Friday, August 29, 2014

I rock at being a two-kid mom. {AKA Two kids is hard.}

All of this is said with a TON of sarcasm. I promise that I do not rock, nor have I EVER rocked, at anything in my whole life. I know that moms are not perfect and know we all make mistakes. I share this story for solidarity with the mama-sisters out there that struggle every day to shower, go to the bathroom alone, and not lose their minds. 

Until Sister was 6 weeks old I was rocking the two-kid-mama thing. I wore Sister in a Moby wrap on walks, baked cookies and blueberry muffins, and basically rocked everything in life. I was sleeping at least a full night ever two nights, thanks to swapping duties with the husband, was on a break from work, and my other kid was in school. Seriously, I had things under control.

Then we hit 6 weeks. I don't know what changed, but I suddenly stopped rocking at life. Here's my life two Sundays ago...

I got up with just enough time to eat breakfast with the kids, take them for a quick 2 mile walk around the neighborhood, and get back to shower, get dressed, and get to church. Wesley watches Daniel Tiger to give me time to shower. I leave my hair wet and hope it dries in a cute "style." A friend from church cut it this week and I want it to look good so she looks good. Fail #1. (She did a great job and it looks great now, but that day I was not rocking the messy look.)

It's 15 minutes before go time and I'm in my bathrobe getting Wesley dressed. He doesn't want to wear clothes. We have a conversation about the importance of wearing clothes to church. I bribe him and get him dressed. Sister is a much easier sell on wearing clothes so she gets dressed too - headband, socks, dress, and she's ready to go. 

Their bag is packed with formula, bottles, changes of clothes for both kids, diapers, undies, wipes, books, cars, trains, etc. All the essentials. I decide to put on real clothes (and take my own advice on wearing clothes to church) with about 2 minutes to spare. Wes gets on his new shoes and out the door we go! 

New shoes... Wes trips often and his new shoes cause him to trip even more. He eats the sidewalk the second we exit the house. Seriously? We don't have time for this, kid! Thankfully he's fine with a little love and we're off to church.

We arrive at church at the exact moment we need to be in Sunday school. I unbuckle Wes, get Sister in the wrap, and tell Wesley to walk towards me to get out of the car. I've locked all the doors and am ready to start the trek to church. Wesley decides to climb to the front of the car. Because Sister is strapped to me, I struggle to squeeze in the car to grab him and help him out of the car. I close the door and we walk through the long parking lot into church. We navigate our way to Wesley's classroom and I drop him off before going to my own class. I make it there only 10 minutes late, which I consider a success. #winning

Halfway through class a friend receives a phone call. His dad has found a set of car keys in the parking lot and wants to know where to bring them. I immediately know the keys are mine.

Of course I don't remember leaving my keys on the hood of my car, but I did. I knew I did. This sweet friend was very careful not to accuse me of anything - his father just wanted to know where to bring the keys to get them back to their rightful owner. He described the car and the keys - yeah, those are mine...

I was so embarrassed, but did get my keys back without any trouble. Thankfully I knew the son of the man who found them and they were returned before the entire church knew! Thankfully I got my keys back before I was walking to my car with both kids after church!

I got home with both kids and we had an incredibly challenging 3 hours. Wesley was inconsolable and refused to nap, eat, or calm down. Sister needed to eat (the horror!) and I wanted lunch too. It wasn't fun and I was pretty pissed off that Jarrod was at work all day long. It was one of my lowest points in parenting. After 3 hours Wesley fell asleep (he needed a nap SO BAD!) and Sister and I got to relax. Did I mention we were having 20+ people (including half a dozen toddlers) for dinner that night? Right...

Jarrod got home to a clean house, rested kids, and a relatively sane mama. It took him a few hours, but he eventually told me that I left the car door open in the driveway all afternoon. For 4 hours my car door was (locked) open. 
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Adoption is bittersweet.

When our baby girl was placed in our arms, she was just a few minutes old. Our adoption plan went exactly as we hoped and was seamless and beautiful. Photos of our family make everything look beautiful and easy.

There is a lot of sweetness in adoption.

But not everything in adoption, even in the best of situations, is sweet.

When we took Sister to her first doctor's appointment she was 36 hours old. I filled out the paperwork, just as I had with Wesley. Except this time I wrote a different last name. Sister is not a Johnston officially. She has always been a Johnston in my heart, but repeatedly I wrote her birth name over and over and over. Thankfully her first and middle names are the same. Many adoptive families do not have that experience. I signed everything as guardian and left a lot of the family history blank. It was heartbreaking because it highlighted the fact that Sister might not be forever mine.

When she was two weeks old we were back at the doctor. We were sent from there to the hospital to have her two week bloodwork done. I can't remember what it's called - where they squeeze blood into little circles on a card and mail it to the state. Whatever. To the hospital we went. I remembered doing this with Wesley and expected it to be fairly painless.

We checked in and I explained (again) that my insurance card would not be helpful to them. She's not covered under my insurance. Yes, I know babies are covered under mama's insurance until they are 30 days old. She's not my baby. She has her own policy and the card is in the mail. We proceed to another check-in station.

I answer about 12,995,234 questions. They have all of Sister's birth mom's information because it is a sister hospital. I have to choose "guardian" on the list of relationships. My heart breaks.

I walk down the hall, fighting back tears. My heart says she's my baby, but she's not REALLY my baby. This experience is a reminder that this is different.

After two registrations and a long walk, Sister and I reach the third waiting room. We check in and an older gentleman asks if her newborn screening was inconclusive. Nope - just here to do the mandatory second one. They don't have her first one because she was born at a different (45 minutes away) hospital. We need to fill our a special form. He comes and sits with me to fill it out.

"Mother's name."

"Mother's birthdate."

"Mother's address."

He's stumped me. I don't have her address with me. We skip this one.

"Mother's social security number."

Again, I have no idea. He's being very kind, but in my mind he's asking, "What kind of mother doesn't know this!?!"

Finally we are taken back to the room where he will draw the blood. Relief is coming soon - we will be able to go home as soon as he's done.

"Who are you to this baby? Are you a friend? Aunt?"

Sigh. "I'm her guardian. I'm hoping to be her adoptive mom, but right now I'm just guardian."

He lights up. His son is adopted. They brought him home from the hospital. He's 32 now. Just met his birth mom. He literally shines talking about his boy. We connect and my heart lightens. He gives me a gift of belonging. He understands.

"Just say 'mom.' Next time, you say 'mom.'"


I know he's right. I know I'm her mom.

I'm the one who knows her noises. I know when she's hungry and when she needs to be swaddled. I'm the one who snuggles her at 4:15am while she eats. I'm the one who tells her how loved she is - by God, us, and her first family. She's my girl.

But she's not. Not yet.
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Monday, August 18, 2014

Journey to our little girl - chapter 6: Termination Day.

The time between leaving the hospital and when we felt comfortable making this official to the world was uneventful. It was a lot like giving birth to a newborn. We were figuring things out as a new family of 4. We were up at night, learning the ins and outs of formula feeding, and entertaining our boy. Of course I didn't have to deal with recovery, which made things a little smoother. Instead, the pain of post-birth was replaced with the fear of losing our baby. We still were not the first people in line to claim her. Even after her birthmom terminated her parental rights when she was 5 days old, her birth father still had 26 additional days to use his paternal rights.

I tried hard not to live in constant fear. I'll write more about my feelings during that time in a separate post, but suffice to say, it was a tough time. We knew going into this situation that day 31 was magical. That was the day that paternal rights could be terminated. That fell on a Saturday and our attorneys cautioned us that it could take a few business days before we heard anything.

On Tuesday afternoon around 4pm Wesley was beginning to wake up from his nap. We were at a lake house with some of our dearest friends. Jarrod and I were at the house with sleeping Wesley. Sister was watching us make dinner while the rest of our crew was swimming. My phone rang. "LAWYER" flashed across the screen. I hushed Jarrod and answered the phone as calmly as possible.

"This is Leanne."

"Good afternoon, Leanne. This is ATTORNEY. How are you doing?"


"How's that baby girl?"

"She's great. Do you have good news for me?"

"I do. Paternity registry came back clear. I'll walk the termination papers to the judge tomorrow morning."

This news meant that we could move forward with the adoption uncontested. No one else had rights to our baby girl. This was the news we were waiting for. This was the reason to celebrate and share Sister with the world. We could finally go official!

The attorney made sure that I made an appointment with our social worker to schedule the post-placement study. As glamorous as this moment sounds, I was also watching Jarrod clean up our kid who had wet the bed while learning that our daughter was going to be officially ours soon. It was perfection.

I got off the phone, filled Jarrod in, and cried. We made plans to go to the pool to see our friends, but I first texted them the news. I wanted them to know that I was crying happy tears. At the pool there was also wifi, which we needed to finally share the news with the world. We went "facebook official" that afternoon.

Our dear friends celebrated with us that night. We had a champagne toast and it was beautiful.
The next morning I left the family and went for a walk near the lake. It was beautiful and peaceful. I gave thanks for the incredible blessings of a precious birth family, a healthy baby girl, and a beautiful family. I listened to a podcast and when I got down to the lake, I checked my phone. An e-mail popped up from the attorney.

Our official termination paperwork. Signed by the judge.

I got excited and anxious. I opened the email and waited for the attachment to download. I immediately opened it and began reading. With Sister wrapped up on me, I sat down on some rocks and sobbed.

Termination paperwork is tough, y'all.

The wording is incredibly clear. There's no way to misunderstand what has happened - all parental rights are terminated - FINALLY AND FOREVER.

Of course this is good news for the Johnstons, but it was very sad to read. Obviously I know that this paperwork in no way eliminates her birth family from her life. They very much still have an important role. But it makes things official in a painful, crazy way.
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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Potty Trained Bag - Zipper bag with a handle tutorial {DIY bag}

When Wesley became potty trained I was thrilled that I could ditch our big diaper bag and carry (just) my purse again! However, I wasn't comfortable leaving all of his things at home and didn't want to keep a million sippy cups, snacks, and Thomas the train undies in my purse. The first time I dropped my potty-trained kid off at the nursery at church I left him with a huge diaper bag with 3 things in it. It seemed silly.

A good friend said that she found a few make-up bags and kept them stocked and ready to go for her daughter. BINGO! I didn't have an extra make-up bag big enough for Wesley stuff so I decided to make him his very own bag.

I wanted something big enough for a change of clothes - shorts, shirt, underwear, socks, and sometimes shoes, a snack, and a sippy cup. I wanted a handle so that he could carry it himself. And because I have an embroidery machine, I wanted his name on it.

I found a few tutorials and tweaked them to make them work for me.

12" zipper
13"x17" rectangle for the outside of the bag
2 - 13"x8.5" rectangles for the lining
13"x17" fusible interfacing or fleece
3"x16" strip for handle (optional)
thread and sewing machine

For this project I used fleece to line the bag. I had some extra from another project and it worked great. I lined the fleece to the outside material and embroidered the name. This holds the two pieces together. If you aren't using something fusible, you can pin the two pieces together. If you're using fusible interfacing, iron the two pieces together to secure.

Line the zipper up with the top of the outside material, right sides together. Line one piece of the lining to the zipper. Sew together.

To make sure that the fabric doesn't get stuck in the zipper, flip everything right side out and topstitch.

Repeat with the other piece of lining and the other side of the bag.

Sew down the sides of the lining. If you aren't using a handle, sew down the sides of the main fabric as well.

If you're using a handle you will want to fold your long strip in half and sew shut. Flip right side out and iron flat. Topstitch either side of the handle and fold in half.

Before sewing up the sides of the outside fabric, place the handle inside and line up the end of the handle with the seams. Sew down both sides.

Flip the bag right side out. Before you sew up the bottom, make sure that the zipper is open. Iron in the edges of the bottom and topstitch closed the lining of the bag. Put the lining inside the bag. Now you're good to go!

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Journey to our little girl - chapter 5: Our Hospital Stay.

The last time I wrote about our adoption journey I shared Sister's birth story. We spent about 25 hours in the hospital. It was beautiful and heavy. While we waited for Sister to arrive, we had no idea what to expect. We didn't know if we'd have a room or if we'd camp in the waiting room. We didn't know if we'd share her with her birthmom or if we'd have her most of the time. We didn't know if her birthmom would change her mind and we would leave the hospital without a baby.

Once she was born and placed in our arms, a lot of fears disappeared. We kept our room fairly calm and allowed the birth family the opportunity to visit anytime they wanted. We met lots of family that day and they were absolutely incredible. Everyone was so respectful and it was a beautiful time. I couldn't allow myself to think about the weight of the situation while we were in the hospital because it was too much for me. Someone gave us her baby. A family was losing something so that we could gain. Nothing was permanent and yet she was ours.
Unfortunately, this story was playing at the exact same time. That's right, our daughter was born and both our cars died within about 12 hours of each other. It was crazy! We drove home from the hospital in a rental car. Because everything in the hospital was so smooth, it made the car disasters seem much more manageable.
Our hospital room was peaceful and calm. Visitors came and went and we got to know our baby girl. It was nice to know what to expect - nurses coming in to check on the baby, the pediatrician that didn't want to let us leave at 24 hours, and a hearing test. It was incredible to be able to really experience our baby without the intense post-birth recovery. I cannot say enough about the nurses. They were so respectful of our situation and treated Jarrod and I as parents.

We visited a lot with our birthmom. She stayed in the hospital about 18 hours longer than we did and was on a different floor. She allowed me to be with her as she filled out the birth certificate to ensure that Sister's name was spelled correctly. She checked in with us and made sure everything was going well. She is incredibly strong and stuck to her original plan to hand off baby girl to us immediately.

The entire stay at the hospital was surreal for me. I did my very best to guard my heart through the whole process. I didn't want to get my hopes up. But once Sister was placed in our arms, things really felt right. But in the back of my mind, I was still fearful. Rights wouldn't be terminated for at least 31 days - at that point we'd be able to breathe a little deeper. But until then, even though we were leaving the hospital with a baby, she still isn't ours.
We got home right after dinner on a Thursday night. Jarrod had school in the morning and we only had one working car - a rental. But we were so happy. Wesley was in love with Sister from the moment we brought her home. My mama heart was thrilled. I was ready to let my guard down a little bit and enjoy our new family of 4.
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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Delicious Blueberry Muffins

I had a surplus of blueberries from our co-op a few weeks ago. I decided to use them to make blueberry muffins! I stumbled across this recipe and decided to give them a go! I was intrigued by the use of apple sauce. They make the muffins moist and just a little bit sweet!

1 1/2 cups flour - I use unbleached
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 t salt
2 t baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup apple sauce - I use unsweetened
1 t vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries

For the optional crumble:
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup butter (room temperature or colder - don't melt it!)
1 1/2 t cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and either grease muffin tin or add liners. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk to combine well. Mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Leave out the blueberries - we'll add those later. Whisk until well combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix with a whisk until combined - be careful not to over mix.

Fold in the blueberries. I usually use a spatula to keep the blueberries intact.

Pour the muffin mix into the muffin tins. Fill about 2/3 of the way up. It makes about 12 muffins.

If you'd like to add the crumble, now is the time! Mix all ingredients together with a fork and sprinkle on the muffins.
Ignore my crumble. My butter was too warm!

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Allow to cool before removing from muffin tins.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

On the day you were born...

I woke up at 12:15am to go to the bathroom. I had text messages from your first grandma that checking in to the hospital was not as easy as they'd hoped. What was an 8pm check in turned into 12am. But they finally got in and got a room. Thank goodness.

By 6:45am the induction officially began. I didn't sleep much and neither did your daddy. He was up at 5am to get ready for school. He tried to work but couldn't focus. We were too excited! Wesley started making noise around 6:45am as well, but we didn't get him out of his big boy bed until 7am. Cheerios for breakfast and we were off on a bike ride/walk by 7:30am. Daddy was off to school - carrying several bags - one for school, one for overnight, and one for snacks!

After our walk, we got ready for the day. I took a shower while Wesley watched Finding Nemo. We started it the night before, but didn't get to finish it. He really liked the fishies and the sharks! While getting ready I got a bunch of text messages from friends that were praying. Everyone is so excited!

Before long we were ready to go! I had two bags for me but neglected to bring a bag or snacks for Wesley. Ooops! We went immediately to Momo and Pops' house. On our way we got a message to pick up some food. A detour or two and we made it to the hospital - with two bags, a gift, a blanket from Momo and a bag of chicken! I went straight to the room. Your first mama was comfortable, but exhausted. It was a long night of poking. The room was full of laughter. I was struck again how brave and strong your first mama is. She's absolutely remarkable. Her friends and family were there also.

After visiting, I introduced myself to the L&D nurse and went to wait in the family room. It was quiet and I was able to get some mindless work done while I waited. Things progressed quickly and I told Daddy to come straight here after his first class. He called at 11:10am frantic because his dad broke down on the side of the road. He had Wesley, no change of clothes or food, and was stuck. Jarrod was leaving school and I was at the hospital without a car. What do we do?

Thankfully Pops figured things out and got a tow truck to tow the car to our place. Wesley got an adventure of waiting on the side of the road and watching the cars go by. Then he got to ride in a tow truck! Before long, Daddy arrived with Chipotle.
We are the only ones in the waiting room currently and are doing our best to remain calm and pass the time. Soon our dear friend Jessica arrived. She kept time and occupied our minds for the several hours that passed. We were moved from the waiting room to our very own labor and delivery room around 2:30pm. The nurses were so gracious and kind to us. We got our things in our new room and met our nurse, Sharla. She explained what would happen and was so fantastic. We got regular updates -
3:02pm - 10 cm and ready to push!
3:40pm - pushing but doc isn't there yet.
3:55pm - Doc is scrubbing up and baby should be here soon.
4:02pm - NICU was called because they needed to use the vacuum to assist in the delivery. Commotion will be in the hallway, but don't worry.
4:17pm - Commotion is in the hallway and a friend says, "She did it!"

A nurse is walking down the hallway holding a baby. "Is that our baby?" Tears run down my face. I cannot believe it. She's tiny and perfect. Nurses clean her off, take vitals, and Jessica snaps pictures. Jarrod and I coo at her and tell her it's going to be alright. I immediately begin asking about her mama. None of the nurses can tell me anything, but I'm hopeful that she's doing as well as baby girl.

Soon she's cleaned off, wrapped up, and in my arms. Her grandma asks if she can come visit her. Jarrod takes a turn and we welcomed her precious family. Our first visitors were baby's grandma, great aunt, and mama's best friend. They were in awe of her beauty and were incredible with us. Best friend exclaimed at one point, "Your daughter is gorgeous!" And she is. She looks just like her mama.

After a little while, everyone left and we were alone with this precious baby. Jarrod and I took turns holding her and texting family and friends. The nurse came in every 15-30 minutes to check on us and baby. We had more visitors. Everyone was so respectful of our space. It's all very heavy and beautiful.

After a while, probably after 6pm, we were escorted upstairs. The nurse helped us drop our stuff off in our maternity room before taking us to the nursery to bathe baby girl. It was such an awesome experience! Mamas don't often get to be part of that and I'm so grateful that I was able to be there. Once baby girl was all clean, we went back to our room to meet Momo! Jarrod's mom brought us dinner around 7pm and got to visit with baby girl. While they visit, I went to see our birthmom.

She was just about to move to her room upstairs so I helped carry her things from L&D to her room. Her precious boyfriend was so incredible and supportive, never leaving her side. We visited for a while and I gave her a gift from our family. We made a charm for a charm bracelet for her that says, "Brave". We plan to add charms to the bracelet over the years. I stay for a few minutes, but then leave to give her time to rest.

When I get back to our room Momo is feeding our girl. I chow down as much as I can, but haven't been able to eat much lately. Anxiety is starting to creep in. Soon Jarrod's mom leaves and it's just our little family, minus our boy. We are missing him like crazy. We are learning our little girl and trying to soak up as much of her as possible. I am trying not to lose it...

We have two kids.

What if something happens with the adoption?

How will I ever be able to care for two kids?

Will Wesley love her as much as we do?

Will she ever.stop.crying?!

She cried until 1:30am. I was so tired. Jarrod said she sounded like a kitten. Not to me... But she was perfect, gorgeous, and strong. We love her.
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Monday, August 4, 2014

Journey to our little girl - chapter 4: Waiting.

The two weeks leading up to our baby's due date were chaotic in my work world. I spent 10 days in hotels and traveling a lot the 16 days before her estimated due date. Jarrod and Wesley traveled some with me for some of that but I primarily traveled without them. It was challenging, stressful, and so hard to be away.

Before leaving for my longest trip, we had dinner with our potential birth mom. It was absolutely delightful. We went over details about the hospital and birth experience, what her desires are, and what we can do to support her. The dinner calmed me deeply and was incredible. I am so thankful that our family is growing by more than just this baby, but also her first family also.

I left for the trip and traveled far. I didn't go anywhere without my phone - praying I didn't get a call that the baby was coming. On Monday, June 16th I was traveling in Mississippi and got a text - the doctor's appointment went well and that they would schedule an induction for the following week - at her appointment on Monday, June 23rd. This eased my mind and made me calm down a little bit. Of course baby can still come early, but I now am wrapping my brain around her coming the week of her due date. This gives me not only the opportunity to finish this trip, but also the chance to get back into the office after being gone for more than 2 weeks.

Towards the end of my trip I began to get very overwhelmed. Ends need to be tied up at work. Jarrod is home caring for our boy while also taking mid-terms, finals, and going to class everyday. He had a very stressful and dramatic week at work. I hate being gone. By the time I get back I will have just a few days before we meet our girl. Will that be enough time to get ready? Will I have enough time at work? How will I ever get enough time with Wesley?

I returned home late on Saturday night. By Monday evening we got a call that they'd scheduled the induction for Wednesday, June 25th. This gives me one more day in the office to finish up work. Plenty of time. We snuggle our boy, knowing his little life will be rocked in 48 hours. As per tradition, we got Boston Market for dinner on Tuesday night and got ready for our baby's birthday!
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Friday, August 1, 2014

Journey to our little girl - chapter 3: The home study

When we first found out about this adoption, I began panicking about the home study. I know they can take a while and anticipated difficulty scheduling. Our lawyer explained that different courts require different social workers. Some are more particular than others. We'd have to wait until our court was assigned to have the home study. I (not so patiently) waited and eventually expressed my panic to our lawyer in mid-May. We got me in touch with a social worker and we got the ball rolling. Within a few hours of receiving the paperwork, we'd filled it out, contacted our previous foster agency for records, and handed out our reference letter forms out. Bam.

On May 27th I got a message that the baby might arrive sooner than we thought. I'd been planning that she'd be late - hoping she'd come closer to the end of June than her due date. The doctor said on May 27th that she may come within 2 weeks! That information lit a fire under me and I went a little crazy. We did the last few things on the list - got Wesley a new bed, installed the car seats, and started a hospital bag. I went into hyperdrive at work.
Part of me hoped she was a little late because the last two weeks before her due date are two of the busiest weeks of my work-life. Jarrod's taking 6 hours of class this summer as well, meaning he's in class 6 hours a day/4 days a week for 6 weeks. AH!
With our home study scheduled for June 4th, I prayed she'd stay put until we were able to have that complete. Our home study was conducted by a local social worker who works regularly with our lawyer. Turns out she is also Methodist, just like us. We made a million connections before she even arrived. We could have visited all day about just about anything - we adored our time with her. Besides talking church and mutual friends, she asked us about our relationship, parenting, family history, and how we handle conflict. We talked about discipline, how much we adore our boy, and what draws us to adoption. We shared the story of how we connected with our potential birth family. 4 hours literally flew by. I sent her on her way to another appointment with a bag of chocolate chip cookies.

I asked about a million questions and she was fantastic and patient, giving me a ton of peace. She explained how the hospital situation might be and encouraged me to contact the hospital social worker. She was incredibly encouraging and eased so much of my anxiety. Thankfully, baby stayed put! My early googling told me that a home study could take 60 days. Ours was in the mail 3 days after it was completed. Praise God. It was an incredible experience! The thing I was most worried about turned out to be the biggest blessing and most exciting part of the journey!

We are now waiting for our post-placement study to be done and cannot wait to introduce our baby girl to our precious social worker.
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