Review of Circle, by Disney

I have teenagers now.  Somehow that fact surprises me every now and then.

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Facebook is amazing at reminding me that just ‘yesterday’ I had three little boys, only one of those in elementary school, and internet access was not something I worried about them having.  It was just an automatic, obvious, “no.”
Now that they’re becoming more independent and one of them is about to start his second year in high school, I have to admit that internet access is a fairly necessary part of their lives.  But that doesn’t mean I have to or should release access to the entire world-wide-web with no restrictions or guidelines.
When the bigs were littles I got some advice that has stuck with me all along.  Not advice, as much as a way of thining about how and when to allow certain freedoms and privileges into their lives:  Handing the boys unrestricted access to the internet before they are mature enough to handle it is like handing the car keys to our 10-year-old and sending him to the grocery store alone.  In many ways, a 10-year-old is not ready for the responsibility of driving a car.  For one, his legs aren’t quite long enough to reach the pedals and he’s not tall enough to see over the steering wheel adequately.  Added to that, he hasn’t been trained to handle the four-thousand pound vehicle safely.  His brain isn’t ready to predict the actions of other drivers nor is it able to react to mistakes those other drivers might make.  In no way would it be wise for me to hand the keys of my car to my 10 year old and let him go.
I’m currently teaching Driver’s Ed to our 15-year-old and some of the slides we see make me worry that even he isn’t ready to be behind the wheel.  Of course, part of that is because he’s our first to reach this milestone and new adventures are always a bit more nerve-wracking with the first, but also because he’s my baby and he was 5-years-old yesterday… how in the world can he possibly be at this stage in life?!?
I sit beside Hayden during each and every Driver’s Ed lesson and talk about mistakes I’ve made behind the wheel, times my life has been spared by inches… I need to do the same when discussing the internet and the dangers it presents.  Circle allows them the ability to access some of the internet while blocking known dangers, all while Matt and I are able to have the difficult conversations with them that revolve around internet access.
Driving is a privilege, not a right.  It is something that must be earned and that privilege must be handled with care and concern.  I can’t tell you how many times lately I’ve pointed out a driver doing something absolutely stupid and told Hayden, “If I ever see you do that, I’ll take your license away.  You think I won’t be following you around town just to see how you drive?  Think again, buddy!”  With the internet, same thing.
Our rule so far has been that the internet must be used with filters, (we’ve used K-9 Web Protection with so-so results) and if they want to sit and surf, they have to do it in the main living areas with other people in the room. There have been times they’ve seen things that they shouldn’t have, and wouldn’t have had we allowed zero internet access, but I believe we must train our kids in how to handle themselves with access to the internet and what to do when they do run across something inappropriate.
I began seeing ads for “Circle by Disney” a few months ago but it wasn’t until one of my real-life friends “liked” their page on FB that I decided to give it a deeper look.  When I noticed that one of my favorite podcasters had released a review, I put it on my playlist.  After hearing what he and his friends said about it, both the good and the bad, I decided it was worth  my $99.
I made the purchase on Amazon the next day and two days later, it was here.  It was easy enough to set up… you simply plug it in.
The hardest part of setting it up is figuring out which device is which.  I was able to easily find the MAC addresses of each device, but I am sure that this would be a frustration to many people. (If you mostly have Apple products, and have given each product a nick-name, this process will be very easy.  If you have a variety of products, like we do, you may need to hunt the MAC address.  If you need help doing that, a quick search on Google will lead you in the right direction.)
There are many people who have done reviews that are much more thorough than what I have time to offer but here is a brief list of pros/cons and below, I’ll link to the reviews I used to make the decision to purchase.
Pros:
  • I can change settings in the moment.  Originally I had wireless connection turned off until 8 am for each of the kids, then Hayden woke early one morning and wanted to start on his schoolwork.  I was able to change his hours from where I sat while feeding Anna.  He didn’t have to go get the device, I didn’t have to dig around on his device to find the parental settings.  I hate (that’s a bit of an understatement) their Kindle devices, and despise messing with them to alter the settings.  Our level of allowed access changes based on whether we’re on vacation, traveling, weekends, etc. Before Circle I had to get all four boys to bring all their devices, then I had to dig into the parental settings, give their devices back.  Then after the weekend/vacation, gather them all back up and undo the changes.  This process was so time consuming and absolutely maddening.  Now, I can do all of that in about two minutes from my OWN PHONE (which, of course, is an iPhone).
  • I can add in specific websites that are automatically blocked.  Hayden’s English class is online, so I manually added in the website he needs to access.  It’s as easy as clicking on “Custom Filter” and typing in the website’s URL.  Takes seconds to do and then only seconds for it to take effect.
  • The app is user-friendly.  (I’m pretty sure an Apple-minded team developed it.)  It’s pretty and the layers are easy to dig into.
  • I can see at a glance how much time each child has spent online each day, and if I want, which sites they’ve accessed and how long they were there.
  • Unlimited number of devices can be controlled.
  • NEW INFO:  As of May 21, 2016, this can now be controlled on an Android device!
Cons:
  • A few bugs.  Two or three times in the first day or two my app told me there was no Circle on my wireless network.  I found a troubleshooting page on Circle’s website and followed the directions.  Both times the problem was resolved and everything back online within a few minutes.  It hasn’t happened again.
  • Adult settings. Setting up the appropriate filter level for Matt has proven tricky.  So far, I myself haven’t accessed a website that is questionable and I have my level at “adult.”  While Matt hasn’t tried to access anything inappropriate, several times Circle has blocked what he was trying to do.  Instead of working through the problem (and adding the site he was trying to access manually) I changed his filter setting to “none.”  I need to take the time to add in these sites – we all can benefit from these filters.  I admit, this isn’t really a con as much as it is me being lazy.
Other Reviews of Circle:
Overall, I’m very pleased with Circle and I’m glad I bought it.  I am going on two weeks of sickness (sore throat, and as of yesterday, headache) so that means I’m barely able to formulate all my thoughts into coherent paragraphs.  I’ll leave it with what I’ve written:  a few basic reasons for wanting to have Circle in our home, some pros/cons, and links that helped me made the decision to purchase.
Thanks for stopping by!
 (Oh, and I didn’t receive the Circle from Amazon or Disney in exchange for my review.)
Posted in family | 3 Comments

Leaving Virginia.

So, there’s a story about us leaving Virginia…

We know who Anna’s birth father is.  He was in the room when she was born, he held her, he comforted Mama with kind words during the times they spent alone with her, and he was concerned that I learn how to care for Anna’s hair.  He went to court on the date that Anna officially became our daughter but he didn’t want to sign anything.  He never gave a real reason, and this wasn’t a big deal.  Not really.   But it did make our leaving Virginia problematic.  Had he signed we could have left when Anna was about a week old but since he didn’t, we had to wait an extra two weeks.  This was a touch frustrating at the time because we were ready to get home and back to life, but looking back, I have to say I believe it was best that we had to stay longer.

It was best because:

  • We were basically held hostage in Virginia and we were forced to do nothing; to spend time together; to not get back to work or dive back into a normal routine.
  • We were forced to take walks during the days and watch TV in the evenings.
  • We decided not to do school even though we had all of it with us.
  • We were forced to watch the tide rise and fall in the waterway behind the apartment.
  • We were forced to just hold Anna all day long and focus on the seven of us.
  • I really think we needed that extra time and, had we had the option, we wouldn’t have taken it.

Part of the itch to get back was that we wanted to introduce Anna to our friends and family in North Carolina and friends who have become family in Texas.  But for Matt, it was also that he felt very protective of Anna and felt ready to have her home under our own roof.  It seems I nested before she arrived and Matt started the minute she was born.

So, here’s the story of our leaving Virginia.

The Putative Father Registry required that we give the birth father 10 days to come forward with intent to parent.  Anna was born on Saturday the 23rd – during Winter Storm Jonas.  That delayed the registry a little so when our time to leave the apartment came up on the 6th of February, Virginia wasn’t ready to let us leave.

Thankfully, we were able to tack on an extra two nights at the apartment where we were staying so we didn’t have to move to a hotel.  If you remember I mentioned that we found ourselves in the middle of a family battle and were almost evicted from the apartment.  The call to vacate came on Saturday and we had already paid for the next two nights and really didn’t look forward to packing eight of us into hotel rooms. (My mom had come up to stay with us for the weekend.)  Matt was able to talk to the people involved and prove that we had legally rented the place and were given no more trouble.  We settled back in for two days but come Monday morning we had to check out.  There was no option to extend.

We packed a month’s worth of “stuff” into the van, including two extra people and their stuff:  Anna and Matt.  Obviously we didn’t arrive in Virginia with Anna, and Matt didn’t drive across the country with us, he flew.  Needless to say, our van was TIGHT.

We drove around town for a few hours waiting for the call from our attorney that we were released.  No call came.  Around lunch time I called them.  They had still not heard from Richmond that we were free to go.  We were so ready to get on the road to North Carolina.  So. Ready.

We ate at Cook-Out and finally made the decision to drive to the VA/NC border in hopes that our attorney would call while we drove.  No such luck.

We made it to a public park near the border before 5:00 pm and I called once again.  Still no word.  So we sat there and waited.  Worst case scenario we’d get a hotel and stay the night.  I decided to research a little and within five minutes found that ICPC allows children to be taken across state lines “for the purposes of visiting.”  I called our attorney (actually, the paralegal) and told her what I had found.  She told me to forward the link and she’d take it to the attorney.  Almost immediately they called back and released us.  I was sort of annoyed that they hadn’t found this weeks before.  I had no reason to research this until I was stuck at the border with nowhere to go.  Of course, I had to think back to the truth that those extra two weeks of forced relaxing and bonding were a blessing to our family.

We loaded up and headed to Nana and Papa’s house with the excitement of introducing Anna to our families building with each mile.

About an hour after we crossed the state line (secretly watching over our shoulders for the baby police) we got the text that we were officially released!  ICPC Virginia had cleared us!

(The next day our attorney overnighted our packet to the Texas ICPC office.  Texas took only 24 hours to approve us!)

Below are pictures of our last days in Virginia.

Because of our extended stay in Virginia we were able to watch the Superbowl with the Holsingers… and their newest son, Ryan, was wearing his jersey all the way in China!
(The Hamricks were NOT happy with the results of the game, though.)

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Trying to get a good family-of-seven shot! And then, of course, one of the girls.

Looking for a Cook-Out:  We found one and spent a long time in there, waiting for a phone call that never came.  We miss Cook-Out now like we missed Chick-Fil-A while we lived in Germany.

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No sign of the baby police as we crossed the state line.

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Uncle Josh and Aunt Ashley were waiting on us when we got there!  It was really late so we didn’t have the entire family over.  We did have one special guest stop by because they were heading out of town and this was their only chance to see us and meet Anna.  (See next picture.)

Cindy and her son, Kyle, came by that night.  They were leaving to go out of town and we really wanted her to be able to meet Anna.  Cindy and Eddie were my godparents growing up and we love them so much.  Eddie has gone to live with Jesus now and we miss his vibrant personality.

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COUSINS!!

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Granny and Grandaddy.

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Putting Anna to sleep in the family cradle.

Grammy – we spent a day visiting with Grammy and seeing Matt’s side of the family.

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Matt’s Grandma MollieIMG_3720

Uncle Brad and Aunt Erin.

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Steve, Antonia, and Brooke…

The Ramsey Family.

This is “the Anna” we named our daughter after.

And just like that it was time to leave North Carolina.  We only stayed there three full days because we had spent so much of Matt’s leave time in Virginia.  Here’s Anna in her traveling clothes… comfy rules!

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I can hear my dad’s laugh when I see this picture!  He’s going go kill me for posting a picture of this funny face, but I don’t care!  I LOVE IT!  I love to hear him laugh this hard!  He’s holding a sick Parkey.  For some reason, Parker had a few bouts of unexplained stomach cramps while we were on our trip.  The doctor we saw prescribed Zofran, which we gave to him right about this time  He made it through the next two days of driving without any incident, but the hour leading up to our leaving was tough.  (Part of me really wonders if it was the result of having to leaving Nana and Papa… and cousin Mason.)

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My mom was having a really hard time right here.  We made plans sitting in this restaurant to have her out for Mother’s Day… (And as I write this, we are just over 48  hours from her arrival!)

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So this is how a family of seven travels across the country!  Well, at least our family.  It was tight in there, but we made it.

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We stopped at Chick-Fil-A in Greeneville, SC for lunch and ran into a friend from Matt’s youth pastor days, Howie!  Such a small world!

 

 

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Day 1 of travel was spent just trying to get through Atlanta!  I think we drove the same amount of time both days but got two-thirds of the miles covered on the second day.  We raced through Atlanta at a whopping 8 miles an hour.

I’ll share the rest of our journey in the next post.  Thanks for stopping by to read our journal!  It’s so much fun to relive these moments… I’ve enjoyed writing them down.

 

Posted in About my faith, adoption, family, travel | Leave a comment

Going to Court – Joy and Sadness

Referring back to the thoughts I had about wishing I had offered Mama more time in the hospital, I also wish I had offered her more time in the week between going home from the hospital and our court date.  A very large part of me truly was concerned about her and how she would feel when we got together.  We communicated back and forth and decided to  meet the night before we were to go to court.  Cassie’s kiddos were sick so that ruled our her home so we decided to meet at the library on base.

Our visit was really nice, and I enjoyed watching her big kids play and interact with Anna.  Leaving that room was by far the hardest part of the experience for me.  Please don’t think I’m trying to gain sympathy.  I know it may seem like it as I am sharing what was hard for me, but I’m not.  I just want to let you know what I was going through, as this blog is the Hamrick Family journal.  Sharing with you the parts that were hard for me does not in any way undermine which parts were hard for Mama and I am in no way comparing my pain to hers.  That’s her part of this story and she’s a writer, so maybe one day she’ll write from her perspective.  If she does, and if she gives me permission to share it, I’ll happily do so.

With that said, my heart broke a little bit the night we left that room.  Neither of us had any idea when we’d get together again and, unlike the day I left the hospital when we both knew there was another meeting to come, this time we both knew there was not.  (Aside from the official court date.)  Again, I wish I had known then how this was going to turn out and we’d have gotten together more, if she had wanted to.  I can’t say for sure that she would have wanted to… it may have been too hard.

Anyway, when I turned the lights out to leave and it was just me and Anna in the room, I looked back to see if we had left anything and saw the three empty chairs… Cassie’s, mine, and Mama’s, and I lost it.  That was a tough moment.

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I don’t remember much about the rest of that night.

We went to court on the first date the attorney was able to squeeze us in.  Winter Storm Jonas had backed several things up and we thankful she got us in between other adoption hearings she had scheduled.  Anna was six days old and Virginia Law dictates that she had to be at least three days old.

Mama and I arrived at the same time and we parked near each other.  I gave her a gift I had prepared for her… There’s no gift that could ever express what my heart was thinking which was: “Oh, how your heart must be breaking.  How you must just want to get this day over with.  How uncomfortable it must be to be here.”

In the lobby there was some small talk, some waiting, and we were told the kids couldn’t enter the court room with us.  Because this was a big day for our family, I wanted them there.  We were told it wasn’t going to happen.  When they called our names, I looked at the boys about to tell them that we’d be back when we were done and then the attorney waved them all in and said, “Just come on in.”  We were thankful they got to be a part of that moment.

The goings-on in the courtroom were basic, pretty boring, and the biggest thing I can remember is wishing Mama had someone sitting at the table with her.  I wish I could have gone to sit with her!  When the hearing was over we all stepped back in the waiting room and Mama asked to hold Anna.  We were not allowed to have any cameras/phones in the building so we didn’t get any pictures.  And before I knew what was happening, Mama handed Anna to me and was off.  Her heart… oh, mine breaks at the memory.  I don’t even have the right to write these words, simply because I know I don’t have any idea of what that day was like for her.  All I can do is imagine, and often, that’s not even close to what was going on.  So, I’ll leave it there.

Our attorney was allowed to have her phone in the building so she snapped a picture of Matt and me with our daughter just a few minutes after it became official.

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Following our court hearing our family went to lunch with the Holsingers and Cassie and her kids.

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It was there that the realization hit me.  We were her parents.  Not just pretending and hoping… we were her real parents.  The magnitude of that washed over me and I found myself holding back tears right there as we were about to leave the restaurant.  It meant we were technically allowed to make all decisions on her behalf and, of course, all the other millions of other little things that come along with being a parent.

Up until that point we had been holding our breath and, while still had seven days to wait during which Mama could change her mind, this was one major step toward bringing Anna home.  This was a technical step forward in our adoption process.

After lunch we had to pick up a few things and Anna and I rested at Starbucks while Daddy and brothers shopped at the NEX.  As I looked around at the other customers I thought, “I’ve been in Starbucks many times… usually just boring, run-of-the-mill days.  But today I sit here holding my daughter on the day she officially became my daughter.  And all these people around me have no idea where we just came from… what a big day today is.”  I wanted nothing more than to show her to the world and let everyone know just how much I loved her.  But I refrained… because that would have been weird.

She was our daughter, but we were not allowed to leave the state.  Had we crossed the Virginia border we could have been charged with kidnapping!  That’s a no-go.

We spent the next two weeks waiting for the Interstate Compact to clear us.  Virginia gave the birth father two weeks to come forward in case he wanted to parent.  During that two weeks we spent time with the Holsingers and Anna attended her first birthday party!

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We drove to Richmond to meet with Michelle and her gorgeous daughter, Riley.

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Our family took our first “field trip” – to Colonial Williamsburg!

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Lots of time snuggling and feeding our little girl.  Oh, and about that.  Kathie encouraged me to be the only one to feed her for the first six to eight weeks.  It would aid in our attachment and I was pretty strict with it.  It definitely meant plenty of sleep for Matt! I will say, though, that I was the one waking Anna in the middle of the night rather than her waking me.  Having never bottle-fed a baby  I really wanted to make sure she didn’t go too long without eating.  (I’ve given other babies bottles, but I breast fed all my boys, so as far as exclusive bottle-feeding, I was a first-timer.)  I think I was extra careful with her for another reason:  I felt like I owed it to Mama to do my best with her.  To take extra good care of her.  Of course, I took care of my biological babies well, and with tenderness, but there was something extra in my care for Anna… I wanted Mama to know that I was taking good care of her daughter.

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Along with the help of some other amazing women we threw a surprise baby shower for Kari.  Their family was to leave in just 10 days to go meet their new son who was in China.  We were so excited to spend this time celebrating him coming into their family.

I titled this post “Court – Joy and Sadness.”  The big event that occurred, the official step toward having Anna become a part of our family, was going to court.  And on that day and on every other day while we were in Virginia, there was a joy that I could not begin to describe to you.  And there was also a sadness that I wouldn’t want anyone to have to experience.  In a perfect world every baby would be able to stay with its first mama, and when that isn’t possible for whatever reason, hearts are sad.  Six months ago “adoption” was just a happy word to me.  It meant only good things because I could only see what life would look like for my family if we were to be blessed with another child in our home.  Not having lived it, I never really thought much about the other side of the coin.

Now, sitting here, I can see the heartache that is attached to that word, for Mama and for baby, too.  However, I can rejoice in our specific story because I am able to communicate daily with Mama and see that she’s doing well.  While having an open adoption will not make the pain go away, studies are proving that it’s often best for all members of the “adoption triad.”  (New one, huh?  I have learned that I am part of a triad!)  The hole left in Mama’s heart will always be there but I can pray for the Lord to fill it and be her comfort, and I can do small things to aid in her healing… which will help Anna, as well.

So yes, joy and sadness.  Both.  And such is life.  But the scripture from my Quiet Time this morning is so very perfect:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5.

 

Posted in adoption, family | 3 Comments

Anna’s first home (away from home).

From the time Anna was placed in my arms on a Saturday morning till we left the hospital after lunch on Sunday, I felt a very strange tug in my heart.  Please hear me out.

I wanted nothing more than to wrap my arms safely around Anna and ensure that she’d be my sweet little girl forever, but this was no ordinary baby girl.  This was a little girl created with two mommies and her other mommy was down the hallway recovering from delivery… and she was just starting to learn what it was like to not be with the child she was carrying.  My joy was real and it was matched in severity by her pain.  I took Anna to her a few times to nurse and to spend some time together before we left the hospital, but looking back, I wish I had given her more time with Anna.  My friend here who is a few years ahead of me in this open adoption lifestyle encouraged me to offer more time, and I thought I was offering more time, but in retrospect, I didn’t offer enough.

I’ll admit here, it was simply out of fear.  I was afraid that the more time they spent together the more likely she’d change her mind.  And I’ve said all along that if Mama had decided to parent, then this child would at least be with her very-loving birth mother.  That wasn’t really a bad thing, and I knew that.  But my heart wasn’t as strong as my brain and I was protective of her in a way that I didn’t need to be, looking back from where I sit now.  I’d go back and do it differently if I could.  I’d spend time with Mama if I could go back and do it differently.

But you know, we’ve talked very openly about this topic and she doesn’t hold anything against me and I’ve told her I wish I could go back and change some things.  She and I are building an open and honest relationship and I am thankful she has been able to forgive me my mistakes.  We have both said over and over, “Neither of us has done this before… we’re bound to make mistakes.” and thankfully, we are both willing to offer grace for those mistakes.

I share that bit of information for those out there who are considering an open adoption.  I hope it helps you to make the decision to be more generous with the time you have in the hospital… especially if you live a great distance from Mama and getting together frequently will be difficult.

So, about us “going home” away from home.

We loaded up our van and drove to Portsmouth, to the apartment we had rented.

The next few weeks were quite surreal: loving every second with Anna knowing that technically each moment could bring a phone call that ended our time as her parents, but feeling pretty confident that Mama was content with her decision and was not going to change her mind.

The time we spent in Portsmouth was a time for snuggling Anna.  Pretty much every picture we have is of someone holding her.  They’re not fancy pictures, for sure, but they’re treasures!

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Our first time out as a family of seven… off to the mall!

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Smily baby…

Out for a walk with my two littles:

Nana gives her a bath and gets lots of squeezes.  In fact, Nana gets priority when she’s in the house…

Getting some “indirect sunlight” to help with the touch of jaundice she had.

Tummy time, a ride in the car, and first well-visit.

Saying goodbye to Nana and Papa the day after we brought Anna home.  (They have a business to run, after all!)IMG_5663

Three generations of girls. IMG_6295

Our last picture before leaving our Portsmouth “home.”

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We had a great place to stay while we were in Virginia… there was a little drama at the end: basically, the person who owns the place didn’t know it was being rented out on AirBnB and when he found out [because his realtor wanted to show the place] he wasn’t happy.  It was a bit scary when he told us to vacate or he’d call the police, but Matt straightened everything out and we were able to stay until we were supposed to check out.  Family drama that we were almost caught in the middle of!

At any rate, we loved the location, the house itself, and how close we were to the hospital when Anna decided to be born during Winter Storm Jonas!

 

 

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Meeting the family

In my last post, Love at first sight, I shared in great length and detail the moment Matt and I met Anna.  For the rest of my life that moment will be added into the Most-Important-Moments section of my heart.

Our first moment meeting Anna was very different from our first moments meeting each of our sons, but it was just as special and I’m glad it went exactly as it went.  There are some additional moments and words and memories I’ve tucked away to share with Anna when she is ready to ask questions.

Before we knew it it was time to take our sweet baby girl to meet her family.  She rode in style in the wooden bassinet that would be her bed for the next 30 hours or so.  (Can I just tell you that those 30 hours seemed so long in comparison to a normal 30-hour span of time?)  Everything was in hyper-clarity.  I was trying to drink in every single moment. Every last sound, smell, emotion.  I was very much aware that I was in a unique situation… hanging on the decision a young lady had made while carrying a baby, and now that the baby was here, there was a very painful reality that she could change her mind.  I knew that for the next almost-two-weeks I was holding my child loosely.  I wanted to get all the hugs and snuggles I could and in the back of my mind, preparing for a possible heartbreak.

I want to pause my jaunt down memory lane for a moment.  I said this several times during our adventure but I am not sure I ever said it here.  When I would get worried about Mama changing her mind, I always reminded myself that in a perfect world, no baby would ever be separated from her Mama.  Ever.  And that should Mama change her mind, I could be very thankful that Anna’s Mama was already proving to be a good one to her other children.  I was very thankful that should the worst-case-scenario happen, it would only be worst-case for me and my family.  We would be the ones with the heartbreak.  Little Anna would have the blessing of being raised by her Mama and while there would be difficulties, it didn’t mean truly bad things for her.  I will not go into our birth mother’s story because it isn’t ours to tell, but I will say that she made a wise decision to allow us to parent her child.  She didn’t make this decision from any place other than true love.  I don’t know that I can stress enough that this young woman is my hero.  If you’re tired of hearing it, too bad.  I’ll say it again, I’m sure.

Resuming my jaunt down memory lane:

10:06 am ~ We made our way to the room the hospital had provided us to introduce her to the boys and Nana and Papa.  The nurse in the picture was Mama’s nurse during L&D, Debbie.  The doula who had offered her services as a gift to Mama had so many amazing things to say about this nurse. Debbie was 100% supportive of Mama and every need she had.  The entire staff was very sensitive to our situation and for that, I am eternally grateful.

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Just stepping out Mama’s door.

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I have no idea what this nurse and I talked about but it was serious business, evidently.

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Our precious cargo.

 

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Cassie and Matt chatting. I wonder if they remember what they were talking about.  I’m so thankful she was here for these moments.

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The view from inside my own hospital room. See the bassinet?

I am pretty sure there are no words to describe the next 30 minutes so I’ll just post pictures and write a few thoughts in the captions.

 

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Literally, our first moments as a family of seven.

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Matt holding Anna and the boys can’t get enough.

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Hayden.

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Carson.

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Bailey.

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Parker.

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Nana.

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Papa.

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Kari. (At this time Cassie was was either back in Mama’s room or had gone back home to be with her babies. I hate I missed getting her picture in these moments.)

After a while the room seemed to get smaller and smaller so Papa took the boys out while Matt, Nana, and I stayed behind.  I think they played Laser tag!  My parents have been blessed to be at all five births now… we were very much missing Grammy.  She had had rotator cuff surgery and if you’ve ever known someone who had that surgery, you know that traveling 5+ hours in a car is not a way to spend recovery.  We hated she wasn’t able to be there but we did think of her in these special moments.

Much of the day was spent watching Miss Anna sleep in our arms while the snow fell outside our window.  Winter Storm Jonas had welcomed her into the world… my second child to be born during a major winter event.

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Representing RED TEAM!

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Mommy snuggles!

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Look at this face!

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Once it was quiet we got some rest.

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Eyes! She was awake for a couple of hours… we were pretty impressed with that!

I took Anna to Mama a time or two to nurse and let them have some special time in their room.  Part of me was nervous about that because I was already so in love and knew that nursing was going to make Mama and baby bond, but on the other hand, I was able to see things from a mother’s perspective.  If I were her I’d want to do the same for the baby I had carried.  It was hard on her, (she told me so) but it was also good for her.  It was something she had requested in our first phone conversation on November 8th and I was thankful that she was still interested in doing this.  It was a gift to Anna, as well. (I did a lot of research on this exact situation and everything I read gave me a very strong peace about it.  There are so many benefits to this both physically and emotionally.)

In our hospital, baby’s first bath is delayed 12 hours.  Mama was spending time with Anna at the 12 hour mark so I made sure to tell the nurses not to go in to get Anna at that time.  I didn’t want her time to be interrupted at all.  Matt ran to Chipotle to get dinner for himself, Mom, and me.  I had some good eatin’ in the hospital!

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Nana stayed up until the last minute!

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When Mama texted me to let me know she was ready, I went to her room to get Little Miss.  I took Anna to the nursery so they could give her her first bath.  She was not a fan.Screenshot 2016-03-06 09.41.01.png

During her bath her temperature dropped enough that she needed to stay under the warming lights for 10 minutes or so.  At that time the head nurse came in to let me know that my room was needed for another recovering mother but that they had a new room ready for me.  While I hated to leave Anna for even a second, I was at least able to do so during a time she had to be in the nursery anyway.  Let me tell you, it took me exactly 10 minutes to get all of my stuff moved over (I had pretty much moved into the hospital because I wasn’t sure how long I’d be there).  Thankfully they loaned me a cart so I didn’t have to make the long walk multiple times.  My new room was on the same floor, right by the front desk.  It was the very room our incredible social worker had taken our family into a few days prior when we had gone for our hospital tour.  It hadn’t been used since we were there and I could tell this because the trash can was still empty except for four lollipop wrappers… the wrappers from the lollipops the boys had eaten while we asked the social worker a hundred questions.

When I got back to the nursery from getting our things moved to our new (and much larger room), I found my daughter peacefully resting under the warming lamps.  I got a few pictures while she was dressed in her birthday suit+diaper.

10:00 pm ~ By this time we were pretty much settled into our own room and ready for night-time snuggles.  I turned on the TV and found HGTV and fed my little one.  Feeding a baby formula is a vastly different experience from nursing.  With nursing, I just fed them as long as they wanted to eat every few hours.  With bottle feeding, I had to be very specific about how much she ate.  The nurse gave me very strict advice not to feed her more than 20 ccs on the first day as her stomach was literally the size of a dime.  She said 30 ccs would be fine the next day, 40 the next, and after that she could have as much as she wanted.  This sounded like a plan to me and it worked out beautifully.  I did have to wake her to feed her for the first few nights but at least she would wake to eat… Hayden was such a sleepy baby that feeding him was pretty difficult at first.

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She loved (and still loves) to be swaddled.

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Snuggles before sleeps.

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YAY!

During the night I’d open one of their mini-bottles of formula, feed Anna the appropriate amount and place the partially empty bottle on the food-tray beside me, roll over and go back to sleep.  By the time it was time to feed her again, the used bottle was in the trash can.  That told me the nurses were coming in to see if she was eating well, would notice the bottle, record the amounts Anna was eating, and leave us to sleep.  THAT was pretty nice!  No one taking our BP, temperatures, etc. during the night.  Good sleep!

At 6:00 am the pediatrician came by to see us and told us that we were going to be discharged around lunch time.  I have never been more excited and mixed with dread at the same time.  I hated to leave the hospital with Mama’s new baby, but I so wanted to get Anna to our temporary home and start our new-although-slightly-vacationy-lives.  My parents were in town but only until Monday morning and I wanted them to have some good snuggles before they had to leave.
As this post has already grown to double the length a post should be, I’ll close here.
Thank you so much for your excitement as we live out this amazing journey.  We are truly blessed by such a great community around us.
It still amazes me that only 4 months ago we first heard about Anna (November 4th, 2015).  November 11th we committed to Mama that we were 100% in.  We had spent the past two days researching and were sure we would be able to make it work.  4 months ago.  And we’ve already had this treasure in our arms for 6.5 weeks!  To do this entire process, start to finish, in such a short amount of time is nothing short of a miracle.  This fact amazes me every single day.
Posted in About my faith, adoption, brothers/boys, family | 3 Comments

Love at first sight… meeting Anna.

My last entry shared the emotions of the labor and delivery part of waiting for Anna. Looking back on that night, I can recall thinking several times that she was never going to come.  Having delivered four children myself, that’s pretty much the same feeling you have when you’re the one in labor.

Once my the family arrived, time stood still.  I remember it clearly and the strangest part was that I wasn’t really nervous or emotional.  Part of me wondered if there was something wrong with me… that surely I was supposed to be a basket case, and then the other part would remind me that there were literally hundreds of people praying for me and our entire family at that precise moment.

8:30 am  This is how the boys waited.

 

I remember trying to get them off the floor but Kari told me to let them be.  Good call.  There really wasn’t a lot of space.

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We were communicating with someone in the room and the plan was set for us to walk to Mama’s delivery room at 9:25.  Initially we were pretty sure that Matt wasn’t going to go into the room but was going to wait for me to bring Anna out to the hallway.  While we waited for this moment I remember my mom encouraging Cassie and letting her know how much our entire family appreciated her sacrifices. (I haven’t let you know much about Cassie because that is her story to tell, but let’s just say she has a very young family herself, and had welcomed a few more people into her home for several months.  It was a highly emotional moment and I can only pray that Cassie truly understands the depth of our respect and admiration.)

At some point Cassie headed to the Mama’s room to get a few pictures.  I had been told earlier that morning that a nurse would come get me when it was time.  We waited, and waited, and waited… Finally Matt and I sent Kari to see what the hold up was.  Here are Kari’s words from that moment:

That took what seemed like forever and we thought Cassie or the nurse was going to come tell us when it was time. Nobody came. So you and Matt asked me to go down and check. I made it to those automatic doors to the labor and delivery section and Cassie was headed towards me. I said, “Is she ready?” at the same time Cassie asked me, “Are you guys coming?” I said “We were waiting on you!” She said they needed to get you the bracelet and to hurry! So I spun around, turned the corner and waved frantically to you guys to come. You two strolled like you were going for a walk in the park all chill and calm like. So when you rounded the corner I said, “Walk faster!”  I said they needed to get you that bracelet and then you two picked up the pace.

9:50 am –  The walk to the delivery room was surreal.  I can feel the butterflies all over again.  At this point I was still holding it together.

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We turned onto the floor with the hardwood and as we got closer to her room I could feel the anticipation welling up in my heart.  The nurse led us to her door and I took a deep breath.  I remember saying, “Whew.  Deep breaths,” and at that the nurse asked if I needed a minute.  I thought I was fine, and then I lost it.  I was so thankful Matt was there and I turned and buried my head in his chest.  I was about to meet the little girl we had prayed for for over ten years.  Had we conceived a daughter we wouldn’t have one of the amazing sons we have, nor would we have pursued this adoption.  Because God said “wait” over and over and over we were about to meet the perfect fit for our family.  His Hand in this is so evident and the moment we had waited for was here.IMG_4951IMG_4953

I pulled myself together and left Matt in the hallway.  (Our original conversation with the birth mother indicated that she was not going to feel comfortable having a man in the room.  We both completely respected her wishes.)

I entered the room and found way more people in there than I expected.  Not really sure why I was surprised but it seemed the room was full of people.  Mama holding Anna, the birth father napping in the recliner, Cassie and Kari, the nurse, and maybe more… it’s a bit vague.  My focus was on Mama and baby.

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I saw Anna for the first time.  She was so warm and tiny.  Her face was very round and swollen from a very fast delivery (WAY TO GO, MAMA!) and there was bruising that would go down over the next few days.

These pictures are treasures to me.  I am so thankful Kari and Cassie were there to capture these moments.  I’m excited that Mama gave me permission to use them on the blog!  I made absolutely sure she was okay with it.  I love them so much.  So. Much.

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I was overwhelmed with the idea that I was holding my own child… my own daughter.  I chatted with the mama briefly and cried just a little.  I told her I didn’t think I would cry, and she said she didn’t think she would either, but both of us teared up a little.  I was vaguely aware of other people in the room, but not as aware of them as they were of me. Thinking back, I must have been a sight… I was squishing my daughter and talking to Mama and completely unaware of them.  In fact, I don’t even remember how we ended up getting Matt in the room.  I do remember being pleasantly surprised that he was going to get to come in.  I moved to a spot where he’d have a straight-line to us when he came in the room.

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In this hug I wanted to convey so many thoughts.  How grateful I was; how honored to have been chosen, and how I was not just thinking of our joy but of her pain.  She is my hero.

9:59 amAbout the next few pictures, some are iPhone pictures taken in a fairly dark room. Because they are so special I don’t even care that they are grainy.  I’m including them anyway.

His face.  It had an expression that I can’t describe.  I think he had to have been nervous standing in the hallway but the second he saw her, he was completely swept away.  He was so in love.

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He still makes this face when he sees Anna… and he sees her several times a day!   It’s the face he makes when I dress her in a new outfit, or change her into her pjs, or bring her to him after her bath and have him get her dressed.  I believe he’s quite smitten with this little one.  (But I’m getting ahead of myself.)

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I love Mama’s face in this picture.

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Handing him his daughter.

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I very clearly remember Mama saying, “Awww!  She looks so tiny in his arms!”

He was in love.  I handed her to him and it was over.  The next few minutes I don’t remember very clearly but I do know the nurse, Debbie, told me some very important information as she put the oh-so-important bracelet on my wrist.  That bracelet gave me the right to let Anna room-in with me and the ability to go into the nursery. Without it, I was nothing more than a guest.  With it, I was the other mother…that sounds strange, but it’s a beautiful part of our story.  (And I’m fairly certain that Debbie stayed past shift-change to see this story play out.)IMG_4987

One last snuggle before I took Anna to our room to meet the brothers.  It was really hard to take Anna from this room, but I was really thankful that in just a few hours I’d be taking her back to nurse.

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As with all hospitals, babies must be transported through the hallways in a bassinet.  See my white bracelet?  That was my license to drive this bassinet!

In the next post I will share about Matt and me introducing Anna to our family.I am so excited to share this story and pictures of Mama with you because she really is my hero.  I can honestly say that this woman is a woman to be honored for her decision.  I am thankful for her role in our life.  In a unique way, she is and always will be part of our family.

Posted in About my faith, adoption, family | 19 Comments

My form of “labor and delivery.”

We’re adopting which means I did not go through pregnancy this time around.  I missed being pregnant, for the record.  Being half-a-continent away from the baby I was already in love with was difficult.  My biggest fear (other than the mother changing her mind) was that I wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time.

We made it to Virginia on Monday, 18 January and spent the week getting settled in.  On Thursday, 21 January I got to have lunch with Kari.  We enjoyed a leisurely meal at Panera, and then went to her house to visit for a while.  Friday was the most relaxing day we’d had since we got here.  We were snuggling inside because “Snowmageddon” was upon us, thanks to Winter Storm Jonas.  We were fortunate to be in the spot in Virginia that was getting the least amount of snow.  We got just enough snow to make snow cream… 2 tablespoons per person!IMG_5472

We spent the day hanging out.  During lunch I relished the moment when everyone was playing contentedly so much that I snapped a picture.

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When the snow built up enough Parker spent time playing out in it.

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During rest time the bigs watched a movie, Parker went to his room to rest, Matt took a real nap, and I went upstairs to write this blog post about the emotions we’ve experienced going through the adoption process.  As I was sitting there I had this feeling that I needed to shower and get ready but I kept pushing it out of my mind because I felt like I was getting my hopes up… that we were in for a wait.

I should have listened.  At 2:42 p.m., while sitting there wrapped in the memories of the previous two months, I got a text that Mama was being sent from her doctor’s office to the hospital to be induced and I went into hyperdrive.  I had to shower, pack, and still remember to call the people necessary (attorney, adoption agent, etc).

Matt dropped me off at the hospital at 3:47 p.m..  As I walked through the hallway of the bottom floor of the hospital I passed by the chapel.  Knowing I had plenty of time I stopped in, took my way-too-heavy back-pack off, and took a deep breath.  I cried.  I wondered what was about to happen.  I tried to still my heart.  I could feel my face on fire and it wasn’t even hot in there.

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We were pretty sure we were going to be in for a little wait, so Matt took the boys to a movie and then to the mall for dinner while I sat in the waiting room and finished writing the blog post on our adoption emotions.

An hour after I arrived Kari joined me and then Cassie arrived.  We ate dinner downstairs in the cafeteria and then prayed in the chapel together before we returned to the waiting room.

At 8:10 we heard that Mama’s progress was 2.5 centimeters, 60% effaced, and the nurse could feel Anna’s head!  PROGRESS!

My parents began a long drive from NC to VA in a massive snow storm.  Here is one of the roads they had to travel:

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We settled in for a long night and started off with a game of Skip-Bo.  At about 9:15 a nurse came in and told me they had found a room for me and that we were free to spend our time waiting in privacy.

 

IMG_5871 IMG_5497We promptly resumed our game.  (Actually, because of the fear that someone was cheating we started a new round.)

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At around 10:30 Cassie got the word that she was needed at home.  Her husband was working all night and the sitter’s daughter had just gotten sick.  We were all pretty devastated that she had to leave because she had spent almost three months caring for our birth mother and my daughter and she was about to miss the big moment.  As soon as she left, Kari and I spent some good time in prayer for her.  We prayed very specifically that Cassie would know that she was where she was supposed to be.   We asked that God would comfort her and that she would know that He is with her and that he sees her heart and her service. I prayed that God would reward her soon for her sacrifices.

Both Kari and I respect Cassie so much and we really wanted to see God bless her..

After our prayer time Kari and I decided to go get something to eat downstairs.  We had to break up the monotony and there was only one place open in the building.  As we walked down the hallway of the main floor Kari and I were chatting and we spotted a lady walking toward us, drenched.  As she got closer we recognized Cassie!  She had left through the wrong door and then found herself locked out on the complete opposite side of the hospital.  She had to walk around the entire hospital to re-enter… in the pouring rain!

She told me that had she not gotten locked out she would have been in her car on the way home but because of the locked-out-in-the-rain situation she was still at the hospital when she got the call that the sitter felt that everything was okay and that Cassie could stay all night after-all!  We were so excited and we could barely believe it.  We told her that we had JUST PRAYED for her and that we felt this was a direct and immediate answer to prayer!

1:19 am – Mama’s progress was 5.5 centimeters.

2:00 am – We started game of Hill Rummy in the cafeteria until we closed the place up…

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3:30 am – Mama got an epidural and the doula came to visit us for a while during that process.

5:15 am – We were giddy and silly and sleepy.  We played a slightly competitive and highly controversial game of Uno.  Let’s just say it was two against one, and poor Kari lost… to ME!

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5:36 am – Mama’s water broke.  About this time I decided to call Matt and let him know that it was getting closer.

6:15 – Matt, the boys, Nana and Papa arrive.

6:30 – Mama prepares for delivery!

7:08 am – Anna was born but we didn’t hear about it for a little while.

7:42 am –  The doula came into our room with details.  I know she had pictures but I didn’t want to see them.  I wanted my first sight of Anna to be in person.  I did let her read the stats to me and even videoed her giving them.:)

I’m going to save the rest for another post though I think you should be rewarded for making it this far!

While we were in the hospital I ran across this meme on Facebook:

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Again, I know I neither labored nor delivered Anna, and I didn’t have a nurse caring for me directly, but I did have two special people with me during the night waiting for Anna and I will never forget that time.  I would have been quite lonely without them… and it was fitting that the two people with me were the two most directly responsible for bringing Anna into our family.

(And since I mentioned nurses, I want to give a great shoutout to the nurses at the Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.  They were very generous and helpful given our situation, and even more important than the way they cared for me was the way they cared for the Mama. From what I understand they were very understanding and sensitive to her needs.  Our attorney had told us prior to admission that this hospital is very adoption-friendly; friendly for both sides of the adoption, and I have to say that they were spot on.  God bless the nurses who work in such a high-stress field.)

Stay tuned for the blog post about our first time meeting our sweet Anna!

Posted in About my faith, adoption, family, friends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

8 days new.

Hello there, from inside the Hamrick family cocoon.  We are loving our time off, focused on getting to know our precious gift from God.

I have spent very little time online and it’s been nice to have no responsibility outside these four walls, however, our family is beginning to think forward to our real life in Texas.

I am writing a very detailed journal of our 1st week that I will share later but I wanted to give a quick update of our past week (and one day).

Friday 22 January – Mama was induced due to high blood pressure.  The good thing was, during her labor her blood pressure went back down to normal, meaning it wasn’t preeclampsia.  For mama’s sake, I am very thankful!  That meant there was no need to rush Anna out any faster than a normal induction.

Saturday 23 January – 7:08 am, Anna was born.  We met our daughter for the first time at 9:39 am and took her to our own hospital room to meet the brubs and Nana and Papa at 10:08 am.

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Sunday 24 January – Anna was released and we came home to our Portsmouth house, reunited at last!

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Monday 25 January – Daddy and the bigs went to a skate park and Parker, Anna, and I went on a walk around the neighborhood along the water’s edge.  (The place we rented is on the water.)

 

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Tuesday 26 January – Anna had her first well-baby visit. She had only lost one ounce since we left the hospital!  Doing great!

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Wednesday 27 January – Anna got her first at-home bath!  We videoed!  Anna had her newborn photo shoot with a phenomenal photographer!  I will be promoting this lady soon!  I hope her business in this area grows.  It’s so hard for a Military Wife to establish her business at each duty station.

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Thursday 28 January – We stayed home and snuggled until our visit with the mama.  This, for me, was one of the hardest days… I was nervous and sad.  I hurt.  I cried.  And I was the one receiving the gift.  Please, my friends, pray for this young lady who has blessed our family immensely.

 

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Friday 29 January – This was the day that the mother officially signed papers in the presence of a judge saying that we are going to be Anna’s family.  Lots of feelings and emotions, and I’ll write about them sometime, but let me say that it was about two hours later that it hit me: that she was OURS!  That she had officially benergy entrusted to us.  That the mama had made it official and that we were Anna’s forever parents.  Again, my heart breaks at the exact same time that it rejoices!

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30 January – Matt took two boys shopping (some of our kids love to shop as much as he does) and I kept two here.  Anna and I went on a 4.5 mile walk and then we went on our first official date!  Carrabbas was our destination… but then we discovered an 80 minute wait so we redirected to Cook Out!  BBQ sandwiches and Peanut Butter Milkshakes! Our next stop was Barnes and Noble… it wasn’t what we had in mind for our date, but we were together.  Daddy and his girls!

 

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31 January – today.  We’re heading to Richmond to meet with Michelle and Riley.  Matt was Michelle’s youth pastor many moons ago and now she’s a mama!  Can’t wait to get together!

 

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Anna is perfect in every way!  Thanks for your prayers and the love you’ve shown us as we’ve grown our family in this super special way.
~Jennifer

 

 

Posted in adoption, brothers/boys, family, travel | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Welcome Anna Madeline!!

Our adoption journey has definitely hit a milestone: our little girl was born today!

I have been awake for 36 hours now and I have a night with a baby girl ahead of me so I bet this will be shorter than I envisioned it.  I do, however, want to make our formal introductions:

 

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I am waiting a bit before showing her picture publicly so this is the moment we introduced her to our boys.
I would love to tell you the story of her name, Anna Madeline.

Anna was a woman who met baby Jesus at the temple when he was dedicated.  Anna means “God has favored me” or “highly favored of God”
Madeline is a derivative of Magdalene, Mary Magdalene was a devout follower of Jesus in his ministry.  Both women were devout followers of Jesus.

“Anna Madeline”
She is favored by God and a devout follower of Jesus.

We picked Anna after my longest-lasting, best friend.  We chose it long ago but had NO clue what the meaning was until this past Christmas season.

The birth mother picked Madeline.  Said she just always wanted to name a daughter Madeline (after the book character).

We had originally chosen Anna Caroline (Caroline is my mother’s middle name) and when the mother told us she wanted to name the baby I told her I had a name picked out but that I’d be willing to consider her suggestion.  When she said Madeline I almost fainted… that’s Matt’s mother’s middle name!

So we happily changed it to Anna Madeline – which means that she’ll have an “M” middle name like all her brothers!  When I told the mother how cool all of this was she wrote back, “See? It’s meant to be!”

And to close, here is a picture of the person our Anna’s being named after. Isn’t she pretty?!?

Recent picture of David and Anna

Posted in About my faith, adoption, family, marriage | 8 Comments

Adoption Emotions…

All of them.

I think that sums it all up.

I have all of the emotions of pregnancy plus some anxiety that I never had when I was the one carrying the baby.

Being here in Virginia has done so very much to calm all my worries about the mother changing her mind.  While she still reserves that right (for seven days after we go to court for her to sign consent) I feel really confident that she believes in her heart that this is what’s best for Anna.

I have had the pleasure of having two meals with her, the last one was last night and it included my entire family!  I am so glad that she was brave enough to have all of us over because she got to watch my kids with all the other littles who were there:  the ages:  5, 3, 3, 1, and 3 months.  I do hope that seeing my boys with these little ones gave her some sense of what it’ll be like for her child to spend her life with the Hamrick boys.

I read a fantastic blog post by a friend, someone who has walked this path before, and I would love for you to take the time to read it.  There was a section in that…

I pause this blog post because while I was writing I got a very important text.  Mama had been diagnosed with high blood pressure and was being sent to the hospital to be induced.  A shower, rushed packing job, and I’m now sitting in the waiting room of the hospital.  Mama has started Pitocin and we begin the waiting game.  Begin?  I guess we’ve already begun that!  Now we begin the race to the finish line.

Image waiting room

But back to my original post…

There was a great section in my friend’s blog post where she mentioned a moment earlier in her adoption process when she began to dream about what her baby would be like. Read Kathie’s  entire article here:

Somewhere along the journey I began to think about what our child would be like. In adoption, you can choose so much. You can choose the family history, medical issues, color, gender! Choices are power! Control! YES!

NO. No, no, no. For the first time in my life I realized that I didn’t want that power. Choosing the perfect child for us was impossible. How could we possibly know their entire genetic make-up and predict their personality? How could we possibly know what our future held and therefore what kind of baby we needed now? We couldn’t. Ever. But God knew. He knew it all, every detail, even the ones we would never notice. My greatest desire was the perfect baby for us. So I let God have control.

 

I LOVE that.  “Choosing the perfect child for us was impossible.”  YES!  It is!  Only GOD knows which child, out of all the ones needing a family, was the right fit for our family.

And we get to meet her soon!  Maybe today!

Regarding emotions:

I’ve been cautious: especially in the first few weeks before we were super confident that the mama liked us.

I’ve been scared: there was one text in particular that had me worried that someone in her life might want to cause trouble.  Turned out to be nothing, but for all of about 30 seconds my knees were too wobbly to hold my weight.

I’ve been excited: with every baby item that entered my house; the painting of the nursery; the planning of the trip; and finally, the text that meant ‘it’s time.’

I’ve been angry:  there was this one situation with one particular professional in the adoption world that I believe dropped the ball.  For about an hour I thought there was a real chance our adoption process was at risk and I may have let her know about my frustrations.  (Kathie, I know you said not to do this, but it’s too late.  I hadn’t read that blog post yet because it only came out today!)  The work of a few other stellar adoption professionals made everything work out perfectly and after about two days I relaxed.  I had to practice breathing techniques to calm myself down for two days after that!  I had the words of a dear friend that comforted me.  See my next emotion…

I’ve been comforted:  It’s been a long time since I’ve been the one who needed to be comforted.  I tend to be on the side offering the comfort but here are the words that soothed my heart and gave me peace.  A peace that I KNOW was from heaven:

Perhaps this is your labor. You will look back and see them as your own labor pains that will bond you to her even more. Becoming a child’s parent will always be a right of passage and you will feel you earned it. You should have to fight for her- it is what you will expect of the world in order to have access to her heart. Consider that spoken in authority over you in love and in God’s love for you. You are on His team, and that is all He asks of you. Listen for His voice. Fill your moments with worship or silence, and still your heart. He is Good.

I don’t get to bond with Anna through the physical aches and pains of labor.  I can’t look at her and tell her the stories of delivery like I can with my boys, but I have a different sort of labor, and in many ways, this process has been much harder.  Much harder but just as worth it.

I’ve been encouraged:  thousands of texts, emails, messages, and notes on my blog and YouCaring website have encouraged me.  So incredible!  So unspeakably precious to me.

I’ve been blessed: That could mean anything, but in this particular instance I mean with gifts, both tangible and financial.  Friends, family, strangers… you name it.  Blessings have showered on us and made a hard journey much easier!  I couldn’t imagine doing this and adding financial strain on top.  Thank you to those who have given baby things to us, loaned us baby things, and given financially.  Finally, the prayers of those who love Jesus as much as we do have kept us close as a family (even when there were moments of tension).  We are so glad to be bringing Anna into such a wide community of friendship.

I’ve been tense: I might have bitten a few heads off a time or two.  I might have gotten my feelings hurt once when one of the boys misbehaved and talked back to me… I might have sent myself to bed early that night and let everyone else finish the family game night that was in progress.  But as Matt said, all of our emotions were/are running high and it is to be expected.  We recovered and all was well shortly after, and since that evening things have been a little better.  Crying is good, sometimes.

In just a few minutes two friends are going to arrive in this room and I want to be able to be fully present with them so I’m going to close here.  Please know that I will update as soon as possible and that I’m pretty much ignoring texts for now.  I’ll respond on Facebook as time allows.

Thanks for sharing in our journey!  And if you have time, go back and read all of Kathie’s posts from the beginning.  Start HERE at Open Minds Lead to Open Hearts.  I saw the tease on Facebook and ignored it for a few days because it scared me to death.  Here’s what I saw:

This is the first post in a series on open adoption.

Recently when my daughter’s birthmother, via email, asked me to call her immediately because she had something important to tell me, my heart dropped into my stomach and I broke out in a cold sweat.

We adopted my daughter almost six years ago, with the help of an adoption agency. A completely legal, binding adoption. And yet I allowed the terror of losing my daughter to overcome me once again.  (Read more by Kathie B Harris.)

~Jennifer

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