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One of the RLC “blog buzz” questions this week was about adopting a child with special needs.  I felt compelled to write a little something on the subject because of how heavily I relied on reading other people’s perspectives last spring while Peter and I were contemplating our special needs adoption.

Here are some thoughts based on our personal process.  (*Please keep in mind that I am utterly and completely new to all this.  I have not parented a child with special needs before.  I’m certainly not an expert!  Until a year ago, I had no idea what a “brachial plexus injury” was… three months ago, I had never even heard of the term “neuronal migration disorder” or the condition “polymicrogyria.”  I’m simply the lucky mom to an amazing child who constantly floors us with his persistence, tenacity and zest for life!  So this is just my own unique, unprofessional, barely-experienced perspective.  🙂 )

Obviously one of the most important things you can do at the beginning is to research like crazy!  Become a dedicated mole digging for as much information as you can get — just as you would if you were given a diagnosis about your child while expecting and had the time to learn about what the diagnosis meant and what it entailed.  Talk to everyone you can who is familiar with the particular special need you are considering.  Read books.  Read blogs.  Speak with specialists.  Learn the vocabulary.  There are a lot of great resources to help you get started.  Here’s one of my favorites:  http://specialneedsadoption.rainbowkids.com/ 

If you are considering a specific child, it is very, very helpful to get a recently updated medical report to review with a pediatric specialist.  Obviously this isn’t always possible (and sometimes, even if you’re lucky enough to get the report, it might not be completely accurate!)  But if it’s possible, go for it.  Even if the agency doesn’t offer, ask if it’s an option for the child to be taken to a doctor for an updated medical report.  And then, if possible, have a list of questions from the specialist for the doctor conducting the medical exam to answer. 

It’s also helpful during the research phase to talk with parents who are raising children with that particular special need.  It makes it so much more tangible and realistic to speak with someone who is in the arena… Someone who knows the trials and the triumphs intimately and can share with you from the perspective of being a parent.  Because as important as it is to research the medical implications, it is also really, really important to remember that medical field isn’t infallible and not all children are the same.  It can seem daunting to read the medical descriptions of certain conditions; It can seem overwhelming to listen to a doctor talk about the care involved and possible complications.  But a mom or dad who knows what it’s really like on a daily basis within a family can change that perception in an instant. 

I also think it’s important to begin processing the inevitable emotions that come with the thoughts of parenting a child with special needs.  There will be hard questions that you ask yourself in the middle of the night as you stare at the ceiling wide awake.  It’s okay!!  Ask the hard questions.  Take a deep, hard, honest look at any fears or misconceptions or even subconscious prejudices in your heart and work through them.  Let yourself process the “diagnosis” as you would in the case of a biological child.  Grieve if you need to.  It IS difficult sometimes to think about the possible potholes and steep curves in the road ahead.  But it’s so important to do so.  I know that everyone is different in how they process their emotions and their fears and concerns.  The important thing is just to do it. 

And then, even in the middle of researching and processing , you really have to come to peace with the vast amount of unknowns inherent in international adoption.  The reality is that no matter how much you research and prepare; no matter HOW many specialists and parents you speak with, there is just no way that you can be fully prepared for every unknown.  And you have to be okay with that.  Hope for the best, certainly!  Keep a positive outlook, but don’t put undue expectations on the future. 

And while I’m sharing, here’s a bit of personal advice…  If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t share with quite as many people during the “research/contemplation” phase.  It was difficult to deal with people’s pointed questions and fearful assumptions before Peter and I had made a decision (even though I knew they came well-intentioned) because it complicated our thought-processing.   After we had made the decision to proceed and accepted Henry’s referral, it was much, much easier to handle the fear and concern from family and friends.  It was official.  We’d made the decision.  We were well-researched and united in our response to the myriad of reasons why it wasn’t a “good idea.”  We were able to meet people’s strong opinions from a place of confidence. 

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I want to end by saying that no matter how much you research, or how prepared you feel… it’s still a leap of faith.  Just like any other adoption.  Just like having a biological child.  We have no way to know how the future is going to turn out.   That’s the beauty and the mystery of life.   We do our best to make the right decisions, but we have to leap in faith sometimes.  The best and most beautiful things in the world come with the price tag of risk.  Each time we choose to love someone, we are risking heartache and loss.  That’s true in every relationship — loving our kids included. 

In the end, special needs kids are just kids.  Just kids that need moms and dads to love them and take care of them.  To treat them like any other kid.  They are no less deserving of a loving family and parents to take care of them than any other child.  In fact, in some cases because of medical considerations, their very lives depend on it. 

I know that adopting special needs kids is not the road for every family.  But it is the road for some.  It may be a completely unexpected road — like it was for us!  But however you get to it, it’s awesome.

(This was Henry’s picture on the special needs “waiting kids” list last spring.)

This post has been on my heart for a few weeks… it’s just taken a while to actually write it!

I’ve been thinking a lot about unexpected “yeses” in my life — times where I’ve been faced with a decision where a yes seemed CRAZY!  But as I look back now, the yeses turned out to be some of the greatest blessings in my life.  Despite the risk.  Despite the odds.  Despite all the reasons why it didn’t seem like a “good” idea at the time.  

I’ve been thinking about this especially lately because of what was going on this time last year.  

A year ago I was in the thick of wrestling through a decision Peter and I had made a few weeks prior.  We’d said no to accepting the referral of a little boy on our agency’s waiting list after being unexpectedly drawn to him.  We’d taken the time to research his probable condition.  We’d stepped out of our preconceived ideas of how our adoption was going to go by even considering this little boy to the extent that we had.  But in the end, after weeks of researching, we’d said no because our fear of the unknowns surrounding his condition was too great.  

Maybe we researched TOO much?  I think sometimes our heads get the better of our hearts.  (*I’m not saying that it’s wise to leap without checking the depth of the water… but sometimes we can over-analyze our capabilities and stop ourselves short of tremendous opportunity.  If we can learn to face our fear of the unknown and trust the strange prompting to do something completely uncharacteristic, amazing results often follow.  It’s called faith.  Whew — that’s a whole post in itself!!)

But back to topic here…  I’m finding that the sounds and smells this month are bringing back the mixed feelings and intense emotions I had during that season… the heartache, the fears, the questions… I was really undone inside and definitely not settled with that initial decision.  I wrote this post a year ago.  Re-reading it, I remember the agony I was in — all the planning and prayers and desire to adopt came down to this ONE little life.  This one little boy.  It was immensely specific.  I remember thinking “how can people even make decisions like this?”  The future of a human life was in the balance and it weighed heavily on me.  

The last few weeks as I’ve been watching Henry run around outside with his sister — every inch an almost-two-year-old boy! — I have been very, very aware of how close I came to missing such an amazing blessing.  Granted, I AM a believer in God’s sovereignty.  But I also believe that I’m faced with choices every day.  I make decisions and I live with those decisions.  I’m very aware right now of how small a word “yes” is — and how huge the ramifications can be.  My heart is so thankful that Peter and I got a second chance to say yes… a second chance to take that leap.

This whole journey has made me stop and think about other things in life I might miss because I choose to stay comfortable.  It’s not going to help anything to be paralyzed by the fear of making the wrong decision — but I think it’s a very, very healthy thing to be acutely aware of the tendency to stay comfortable.  I WANT to live my life aware of the doors I almost didn’t walk through.  No regrets… but an awareness of the times that I had an opportunity to leap and didn’t (or almost didn’t.)   It’s funny, on one hand I tend to be pretty adventurous and willing to take risks… but it’s generally when I know that I am actually safe and I know what the outcome will be.  I’m fine climbing a rock face when I’m tied to a rope! —  but faced with a situation where the unknowns are seriously life-changing and permanent, I’m not so risky.  I play it safe… too safe.  I don’t want to be that person.  I want to be the crazy, sold-out and willing to follow Christ ANYWHERE person. 

Thank God for his grace to change, and grow, and leap!

Our yes to Henry was such a small leap in comparison to a lot of people’s “yeses.”  Seriously, it’s awe-inspiring (and just plain inspiring!) to think about the level of so many people’s dedication to following the road less traveled.  But, it was a HUGE step for us… it opened the doors to a lot of other “yeses” in our lives and is a daily reminder to stay open and surrendered to God’s plan.  It’s certainly not the easiest thing in the world to surrender our plans and hold our lives out openly… but we are learning that the unexpected blessings in it are incomparable.  This lesson has became intensly real and personal to us through this adoption — we really can’t imagine life without our precious, unexpected son!

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger (or heartache) is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”  Helen Keller

I’ve been surprised and blessed by the response we’ve gotten when we are out in public with Henry.  I wasn’t expecting so much encouragement from total strangers!  So many people stop us and ask questions and want to hear the story.  We’ve met several wonderful families who have adopted internationally — they’ve just come up and introduced themselves!

Last week while Henry and I were waiting in line at Walmart, an older couple came up behind us and started smiling and talking to Henry.  They were interested in hearing our story (it was a long line and we had time.)  They were fascinated and asked me all kinds of questions about him and about our adoption — and then toward the end of our conversation she unexpectedly asked, “Was it hard?”

It totally caught me off guard and I stopped and kind of stared at her blankly. 

“Was it hard?”

How do you even answer that question?

How can you possibly communicate the intensity of it?  This journey to adopt our son has been so deeply and profoundly life-changing on a myriad of levels — I can’t even begin to put words to it.  The spectrum of emotions along the way was overwhelming… Hope.  Fear.  Excitement.  Apprehension.  Frustration.  Elation  —  Relief.    It wasn’t “just” an adoption process… it was a season of learning to trust and rely on God in a deeper way than we have before — learning to tune our ears to His voice and rest in the peace that directed our steps. We also did a lot of soul-searching and evaluating our responses and motives as things came up…  There was also the aspect of becoming more and more aware of the needs of orphans all over the world as we began doing more research — our hearts were continually being tenderized.  A specific love for Liberia was sparked in our hearts during this time… and we ended up opening our home for Ahmad to live with us — which would have never happened if we hadn’t been in the adoption process.

Then there was all the practical stuff — which was probably harder for us than it usually is for most.  We had to finish remodeling the house before we could even begin our homestudy (which was a major project since we did the work ourselves)… and then we had to figure out the whole tax thing because of owning our own business.  Then we had to switch agencies three times and countries twice because we are too young and haven’t been married long enough, etc, etc.  Then, we spent about six weeks agonizing over the decision to possibly adopt a child with significant special needs and there was a lot of processing that the Lord did in us during that time. Then after we had accepted Henry’s referral, there was all the stuff that came up with adoptions slowing down in Liberia — Whew!  Hard???… Yes!  Worth it?… Absolutely!  

So after a long pause while all this was going through my mind, I finally said to her, “Hard? Yes, it was harder than I was expecting” and I let it be at that. 

There just isn’t an easy way to communicate the depths of it — and yet part of me wants to try.  I want people to know.  I want them to understand what has happened in my heart.  It makes me eternally grateful that there are others that have been on this journey as well.  Because even though your journey wasn’t exactly the same as ours, still, you know.  You know what the terrain is like and you know the incredible reward at the end.  It’s one thing to look at the map — it’s a totally different thing to actually walk the territory!  There’s dirt and mud and unexpected twists and turns along the way…  You can see the mountains and the valleys on the map — but you can’t see the view until you are actually standing on the mountain… and the view is breathtaking!  It far surpasses expectation.  We may have had different reasons why we began and we certainly have had different experiences along the way — but in the end, we all realize the same miracle — the miracle that a child not born of our body can become an irrevocable part of us — as if formed in our womb.  It cannot be explained.  It is one of the strongest confirmations of an all-loving, all-knowing Heavenly Father that I have witnessed in my life.   It is an absolute miracle.

Peter and I are so grateful that Henry was able to be in foster care in Liberia.  The Sheppards are a very special family and Henry was incredibly blessed to get to live with them for four months.  He was very well-cared for and it is evident to us that he felt loved and secure with them because he has made the transition so well. 

We really can’t thank them enough.  What a tremendous ministry — selflessly caring for children and loving them as their own for the short time they have them in their home.  The Sheppards have touched a lot of adoptive parent’s hearts through their foster care ministry and have deeply impacted many little lives!   

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Henry loved being tossed in the air by his foster Dad!

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And he obviously really loved his foster mom.  It was hard for him to say good-bye.  I am so glad we got these pictures to share with him when he gets older.  They were a very special part of his life in Liberia.

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Henry was in foster care with my friend Denise’s little girl, Ellie.  She will be going home VERY soon, too!!  Ellie was such a sweet big sister to Henry.

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This is Softly.  I want one, too!  🙂 

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Thank you.

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Okay… without further ado and in keeping with my general philosophy that pictures really are worth a thousand words, I’m going to share some photos from our trip with a little narrative and then fill in the pieces later with a longer post.  I didn’t actually take all that many pictures while in Liberia (*shocking, I know!*) so I only have a limited quantity of pics to choose from — but these few photos capture the moments that stand out to me. It was such a surreal experience — partly because it was so last-minute and partly because it went by so quickly — but mainly because we were united with our son and experienced every kind of emotion one would expect from such a trip:  overwhelming joy, apprehension, discovery, excitement, anxiety, wonder, weariness, and the list goes on and on!

There were so many facets to our trip — one of which was being in Liberia and seeing the things Ahmad has been sharing with us for months.  We were deeply impacted and really fell in love with the people and the country.  We would like to go back someday when we have the time to spend in country helping where we can and we are excited about getting further involved with ministries that are focused on Liberia.  (I have some pics of Monrovia that I’ll share later, too — but if you want to see some great shots now, go to Jamie’s blog!)

I don’t have any photos of our first meeting with Henry, but I took this picture after we brought him home that evening from his foster family’s house.  He fell asleep on our bed right away and Peter and I kept looking at him and then at each other in disbelief and wonder. He seemed sooo tiny and vulnerable. It was very similar to the first night we spent with Joanna… Here was this little person who was about to become an irreplaceable part of our lives and whom we loved SO deeply and yet didn’t really know at all! He was part stranger, part family — but definitely OURS! I can’t even explain the depth of love in my heart for this little boy. Adoption is truly a miracle.

Henry slept for several hours that first night until he woke up and realized where he was (or where he wasn’t) and started crying.  We could tell it was a grieving cry because he missed his foster family — so I just held and rocked him and sang and prayed for him.  He would stop crying as I was singing, and he held on SO tightly to my arms.  He would not let me put him down, so I slept with him on my chest.  It was the beginning of our bonding process and I think it was very healthy for him to be able to grieve for his foster family and have us there to comfort him and cry with him (and boy, was I ever crying!  It was so hard to hear him grieving like that… even though it was a good sign.)  There is so much about this process that has been very difficult — even though the end result is overwhelmingly positive.  Transitions are hard… even in the midst of blessing and new life.

By morning he was so much better and it was as if he needed to cry it out for one night and then decided that it was okay — we were okay — and he was going to open his heart to us.  Since then it has been a steady process of becoming more and more attached and I am amazed at how much he trusts us and appears to feel secure with us. 

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These next pictures give you an idea of how tiny Henry is!  They were taken the morning before we went to the embassy for his visa interview.  

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It certainly didn’t take him long to warm up to the camera… in fact, he is a regular ham when I whip it out!  Here he is hanging out on the couch after our trip to the embassy.  We told him to enjoy being in his birthday suit because it was going to be cold where we were headed!

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He had fun with his new buddy, Micah.  Shortly before I snapped this picture, Henry planted a big ol’ kiss on Micah’s mouth! 

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I love this next picture because I took it the morning that he and I got to spend alone together and it was such a special time.  Peter had gone out with Ahmad’s wife to meet the rest of his family and I stayed behind with Henry to start packing.  Henry had been a little reserved with me until that point (it was only our second day with him) but he really started opening up that morning.  He was sitting on the bed playing with some toys and I would catch him looking at me… so I would stop and smile at him and play a little.  He began talking and laughing and handing me things to “pack”; and then after about an hour of this, he leaned forward to give me a kiss when I bent down to hug him.  It was such a special moment — I’ll always remember that little offering of affection. I am so grateful for that quality time alone with him… I got to see a little of his personality and his heart and it just made me fall more in love with him. 

I was a little worried about being prepared to care for him because of the cerebral palsy.  I was prepared to process my feelings of inadequacy, but in the end, there wasn’t anything to be worried about.  There was that moment when I realized “my son has cp” — but it was more of a practical realization of the things he can’t do — not an emotional grieving like I was prepared for…  It was a little hard for me the first night because I saw what he was not able to do.  But that was it… and the more time I spent with him, the more I realized how little I had to be worried about.  Henry is the greatest gift from the Lord and I am just in awe that He chose to give us such a treasure.  All my fears about caring for him adequately melted away as I laughed and played with him that morning in our room.  I realized that I’m going to be okay doing the best job I can… because in the end — even more than all the medical care and therapy — the greatest gift I can give him is my love… loving him for exactly who he is and delighting in the person God has created him to be.  It’s a privilege to get to be his Ma!…  He sure has a beautiful smile, doesn’t he?

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This next picture is with Ahmad’s wife, Mamieyan.  We really enjoyed getting to spend a little time with her since we have heard so much about her from Ahmad while he has been living with us.  We brought her a suitcase full of things from him and she was very grateful for it.  In return, she brought us some fresh pineapple — YUM!

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Here is proof that blogging buddies make good “real life friends” as well.  I lOVED getting to know both Jamie and Katy (the McKinneys left for the airport before I got a chance to get a picture with Katy.)  We were on the flight to Brussels with Jamie and Corey and it was really nice having them with us through the exiting procedures at the airport in Monrovia (“insanely crazy” is a good way to describe that part of the journey!  Oh, and HOT!) 

I really love this gal!!

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Here’s Henry on the plane at the beginning of our trip home.  (He loved playing with the empty can of soda because it was a small one and JUST his size!)

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And here he is on the last plane just before we landed in Spokane after almost forty hours of traveling.  Thankfully he was a little trooper on the way home.  In fact, I don’t think I have ever heard of such a good traveler at sixteen months old!  He fussed for maybe fifteen minutes out of those forty hours.  The rest of the time he was either sleeping or charming the flight attendants and fellow passengers! 

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And finally, at the airport with Jo and my parents.  The picture isn’t great — but you can see Jojo giving her new little brother a big kiss!  It was so good to see her.  We really missed her and we swear she grew a foot while we were away!

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I know, I know, I know… Shame on me for not posting sooner! — but what can I say?  It has been an insanely crazy two weeks.  We went to Africa and came back with HENRY!!!  Our heads are still spinning and we are just in awe at the way the Lord opened the doors.  HE IS AN AWESOME GOD!!  I have a lot to share (of course!) but I am trying to adjust to being a mommy of two (which is, incidently, twice as much work as being the mommy of one! I don’t know what I’ll do when we add child number three?!?!  (All you veteran large-family mommies are justified in rolling your eyes at my ineptitude! 🙂 )

This is going to have to be just a “whet-your-appetite” post — enough to satiate all of you blog-stalkers who have e-mailed me demanding updates! 🙂  More is coming, I promise!  But I need to spend time the next few days loving on both kids and adjusting and following up on medical appointments for Henry.  I will say that we are hopelessly in love with our little “peanut” (a flight attendant called him that on the way home and it fits him perfectly — he is a little peanut!)  Henry is the sweetest little guy and is adjusting soooo well.  He slept thirteen hours last night and twelve hours the night before (straight through!) and he is eating well and taking a long afternoon nap the same time as Jo.  He is bonding so well and really loves his daddy.  He likes me, too, but if given the choice, will go straight to Peter’s arms.  He calls us by name and is so affectionate (he is little kisser!)  I really can’t believe how incredibly well he’s slipped right in — like he has always been a part of our family.  He likes his big sister and is already starting to bug her on purpose to hear her get upset!  She loves him, too, and wants to do everything for him.  We are trying to explain to her that even though Henry is tiny, he is definitely not a baby!  (Just ask him!)

He is much stronger than we were expecting.  His right arm is extremely coordinated and he can almost pull himself up to standing next to the couch.  His left arm is worse than we were hoping.  Peter really thinks that there may be something other than the cerebral palsy going on… we are very curious to get it x-rayed and discuss his case with a specialist.  If it is a brachial plexus injury additionally, we will need to get him evaluated as soon as possible because of irreparable nerve damage after a certain length of time.  It’s hard not knowing.  I will feel so much better after speaking with a specialist. 

Here are a couple of my favorite photos so far… Henry loves his jumperoo!  We laughed so hard the first time we put him in it because he jumped so hard and so high we thought he was going to jump right out!!  We got some video of it, and I will try to get that loaded this week so you can laugh with him as he giggles and shrieks and jumps.  He is a little ball of energy — that’s for sure! 

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Our time in Liberia was incredibly blessed and I honestly can’t believe how quickly things went.  We were very impressed by the Consular.  We were in and out of the Embassy with Henry’s visa in three days.  It was an added blessing to be in Liberia with the McKinneys and the Zanottis — it was very bonding to say the least!  We were so glad that we were there to rejoice with them and meet their wonderful kids.  We’ll be telling stories about it for years to come!  We have so much to share, but right now, I am going to take advantage of both my children sleeping to do some much-needed laundry (Wow, it sounds so strange to say children!  I get to use the plural form of the word now!)   Thanks to all of you who prayed faithfully for us while we were gone — your love and support means so much to us!  We can’t wait until you all get to meet Henry!

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“Outgoing, playful and tiny, Henry is a fun baby. He’s very rewarding to interact with, and is obviously very smart, but he has strong opinions about some things and is quite stubborn when it comes to food.

Henry has a hyper personality. He wiggles, writhes, and is especially expressive with his right arm. He points, waves, and weaves his arms up and down and around, as if it is his own sign language. Henry likes “rough” play like being “tossed” in the air and spun around in the walker. He giggles with delight when he’s plopped on the bed and enjoys almost fast, exciting games.
Henry is very chatty and will definetly be a talker. He can say “mama” though he probably doesn’t know what it means. Henry does very well with imitating noises and sounds that people make. He’s learning how to kiss and has already perfected lip smacking. He chuckles a lot and thinks it’s funny when people imitate him. 

Henry loves to play with toys and likes to sit on the carpet with the toy basket in front of him. His favorite items are things that are brightly colored or make a lot of noise when he bangs them on the ground. He usually has to empty the whole basket and often will be entertained for 20-30 minutes just playing with his toys.

Henry is doing great in his foster home and is very secure and loved. The whole family, as well as Martha (the household help), participates in his care, but Henry still knows who the mother is. He is especially close to his foster mom, but does well interacting with the other members of the family. Henry is however extremely shy of strangers and is especially afraid of men he doesn’t know. He will break down into dramatic tears and wails, and not stop until the stranger is out of sight. He does fine with children and a lot of women, but is generally afraid of new faces. During outings Henry is fine if no one comes up to him and talks to him directly.

Developmentally Henry has come a long way since being brought into foster care. At first he could only sit, but now he is able to scoot around on his tummy (he ends up kind of going in circles because of his arm), scoot a little on his bottom, and walk in the walker. He has even attempted pulling himself to a standing position beside the couch using his right arm (unsuccessfully). His real strength is seen in his mobility in the walker. Henry is now running all over the house, in and out of rooms, all by himself in the walker. The walker has done wonders for his legs, which are so much more muscular, strong, and mobile than before. His left arm has shown no improvement, but he is starting to wiggle his fingers a little more. His arm and hand is rubbed and massaged periodically throughout the day. Before Henry was able to wiggle is thumb, but recently he his tight grip has relaxed just a little, and he is wiggling a few of his fingers. He still doesn’t seem to know his other arm even exists, but at least his fingers are moving a little.

Henry is normally a happy baby, but you can always tell when he’s tired or hungry since he starts to get fussy and break down over little things. During these times he falls apart easily, but he has the very good quality of recovering fast.

Henry is an extremely fussy eater. He recently decided bottles were for babies, and since he is well over a year old, he should be taking all his nourishment from a spoon or a sipper cup. So right now he is eating formula with flavored baby cereal mixed in, as well as small servings of mashed table foods. Sometimes he acts like he doesn’t want to eat, even when it is well passed his mealtime, so the spoon or cup has to be forced in his mouth before he will realize that he really is hungry (often through barred teeth). Even though Henry has just grown his first set of molars, he still does not know how to chew. He likes to try a lot of feeds but sometimes gags in tiny pieces. If he is in a bad mood he will have gag intentionally on any food he’s given. Henry is offered a large variety of foods, but unfortunately he remains a difficult baby to feed. Lucky for him his foster mom is very persistent and patient. The one thing Henry always takes willingly is water. He likes drinking water from his sippy cup between meals.

Henry is on a great sleeping schedule. He goes to bed at about 9:00 and often sleeps through the night. He recently stopped getting up for another feeding at midnight , but still occasionally wakes up in the night hungry. He sleeps until about 7:00 to 7:30 in the morning. During the day he takes one afternoon nap from about 12:00 to 2:30 .

Henry is still very small for his age, but is in good health (he has not been sick since he was brought into foster care). He wears size 6-month clothes, size 2 diapers, and size 2 shoes.”

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The news from Liberia today through our adoption agency was not so good.  Apparently the U.S. Consulate in Monrovia has changed things again and has decided to reduce the number of adoption-related visas processed each week.  This means that the wait for Henry’s visa just got longer… much longer… than we were expecting yesterday.  (Currently she has been scheduling enough appointments to get two or three families from our agency through each week.  Now it will be down to only enough appointaments to process one family per week.  This creates quite a backlog of families caught in the bottleneck of finalized adoptions waiting on visas.) 

So, needless to say, I am a little discouraged… as are many, many other families who are anxiously awaiting their visa appointments.  Peter and I had been hoping to be able to travel in January to bring Henry home, but if things don’t change, it will be much later than that.  I am frustrated because I really want to bring my son home, but I also just feel terrible for the families who were hoping to travel this month and who are soooo close to bringing their kids home.  They are really feeling the sting of disappointment right now… 

Anyway, we would certainly appreciate your prayers for this whole situation.  Thanks.

Jo and I have been planting tulip bulbs today (I found a great deal on them and kind of went over-board!  I have about 120 bulbs to plant today! 😉 ~ It’s going to be beautiful next spring, though…)  As I was planting them, I just kept thinking that by the time they bloom next spring, Henry should be home!  Its a bit allegorical… preparing the soil, planting the bulbs, covering and watering them… and then just sitting back to wait for many long months of winter until finally in the spring, we will finally get to enjoy the results of the work and the waiting… with bouquets of freshly-cut, brilliant tulips on the table.  Just like life.  Just like Adoption.  It’s a constant theme… work, wait, pray, wait some more… and them all of a sudden “voila!” the fruit is ripe! The hope is realized… the vision becomes reality!… the baby is born (or comes home!) 

I’ve had all kinds of random Henry-related thoughts jumbling around in my mind lately… and since I’m not sure how to connect them all, I’m not going to try to.  This is a “Very Random Post.”  (Did I just create a new category of posts?  Surely there must be some other VRP’ers out there!?!  I know Denise says she “rambles” sometimes…. (which I, personally, always greatly enjoy reading!)  but I’m sure there must be fellow-randomness bloggers out there, too!  🙂 

I think it’s starting to sink in a little more to me (in just the last couple weeks) that we are actually going to be bringing this little boy home.  For some reason it hasn’t seemed as real to me as it seems to be to others (well, from reading other adoption blogs anyway…)  I am not sure why this is… I had the same experience with Jo… even though I was pregnant and felt her moving and everything, it took me a LONG time to really comprehend that it was happening!  We were going to have a baby.  I’m not sure if it’s just the way I process things or if its because I lost our first baby and I am now sub-conciously holding back in fear that I’ll lose another child?  I don’t know.  I certainly don’t want to be holding back… I want to be able to open my heart and love completely no matter the risk, but it just sometimes seems so unreal… I have not had a single dream about Henry that I can remember (since we accepted his referral) until this last week… but I have had a couple vivid dreams the last few nights and as I said,  it’s becoming more real.  I have also started thinking when we are doing “traditional” family things lately (it seems there are a lot more “family things”this time of year! 🙂  that next year (hopefully!) Henry will be coming with us, or in the pictures!…  Also, I’ve been making appointments with specialists and speaking to doctors about my son (aahh! that REALLY sounds official!)

I decided about a month ago to put this:

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where I can see it every morning when I wake up.  Silly, I know… but having it hanging there just helps me remember that it is real.  It is happening.  He is a real, live little boy who will be wearing this someday (hopefully soon!)  It just seems so tiny.  I look at it and I can’t believe he is that tiny.

I was remembering the other day about the first time I learned about cerebral palsy.  I was in fifth grade and read the book Karen by Maria Killea.  Maria tells the true story of her daughter who has cerebral palsy and about her perseverence and tenacity in overcoming the obstacles she faced.  Karen learned to do so many things with the most incredible, optimistic attitude.  I remember being SO impacted by the book… even though I was just a kid.  I was blown away by the cheerfulness Karen had and her deep persistence and incredibly cheerful out-look. It made me so much more aware of people around me and the incredible things we can accomplish when we are loved and when our attitudes are positive and when we give it all we’ve got.  I think that book changed my life even though I didn’t realize it at the time. I didn’t expect in fifth grade to grow up and adopt a child with cerebral palsy, but it was a seed planted in my heart.  God planted that seed…  Any time I heard the term “cerebral palsy” after that, I immediately thought of Karen and the tremendous impact she had on me.  Years later, when I was a teenager, we had a man come and minister at our church.  He was an incredble intercessor and shared what God was laying on his heart.  He was deeply affected by cp, but his passionate heart for the Lord was so evident.  This man also deeply impacted me.  Because I was dealing with common teen-related insecurites, part of me was uncomfortable because of his handicaps; but at my core, my heart (the heart that remained after the insecurites were processed! 🙂 was deeply, deeply touched and inspired.  I think his testimony did a lot to actually break me out of my self-centered insecurities and find great joy in being just who God has created me to be.  There have been other seeds planted as well over the years… things I didn’t realize were seeds at the time, but now, looking back I can see God’s hand opening my heart, tenderizing me, preparing me to become Henry’s mom.  I am so grateful for these seeds!  Like the tulip bulbs I’m planting, they sat under ground for a long time… but I can feel them poking through the surface… getting ready to bloom.

I’ve also been thinking about what it will be like to see Henry for the first time.  I have decided to go into it with no pre-conceived expectations — that way I can just enjoy the moment and not worry that I’m not feeling whatever it is I think I should be feeling.  I remember being slightly disillusioned right after Joanna was born because I had been told that the moment they put my baby on my chest, I would forget all the pain of childbirth… So I was expecting an abundance of warm fuzzy feelings toward her the minute I saw her — and it didn’t happen.  I was still in shock from how painful the whole experience had been and I didn’t have those immediate mommy-feelings.  I needed a minute to process it and recover.  Of course, the warm fuzzy feelings came soon after, but it taught me a valuable lesson about not putting expectations on situations. 

Anyway… like I said, just a bunch of random thoughts!  🙂

Jo is so excited about her little brother!  She has been sleeping with a picture of him lately.  (This is because she is convinced “Henny” is going to be sleeping in her bed with her when he gets home!  I’m been trying unsuccesfully to break the news to her for months now.  She is quite insistent! )

She calls him  “Henny” or “Henby.”  And she knows he’s her little brother.  She often reminds me that his arm is hurt and asks if we can pray for him… so we do.  She bows her little head and utters such sweet prayers for her baby brother — a litttle person she’s never met before, but whom she is so open to loving.  I silently add my plea to the Lord: Hear her prayers!  Hear her sweet heart for her brother.  Bring him home soon.  Touch his body, Lord.  You know, in relation to Henry being her little brother, she doesn’t know any differently — as far as she’s concerned, this is how all little brothers are added to families!  🙂

She was hugging me the other day and she said “you’s Jojo’s Mama!”  then a pause, then “you’s Henby’s mama, too!!”  Ahh… she gets it! … And I’m getting it, too!

A little about me…

Wife. Mother. Friend. Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Student. Adventure-lover. Photo-taker. Book-reader. Organic gardener. Granola-maker. Green smoothie drinker. Snowboarder. Soccer-player. Aspiring rock-climber. Sometime health nut. Passionate about justice and mercy. Adoption advocate. Business owner and jewelry designer. Wild at heart. Crazy-blessed to live out in the country with my awesome family.

Photography Website:

Contact Me:

sunfreckled@gmail.com
"I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can do." {Helen Keller}

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