Big Choices and Little Surprises

Let me just drop the big news first, from my last post in January – kind of like when you skip to the end of the book to find out if your favorite characters end up happy; WE ADOPTED A BABY GIRL! Nothing in our lives have been easy or less than dramatic. So, of course, Isabella (Izzy) entered our lives in true family fashion, giving us only 48 hours to prepare like her big bro Shiloh, and setting the skies ablaze with lights with her arrival.

I’m sitting here very much like when I finally sat down to write about what happened to me when I was diagnosed with cancer; swimming with the floating timelines and emotions of what happened while fighting exhaustion. I always know when I need to write because the ideas roll around my mind like an annoying marble, clinking incessantly against the edges until I finally make the time to pick it up. Prepare yourself, this is long!

Here we go!

The grief of leaving teaching, the hissing of a kettle put on too long, began to slowly dull, and I was settling into my new job. I was getting annoyed at myself because I kept trying to grasp for a bigger purpose in my job as a proposal manager, and I couldn’t find it. Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate my new job and the freedoms and finances it brings, but there’s something numbing about leaving your dream job. Today, I laughed too hard at a TikTok about how people who leave toxic job situations don’t know how to function in a healthy work environment, with a boss they love, and people who are thriving – and that’s me! But, that’s for a different post. 🙂 Anyways, I was talking to my therapist, and we kept hitting the same place – what’s next? For the first time in my life, I didn’t know. I didn’t have any grand plans or something to strive toward since the whole focus of stepping away was to heal. I trusted God that stepping away from teaching was the right thing even though it broke me. I couldn’t have imagined the call on Feb 10th.

A call from a Richmond area code blinked on my phone, and I immediately sent it to voicemail. Kevin was picking up Shiloh from school, and I was finished with a meeting and eating lunch. I sat down at my desk to check more emails when a voicemail flashed, and the text preview was, “Hi Kristinna….we have a cold call. Call me back…”. I actually don’t remember the rest of it, but it was the adoption agency, Bethany Christian Services. A million thoughts raced past each other in my head, colliding with facts: we were approved as adoptive parents last June after the home study; many foster and adoption agencies blocked us because I had cancer because they believed I would die; is this why God extracted me from the high school classroom from students I loved so much?

The next day, Kevin and I found ourselves laughing and losing track of time with our new family member, Arcade (chosen pseudonym of birth mom) on Zoom. There was so much about them I loved, that if we weren’t chosen as the adoptive parents for the baby girl born a few days ago, that I still wanted to be part of their life anyways. Maybe it’s the teacher in me or just how I’m made as a person, but I genuinely, and still do, want to be there for them as they navigate life. Kevin and I both found ourselves saying, “We can be your cousins!” It was so natural – and we all decided on the formal name of Isabella for Izzy. The crazy thing about open adoptions is that the birth mom also gets to choose their family – this is what we love.

We were told Arcade needed the weekend – of course! So, that night I wanted to clean Izzy’s room out in faith. Both Isabella and Arcade felt like our family already, so I wanted to act on that feeling. After Shiloh was in the bed, Kevin and I prayed for the best outcome for birth mom and Isabella – even if it wasn’t us. We also had to sit down and talk about the nitty-gritty; money for the remaining adoption fee, if we were chosen. Before choosing BCS, we did A LOT of research to make sure the agency was ethical and transparent with their finances – so we felt comfortable with the fees – but comfort doesn’t make moolah go POOF into existence. I prayed while cleaning and felt God giving me assurance that we found our family, or rather they found us, but then I contested the Lord and was like, “Then give me money God! It’s going to have to fall from the sky!” Such is my relationship with God; He knows I’m stubborn, hardheaded, and need to be nudged a million times.

Kevin and I went downstairs to sit on the couch to talk about the money, and my phone pinged again. A family member messaged me and said they were going to gift us money for Isabella’s adoption fees. I called them and burst into tears because it was the exact amount we needed to not be drowning – to make it even kind of possible. I never told them how much we desperately needed. After getting off the phone and telling Kevin through tears, one of our longtime friends also said they were praying for us and wanted to gift us finances toward her adoption. I’m not a person who likes to ask or accept help. Honestly, I’d rather work half to death and do it myself, but as a good friend told me over the phone the next day – it was my own pride. We slept peacefully knowing that people had our backs, and no matter what, we had birth mom’s back.

The call came the next afternoon on Saturday. I was sitting on the stairs, and when we got the news, more tears flowed. If you know me, I’m NOT a crier – but sometimes the water hose gets turned on without my permission. We had a mad dash of calling everyone and getting the house ready in 48 hours for Izzy to come home. Our family, friends, and neighbors catapulted things to our home – and I kid you not – Izzy has clothes until she’s 3. Everyone joked that it was our second 48-hour dash for things since Shiloh also came unexpectedly since I had cancer, so we were pros! By Sunday night, her crib was up and we had the basics and then some.

The two-hour trip to the agency flew, and we gorged on Five Guys in the car because we didn’t know if we’d be hungry later from the nerves. Our social worker called the day before and asked us if we wanted to wait to bring Isabella home because the revocation period wasn’t over – the period in which the birth parents can choose to parent – and we said that even if birth mom chose differently, that at least we would be able to love her for a while. We knew this going down, but we weren’t nervous at all. I think it’s because we weren’t fearful or insecure – we didn’t let our potential hurt poison a good thing. After signing all the documents, the social worker asked us if we wanted to meet the baby, and without skipping a beat, I said, “No.” She looked at us like we had lost our minds. I said, “I want to spend time with Arcade first. We loved her first, and it’s so rude to b-line for the baby.” We genuinely loved birth mom first. We didn’t know Izzy yet, but we knew and loved Arcade, and we got to spend time laughing and bonding with our new cousin.

The actual placement was so special, and there are things I want to keep close to our hearts only – to tell Isabella the story one day for the first time, together.

Isabella came home on February 14th – Valentine’s Day.

Open adoption scares people, and we know this. In today’s super mixed world, it’s still not something that is common. There are tons of poorly written Lifetime movies about open adoptions gone wrong, and many people don’t have healthy examples within their close family; we are the first in our families as well. But I think for us, the biggest emotion we have is love for both Arcade and Izzy. They’re not separate entities or situations. We fell in love with Arcade as a person and considered them family first. We love Isabella with our whole hearts as our daughter – and anyone who contests that is going to have to deal with me – and things I may say or do for which I may need to ask forgiveness for later. haha. Joking, not joking.

If I never quit my job as a teacher and trusted God even though it thoroughly broke me, my heart could not have been healed by both Arcade and Izzy. I wouldn’t be at a different company working from home to receive her. I wouldn’t have cashed out 10 years of teaching retirement to help finance some of her fees. We wouldn’t be here.

I don’t have any crazy life lessons because I’m just trying to wing it on no sleep and milk spit up on my shirt – but I do know that you have to LOVE first. You MUST.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind”: 2 Timothy 1:7

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear”: 1 John 4:18

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