OUR LITTLE NOODLES: The Stever Family Adoption

Welcome to our adoption journey. We are so blessed with our five daughters. Now we embark on the worldwide journey of a lifetime - adopting a special needs child. Please join us for this adventure!

Friday, August 26, 2011

New Newer Newest!

There has been so much going on in our household that I could never write about everything! Many, many changes. Here are the highlights (& low lights if you are a pessimist):

Elliott Lochlyn Stever was born on May 30, 2011 weighing over 9 lbs! Healthy and beautiful. She had to be readmitted to the hospital for jaundice-related issues for a couple of days but recovered beautifully. She is a bright light in my life - the most perfect baby. Content, happy, smiling, healthy, expert breast feeder, etc.

Braylon's adoption was finally finalized after much stress, tears, financial hardship, and love on July 18, 2011. We are very blessed to have him in our lives. He is our only son and very special of course. He is just growing and learning and challenging everything I have ever known or felt about children. He is so smart and wonderful and challenging and stubborn and all 2 years old! His progress is amazing and ongoing. He will have surgery for hernia repairs in October of this year.

One of the main changes / challenges our family has faced is the loss of my job. Because of a ridiculous government, horrible ethics & morals, and a heart wrenching decision to put my children first, I am now a stay-at-home mom. These are my opinions of course, so please do not get overly upset by my adjectives. I have worked outside of the home since I was 16 years old. I am now 42 years old and trying to learn how all of these amazing women - mostly younger than me - do this job! It is the most challenging, difficult, tiring, wonderful, blessed, amazing thing I have ever done. Economically, we have been challenged more than any time in our lives. It has been terrifying at times. Food, clothing, housing, health insurance - these are things that so many of us take for granted. I do not any longer. Thank God for a hardworking husband and father. My husband has found work and never stopped providing. He immediately took on the role of sole breadwinner and has worked so hard day and night. You know, I woke up this morning and discovered something wonderful: This Halloween I will not worry about what day trick or treating falls on so that I can hurry my work to be finished early and rush home at 5 pm. This year I will not worry about getting Thanksgiving and the following Friday off - I will be home to cook and teach my children how to make dressing. This year I will be able to finally do Christmas crafts with my children. I can enjoy and savor the week of Christmas. I can read about the birth of baby Jesus to them. I can take my time the days following Christmas morning and clean up slowly. I can BE with my family.

None of these thoughts and feelings and opinions are in any way judging working moms - I have always been a working mom. I am just absolutely so blessed to be able to attempt to run this household and raise my children and be a wife to my husband. I would not change a thing.

Friday, February 11, 2011

New Valentine's Day Thoughts

I am one of THOSE people - I have never liked Valentine's Day. Not when I was a child, not as a teenager, not as a single woman, not as a married woman. I made exceptions for my kids but was still not really "on board" with the whole concept. Personally, I would rather be told "I love you" and say, "I love you" any other day of the year. For no reason in particular. But.....

This year I am especially and deeply thankful for my husband and children. My husband is hands-down the greatest man I know. It is a privilege and an honor to be his wife. I would not change one thing about him because even his imperfections make him who he is. I still look at him and my heart melts. We are so connected that I would feel incomplete without him. I know, I know......do people really feel this deeply about one another anymore? Well I am here to tell you - yes!

I am also so blessed by all of my children. I always feel great love for them. However, this Valentine's Day, I am so blessed and fortunate to have 6 beautiful children and one on the way - a total of 7 mighty blessings! Babies ranging in age from 22 years to 22 weeks in utero! It is amazing to be a mother - something I have been for a long time. It is, by far, my greatest accomplishment and my greatest source of joy and pain.

So, this year I will actually celebrate the dreaded "Valentine's Day" because of the blessing of my family. To all of you, I love you unconditionally and forever with a love as deep as any ocean!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Still On Our Journey

We are still still on our adoption journey! Now that Braylon has been placed with us since October, we are in the process of finalizing his adoption - making it legal. Our family has settled in to doctor appointments, therapy appointments, feeding issues, medical equipment, and changing personalities. We are all doing a good job in my opinion. It is not what we expected really, but we had no idea what to expect, so.........

The beginning of our time together consisted mainly of caretaking. I think that was harder on me as a mother than it was for my husband. He opened my eyes one day by telling me, "Welcome to a father's world honey!" And he could not have been more right! Coming from a first-time adoptive mother who already had five biological daughters, this was a totally new experience. I am having to CREATE a bond with my new son. This has not been a simple task, especially with Braylon's special needs. He has Retinopathy of Prematurity (vision loss) and Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia (chronic lung disease). (Braylon was born very premature.) So our bonding does not particularly involve sight. We must find other ways to form attachments.

The wonderful part is that this is going so well. We are blessed to have great resources to tap into here in Alabama. The Institute for the Deaf and Blind has been key in providing us with the tools to help Braylon achieve everything he possibly can in life. The PT has also been wonderful to work with so far. Our Children's Hospital in Birmingham has a phenomenal clinic that has been instrumental in giving our son the best care available. We have also found some wonderful friends in our area (even down the street!) who have children with similar needs.

After having our first post placement visit, we are feeling pretty good about things. We have a wonderful, supportive social worker who has been so good to us. She continues to help us with every step along the way. Overall, this experience has been like no other. Adoption has felt this way to me: very unnatural sometimes but in the very best way. I know that sounds crazy or even negative, but I do not mean it that way at all. It is truly the work of God. Simply that. No way around it. We would not trade one day during this journey. We have grown closer to each other as a family and closer to God. We are so grateful and honored that He blessed us with Braylon.

On a final note to this post, we wanted to share another miracle and blessing that God has chosen to bestow on our family during this Christmas season. We are expecting a new baby in June of 2011. We are so happy that God has graciously blessed us with another child. We are joining the elite club of the "large family" quickly! A club we have prayed to be a part of since we married. Thank you for continuing to pray for us. We know that our lives will not be without hardship and trials, but we would not trade it for the world.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Wishes

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Stever Family!

We are so very blessed. Thank you to all of the people who have supported us and loved us. We are grateful for all of you!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Journey to Our Son - Part II

When does a mother of six who also works outside of the home full-time find time to blog? I want a solution! And it cannot involve staying up until 2:00 am to write!

This will be yet another part of our adoption story in a nutshell. We finally completed our home study and were planning on forwarding it to two different organizations who helped children with special needs find families. One even specifically works with children with Down Syndrome. We actually thought that we were specifically being called to adopt a child with Down Syndrome. We began to plan more fundraisers while we waited for a while (a year or more) to be contacted. We knew that we were approved to adopt a child with minimum / mild needs.

Our home study agency primarily works with international adoptions and domestic infant adoptions for infertile couples. They really do not have a "special needs adoption" program to speak of. They do have children become available from time to time who have very severe needs, but these children are usually cared for by experienced parents who have adopted before.

This is when we believe (including our wonderful social worker and staff) that God had His hands all over this adoption from the beginning! A child became available that was 18 months old with fairly manageable special needs. We were all very shocked, excited and cautious. Everything began to happen in a whirlwind! We met with this little boy and his foster mother at our agency. We read all of his medical and history that we could. We were counseled by our social worker and went home to talk together and pray for guidance.

We researched hundreds of websites, organizations, blogs, and resources which had information about his needs. Finally, my husband calmly and quietly stated this to me one day, "I just do not see one single reason that we should not adopt this child. I am strangely at peace after meeting him, discussing his needs and background, and praying about this. I think this is what we are meant to do." It was exactly what I was feeling.

So, we signed a mound of paperwork and received a mound of blessed information from his foster family, and we took our son home! We are in the process of finalizing his adoption. And.....this journey is far from over. I will chronicle some of the many challenges we have faced so far. These are not "negatives" by any means. But - I would like to say that there are many challenges and obstacles and a range of emotions that we never expected. I believe that the adoption of a special needs child is so unique. You can never really plan or prepare yourself for all that will happen or for all the things you will feel. I have experienced the birth of five children but am still amazed at the new, wonderful, blessed, painful, challenging things that I am experiencing. It is a journey like no other I have ever travelled.

God has been so good to our family. I am still so humbled and thankful to Him for all of my children. My husband and my children are truly the greatest people in my life. They are what makes me rich - rich in heritage, glory, and love. They are why I strive every day to become a little bit better. Thank you for following along with us. Part III is coming as soon as I can find time and words to write.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Journey to Our Son - Part I

I am going to attempt to take you along our personal adoption journey. This post has been a work in progress for so long. I will begin with how God moved the hearts of my husband Matthew and I. He burdened our hearts for adoption through a picture of a Miss Corinna from Reece's Rainbow. Her beauty and the plight of the Ukrainian orphans pierced our very souls. We committed ourselves to God and answered His call to adopt. This began back in late summer/ early fall of 2009.

Along this journey, we have had the honor of meeting so many families - adopting both internationally and domestically. We began attending our local Down Syndrome Outreach Group and made several friends there who had adopted. We found an agency in Birmingham who would help us complete our home study. We then began our search for a placement agency. We learned that the Ukraine was quite concerned with the adoptive parents' mental illness history. This would prove to be a challenge as we have had some mild bouts with depression and such in our past. We were also very concerned about cost and the travel time / waiting periods that were involved in an adoption from the Ukraine. Having three children under the age of 5 at home would prove to be a difficult obstacle to travelling.

We began the daunting task of fundraising next. This was not an easy task and it would end up being a very challenging issue. Matthew and I are very independent and stubborn. We take care of our family together - most often only relying on each other for help. We do not ask for money. Period. But - as we learned, "God's Will, God's Bill." We swallowed that sinful pride, and told everyone about our desire to follow God's calling to adopt. We received a variety of responses. Some responded very warmly, some negatively, and some never replied at all. The most heartfelt responses we had were from total strangers - those adoptive families we had never even met. They embraced us and supported us both financially and through prayer and friendship.

To those of you that supported us and believed in us during this journey - we will never be able to thank you enough. Your generosity and kindness will always be remembered whenever we look at our son. You had somewhat blind faith in our family, and we will forever be in your debt. Thank you friends - we love you.

Our family worked very hard to fundraise - we sold t-shirts and children's books and coffee products. We also tried several other creative ideas. Throughout the entire adoption journey, we were concerned about travel. We always travel as an entire family but that seemed unrealistic when looking at the Ukraine. Not only did we lack a full-proof, long-term, reliable babysitter - we also were not comfortable leaving our young children for a long period of time. I believe that we began to reconsider our decision to adopt internationally during this time. We also believe that God - our Navigator - was steering us in the right direction - His direction for our family.

It boils down to this for us: all children, both domestically and abroad, are orphans if they are without a permanent family to care for them. We were never interested in adopting a "healthy, Caucasian infant" - indeed, we have 5 healthy, biological daughters. We have always been interested in adopting a child with special needs. This is what we believe God is calling us to do. For those of you who do not understand our calling to adopt, or who resent us and disagree with our calling - you are entitled to your opinions. However, please do not judge us for trying to follow God as His servants. We pray that we will be able to adopt again in the future for this has been one of the most meaningful, joyous, difficult, painful, extraordinary, blessed things we have ever done. We will always support our friends and fellow adoptive families in any way we can.

More in our next post about the specific road to our son, Braylon Matthew Stever.