Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Family Update-Adoption

Well, after many attempts I finally figured out my blog password after many years of it sitting in silence.  This blog was good for me.  In the past it was a good place for me to pour out my heart and to try to make sense of what God was doing in my life.  I have always had the intention of printing it into a blog book for our family to keep, yet that has never been high enough on the priority list to actually get it done.

My sister Jess, has graciously stepped into being and amazing adoption fundraiser organizer.  I honestly hate fundraisers and I am probably the worst sales person alive. But, sometimes it's worth it!! I so appreciate all the time and organization she has put into it for us.  She shared some of past story on Facebook and thought we should give an update as why we are adopting.  So, here is my best attempt...sorry it is so long. 

I really cannot remember when I first began to love Ch*na.  I remember as a young teenager always being drawn to that culture whether it was a cute Asian elderly couple or a cute little girl.  I remember there being an inner awareness of the preciousness of these people.  I remember in college a period of struggle as I questioned if I should move there and teach English.  At the time I had a suite mate from this area of the world, and it was a thought that bounced around in my heart and in my mind, as I tried to figure our what was in store for me after college.  

A few months later I met Kevin and we began dating.  I remember there being a conversation early in our relationship that went something like, "I'd like to adopt a child one day" and he then said, "Yeah, me too."  And in my mind I mentally did another check mark to keeping this guy around.  

A few years into our marriage, as we were getting closer to starting our family, we had a christian musician come and sing and share at our church on a Sunday night.  I don't remember his name or his music, but I do remember him sharing of his two little girls that he and his wife had adopted from Ch*na.  That night the Lord continued to whisper His plan for me into my heart.  So, we came home that night and began researching Ch*na adoptions.  We thought maybe it was God's plan for us to adopt first and then have biological children.  It didn't take long in our research to see that Ch*na had an age requirement of 30.  At the time we were probably 25 and 26 and 30 seemed so far off.  (We are now 36 and almost 38 and this thought just makes me smile.)  So, we decided that the timing was not right and it wasn't too long until we were pregnant with our first child.

If you've followed our story, you know that we lost our first, precious baby, not long after birth due to a rare birth defect.  In the year that followed we struggled to get pregnant again.  I wanted another baby so much that it was all consuming and it seemed like month after month the Lord said no. During those months we looked into adoption some more.  Maybe my body couldn't handle pregnancy.  I really didn't think I could handle another loss.  We checked into some other countries and programs and still my heart felt called to Ch*na and we weren't 30 yet. After and entire year of begging God, trying and praying, we finally got pregnant.  

In a short time frame, I found myself with two busy little girls and precious little boy who was born with Spina Bifida.  God had given and blessed and though it was not without struggle, I was so thankful to be a mom.  There were many days that I protested that we were done having kids, that our hands and hearts were full!   It was also during those years of filling our home that Ch*na pretty much ended their healthy child adoptions and moved to mostly special needs adoptions.  I clearly remember realizing for the first time that if we were to ever adopt from Ch*na that we would have 2 kids with special needs.  I wish I could tell you that when I first realized this that I was excited, but the truth was that it seemed overwhelming.  Throughout the next few years we looked at several waiting child files prayed yet we just couldn't say yes. 

Over the last five years of being a special needs family, I do feel that God has worked on my heart and helped me to see that I can trust Him more. He has shown me that He is with me through scary appointments.  He's continues to comfort me that he has a good plan even when the future scares me to think about.  I've seen Him get great glory when our family finds our delight in Him and not in our situation or circumstances.  He has continued to nudge us slowly again and again to open our hearts and home to another child.  

There are so many reasons to say no to adoption: the crazy paperwork, the money$$$, the unknowns, the travel, all the hard that comes with it.  There were many days that I acknowledged these difficulties and thought, "Yeah, were good."  Life had finally gotten back to a sweet place and why would I want to invite challenges again?  Then there were days when we'd sing,"Break my heart for what breaks yours, everything thing I am for your kingdom's cause" or "Who makes the orphan a son and daughter, the King of Glory, the King above all kings" and my heart would about burst.

Last fall on a Sunday night, Kev had preached that day and we had just gotten our kiddos in bed and sat on the couches for a few minutes to finally chill out.  Instead of turning on a movie we sat and talked for a bit.  I asked him what the Lord had been telling him.  Without hesitaiton, he said, to adopt. I think I was a bit shocked, not sure why because I knew the Lord was telling me the same thing. It was kinda one of those...We're having a baby moments of shock and fear.  

We waited for the new year to come and had planned on getting started. We invited some friends over who had adopted several kids and shared our plans with them and we asked lots of questions. We still felt like we were spinning our wheels.  So many agencies, so many reviews both good and bad.  Do we find a child first and then begin or begin and then match with a child?  I felt a bit overwhelmed and the months were busy and full.  In April of this year, I felt led to spend 40 days praying about how to move forward, asking the Lord for guidance. So we committed to really just praying for direction and peace.

After about a month of praying were were driving home from a quick little family getaway and I checked Facebook as Kev was driving.  I noticed a precious 12 month old's picture as I skimmed an advocacy site that I followed.  I showed Kev and he immediately said, email for more information.  The little sweetie had spina bifida like Eli, and yet appeared to have great mobility for a 12 month old.  I emailed and over the next week we requested to be matched with this little girl.  We prayed and prayed for the Lord's will.  It seemed like such a good match for us.  We prayed, we asked and then we didn't match with her.  Our whole family was bit disappointed, but this was just what we all needed to push us to get started.

By that weekend I was in full-on paper work mode.  We quickly found a home study agency and a placing agency, both of whom we had not originally planned to use, yet felt led to.  We have worked so hard on the paper chase  all summer long.  I am so thankful for the Lord's timing, since we got so much of it done over the summer.  

As of now, we are not matched.  Our dossier is in the process of being authenticated and we are waiting to get i800a approval.  We have no clue who our girl is, what she looks like, when she was born or how old she is, what her special need is, or when we will get to bring her home.  But, without a doubt I know that God put her on my heart years ago.  I know that God wouldn't let me forget about her, when I wanted to be content with our little family.  I know God loves her and must have some great plan for her life and we get to be a part of that!!


When I one day arrive in heaven, I want to arrive tired.  I want to have spent out every ounce of Julie so that I don't even look like me.  I want to know that I was obedient to the point of being paranoid that I might miss God's plan for me.  I want to know more of  what it must have felt like for God to have taken me, a foreigner, into his family and love me forever.  Little Eden Grace, you are somewhere on this great big planet, and we can't wait to love you!  

Friday, June 7, 2013

Being a special needs mom

The other morning I was up early before the rest, which unfortunately doesn't happen as often as I wish, and a fiesty little red head, who is growing up way to fast, woke up talking a million miles a minute.  Out of the blue she said, "Mama, when I grow up I am not going to have a baby."

I asked her why not, and told her that I knew she'd make a great mommy one day (very, very far into the future!)

And then she said as if her five year old heart had held this thought captive for a while, "I don't want to have a baby because it might have spina bifida."

And in that moment my five year old expressed my deepest unspoken fear. 

Without a moment to think I began to question,  "So that might mean if you had a baby with Spina Bifida he or she might have to have some therapy, right?  You love Mrs. Cindy, Mrs. Jillian and Mrs. Melanie.  That wouldn't be so bad to have therapy would it?" 

She smiled and said, "No."
Our Super PT removing Eli's cast in our kitchen!  Above and beyond the call of duty!

Then I said, "And it might mean that your baby would have to wear afo's or braces, use a walker or wheelchair.  You might have to go see Mr. Maurice a lot to get fitted for new Afo's.  That's not too hard is it?"

And again she said, "No."

The braces so far...
Eli is doing super with his walker.  He is getting forearm crutches tomorrow.
And it would mean that you would have to have more doctor appointments at the big hospital.  You have been to several of Eli's and they weren't so bad either, were they?  And she smiled and reminded me that she liked the stickers the nurses give them when we leave. 

And then I reminded her how much we would miss everyday without a little brother! Yes, there have been some challenges, but he makes up for it a thousand times over with his joy and sweetness.  And she laughed and agreed. 
The one and only time all 3 kids will match...says daddy!  Such a happy boy!
They fight over who gets to sit by Eli!

And then I am pretty sure both of our hearts felt better. 
I have often thought how I would have never willingly chosen these challenges for our family, but I can't really imagine life being any sweeter.  God has been faithful!



Saturday, April 20, 2013

2 years Post Fetal Surgery

If you are new to my blog, then you may not know that two years ago, 2011, was the year that about killed us...quite literally!  In March of 2011, we found out at 16 weeks that our fourth baby had spina bifida.  Shocked and devastated...hardly seem like strong enough words to describe those early days following the diagnosis.  Even more devastating since five years prior we'd had a seemingly similar horrible day when we learned that our first sweet baby boy had a fatal, rare kidney problem.  We'd been told that the chances of something like that happening again would be the same odds as getting struck by lightening twice on the same day.

Spina bifida was something I knew nothing about except that I was super religious in taking my prenatal vitamins.  I really only knew that they helped to prevent neural tube defects and for someone who had faced such a hard and difficult loss I couldn't for the life of me understand why any woman wouldn't take a silly pill if it would prevent a birth defect!!!!!  I did...for five years and I had a baby with spina bifida. Go figure!!

After finding out that our baby had spina bifida it was mentioned to us that there may be the option of fetal surgery.  It seemed like such a long shot.  At the time there were three hospitals in the US who did the surgery.  We would have to travel.  We would have to qualify (amnio, ultrasounds, medical files, etc.).  It would have to be done in a few short week(from 20-25 weeks).  It was super, mega, expensive and at that time insurances were just beginning to cover some cases.  It would mean I would be on bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy.  It all seemed impossible and overwhelming.

Two Days before Surgery! My biggest worry was how this all would effect our girls!
Kevin made the first call to Vanderbilt and began to gather information for us.  The ball got rolling and we prayed.  We prayed for wisdom and peace.  We prayed that God would open and close doors and that we'd keep walking through them as He opened them.  The weeks went quick and to make a long story short, on April 19, 2011, little, teeny, tiny 1lb 14 oz. Eli Matthew and his scared to death mommy went into surgery together. 

I can't believe I am posting this one!  It was not a pretty day for me!
 Honestly, I have never been more scared in my life.  On the morning of surgery, I remember being anxious and really tired.  I hadn't slept well in a while.  After all the consents were signed I requested something to help me relax and that is about all I remember, except laughing as they put the epidural in (those were some good meds)!  I was completely out for surgery and it lasted about four hours. 

The surgery team...beginning! We were blessed to have this unique look into this day via the nurse coordinator taking pictures.  If you are may want to stop reading here!
Opening mama!
That my friends is my pregnant 22 week uterus outside of my stomach and flipped over.
Opening the uterus! Can you believe this works?  So thankful for the mamy moms who participated in the MOMS Trial and pathed the way and the brave doctors who pioneered it!
They opened me up and took my uterus out and flipped it.  Found Eli's back via ultrasound and opened my uterus.  The neurosurgeon repaired Eli's open back and then they put him back in me and closed me back up.  Sounds pretty simple huh!  It is a very delicate surgery and there have been babies that haven't made it through.  I realize that so much more two years later how blessed we were. 

Eli's very 1st Neurosurgeon watching and waiting for his turn!
I was under a very deep anesthesia...enough for me and Eli yet ,they still gave him local anesthesia too!  His first  shot!
Just for a moment ...that must tell you that unborn babies MUST feel pain!!!! 
And this is his precious little opened spine.  The source of many tears and concern and the reason for all of this!
Closing Eli's back and then they closed me! 
So thankful for this special team of doctors and nurses at Vanderbilt! 

As I was waking up I remember being dazed and confused and Kev kept telling me that all went well and that Eli's little heart remained stable and strong through the whole thing.  Recovery was a rough ride, but everyday got a little better. 

Feeling a little crazy.  Kevin said I was saying that it had been three days since I'd been able to eat.
Clearly this was the exciting moment of the day!
The two best vistors ever.  So thankful that they got to be with us in Nashville!
First airplane ride home almost two weeks later!
Mama in the wheelchair. Truely everyone should have to use one for an extended season and it will foster a new level of gratefulness and compassion for those that use them daily! 
Two years post surgery I have a beautiful, smart and healthy little boy.  I was so thankful when he was born at 34 weeks, that his little back was closed with just a small scar on his lower back.  Fetal surgery does not take away spina bifida, but I feel like it benefited our little boy in many ways. 

This was Eli's back on the day that he was born. 
My first time holding Eli in the NICU!

None of this would have been possible without the best husband and daddy around who did more than his load that spring and summer! 
I am so thankful to all who were there for us during this crazy time in our lives.  I still remember so many little acts of kindness and care that carried us through some long days.  So, two years past and I am so thankful that we did it, that God carried us through and that we have an awesome little boy that fills our hearts with so much joy every single day!!!

If  you want to read all the details...our spina bifda journey begins in March 2011 in the archives.  :)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Our Disney Trip Catch Up

We left for Disney World bright and early on December 26th.  A sweet and very giving family in our church invited us to use their timeshare week in Orlando, since they were unable to use it, and we just couldn't turn that down.  So even though Disney wasn't in our 2012 plans, we saved and decided to make it happen. 

I must say that the thought of leaving my house full of Christmas d├ęcor and Christmas disaster was hard for me.  I like to clean it all up and pack it away in the days to follow Christmas.  I had to keep telling myself that it was okay, and it would all be there waiting for me when we got home.  You may not understand this worry unless you are a bit type A, but for me it made me feel stressed.  My sweet husband knows this and promised we would get it all done!  He helped and it wasn't as bad as I thought.  Letting go is good!

Back to Disney...I must just say that Eli had a bad ear infection and began Augmentin right before Christmas.  It killed his stomach.  I mean killed it!!  I mean he had diarrhea for all 14 days that he had to take it and a few afterwards.  I don't just mean a little, I mean explosive, everywhere, oh my goodness, what do I do, kind of bad diapers.  I just share that little bit of unwanted information because it was a big part of our trip!!

Oh yea, he threw up in the car on the way and we had to wash and take the car seat apart before we could go to Target to get more supplies.  You know more diapers, Destin, Pedialyte, probiotics, yogurt, and anything else he might eat or drink. 

The next morning we headed to the Magic Kingdom.  We were prepared.  He was double diapered, creamed like there was no tomorrow, and we had extra, extra changes of clothes.  When I say that I saw each bathroom at Disney, I mean, I.SAW.THEM.  I changed him every hour or so and each time it was such a process.  I know some moms behind me wondered why it took me 15 minutes to change my child...if they only knew.  Thankfully, we knew it was just his meds and not him just being sick.

That continued for the duration of our trip.  We only had one terrible mess when Kevin got completely pooped on while we were riding the train.  I offered to buy him a goofy shirt, but he didn't take me up on the offer and resorted to wearing a jacket. 

Other than Eli not feeling well, we had such a wonderful time.  My girls were in heaven and Disney did not disappoint on the Christmas Magic.  The snow falling on main street while Christmas music played each evening was my favorite. 

We waited over two hours for Eliza to meet Tink and her sister, Periwinkle.  She was star struck for sure.

Ella got to hold Ariel's hand and parade around the restaurantt at our character meal and she couldn't stop gushing.  She has told us that she wants her hair to be redder so it will be more like Ariel's. 

We pushed it hard and did LONG days.  The parks were at capacity packed, yet we still had a great time. We fast passed our way through the parks and did everything we wanted. 

We made memories to last least I have a lot of pictures to prove it!
Day we go!

I loved all the Christmas decorations.

We questioned bringing all the strollers, but we were so thankful we did.

It was COLD in Florida!

Eli loved it all, despite not feeling well.

He caught some cat naps here and there. What a trooper!

Five and three was a great age for meeting the characters. 
Eli liked them as long as they didn't touch him!

The Christmas parade was amazing!

Waiting to meet Tink!

Her little dream come true!

And Ariel...Ella's favorite!

Day 2 Animal Kingdom

My sweet boy!

A little tired on day 2!

Squeezing in the bushes to watch the Animal Kingdom parade.

Mommy was feeling it too!

Day 3 back to the Magic rained a lot!

Freezing, tired and waiting for two hours to watch the light parade.  We took turns holding our
good spot while the other did bathroom trips and got snacks.

Day 4 Epcot

Doing their "Jessie" pose!

Our big princess lunch!

Sweet little Cinderella!

And beautiful Ariel!

And brother who was more concerned with lunch!

Ariel telling her that she looks just like her...made her year!

Still gushing!

We did Disney with three small kids, one sick and lived to blog about it!  What a fun and special time we had together as a family!