Parenthood is about love, not genetics: Larissa's Story

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

This week, I'm excited to share one totally incredible, emotional and challenging adoption story of Larissa and Scott, who didn't let a few curve-balls get in their way of creating a family they always dreamed of. Meet the coolest little boy that changed their lives, Wyatt!

- A few words about who you are, what you do, where you live and what you are passionate about.

My name is Larissa Bull, I am a Divisional Merchandise Manager at a Skateboarding and Snowboard company called Sole Technology. My husband and I live in San Clemente, California. I grew up in Vancouver, Canada, and my husband Scott grew up here in Southern California. We met in College through some friends of ours who were dating. We hit it off right away and within the first few dates we knew we had found our best friend! We dated for a year and a half, fell in love, got married…and we've been enjoying this adventure of life together ever since!

We like to be active and outdoors, which is why we love where we live so much! We love going to the beach, surfing, camping, kayaking, biking and snowboarding. We also love to travel and explore new places. With my work I've been able to travel quite a bit and see a lot of the world and I've been lucky enough to be able to bring Scott on a lot of my trips with me!

We also enjoy flipping homes, Scott is a General Contractor so with his expertise we've had fun remodeling and flipping a few homes and doing a lot of the work ourselves.

- When, why and how did you decide on adoption? 

We had been trying to get pregnant for just over a year and I went in for my annual check-up where my doctor found a large ‘grapefruit’ size cyst. They scheduled surgery to go in and remove the cyst. Unfortunately during the surgery they found that I had stage IV endometriosis, which was the reason we hadn't been able to get pregnant.

The doctor suggested we try in-vitro fertilization (IVF) because we were young and would be the 'perfect candidates'. So we naively embarked on the IVF journey. We went through two rounds of IVF - the first round they discovered my eggs were not viable. So we did a second round, this time with an egg donor, only for the doctors to tell me that there had been so much damage from my endometriosis that they didn't think I wasn't going to be able to carry a baby. I was devastated…it was my fault, I was ‘broken’, I was the reason we couldn't have a baby.

And then the doctor handed us a brochure on adoption…GULP!

We had never really thought about adoption before. We weren't against adoption. We had just never really thought seriously about it. But both Scott and I grew up in big families and we've always known we would have a family one day we just didn't know where our journey would take us. And as unprepared as we were for the suggestion of adoption - we were both actually completely at peace with it. This was going to be the road to our family.

- How did the process of adopting Wyatt feel to you considering that you had a few curve-balls thrown your way? The paperwork, the resources you used, the timeline, the emotional rollercoaster, the wait, the uncertainty - everything and anything that can describe your journey. 

I don’t think you know what you’re getting into until you get started. We met with an Adoption Agency that had been referred to us by some friends and when we sat down with a Case worker it seemed very overwhelming. All of the pages and pages of paperwork, the back ground checks, the physicals, getting first aid certified, CPR certified, Water Safety certified, the home inspections, the classes, the reference letters…it was a LOT!

We went in blindly and hopeful. Unfortunately our introduction to adoption started out a little rocky. We had two failed placements. Which means we went through two pregnancies with two different birth mothers and then after the babies were born the Birth Mothers changed their mind and they decide to parent. Both of these situations were heartbreaking, we had had baby showers, rooms decorated, car seats ready, only to be disappointed and left with empty arms.

But we truly believe that everything happens for a reason and these two failed placements had helped push us to get our paperwork completed and we now had our nursery ready and were that much closer to being ready for our baby!

And then we were contact by another Birth Mother. She was from a small town up in Canada, near where I had grown up. She was now living in Utah and had gotten pregnant. We went up and met her - she was a sweet, sweet girl with an amazing heart. We continued to go up to Utah every couple of months for ultra sounds and doctor visits, everything was going perfectly. And then on August 31st she went in for her C-section…and they couldn't find the baby’s heartbeat. Our sweet baby Anderson was still born. Our Birth Mother was so upset she sobbed when we walked in and said, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, this isn't how I was supposed to give you your son.”  It was heartbreaking. We got to hold our sweet baby boy and we were able to spend a few hours with his little body, it was a very special time. We buried him up Utah next to Scott’s Grandma.

After that we decided to take a break for a few months and just regroup.

Then we got an email from a girl in Northern California who was due in a month and had chosen another couple who had backed out on her last minute.  So she was frantically trying to find another couple before the baby was born. We went up and met her and her mother that weekend. Everything went really, really well. We were excited that it could possibly happen so quickly!

The next few weeks seemed like they took an eternity but on January 3 rd Charlotte was born. We went up to the hospital in Northern California and picked her up. She was beautiful and such a happy, peaceful baby. I had never really been into pink, or bows, or frilly things, but something happened once we brought her home and the color pink exploded all over our house and we couldn't have been happier about it! We were finally parents and we were absolutely LOVING it!!! We fell in love with our sweet Charlotte!

But after 9 weeks of pure bliss with our princess…we unexpectedly got an email from the Birth Mother that she had changed her mind and was coming the next day to pick Charlotte up. In the state of California Birth Mothers have 30 days to change their mind, and Charlotte was actually 1/32 Native American which allowed an additional 60 days for the tribes to approve the adoption, so she had 90 days to change her mind.

We were absolutely devastated. It was heart breaking.  It hurt worse than I could have imagined.  Our lives were forever changed by this sweet baby girl. And we were left with our arms empty once again.

What we had learned this time is how much we absolutely loved being parents and the love we felt for this precious baby drove us to continue our journey.

We decided to take a break again for a little bit to mend our broken hearts.

Then I got a phone call from my aunt. After everything had happened with Charlotte she had posted about it on Facebook and one of her friend's had seen it and emailed her asking if we were still trying to adopt because his daughter was pregnant and contemplating placing the baby for adoption.

I called the Birth Mother that day. We talked on the phone for a while and we had a great conversation.  She lived in Utah so we flew up there to meet her and went to an ultra sound. She was amazing!  She was such a genuine, beautiful person inside and out. We loved her! She was 26, and she already had a 2 year old and she knew how hard it was to be a single mom. She was actually adopted herself, her parents had adopted her and her brother, so she had an appreciation for adoption and she was grateful for how it had impacted her life.

We were cautiously optimistic but definitely still nervous. It’s hard to allow yourself to get excited after so many heartbreaks. But our Birth Mother was great and never gave us any reason to worry. We just had 5-1/2 more months to wait. The waiting is the hardest part!!!  The over analyzing of every text, every phone call, every email. The waiting, the waiting, the waiting.

And then it was finally time…

 It was a Saturday - we spent the day at the beach and that evening we were at a Birthday party for a friend when we got a text from our Birth Mother saying she was having contractions and she was heading to the hospital. We immediately high tailed it out of the party and started packing our car.  We were a 10 hour drive from her so wanted to get on the road! She texted us an hour or so into our drive saying the doctor had sent her home – she wasn't ready yet, so there was no rush. We decided we would stop halfway for the night and continue on the next day. Just as we were about to take the exit for our hotel we got another text saying she had some bleeding and was heading back to the hospital. So we charged on and drove through the night, we made it to the hospital by 6:00 a.m. When we arrived our Birth Mother was quietly resting, she had her epidural and was feeling pretty good. Her best friend was there with her as her coach. We all sat around and chatted as we watched the monitor fluctuate with each contraction.

This was crazy…was this really going to happen? Was this the day we were going to become parents???  It was SO surreal and dream-like (which may have partially been due to the fact that we had driven straight through the night…haha)! Our Birth Mother had invited us to be there for the birth - we were so excited! I was on one side of her holding her leg and the nurse was on the other. I’ve never seen a birth before and I still get chills thinking about it, it was the most intense, incredible thing I've ever seen. I couldn't stop the tears from streaming down my face, I was in complete awe…it was so amazing!!! Our Birth Mother did awesome one push and he was out!

Wyatt was here and he was perfect! Scott cut the umbilical cord and we got to hold our perfect, precious little baby. JOY it was complete and utter J-O-Y!!! This was so right! And everything we had been through up to this point all of the sudden made perfect sense. He was a miracle!

In that moment of pure joy I couldn't help but look over at our Birth Mother and see her face and as supportive and happy as she was for us…my heart ached for her. I walked over and placed Wyatt in her arms, this precious babe she had just brought into the world, she smiled and kissed his sweet head.  She was such a strong person and that day she became my hero.

I don’t know if I can ever describe the love that I have for her. She is probably one of the most selfless, thoughtful, incredibly strong women I've ever met.  And I will be forever grateful for her.

- When did you start sharing your plans with your family and friends? How did they react? 

Most of our family and friends knew we had been going through invitro, so when we started the adoption process we told everyone, we figured the hard part was over…right??

But after a few failed placements we decided to limit the number of people we would tell when we were contacted by a potential birth mother and just kept it to our parents and a couple of our friends who were our support system. For me it was hard to have to answer everyone’s questions all of the time like “What’s going on?” or “Any new news?” And then if things didn't work out it wasn't just dealing with our own disappointment, it was having to tell everyone else and dealing with their disappointment as well.

We also became good friends with some other couples who we met through our adoption agency. It’s amazing how much it helps to be able to talk to someone else who has been through, or is going through the same thing.

As far as how everyone reacted to our decision to adopt - our immediate family and close friend were all very supportive…and then there were those people who would make naive comments about adoption, and addiction, and problem children, and how adoption had pulled families apart. All of which, mind you, happens to ‘normal’ biological families every day as well. We've learned to take peoples input with a grain of salt and not to take offense.

All in all most everyone have been very supportive.

- After Wyatt came home with you, was there an adjustment period or did you feel the connection with him right away? How was it for your husband and the rest of the family?

We had to stay in Utah for a few weeks waiting for all of the ICPC paperwork to go through so we stayed with family, which was great, but we were anxious to get home. Then finally after 3 weeks were able to go back home to California.

I can’t really put into words how natural it felt bringing Wyatt home with us. We were so in love with this little guy that anything else going on in life just felt like distractions stealing priceless time from our boy. He changed our world and made us a family.

- How is life nowadays? (Has adopting Wyatt been what you expected so far?) 

Life now with a 2-1/2 year old is busy! Wyatt is a happy, funny, active little boy and at the end of each day we are ALL exhausted…and we LOVE it!

When we first adopted Wyatt we thought about adoption a lot, we were thinking about his birth mother, we were thinking about finishing up all of the paperwork, we were thinking about finalization. And then as time goes on you think less and less about ‘adoption’ and more about just being a family…and the day to day happenings like potty training, and how many times they've pooped, and if they've eaten enough vegetables for the day…that kind of fun stuff!

We talk about adoption with Wyatt and we have children’s books we read to him about adoption but he doesn't understand what it means yet. But what he does understand is that he is very, very loved.  He has SO many people in this world who love him SO much.

A few people have said to Wyatt, "Wyatt do you know how lucky you are?” or “Wyatt you really you won the lottery!". We always correct them and tell them WE are the ones that won the lottery! We are the lucky ones! He completes our family.

- Do you have contact with the birth mother? Would you like to?

Yes - we keep in touch with Wyatt's Birth Mother and we visit every time we go up to Utah (usually a couple of times a year). We mostly text back and forth, and we’ll call every once in a while. I send her pictures and little packages. She is friends with us on Facebook too, so she sees all of our pictures that we post and she likes them and comments on them. I like that we can text or check in whenever. Our relationship honestly feels like an extension of our family.

One thing I discovered about myself through this process is how okay I am with open adoption, mind you we have an awesome Birth Mother so every situation is different, but I didn't know how much I was going to love our birth mother and not feel threatened or scared of her relationship with Wyatt. I’m so incredibly thankful for that.

- Are you planning on having more children in the future?

Yes - we would love for Wyatt to have a sibling, in fact we've completed our home study and we are currently in the process of trying to adopt again and getting the word out! We are excited to see where our next journey will take us!

- And any other aspects of your journey you’d like to share with us...

It was definitely a rollercoaster of emotions and a lot of disappointment along the way but we always had hope. I feel like hope is the one thing that you have to hold on to get you through. There are a couple of quotes that really helped me as well:

The first quote I really like is “Trust in the timing of your life.” That is what we had to do. It wasn't the timing we had hoped for, or planned for but when everything finally fell into place it was the timing that was perfectly right for us.

The second quote I love and we have posted on our adoption blog is “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” - Joseph Campbell

Now looking back at our journey - everything we've been through, all of the trials, and the challenges, they were all just stepping stones that have led us to where we are now and we feel so incredibly blessed.

Thank you SO much, Larissa for sharing your incredible story! xo

P.S: Plus, Katie's adoption story from last week and my thoughts on the series.

(All photos by/via Larissa)


Anonymous said...

this series is quickly becoming my fave thing to follow & it's refreshing how honest and truthful those women are.

Steph said...

How super cute is he with his curly blond hair??

holtkamp said...

This series is so wonderful! And what an amazing family! Their story made me cry and I'm so happy they were finally able to adopt Wyatt!

Magdalena Viktoria said...

Such incredible, inspiring stories!

Sally Tharpe Rowles said...

Incredible story, beautiful family!

Merry Meri said...

what a beautiful ending to an incredible and difficult journey. Thank you for sharing these amazing and often under-shared stories about adoption! xox

Traci said...

Thank you so much for sharing these stories. It's been amazing to read them...and emotional. We adopted our daughter five years ago (from China...she was 18 months old at the time). Thank you for sharing and talking about adoption. xo

Ann said...

Thank you for sharing this very inspiring story. Wyatt fits perfectly in this loving couple's lives. Wyatt looks so adorable and his hair is awesome. I wish them all the love and luck in the world.

Have a wonderful day ♥

LyddieGal said...

That is an amazing story. This family had to go through so much, but it really makes you believe that everything which happened was meant to be.
Chic on the Cheap

jina oneill said...

hi thank you so much for sharing your personal journey. i know your sister cindy i used to attend her church in langley, all of us have our own journey in life and we grow thew these tough experiences and threw each heart break there will be breakthrew there will be many challenges in life that always makes us stronger ready for the next journey. u have been thew a special journey one of love and commitment of family and you have been blessed in ways you do not even know about yet as your life changes as it does for everyone u will find strength where there was no strength before keep pushing threw all of your doubts no you are loved and being prayed for blessings from jina oneill i am on your sisters FB friends list

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