Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Cost of Compassion

So I guess the best way for me to keep the blog up lately is to point y'all in the direction of other blogs or other articles. I do actually have some things to say for myself... and I'm hopeful some day soon I'll have a chance to sit and blog about it.

But in the meantime...

I just read this article:

It is great. Please read it. I blogged awhile back about being heartbroken - this is exactly what I'm talking about.

And that's how life has been for us for the past few weeks. It is wonderful having Amani home, but it is hard. It hurts sometimes. And I can't stop thinking about all the other children I left behind in Ethiopia. I cried in Swaziland the night I walked with the women down to the river to get water, knowing it was tainted with diseases that are killing their children. My heart broke for the children I held who have no parents to care for them.

I pray that this kind of compassion stays with me for the rest of my life. And (watch out friends) I pray it is contagious. A LOT of my friends are headed to Swaziland with Rob next summer. And if they don't already know, they are about to find out exactly what it means when we say compassion hurts.

But it's the best kind of hurt. Like that quote from Incubus, I think it's part of how I know I'm alive.  It is so easy for us, especially here in America, to protect ourselves from this hurt.  But I don't want to live in a bubble.  That's not life.  With no risk comes no joy.

I pray that we will take down our walls, take off our protective armor, and allow ourselves to hurt alongside those who are hurting.  That is exactly what Jesus did for us. If we want to be like Him, how else could we expect to live?

Monday, October 24, 2011

How to Support Adoptive Families

I read a lot of blogs. Pretty much all of them are adoption blogs (or sewing blogs).  Today I happened to read a post from one of the blogs I follow. It's short and sweet and pretty much just all-around great:

As I read it, all I could think was "YES!"... and then I thought, isn't that what all families need?

And, like Julie, the writer of that blog, I certainly need grace. I got some pointed comments about having left Riley and Allyn to go to Ethiopia to get Amani, not knowing how long I'd be gone. I've gotten some hurtful comments about what adopting a child from another country would do to my biological children and how adoption takes away from them, both emotionally and financially.  As I talk about maybe one day adopting a fourth child, I've been asked if that's right to do, knowing that our family could more easily "afford" three children (see my post about that one)

She's so right. Adoptive families need grace. We might do things that make no sense within the context of our culture. We travel thousands of miles, leaving behind husbands, wives, children, in order to bring home our children. We stretch budgets, do fundraisers, take out loans in order to bring these children home. We spend years working on paperwork, getting fingerprinted, waiting, waiting waiting. We love children who have no genetic ties to us; who sometimes look nothing like us, who need surgeries, medications, and an insane amount of individual attention to get through the day.

We need grace. I need grace. I promise I am just doing my best to be like Jesus. I am going to fail. Miserably. Many times.  But I press on, knowing that God loves orphans, knowing that Amani sleeping in his crib next to his big brother's bed is worth every bit of the craziness.


The word brings peace to my soul.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bring your good times, and your laughter too...

Someone call Kool & the Gang 'cause we are celebrating! (good gracious, how do I even have any friends? I'm such a nerd.)

This has been an AWESOME week.  Wanna know why? Two families on this journey with us passed court this week! That means two more little girls in Ethiopia now have families. God is so good! I had the absolute honor of meeting these two precious girls while I was in Ethiopia! They are amazing, as are their families! These families didn't pass court before the rainy season, even though they traveled to Ethiopia around the same time we did for court. That means they've been waiting waiting waiting for this news!  Hooray!


One of the cool things about this crazy adoption journey is the connection I have made to other mamas who are on this road with me.  And there are lots of them!  Their blog posts & comments have been inspiring, have kept me sane, and have lifted me up along this journey. I used to think it was weird to have internet-only friends. Now I thank God for them!

I am SO excited to celebrate with them this week! :)

PS. Good gracious, I am sorry for how grumpy I was in that last post. Sometimes I think I should wait 24 hours before clicking "publish."  My outlook is not that negative, I promise! yikes! :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How's it going?

I get asked this question a lot lately and to be honest, I really don't know how to answer it.

I think we're fine.

But that doesn't mean that it isn't hard.

So I don't know how to answer the question. If I say "great!" it doesn't feel like the truth. It is great that Amani is home. We are thrilled to finally have him here. That part is beyond great.  But during this transition time he cries a lot, he needs to be held all day long. My back hurts from having him in the sling all the time. And have I mentioned that he cries a lot? And, poor baby, his breath is about the worst thing I've ever smelled. It's from his adenoid surgery and I called the ENT to make sure it's okay. Apparently it's supposed to do that. And it should get better this week. Praise God. It's really that bad. And remember, he's in the sling all day... right below my nose! :)

But if I am honest and say "well, it's hard," I tend to get lots of advice. I don't mean to be rude, but I didn't ask for advice. I didn't bring up the fact that it's hard, they asked.  And, again, really really not meaning to be rude, but advice on how their biological child went through this too isn't really that helpful.  I promise a biological child did not, in fact, go through this. And explaining all this for some reason takes a lot of energy out of me, so I don't say anything.  Instead I think, "how can I turn this conversation off of my struggles and onto something mundane?"

So the honest answer to "How's it going?" is "I don't know."  I'm not sure how well Amani's doing. Is he supposed to cry this much? I don't know. How much longer will he need until he feels safe and comfortable with us? I don't know that either.  But for right now, I am doing the best that I can with him. I'm tired. It is really hard to hang out with a child who cries all day long. And only naps in 20 minute increments.  Really hard.  I pray for grace, patience, and compassion every morning. And again at night before I go to bed. And a couple times during the day.

But I expected this. I asked for this. I want this. Amani is home. He is grieving, he is freaking out because this "normal" isn't anything like what it used to be.  That is okay. We will weather this storm.  This is what adoption looks like.

And it's beautiful. I love this child, more than I can even explain. I look at him and my heart wells up the same way it does when I look at Riley and Allyn.  And honestly, every day gets a little easier. I hope I don't sound too down with this post. Things are so much better than they were.

So... how are YOU doing?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

On Ethics and Adoption

I've been thinking a lot about how to write about my experience with the US Embassy while I was in Ethiopia.  It wasn't a good experience but I am glad I've had some space between now and then to reflect. I can think a little more objectively now than when I was in Ethiopia.

I definitely think the Embassy should be involved. It is always tricky to adopt from a different country. Different cultures and different governments have different priorities.  What happens in Ethiopia is that you get approval from the Ethiopian government first via your favorable opinion from MOWA and then the judge's decree making you the child's legal parent.  But the tricky part is that I was only Amani's legal parent in Ethiopia. As far as the US government was concerned, the adoption was not at all final.  But they don't become involved in the process until after we became his legal parents in Ethiopia.

That makes things tricky if the US government decides it's not a legal/ethical adoption.

And I was faced with this very problem while we were there. I hinted at the Embassy's unreasonable requests while I was in-country.  One of those requests involved doing something that might have completely jeopardized our adoption of Amani.  To be fair, what the Embassy wanted was completely reasonable... it was the timing that was not.  It just doesn't make sense for the Embassy to become involved in the process so late in the game. I am hoping some changes may be made so that the US does their investigation at the same time as MOWA. That would be acting in the best interest of the children and families involved.

Because that is what we need to do. We need to act in the best interest of the children, THEN the families involved. I confess that when the Embassy first made their request, I balked. I wanted to fight it, to find a way around it.  But I realized that while their timing really was inappropriate, the request itself was in Amani's best interest. Not necessarily mine. I didn't want to do something that could result in me not bringing him home. We had already grown to love him, he was already living with me.  It would have been devastating.

But I absolutely did not want to adopt a child if there had been any kind of corruption involved in his becoming an orphan.  And I needed to do everything possible to be sure that's not what had happened. We complied with what the Embassy requested. And I had nightmares. I imagined what it would be like to return home without him; what it would be like to discover that there had been corruption in his case and that he was not in fact an orphan.  It was a scary time.

Thank goodness for us everything was in order. I had done my own research when we traveled to Gondar so I really believed everything would work out okay but it was scary nonetheless.

But my point is this: adoption is not for the parents. It is not for the families. Yes, we benefit greatly because we get the honor of raising these incredible children. But we need to protect children (and their families) from those who wish to use them or benefit from their suffering.  It would be easy to lose sight of this; to pretend there is no corruption; to stick our heads in the sand because we desperately want these children.

There is corruption in adoption. Not in all adoptions, but it exists where adoption exists.  And we need to always act in the best interest of the children even when it's not in the best interest of the waiting families.

That's easy for me to say to say now that I have my son home.  But I promise you I had to act in his best interest in order to bring him home at all. I had to do something that could have turned EVERYTHING upside down and I would have come home without Amani after almost 2 years of waiting and praying for him.  And while I still wish the Embassy had asked for it months ago, before I became his legal parent, I am glad we did it.  Because while it was not at all in my best interest as the mom who wanted to bring him home, it was completely in his best interest as a child needing a family.  And in all honesty, I'm more interested in what's best for him, not me.

I am praying lots for Ethiopia. Being in-country for three weeks allowed me to see and hear about some of the negative things that are going on over there.  There is a great need for change in the adoption process.  I am praying for that change and for all who are still in-process.

Most of all, I pray for the children. They are the ones with the most at stake here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Power of Language

The words we use are so powerful. And sometimes we don't realize at all what we are saying or how it comes across.  I know a lot of people in the adoption community get very offended by certain terms. I don't blame them, although I am not as easily offended.  I figure I'd rather give the other person some grace and realize that they probably don't realize what they are saying.

For the past two years, I've been doing all kinds of training; reading books on interracial adoption, reading about adoption in general, doing web-inars, etc. I'd consider myself fairly well-educated on the matter. Plus, I'm a social worker. In grad school, the power of the labels/language we use was drilled into my head. I try to always be very aware of what my words are saying.

But I have to realize that many people are not. They didn't spend two years learning about adoption and probably didn't have any grad school classes on language.  I can choose to get upset over what they say or I can educate them. I think, in most cases, people just don't have the working vocabulary they need to talk appropriately about adoption.

And I figure most of y'all who read this blog are my family or close friends or you know someone in the adoption community. So I thought I'd provide a tiny lesson on adoption language, free of charge! :)  Here are some rules of thumb for talking with adoptive families:

Please don't ask me about Amani's "real parents." Rob and I are his real parents. I know who you are talking about when you say that, but to be honest, it hurts my feelings a tiny bit. And, MUCH more importantly, someday Amani will hear and understand your words. He will wonder why you think his Mom and Dad are not his real parents.  Feel free to say "birth parents" but don't expect us to tell you anything.

Please don't ask me about my "own" kids. All three of them are my own.  I've had people say, "oh, I didn't realize you couldn't have any more of your own." Or say things like "what do YOUR kids think."  I know you mean my biological children, but every child of mine is my own. I don't want Amani to ever hear this and think he is not mine.  I don't want Riley and Allyn to hear this and think he's not ours, too!  (And in case you were wondering, we chose to adopt. We had no reason to believe we couldn't have more biological children. We believe adopting is just as good of an option for growing a family).

Don't ask "where did you get him?"  That's the kind of question you ask someone with a new puppy.  "Where is he from?" is much more appropriate. I know those don't seem like important differences, but if you want to connect with the mom you're asking these questions of, I promise it's an important distinction.

Please don't ask "Was he expensive?" or "How much did he cost?"  I did not purchase my child. I NEVER want him to get that impression. EVER.  It's probably never appropriate to ask someone about the cost of their adoption in the presence of their children, but if the kids aren't around, it's fine by me if you ask if adoption is expensive. But then I just might ask you how much you paid your OB or midwife for your labor & delivery! :)

And don't try to use him to get a certain message across. He is not a poster-child for adoption. He's not a poster-child for Ethiopia.  I am happy to speak about adoption or about Ethiopia but I am not bringing my child with me as a prop.  If you were giving a talk on birth and labor, you probably wouldn't bring your baby along when there was a much more age-appropriate activity for your child to participate in.  The same goes for us. Amani is a child, not a message.

That's a lot of "don'ts".  Want to know what you CAN do if you see someone with a child and you think it's maybe an international adoption?

Compliment their child.  Every mother loves to hear great things about their children. I was out with Amani tonight and was told twice that I have a pretty baby. It made my heart sing.  And if they had chosen to follow that statement up with nicely-worded questions about adoption, you know I would have been happy to talk to them about it!

Talk about regular mom stuff. Get a conversation going the way you would with any other mom. Say "how old is he?" or make some kind of comment about something your child did at that age. You know, those weird things we mamas say to each other when we're sitting on the benches inside the Chick-Fil-A play area. To that mom, their child is not "my adopted child." He is simply "my child." Act accordingly.

Ask.  If you aren't sure if it's okay to talk about a child's adoption, wait until the child is not around and ask if it's okay. Some parents are super-open about talking about their children's adoptions. Some are not. It's okay to ask.  But be prepared to allow them to say they don't want to talk about it. Just because it is obvious that a child is adopted doesn't mean the parents are open to discussing it.  For us, I'm more than happy to talk about it as long as it's also appropriate for Amani to hear what we are saying. If it's not, be prepared for me to change the subject, hoping you'll take the hint that now is not the time.

And don't freak out. We all make mistakes in our wording. We do it all the time. Our culture condones a lot of it. I'm certain I've said things that I didn't mean to say or I didn't think before I spoke.  And I'm not writing this post in response to anything in particular, so if you are my friend, please don't wonder if I'm talking about you! I promise, I am not!!! You don't need to walk (or talk) on eggshells around me. But realize that, just like every mom, I want what is best for my children, and that includes what they hear about how they came into our family.

So now you know. And knowing is half the battle! ;)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Surgery Day

I'm sitting in the hospital watching my sweet boy sleep in those weird baby-hospital-bed-crib things, so I thought I'd do a quick post!

I wish I'd brought a camera with me today 'cause he was just the world cutest patient in his little gown. You'll just have to imagine it :)

I was anxious about today. To be honest, I was anxious about this morning. I wasn't really worried about the surgery. Lots of my friends' kids have had tubes put in. And a few more have told me they had adenoidectomies too. And they all were fine.  What I was worried about was pre-surgery.

You see, my sweet, food-loving, food-issues child was to have NOTHING to eat or drink until after his surgery today.  That would make for a tough morning for any child, but for my child who is just learning to trust me, this was a big deal.  I was so anxious about that moment when he looked at me and signed "more" and I couldn't respond.  We've been responding to him as quickly as possible when it comes to food. We need to build up that trust that food comes when he asks for it. Every time. Fast.  But today, I had to wake him up at 5:30 and then refuse to feed him for 2 hours until he went back for surgery. I can't even begin to tell you how much I was dreading it!

Let me tell you I could feel the prayers this morning. I know lots of our family and friends were praying for us. He got mad a couple times but he managed really much better than I thought he would. Although man did that blood pressure cuff on his leg make him mad. yikes.

And then I had a small "moment" with the anesthesiologists.  Because he is a newly adopted child, I wanted to stay with him until he was out under anesthesia.  And a friend of mine from church had told me she had done that with her daughter. So I knew it was possible. I asked and was told quite briskly, "no, that is not our policy." I explained that he's newly adopted. I explained attachment issues. I asked if there was someone else I could speak to. She brought another anesthesiologist who basically said the same thing but with more words. He told me that, to them, it was not a medical issue and therefore my child did not require anything different.

Crying, I told them that if it was my biological child, I would put them on a stretcher and wave goodbye. I told them I was not trying to be difficult, but that I needed to do my best by my son and that I needed to stay with him until the last possible second, so that he was not taken away from me on a stretcher, screaming.  They conceded enough to say I could walk with them up to "the red line" (which was not really a concession).

And then our wonderful surgeon stepped in. I had heard great things about him from friends but this man certainly proved them right.  It's Dr. Bates at Greensboro ENT in case anyone is wondering.  He looked at me and said "I'm more familiar to him, how about if I carry him in my arms." Amani's only met him once, but that really was nice of him, and judging by the comments I heard from the anesthesiologists later, that was not a normal thing for him to offer.  And luckily Amani was given some oral meds just before which made him a little loopy.

So instead of watching my child rolled off in a stretcher, screaming, reaching out for me, I was able to hand him over into the arms of his surgeon. He did reach for me, but there was no screaming, no crying (at least not on his part).

God is so good.

And, of course, I cried. I was no longer worried about pre-surgery. I wasn't fighting for the opportunity to stay with my child. I just had to wait. And I cried and prayed.

And he's just fine.

Although we had a tiny glitch. Apparently someone was supposed to tell us to plan to spend the night at the hospital. Instead, they told us we'd be discharged straight from the recovery room.  Imagine our surprise when Dr. Bates said "I know you were planning to stay the night but I'm thinking as long as he's still doing well by 4 you can probably take him home." Um, what? I had two diapers in my diaper bag and one bottle.That was it. I hadn't showered, thinking I'd take one as soon as we got back home!

So there I was in the recovery room, texting a friend to see if she could watch Allyn for the morning and pick Riley up from school! Thank God for great friends!

It's 3:20. You know in 40 minutes I'll be hitting that call bell asking them to start the discharge process!

But for now I'll just watch that sleeping boy and be thankful.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Our New "Normal"

Amani has been home for three whole days.  Three days of having three kids.

Here's what life looks like so far:

I never organized Amani's clothes in his drawers since I wasn't quite sure what size he wore. So right now all his clothes are in piles on the couches in the living room. I have to walk out there to find clothes for him. Except for socks. Those are in a drawer in his room.

I also never quite figured out what I wanted to do about a changing table. Allyn's room was the "baby room" since it has a built-in desk that was a perfect changing table. But now it's a desk again. But we put the diapers on top. So we have to walk into Allyn's room to get a diaper, then I've been changing him on my bed, on the floor in his room, on the floor in the living room, wherever.

He doesn't appreciate food preparation. I was prepared for food issues so I expected this, but when Rob took Riley to soccer practice Tuesday night, I figured I could handle making mac & cheese for Amani and Allyn. Not so much. He screamed the entire time I was making it. It didn't matter if I held him or not. I ended up quickly heating up leftovers for him to eat while the mac & cheese finished up cooking but by then he was so worked up he couldn't sit in his high chair.  Fun times.  I'll be working on some new strategies... or maybe we'll just be eating take out for the rest of our lives!

And, just to sum up our new "normal":

I went to give Amani a bath tonight and reached into the linen closet for a baby washcloth. Instead I got a pair of my underwear.

Hey, at least I'm putting laundry away!

Monday, October 3, 2011


I've been updating facebook and neglected the blog!

Here's our timeline!

We went to the Embassy on Thursday and they wouldn't see us! The person in charge was in a meeting and we were so frustrated that, after waiting for an hour, they told us to send an email.

We hurried straight home and sent an email.

Friday morning we got an email reply saying that they'd received the documents but we were not yet cleared.

Bummed, we decided we were stuck for the weekend. Jaeden & I took Amani up back to Gladney for his injection but on the way there, my phone rang - it was Belay asking how quickly we could get to the embassy! We were cleared! And if we could get there by 11:30 we could have our appointment that day!

In a mad rush, we drove back to the guest house to get Kim & Reisen and our paperwork (remind me to tell you about that drive... oh my! Driving in Africa is an experience all by itself... driving in Africa when you've told your driver you are in a crazy hurry is something altogether different! Whew!)

Another crazy drive and we were at the Embassy at 11:16! We had our appointments, waited on our visas and we were out of there by 12:20! Amazing!

We went straight to the Ethiopian Air office and were thrilled to learn we could get tickets for Saturday!

We arrived home on Sunday afternoon (I'll blog later about the plane flight... let's just say at one point I was contemplating jumping out the window).

I was so surprised when we got to baggage claim! Some of our closest friends were there to meet us!!! It was so wonderful to be welcomed home like that! As soon as I got to the bottom of the escalator I was greeted by Riley and Allyn and their friends... it was so sweet! Our "lunch crowd" from church was all there! So was my best friend from college. We are so blessed to have such amazing friends.  All I can do is marvel at the people God has placed in my life.
Proud Big Brother & Big Sister (and best friend Ella!)
Amani being greeted by friends!

Big Sister's first kiss!

We headed home and Aman did okay in his car seat. Thank God for siblings! They could distract him when I couldn't!! :)

As we turned onto our street, Rob said, "uh, I think there are a lot of people at our house." I was sitting in the way back with Riley so I didn't see at first. I looked up at there were all our youth and their families and some more of our friends with signs, balloons, and they'd even decorated our hedges with streamers. So amazing.

We love y'all! And thank you. Thank you so much for being so supportive over the past two years while we we've been adopting. And thank you in-advance. We know y'all are here for us as we begin this next (harder) step of adoption: parenting.  Thank you for loving our family, for loving Amani before you even met him.

And now we are a family of 5. Praise God!
Our first family picture!