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Dear Mushka,

Welcome Cru! + Adoption Tips

Our third son, Cru, was born last week and we are thrilled to have him in our arms.

You can read about our past adoption experiences in these blog posts. For this third adoption, we used Faithful Adoption Consultants again. I highly recommend them or a similar route if speed is a priority to you. We went active around Valentines Day, were matched five weeks later, and held our son two weeks after that!  

You can also follow my personal IG account along here

Many of you have asked for adoption tips beyond choosing an agency so here are a few things this three-time-adoptive-mother would recommend as you prepare to bring your little one home. 

1. Rent an Airbnb as you wait out ICPC. A hotel gets old fast. If you can find a place with a kitchen, living room, and bedroom you'll be able to spread out, avoid eating out so much, and feel more like you're at home while you await the clear to head back to your home state. Ours was just $10 more a night... very worth it.  

2. Pack those little things babies need when they come home from the hospital. A baby thermometer, vaseline for post-circumcision, a nail file perhaps? Of course, a Target or Wal-Mart is probably close by, but if you don't have to buy a duplicate, why do it? 

3. While you're at it, pack a variety of clothing sizes for your little one.  Because my other two boys wore them for multiple weeks, I only brought newborn clothes and as it turns out.. baby number came out too big for them! I had plenty of the next size up at home and kicked myself for not bringing a few of them. Lesson learned! 

4. Bring comfortable, realistic clothes for yourself. This is not the time to look fancy and dolled-up. You might not have delivered a baby, but your emotions have gone through the ringer. Lay low, enjoy being cozy (and make-up free!) while you're away from the company of your friends and family. 

5. Take advantage of the time you have in a different city. Travel all around the state you're in-- for our second son we visited the Red Rocks in Arizona and for number three we planned to go to Waco (hello, Joanna) until we got the clear to come home earlier than expected. 

6. Likewise, enjoy parenting with just your spouse and new child. Did you leave other children at home? Soak up being a parent to just one newborn-- what a unique bonding experience! Go out to eat with your husband before your child gets too old to do so, snuggle up on the bed and watch a movie in between feedings, go for walks, do a little reading!

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Gift Ideas for Birth Mothers & Children

We're busy picking gifts for the expectant mother who has chosen us and her two little girls. I thought it might be helpful to share some items we chose! 

For both parties, we put together a gift basket because hello, who doesn't like a gift basket? 

For her: 

The Together Necklace. I know this is our product and I could be biased, but I truly can't imagine anything better than this. The triangle's sides represent the three parties that make up an adoption (the birth family, the adoptive family, and the adopted child) and the heart represents the love between them all.

I imagine every birth mother wants her child to know how much he or she was loved, and this necklace says that you see that, too. You won't forget her no matter the relationship you have moving forward! 

We're getting one for her, one for her mother (the grandmother of this child), and one for me so that we can all match. I think she'll love it! 

*It comes in gold or silver and with two different verse options- one for the adoptive mother and one for the birth mother. You can also add a stamped initial if you'd like!

Other jewelry options would be a birthstone piece here or a Called stamped initial necklace here. 

A gift certificate for a massage and/or pedicure. She's put her body through so much and could benefit from a little pampering! We googled to find locations in her city. 

Another option along these lines would be to purchase at home spa items- lotion, a face mask, foot scrub, nail polish, lip gloss, etc. 

A photo album. I know these are slightly outdated, but she may love having tangible pictures so close by and the promise that more will come through the years. Another option is a printed book like a Chatbook

Gift cards to local restaurants, grocery stores, etc. So many birthmothers are working hard to thrive and/or have children they are still parenting at home. Local food options or even toy store dollars help her love her people and herself well. 

Come alongside as best you can to support and care! 

For her children:

If she has children she's parenting, you may want to gift them a little something, too. I think our expectant mother will appreciate these gifts the most, the same way that I'm so thrilled when someone loves on my boys. 

Activities to do while she recovers. We got this and this and this and I think they'll be a hit for everyone and will provide sweet entertainment when she just needs to sit and rest. (I need to get the same for myself!)

Books that feature different races if applicable. Many expectant mothers want to know that you'll honor your non-Caucasian child's heritage. We purchased this one and this one (which has lots of great additional options) for her girls as an example of what we have at home. 

Something from your children to hers. Our boys picked out some candy (duh) and a random but perfect item from the dollar section at Target. They're also going to draw a little note to tuck inside the basket. 

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Adoption Frequently Asked Questions Part 3

We are adopting Little Mushka #3 and if you are interested in helping make this possible, head over to this blog post to see how you can help!

I get asked so many question every week about adoption. You can find my previous posts with FAQ’s here and here if you’d like to learn more about our story❤️

If you’ve ever thought about adoption, it can be really overwhelming with all of the options. There’s domestic or international adoptions, race, gender, medical conditions and agencies to consider. We prayed Psalm 32:8 through this entire process - He WILL direct you!

We basically just followed the path of a friend who had adopted for our first adoption and really trusted their advice. The Lord made everything clear for us and it all fell beautifully into place.

Every state is different and the goal of Tennessee’s foster care system is to reunify families. We knew we were ready to adopt a child so we checked foster care off of our list.

Our next decision was choosing between an agency or consultant group. We ultimately chose a consultancy group as our name is out there for multiple agencies to see, which means its a quicker process as there are many expectant mothers who are able to find you. We used Faithful Adoption Consultants and we love them!

Our first adoption ended up being a private adoption. We did it one time and knew that was how we should grow our family from then on. We couldn’t love our baby Brooks more, no matter if he had grown in my own womb or somebody else’s.

When we pursued our second adoption, we went all the way through with Faithful Adoption Consultants. A consultant group helps a ton with speed if that matters to you. We went active with our adoption in October and were matched in November. Our little boy was born in January.

Adoption doesn’t have to be hard and long and expensive and scary. If God calls you to do it, say YES. I was super scared and overwhelmed at first. Our adoptions have been the very best parts of our lives and both times, we have felt God holding our hands and leading just to the next right step.

As for finances, we fundraised our adoptions. God covered every cent. Our second adoption was totally funded through Dear Mushka😭❤️ We are also raising funds for our third adoption (you can find all the details here.)

Not everyone is called to adopt themselves, and that is totally okay. However, we are all are called to serve others and take care of one another. So some choose to say yes to donating money towards an adoption.

Our adoption necklace mentioned in the video is a triangle which represents the birth family, adoptive family and the child. It’s the perfect gift for a birth mother or adoptive mother and comes with reflective scripture cards.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Birth Parents

I feel like there is a lot of negative stereotypes and fear surrounding birth mothers. I was in the exact same place the first time we adopted and I thought ‘what if this sweet mama decides to change her mind?’.

I wanted to make it clear that a birth mother is just an expectant mother until the rights have been signed over. She can still change her mind even if she chooses you and promises to give you the child.

Adoption is so beautiful but the fact that the child has two families interacting in their lives means it can still be complicated. It’s totally normal to be hesitant with open adoptions for this reason. We chose yes to open adoptions for both of ours, but our birth mothers chose not to have a relationship with us.

Home Study

It’s not a difficult process but can be tedious. The social workers are always really kind and interested in getting to know you! They are simply there to see that you live in a safe environment.

When You and Your Husband Aren’t On The Same Page

What I’ve found a lot of comfort in, came from the Bible when Abram was called to a new land without a lot of details. God doesn’t tell him where he is going, simply that He will lead him. So we took baby steps forward with a lot of prayer for unity.

I hope you found this helpful! Feel free to DM me any more questions and follow along on our IG stories to see us bring Mushka #3 home❤️

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Four Gifts Ideas for the Seasons of Motherhood

We know that motherhood comes with every emotion possible.

I wanted to share four gifts ideas for either yourself, a good friend or anyone you know walking through a specific season of motherhood.

If you’re shopping for someone walking through any of these up and downs, we pray these pieces and verses are exactly what their hearts need to find hope and thanksgiving this season. Every piece comes boxed with a verse card and is covered in prayer.

Watch the video below to see each piece in detail or find them linked below with thier corresponding verse✨

Infertility

The Expectant Necklace is supposed to mimic an empty cradle for a season of infertility (or any season of waiting). The verse that accompanies it is: Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act・Psalm 37

I used this verse for infertility because we can wait expectantly for something like a child while trusting that if we commit our lives to God, no matter what happens, He promises to act in the very best way on our behalf.

Miscarriage

The Aid Necklace reminds us of Who fills the holes in our hearts as we mourn the loss of a child or loved on. It’s accompanying verse is: He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds・Psalm 147

Adoption

The Together Necklace is especially close to our hearts because we have adopted two little boys and have a third little Mushka on the way. (If you would like to help bring our next little one home, you can find more information here!)

This necklace has a triangle to show the three people groups that make up an adoption - the adoptive family, the birth family and the child. The little heart hangs down to represent the love shared between them all.

It also comes with the option of two different verses, one for adoptive parents and one for birth parents. The adoptive parent verse is: For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to Him ・1 Samuel 1:27

The birth parent verse is: The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing・Zephaniah 3:17

Long Awaited Child

The Brimming Necklace makes the sweetest gift to celebrate a long awaited child. What I love about the design is that it pairs so well with the Expectant Necklace-- they tuck into each other.

It comes with the accompanying verse: For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things・Psalm 107:9

This, of course, does not mean that God always sees fit to provide a child. But always, always He promises to fill our souls with Himself, which is the real gift. 

These necklaces can also be switched and used for different seasons, however you see fit. It can be so challenging to know what to gift others during these difficult seasons of life - I hope these make it just a little easier❤️

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ADOPTION: faqs part two

Okay! Here's part two of our adoption FAQs. [Find part one HERE]. These focus more on the post-adoption process. 

1. How long did you wait to bring your children home? 

We met both our baby boys in the hospital and were given our own room to snuggle them in for a night or two. Then we were able to take them back to our hotel room while ICPC cleared. That's basically the communication from your adoptive state to your home state verifying that you are, in fact, allowed to take home this child; it can take a few days to a month+. Our first adoption took a few days, our second took a few weeks. Both times, we savored the opportunity to be away from "normal life" and soaked in our new little guys. 

2. How did extended family and friends respond to your adoptions? 

I have a feeling a few people were shocked when we said we were going to adopt the first time and double shocked when we said we were doing it again, but they hid it well and have loved our boys 100%. I'll never forget our first son's first birthday and the packed house we had for his party. A family member is a family member, no matter how they got there. And it's been such a fun way to share the gospel with people it wouldn't have normally come up in conversation with. 

3. Were you worried about the birthmothers changing their minds? How do you speak to your children about their adoptions/ birth parents? Do you have a relationship with them? Etc. 

Certainly, every situation is different here. For us, we were absolutely open to a relationship with our birthmothers and don't have one right now because they haven't been open to it. And that's okay! 

We were never really worried about her changing her mind, but did use the allotted time period (different in every state) to pray an extra amount for all parties involved. We also tried to collect any information we could in case our boys would like to have it down the road. 

We pray with our boys for their birth families every night and have started to talk to our 3 yr old about how he grew in Ms. T's belly and then was put in my arms to snuggle and smooch. We have the utmost respect for both families, and want our boys to grow up knowing how loved and desired they were.

4. What's been the hardest part of adopting?

Foolishly, the hardest part for me has only come in my own mind & worry as I anticipate hard conversations and emotions as our boys get older. I know they'll have questions and I fear I won't be able to lead them well. But of course, when I remind myself of how freely God gives wisdom, and how he works all things for his glory and our good, I know he has my sweet boy's hearts in his hands. He'll be there with us as the difficulties come (just as he is for every mother as we learn how to teach and lead our children in everything else!)

5. What's been the best part?

Gosh, I don't think I could ever narrow down a best part; the good outweighs any hardships infinitely. Saying "yes" to something unknown when God called us to it was beautifully faith-building. Having our family look a little like Heaven makes me so excited to worship with believers of all races and colors. Having the gospel front and center in my mind on a daily basis, and being able to share it naturally with others through our adoptions. And really, understanding in a deeper way what God did for us as he adopted us into his family-- priceless. Doing something hard and sanctifying with my husband. Having racial reconciliation at the front of my mind and starting to use my privilege for change. 

And of course, having these sons in our home. We couldn't love them one single bit more. 

6. But how do I do their hair?

(Referring to African American hair, mainly) I got this question a lot which made me laugh because I was unsure, too! And double laugh because, like, I still don't even know how to do my own hair? Ha!

The short answer is: Everyone's hair is different. I was told that my second son's hair, especially, would change a ton by 6 months. At the beginning, we brushed it lightly with this brush and then sprayed in a little of this. We recently started rubbing this in every morning and evening to keep it soft and moisturized. 

So far, his hair is short and there isn't much to do. We'll keep learning as we go on. But I think that's one of the best parts of having a child of a different race-- we have a sweet opportunity to get outside our comfort zones and reach out to people who don't look just like us. I'm really good friends with one of our Target cashiers now :) 

7. Which books would you recommend for both an adoptive parent AND adopted children? Books that feature children of color? 

You know the reader in me loves this question. Here are two I definitely recommend for adults.

[Click on the pictures for a direct link]

 

Adoption books for children can be tricky because they tend to have a specific story line that doesn't always apply to your situation. These are pretty generic and encourage good conversation. But of course, we own a few that don't totally apply to us ("I adopted because I couldn't get pregnant" or "you came from far away across the world") and we use those for conversation, too. 

 

As far as books featuring dark-skinned children goes, I have been pleasantly surprised to see how many there are gracing the aisles of Target (or the shelves of Amazon). I've read some of them, and have the rest on our list for one day. Some of these series are beautiful-- I'd recommend to every one... especially those of you with white children only. Let's show them the diversity God has made!

I hope this helps! Shoot me an e-mail if you have more questions. Katie@dearmushka.com

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ADOPTION: faqs part one

Recently, I asked my Instagram community if they had any questions for me, a two time adoptive mama, and the responses flooded in. And oh sisters, I get it! Adoption can be a really intimidating process. 

I'm going to do my best to answer these questions, but please remember this is our family's story, only. Take what is helpful, skim over the rest. And mostly, trust in our Big God who promises to instruct, teach, & counsel with his eyes upon you [Psalm 32:8] If He has called you to this, He will absolutely see you through it. 

Alright! Prepare to read. 

_____________

1. Did we always want to adopt? Were we always on the same page?

The short answer is: no, and no

The longer answer goes something like:

There are people who grow up with a passion for adoption, and neither Robert nor I were one of those people. Adoption had literally [and sadly] never come up in conversation over the 6ish years we'd known one another... so imagine my surprise when God used a random show on PBS to whisper to my heart: "you will find your first child through adoption." And imagine Robert's surprise when I told him the same. 

For a solid year after that, Robert was not on board. It's not that he didn't like adoption in theory, it's just that neither of us had grown up around it and pursuing it as a plan A for growing our family felt abnormal and scary. We went through all the typical concerns our world screams at us. Didn't we want "our own" children first? [Eeesh] Where would we even start? What if the child was addicted to drugs? What if the birthmother changed her mind? What if the child was a different race than us? 

It was the first time we'd disagreed on something major in our marriage & the first time I had to pray consistently for a clear answer. The growth that came from that process, alone, was life changing. Looking back, I'm so grateful for that year; I learned how to lean on the Lord, how to seek His answer, how to patiently wait, how to respect my husband in the midst of disagreement, etc.

Sanctification, baby. 

2. What did we do once we decided to pursue adoption?

After a year of praying for clear direction & unified hearts within our marriage, The Lord kindly changed Robert's heart. And then we had a lot of decisions to make :) 

After Googling "how to adopt in TN" and feeling incredibly overwhelmed with the information available, we prayed in faith that God would make our next steps clear. At that time, we weren't doing life with anyone who had adopted so I talked to the one distant friend I knew who was in the process. She told us the home study group & agency her family was using and we said "sounds great!" and contacted them right away. 

For our first adoption, we signed up with Faithful Adoption Consultants but ended up adopting our sweet Brooks via private adoption through a connection from church. [That's another story but essentially, right before we signed on with FAC someone knew someone who was pregnant and we said YES.] For our second adoption, we signed up with FAC again and completed the adoption through them. 

3. What is a consultant group? Is that like an agency? 

An adoption consultant group is kind of like a middle man between you and an agency. Instead of being one agency themselves [something like Bethany], they work with multiple agencies.

The Pros: You're usually matched with a child more quickly because your name is out there more often. They're incredibly helpful and kind when you might otherwise feel very alone in the process.

The Cons: It tends to be more pricey-- You have to pay them a fee [it was around $2k when we did it] and then might get matched with a birthmother who is part of a more expensive agency. The agency might be out of state [rather than choosing something in-state like Bethany], which comes with additional fees like travel and accommodations.  

4. How did you make certain decisions like age, race, domestic vs international, fostering to adopt vs an agency, etc?

These questions feel extra hard because they aren't decisions that need to be made when you're growing your family through biological children; they're unnatural! 

For us, we never felt drawn to a country outside of America. There are children in our backyards that need homes and we loved the idea of meeting & knowing our children's birthmothers. [And yes, were also pretty intimidated by that idea!] 

Our hearts were ecstatic at the thought of adopting children of a different race who would reflect the beauty of Heaven, but we also knew issues would eventually come up as a interracial family. We decided to say "yes" to anything and trust that God would give us wisdom as we needed it. And he's been faithful to do so!

Every state is different, and fostering to adopt is not the main way people adopt young children in Tennessee. Here, the goal of foster care really is reunification with their biological family. At the time, we knew we wanted to grow our family with small children first and didn't think it would be fair to enter into the foster care system with that goal in mind. But every state is different! And we'd love to do foster care one day. That just wasn't the time. 

5. How long did it take? How did you trust God during the wait? And what does that process look like?

Every adoption is completely different here. The short answer is that we were able to bring both our boys home in a shorter amount of time than I could have grown a baby. Part of that was because we chose to use a consultant group [see above], part of that was how open we were to race and minor health concerns-- we weren't looking for a 100% healthy white baby. And a lot of it was just the way God chose to write our story. 

It can be so hard to sit at home with your arms and heart open, while you're seemingly not making any progress. I repeated verses to myself about God being the one to bring justice & care to the orphans. Verses about endurance, patience, faith, etc. 

And I love this quote from Russell Moore in Adopted for Life: "There’s something about patience that God deems necessary for our life in the age to come and so, whether through agriculture or discipleship or bodily development or eschatology or procreation, God makes us wait” 

As far as the process goes, you generally "go active" after your home study is complete [don't fear that part at all!] and you've made some sort of profile book-- a book full of pictures and some words for birthmothers to look at as they consider their prospective adoptive parents. Once you're active, your profile book is shown to birthmothers who meet your criteria (max adoptive fees, health, race, etc). When you're chosen, you receive a call from your agency. And you happy dance big time. And probably freak out for a minute.

6. How much did it cost? How did you fundraise? 

So many people asked this question and I totally understand- I imagine costs are one of the biggest reasons people decided not to pursue adoption.

For our first adoption, we used the funds from Dear Mushka [a small Etsy shop at the time] & we sold puzzle pieces to a 1,000 piece puzzle for $40 each. Your name went on the back of the piece when you bought it, and the puzzle hangs in my son's room to this day. I posted updates on Facebook to keep people in the loop and friends loved us so well. In the end, God gave us $12 more than we needed for our adoption. We bought burgers :) Because this adoption ended up being a private adoption through church friends it was well under the average cost. 

For our second adoption, we sold t-shirts and used the income from Dear Mushka to fund the whole thing [giant hugs to you if you helped support us in this!] Because we used Faithful Adoption Consultants, got paired with a pricey agency, bought last minute plane tickets, had to stay in another state for two weeks, etc. this adoption was well over the average cost. 

But you know? God provided everything we needed both times. And I think he loves doing that, reminding us that he is the owner of all funds and showing off when we are weak and needy. Which we definitely were. 

I clung to this verse: "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work." -2 Corinthians 9:8

Ultimately, DO NOT let finances be the reason you tell God no if He is calling your family to adoption. Trust him as the creator and sustainer of all things. Tell him your fears! Ask him to provide. And watch him lavish you with gift upon gift. I have yet to meet a family who said they weren't able to pay for their adoption when God called them to it. 

And remember, your life is not compartmentalized into times God is working on you to become more like Him and times He is not. God promises to complete His good work in you [Phil 1:6], which means He will use things like adoption to do so. Praise Him for growing your faith & ridding your heart of sin in the process!

[Note: We didn't go this route, but I know there are tons of adoption loans, grants, etc too. I imagine a local adoption agency would be really helpful here.]

7. Okay, I'm definitely interested-- what do I do next? 

If you haven't read Adopted for Life, I can't recommend it enough. For everyone, adopting or not! It's such a beautiful book about how we're all adopted into God's family and is packed with helpful truths. I was shocked at how many adoptive terms I'd been saying incorrectly. [Example: "own children" or "are they REAL siblings"]

I'm blanking on the statistic, but something like 60% of families want to adopt and only 2% do. Satan has his hand in this, y'all! Talk to anyone who has adopted, ask your pastor if someone in your local church can be a good reference, or just give a local agency a call. If someone works in the adoption world, chances are they love it and will be more than happy to answer all your questions. I called one agency before Robert was even on board and said "I have no idea what I'm doing but if we decide to adopt, what would our next steps be, just out of curiosity?" She was so helpful!

And ultimately, stay in the word. Pray, pray, pray. Pursue Christ, and the rest will fall into place. 

I'm going to split this up into two parts. The "post adoption" FAQs coming next!

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