Friday, September 7, 2012

Audrey's Story

Hello again!! It's been awhile since I've blogged because we have had quite the eventful summer!! As many of you know, eight weeks ago, on July 12, 2012, we welcomed home baby Bell #2, our precious 8 month old (at the time) daughter, Audrey Elizabeth Ann. Just like Seth, there is a beautiful story behind Audrey's adoption and we are so excited to finally share what's been unfolding in our lives over the last eight months. In addition to our new baby girl, Evan got a new job back in Little Rock so we are wrapping up our time here in Bentonville and we will be headed back "home" in a month or so! I truly have so much to blog about but no time to blog! haha Anyway... here is the story of how our precious girl joined our family... 

This past January, Seth turned two. In the weeks leading up to Seth's second birthday, Evan and I began to discuss plans for baby #2. We weren't exactly ready for baby #2 right then but because we were about to have a 2 year old and we had originally planned to have 3-3.5 years age difference between our children and both pregnancy and adoption take time, we were ready to make a decision as to how we were going to grow our family and then plan our next steps. Neither of us felt dead set on one option or the other this time around so we began to pray that God would make it clear to us how He wanted us to grow our family next and which option would be best for Seth.

Seth turned 2 on January 15 and two days later, on January 17, I received a text message from Caryl (Seth's former foster mother) with a picture of her new foster baby. Although Caryl and I are very close friends and she always sends me pictures of her foster babies (and I always send them to Evan and believe it or not we don't always fall in love with them! haha), I was very surprised to receive this picture because Caryl had just told me a few days earlier that she and her family were taking a break from fostering for a while. I immediately text her back and said, "She's beautiful but I thought you were taking a break!!??" Caryl then wrote me back and said that they were planning on taking a break and she had even turned down the calls to take in several other babies over the last week but when she got the call for this baby she just "felt like she was supposed to say yes".

We continued our conversation and I asked Caryl what the baby's name was... Because our adoption is not finalized yet, I cannot share Audrey's birth name but I will tell you that she had four names (first, middle, middle, last) and one of her middle names was Ann. Now let me back up for a second... my name is Rachel Elizabeth Ann Bell. In my entire life, I could count on one hand the number of people that I have met who have four names... it's just not common. Furthermore, only one of my four names is a family name and that's "Ann", which is my Mom's middle name. Not only is "Ann" a family name on my side of the family, it is also a family name on Evan's side of the family. Before Evan and I ever got married, we agreed that if we were to ever have a daughter, we wanted her to carry on the tradition of having four names and we wanted one of those four names to be "Ann".

So, as you can probably imagine, Evan and I were in the middle of praying about how to grow our family next and up pops a picture of a baby girl (with a similar background to Seth and who now had the same foster parents that he had) and that Caryl "just felt like she was supposed to say yes to" and of all the names in the world, the baby's name just happened to be a name that REALLY means something to us... well, that got our attention.

A few weeks later, on February 5, we went to a Super Bowl party and Caryl (and her family) were there with their new foster baby.  (A few days after this party, Caryl and her family moved Audrey to a new (and equally wonderful) foster family because Caryl and her family were in the process of adopting a precious six year old little girl of their own! At the time, we did not know the new foster family so if we had not been at that party, we would never have met Audrey in person.) That was the night that we first met Audrey and fell in love with her (something I'll never be able to explain... but it has happened to Evan and me twice now and it's both thrilling and terrifying to hold a baby that isn't yours and feel a love that you can't explain and have the unmistakeable feeling that the baby was meant to be yours forever!). That was the night that we decided to chase after Audrey.

From February 5 until July 6 (the day we got the call that we had been chosen to be her forever family) we did everything in our power (which is not much when you're dealing with the state foster care system! ha!) to be Audrey's parents and we prayed that if God wanted her to be a Bell that he would make it obvious by continuing to open doors.

Over the five months that we pursued Audrey, so many miraculous and unexpected things happened and here are just a few of them...

-For a while, it was expected that she would go to a birth family member instead of becoming available for adoption. However, over time, the family members that wanted to be considered slowly (for one reason or another) became a non issue.

-Audrey's termination hearing (the day that she became available for adoption) was set for May 22 (which is our anniversary). This was even more significant to us because one of the pieces to Seth's story of joining our family is that his termination hearing was on September 28 (which is my birthday). We thought is was very cool and just a sweet little "go ahead" to us from God that out of 365 days of the year, our son and the baby girl that we were hoping would be our daughter both became available for adoption on days that were very significant to Evan and me!

-The day of Audrey's termination hearing, we were really nervous because as soon as her parental rights were terminated, she would become available for adoption and could be placed with her forever family. Obviously we wanted to be her forever family but we had been told a few days before the hearing (when we thought we had done everything necessary to have our home "reopened") that we would still have to have an updated home study before our home would be considered "open" and we could be considered among the other families to be chosen as Audrey's forever family. We were also told that the list of families waiting for a home study was VERY long and we had just been added to the bottom of the list so it wasn't likely that we'd have a home study any time soon. And basically, that it wasn't likely that our home would be "open" in time for us to be considered for Audrey... we needed a miracle. 

-As expected, on May 22, the day of the hearing, we had still not even been contacted about scheduling a home study. However, a man showed up in the courtroom that day and said that he was Audrey's biological father and he wanted custody of her. The judge ordered that the man needed to have a paternity test and put Audrey's adoptive placement on hold until the results of the test came back. The day before the results of the paternity test came back, we were contacted by a social worker who wanted to do our home study right away. The next day, we found out that the paternity results were negative and an adoptive placement could again be pursued after a procedural two week waiting period. If that man had not walked into that courtroom on May 22 and unnecessarily slowed the process of Audrey's adoptive placement, we would never have even been considered among the other families because our home would not have been "open" in time... that man's unexplainable (other than God's providence) appearance in court that day bought us the exact amount of time that we needed.

-And then there's perhaps the biggest miracle of all... Audrey's adoption specialist actually chose us. In mid May, there was a carnival style adoption event in Little Rock where all of the families that had already been approved to adopt through the Arkansas foster care system and all of the children that were available for adoption in Arkansas got to know each other in a nonthreatening and fun way. At the end of the event, the prospective families expressed to their adoption specialists any children that they were interested in adopting and the goal was for the adoption specialists to make matches from there. Audrey attended the event and was probably the youngest child there. Because of her age, gender and overall adorableness :), many families expressed interest in adopting her. Along with the families from the event, many families "matched" to her in the computer system. When choosing a family for Audrey, her adoption specialist considered every family from the event and every family in the computer system... and miraculously, we were the lucky (blessed beyond measure) family that got the call!!!  

And those are just the big things... I could go on and on about all the little things that weren't supposed to happen that happened and how unlikely this adoption was when we first started chasing after our baby girl last February... and that is my favorite thing about her story... it seemed impossible that everything would fall into place for us to get the privilege of being her forever family yet "impossible" was no match for God's plan for us and our little Audrey Elizabeth Ann!! We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was meant to be our daughter and we are SO thankful and feel SO blessed that God chose us to be her forever family!! 


I have been writing the above post over the last 8 weeks as I have had free time and I am so excited to finally share "Audrey's story" but I just wanted to add a few thoughts on adoption in general. Almost weekly, someone emails me or sends me a Facebook message or asks me in the grocery store, etc. (both friends and strangers) questions about adoption. I have noticed that there is so much interest out there and because adoption has been one of the greatest experiences of my entire life, I want to do everything I can to encourage others to adopt. I tell our adoption stories in such detail for two reasons: 1. In a world where adoption is considered by many people to be second best, it is important for our children to know their stories and to know that there are no children in the world more loved and wanted by both God and by their parents than Seth and Audrey Bell. It is important for them to know that they are meant to be in the family that they are in and that God has worked out all the tiny details of their lives because they matter to Him. By Evan and I proudly sharing their stories to anyone who will listen, we hope they will come to know these things and grow up feeling secure. 2. We feel like we have stumbled upon the world's best kept secret and we want to share the joy and accessibility of adoption. I still don't know how we got lucky enough to be the parents of these two precious children and I am so thankful for the life that God has blessed us with. I want every person that tells me that they want to adopt "someday" to see that adoption is a dream worth chasing and an experience that they don't want to miss. 

However, I sometimes worry that our stories will do the opposite. Because we have been so clearly called to adopt specific children twice now, I worry that we may be encouraging other people to wait for a similar experience. I may be making this all up in my head... but just in case, I want to say that every adoption is different and God chooses to reveal himself and "call" people to action in all sorts of different ways and I believe with all of my heart that the simple DESIRE to adopt is your calling to adopt. God doesn't give that desire to everyone and it's not something to be ignored or even postponed. I believe that your desire is your calling and your calling is not just to adopt... but to go get the child or children that God created and planned before the beginning of time to be yours. It is such an honor, blessing and sheer joy to experience adoption. My life is not perfect... Audrey doesn't sleep through the night, my house is never clean, I am never on time anywhere I go, I have only cooked dinner for my family like 5 times this summer and I've probably only put makeup on 5-10 times in the last 8 weeks.... but it's wonderful. To me, it feels perfect in every way and if you feel a "desire", I hope you realize how blessed you truly are. Go get your babies.

If you're still reading, I'm impressed. I've probably annoyed or maybe even offended some of you... but I have a hard time reining in my passion for adoption. Because I'm a people pleaser, I would like to end with a disclaimer: I know that not everyone is called to adopt. I don't think you're wrong if you if you don't adopt. I also don't think you're wrong if you plan to adopt "someday". I'm simply sharing my joy. Other than salvation, I have found adoption to be the most share-worthy experience of my life. My desire is to encourage others, not to boss or preach... so hopefully someone out there has found some encouragement.

Have a great weekend :)



Elisabeth said...

My name is Elisabeth Ann, named for my grandmothers. In school I went to school with two girls who's names are Elisabeth Ann (or Elizabeth Ann) Either their first name was Elisabeth/Elizabeth or their middle names were Elizabeth Ann/Elisabeth Ann.

We've dreamed of having children, both biological and adoptive. We've had a heartbreaking journey persuing those.

My Son was born prematurely and passed away shortly before his birth. My due date was April 24th, which is my birthday. His sister joined him in heaven 17 months later.

I know one day our story will have a wonderful ending :)

Molly said...

What a sweet sweet post!! I loved reading all of Audrey's story and how God provided a way and brought her into y'alls life. I also have four names so I consider her a very special little girl!! Thank you for sharing more about adoption. I've always thought I would like to adopt someday. your sharing was very encouraging to me!

Morgan said...

Rachel, what an awesome story! I have 3 cousins who are adopted so I have a huge heart for it and love to see kids find their forever family! Love the story God is unfolding in your family!


I have followed your blog for a while now, but have never commented. I must say that this post gave me the chills - It is truly amazing how everything fell in place for this to happen!

My husband and I have two children of our own but have tossed around the thought of adopting another some day. Your post gave me hope that maybe it could happen.

Congratulations on little Audrey! Can't wait to hear more about her.

Callie Granderson said...

Amazing story!!!! Thank you so much for sharing and for all of the details! God is so good!

Lindsey said...

Stop misleading these haven't been on time ANYWHERE a day in your life...pre or post children! ;) ;)

I just love your passion for adoption, yours and Evan’s first step to always peruse God’s will, and your motherly instinct when you meet your children for the first time. Just hearing you talking about knowing they are your babies is amazing to me! What a wonderful story you have to tell and what a resource you can be to other adoptive parents trying to find their way through the system!

I feel like we need to start planning Christmas NOW so I can see your kids!
Love you!

Mom of 5 said...

Hi, I am friends with Caryl, and I think I met you at one of the HG events...back when she had Seth in her home still. I have followed his journey to you, which was amazing, and am now so excited to read about your newest additions!

I am an adoptive momma of 2 boys, and I feel like God wrote our story as well. Christie was our little boy's foster mom before he came to us, so just that is so special to me! Our names are very significant as well, as if God named our children for us.

We are currently fostering a little girl, and I don't know how things will develop with her, but I felt that overwhelming feeling from the beginning that she is suppose to be my daughter.

Thank you for sharing your story, I loved reading it!!

Heather said...

I'll keep it short and sweet, but you should know, with this story and with Seth's story too I cried! I love that you and Evan have been called to adopt. I think it's wonderful and I couldn't be more happy for you.
Such an awesome testimony Rachel! And I think you are just a wonderful mother! I love reading your blog!
I hope to adopt someday myself (I've planned on it since I was in the 8th grade), but Lord Willing I'll have a Husband first :)
Best wishes to you and the newest addition to your sweet family! Love her name!

Anonymous said...

Rachel- I loved reading Audrey's story! Chills from the very beginning through to the end. Thanks for sharing her story with us. As you know, we LOVE adoption and think it is one of the most wonderful things in this world. It made my heart happy to hear about this precious girl I've been seeing on Instagram.
Maria Hitchcock (aka) Teegan's mommy :)