Black History Month is for Everyone

 

As a 46-year-old white woman you may not think I pay much attention to Black History Month. Thankfully adoption has made it an integral part of my life and I’m honored to share what it means to my family. My Afro-Colombian daughter will tell you her race is black but her heritage is Hispanic. This puzzles many African Americans, particularly when she starts speaking Spanish to them. My husband, a white man, is South African and grew up under apartheid rule and was living in Africa when Nelson Mandela, who he calls a hero, became president. We consider our biological children African American even though their race is white. We also have a Hispanic daughter from Mexico. We talk about race in our home. A lot.

The truth is, adoptive parents’ love is not colorblind. When our family walks into a new environment we realize everyone sees a story of family building through adoption. So Black History Month in our family means embracing our daughter’s heritage and her race as she adds her story to the millions of black people in our country. Her story is both dark and brilliant with a future full of hope. And that is what we wish for all black Americans living in this country – hope.

Black History Month is so much more than learning about the history of African diaspora. It is about survival, hardship, victory, stereotypes, truths, music, language, food, fashion, cinema, minority, majority, hair, skincare, shades of brown to black, and all the differences in each and every one of those words across the different black cultures in our country. For instance, when my daughter talks about food from her afro-Colombian community it is quite different than the food I so love from growing up in the deep south. The race is the same but the culture is remarkably distinct.

As a family with four children, our favorite quote is from Martin Luther King Jr, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” We add to that sentence “equally” since our children are of different races. God created all of our skin tones which gives us enough reason to celebrate our uniqueness every day.

Feel Good Friday: Gunter Family

 

We are Joe and Kaley Gunter. We are coming up on 11 years of marriage. Adoption has always been something we wanted to pursue but just never knew when we would pursue it. After three years of trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant we knew the Lord was calling us to begin pursuing adoption.

We began our adoption journey with Love Basket, a smaller Christian adoption agency who later merged with Nightlight Christian Adoption Services in March 2015. This agency stood out to us at an adoption fair because of the high value and love they placed on the birthparents. We knew we would love to be able to have a relationship with the birthparents of our child if they were open to that, so the fact this agency counseled birthparents along the journey to make sure this was the right fit for them confirmed this was the agency the Lord was calling us to use. We started our paperwork and training in March 2015 and due to several reasons, some including the merge of agencies, knowing the Lord was calling us out of our ministry position in Louisville but not sure where He was leading, and then our move from Louisville KY to Magnolia MM (which required us finding an assisting agency to complete our home study in Mississippi) all of our paperwork was finally finished in February 2017 and we were ready to be matched.

On March 2nd we received a call from our caseworker stating that she wanted to show our profile to a birth mom but the expenses would be more than expected due to birth mom being privately insured. We told her to show our profile because if the Lord saw fit for this to be our child then He would work the financial aspect out. Then we prayed, trusted, and waited. The following day we headed to Hattiesburg for a date day and got a phone call from our caseworker. We knew she would let us know either way the decision the birth mom made regarding us parenting her child. So when we saw our caseworke’s name on our phone so many emotions were flooding us. She informed us we had been chosen to parent a two day old baby girl and of all the states she could have been born in she was born in Kentucky, Louisville Kentucky at that.

We will never forget the moment we first laid our eyes on our daughter. To experience a moment you have prayed so many years for was overwhelming. She was and is the most beautiful little girl we have ever seen. We immediately fell in love with her and felt a closeness to her.

For four months our journey was fairly smoothly waiting to finalize, but then in July 2017 our story took a turn. Keeping details private, we spent 13 months waiting to finalize our daughter. This by far is the hardest journey we have ever endured, but I can say wholeheartedly I would not change our situation. Through this we learned in a way we never have to truly rely on Christ and lean on Him, even in the times we were in despair and shattered. We clung to the truth that her birth mom chose us to raise her daughter and that before the Lord created her, we were chosen to parent her.

There are so many little details the Lord has orchestrated in our story. If I could sit down with you face-to-face, I would tell you all the ways God worked behind the scenes in the little details and how truly great His faithfulness and kindness is.

All of the waiting was ordained, and we may never know the reasons our daughter’s story started the way it did. But we know the truth of this quote “Waiting time is not wasted time” The wait was long at times and there was questioning on how the Lord would provide financially for our unexpected journey to finalization and how long it would be until she was legally ours. But God truly showed up in all the hard. We learned the meaning of “all we have is Christ” when life makes no sense. A vital truth that will carry us on through this earthly life. God being who He is, showed up financially and the month after we finalized our daughter our adoption process was paid in full!!! We are so grateful for the generosity of others on our journey and the village of people God has surrounded us with. Adoption can be messy and hard at times, but it is also beautiful and worth it all.

 

New Year Resolutions

 

As we approach a New Year, thoughts and conversations around resolutions are inevitable. Whether we resolve to go to the gym more, worry less or finally plant that garden, most of us face January 1st with motivation and resolve to conquer the impossible. And most of us know that by March (if we’re lucky) that motivation has been drained and life has somehow gotten in the way of bringing the full resolution into reality. So why does that happen year after year?

 

I would argue we each get in the way of ourselves.  Never did I involve God in my resolution until a few years ago. I decided my resolution would simply be: Less of me, more of Him. It was the hardest resolution I have ever made, but certainly the most effective, educational and life changing. First I had to figure out where, when, and how this resolution would take place. Every day, all day? What would that look like? Did I need to become Mother Theresa? Then I remembered 1 Thessalonians 5:17: Pray without ceasing. To me that verse means including Him in all things, big or small, all day long. So I did my best to start with that.

 

With that in mind and habit, I allowed God to form HIS resolutions in me. It became less about what I wanted to change, but more about discovering what He wanted to change within me, around me and for me. The burden of a new resolution became less about goals and more about BEING who my Father wanted me to be.

 

In this New Year, we challenge you to simply press in to the relationship you have with your heavenly Father. We know from 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; The old has gone, the new is here!  It is truly a miracle that we have opportunity to renew ourselves by simply stepping into a relationship with Christ – either for the first time or deeper into the on we have. No membership fees, no diets, no degrees required.

 

Happy New Year to all of our Nightlight families and extended community! May 2019 bring you abundant blessings and joy to all.

God’s Greatest Gift

 

 

As we enter the Christmas season, there are so many things to be thankful for: the health of living in a bountiful nation, the happiness of having choices, and the hope of what tomorrow will bring. Yet as we ponder these things amongst our daily to do lists, nothing would seem quite as important, if we did not have loved ones with whom we could share this season of joy and celebration with. Hearing family and friends laugh, and experiencing their embrace as they express their gratitude for having received what their hearts desired, reminds me of the blessings I have received from my heavenly Father.

He answered my prayer to become a parent. I longed to hold a little one in my arms and know I had been used by God to bring he, or she, into the world. What a wonderful blessing that would be…my little one is 25 years old now. I am forever grateful and amazingly blessed to be a part of such a miracle.  

During this season, perhaps you, too, have similar thoughts or feelings, desiring to become a parent, and welcome a baby into your loving arms and become part of your family.

Whether you have remaining embryos that you desire to place with another couple for the purpose of adoption, or whether you desire to adopt embryos so that you can know the joys, and challenges, of parenthood, we encourage you to reach out to us. The Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Team are waiting to answer your questions.

 

We wish you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas.

Surviving the Holidays While Waiting for Adoption

 

 

We lost our daughter inside the womb the day after Thanksgiving, conceived through in vitro fertilization. Less than 24 hours earlier we were rejoicing that among our many blessings, was the pending arrival of our little girl, and we were looking forward to celebrating the upcoming holidays with our little one. Suddenly the holidays took on a whole new meaning and the commercialism of our culture magnified our loss. Our first Christmas card of the season arrived a few days later. It happened to be a sonogram photograph, our friends’ creative way to announce their pregnancy on their holiday greeting. The barrage of Christmas cards that arrived in our mailbox over the next few weeks competed with the influx of toy advertisements, commercials, and holiday activities for children offered at our church and in the community. When my best friend called me before 7:15 am on Christmas morning to tell me that her at home pregnancy test had just revealed her own little bundle of joy, I held it together until I hung up the phone. That Christmas was the first of many holidays spent waiting for God’s plan for our family to unfold, first through IVF and then through adoption. Each holiday became a painful reminder of our loss and our unfulfilled longing to be parents. Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, an endless cycle of celebrations that center on children and family.
There is no magic formula to “survive the holidays” while you wait to bring a child into your home. However, you can be better prepared by recognizing that the holidays may be difficult, accept the emotions when they come, plan ahead, and pray for God to help you through. Here are some suggestions that helped me discover some ways to not only survive the holidays while we waited, but celebrate, as well.

• Remember what the holiday is all about. As I sobbed that first Christmas morning after losing my daughter and cried out to God in prayer, I recognized that the holidays point to “holy days.” Christmas is about God in the flesh who loved us so much that he came as a baby to earth to address the needs of those suffering, not just here but for eternity. I recognized that Easter was about Him conquering death and bridging the gap between man and God. Because he came and because he died, I now have a relationship with a personal God who hears my innermost cries and is sovereign over my circumstances. That alone is a reason to celebrate!

• Turn to God. “For the Word of God is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) and “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1). His word says, “Lord you are always with me; you hold me by my right hand…My flesh and my heart may fail, but you are the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:23,26) Allow God to speak and comfort you through his holy word.

• Send a letter to close friends and family. One of the very best ideas I had while I was waiting was writing a letter before the holidays to very close friends and family members. I preemptively answered questions and addressed issues that I thought they would ask so that they would know I loved them and wanted to involve them in our journey to parenthood, but wouldn’t be ambushed during our time together over the holidays. I told them some facts, described my feelings, and lovingly informed them that if I wanted them to know more or wanted to talk about it over the holidays, I would initiate it. This boundary helped me walk into a room knowing that I wasn’t going to be ambushed, they didn’t have to feel awkward wondering what to say or if they should ask, and we could just enjoy our time together. It empowered me to talk about it when I was comfortable.

• Create new traditions. Talk with your spouse about traditions that you want to implement when your child comes home and come up with new ones. If you are adopting internationally, learn about foods and traditions from their birth culture that you can incorporate when your child arrives. If attending a Mother’s Day service at church each year is too painful, create the tradition of going out of town for the weekend or having your own devotional at home followed by a big brunch.

• Be selective about the invitations you accept. Sometimes attending a holiday gathering may prove difficult for you and exposes you to the painful reminder that you are still waiting to hold your child in your arms. Decide with your spouse which invitations you want to accept and reserve the right to change your plans if you or your spouse are having an especially difficult time.

• Script your response. Most people asking questions or making comments about your parental status or adoption plan are honestly wanting to say and do the “right” thing. Well-meaning friends and family members need a lot of grace. Prayerfully consider what you’d like others to know about how you are dealing with your adoption journey and the waiting period, and plan how you will respond to certain questions ahead of time. It not only helps your anxiety in the moment, but is an opportunity to educate others.

• Focus on Others. Shifting your focus towards others is a great way to minister to others, serve God, and take your mind off of your own pain. Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Mark 10:45) Volunteer serving food to the homeless on Thanksgiving, pack boxes for the children around the world with Operation Christmas Child, spend time at a nursing home, or write cards to grieving people in your church. There are people in need all around you.

Adoption Support: What Is Helpful from Family and Friends?

So… you are parents and you’re in your home loving on your baby.  Friends and family are excited and want to celebrate with you, however, they may not quite know how to support you during this time.  They may wonder if it’s okay to stop by, deliver a meal or offer to babysit.  They may have additional questions as to what you need.  While I’m an advocate of telling people what you need, not all people hear when there’s a baby involved!  Let’s look at a few ways family and friends can support you while you bond and spend time snuggling with your little one.

In asking several adoptive parents how they either received support or would have liked to receive support, I compiled a list of things to consider as your family and friends champion you and your child:

  • DO pray!
  • DO accept our decision to adopt without question and how we choose to share about our personal life and decisions.
  • DO accept our choice of a child regardless of their race, heritage or age.
  • DO offer practical help if you don’t mind giving us your time.
  • DO respect that we need bonding time with our child.
  • DO respect our parenting style.
  • DO speak of the birth family with favorable words – We want to honor them with our words and our actions. Speaking negatively of our child(ren)’s biology can transfer to them.
  • DO be willing to learn and educate yourself about adoption.
  • DO show our child unconditional love.
  • DON’T feel sorry for our adopted child.
  • DON’T tell us that now that we’ve adopted we’ll get pregnant with a child of “our own”.
  • DON’T make demands for our time and attention during our adjustment to this new phase.

One adoptive mother’s story:  When we brought our child home (directly from the hospital) we had very few items.  We struggled for years with infertility and it was too painful to have baby items in our home.  Our child was born a month early (we had no idea of gender prior to birth) so we stopped at Babies R Us (while traveling home) to get what we needed.  Upon arriving home, I borrowed from friends (bottles and necessary items) to get through until a baby shower was planned.  I think everyone thought we must have everything that we needed (despite being registered at Babies R Us!) because at the baby shower we received only clothes and small items.  In addition, not one person brought us a meal or offered to help out in any other way.  I also didn’t get paid maternity leave!  We were not angry, we never expected anything from anyone, but I was hurt.  For years I had been supportive, excited, and giving (of time and resources) when my friends welcomed their children into the world.  In fact, when I confided in one friend about how sleep deprived I was she stated “well, isn’t this what you wanted?”.  This was what I wanted, but I was tired!  Everyone thought I should spring right in to motherhood, but I didn’t.  I was struggling terribly (with what later was pointed out to me, by an adoption worker, as post adoption blues).  I didn’t feel worthy of being my baby’s mom.  I would stay awake at night wondering if his birth mother was hurting, missing him.  I wondered if he missed her.  If I would ever be good enough.  I was sad, confused, and felt guilty during what should have been one of the happiest times of my life.  So… support me, on my terms.

Let’s work together to help those in the adoption community as they begin this wonderful stage of the journey! Be aware, and be sensitive/understanding and look for ways you can help, so that these new parents feel empowered and prepared to welcome home their new little one.

How Do You Celebrate “Gotcha Day”?

 

The term “Gotcha Day” has been used for many years by adoptive parents to celebrate the day their adopted child became part of their family.  We recognize that not everyone appreciates this term.  Some people instead call this special day “Family Day,” “Adoption Day,” or something similar.  Regardless of what you call it, this is the day that your adopted child became yours for forever.  Why is it important to celebrate this day?  It’s important to celebrate your child and to recognize that your child came to you in a very special way.  It’s important to celebrate the child’s heritage, birth country, and birth parents.  Your child establishes his identity through embracing who he is and where he came from.  Celebrating this day reveals to the child that you are aware of the culture and history of his background.  It also enables you to recognize the importance of the child’s birth parents and their love for him.  Everyone appreciates the opportunity to celebrate their child and the way their child came into their family.

Families choose different days to celebrate.  Some celebrate the first day the child was put in their arms.  Some celebrate the court hearing that made that child officially a part of the family.  Some celebrate the first day that their child met their whole family.  It doesn’t matter what day you choose.

In some families, the child may not be comfortable celebrating at all.  They may have negative feelings associated with the adoption process or parts of it.  In these cases, another option is to celebrate National Adoption Day (the Saturday before Thanksgiving) with family and friends.  The focus in such a celebration can be on adoption in general, and such events can help reduce the stigma surrounding adoption as well.

How do you celebrate “Gotcha Day” or “Family Day”?

The Marvin family celebrates “Family Day” by recognizing their son’s birth country.  In The Congo, people celebrate special days by purchasing Fanta Orange soft drinks in glass bottles.  The family has incorporated this tradition into their “Family Day” to give their son the ability to appreciate his culture.

The Inabinet family recently celebrated their 4-year-old son’s domestic adoption “Gotcha Day” by explaining to him in greater detail his adoption and that he has two mommies and two daddies.  The next day the adoptive and birth families came together to celebrate Preston by spending the day at the zoo together.  Preston was able to celebrate his adoptive family and still recognize and know his birth family.

Other ideas for how to celebrate this special day are as follows:

  • Create a book of the adoption journey and read the book to the child every year.
  • Look at pictures of the child’s birth family or birth country.
  • Go to a restaurant related to your child’s culture.
  • Mail a care package to the orphanage your child spent their early years in.
  • Tell your child stories of your visit to his birth country or the days leading up to his birth.
  • Be intentional on this day to create new memories and record them in a special way.
  • Plant a tree.
  • Take a picture as a family.

“Gotcha Day” or “Family Day” celebrations do not have to be elaborate, as long as they are meaningful to you and your child.

Preparing To Travel For An International Adoption

 

 

We thought of our trip to meet and then adopt our children as our ‘first family adventure’ together! This helped when unusual circumstances occurred and we would just look at one another and say, ‘another adventure’ rather than, ‘another catastrophe!’ I truly think our attitude of being flexible and looking at the trip as an exciting adventure, helped us to stay positive with the challenges that came our way during these trips. After all, who would expect that between the morning of departure when we’d notarized ‘final’ documents, the country would change everything by the time we arrived and met with our coordinator two days later, requiring us to re-do all of our documents yet again! Or who could anticipate that the weather would change and all of the spring clothing I’d packed for us and our newly adopted children would not be warm enough to deal with the frigid unseasonable weather! Little did my husband anticipate that the street signs would not be easily found as he took his early morning jog, resulting in him getting lost and barely making his way back to our hotel in time for an important meeting.

 

Here are some tips that helped us as we prepared to travel.

  1. Learn as much as you can about the culture of the country or area you are visiting to adopt your child.
  2. Check out blogs of other adoptive parents from your child’s country, but take them with a ‘grain of salt’ as your experience may be quite different than their experience and approach to life.
  3. If you don’t know the language, learn it! Or at least learn 100 of the most common phrases. It will make your life so much easier! Most importantly, your child, unless you are adopting a teen, expects that you speak their language, as to a young child, everyone speaks the same language, don’t they?
  4. Pack as light as possible, people won’t remember what you’re wearing and that you’ve worn it previously. Make sure everything can be washed in the sink and that it is all wash and wear, mix and match. If you’ve had a kid vomit on you, you know what I’m talking about!
  5. Pack as though you’re going camping on a desert island. Some of the items that I’ve really appreciated, a flashlight, net laundry bag, zip-lock bags of every size, paper clips, plastic envelopes to hold important documents and snacks that will tide you over when you don’t feel like going out. FYI – individually packaged salami sticks although a great source of protein, will get you pulled over in security. Bring protein bars or nuts instead.
  6. Bring small toys/games that don’t require language, but can easily entertain your child when you are stuck somewhere, waiting, and need something to occupy them. Wrap these items individually as it makes them more appealing. The $1.00 bin at Target was ideal for finding small toys and activities that wrapped well.
  7. Small candies, such as Hershey’s kisses are wonderful if you need a quick treat or bribe to encourage your child to put on a seat belt or just because. Goldfish crackers also pack well and are a good treat for your child.
  8. Parenting is difficult at best when traveling in a different country. Focus instead on learning about your child and increasing your comfort level with one another. Be silly and play games together!
  9. You can’t spoil your child at this point. You are working on attachment and learning to bond as a family, so plan on cuddling and holding your child as much as he/she will allow and play games that encourage contact like peek-a-boo; catch with a blow up ball; bubbles; dance; counting games with fingers and toes; puppet play.
  10. Have fun and count your blessings!

Feel Good Friday: Reunification in Uganda

It was only yesterday that we welcomed baby Grace into our home.  She was born a preemie at 7 months and her mum plus sibling both passed away at birth. She weighed only 1.2 kgs and was still very under-developed, even the hospital didn’t expect Grace to make it.  She was feeding through an ng tube and her skin was so pale.  We spent the whole night praying that she would survive.  She was severely dehydrated and needed lots of care and feeding.  We fought, prayed and believed for Grace’s miraculous survival.  Little did we know that Grace was as much determined to make it as we were.  She was a fighter.

Today we celebrate a miracle as we see grace being reunited with her biological father.  We are in awe of this great and amazing journey of hope. Grace has grown into a beautiful and happy girl who is full of energy. She is a feisty girl and will fight her way through any crisis.  She is very strong willed, fearless, and opinionated.  She has a smile which is contagious, when she chooses to show it. 

Who knew that this little girl could actually be here to tell her story?  Who knew that this tiny baby would grow into a lovely and flamboyant beauty?  Who knew that even when people give up on you, God can actually redeem and restore?

Grace was loved by many.

We are so proud of the girl she is today.  We are so thankful for what God has done and continues to do in her life.  We are so grateful to God for giving us the opportunity to change her story.  We are so grateful that our hope was not in vain.

Grace was inconsolable on the day of reunification.  It was difficult to see her in tears as we said our farewell, but we were comforted that she was in the hands of her parents who were excited and very grateful to have her home.

It was a hard day for grace and her nanny as they bid farewell

Grace will always be loved and remembered in the home.  Her smile and energy are missed every day.  God has indeed been good and we can boldly say Ebenezer. 

—-Ken and Cathy Nganda (Tender Hearts Baby Home)

The Cost: An Analogy For Adoption Part1

Last weekend I visited the local Home and Garden Show and I was so inspired by the patio rooms displayed that I made an appointment for a salesman to visit my home. After talking with him about my desires for the room, he crunched the numbers. I had figured the room would cost around $25,000. After he crunched the numbers, the first price was $81,000! He said, “I’m sure that is a bit more than you were expecting.” Of course, after all the deals and discounts, the final price was $57,000. Then we discussed some adjustments, such as, making the room smaller. Ultimately, we were able to get the price down to a meager $42,000. After he left, I ultimately decided that adding this room to my home is just not in the budget for this year. However, I started thinking about the cost of this room and the fact that no one would ever question the validity of this cost. The company has a good reputation, and the rooms are made from the highest quality materials.

Yet, when discussing the cost of adoption, many people question the validity of the cost. Many feel that adoption should be free or at the very least the cost should be minimal. In the mind of some, no one should be employed in the world of adoption and everyone should volunteer. Over the years, I’ve heard comments made that it is “free” to adopt through the state. This is simply not true. While the adoptive family does not write a check to the local Department of Human Services, the employees are paid and the cost of the process is covered by tax dollars. If you look at statistics regarding the average cost to care for a child in foster care annually, you will find that private adoption is actually quite inexpensive.

So, how is it that building a room for $42,000 or even $57,000 is so easily accepted but adoption costs are seen as unfair?  Let’s look at this objectively.

In order to build this room onto my home, I would need to pay for the following:

  • Building permit
  • Materials-I want the best quality of course.
  • Specialized workers for foundation, glass, roof, etc.

In addition, the company doing the work would need to cover the cost of:

  • Insurance
  • Oversight
  • Shipping materials from the manufacturing plant to my home
  • The room will need to meet all building codes and pass a safety inspection
  • The company also offers me a lifetime warranty. If anything happens to the glass 20 years from now, they will send someone out to fix it.

How does this compare to adoption? Stayed tuned and read more next week!