Post-Referral Panic

I have debated long and hard about whether to write about this or not, but I have decided to for three important reasons:

1) It's the truth.

2) I felt like the worst person in the world when it happened to me, and I think part of that was that I had never heard of anyone else having these same feelings though many surely have (or maybe not in which case I may be sorry to be the first person to admit it). Feeling like you are having a reaction no one has ever had makes the feelings feel even worse. Maybe me admitting this will help someone else.

3) Most importantly of all, it contains the most significant moment in our referral story for me. The moment I'll always come back to if I ever panic again.

But, please........if you have nothing nice to say, after reading this post, please refrain from commenting. Honesty is hard sometimes, and for me, this is VERY, VERY hard to write- especially from the place I'm in now when I feel very, very differently (better).



The joy of being matched lasted about 24 hours for me.


I'm not sure I felt joy at all that day we called to tell our agency that we were sending in our LOI (Letter of Intent to Adopt).

In fact, my matter-of-factness, my taking-care-of-the-business of it, never actually yielded any emotions. However, after hanging up the phone, the fear began to build up- growing more and more as the hours ticked by. By Thursday night (the day after accepting our referral), once I had the kids in bed and the house was quiet (remember Scot was away the week we accepted our referral), I began to feel panic almost physically strangling me.

Scot called that evening to say good-night to the kids and to let me know that he really couldn't talk to me that night because everyone was going out. I told him I needed to talk to him and that it really could not wait until morning. Who knows what else I said, but after the kids were in bed, Scot called back (having excused himself from the events of the evening), and I fell apart on the phone with him.

Fell. Apart.

Every fear, doubt, anxiety, worry, every bit of it came pouring out. And, that's not like me. In this whole adoption process, if I've gotten really freaked out at any point, I tried to temper it with Scot fearing I'd freak him out too much. But, I figured it was now or never to let it all out. Not about adoption in general, but about "Evan" in particular. I'm not sure how he even understood what I was saying over the phone because I was so emotional.

I covered it all. Every "what if". And, that was no small task, because at that point, there were for me, still many, many unanswered questions.

I told Scot point blank that I thought we may have made a mistake, and that IF that's what we ultimately decided, HE would need to call our agency, because I simply would not be able to. (Scot's never called our agency. I handle all that.)

Scot patiently listened to it all, told me that if we felt like we needed to change our minds that he would "absolutely" call the agency for me, but that he thought I should let him get home the next day before we made any decisions. We both knew that it was nearly Friday in China anyway, so we should take the weekend to talk and pray. He felt sure that once he was home we would figure it out.

After that conversation, I felt better. Mostly, because I got it all out. There was no question about where I was at- I was terrified.

During these couple days, I told no one about our referral (besides my one dear friend who already knew about it, and our pastor). I couldn't look at Evan's picture. In fact, I had called my mother-in-law on Wednesday after accepting the referral and got her voice mail. When she called me back on Thursday I pretended like I had forgotten why I had called.

I couldn't bring myself to tell her. THAT's how bad it was.

(I remember it so well that I'm crying just typing this. It was awful to feel that way.)

After my conversation with Scot, I went to New Day's website and looked at every. single. picture. of Evan they had. I looked hoping I would recognize him. Because looking back, I think that is what bothered me the most.

I didn't recognize him.

I had thought when I saw the face of my child I would know him (or her). That there would be some magic or something. Or that it would be a very spiritual moment. Or, you know, anything but a series of very intentional decisions. Which is what it was.

I didn't get a phone call out of the blue and click open the e-mail to see my child's face for the first time. Because that's how you think of it in all those years of waiting. And just like when I struggled after having Sawyer via c-section (the LAST thing I expected and certainly was never part of my becoming-a-mom fantasies), I realize now that I was struggling again with reality verses how I imagined it would be.

Then there were the very REAL questions on top of that:

* Does he have Hep B? And, if so, in combination with his heart issue would that be something life-threatening possibly?
* What is the result of his oxygen deprivation in his first year?
* And what about his age? What business do we, unexperienced adoptive parents, have adopting an almost 4 year old? He's only a year younger than Chloe!!!

On Friday, Scot came home, and I'm not sure I had ever, EVER been so glad to have him back from a trip EVER. And honestly, we only casually talked about Evan that night and even through Saturday. I actually don't remember much about those two days (partly because of the Camp KidsWay closing program Friday night and me being emotionally and physically exhausted on Saturday from everything that week).

I know we prayed about it, but don't remember much else.

On Sunday morning, I was on my way to church by myself. I have to be there early, so I always go by myself, and Scot comes during second service with the kids. In the car, I prayed very specifically, and I remember exactly what I said: "God, I need to hear from you today, and I'm in a very emotional state. Anything less than complete clarity will only confuse me. Can you please be crystal clear with me this morning?"

Nothing fluffy or ornate. Just a simple honest prayer.

But, as soon as I uttered it, I wondered how it would ever be clear enough for me in the state I was in. I remember distinctly thinking, "Unless I hear 'You should adopt Evan' or 'You shouldn't adopt Evan', will I really walk away feeling sure?" Any amount of faith I had seemed gone in those moments.

Usually, I go to church during first service, and Scot attends second service. Unfortunately, that's just how it is because second service for us is very busy, and I have to be back in children's ministry that hour. However, on this particular day, Scot showed up early, and went to church with me.

Our pastor wasn't teaching that morning, and one of the people Scot and I respect most in the world was speaking. This man has been a missionary around the world, and is a walking example of what a life looks like when lived trusting God to the fullest!

This morning, he was speaking about Noah. He talked about a lot of things, but he specifically talked about how the call that God made on Noah's life could not have made a whole lot of sense to Noah. Noah had never seen rain. And, the Bible doesn't say that Noah had any skill at building. Noah, the speaker said, probably felt completely inadequate for the task. The task HAD to have seemed too big for him, too hard, too unknown, too scary. I mean, God told Noah he was going to destroy everything on the earth. That had to have been unsettling at the very least! Everything in Noah's world must have felt turned up-side down, but because He walked with and trusted God, he did it.

Then, right there in the middle of the sermon, with his British accent in full tilt, the speaker says: "So......what is God asking you to do today? *there might as well have been a l-o-n-g pause here, because I remember it as if time stood still* Does it seem hard, scary, unknown? I don't know what God has called you to today, but I am here to tell you JUST DO IT!" (That was all caps on purpose because he yelled it. The man is 80 years old, and he yelled it!)

Could God have been ANY clearer? At all? Really?


And the choice of words? Echoed the EXACT words Kelly had said to me when I told her we accepted our referral. She said, while she talked to me on the phone that night, she just wanted to yell, "JUST DO IT!" :)

(Apparently, Kelly, because you didn't yell it at me, God found someone else to yell it instead! ;) )

Tears immediately started rolling down my face, and I leaned over to Scot and said, "I think we have our answer."

He just smiled, and was gracious enough NOT to say, "No, I had my answer all along. It seems that now you have YOUR answer!"

That's in my mind when Evan became Cooper. When all my doubts and fears took a distant back seat to the fact that this was oh-so-clearly the child GOD had chosen for our family.

I will always, always be so thankful that God cared enough about me to speak to me right where I was at that morning. To assure me when I was doubting. To answer my very specific prayer- and to do it in such a resounding way.


That next week, after we got PA, we requested an update for Cooper. Specifically, we asked for updated lab results so that we could see what his Hep B status was. The woman at our agency said she would ask, but that updated medical info is not generally given and so we shouldn't expect it.

A few days later, we got a short update, and some pictures. The update did not contain any updated lab work. We were disappointed, but ok with whatever. However, when we looked through the pictures, the last picture was a jpeg file of Cooper's most updated lab results, where we could see VERY clearly that the ambiguous test results were gone, and he was quite clearly NOT Hep B positive.

I thanked God that day for those lab results, because although I would have trusted Him either way, He knew how scared we were about that, and he took that fear completely away.

How great is our God indeed.


Tara Anderson said...

Adoption is a terrifying adventure...on top of being a HUGE journey of faith and a thrilling ride! I haven't had any fears since we were matched with Caden in April, but now that we're waiting on TA I'm starting to get really scared! It's all starting to seem SO real...which is a good thing...but it also brings very real doubts and "what ifs". What if I don't love him "up close" as much as I do from afar...what if he drives the other three kids crazy...what if his speech impairments are even worse than my other kids and I can't understand a word he's trying to say...and the list goes on!

Thank you for your transparency. While adoption is a fairytale journey, it is a fairytale filled with dragons that must be slayed and we need a Hero to count on when it looks like our happy ending will fall apart. Praise God for His willingness to be that...and so much more!!!

The Raudenbush Family said...

Maybe I didn't yell because of my vocal problems. :) Jenna, I love this post--your honestly, your transparency. Why are adoptive parents afraid to talk about this stuff? We have these expectations of what referral day and the days following and family day and the days following are going to be like...and, well, God may just surprise us.

I'd love to edit this post to make it a little more general perhaps and post it on Grafted In -- I think it's so important to talk about expectations like this and how God meets us just where we are. He is a God who loves us THAT much.
Big hugs from PA,

momof5js said...


Thank you for your honesty. I really admire you so much, and I haven't even met you yet!

I can say that I had some of these same doubts when we adopted our first daughter. We started our adoption journey expecting the referral of a healthy little girl. About the time we started our paperwork,China began making changes and the wait for a referral went from 12 months to 3-4years.

When we decided to adopt Jasmine, we were questioned by friends, family, and I even questioned myself...were we just SETTLING because we felt desperate and would take just any little girl at this point? How did we know SHE was our daughter, and not another girl? Were we deciding for ourselves, and not letting God decide for us? How do we know the difference? She was blind, what are we thinking!!

I can tell you now... Jasmine has changed our lives, as well as the lives of our family and friends deeper than we could have ever imagined. We continue to be amazed by her every day. God truely does give you the child you are meant to have, and will never give you more than you can handle!!

We look forward to meeting you and your family in China!

God Bless :-)
Tammy Jarrett

dan and rachel said...

I think this is a great post. I cannot imagine anyone being offended by it. I remember specifically worrying about bonding with Evie. What if I saw her referral pic and felt nothing? What if I met her and felt nothing? I had no trouble bonding with my bio kids and I'm a doula - i LOVE babies! but I still worried about my connection with her. I DID feel connected to her when we first saw her picture AND when we first met her - immensely so. Evie has had attachment issues from day 1 and has a lot of anxious attachment. Since coming home, there ARE days that I don't feel connected in the way I did with my bio kids. Most days I do, but sometimes I don't. On those days, I have to trust that this is the journey that God called us to and that my feelings aren't particularly reliable.

Adoption is HARD! And people need to be honest about it. For me, I am just hesitant about how much I want out there on the internet. But when I talk to people about adoption, I am very honest about the ups AND downs. A friend of ours at church just attended a (secular) adoption conference where Jane Aronson (the orphan dr) told the families that when you get home you will regret your decision to adopt. She said you might even feel like you made the biggest mistake! But that this is *normal* and *to be expected*.

My advice to any new adoptive parent is - don't try to analyze/evaluate how you are feeling at every given moment. Just go with it and know that bonding takes time - like months and years, not days or weeks. When the going gets tough, hold on to the moments where God clearly showed you "This is the way. Walk in it." And know you're not alone.

dan and rachel said...

ps - to add more to my already looong comment. as a doula, i am very aware that parents of bio kids also have trouble attaching at times. i think part of the reason it can be hard to connect with E is (because of her anxious attachement) she is often testing to see if i will reject her. she will cry and cry and i cannot soothe her. with my bio kids, they would cry, i would nurse and they would be instantly quieted. they wanted to be near me, sleep by me, be carried by me. E has had trouble with that much physical contact and it's simply too much for her. so we don't experience the same positive feedback loop as i experienced with my bio kids. she cries, or pushes me away and i have to continue to pursue her without getting that positive, lovey-dovey response from her. (and it's not always that bad. she has lots of good days, too!) i can imagine a mother of a colicky baby (or with nursing struggles) may have a similar experience.

this all said, with the bios, i was extremely sleep deprived and physically exhausted from nursing around the clock and caring for a baby and toddler who never napped. the physical side has been MUCH easier than with a bio baby. she is a great napper and sleeps through the night. so i would NOT say adoption has been harder, all things in, than having bio kids. In some ways it has been much easier. Each presents its own unique challenges (and joys!)

La Dolce Vita: The Sweet Life said...

Oh, my. I can so relate to this. I actually have a draft post in my que about the panic that I felt on "gotcha day". I think that adoption is a terrifying thing. It is part of the emotion that makes us lean in to God. Begging Him for His strength and clarity.

I am so, so glad that God spoke so clearly to you. He is indeed so good.

Thanks to for being vulnerable in posting this. People need to talk about these feelings more, which is why I started my post draft.

I think these feelings come to almost everyone at some point in their adoption journey.

Many blessings to you!

Stefanie said...

Love this post, Jenna!
And I so appreciate your honesty :)
God shows up just when we need Him to, doesn't He?!?
Can't wait to see Cooper in your arms!

Jennifer O'Cain said...

Thanks for sharing and you are not alone, you are just brave enough to post about it.Truth is Jenna you may have fears about Cooper even after he's home but as a friend of mine always says: If he brings you to it, he will bring you through it!


PletcherFamily said...

You are not alone! Thanks for being brave enough to share your story. We all have our fears and doubts - we just don't always admit them like we should. Adoption is a journey like no other, and sometimes it takes us awhile to realize it is the path we were meant to take. No shame in that.

We adopted a boy also! Love to see the little boys coming into their new families.

Eileen said...

I've had panic moments immediately after accepting the referrals for both of our adoptions. I think it's very common. We too are adopting a little boy who will be almost 4 at the time of adoption.

As far as the Hep B, IF he does in fact have it, which it sounds like he doesn't, but if he does, I can say in all honesty that you can handle it. This is my little girl, telling her Hep B story:

Blessings to you through your adoption journey!


Nicole said...

BEAUTIFUL and TRUTHFUL! I love it! Thank you for being honest!


The Raudenbush Family said...


And, you are officially famous. :)

Football and Fried Rice said...

Oh, Jenna.

I know how hard this not only must have been to WRITE, but to FEEL. And I have to agree with Kelly - why is everyone reluctant to talk about the "less than fuzzy" feelings!?

Granted, it sure sounds a lot better, looks a lot better and (honestly) makes me feel a whole lot better when I post pictures of a smily little girl and write about how much we adore her & she adores us :)

The truth is - there have been many lows. Lows that reminded me of my complete & utter dependency upon God. Lows that reminded me that this ADOPTION journey isn't about me at all - it is so much bigger. Lows that have actually ended up being among my greatest blessings on the other side.

I think, sometimes, He does beckon us to reach beyond ordinary, beyond comfortable. And sometimes, that means locking ourselves in the bathroom and sobbing on the floor. Sometimes that means stepping out of the boat & trusting Him that we can walk on water. Sometimes, that means traveling to China and bringing home a child....

I am so glad that the Lord has called you to parent Cooper - trust me, He knew EXACTLY what He was doing..

Love you!

E.T.'s Mom said...

You don't know me, but you've encouraged me with your honesty and your reminder of how intimate our great God is with His children.

WilxFamily said...

Jenna...that is SO COOL. How beautiful that God really just met you where you were at and lifted you up.

It's funny you go through this pre adoption....I never did. Never once wondered...but...am FREAKING OUT now. :0( I totally understand this is such a hard place to be in. Very uncomfortable, very "un-mother" like. As our family dynamics are gearing up to change again, ad we are delving into what Evan needs....I cling to the knowledge that Evan was hand picked by the Creator of the universe just for us.

I appreciate your transparency too!

Kristi said...

I think I'll need to email you in addition to this comment, but I'm a 'soon to be' New Day mommy too. And my son is also a ToF survivor and is even from the same province. I was given your blog link by a reader of my blog who knew of you. Such a small world this blogland is!
Congratulations and I look forward to reading more of your backstory and then watching your trip as we'll be headed there next year.
And I so relate to the panic. I experienced it more this time than ever before...

TanyaLea said...

Wow Jenna. What a profound post. I know how much it has and likely will continue to help others in the future. I'm sorry I am so late at commenting and seem to be playing 'catch up' every time I get on here. It breaks my heart to know you went through this, but strengthens my heart to see how you handled it and how clearly God met you where you were. I was in complete tears as I read that part of your post, about the guest minister. And I love knowing that Kelly was there for you, too. You both have such a special place in my heart, having walked through our journies at similar times and finding one another's blogs early on. So seeing you had struggled in a time that others just perceived was sheer joy, breaks my heart. But I'm so glad you have such an amazing hubby who was there to support you, to LISTEN to you and be there (quietly) by your side as you so clearly heard God speak to you... a true blessing indeed.

Thank you for being honest and so candid, Jenna. I hope that Kelly does edit this for the Grafted In website...and maybe Stephanie can put you on the No Hands But Ours blog, too...

...I KNOW this would be a post that will help others who have experienced those 'less than fairytale' parts of their own journey. It's so easy for us to get wrapped in the warm fuzzy part of it all, that it is a shock to the system (and a LONELY place to be!) when it doesn't all play out quite as we may have dreamed or expected. It's so neat to see how God so FAITHFULLY carried you through this time as you sought Him in it all. He doesn't need fancy, fluffy prayers. He already knows what we are feeling. He just wants us... pure and honest, open and real...US! And when we don't give up and we seek Him, He DOES make our paths straight!

Praising Him with you!! <><

love you girl!!!

BIG Hugs,

P.S.>> my 'word verification' is "bable"... hahaha!...is that what I'm doing!?! ;)

TanyaLea said...
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TanyaLea said...
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Andy and Tamara said...

I have walked in those shoes. It is a horrible place. I wish that God had been as clear with me about our decision to go forward. I am not sure what the turning point was, but I know we held our LOA for three weeks before mailing it back because I wrestled so much. Adoption is terrifying, but God is good.

a blog full of weldons. said...

beautifully written! what a wonderful testimony to honoring the process and allowing God to lead you in your most brokenness. thank you so much for sharing!!

we have 2 little boys (both bio) and we are adopting our baby girl from china...we leave on saturday!! eek! i'm so excited :)

i found you from kelly r.'s blog...she rocks :)