Monday, November 18, 2013

Interview Day: Introducing Amber from Ala Carte Baby!

     Happy Interview Day!  I am honored to once again be a part of the Open Adoption Bloggers Interview Project.  I almost didn't make it this year...I signed up on the LAST day!  And I am so glad I did.  Otherwise, I would not have been introduced to Amber from Ala Carte Baby.  I read through every one of her blog posts.  Many times I laughed out loud.  Other times I had to grab for the box of tissue.  Her posts are heartwarming and inspirational and I really enjoyed getting to know her this year.  Her story definitely proves that despite the struggles, it is worth it in the end! 
     I hope you will enjoy getting to know her through my interview below.  You can also check out her blog and read her interview with me by going to  But there's more!  We weren't the only fabulous pairing.  There were over 85 participants in this year's project; each writing from their unique experiences with adoption.  In fact, because there were so many participants this year, we were split into three groups.  You can read all about it by checking out the following two links. At you will find information about the project and when each group will publish their interviews.  To read more posts from the group I was a part of, please visit
     And now...Introducing Amber!

1.) I love, love, love the happy ending to your adoption journey,¦but it was not a journey that was easy or free from pain. Would you mind sharing a short summary of your story for my readers?-Why you began the adoption process, some of the highs and lows of your journey etc.

We have an 8 year old biological son and a daughter who is 11 months that we adopted at birth through domestic adoption.  I had one miscarriage before I was about to get pregnant with our son.  After our son was born, I have a few surgeries that ended with a hysterectomy.  We worked with a surrogate and did two rounds of IVF with her that were both unsuccessful.  That was a huge heart breaker that we had invested so much in that and to have it not work.  After a few years of healing and realizing that trying to talk ourselves into "one is will be fine..... we are okay with just one" we realized that our desire for just one more baby was so strong.  In 2011, we started with our adoption agency.  After training, paperwork, profile work, etc. we were finally active.  We were selected rather quickly by an expecting mom and spent almost two months getting to know her.  When the time was near for the baby to be born, the twists and turns in our story started.  My husband and I were both in the delivery room and I was able to cut the cord.  We gave her her name that is on her birth certificate.  We spent the entire time in the room with the two of them during the hospital stay.  The baby went home with her and at nine days (after several more of the twists and turns) we were notified that she was going to parent.  We met with her and the baby a week later to tell them goodbye and thanked her that she had selected us as parents if she had decided to go with an adoption plan.  We knew that God had another baby for us and we trusted that this was part of His plan.   We were selected again with only about 2 weeks before this baby was due.  We met with the expecting mom and her parents and connected with them the second we walked into the room together.  Things could not feel more perfect.  I am thankful for every valley we went through to have something so wonderful now.  We are in an extremely open adoption with a large extended family of our daughter's birth family. 


2.) You write about your decision to keep your second match a secret from everyone except your closest friends and family for as long as possible. Jim and I have also struggled with when to share adoption news and how much information to share.  How did you decide when to share, who to share with and what to share? Looking back would you have changed anything?

When I was pregnant the first time, we told everyone right away.  And then, I had a miscarriage.  That was hard to tell everyone because no one could make us feel any better, but yet everyone felt so sorry about it.  When we were doing our surrogacy process, we told everyone from the get-go with that as well.  We live in a small town and our gestational surrogate was my cousin.  It was hard to keep that a secret, especially since she had upper elementary/ junior high children.  With our first adoption match- we didn't make any announcement until we had been selected.  The few friends that knew were people we needed to write reference letters, help us with certain documents etc.  Once we were matched though, we were so excited to share the news.  It had been a few years since we had done the surrogacy stuff, so people were really surprised and had no idea we had been working with the agency.  It was so neat to see how excited people were for us.  It made us feel so loved.  When things fell through, it was hard but we had to share it with everyone as well.  The friends and people in our community were just so wonderful.  Their support helped us so much.  One thing is though, good news certainly travels faster than bad news.  We were asked weekly about the baby in the first month of so and would have to tell people "we didn't get the baby...she decided to parent" etc.   That was really hard.  Not only was it hard to say that but it also made the person who asked feel terrible and I hated that.   With our daughter, we waited until we met her in the hospital to share the news.  This time, only a very small handful of people knew.  

I don't think there is a right or wrong time to when / what to share.  I am so open with people it would be so hard for me to keep such big secrets about something so great.  I don't know how I could have gotten through those tough times without knowing how many people were praying for us and thinking of us.  I don't think I would change anything about the way or when we shared our news.  I just can't imagine any of it happening any other way.


3.) Although we have been through a failed match, I can only imagine what it would be like to go through a change of heart failed placement. My heart ached for you reading your posts about the love you had and still have for J, A and Baby J. It takes so much faith and strength to continue after such a painful, heart- wrenching experience. What helped you to make it through those first days and weeks? Now that it is a year later, is it easier or more difficult- How? If you had the chance, what would you want to say to Baby J?
It was the hardest thing we have ever been through.  It hurt so much to have to tell her goodbye.  We said during training that we would support any mom to parent her baby.  Of course we hoped we would not have to go through it, but we never wanted to take away someones right/ desire to parent their child.  That moment of becoming a mother- you can't predict how/ what you are going to feel when you hold that baby in your arms.  The quote about a birthmom puts the needs of a child before her own.... this is how I look at it.  If a birthmom knows she can't do everything she would like to see for her child and makes an adoption plan, I fully support that.  If she thinks she can give that child as much as she thinks is enough- than I support that too.   It's not my place to think if I would be able to be a "better" parent than someone else.  I see it as someone chose us to give a child more than they could at that time. 

We do love J, and her two children A and baby J.  I think about them often.  I think about how big baby J would be and what things she would be doing.  I think about J and hope she is doing well.  I hope she is happier than when we met her and that things are working out well for her.  I hope that she does not have to struggle.  I hope she snuggles up on sweet baby J and tells her how much she loves her each day. 

Immediately after we got the news that she would be parenting- we did what our agency suggested during training and left town.  We stopped and told our parents, but went right home and threw clothes in a bag.  We went about 3 hours away to a Great Wolf Lodge.  Our son had always wanted to go and we just needed to get out of town and be a family.   We came back a few days later and it was hard.  One of the great things is a came back to a house that had been cleaned and a fridge that had been stocked with food from our loving friends.  I did end up quitting my job and took a few weeks off before starting something else.  The clients I worked with at the time were too close to the situation that there was no way I could continue doing what I was.
A year later- it is easier.  I am so thankful that we have our daughter.  Believe it when they say that it will all work out and be worth it in the end.  Oh, I can't tell you how much it is.  I could say it a times over. I remember not being able to take my hands off my eyes or pull myself off the floor I was so upset. I wouldn't trade that pain for anything if it meant I wouldn't have our daughter in our life now.

If we were able to speak to J and baby J, I would tell them the same thing I did the last time we saw them.  That I love them, and will always pray for them.  I told Baby J that I wanted her to be a good girl and that I would always remember her.
4.) Another theme in your blog that I could definitely identify with was the fear and reality of rejection. Although we all know that some situations are just not right for us, it is still hard to be rejected (whether it's an expectant mom choosing someone else or our profile not getting noticed). How did you keep your sanity and not take things personally when you were not chosen?
When J had her change of heart and decided to parent, we didn't take it personally.  Although (due to the strange string of events that happened those last few days) we didn't completely understand why and our hearts were broken, we did support her decision to parent.  We her, the baby, and her older son, but knew that God had something bigger for us.  That was our first rejection, because it was also the first time our profile had been shown.  The three no's after we went active again in just three weeks were harder.  The first one was not a big deal really.  The second one I felt a little on the fence about because it was full of special circumstances so I was kind of nervous about it anyway so took it as a sign that this was not the right baby for us, and by the third, it was starting to feel crappy.  I waited by the phone each time, wondering if this was going to be our call.  When they called to tell us about the third one, the caseworker told us that the mother had not made a decision yet, but she had narrowed it down to families with no children.  She wanted the baby to be the focus in that family.  This hurt me because I wanted to plead with her and say "but we have more love to give BECAUSE we have our son".   I was bummed about that.  It's so hard to be represented on paper.  I just tried to keep busy (easy for me to do) and my mind off of it during these times.  I tried to put things away and out of site, knowing that they would happen on His time, not ours.

5.) Your daughter, Marla, is absolutely beautiful! What were those first moments and days like with her?   How is being a mom different the second time around?

Thank you so much.  We are also in awe of how beautiful she is.  I can't put into words how blessed we truly feel.  Meeting her the first couple times in the hospital were surreal.  I tried to be respectful of this being their (birthfamily) time with her and didn't want to step on their toes or rush them.  We spent our first days (ten or eleven days I think) in a hotel due to ICPC.  That was nice in a way because I was able to spend time with just us instead of worrying about cleaning the house, letting the dogs out, laundry etc.  Don't get me wrong, I wanted to take our baby home to her beautiful room but it was nice to not have anything else to do but snuggle in her goodness.  Someone asked me when I felt like I was her mom and I said it was as we left the hospital with her.  She was in our care- I was responsible for her.  I was now the one to feed her, change her, pick out what she would wear (with my husband of course- he is a big help)  The drive to the hotel was dark since it was winter and we left in the evening and I couldn't wait to get her to the room and just look her over!  Our son did such a good job of keeping it a secret and we let him call some people and share the news.  I have a picture of all of this and I can remember this moment like yesterday.  She was such a good baby.  Things went very smooth.  I still can't believe how good that went since I was expecting to have a bigger issue with attachment type stuff. 

Being a mom the second time around?  Busier!  I'm usually good at multi-tasking but trying to get two out the door, packed, etc. is just more work!  Our son is old enough that he can do a lot of that on his own now, but I don't know how people do 3,4,5 kids.... especially close in age!!!   We are still getting the hang of it somedays I think.  I was so excited for Halloween but trying to come up with two costumes felt like a big deal because I was so used to just committing everything to our son.  The same with planning their birthdays.  They are both in the same week of December and for this year we are going to do one party together.  It just seems like double the work (which double the kids, that makes sense!) but I love every minute of it. It is a good thing to be stressed about. 

6.) How has the transition been from being a family of three to a family of four? How does B like being a big brother? What has been the best change? What has been the hardest change? What has surprised you?

I feel so complete with four.  We had 8 fantastic years of being parents to our son.  He is awesome.  But I had always always always wanted to be a mom to a girl.  I am so thankful to have this opportunity.  He used to cry asking for a sibling..."why can't he have a brother or a sister like everyone else"?  We knew he would be a good brother, but WOW - he is IN LOVE with this little girl!   Matt described it the other day like getting Marla was something we did for HIM.  He is just in heaven and takes his job very serious.  He is so protective of her and she just lights up when he comes into a room or talks to her.  He used to have a little chair that folds out into a bed and he would pull that into her room on weekends and sleep right by her crib.  He takes her for stroller walks along our street.  He likes to help as much as he can with her.  He is so proud to be her brother. 

The best change has been that I just feel complete.  I wanted "just one more".  I have not ever had the desire for a big family like some do.  Two was all I ever wanted.  I look at them and feel so thankful for all that I have been blessed with.  The hardest change has been sort of what I was talking about earlier.  Just trying to figure out how to get two ready and out the door etc.  Going back to the baby stage wasn't really that difficult for me, but just remembering every thing that needs packed for a baby is.  Sometimes we leave and I realize I didn't put any snacks in the bag etc.  Just little things like that.  I forgot how much "stuff" babies use to go anywhere!!!

7.) In one of your blogs you admitted some of your fears about parenting an African American baby-hair, skin care and so on. (Jim and I are open to a transracial adoption so I have read some of the same scary articles!) Now that you are mom to Marla, what has your reality been like?   What are you still scared of? What do you laugh at yourself for ever having been afraid of? What have you done when you have had questions?

I was so scared! I actually didn't mark full African American on our sheet for our first home study. I was okay with transracial, was completely intimidated by full African American after all I read.  Once we thought more about it, I realized....she is still a baby, and I know how to take care of babies!  There is so much information out there to help you and one of the things I have loved is how many people have come forward to help us.  We have met some amazing people because of being an adoptive family with an African American daughter. 

Like I mentioned, I read a lot of information from people who have been /are in our shoes.  I watch videos.  I ask questions.   I was most scared of her hair because I also don't know a thing about doing it.

8.) What is your open adoption experience been like with Marla's birth family? How has your relationship evolved over the last year? What are your hopes for the future?

We have an absolutely awesome relationship with Marla's birth family.  We would have been disappointed if we didn't have contact with birth family honestly.  I know some people are really nervous to be in an open adoption, especially something so open, but it is just so natural for us!   Things just feel "right".  I love sharing things with them and seeing how excited they get when they see Marla.  One thing that comes to mind often is that if our first adoption would have worked out, we would have had nothing like the relationship we have now.  Even though that was planned to be an open adoption as well, I just know it would have been completely different.  Pictures, texts, and possibly a visit here or there, but I also think that there would have been some point when that would have ended.  I would have hated to not be able to share so much with them and not have our daughter growing up knowing her birth family.  With Marla, we just seem to "fit" together as family.  I don't really see any big changes over the past year. I know I keep saying this, but  seriously, from the moment we met, things were just comfortable. 

Since our birthmom is young, we do have big hopes for the future for her.  We can't wait to see her go to prom, graduate, and become successful.  She still has the power to do so many big things and we are so excited to see how she grows.  That being said, I don't want her to hold back from doing these things because of Marla.  She has mentioned a few times that she can't move away etc. because she wouldn't be so close to us.  I want her to go for every dream and know that we support her, no matter where she is.  I hope that we continue to stay close and that Marla looks up to her in the future.

9.) What advice would you share with hopeful adoptive couples who are still waiting? What do you wish someone would have told you when you began your adoption journey?

It is so hard to give advice to couples still waiting because everyone says the same thing.  The main thing is don't give up and don't lose hope.  Have faith that God has you in his hands.  He does not want you to be hurt but to trust that he is working on something just for YOU.  I can't say I understand why we went through the pain that we did, but I can say it is worth it.   Once you have your baby in your arms, you would do it again in a heartbeat.  Be there for each other.  You will both have up and down days (weeks/ months!!!), and try to support each other when one of you is down.  Don't completely lose yourself though in the wait.  Fill your time with other things you enjoy to keep you busy and give you a sense of accomplishment.  Learn a new skill or take up a new hobby.  It is so easy to get lost in the pregnancy announcements, showers, and new babies that you only focus on what you don't have. 

The only thing I can really think of that I wish someone would have told us when we started our journey was... it's gonna hurt!  It stinks. It's painful. It's going to be worse than you though and better than you could have imagined!