she had going on the next few days and said we would hear from her “soon.” She said she would text us some pictures, and she did. We felt good about the call. It was wonderful to hear her voice and starting piecing together more information about her story. We were both surprised by how much we had begun to care for her. Dan left for work at 9:30p, and I laid in bed and prayed until I fell asleep.

And then, more waiting. More nesting and hopeful preparing. A few days passed, and we started to feel worried. We tried to get an update from the social worker and heard we would know more on Monday. Monday came and went. She’s just not ready yet, we were told. We decided to present our profile to another couple situations praying they would be totally irrelevant when we heard from J soon. We thought we would be in Utah for Valentine’s Day, so when it became apparent we wouldn’t, we made plans to distract ourselves.



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We ate at our favorite non-kid-friendly restaurant for Valentine’s Day.
We attempted to take our annual photo booth picture, but our spot was closed, so we improvised at home. We were feeling discouraged about the lack of information, and the doubt was creeping in. Maybe something major changed for her after our phone call? While we sat on the couch and talked after dinner that night, I told Dan I was praying J would be in church the next morning. I was praying God would speak to her. I was praying He would remind her how much she is loved and how much her son is loved. I was praying He would equip her for the next steps — choosing adoption or choosing parenting. And I was praying He would prepare our hearts for the emotions that would come on our end either way she decided.



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We went to church distracted again.
(And perhaps we impulse-bought a Wii after church. Perhaps we put it on our baby registry and used the registry completion discount to buy it. Seriously. That’s just a weird part of the story I want to remember!) Home again, we ate lunch and set up the Wii. We sat down to play it, and my phone rang. Our primary adoption contact again. “J wants to call you. She called you yesterday, but I think the number was wrong. Can she call you really soon? She wants to tell you herself!” We knew what it meant.

The mental rush to prepare and pack and book flights and go, go, go began. But we had to hear it from her, and we’re so glad we did. J called while I sat at the kitchen table in front of my computer with Dan sitting across.


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“I tried to call yesterday, and I’ve been wanting to tell you… If you still want me, I want to place Jayden with you, and I think we are a perfect match.” 

We wanted her so much. We started domestic adoption with a willingness to have an open relationship with our child’s birth mom. And as our love for J grew, we found how much we cared about having an open relationship. We knew — and have told her many times — our family tree would grow to include her. She would always be part of her family, just as her son would be. 


opendomesticadoptionstory