Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Gift of Taylor

So many people have told us that they are waiting on pins and needles to hear the story of Taylor's homecoming, but we have been so busy loving our sweet little girl that I have not had time to write this post.  Without further ado, here is the incredible story of how God brought our sweet baby home and made it clear to us that he perfectly planned for her to fit right into our family.  It was never an accident, but a miracle that was perfectly ordained by the Lord.  

On March 28th I wrote to tell you that we received word from our case worker that we had been approved for our adoption, but I also told you that I had a few small issues with getting our photo album printed and actually in the hands of our agency.  On April 1st we received the official letter notifying us of our approval, but we noticed a typo on the 10 copies of our photo album we had just printed. After a few small hiccups and reprints our photo album was finally reprinted and delivered to Christian Homes.  At that point I really could not understand why our caseworker needed it so urgently; however, everything is much more clear now that I am looking back.  :) 

On April 2nd our birth mom asked a friend to call Christian Homes to inquire about adoption.  The next day the maternity case worker drove to her town to meet with her.  During that meeting the case worker also delivered to her the adoptive family profiles from which she would choose.  Over the weekend our birth mom spent time with two friends reviewing the profiles and making her choice.  Incredibly we were told that these three ladies each reviewed the profiles and ranked their top three choices without sharing their thoughts with each other.  All three ladies choose us as their first choice to be Taylor's parents.  How incredible is that?! (There is another neat story here as well, but we will save those details to share with you in person.  Be sure to ask when we see you!)

On April 7th the caseworker once again returned to our birth mom's town because our birth mom was ready to relinquish her rights and choose the forever family for Taylor.  I cannot even tell you how incredibly amazing this is to us.  She made such a difficult but loving decision to put her own desires aside and choose what was in Taylor's best interest.  Wow!  What selfless love…it is almost unfathomable to me.  

On this day Taylor went into temporary foster care with a sweet couple who happen to live two streets away from us.  Even more incredible is the fact that we knew this couple because they lead a marriage ministry that our dear friends have taken part in at a local church here in Abilene.  At one point when we had just begun the adoption process we had the pleasure of meeting Taylor's foster parents while visiting our friend in the hospital.  We had a great conversation about adoption and their part in the adoption ministry.  So you can imagine how incredibly comforting it was for us to find out that they had been caring for our precious little one with such special care (we found this out on April 22nd).  

In the situation of a child who has already been born being placed for adoption, the agency takes care of the legal details before notifying the adoptive family.  We appreciate this so much because it guards our hearts in case something does not work out.  The court docket here in Abilene had over a month wait at that point; however, they were able to get onto the court docket in Tarrant County much more quickly.  Since our agency also has an office in Fort Worth, they were able to use their lawyer in Tarrant County to take care of this.  Praise the Lord! 

On April 22nd, DJ received a phone call from a number he did not recognize while in a meeting.  He let the call go to his voicemail and listened to the message a little while later.  He had trouble understanding who left the message, but he did understand the woman saying, "When I call you need to answer!!!"  LOL!  He called her back unsure of who he was actually calling and received the unbelievable news that a birth mom had picked us!!!  He actually did not believe her at first, but finally realized that she was in fact serious.  At that point she told him that they wanted to have a conference call with us later that afternoon when I got out of school to present family history and other information to us.  

Meanwhile, I am busy beginning our daily Writer's Workshop with my first graders when our school counselor walks in to tell me that she will watch my class because I am needed in the hall.  I was so confused, but walk into the hallway to find my husband there with the most unbelievable news.  I go back into my classroom and walk through that day in silent amazement, not yet ready to share our news because we did not know what would happen later that day. 

At 4:00 that afternoon DJ and I sat in his office anxiously awaiting the phone call from the case workers.  When the phone rang, three ladies were on the line (our case worker, the maternity case worker, and the foster care case worker).  The ladies walked through all the background information and details, first of the birth parents, then of the reason for choosing adoption, and finally we heard about our sweet Taylor.  We could not believe our ears when we found out that she was 9 months old and in foster care with the incredibly family we already knew!

From there, we were told of how the next 48 hours would go.  First, they asked us to spend the evening talking and praying about whether God was leading us to this birth mom and baby.  The case worker would call in the morning to find out our decision.  If we chose to proceed we would meet the birth mom and our baby the next day after school.  That night we spent time seeking the Lord's will for our family and felt great peace that this was our baby!  
These are the first pics we saw of our little girl. 
Incredibly, this picture was taken on Easter Sunday (the Sunday before we met her.)  Taylor is wearing the dress of one of my student's precious little sisters!  (These details are not lost on me… God has shown us every step of the way how He even cares about the little details and making us feel so loved by placing her in a dress of a little girl in a family who is so very special to us - in fact her father is the lawyer doing our adoption!!)

The next day we arrived at the agency right after school.  When we arrived we went to our case worker's office to go over some paperwork.  We were not expecting to see Taylor's name paired with our last name on the top of the very first paper we signed!  Wow, at this point DJ fell to his knees out of the arm chair he was sitting in and I had an incredible joy and peace.  We were stunned and completely filled with wonderful amazement!  

After about 30 minutes of paper work and talking about the next steps we were taken to meet our birth mom.  While we were signing these papers, our birth mom had the chance to see precious Taylor again for the first time since April 7th.  Next, we were brought to meet our birth mom, as Shelly, our foster mom took Taylor out for a few minutes so that we could talk before meeting Taylor.  After spending some time talking with our birth mom and her friends, Shelly brought Taylor back into the room.  We were amazed when we saw this sweet face.  It was clear from the very beginning that Taylor has the sweetest little personality.  

We spent the next 30 or so minutes in this room while we got to know Taylor.  For me this part was very overwhelming because there were so many people watching our first interactions with our sweet baby girl, but what I now understand is how important this step is to the process.  By allowing our birth mom time to see our first interactions with Taylor, she was able to receive peace knowing that she had made the rich decision for her baby.  At the end of it all, we talked about our plans for open adoption and came to an agreement about what that would look like as we discussed what we all felt would  benefit Taylor most.  We chose to stay in contact with our birth mom by sending pictures for the next 6 months and then by having at least yearly contact after that.  The goodbyes that day were so hard, but when we left we went to our foster parents home to have our first supervised visit with Taylor (the state of Texas requires that children in foster care have two supervised visits with adoptive parents before placement.)  

That night we had such precious time with Taylor feeding her dinner, giving her first bath as her parents, reading, and putting her to bed.  In addition, we felt a deep connection with our foster parents, CV and Shelly, and I know that this relationship will continue for Taylor's lifetime.  

The next day, Thursday, April 24th I spent my last day of teaching for this school year.  It was a bittersweet day with many tears as I thought about what was about to begin and as I said goodbye to my class sooner than I had expected.  In addition, I frantically readied my room for my long-term substitute teacher to take over.  

Thursday after school I literally left school in a sprint to make it to CV and Shelly's house, while DJ met the foster care case worker at our home.  CV and Shelly helped me to load Taylor in the car and I drove her the 2 short blocks home with CV and Shelly following.  

When we pulled into our driveway I wept as I saw a banner hanging across our house that said, "Welcome Home Taylor Nichole!"  

Our sweet neighbors stood in our driveway with DJ and the foster care case worker, all with joyous smiles.  These neighbors played a big part in why we immediately loved Taylor's name and knew we would not change it.  You see their granddaughter, Taylor, had passed away a few years  back in a skiing accident, but her life saved six others through organ donation.  Her mother and father have now started a foundation called "Taylor's Gift" in honor of their precious Taylor. 

Taylor’s Gift Foundation was founded in 2010 with a mission to Regift Life, Renew Health and Restore Families.  In its first year they were named Foundation of the year and appeared on shows such as "Good Morning America."  

We hope that our sweet Taylor will inspire many others to continue the legacy of Taylor Storch and sign up to be an organ donor.  

When we told our neighbors, Bernie and Joan, of our daughter's name you can imagine their joy as they welcomed a surrogate granddaughter to their family.  In addition to this special story for our Taylor's first name, she also has my middle name! That night, we had our last supervised visit before Taylor got to spend the night for the first time with her forever family!!!!

The days after this were filled with bliss as we literally spent every second we could loving on our sweet baby girl.  We were also completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love we received as our friends and church family poured out support to our new family of three!  We had friends who did our registries (I mean how incredible is that?!?), planned our first shower, showed up with dinner, diapers, formula, organized the gifts... Oh man, someone would say "what do you need?" And I would say I have no idea... And poof it was just taken care of... We were also blessed by people who mowed the lawn, painted the nursery, organized baby clothes, did the laundry, went grocery shopping for us, stopped by with Starbucks and cried with me, brought dinner AND breakfast for the next day, made freezer meals… set up dinners to be delivered for a month, and the list goes on and on.  It is completely humbling and overwhelming us with joy. We are truly blessed. Our God is so good. Seeing this unfold shows me that the 7 year wait was exactly what he intended for a purpose to bring Taylor home just when he planned. 

These sweet little cheeks are asleep in the other room. I still cannot believe it! Thank you for sharing our joy!  Our thank you note list is getting longer by the minute.  Once we settle in we will start writing a personal note to tell each of you how thankful we are for your incredible love and support!!!