Monday, July 2

The One When We Found Him.

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The questions started a little over a year ago.  

One night at dinner, Dane looked across the table & pointed at an empty seat, "Why does no one sit there, Mommy?"  Then, upstairs getting ready for bed - "Why do we have a plain room up here?"  The next day on the way home from school..."Mommy - why does no one sit back here with me?  Why is there an empty seat back here too!?" GULP.

I responded by doing what any normal mom would do - I ran upstairs, slammed the door & cried.  #pitypartyforone

Of course, we didn't share with him that we never meant for there to be an empty seat at our table, we thought we would have multiple car seats in the car - we built our house with hopes that the rooms would quickly be filled.  But, God had other plans.  And, we are at peace with that.  The "standard" way of creating a family never worked for us.  Adoption did.  And, we love it.  But hearing those questions from a little 3-yr old was hard.

And the honest truth was, we knew we would adopt again.  But, the past 3 years had FLOWN by.  One minute Dane was swaddled & fast asleep in his crib, and the next we were signing him up for soccer.  Babies definitely do not keep.  We didn't discuss adoption #2 for awhile after the questions started, but then out of the blue one school night - Devin just said "So, when we ARE going to start again?"  Ummmm, EEK.  I hadn't looked at my adoption binder in years.  I didn't even know where it was.  I could actually sleep again without pacing the house at 3am.  I didn't wonder if a birthmother was going to choose to parent, fall down the stairs, or if she was drinking enough water.  Life was just easy. And oh yeah - we forgot about the $45,000+ that Dane's adoption expenses totaled.  #minordetails

But after Devin said that, I shot up off the couch & it all came back to me.  I grabbed my laptop & started researching.  Even after that first conversation, domestic adoption never really came up again. About 5 years ago when we started Dane's process we really wanted the newborn experience, but we both felt like international adoption was in the plan also.  After meeting with some agencies, we realized it was not possible for a newborn international adoption - so we switched our focus to domestic newborn and almost 9 months from start to finish: our Dane Tyler was born. .  We worked with adoption attorneys (Kirsh & Kirsh) for Dane, but sadly they do not place internationally adopted children.  But - yay!  We LOVED our social worker for our home study process with Dane and I could not wait to call her up & let her know we needed a new home study completed stat!  However, as soon as I said, "international" I could hear a pause on the line.  She did not do international home studies.  Only domestic.  You have got to be kidding, I thought?!  #whydoeseverythinghappentome

So, I went back to work and reached out to a good friend for advice (THANKS, Amy!)  We quickly chose a new home study agency (shout-out to Jennifer Bigelow at St. Elizabeth Coleman ...she is AWESOME, thorough, knowledgeable, & adorable as all get-out!), paid our home study/training fees, completed 12 credit hours of parental training, and chose our international agency who would be placing the child with us.  China automatically was thrown in the mix also.  I don't think we even discussed any other countries.  I don't know why - we were just automatically on the same page.  Kind of like how we are automatically on the same page with our political views.  #not #bipartisan

Fast forward several months & our home study was completed & reviewed, all 3 of us had passed intense medical exams (HIV testing, TB testing, BMI under a certain number, full physicals), FBI fingerprints completed, immigration approval (that took some major government stalking on my end...get it together, Washington), & tax returns from the past 3 years turned over, etc.  Hey - you can physically and emotionally care for a child...but how much did you pay in taxes the last 3 years?! #comeonman

We chose an agency that was located in Seattle as our placing agency.  They would be matching us with a child and handling all of the arrangements with China's government.  It is not necessary to choose a placing agency in your home state, because you primarily communicate through email or phone.  SO...check.  Now, where is our little one?!  Being the control freak calm person I am, I wanted to know who this sweetie was NOW.  We talked so many times about how our next child was probably already alive & sitting half way across the world & it was (& still is) the most bizarre feeling ever.  

China's adoption program works in a way where agencies send you files of children who are eligible for adoption.  You receive files based on parameters that you give them: what age range you would like, gender, any medical special needs you would be willing to consider, etc.  We filled out paperwork when we went through Dane's adoption process - so this was nothing new.  After you receive/review a file, you can choose to either pass on the file, or have it reviewed by medical personnel if possible.  China's program currently involves the adoption of children with some sort of medical special need - this could be something minor like a missing finger, to something more complex like a life-threatening heart condition or Down Syndrome.  

China's program also allows you to look at files of children who are listed with other agencies.  This can be good and bad.  Good - you are able to potentially look at more children that are eligible - and are other people.  We viewed several children's files right after we were approved, only to learn that another family had chosen them.  I became really good at running upstairs, slamming the door, and crying. #pitypartyforone #joinmedevin 

February 11th, 2018.  Our 12th anniversary.

It was around 8:00 pm & were sitting the couch (Devin may or may not have been asleep already) and I got online to check out some cuties.  The most ADORABLE face popped on my screen.  So many of my friends had said, "You will just know" or "The right child will come to you" but I didn't actually believe it until I saw his face.  He was perfect.  I immediately turned the screen & showed Devin.  His response - "WHOA." Yeah, whoa.  This was basically his face.  

But then I looked under the picture & there were already 30+ comments asking for more information and the file on him.  There was no way we were going to be able to view it.  I almost took off for upstairs again.  But, I went ahead and commented.  A few minutes later - an email with a file.  WHAT?!  The advocate for this little boy had attached his file and said I had 24 hours to review it.  Who knew that 12 years after our wedding, I would be breaking out in a cold sweat over a child who was an ocean away.  

We reviewed the 12+ pages of information we were given...information on where this little boy was found, what orphanage he currently was in, where he was development-wise, his medical needs & just general information - sleeping, eating, what he likes to play with, etc.  The file also included numerous pictures (some even when he was a heart!) & a few videos also.  We noticed that he was listed "as being a good sleeper." Dane could currently win an award for being the best sleeper (nothing we did - he was just good) so of course my eyes were drawn to that in his file.  Because this household runs a heck of a lot better when Mama gets her sleep.  #goodnightkids 

After we reviewed it, nothing really jumped out at us to "pass" on.  And he was just so darn precious. I couldn't sleep that night thinking about him in his little orphanage crib.  I wondered if someone had rocked him before he went to sleep, or if someone had sang to him today, smiled at him or kissed his chunky little cheeks.  I wondered how many times his diaper had been changed, or if he had been read a story that day. 

We then decided to have his file medically reviewed.  This little guy has several medical issues that according to his file - were operated on in China.  But most likely, he will need to be seen by specialists after being adopted and will have several additional surgeries after he comes home.  I contacted a local physician to review the file, and waited to hear back.  I also reached out to several specialists in 3 different parts of the country and attached the file through email.  We were preparing for "worst case scenario" here & expected just like the other children we looked at - that maybe his needs were too much to handle for us right now.  Basically I thought there is no way this would work out.  It was too good to be true.  I even asked the first person I spoke to tell me "on a scale of 1-10 how bad it was." 

The reviews came in.  Specialists called me from their CELL PHONES.  Like these doctors are world-renowned and they were calling me to give their opinions on this little boy.  Who wasn't even their patient.  I was shocked.  There are good people out there.  The verdict: Yes, he would need some medical care (most likely life long management) but it was nothing life-threatening.  He could live a happy, healthy life.  

BUT, there was one other major road block.  He was listed with another agency.  Not ours...whom we loved & trusted.  Whom we had already paid several thousand dollars to for the application fee, training fee, and home study review fee.  Money that could not be returned.  So we asked them to transfer the file to our agency.  The answer was a hard no.  Then, we asked this little guy's agency to give us an extension on his "hold" with us.  They weren't happy about doing this either because other families were interested and asking about him, but they decided to give us more time.  I had emailed with some questions about his development that we wanted answered from his orphanage so we sent those out and waited.  Unfortunately during this time it happened to be Chinese New Year.  Basically the biggest holiday in the country.  Everything shuts down.  There are no responses from any government offices.  Perfect timing.  I mean - come on.  I am all about holidays over here.  I put up our Christmas decor in October.  But if someone has an important question for me on Christmas Day - I am still going to answer them.  Take note, China!  

Fast forward a week.  Our time extension was running out & we still hadn't received answers to our questions.  We were getting emails & calls from his agency asking what our decision was & I was ignoring them.  We hadn't even told our current agency that we were contemplating switching.  

One random Wednesday night.  Dane was eating dinner at Devin's parents' house & Devin was at some board meeting/PTO/school sporting event/who knows where/ & I was sitting at home.  I knew time was running out so I did what I normally do to de-stress:  hopped in the car & headed to Sephora.  Because nothing says de-stressing like walking around trying on make-up that you never intend to buy!

Sephora was empty & the sales lady & I were just chatting as I was trying on different lipsticks & foundations.  We had told no one about this situation, so I naturally decided this complete stranger could be the first.  I UNLOADED on this poor woman.  Telling her everything from finding this little boy, to maybe having to switch agencies, losing money, running out of time, etc.  Bless her heart.  She just nodded.  And then she said the most magical words: "Sit down.  I'm doing your make-up for free." 

As she was doing my make-up, my phone started ringing.  It was our agency.  I told them about this situation and let them know that the new agency was unwilling to transfer his file to them.  They said they understood, would miss us if we left (still would lose $$ we paid) but that if we felt he was ours - we should go.  UGH.  They couldn't have been nicer.  Then, the other agency called.  The bargaining started.  I told them how upset we were that they wouldn't transfer his file.  We were still very interested.  I asked if they could waive the application fee since we already had an application on file somewhere else.  I demanded asked if they could waive the home study fee/training fee since we had already completed both.  They weren't happy.  It was getting a tad loud in Sephora (my apologies).  I asked to speak to the China director.  My teacher voice came out in full force.  All while this sweet lady was putting on shimmery eye shadow & lip gloss!  Other customers were coming in the store.  People were watching.  I was getting the "please quiet down & shhhhhh" hand signal.  I just kept talking louder.  Devin would have pretended he never knew me.    

The China director then said: "You have 45 minutes to make a decision.  Or, he's gone."   

I hung up the phone and turned around.  Three people were standing behind me staring.  One lady was crying.  The other just yelled, "GO GET YOUR BABY!" 

I bolted out of there, wearing more make-up than on my wedding day.  On my way out, the sales lady screamed, "HERE - TAKE SOME SAMPLES!" and threw a big bag of make-up at me.  Free make-up fixes everything!

I got home in no time & Devin was in the kitchen.  Dane was playing.  I blurted out the situation on the phone & what happened in Sephora. "What do you want to do?!"  Devin said, "What do you want to do?" I said - "Let's say it on 3. (We're mature like that) "1...2...3..." YES.  YES?!  YES!!  I just stared at him.  I could see a tiny glisten in his eyes (haven't seen that since Dane's birthparents chose us over the phone 4+ years ago).  Then he said, "Abigail - I have wanted to say yes to him since we saw his face." And then he looked at me strangely & said, "Why do you have fake eye-lashes on?!" (Insert laughing emoji) 

And, that was it.  That sweet little boy was ours.  

At this point, we had less than 18 minutes.  I called his agency, let them know & it was done.  Over the next several weeks, we switched agencies, updated documents with our new agency, signed Pre-Approval forms & finished things that needed to be submitted to China.  

What a whirlwind!  But, we are beyond excited to introduce Mr. Grey Dugan Carter to everyone!  "Grey" was a name we have liked forever, it goes with Dane (how cute are Dane & Grey together?!) and being educators - neither of us have had a Grey in school.  Plus - as Devin says - "Pink was already taken." #eyeroll.  "Dugan" was chosen after the Duggan Library where Devin & I met in college almost 18 years ago!  We thought it was fitting since we saw Grey's picture on our anniversary.  

So, what now?!  More waiting.  We are waiting on a few final documents before we receive travel approval- and then the Carters will head to CHINA!  The travel will include about 16 days in China & several different cities - We will get Grey at his orphanage (outside of Beijing), and then travel to another city for passport/visa pick-up, medical testing, etc.  Big Brother Dane will be going with us - as are my Dad & Step-Mom!  I am currently breaking out into hives thinking about packing for 16 days...when I pack a suitcase as big as my car for a simple 1-night stay somewhere.  #jesustakethewheel

But...we can't imagine what it will be like when we finally see our new son.

We would like to thank everyone for their support so far.  We have felt so much love in a world that can be so filled with hatred right now.  If you are the praying type, we would love to ask for your prayers for our little Grey Dugan & the caregivers in his orphanage.  His orphanage houses over 600 children who are also waiting to be adopted.  We are praying that their mamas are coming soon as well.

Grey...your Mommy, Daddy, & big brother can't wait to meet you.  Your room is ready.

And soon that empty seat at our table will finally be filled.

(Grey's First Book of Prayers...courtesy of Aunt Jenna & Uncle Tyler!)

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