Dossier

Dossier
This is the package that carried our hearts through Paris, Dubai, and on to Ethiopia :)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Flashback

I walk into the room to say goodnight, and he is sitting on his bed reading. I lay next to him – “Whatcha readin'?”. He responds, but I don’t hear him because I am having a flashback. My mind has drifted back to the not-so-distant past. It has drifted back to about a year and a half ago when my babies first came to America. Those were such uncertain times. Not uncertain in the way of “did we make the right decision”, but uncertain in that the four of us were “learning” each other and trying to mold into a family. There was a beautiful awkwardness. How can you love someone so much that you just practically met, but feel like you have been connected to by heart your whole life? There was the language barrier, the outbursts, the calls from the school, the “I hate you”, the hours of negotiating…and it goes on and on. Then there were those times when anger overcame our youngest – it was a physical reaction, one too overpowering for his little self to bear. I would watch his body shake and cry out to God “please take it away! Please let him see that he has your power to fight this!.” Sometimes he would run – and not just outside, but down the street (and sometimes towards the main road). He would run with a terrified look in his eyes as if it was all he knew to do. I did the only thing I knew to do…I chased him. I was pregnant with our first biological child at the time, too. I was trying to hold it all together and navigate the emotions of a pregnancy and the emotions of blending two precious babes from across the world into our family. When I flash back to that time, a sense of peace comes over me now. Those are the days that pushed us to the limits, grew us, tried our faith, made us rely on HIM, and made us into a beautiful family. Almost two years later, we have finished up another school year, we have celebrated birthdays, we have vacationed and made tons of memories, we have watched them fall deeply in love with their baby sister, we have weathered emotional storms, and we have all grown and changed. How great is our God. As my mind snaps back to the present, I say to Joash, “Jo, remember when mommy used to fall asleep with you every night because you were scared? Then I would roll my big belly over and practically fall out of your bed to sneak out, but you would wake up and throw your arm around me so I would stay? I miss that.” He turns to me and smiles and says “Mom, it’s funny you read my mind because I was kinda just thinkin’ the same thing”.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Once Empty Arms Now Full

I can't believe that I have not posted since March! I really stink at this blogging thing! Since I last posted, our little miracle was born. I am getting teary eyed thinking back to that day (it doesn't take much to get teary eyed these days!). Christian shares a birthday with Nena which is April 7th, and we were having his first birthday party EVER. We did it up right by throwing a Spiderman pool party complete with a sweet Spidey cake and lots of friends. During the party, my water began to break. Thankfully it wasn't anything substantial until the end of the party, so I packed up, called my doctor and headed to the hospital. I was totally nervous - I didn't know what to expect, was worried were my other two going to be okay, etc. My time at the hospital was absolutely amazing. I really truly could not have asked for a better birth experience. The hospital staff was wonderful. They wanted to know all about the story of how we adopted our boys. My labor and delivery nurse even sat on the end of the bed with me and listened as I told my boy's story, and her eyes filled up with tears. Her shift was over before Avalyn was born, but she came up to recovery her next shift to visit me and to meet our baby girl. How incredibly precious is that! My ob doc was in France, so I got the doctor on call - who happened to be the only doctor in the entire practice that I had never met. Go figure! I am not saying this to complain though, because he was a superb doctor and I am so thankful he delivered my baby. I was in labor a long time, and he was there every step of the way making sure that I was okay and to see how I was progressing. A lot of people had warned me that they love to do C-sections prematurely at Winnie Palmer and to not let them rush it. Never once did anyone mention a C-section, and they did everything in their power to make sure I delivered naturally if possible. After 15+ hours of dilating to I think only a 5, he came back just an hour later and told the nurse that I was at a 10 and it was time to start pushing (we had to call Shane - he had just gone downstairs to eat lunch because we thought we still had plenty of time!). I had an epidural and it was amazing. I took the pain until it was about 6 on a scale of 1-10 before asking for it. I was able to completely enjoy the whole birth experience while hearing women in other rooms around me screaming in pain. Everyone is different and decides what is best for them, but I highly recommend it and will do it again next time, if there is a next time. :)My mom and Shane were in the delivery room with me the whole time helping me out. At 12:30 pm on Easter Sunday, Avalyn Makeda Somers made her grand entrance into our world, and I will never forget how it felt to hold her for the first time. It was much the same feeling I had last July when my two little boys ran out of the orphanage squealing, and little Joash jumped up into my arms. Two times in less than a year were my empty arms filled up meeting my children for the first time- precious and priceless memories.
Avie is doing very well! She was 6lb 1oz at birth. A little peanut! She is around 10 lbs. now at 9.5 weeks. She is absolutely beautiful, if I do say so myself! She started sleeping through the night at around 6 weeks, and she smiles all the time now too. Her daddy and brothers are completely smitten, and she is well on her way to being spoiled. She is our little miracle and I love to just stare at her face. I still can't believe that she is real. She reminds me of God's unfailing love every day. The boys are doing fantastic! They have adjusted very well so far with having a baby in the home. They love "baby sister", and ask to hold her all the time. Recently, Joash was holding her and she started to cry. He took her hands and started to sing Justin Bieber's song "Baby", and she immediately stopped crying and started smiling (Justin Bieber apparently made it all the way to Africa because they knew this song when they were still in the orphanage!). He's such a goofy kid! We expected to have a lot of behavioral setbacks when the baby arrived and we have had a few minor ones, but thank God nothing major. Keep praying! Our God is bigger! We think that they have done so well partly because of the orphanage they spent almost two years in. There were a lot of babies/toddlers at the orphanage and I think that the older children had some sort of interaction with the little ones, especially when families came to meet their children and the older kids were out playing. We heard several stories of how our oldest, Christian (Abiti), helped out some of the American families with their fussy child/ren. You hear horror stories of internationally adopted children who have serious behavioral issues because of being institutionalized and not having any love or attention. This is not the case with children who are cared for by America World Adoption - these kids are loved on by their nannies, their teacher, the cook, the America World staff, the gate guard, etc. There is no lack of love, care, or attention. They stand in the gap for these kids. I thank God for these people and the impact they had on our boys. A few weeks ago before school let out for the summer, we had a meeting with Christian and Joash's teachers at school to talk about their academic progress from this year, and to discuss if they would be moving up to the next grade. Joash's teacher, Mrs. Zeiler, was happy to report that Joash is completely on grade level, and in fact has done better academically than a lot of her English speaking students who have been there all year! This is pretty amazing for a child who came from another country, is learning the language while also dealing with grief and loss, and didn't start school this year until Thanksgiving. He will move on to first grade in the fall - yay Jojo! Christian's teacher, Mrs. Taylor, also had great things to report. She said that Christian is very driven and determined. Since starting school in November, he has improved two grade levels already! He started with being able to read at K-5 level (which was impressive in itself seeing as he spoke little English), and now reads at a second grade level. He will move up to third grade - yay! She also said that Christian is quite a character and keeps the rest of the class in line... not hard to believe if you know him! :) I cannot express how proud I am of these boys, and how thankful I am for their teachers. We couldn't have hand picked better teachers for them. God knew just who to put them with! We are also so thankful for the ESL teacher who worked very hard with them and made sure that they had every opportunity available to improve and succeed. She also loves God, and had a huge heart for these boys (they made her cry "happy tears" on more than one occasion). This school year with the boys has been a lot of hard work for all parties involved, but it has paid off. My boys are truly brilliant! We cannot take any credit for that, but can certainly work hard with them to be sure that they live up to their full academic potential. God is good! So how are we doing as a family? Our house is a zoo. Two parents, three kids, a dog, and a fish in our house...we have a very small house. At any given time there are dirty dishes piled high in the sink, piles of (folded, clean) laundry on the floor in the boy's room, piles of school papers and projects and Sunday school papers on the table, sticky popsicle stains on the floor, and dirty footprints from our rambunctious boys and their friends running in an out...got the picture? I've had to work hard at letting go of the need to have a spotless house, but most days it still bothers the heck out of me. A friend shared this quote with me: "cleaning the house while the kids are still growing is like shoveling snow while it's still snowing". So true. I still try though, and it seems like I do many futile hours of cleaning each week! Most days I do manage to shower now that Avie and I are in a routine, but I did come to the sad realization that probably 5 out of 7 days this past week I got busy and forgot to put on deodorant. Yikes!There has only been one instance so far where all three kids have been crying at the same time...THAT was fun. We have doctor's appointments galore between the five of us right now, and Shane and I are pretty much walking zombies most days. Theo, our beloved weiner dog, has also decided that it's a good idea to do his business in the house lately, as if I don't already clean up enough poop and pee! BUT, we are the happiest we have ever been. Our lives are berserk, but so full. When I look back over the last eight months, I honestly don't know how we made it to this point. There were days where I cried alone in my room, there were times Shane cried alone, and then there were days when we cried together. Adoption is not natural. It's God's way of fixing something that is broken. With that comes emotionally broken children, who have to learn to love and trust. We saw miraculous transformations in our boys these past 8 months. When we went to Ethiopia in October to bring them home, Christian didn't want anything to do with me. I was crushed and scared. Not only did he not trust me, but he did not respect me either. It took hard work - unconditional love, space, time, perseverance...and now I have a little boy who snuggles with me at night, lets me kiss all over his face, calls me mama, and tells me he loves me. Again, God is good. Joash was a very angry little boy in the beginning, and he didn't know what to do with his anger. He would get angry and go in his room and scream at the top of his lungs and throw things. When we would go in to talk to him, you could see the fear in his eyes like he was terrified of us when we'd never given him any reason to be scared. Now when he is angry or upset, you can find him sitting on the green power box out in the yard, thinking. When he is done, he comes back inside, apologizes, and immediately moves on. There's still healing to be done, but God has brought us such a long way! I can't imagine my life without these two little boys...how impoverished it would be. They make me smile every day, and again remind me of God's love. I can't stress enough how good my God is. My first Mother's Day: Me and my princess: Jojo's first soccer season: Christian holding "baby sister":

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bittersweet

So, it has been a long time since I have posted. I think about it a lot... and subsequently don't have the energy to follow through! Not that blogging takes much physical energy, but when you have "pregnancy brain", it's exhausting! :)

Things have settled a bit since I last posted. The boys are settling in more, learning how to be a part of a family, trusting us more, behaving better, and making us proud every day. I seriously am SO proud of them. Imagine being a kid, losing your father to death and your mother being unable to care for you. You then go to an orphanage and learn how to "survive" on your own, while not being at all mentally or emotionally capable of doing so. You stay there for two years, all the while seeing other kids being adopted and leaving. You say goodbye to friends you have made, and you cry yourself to sleep..."when's it my turn?". You finally are called into the office and hear that you have a family, and you cheer and run around the orphanage showing everyone a picture of your "new mommy and daddy" with big smiles on your faces. In all of the happiness though, you realize that you will be trading in having parents and a family for: your birth country, your native language, your culture, and being on the same continent as your birthmom. So bittersweet. You meet your new parents and everything is exciting! They tell you they love you and shower you with hugs, kisses, "I love you"'s and gifts. You talk about the future and all the things awaiting you in America...soccer teams, school, new friends, tons of cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents who already love you, a comfortable bed in a "cool" room, and never having to go to bed without a mom and dad. Then they leave for an undetermined amount of time, and as they leave, you sob uncontrollably together. Then your birthmother journeys from your birth village ten hours away to say goodbye...and there are rivers of tears. She tells you she loves you, she is sorry, and that she wants you to have a better life. She tells you she wants you to come back to Ethiopia one day when you are grown, leaving you with a heavy responsibility in the future, although she probably won't even be alive past your teen years. You cry yourself asleep again. Then you wait...and wait...and wait. Finally you learn that your new parents are coming for you! You are ecstatic, but you know many hard goodbyes are ahead. Bittersweet. You say goodbye to your friends, caregivers, and mentors, and then leave with your new parents for this place called America. Everything is new and exciting, but it's also much harder than you thought. People don't understand you, you are scared, there are rules and discipline, and sometimes you are looked at funny because you are dark skinned and your parents are light skinned. And you are going to the doctor...a lot. There are doctors for everything! You feel like you have been poked and prodded and violated too many times and they ask your mom and dad a lot of questions about your past and where you are from. Most of them they can't answer. You're thinking "I came from Africa, people, not another planet!". BUT, you are loved immensely. You are reminded every day that you are special, that God has big plans for you, and that you were chosen. All your needs are provided, and you never go hungry. You are snuggled in bed each night while reading stories about God, prayed with, and sometimes held til you are asleep because it makes you feel comfortable. You are reminded that your past is a part of who you are, and that your future is bright. Bittersweet. Are you crying yet? I am. This is adoption, folks! It's not all puppydogs and rainbows. It's hard, deep stuff. There is so much healing to be done. Are the days where there are meltdowns or sadness hard? YES! So hard. But does it usually go so much deeper than just the issue at hand? Yes. The issue is not usually the real issue.

With all that said, I am immensely proud of my sons. They amaze me and are so brave! Their English is awesome. Christian is the second grade star speller...he makes at least a 100 on all his tests - sometimes 103 with bonus points. Joash is right on track with where he should be in kindergarten. He is reading! Christian finished his book at AWANA clubs already...it took him a whopping two months. Joash is working hard too, and was "clubber of the month" last month. Christian is playing soccer and has his first game this Saturday. They are both taking Amharic classes so that they don't forget their native language. They love to swim, sing, help dad with stuff around the house and yard, are excited about becoming big brothers soon, and have both lost their "first" tooth in the last two weeks. Christian is a character - larger than life! He commands attention when in a room full of people. Joash is goofy and makes this mama laugh ALL THE TIME. They both have birthdays coming up and both want a Spiderman pool party. We are going to make the biggest craziest deal out of their birthdays. One, because their birthdays are both around the time their baby sister is to be born and they need to know that they are extremely special and valuable to us in the midst of the excitement of her birth. Two, because it is the first birthday party they will have ever had! Our house may be crazy at times, but it is full of love and laughter, and I just cannot imagine my life without these two special little boys. They are beautiful inside and out. I think about their birthmother just about every day and mourn for her...she carried these precious boys, gave them life at birth, and then gave them life again when she knew she couldn't care for them. She is missing everything. It BREAKS MY HEART. So thankful that out of the mess of a broken world, God has allowed me to be their "second mama".

And now for the picture so many of you have been asking for! Sorry for the poor quality - I am home by myself so therefore it's a crappy mirror picture :) My big baby belly at 35 weeks! Be praying for us as we start to transition yet again. We expect that there will be setbacks with the boys when she is born. We are going to do everything in our power to keep them involved in her care and make sure they know what an important and special job they have as big brothers!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Extracting the Precious from the Worthless

Over the Christmas holiday I read a book by Beth Guckenberger called “Relentless Hope”. This book caught my eye in a Barnes N Noble because of the sweet little African boy on the cover (I’m quite partial to sweet little African boys!). The book kept my attention because of the theme - “Extracting the Precious from the Worthless”. It talks about how whatever you are going through in your life right now is just a chapter in your story. You are not defined by the things that you have been through or the choices that you have made. We all have really hard things that we go through, and I know that I personally made some bad bad choices in my younger years (some of those bad choices stemming from hard times). If we can take these circumstances or trials and extract the precious from the worthless- His precious promises and precious intimacy with Him, and walk away with precious lessons learned, then it’s all worth it. Then can we learn to focus on extracting the precious from each day, and let go of the, um, not-so-precious.

Those of you who follow my blog know that I am pretty open about the things that are happening in our family. There is no shame in sharing your heart and your circumstances. God did not intend for us to spend life alone. I think so many women in Christian circles don’t share their raw emotions for fear of being talked about later, shared as a “prayer request”, or fear of opening up and being vulnerable just to be let down. We should all strive to be genuine – ask how someone is really doing, and then really listen and be there for them when they bare their soul. We should say “I am praying for you”, but then really do pray for them. We should try not to give pat answers, or try to “solve” anything – just listen and be there for each other…get “in the trenches” with them. Anyways, rabbit trail! Here goes. To honestly sum up our time since being home with our boys: beautiful, adventurous, heartbreaking, exciting ,exhausting, laughter-filled, eye-opening, frustrating, rewarding, and special. We have experienced the extreme opposite ends of the spectrum! We knew things would be hard when we pursued the adoption of our boys. We had many people say that we were crazy, and I’m sure even more were thinking it and didn’t verbalize. I think our social worker may have even tried to discourage us from changing from baby adoption to adopting two older children. Bottom line, they are without a doubt our boys...our sons. We loved them from the second we saw that first picture, and there was no way we were gonna say “No!” to God for fear of doing something radical, or fear of inadequacy, or being too young/inexperienced. When God asks you to do something, whether you feel it or not, He equips you and He sustains you. It sounds cliché, but it’s true. We have definitely felt very inadequate most days over the last three months, but His mercies are new every morning, He pours out His wisdom in abundance (at our pleading!), and He gives “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow”. It has been HARD, but we are learning so much. Every day.

One of the things that we have gone through with the boys is hearing the things that they say to us when they are angry. Sometimes it’s “no love you”, sometimes it’s “you no my parents – my parents in Ethiopia”, and sometimes it’s “no like America- go back to Ethiopia”. Do they mean these things? No. Later there are apologies and remorse, and admittance that it was said out of anger. I have learned so much about our relationship with our (adoptive) heavenly Father these last three months from this, and from other situations we have encountered. We as children of God have everything at our fingertips – the keys to the kingdom! He adopted us, took us in, gave us a new name, redeemed our pasts – made us HIS. How many times in our relationship with our heavenly Father have we, maybe not with words but with actions, basically said to God “no love you – you no my Father…me go back to________”. How many times have we chosen to be angry instead of living in His love, or basically chosen our old life/way of living in exchange for all of the amazing things we have at our disposal as a child of the King? Granted, our boys do miss Ethiopia (and so do we!)- they miss their friends, their culture, and life the way it was before their father died and their mother had to give them up. But, do they miss going to bed without a mom and dad every night for two years, or someone consistent to hold them when they are sad? No. Do they miss their orphanage living conditions? No. Do they miss not having their own clothes, or anything to call their own for that matter? No. Do they miss not having a school to attend or a church they can go to every Sunday and make friends? No. Do they miss having no hope for the future? No. So we, in the same way, have what we need in Jesus Christ, but sometimes turn our backs and choose our old rags and way of living. It’s enticing sometimes to go back to the way of the world – Satan has a great way of making things looks easier or more fun, when in all actuality, we know that our old way of living brought no true joy, just pain. Why do we do this?

So, back to the book Relentless Hope. I’m reading it a second time. It’s full of stories of struggle with sin and of redemption. Full of stories of good people going through or struggling with bad things, how you can persevere with relentless hope, and how there’s always something precious to be gained. I guess the main thing I took away from the book was how to extract the precious. So, I try to do it every day now. Each day there is spiritual warfare in our home. Satan HATES adoption. If he can keep orphans as orphans, he knows he has a great shot at their souls. He fills orphan’s heads with lies. When God’s people adopt, Satan loses. He will then attack your home, trying to keep a foothold. Newsflash to Satan: You are NOT welcome in our home. We are fighting, and with God’s help, we WILL win. So, at the end of each day now with my journal, I sit down and write “Extracting the precious from today” and the date. I then list out every victory that we had that day, whether great or very small. Some days, there is very little victory, but I can find something to celebrate! Some days are really really good and there is lots to write down. This past Wednesday was a rough day for both boys at home. Anger abounded, attitudes were bad, nothing made them happy, and nothing we did or tried helped. BUT, they did go to AWANA that night, and both had an amazing time. Christian finished his entrance book and got his first AWANA book…and his little red vest…which he is very proud of. On a different day this week with little precious to take away, I recorded this about Joash: Joash LOVES the ice cream truck that comes through our neighborhood. He hears the music and will drop everything, grab a dollar from his Christmas money, and run outside. He puts his little hand out like he is hailing a cab in NYC, and he pays for his ice cream of choice. The funny thing is he never eats it! He will give it to a neighbor friend or to me, or put it in the freezer “for later”. The little guy just loves the whole ice cream truck experience. It gets me in the heart every time! So precious. So I write it down. I choose not to record the bad things that happen during the day. We have the ability to forgive, but not to completely forget, so I know one day I will still be able to recall some of these things when they are grown and way past all this and we are sitting around at the holidays talking and giving them a hard time about it! But for now, it does no good to rehash. All it will do is upset and discourage me all over again. Writing the precious things (that God has given us during a seemingly worthless day) down brings joy to my heart and helps me focus on victory. I want to break out my journals one day, and let them read through all of the daily victories and milestones…I want us as a family to remember the precious. My babies need prayer - they are hurting little individuals that have a long way to go emotionally. They are angry -they direct their anger towards us some days.It's hard, and it hurts. But their futures are as bright as the promises of God, and we will continue to fight! We are a family and we love them so much.

"And that's the key to our contentment. As Christians, we should be marked by our radically different approach to life. We have access to a God who offers us peace, but some days the most conflicted people I talk to are believers. I want to live by the verses I sing in the choruses on Sunday, songs about how I am content, and all I need is Jesus (not Jesus plus the right diagnosis, or Jesus plus having my way). If I get to be His spokesman, it'll be by reflecting to the world, as the prophet Jeremiah did, a truth not easily understood. And in this case, the truth is, even the most worthless of moments, whether big or small, can have something precious extracted from them. He doesn't waste anything." -Beth Guckenberger
Jeremiah 15:15-21





Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Infertility- Handle With Care

I received an email today from someone who is a part of my past…a part that was painful. It brought back a lot of the emotions that I felt during this particularly dark part of my life. This time period lasted about three years, but I will bear the emotional scars of it until I die. For some women, there is no ending. It breaks my heart in a million pieces. This “dark age”, if you will, began when we tried to start a family, and became devastating when we were labeled “infertile”.
The word makes me shudder because it brings back a flood of emotions, but it also makes me grateful because my heavenly Father included it as part of my story. Without it, I would not have gained a passion for adoption, and would not have the two precious boys that make my life so happy. Without it, I would not have gained a more precious, intimate relationship with God…I NEEDED Him. We all need Him every day, but I needed Him like never before if I wanted to emotionally survive each day. Without it, I may not fully appreciate the miracle that is growing inside of me right now…I am in absolute awe and wonder. Without it, I would not have gained a better appreciation for sensitivity, and a strong desire to choose my words carefully lest I hurt someone emotionally. Without it, I may not have seen the tender side of my husband, who needed no explanation when I walked in the door from work crying…he would simply hold me for a few minutes and then quietly start to cook dinner so I wouldn’t have to. Yes, I can be thankful for this painful time, and I am.
Now that I am on the other side of infertility (and adoption), I feel like I can speak out on a few things for women who are struggling with it. Everything I say may not be true for every woman who goes through infertility. I am just speaking based on what I went through and have watched other women experience during this. In this particular email I received today, I was told “before you mentor anyone else, you need to examine yourself first”. Isn’t part of being a mentor sharing what you went through, the way you handled things, and how you would or wouldn’t do things differently? Hindsight is 20/20, and I know that I wasn’t always easy to be around, but I can say that if women going through infertility were given a little grace, their feelings validated, and given a little sensitivity…there may be a lot fewer of what are labeled as “bitter infertile women”. Infertility is devastating – emotionally, physically, spiritually, and financially.
It is devastating emotionally because it is the loss of a dream. Most women have dreamed of their wedding day and having children from the time they were little girls. You marry a man that you are so in love with, you enjoy some time “just the two of you”, and then you decide it is time to start a family. You talk about what your baby may look like – will it have daddy’s eyes and mommy’s nose (in our case, hopefully not!)? You think of creative ways that you will tell friends and family your big news, and you start to write down potential baby names. A few months pass by with no pregnancy. You’re not worried yet because you have had friends who didn’t conceive until after 6-8 months of trying, but then more months pass by and you start to wonder if there is something wrong with you. After a full twelve months, you go to the doctor because at this point there is cause for concern. You and your husband both go through tests and you feel embarrassed. You may get results back and sit and cry because they found something wrong with you and you feel guilty because it’s your “fault”. On the other hand, you may get results back and fight feelings of bitterness because there is something wrong with your husband and it’s “his fault” that you cannot conceive. You put on a happy face and pretend like everything is okay, although on the inside you are panicking…”I may never be a mother. If I can never be a mother, I don’t want to live. I don’t want to be childless.” You have many friends and family members who are of childbearing age, and many of them become pregnant during this time. Each time you hear their wonderful news, you say “congratulations” because in your heart you truly are happy for them, but then you cry the rest of the day because you are reminded again of your closed womb and empty arms. You attend a few baby showers, but then you and your husband decide that it is counterproductive for you to subject yourself to baby showers if you are going to cry the rest of the day and be set back emotionally…so you start just sending a gift. You face many well-meaning yet insensitive comments. You decide that sensitivity training should become a part of the regular elementary school curriculum for every human being because if one more person tells you “you just need to relax and cut down on your stress and you will become pregnant”, you are going to scratch their eyeballs out. Even some close to you may feel like you are withdrawing or becoming bitter, and may approach you about it with good intentions, but it makes you feel worse. For most of my journey I was working with older folks (who sometimes don’t have a lot of tact) at an Ophthalmology practice. Each day I was asked by my patients when I was going to start having children, why I didn’t already have any children, when was my pregnant coworker’s baby due, and told maybe I should drink the same water she drank. Ouch. You feel defective, awkward, less-than, and forgotten.
It is devastating physically for several reasons. One, the emotional drainage makes you tired. Two, you may have to start some sort of medication to make you ovulate or to make your egg quality better, or you may have to undergo some sort of procedure whether it be exploratory or corrective. Many women have to give themselves injections month after month, and/or take pills that might as well be gold (I once dropped a pill that rolled under the fridge…I got a flashlight and found that sucker and swallowed it, under- the-fridge-fuzz and all. I figured if I paid $250 for about five pills, I was gonna find it!). Most of the medications make you a little more, um, crazy than you already are. They can blur your vision, make you sick, etc. No fun. You also have to make repeated doctor’s visits and have more ultrasounds than women do during pregnancy…it just doesn’t seem right. After all of this, you may have a procedure called an IUI (intra-uterine insemination) or an even more complex IVF (in vitro fertilization). You go through the dreaded two week wait, and then you either rejoice because it worked, or you want to lay down and die because after all that, you’re still not pregnant. And you start all over.
It is devastating spiritually because it throws you into what I call a crisis of faith. You wonder if God really does love you. Does He love so-and-so more because they received the desire of their heart without effort? Does He really hear your prayers? Are you being punished for something that you did in the past? How could such pain be a part of His plan? Did He forget about you? Many days I cried into my journal. I prayed for a pregnancy, in faith that God would grant it that next month. I couldn’t understand when it didn’t happen. Was my faith not strong enough? I can now look back and see how it did fit into His beautiful plan, but in the midst of it, “you can’t see the forest for the trees”.
It is devastating financially because infertility testing and treatment is EXPENSIVE. Most of it is out of pocket expense. Procedures are not covered by insurance…they should be. To an infertile person, their condition is just as devastating to them as heart disease, diabetes, or any other chronic illness you may think of. Some people choose not to do treatment and some do. That is their choice between them and their spouse and God. We chose after testing and talking to our reproductive endocrinologist that we would do an IUI. We did two, and after the second one failed, we chose to pursue adoption. We felt we were beating a dead horse and that our main goal was ultimately to be parents, not pregnant. Some people do many months or years of expensive treatment. I may not agree with the lengths that some go, but like I said, that is between them and their spouse and God to decide. Letting go of any dream is hard. Adoption is also very expensive and after spending money on infertility testing and treatment, it may seem unattainable. I remember when we were praying about adoption and I saw that the cost could range from $20,000-$50,000: I was speechless. We went into the adoption process with enough money only to apply, and prayed that God would provide – and He did! When we started the adoption journey, I still felt the pain of infertility although I knew adoption was God’s Plan A for us. Several people felt that I should have been over it once we decided to adopt. That may be the case for some women, but I can say that for most women who suffer from infertility and go on to adopt, the pain is still there. You experience a new kind of joy, and the pain becomes more bearable, but that wound is never fully healed.
Do you have someone in your life who is suffering from infertility and you just don’t know how to help them or reach out to them? My best advice, having been on the other side, is handle them with care and extend grace to them. Validate their feelings – let them know that you understand their pain is real and you are so sorry. Tell them you are praying for them. Don’t avoid them because you don’t know what to say. If you are close to them and you become pregnant, tell them in private and choose tender words…it will mean the world to them that you cared enough about their feelings to do so. Don’t talk about your pregnancy around them –let them bring it up (and they will bring it up if given space and time). Invite them to your baby shower because they still want to feel included, but don’t expect them to come – they may come, or they may pick out a thoughtful gift and give it to you ahead of time. Choose your words carefully (and this goes for everything in life)- use some sensitivity! Pray for them. Pray that God will rescue them from the pain they are feeling and quickly grant their desire to be a parent through whatever means He wills. Pray for peace. Pray for their emotional stability and their relationship with their husband. Send them an encouraging verse from scripture and/or a song that you heard that encouraged you. My close friend Debbie would do this for me on particularly hard days, and she also would admittedly edit her text messages before sending to be sure that they were sensitive and encouraging! There are many things I am sure she wanted to say and I probably needed a good kick in the butt some days, but she knew that would only make me feel worse and what I needed was a good friend and a shoulder to cry on. (She also brought me lidocaine alcohol swabs and Elmo bandaids and m&m candies when I had to give myself my first injection…sorry guys, she is my friend and you can’t have her!  )

What not to say:
“If you would just relax you would get pregnant.” – There are real medical reasons why you can’t conceive. It has more to do than just relaxing.
“You are under too much stress to get pregnant.” – Again, real medical reasons, and no one can completely eliminate stress from their life.
“Just adopt and you will become pregnant.” -It does NOT happen for everyone who adopts. I personally know four families who have adopted and not gone on to conceive.
“You just need to wait for God’s timing.” – There is truth in this, but not what they need to hear. They know it in their head, but they get tired of hearing it all the time.
“I knew this person who tried for ten years before she got pregnant- but it did happen!” – Not encouraging!
“So and so is pregnant- maybe you should drink the same water.” – Not funny!
“Are you sure you’re doing it right?”… and the list goes on. 

What to say:
“I love you and I am so sorry you are going through this. It’s not fair and I know it is so hard. God does have a reason for this although it is hard to understand right now. One day we will look back on this time and see what He was doing. But until then, know that I am here, I care, and I love you.”

My blessings definitely came through raindrops, my healing through tears. I grew to know Him better, my little blessings are asleep in the next room, and my newest unexpected blessing, in my now open womb. I am so thankful for the people in my life who journeyed with me and handled me with care. Please be that for someone else who is hurting…

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Home

I figured since we have been home with the boys almost a month now, I should probably update our blog! :) Truth is, I don't consider myself a "blogger"...I usually sit and stare at the computer awhile trying to figure out how to put my thoughts into writing, and I never think it's good. Also, since bringing our two little men home, I haven't had time to pee, much less blog! The boys started school yesterday and I am now finding time to clean, do laundry, wash dishes, shower, and yes...pee. So here goes an update!

On October 7th, we arrived at the Transition Home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to be reunited with our precious boys. In that moment, the long wait, the agony, the tears, the sadness- it was all washed away. We were finally a family! I can't describe the joy in our hearts that day. We had longed to be parents for three years and God kept saying "wait". After meeting our boys in July and then having to leave them for three months was torture. A HUGE painful burden was lifted the day that we took them out of the transition home forever and back to our hotel. It's hard to believe that that part of the journey is over. Our 16 month adoption journey that seemed to drag on for eternity, now just a memory! We thank God for His peace that passes all understanding during those days where we thought we might not make it. If you know someone in the midst of the journey - whether it be infertility and the journey to parenthood, or the adoption journey, or both: be a voice of encouragement to them. Let them know that God has big things planned for them. Tell them they are not alone, and that they WILL make it through. Be an instrument of healing in their lives - they NEED it. Some days they will feel like they aren't going to make it through, or that they would rather not be living than to never be able to be a mother or father (it's real, folks), or that if they hear one more discouraging word about adoption or another insensitive comment they are going to lose it! Be there for them - they will be forever grateful. We are SO thankful for the people that "stuck it out" with us through the sadness and the ugliness and the "longness" (is that a word?). We couldn't have done it without you!

The boys have done really well since being home! I can't say that it has all been easy. They lost their birthfather and birthmother, and then when they gained a new mommy and daddy, they lost their friends and their country. We have worked through meltdowns...the screaming for an hour with no consolation, the refusing to try new foods and sitting at the table for three hours because Christian won't try just one bite (and we won't let him get up until he does), the trust issues, and the "I'm gonna run out the front door and down the street and make my pregnant mama chase me screaming because I'm running straight towards the main road" (our neighbors must wonder about us!). BUT we have also experienced the sweet moments at bedtime, hearing the boys sing praise and worship and ask to read their Bibles, the precious healing conversations about their birthparents, seeing trust grow and feeling like a family, their first day of school and being so proud of them, and so so many more. To know Christian and Joash is to totally love them...it's impossible not to. They have this mama's heart in a major way, and I cannot imagine life without them (nor do I remember much about life before them). They bring so much joy to every day! We have been asked "don't you want children of your own?" before and to that I sweetly (or not so sweetly) reply - they ARE MY OWN. They couldn't be more my own. I love them with every part of me. I grieve their past and am so sorry that they lost their birthfamily - we live in a broken world. I am thankful that out of that brokeness, God chose us to be their new family.

As most of you know, we are also expecting a baby, due in April! SUCH A MIRACLE and so unexpected. We found out about our pregnancy two weeks after we passed court and became legal parents of Christian and Joash. If that doesn't display that God's timing is perfect, I don't know what would! We are still in awe of God and His goodness. The boys are so excited! When we told them, they were so happy, and then they got right down to the business of asking where the baby comes out - "comes out of your mouth mommy?". LOL! Time to change the subject, boys! :) With that, I will leave you with some pictures of my two cuties!









Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Our First Meeting

This is a video I made to show how special our first meeting with our boys was...enjoy!

video