“Life is either a great adventure or nothing at all.” – Helen Keller
WOW this story pulled my heart strings, and just made me believe that when you put something out there, it can come true. Mama Anna was nominated by Mama Shelby, I was told she was a rad mom and I had to interview her. When I got her story back, it had me glued to the screen, and chills running down my back. I’m filled with hope, love, and excitement for this new journey that this little family is about to embark. Please read her journey below, in her words.
My husband, RJ, and I are wholehearted believers in finding the adventure in life. Married young, at 21 (me) and 23 (him) children weren’t anywhere on our radar – especially not my husbands. I knew I might one day want kids, but while he agreed to “maybe, someday” he could easily image a life with just the two of us forever.
We thought kids would damper our spirit of adventure. Although we “settled down” young we didn’t let that stop us from having a good time. When not in school or working you could find us backpacking Big Sur, taking surf trips to Santa Cruz, snowshoeing Yosemite, etc.. We spent months traveling, Central America, Europe, Japan and more. We were always on the go.
As time went on we began meeting couples with kids. While we loved our new friends we noticed that they were often tied down to nap schedules and bedtime routines. We weren’t ready to give up our sense of wonder-lust and spontaneity. Then we met Dave and Raegan. They weren’t like any parents we had known before. They didn’t let their kids keep them from doing the things they loved. They just took them along! This friendship opened our eyes to the joy of children. It also showed us that parenting is what you make it: instead of rerouting your life to center around your child you invited your child into your journey. Slowly we met more and more families that adopted this lifestyle. I was ready to have a baby.
It took RJ about a year to catch up to me. I was frustrated waiting on him but I knew I didn’t want to push him into such a big decision, so I did my best to just keep my mouth shut and wait. Finally, July 2008, after 4 years of marriage we got pregnant. Nine months later I delivered our handsome, blond-haired, blue-eyed Landon.
Once the first three months of colic past we found it relatively easy to keep up our normal lifestyle. We trained Landon to sleep anywhere so we could still take weekend trips to Big Bear and visit friends all over the U.S. We did trade-in our international travel for stateside adventures, and backpacking turned to car-camping but overall we found that parenthood was a new huge adventure within a lifestyle of adventure.
Around this time God started to stir up a yearning in my heart that I hadn’t expected. He gave me an intense desire to adopt a child. I kept looking at my beautiful baby boy, who we delighted in and loved and spoiled with attention (as all babies should be) and my heart ached for the kids who didn’t have what he had.
But RJ had just agreed to have his own biological child after years of uncertainty. And while he loved being a dad he wasn’t certain he wanted more than one kid. Getting him onboard to adopt would be a miracle.
As before, I just kept my mouth shut and I prayed. Slowly, I began to broach the subject. He wasn’t interested. I persisted to pray and quietly do some research. When Landon was about a 9 months old I asked him to consider meeting some adoptive families. He agreed and I started to see his heart softening towards the idea. We continued to immerse ourselves in the adoption community and learn as much as we could about the process. Finally, after a year of prayer and gentle discussion he jumped onboard.
For many reasons we decided to pursue an international adoption in Ethiopia. We were convinced we were done having biological children and would instead adopt either one young child or young siblings. In December of 2010 we were accepted with an adoption agency and began the process. They estimated that it would take approximately 12 months before brining home our new kids. Landon would be about 2 ½ at that time which seemed just right for giving him a sibling. Everything was going according to plan.
Three months into our adoption process everything changed. Ethiopia reformed many of their adoption laws. The paperwork process got difficult and tedious. Things started slowing down…way, way down. Suddenly our 12 months process looked like it was going to take at least 2 years and possibly longer. I cried tears of frustration. My perfect plan was failing.
Realizing that it would be years before we were even matched with an adoptive child we decided to try for another biological baby while continuing the adoption process. We were pregnant again a month later.
At first I really struggled being pregnant. I worried that once we had two kids RJ would be overwhelmed and would want to stop our adoption. What if we couldn’t keep up our active lifestyle with two? Than I knew he would never want the third and we would have to remove ourselves from the adoption process. My heart was so set on adoption I felt as though I was abandoning my adoptive baby (who I hadn’t even been matched with yet) for my biological baby. It was a confusing time.
But as my belly grew so did my love for our second biological baby. If you want the whole truth, I did struggle again when I found out we were having another boy. Not only was I disappointed I was actually mad about it for weeks. I didn’t realize I had my heart set on a girl (our adoption was open to either gender) until I found out I wasn’t having one. Thankfully the disappointment faded as the anticipation of a new baby grew.
Our second blond-hair, blue-eyed baby boy, Parker, was born March 11, 2012. He looked identical to his brother: as if I had the same baby twice.
By this point we realized our adoption was definitely going to take at least another year so we settled into being a family of four. Determined not to give up our love for adventure and the great-outdoors we took our youngest camping at 8 weeks old. Nursing in a tent trailer, in frigid temperatures, multiple times a night isn’t the most glamorous vacation but we were willing to endure less-than-ideal situations such as these for our overall goal.
Three years ago we invested in a VW Vanagon. We’ve hauled our boys all over the place. They are road trip warriors. We’ve covered the entire California and Oregon coast, spent a month in Montana, the Grand Canyon, two weeks in Colorado, and most recently crossed the border for a surf trip to Baja, California. This summer we’ll use those passports again to take them to British Columbia.
Adventuring with kids is absolutely possible. In our early naivety we didn’t realize just how much the adventures would change – planes are too expensive so we drive everywhere, we don’t surf together anymore rather we take turns, hikes have gotten shorter, road trips take twice as long. However we continue to do the things we love. And better yet we get to do them with those we love the most. It’s exciting to catch a trout on a fly rod. It’s even more exciting to watch your five-year-old catch his first trout on a fly rod in a backcountry lake in Yellowstone. Sharing our love for adventure with our boys is actually better than the adventure it’s self.
Throughout these undertakings RJ and I have remained committed to our adoption. After more than 4 years in process we finally got the call this past February matching us with a 6-month-old baby girl. She is absolutely incredible.
I thought waiting for the referral call was hard but these past three months have been some of the hardest I’ve ever experienced. The moment they sent us a photo and a case report I fell madly in love. God gave me a 9000-mile umbilical cord to a cocoa-colored darling waiting for her forever family. We haven’t passed court yet but in my heart she’s already my daughter. I yearn for her daily, often to the point of tears. We have a long road of paperwork ahead of us. It’s somewhat daunting, and scary, as international adoption is always unstable but I’m choosing to have faith that she’ll come home in God’s perfect timing.
How glad I am that God’s plans for my life are not my plans. I cannot image a better adventure than motherhood. It trumps every other adventure I’ve ever taken. How glad I am that I didn’t stop at one biological child. My Parker brings so much joy and light to this world; and I absolutely love having brothers! Two boys are boatloads of fun. It’s been a long battle for my daughter in Ethiopia but it’s given me time to write her hundreds of pages of prayer journals and love letters, so hopefully she will never for one moment doubt how much she is loved and wanted.
Ha! Good questions because traveling with kids definitely isn’t all fun and cheer. The first story that comes to mind is the time we all got the stomach flu in Telluride, Colorado. It started with the 2-year-old throwing-up all over me in the local brewery and escalated to the four of us running to the campground bathrooms multiple times a day. The flu and camping don’t go hand-in-hand. My kids are rock-star travelers but I’ve had to discover how to “let go” a bit. Sometimes they eat McDonalds because that’s all there is on the road. And they get d.i.r.t.y when we camp. Like gross, dirty; but I’ve learned to grin and bear it knowing a shower is just a few days away.
Your heart seems to have always wanted to adopt but not your husband, what do you think happened for him to have a change of heart?
I think it was a multitude of things. Exposure to different families with adopted kids definitely made a big impact on him. Particularly hearing the honest truth from different adopted dads – such as admitting their own initial reluctance and the reality of bonding taking place over time and not instantaneously. Then the absolute joy in attaching and falling in love with your child and watching him/her thrive within the family. Also, my husband and I love Jesus passionately so I know that played a huge role too. He spent much time in prayer before feeling ready.
Describe your feelings right now as you await the arrival of your daughter?
Honestly, the waiting is awful. I miss so much it hurts. I’ve shed many tears as we’ve faced numerous paperwork setbacks lately. It’s insane to me how much I love and miss her despite never actually having met her. I’m also nervous. Just as I was apprehensive going from one child to two I’m nervous about transitions from two to three. Not to mention the necessary time and attention she’ll naturally need to establish bonding. I’m exciting for the future but also battling anxiety and fear that the whole thing will collapse around me and she’ll never come home. It’s been an extremely emotional journey the past few months: very faith building.
What do you miss about your old life, pre-kids?
I most miss alone time with my guy. We really love being active together – trail running, surfing, etc. and it’s hard to do that right now. We do schedule regular dates but getting that quality one-on-one time isn’t always easy.
If you could give some advice to someone wanting to adopt, what advice would you give them?
Adoption is absolutely beautiful. I’ve met so many incredible individuals and heard astonishing stories of families knit together through adoption. The adoption community is full of lovely, heat-warming people. However, adoption is rarely an easy road. Do your research and make sure it’s something you’re equipped and prepared for mentally, physically and emotionally. Adoption is a story of redemption but it is rooted in loss. As much as I love my daughter I desperately wish she didn’t have to be adopted. Not yet a year old and already she’s experienced hurt and loss. It’s devastating. That being said, don’t let the horror stories scare you. Most adoptions are completely successful; we only ready about the very, very few that go awry. So successful that I’ve found that many people who adopt go back and do it again, and again! At an adoption event years ago someone ask: “Can you sen an extra plate at your table?” That simple visual really struck a cord. We had room for another place setting, and we knew we wanted to more chatter around our table, and so we decided to save that seat for someone who didn’t have one.
Now that you have told the Mother Effin Truth, who do you want to nominate to tell their story as a mother? And why?
I would love to nominate my sister-in-law Jessica. Jess radiates beauty. She’s a true creative soul who consistently blows me away with her talent. She’s also a new mother – in the very early stages of parenthood with a beautiful baby girl. Her journey hasn’t always been easy, she’s been dealt some unfair blows, but she continually rises above with truth and grace.
If you have any adoption questions or would like to get in contact with Anna, check out her blog (www.twocentsparrow) and push on the email button.