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Loss and Love: Part 3

Well this is the hardest post I have had to write so far. Since this is a blog about our journey, I will try to share what it feels like for us. There are three sides of the adoption triad… But I only know one intimately enough to write about it. I’ll leave it to others to share their stories. This is ours. 


Part three of this story is the faith part. Remember how I said this season is a season of loss for us? While that is certainly true, it has a different dimension for me this year.

For the past two months, the scripture that has relentlessly embedded itself in my brain is in The Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 11:17 “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.”

I have also thought a great deal about the purpose of suffering, and why bad things happen to good people. Many people find comfort in believing that each test we are given in life is for a specific, planned lesson. For example, “I am going through this so that I can learn patience.” There isn’t anything wrong with that perspective, and for those who find peace in that concept, I am grateful they have it. 

For me, I personally struggle with that, because I do not necessarily believe that every decision is master-planned. I do not believe that someone else’s choices were predestined so that we could learn a specific lesson. What I do believe is that Heavenly Father knows what choices we will make in this life because He knows us well. But HE does not instruct people to be violent, hurtful, or manipulative in order to teach someone a lesson on faith or hope. He allows His children to make their choices, and for those who are hurt as a result of someone else’s choices, He brings the healing. 

So for me, I find comfort in knowing that I signed up for mortality. And mortality contains death, sickness, violence, neglect, and all manner of awful, dreadful things. I signed up for a mortal experience. And this heartbreak is part of the mortal experience. 

The test for me is will I allow Heavenly Father and my Savior Jesus Christ to heal me? Will I turn to them when Mortality beats me down? Will I use them as my source of peace and comfort when Mortality deals a near-fatal blow? Will I not place the blame on them for the tests and trials of the Mortal experience, but will I instead allow them to be the solution? Will I allow Jesus to perform His role as Savior, and save me from Mortality? 

Deuteronomy 8:2-3
And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.
 
And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.

We are in the wilderness. We are going to be hurt—physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. The test is… will we let Him be our Savior? 

We have lost. His love will heal us. 

Loss and Love: Part 2

Well this is the hardest post I have had to write so far. Since this is a blog about our journey, I will try to share what it feels like for us. There are three sides of the adoption triad… But I only know one intimately enough to write about it. I’ll leave it to others to share their stories. This is ours. 


The part two of this story is that in our loss, we have felt an outpouring of love from our community. From family and close friends, to members of the adoption community, to strangers living thousands of miles away who now feel like family, we have been blessed considerably.

After our Facebook and Instagram posts yesterday, we received so many sweet comments, texts, phone calls, and messages filled with love and support. We have lost, but we are loved. We feel it.

Through this process, we have seen what life looks like without profound and unconditional love, we feel extremely blessed to have such loving and kind people in our lives. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for supporting us. Thank you for believing in us and for strengthening us. We love you.

Click here for Loss and Love: Part 3

Loss and Love: Part 1

Well this is the hardest post I have had to write so far. Since this is a blog about our journey, I will try to share what it feels like for us. There are three sides of the adoption triad… But I only know one intimately enough to write about it. I’ll leave it to others to share their stories. This is ours. 


Part one of this story is the loss. Our expectant mom has chosen to parent. I don’t know where to begin. How do you describe what it feels like to lose a child you never held? A baby that was never yours but felt like she was? A daughter that will never know you, or how much you love her, prayed for her, cried for her? How you carefully planned your nursery and your life around her?

She is not just “some baby” to us. For months, she felt like ours. I could feel her through the distance. We imagined her childhood with us, her teenage rebellion, her wedding, her first baby. We imagined the great relationship we would build with her biological family, and the trip we would take to Ecuador for her graduation. We saw our life with her. We saw her playing with her cousins as they grew up together. We have so much love to give her. Not just any child… her. We longed for the day that we would get the call that it was time to meet her.

That day never came. And will never come.

I have a new perspective on open adoption. “Open” has very little to do with the amount of contact between the child and her biological family. “Open” has everything to do with hearts.

We opened our hearts wide for this little girl and her mom. We chose to be open, vulnerable, and to feel excited, to hope, to plan, and to love. We loved them fiercely. We prayed for them, we worked hard for them, we gave them every bit of ourselves. The love that we poured from our hearts to theirs has left an gaping hole, a wide open space that will take time and patience and love and faith to heal.

Last year, on December 10th, we had our first positive pregnancy test. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I miscarried. This year, we planned to spend Christmas with a new baby girl. We found out on December 6th that she would not be ours. This is a season of loss for the second year in a row. More on that later…

Some dear friends and I used to talk about the difference between walls of doom and healthy hedges. Walls of doom are built around a heart that has been broken so many times and in so many ways that the only way to protect it is to build walls of doom around it. Walls of doom keep out grief and pain, but they also prevent good things from getting through. Walls of doom do not allow hearts to heal properly. The only way to heal a broken heart is to allow love, hope, connection, courage, and faith to rebuild it from within. Walls of doom are impenetrable.

Healthy hedges, on the other hand, provide a safe space for healing. They do not protect from destruction completely, but they are permeable and allow love, hope, connection, courage, and faith to seep through and begin the healing process. Healthy hedges are what you build to give yourself time to heal. Be a little wary, but not paranoid. Give yourself time, but don’t shut yourself away. Watch for red flags, but don’t turn away every opportunity. Keep loving, keep moving, and keep hoping. Cautiously for a time, and then when you’ve healed, tear down the hedges and bring your heart back out into the world to love wholly and completely.

Love cannot exist without risk. Grief cannot exist without love. To love someone is to lay yourself bare and to open yourself to grief and loss. We loved profoundly and lost exquisitely.

Click Here for Loss and Love: Part 2

Adoption is hard.

I have no doubt it will get harder. I feel the need to write out some of my emotions, as we have been on edge for about 2 weeks. I share this not to place blame or as a call for action or a need for change or as a request for advice. There are extremely complicated emotions involved in domestic infant adoption, and my intent on this post is to shed some light on how hard and how emotional a process it is, and why we may seem a little aloof, on edge, or out of sorts.

Why it is hard for our expectant mom:

Our expectant mom is amazing. In all that we know of her throughout our four-month developing friendship, she is courageous, giving, patient, and faithful. She has time and again impressed us with her focus on what is best for her daughter and with her service to her family in their times of need. She cares a great deal for her family. There are difficult circumstances that she has been dealing with for over a year, and she helps and serves and loves and cares. On top of how much she gives to her family, she has a chronic pain disorder called trigeminal neuralgia. When she is not pregnant, she is able to have a procedure done that holds the pain off for a few months. The procedure is too risky for baby, so she has suffered the entirety of her pregnancy with this very difficult pain. She has been in and out of the hospital more times than I can count. She has been careful not to take any medications that are dangerous for the baby, and she has throughout the last nine months put her body through not only the difficulties of pregnancy, but the complications of suffering with intense facial pain that often leaves her bedridden. She decided to place her baby for adoption because she felt unable to provide a stable home, she has no support from her family, and she does not want her daughter to grow up with no support and with no father.

She found us through Facebook, and we instantly clicked. She told us that before she met us, she was lost and confused, scared and worried. After getting to know us, she was excited for her daughter, grateful to have a plan in place, and happy knowing that she was doing what is best for her little girl. We have grown to love her so much over the past four months. She is so precious to us, not only because of the child she is carrying that may end up in our home, but because we have watched her selflessly care for her family even in her hardest times, and we admire her courage and her trust in God.  We have messaged each other every day for four months…

Until the last two weeks.

You see, as the time for the birth gets closer, our expectant mama has become more distant. Her texts are few and far between, and I can’t help but feel that as the time draws closer, this decision is becoming a lot harder for her than it initially was. And rightfully so. As much as we have prayed and hoped for a child to come to our home, I cannot begin to imagine the agony she faces of saying goodbye to her baby. This is agony for any parent.

Along with all of these complicated emotions, her pain has increased. She has been in the hospital (again), and is wanting this whole thing to be over. So her texts have become less frequent, and we do not know how to help her.

Why it is hard for us:

We have gone through what feels like an eternity of trying to have children. Granted, we have not gone to the lengths that some have gone, and we have not waited as long as others, but for us, in our 40s and facing the prospect of being childless, this year has been the most difficult year. We have suffered two miscarriages and two failed fertility treatments, and months upon months of negative pregnancy tests. We have prayed and fasted, and pleaded with Heavenly Father to send children into our home.

When we met our expectant mom, we felt like it was all coming together. We know that she can change her mind, and we know that we could pour all of our emotional reserves into this and be left empty. We know that this is her decision, and we know that our world could shatter again any minute.

Many people have asked, “Well, how sure are you that she will go through with this?” I’ve shared, “We are as sure as we can be that this will go through. But once she holds that baby, all bets are off.” We know the reality of what she is giving and the monumental decision that will affect her and her baby for an eternity. I don’t know that I could make that decision lightly. There is a plan in place, but nothing in this world can force a woman to place her baby into someone else’s arms for the rest of her life. We value that agency tremendously, and we would never do anything that would be coercive or would remove her agency from her.

There is also the financial component. I hate to bring this part up, because there are so many emotions about financing adoption. But adoption is expensive. Legal fees, travel expenses, and agency fees (to provide counseling and support for the expectant mom) can end up costing a lot. And we have put everything we have and even had help from generous friends and family to make this work. And if this falls through, we not only lose our hoped for and planned for baby, but we lose a great deal of money. Thankfully, much of that will be recuperated in the Adoption Tax Credit, but there is a good chunk of it we will never see again. Please don’t think I am insensitive for mentioning finances. This is a small part of why adoption is hard, but it is a reality.

We have prayed for this baby, loved this baby, waited and planned for this baby. We have spent four months hoping and planning. If she chooses not to place with us, we will be as devastated as if I miscarried again. We are facing either the greatest joy or the greatest heartbreak of our lives to this point.


On Friday, October 26th, she will be 38 weeks, and I am planning to go to Chicago to be on baby watch. It has been our plan for some time, and our birth mom has been on board with this, that I will drive up on Friday and be on baby watch, and Dennis will join us either the night before an induction, or when she goes into labor. That way he gets a few more days of work in before being on unpaid paternity leave for a couple of weeks, but I can still be there when she goes into labor. She has said a number of times that she wants me with her in the delivery room, and nothing would make me happier.

The last two weeks, every time I mention these plans, she goes dark. We have heard very little from her the last couple of weeks, and Dennis and I are in a state of constant worry. I have tried to paint a picture for you of how that actually feels, but I fall short. We have felt tremendous anxiety. So much that I have retreated into my “holding pattern”. I try to stay busy, but I avoid things that could possibly make me confront the feelings I am having. I ache for my dear expectant mom, whom I love so much. I ache to hold this baby. I ache for my husband who has emotions that are hard to express. I am raw, on edge, and trying to stay hopeful.

If you wonder where I’ve gone, or why I don’t respond to texts, or why I have not posted on social media, or why I leave church early… This is why. I am holding my breath. I am hoping for some certainty in my life. I am feeling scared, tired, worn. And my expectant mom is feeling the same.

Adoption is hard.

Three years ago….

This… Little did we know three years ago where this little conversation would lead… #hopingtoadopt #hopefuladoptiveparents #adoption

We met online in the summer of 2015. Dennis said that he messaged me because he liked my photo with the pink cake (our friend Allie takes credit, and rightly so, for our introduction because she made that cake for my birthday). I messaged back because he was an English teacher, and I found that fascinating.

We messaged about 5 or 6 times that day, and then again the day after, and again the day after. Our messages became deep and emotionally intimate quite quickly, and we knew that we had made a connection that we had to explore further. We graduated to phone calls on Day 5, when the messages got way too long and had to be split into 3 parts b/c too many characters!

Our phone calls lasted for hours and hours, and we could not wait for work to be over so we could talk. The same emotional intimacy we had in our messages continued in our phone calls. We talked about everything! And we found that we had very similar philosophies on life, and very similar emotional styles. We met in-person three weeks later, and knew immediately we loved each other. He proposed about 45 days after we met in person.

We waited so long and experienced so much heartache before we found each other, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything. Our past experiences are what make us the people we are today, and they are what we have used as a springboard to create a phenomenal marriage. We feel so grateful to have found each other. It feels wonderful to be married to a best friend. We approach our marriage as the most precious thing we have. We cherish each other, we uplift each other, and we make decisions every day to put the other first. We are so blessed to have had this wonderful beginning. <3

LAGOON!

I  (Valerie) love roller coasters. So as part of our Summer Tour 2018, Dennis took me to Lagoon in Salt Lake City. We had so much fun! We went on all the big rides: Cannibal, Wicked, Colossus, and all the other stuff. Dennis got to hear my blood curdling screams followed by delirious laughter. I am sure that Dennis had claw marks in his hands on the really scary ones. Dennis isn’t much of a screamer on these rides. He was pretty calm until the last couple of rides. I heard one or two little bursts of sound from him, but other than that, I was the noisy one of the pair. It was really fun to see that different side of our personalities.

 

 

If You’re Going to San Francisco…

Be sure to take a walking tour with TakeWalks.com (also, if you use the code MorrisSF10 you’ll get 10% off)!

But really, we loved San Francisco. It is a beautiful city with amazing history. Our first night in SF we took in a Giants game at AT&T Park. We haven’t been to too many MLB parks, but this is definitely a favorite. This park felt like there was something new around every corner, and being right on the water was so beautiful. The weather was perfect, and we just loved it.

Alcatraz was an amazing experience. Its such a solemn place, even with hundreds of people there. It was a self-guided audio tour, and the guides on the audio were former inmates and former guards. We had flashes of Shawshank Redemption, except that this place was very real.

After Alcatraz, we had lunch at Boudin Bread Company in Fisherman’s Wharf…. Man, that sourdough bread was the best ever. <3 The Haight-Ashbury Tour was incredible. It’s amazing how musical genres merged in the late 60s. We saw the house where the Grateful Dead lived, the house where Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix got stoned out of their minds, and of course, we visited Amoeba Music. Later that evening, we went on a Taco Tour with TakeWalks.com. We got to sample some fantastic empanadas, pork tacos, and pan dulce. That was arguably my favorite part of the trip. The tacos were from Cafe Vallarta. We loved them so much, we went back the next night for dinner.

Our last day in SF started out in Chinatown. We both loved that tour. We loved getting samples from the Original Fortune Cookie Company, and watching how fortune cookies are made. Our last official tour was North Shore. That was a highlight for Dennis, as it covered a lot of the poetry and film history of SF, including the Zoetrope Building owned by Francis Ford Coppola and the Caffe Trieste where he wrote most of The Godfather. We stopped at City Lights Bookstore where Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac and other beatniks shared their works.  We even got to see an original Banksy! Oh, and of course, brownie ice cream sandwiches.

One of our favorite stops was at Grace Cathedral. One of our favorite songs is The Decemberists’ “Grace Cathedral Hill,” so we made the hike up the very steep Nob Hill and spent some time in that gorgeous edifice.

We saved the most iconic for last and visited the famous Golden Gate Bridge. It is a marvel of engineering. It was cold and windy and beautiful and clear and perfect.

Seriously though. Walking tours are the way to go. We really felt like we got a great view of the city, lots of info about the history and cultures, and we logged in about 27,000 steps each day 🙂 San Francisco is absolutely wonderful. One of our favorite vacations so far.

Los Angeles, I’m Yours*

Dennis had never been to actual Los Angeles. He wanted to go to a game a Dodger’s Stadium, see the Hollywood sign, visit Amoeba Music, and pay homage to a favorite musician Elliott Smith at the famous wall he stood in front of on the Figure 8 album cover. So we did all those things on a quick overnight on our way to San Francisco.

First item of business when we arrived was to eat lunch. We opted for the famous Pink’s Hot Dogs on La Brea near Paramount Studios. We’ve had better dogs, but you go there because it’s an icon.

Next stop was Amoeba Music. It’s a beautiful store. I’d love to see a show there sometime. And yes, we went to Amoeba Music and all we got were two awesome Tees.

More sites around LA:

The Dodgers game was super fun, other than our obstructed view. We got Kiké Hernandez bobble heads, nachos in a Dodgers helmet, and enjoyed being in that beautiful stadium.

Before we went to the game, we had a moment at the Elliott Smith wall. To explain what it meant to Dennis is really difficult to do. Elliott is an artist that Dennis connects with. It would be like Valerie at Abbey Road.

LA, it’s been real. Thanks for the moments and the traffic. Peace out.

*We don’t actually want to belong to LA. But we love The Decemberists, so that song lyric comes to mind.

Dennis & Valerie Summer Tour 2018!

We LOVE road trips. Trips in general, yes, but road trips are so fun. We get to have great conversation in the car, play games, laugh, and have a good time. Also, blog 😂.

This summer, we decided to visit LA briefly so that Dennis could visit some places he’s wanted to see for some time, and San Francisco so that Valerie can visit some places she’s wanted to see for some time. Then, of course, over to Salt Lake to visit some family.

On the road, we do fun things like…

Puzzles

 

listen to songs we don’t actually love but fit well on a road trip to California…

Point to fun things along the way…

And of course… Silly Putty.

Which brings us to our first #PublicServiceAnnouncement:

He’s gonna be a great dad!

It is so fun for me to watch Dennis with kids. Last Saturday, we went to the baptism of our good friend’s niece. She had received a nice framed photo with some ribbon around it, and she wanted to take the ribbon off so she could take a photo with it. She was struggling for a few minutes, and without a word, Dennis just went over to help. Later that day, our 3-year old niece experienced some mild trauma with her cousin of the same age pouring water on her. I picked her up and brought her in the house and Dennis was coming around the corner with a towel in hand. I absolutely love that he steps in to help in such practical ways. <3