One Month.

(Mom confession: these pictures are not of him on his one month birthday, but rather at 5 weeks and 4 days old. Close enough, right?)

Valentine’s Day was officially one month that Declan has been home with us. He also turned 5 weeks that same day and, perhaps most exciting, his umbilical cord FINALLY fell off.  Greg and I have been talking and the last month has been a super emotional one. No highs and lows though. More like quick movements side to side. Shock, worry, love, gratitude, sadness, fear, joy and excitement have all mingled together. Sometimes one emotion stands out among the rest, but usually it is just a soupy mix of all of them. We also agree that this month has been so much fun and a wonderful start to this adventure.

Some of our favorite things have been figuring out what makes him smile and going out on new adventures. Primarily us responding to his coos and other vocalizations as if we are holding a conversation causes him to give out big toothless grins. Occasionally, tickling his ribs or reading him a book will also elicit a smile. Greg has loved the evening routine they have developed with songs and PJs. I love it when I figure out what will soothe him after he has gotten all worked up. We both love taking him for walks and talking to him about the one day adventures we will have. We have been to COSI and the library downtown and hope to visit more parks once the weather is warmer.

Declan Stats
Weight: 12lbs 2oz
Height: 22 ½ inches
Superpowers: Holding up head well, eye contact and incredible cuteness
Nemeses: Gas, hats, and baths
Nicknames: Dec, Bubbaloo, Squishy Face, Boo-boo, Little Man, Baby Boy

Declan’s Story (Part 2)

This is part two in the series explaining Declan’s placement with us. See part one here.

After Greg and I called our social worker Kelly and told her that we wanted to move forward with placement, we were told we could go and visit him at the hospital. So at 4:30pm on Thursday, we walked into the hospital and headed up to the fifth floor on the yellow elevators to meet Little One. Now, I had thought about this moment a lot in the last ten months. I had imagined the overwhelming love that would flow as soon as I laid eyes on our baby. I thought there would be unrelenting tears of joy. And yet, as we walked toward the nurses station I found myself more shocked than anything. For the first time during our adoption journey I was admitting to myself that I truly never thought we would get a match or placement. I thought we would be one of those people who waited years and years and simply never added a child to their home.

Hear me out on this. I wasn’t being a pessimist or self-deprecating, this is simply our reality when it came to fertility and growing our family. The longer a couple struggles with infertility or experiences pregnancy loss, the more likely they are to simply not trust the outcome. Two people loving each other does not equal pregnancy; pregnancy does not equal baby and all the tests, and medicines and alternate routes of growing your family won’t necessarily change that. So in a real way, to me, choosing to adopt was just another route to try–but did not guarantee us a child. Along the way and unbeknownst to me, I had subconsciously decided that this was how things would end for us– no call, no baby. So the call, the match, holding Declan? All of that felt like a dream.  

Instead of unending tears, I cried three times. Once when we had to leave him after our visit on Thursday, again after our visit on Friday and then finally when we were in the hospital holding him and heard that he would officially be ours.

That was the other level of emotion occurring for Greg and I during this time. You see we were matched on Thursday, not placed. Birth mama had picked our profile and had an adoption plan in place, but could change her mind before the papers were signed. So until noon on Saturday, this lovely little nugget of a baby– whom we had named and shopped for and prayed over and loved already– wasn’t really ours. It is hard to know what to feel when this incredible thing is happening, it happens quickly and unexpectedly AND it was all very tentative. Even here, two weeks later, when I remember those days I remember feeling physically dizzy with emotions.

In the almost forty eight hours from the phone call to signing papers on Saturday, our to do list included installing car seats, buying diapers, calling our jobs and insurance company, meeting with some birth family members, finding a pediatrician, cleaning everything in sight and trying, on any level, to process the reality of a son coming home on Saturday. I have joked that it was like squeezing nine months of pregnancy (and preparation) into two days.

Once the pile of papers was signed and the social worker had all the copies of paperwork she needed. Declan’s ankle bracelet was taken off, we dressed him and off to the car we went. The drive home was a blur as I sat it the back just staring at him. When we got home, I took a nap (the first of many). And as I was falling asleep I heard Greg and Declan downstairs. Greg showing Dec around the house and telling him, “This is the world. This is our living room. I am your Dad.” And that right there just might be the best thing I have ever fallen asleep to.

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Declan’s Story (Part 1)

It has been thirteen days since the phone call that introduced Declan to our lives. Up until that point our social worker through Adoption by Gentle Care had been Megan. However, as there are only two social workers and the agency works with both birth mothers and adoptive families, it can happen that for your match and placement you work with the other social worker so each party has there own representative. So while it was a bit of a surprise, it wasn’t unexpected to have Kelly on the line letting us know about a little one that had been born a couple of days earlier. Greg and I were each at work when we got the call. Part of me wishes I could have seen his reaction. I am certain it was similar to mine.

The initial call let us know that there was a little one born on Tuesday, he was in the regular nursery and that there was an extensive Medical-Social history that should be reviewed before Greg and I made the decision to move forward with this match.** At this point it was 10:30 and the decision was made for Greg to pick up the documents after work at 1pm and then meet me at my job for us to review. This plan lasted about an hour before Greg was on his way to pick up the paperwork and I was headed to our friend, Renee’s house. Greg and I decided to have a third party look through the documents with us 1) to be a prayer covering and 2) to help us work through some of the more technical parts of the documents we were reading.

Before I arrived at Renee’s I stopped at a diner in Columbus to grab lunch for Greg and I. It was there that I, in all my shock and joy, turned to two delightful woman and proclaimed, “I think I am going to have a son on Saturday.” I further explained about the adoption and the call and it was wonderful to say out loud that this was possibly, maybe happening.

After all parties arrived at Renee’s we sat down with our lunch and a pile of papers and began to read. I cannot put into words the value of Renee’s presence during this time. She googled everything we didn’t understand, explained other pieces and helped to pull together a portrait of the possible long term effects Little One could have. I confess that most of this should have stressed me out. I should have been much more worried about these details. And yet, there was a peace for me. Something in my gut and heart simply new that this was our baby. He would be our son.

Don’t get me wrong, I am afraid of the long term implications and worry about my Little Man pretty much constantly. But those worries are about his health and well being; about whether or not I am doing everything I can to be the mama he needs. My worries are never, ever about whether or not he is our baby. From the moment Kelly told us about him, both Greg and I knew our hearts had already said yes.

Once we prayed and read and prayed some more, we called Kelly back and told her we wanted to move forward with this match. She let us know that we could meet him that evening, if we wanted. So on January 12th, in the span of six hours, the very distant hypothetical idea of being parents became the very real reality of holding a perfect, nine-pound, dark-haired baby in our arms.

**Many people have questions about what his history contained. What do we know about birth mama, birth dad, etc. Throughout this process Greg and I have pushed ourselves to transparency both through this blog and in person. But in this area, much of that history is not our story to tell. Therefore, we are leaving these details out of his birth and adoption story. If/when he chooses to share them, the details will be Declan’s to share.

See part 2 here

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The Name Game: Ivan to Declan

I have a mild obsession with names. It think it stems from years of reading books where character names often told a story themselves. Or maybe it was the years of infertility that gave me space to read EVERY NAME BLOG EVER. Ahem. Whatever the reason, picking out names for this adoption has been an interesting process of incredibly long lists, starting completely over, making another list and then settling on the names for each a boy or girl. If you talked to us in the last five months or so you would have heard us proudly proclaim Ivan to be the name of our son. Ivan is a family name after Greg’s grandpa and we loved the strength and the quirkiness. When we thought of our future son, we imagined an Ivan at bat in T-Ball and report cards for Ivan coming home.

And then we got the call.

As soon as our social worker, Kelly told us it was a boy my thought (among one thousand other thoughts) was “Huh, I don’t think his name is Ivan”. This is an odd thought when I hadn’t met him yet, had no idea what he looked like nor could tell you what his little personality was like. And yet, my gut said not-an-Ivan.

I talked to Greg about this and we agreed that meeting him would help us select the name. We threw out Joseph and James as option and still loved Ivan. I also mentioned Declan, which was a name we picked in our first year of marriage but had forgotten about. As the day proceeded we found out that we had the opportunity to possibly meet with some of Declan’s family.

With that in my mind we rounded out our short list and asked Kelly to see if they wanted to look at it and maybe let us know which one they liked best. We were both so excited when we heard back, they didn’t want to pick, but they enjoyed the name Declan. Ah! Finally, we had our answer. (As a side note, Declan’s biological family is amazing and we can’t wait to get to know them more.)

We love the name and how it connects to both sides of his family and is easy to pronounce, but not too common. Declan is an Irish name that means “man of prayer”. This meaning seems fitting given the amount of prayer this little man is and has been drenched in and our hopes/wishes for him as he grows. Andrew means strong and James supplanter. So far we call him Dec and Squishy-face. We also think he looks just like a Declan too.

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Mucking Boots and Dreams

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I must acknowledge the inherent messiness of adoption. In order for me to become a mother, another woman must choose to separate from her child. A mama out there has to do the scary, brave thing to place her baby with us. Every adoption begins with separation.

This doesn’t change our heart for adoption. It does cause us to walk humbly throughout this process. It doesn’t minimize the celebration that will occur as life enters this world and our home. It does force us to leave space for the grief that must occur for both mother and child.

Often the idea of two parts being grafted into one is used as an illustration for an adoption. You can google and find blog after blog that talks about the beauty of a family adopting a child as a wonderful mini-example of God grafting us to him. To this I say, yes yes yes. Our child with be ours, no seams or divisions. He or she will be our son or daughter without asterisk, qualification or explanation.

And yet our love  can’t (and shouldn’t) erase that he is as much theirs as ours. And yet we will never be able alter her first chapter to look more like her cousins or his friends. Separation begins this story. And while we have hope that this story becomes one of an extended family that navigates birth parents and an open adoption in the same fashion as others navigate step families, gaggles of aunts and uncles and friends who have become family, we can only control the story now.

We must begin by acknowledging the fear and loss involved.

So we pull on our mucking boots and step into the mud of this unknown territory. We start with the mess. We say out loud the hard stuff. The rest will follow when it is time. One day we may begin to see the beauty of life in the dirt. Either way we are in this together.

Dear Little One #3

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Dearest Tiny Human,

The holidays are starting to approach and already I am making a list of things I want to share with you. The last four months of the year have always been my favorite. Beginning with the air becoming crisp and apples or pumpkins popping up everywhere and ending with a sense of reflection and celebration as we start a new year.

When you are old enough we will take you to pick out your very own pumpkin and ride on a hayride. When you are little we will walk through parks and observe the changing leaves and listening to the sound they make when we crunch over them. I will absolutely be a mom who puts you in holiday attire that reads “My first” for everything from Valentine’s day to Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year.

I have more ideas for your Halloween costumes than I have Halloweens you will let me dress you. On Christmas Eve Eve we will go with your cousins to see the lights at Carlisle and on New Year’s Eve we will head to your dad’s side of the family for a yummy meal, gifts, board games and the ball dropping.

Bur more than the big events, I can’t wait to see you standing on a chair helping your dad make dinner (may you be a better cook than me). I can’t wait for the first snowman. I know there will be days of cranky moods and contrary choices (probably from all three of us) but I even look forward to them. Our family is ready to grow and you are the piece on which we are waiting and have been waiting and will continue to wait.

We love you now and always,

Mom and Dad

 

Stickers and Puzzle Pieces

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Piece of the Journey

We could raise $5,000 before Christmas!

If we sell every piece of this puzzle we will raise an additional $5000 and bring our current total raised to $25,000. That puts us only $6,000 away from our total cost…. that’s 80% raised!

This can be done by selling all 250 pieces of our puzzle. As you can see we have already made some progress.

When you purchase a puzzle piece you will get to write your name on the back of the piece or pieces. At completion this puzzle will be framed in a floating frame and placed in the nursery. As we share with Little One the journey of his arrival to our family, we will take down this puzzle, turn it over, and read your names as people who loved her before they even knew him. You will literally be an ongoing piece of her story.

Cost: $20 for a puzzle piece and a sticker of your choice!

Stickers
A talented young entrepreneur designed two stickers for us that represent our heart for community and adoption.  You can see both designs below.
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Cost: $5 for one or $7 for two

How to Purchase
 Please contact us through email at vwysockihall@gmail.com if you are interested in a puzzle piece or sticker. If you live in Ashland you may also contact Mallorie. For Lorain family and friend you can also reach out to Tami. They can get you the puzzle piece  or sticker and take your money as well. Payment can be either cash or checks made out to Valentina and Greg Hall.

We are happy to mail items to participants, but will need all puzzle pieces mailed back!

Officially a Waiting Family

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We have entered a new stage in our adoption process. We are now officially a waiting family. This means our home study has been approved, our activation fee has been paid and our profile is completed. Check us out here (Waiting Families) on Adoption by Gentle Care’s website .

The Remaining Steps
Sharing our profile- Now is the time where we get our profile out there. Our social worker with Adoption by Gentle Care is doing this, but you and I can also help. Feel free to share our profile with anyone you know who may be thinking of adoption or who may know someone who is thinking of adoption. It is crazy the stories you hear on how birth families and adoptive families are connected. We would love at least a semi-open adoption, but are willing to do either a closed or a completely open adoption as well. You can access our profile through the “Waiting Family” link above, scroll down and click on our picture! Or you could just click here. If you have questions or interest, feel free to email me at vwysockihall@gmail.com or contact Adoption by Gentle Care at 1 (800) 824-9633 and ask to speak to Megan.

Match-This is when a birth family has seen our profile and selected us as part of their adoption plan. It is important to understand two things about a match. One: the parents retain full rights at this time. We are not entitled, owed or guaranteed anything. Two: during this time our profile will not be shared with other families. I repeat, we can be matched with a family and ultimately not have that baby placed with us. This is not something for us to fear or fret over. In every situation we are hoping and praying for what is best for the family and the baby. 

Placement- This can occur 72 hours after the family has spoken with the adoption agency about their options OR three days after the baby is born, whichever is later. At the time of placement, the biological parents sign forms and the child is placed in our care. This is a very emotional day for all parties involved, so while there will be much gratitude and joy, there will also be grief and fear and a love that stretches to all parties involved.

Finalization- Six months after the baby is placed with us, our little family will travel to the courthouse (with four other friends/family) and a judge will finalize the paperwork, making Little One legally ours. A new birth certificate will be issued with us listed as the parents and we will assume all legal and physical responsibility (well, officially on paper. We were probably keeping on top of these things before).

Our To Do List
Fundraising- We have been doing so well with fundraising! We have currently raised approximately $20,000 (a little more actually) of the $31,000 we need. So between now and our placement (when the money is due) we have some fundraising to do!

Greg is submitting paperwork for eight different grants and/or interest-free loans this week. Plus we have our puzzle and sticker fundraiser currently going. That fundraiser alone could get us $5,000. Prayers over this process as we continue to trust in God’s provision.

Continue to pray for us. A time of waiting comes with its challenges and trials. 

אֲסִיר תּוֹדָה

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Six years ago  I was on a Florida beach in the middle of a rainstorm. The beach was isolated save for a friend swimming in the ocean (ahem, Mallorie) and once I was assured of the correct direction she should swim if caught in a riptide (thanks for that knowledge Quinn), I stepped into the ocean amazed at the vastness of the scene before me.

You see this particular rainstorm was the kind that drenches you– even if caught in it for only a moment. Just a moment and your hair and clothes are dripping wet. Just a moment and you were completely saturated.

Standing shin deep in the ocean, soaked by the steady rainfall, I remember thinking this moment is the best illustration I will ever have of God’s love. And now I think back to that memory as the only illustration that comes close to describing the waves of generosity and support that has come from our community this year.

I have said it before, no words will ever convey the gratitude we feel. There is no way we could ever express what it means– what your attendance at events, your prayers and your encouragement have helped to build. We have been bolstered by your kindness to believe it is possible for a family to grow in an unconventional way. We have be reassured of God’s hand in this ever evolving story of redemption and reclamation. Adoption is a hard, scary, vulnerable process. We are making it through only because of you and your willingness to be Him to us.

Wave after wave, your checks have arrived with numbers I never thought possible. Your cards have contained just the right phrase to uplift a waning spirit and your prayers have helped keep us fixed on Christ.

So thank you, thank you, thank you. Everyday is one day closer to our beloved little one and it is only possibly because of your love. One day she will rest in our arms and we will think of all of you who brought him to us. We are forever bound in gratitude to you.

Progress Report #3

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Home Study
We have been waiting on one final letter for about a month now. BUT once that is in it looks like we will be on the fast track to completion of our homestudy process. As our profile is already completed and the activation fee is paid this means as soon as the home study is approved we are LIVE. At that time it will just be a matter of waiting for a match and then a placement. So a HUGE prayer request is for that letter to get sorted out. 

Fundraising
We have a had two fundraisers in the last couple months. In August we went to Greg’s hometown for a Spaghetti dinner. The generosity and kindness of that community brought in a table full of homemade desserts and $1,900. This exceeded our wildest expectations.

In September we had lunch fundraiser in Ashland that brought $1,700. We hosted a BBQ meal, a silent auction and began our “Piece of the Journey” puzzle fundraiser. We also started to sell custom Hall adoption stickers. A blog will follow with more details on both. Our current total fundraised is just under $21,000. This is huge everyone. That puts us just shy of 68% in reaching our total goal of $31,000. Over 2/3 raised in only four months. Thank you to everyone who has supported and encouraged us.

We are still working out the details of a fundraiser in my hometown and something in Columbus as well.

What’s Next
Our nursery is coming together with generous donations of bottles, a crib, strollers and so many wonderful blankets. We are still working on some creative storage options and will share pictures once we upgrade to smartphones and I am able to do more with my phone. There is a fox on this blog as I have had to stop myself from purchasing all things fox for the nursery/guestroom. Highlights of the nursery so far include an adorable duck blanket that was in Greg’s nursery and a yellow pegboard that will act as storage for all diapering essentials. There are two showers planned in the next couple months to help round out the baby necessities.

Prayer Requests
Please be praying for us and our agency as we hopefully transition soon from all the front end administrative work into a season of preparing and waiting. Please also continue your prayers for all the mothers out their considering adoption, our sweet little one and the family that will join ours shortly.

Love and Gratitude