Monday, May 8, 2017

The Loss of a Child's File

THE LOSS OF A CHILD'S FILE. So many of us have been through this. As I sit here looking at my precious little girl, home only for a little over a month, I know now why the other child was not to be ours, was meant by God to go to another family. But as I see her pictures meeting her new family, my heart is torn, feeling joy and loss at the same time. Joy that she is with such an amazing family (that God always intended her to be with), and loss because we tried for almost two months to get her file ourselves.

It was the struggle to convince my husband that we needed to bring this second child home at the same time as our other daughter. Showing him her video over and over again until he got the background song stuck in his head. Prayers that he would say yes, and then once he did, prayers that we would be able to transfer her file to our agency since we already had PA for our first daughter. And oh how we tried, but it was not meant to be. But this little girl opened up our hearts to bringing a second child home on this last trip. 

I felt strongly that we should adopt two little girls with Down-syndrome. Partially so that they would have each other as they grew up, and partially because one more little life would have a family. Now as I look at my girls I see that God brought together the perfect combination. Their personalities blend together so well. As I hold my little girl, I can’t imagine loving her any more if she had come my own womb. I love the feel of her skin, and the smell of her little body and breath. Her joyful smile and bright eyes make our lives more wonderful each day. So, as I see the little one that we lost with her new family, I admit I do feel sadness at the loss of her. I know, though, that she is exactly where she is supposed to be, and that God used her as a path to bring our sweet Lucie home.

I know there are so many other families out there that have tried to bring home a precious child that they felt in their heart was theirs, only to be told that that child belonged to someone else. My heart aches for them because I know that feeling of loss. Looking at her pictures with her amazing family will probably always be bittersweet for me. Some families don't even get the chance to see God's work in watching the child they lost flourish with their new family, or get to look at the child's face in their arms that was intended for them instead. I am grateful.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Brian and Rosalie

Friends, this is on my heart this morning. It was almost a year ago that we first saw sweet Rosalie’s picture on a waiting children site. My husband at the time had still not bought into the idea of adopting again, as we had just come home a few months previously with two of our children from China. He was also newly open to the idea of adopting a child with Down-syndrome. Then I sent him a text with her picture, and he texted back something positive. I knew he was hooked! After that it was her or no-one! And it took a bit of work to get her file. 

My big concern, though, was her video. It is absolutely precious, and you fall in love with her immediately as you are watching her. At the end, though, when I saw that she was using a walker instead of walking independently, I was really concerned as to what my husband would say. I am not saying that we wouldn’t have gone for a child that couldn’t walk, or that was in a wheelchair. Believe me, there are many precious kiddos who have tugged at my heart who will never walk independently! It was just that in this case I had already asked my husband to take such a big leap of faith, and as we already had special needs kiddos at home, and some just newly home, I wasn’t sure he would be able to stretch just a little farther. Well, I should have known better! He was already committed to loving her and taking care of her no matter what her needs were! 

As it turned out, she had continued to receive therapy and was able to walk independently well before she came home. Children with Down-syndrome often take a bit longer to reach their milestones. But the point is, it would have been ok even if she never reached them. Seeing how much my husband loves Rosalie already warms my heart so much. I’ve seen him be a daddy bear with the other kids, even telling one of them that they would not push his little girl! She loves to watch him cooking in the kitchen, and I will look over and see him on his knees giving her a hug, or from another room hear something sweet that he says to her. 

I’ve said this before, but this was the same man that admittedly prayed when we were trying to conceive twenty something years ago that we would not have a child born with Down-syndrome. Now we can’t imagine not having Rosalie, or her sister Lucie, in our lives. They really are the joy in our days. When the other kids are bickering, or one is having a melt-down, our girls manage to make us smile in the midst of it! God is so good. He always knows!!!

Monday, April 17, 2017

My Thoughts On the Decline of International Adoption

My thoughts on this article about the decline in international adoptions to the U.S.

The cost of adoption is high, and frankly, I believe it always has been. We have been adopting since 1998, and our first was a domestic adoption. We have 6 adopted children, and I really think that end the end the process cost just about the same for each one. I agree that the high cost is definitely a deterrent from adopting internationally, but I also think that there are many people who could afford to adopt and just don’t. This is why I advocate mostly to people who have already adopted, because they have seen their children’s lives transformed, they have seen what is being left behind and what is gained. They will sacrifice, fundraise, do whatever it takes to change one more child’s life. I, too, know of families that have fully paid for their adoptions through fundraising. It’s not a fun or easy thing to do, but they persevere.  What I am more concerned about is the families who want to sacrifice and fundraise to bring a child home, and who are told they can’t now because of the lack of waivers. It is so disheartening to see families come forward to adopt a precious child you have been advocating for only to find out that they no longer qualify because of income, BMI, family size, etc. And, too, those who have PA that have them taken away! This boggles my mind!!

I do think it is interesting in this article the reasons they list for the changes in numbers: Unethical Agencies, yes there are some out there, but other agencies have been working with them for years, and have placed thousands of children (I am speaking mostly of China here.) Lack of post-placements done. This is our fault as families. The post-placements are usually pre-paid, so it’s not a matter of cost. We have agreed as parents in advance to do these. Some families just decide that they don’t want to do them once their child is home, and they know it isn’t going to cause their child to be taken back. But it does obviously have and effect on adoptions at large and the trust between countries. The third reason was re-adoptions in the U.S.. Sometimes replacements have to happen. I know of one family that needed to do this, and it was the very best thing for the child and the families involved. However, it happens too often. Disruptions in country, meaning that people go to the country to pick up their child and change their minds once they have seen the child because of undisclosed medical issues that they don’t think they can handle, or behavioral issues (which are often because of the trauma of the huge change that is happening in their lives, and not long term) happen way more often than we think. Interestingly, these are not listed in the statistics you see online because most agencies don’t disclose that information.

So, yes, it is a shame that the cost of adoption is so high, and that there is greed and politics that keep these sweet babies from coming home, but it’s also us. More people who can afford to adopt need to, or need to support those financially that are willing to but don’t have enough funds. Agencies need to be ethical, as do adoptive parents in filling out paperwork. Potential adoptive families also need to do their homework in researching which agency to use ahead of time. There is a FB group called, "Rate Your China Adoption Agency" that is extremely helpful for choosing an agency to adopt from China, and I know there are many seasoned adoptive families out there that would love to give their recommendations if asked.

Parents also need to seriously consider what they are up for before they send in a Letter of Intent for a particular child that they want to adopt. There are always unknowns in the adoption world. It’s important to do a lot of self examination about what it would take for you to leave a child behind in China, or cause you to re-place a child once home. Then there is the waiver issue. In addition to the changes that need to be made above, this one is going to take a lot of prayer. If you pray, then pray that these restrictions will be changed, and soon so that the numbers of children that are brought home to families doesn’t continue to drop.

Monday, April 10, 2017

How We Chose Down-syndrome

A lot of people have asked me how we decided to adopt a child with Down-syndrome. Honestly, I wasn’t one of those amazing people who aspired to adopt special needs children when I was young. I really didn’t even like babysitting when I was a teenager, and I thought that being a stay at home mom sounded really boring! After my husband and I had our first daughter back in 1993, we tried for a few years unsuccessfully to conceive again. My heart yearned for another child, and so we domestically adopted our beautiful son, Stephen, as an infant. As these two got older, I realized that I really loved being a mom, and didn’t want to be an empty nester, so we decided to adopt again, this time from Taiwan. At that time our hearts were still growing, and although we were open to international adoption, we wanted to be matched with a “healthy infant with no, or very minor, special needs.” When we were presented with our son, Jason’s file, he was not an infant, but a 14 month old, who would come home later at 22 months and would be diagnosed a few years later with Autism. This sweet boy has changed our lives and grown our hearts. 

Fast forward a few more years, and this time my husband witnessed a dad who was helping his beautiful daughter, who was in a wheelchair at a restaurant, making him wonder if maybe we shouldn't be done adopting. Well, you know I was all over that, and it wasn’t long before we decided to adopt a child with special needs from China. Raising our son with autism made us realize that we could do so much more than we ever thought we could as parents, and helped us to be more open to other special needs. This time around we discovered a medical term that was new to us, called “Hydrocephalus” or to put it briefly, a buildup of too much cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. Our Annie, age 7 at the time, had this diagnosis, and after conferring with our doctor we decided to bring this beautiful little girl home. A bit later in the process we would add Wyatt, who was four at the time and had the same diagnosis. With these two we really had very little idea what their long term needs would be, or how they would be affected developmentally. However, we decided it really did not matter! Whether they had incredible IQs or were never able to catch up developmentally and academically, it didn’t matter. We hoped for all of our children that they would be able to become self sufficient adults, for their own sakes, but if they weren’t able to, that was ok as well. We were open caring for any of our children that needed us for as long as they needed us.

After we came home with Annie and Wyatt in January of 2016, I started thinking about a little boy with CP that I had met on a trip with Gladney’s Superkids several months before. Of the hundreds of children we met in those two weeks in 10 different orphanages, he was the one that stole my heart. Unfortunately, his file had not yet been prepared, but once again after having been home for only a few months, I started thinking about going back to China. I started looking through the Waiting Children list on some of the different agency websites. (So, finally the answer as to how we decided to adopt a child with Down-Syndrome!) As I was looking through the pictures and descriptions of waiting children with various special needs, I found myself passing over those with Down-syndrome! And it was because of this my heart realized that that was exactly who I wanted to adopt! I remembered the year before when we already had pre-approval for Wyatt and Annie, that I started seeing other adoptive families who were bringing home their beautiful children with DS, and what a blessing those little ones were to their families and visa versa. I remember thinking at the time, “Oh, that would have been a neat thing to do as well!” Then it wasn’t until the lightbulb hit me almost a year later that I realized it was what we should do. I took my husband out to a restaurant and told him, “Honey, you know how I’ve been talking about adopting again? Well, I not only think we should adopt, but I think we should adopt a child with Down-syndrome!” I honestly think it was this that made him eventually say “yes” to adopting again at all. It was such a big step in faith and in so many other ways. His answer was that when we were trying to conceive many, many years back, he would pray that we would not have a child with Down-syndrome. That sounds terrible, but it is very honest. Now years later as our hearts and faith have grown, he too realized that it was exactly what we should do. Of course it took a bit longer for him to come to a firm “yes”. He wasn’t hooked until he saw Rosalie’s picture, and then it was her or no-one! We would later decide that we wanted two little girls with Down-syndrome so that they would have each other as they grew older. And what fun that has been! Rosalie and Lucie’s different personalities really blend together well. 

So, this is how our hearts have grown and evolved in the adoption world over the last several years. Our lives have become very different than they were before, but very wonderful and full. We didn’t go into any of our adoptions having great knowledge of our children’s special needs, but a commitment to love those children no matter what their needs were when they came home, and for as long as they need it. I encourage anyone considering adopting a child with Down-syndrome to get to know other families on Facebook who have adopted kiddos with DS. Not every story has a silver lining, but you will meet so many that have been blessed by having one or more children with DS. I know the road ahead will be hard at times, but already I can’t imagine not having these amazing girls in my life. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

On Being an "Older" Parent

I never thought that at 46 I would be the mom of not only two adult children, but also five younger children between the ages of 3 and 9. I loved being a stay at home mom and raising my two eldest children, but back in my twenties and thirties, life was so much about me. Was I being fulfilled as a “housewife”?  Had I missed out by not having a career and making my mark upon the world? And my husband! Back when he turned forty, we had our two children, one biological and one domestically adopted, and he was “done!” Now, at almost 55, he continues to amaze me with his heart that is so open to give what could be easy days towards the end of a career, to taking care of our often noisy bunch. And not only “taking care of” and providing for them, but doing it with a new gusto that sometimes comes with getting a second chance at parenting. 

Right now being an older mom means that when I chat with my adult daughter on the phone, she talks about her coming wedding plans, while I go on about the new crib and high chair that we purchased in anticipation of our new toddler coming home! It means being the oldest mama in my children's class instead of the youngest, as I was when my first child was in school. Having a large family for us also means that friendships are harder to maintain, as there is not much time for meeting friends for coffee or lunch, and frankly people are a lot more apt to invite you over with two older children than they are a party of littles. Admittedly, we don’t get out as often as we used to, but when we do we often encounter people who seem to be trying to figure us out. Driving a very tall 15 passenger van also draws attention to our troop, and sometimes leads people to ask me which organization I work for! We often receive very kind comments from strangers about our familly, but on occasion people like to remind us that we are completely insane. 

Yesterday we had our 9th winter snow day home from school, and honestly I was not looking forward to it, as freezing rain kept us indoors, and the kids were getting cranky and restless. However, it turned into one of those days that you just know is going to become a special memory. As I sat with the kids in the afternoon and worked on crafts with them, something I was loathe to do when my eldest were little, as there were always things that needed to be done around the house, or just something more diverting than messy glue and construction paper, I realized that as an older mom, sitting down and taking time to just hang out with the kids is not something that I have to make myself do to feel like a successful mom, it is something I truly enjoy. 

As older parents, do we worry about our children's futures? Of course we do. Will we be able to pay for them all to go to college? Most likely not. What I do know is that they are in God’s hands. They are loved, they cherish being a part of a family, they are home.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Happy One Year, Annie!!!!

This time last year I was wide awake in the middle of the night in China on “Gotcha Day,” too excited about the fact that we were going to meet our new daughter later that morning. What a treasure this little girl has been in our lives this last year! We have watched her gain confidence over the year in herself and her role in our family, and in us. 

She has always been our little ray of sunshine (I’m seriously going to buy her a t-shirt that says, “Hugs!,” because she is just a hug waiting to happen!) However, her big brother nick named her, “Gong Zhu Bing,” which translated from Mandarin means, “Sick Princess,” or “Princess Disease.” She tends to throw her head down into her arms when she doesn’t get to do what she wants, or especially when she doesn’t get to go on an errand with one of us - oh, the sorrow!! He has now just shortened this to “Bing-Bing,” to which she always responds, “I not Bing Bing. My name Annie!”

She really loves her American name, and in fact has refused to be called her beautiful Chinese name Ji Cui (pronounced Jee tSway) since coming home. She also pretends that she doesn’t understand people when they try to speak to her in Mandarin. And, oh yes, she did know Mandarin well, as she was always quick to tell me when her little brother who came home from a different orphanage at the same time said something naughty (more on that next week when we celebrate his gotcha day!)

Annie has always been my little helper. She loves to take care of everyone, and anticipates what is needed before she is even asked to do something.  I have a feeling she got lots of praise from her nannies in China for this, because she loves to pitch in around the house, and frankly when she came home, really did not know how to do much else. She had to learn to play, learn to look at a book or even decide what to do at all. For the first months she mostly stayed glued to my side, telling me over and over again how much she loved me and asking for a hug. She is still very demonstrative and affectionate, but she is now finally able to come up with things to do on her own, pretend-play with her siblings, look at books, watch a movie, etc. 

Annie also loves school! We weren’t planning on having her go to school until the following year, but a few months after she came home we decided it was just what she needed, and boy were we right! Right off the bat she was a huge hit with the students and teachers there. The principal told me that she was the new rock star of the school! Part of this I’m sure if due to her sunny personality, but also because of her total confidence in herself there. She just goes up and talks to other kids like she knows they will like her, and they do! I have watched in awe as it happens!! These kids don’t care that she spends half the day in her general-ed. class and half in special-ed, or that she walks with a brace, or that she doesn’t quite speak English fluently yet. They just like her because she is sweet, cheerful, confident, and because she likes them!

This coming year will bring Annie two new little sisters, to whom she is very excited to become the big sister (or little mother). She loves to be in charge, and is kind of like my XO (executive officer), as she repeats my commands to her siblings just after I give them. I know that she is going to be a huge help to me, and it will be nice for her to have some other girls around since her only other sister is grown and lives a thousand miles away in another state. 

This last year has gone so very fast (much faster than the year that we had to wait for Annie to come home!) I have found myself being able to sit and enjoy hanging out, playing and laughing with the kids in a way that I don’t think I was able to as a younger mother. Even though I missed the first seven plus years with Annie that she spent in the orphanage, I am getting to cherish each day with her, watching her grow and experience new things. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Two Little Girls!

Two little girls that right now have no idea that the other exist! We hope that they will not only be sisters, but lifelong friends and companions. They might not even like each other at first, or they may never become close, but our hope is that they will have a very special relationship that will last a lifetime. Both girls are in wonderful situations right now in different parts of China. If only I could go into detail! But just know that God is watching over our girls and has placed them both in wonderful hands. From what we understand, Lillie has a very sweet, happy, gentle personality. Rosalie (or Lucie, or whichever name we end up going with!) seems to be outgoing, happy, and quite a character! It will be interesting to see how their personalities blend together!

Our kiddos that are already home are very excited about the girls coming home. My biggest surprise was how much Wyatt is looking forward to having Lillie! I thought that he would feel a little threatened, as he is definitely the baby of the family right now, and they are only 3 1/2 months apart, but he talks about Lillie all of the time, and makes things for her for when she comes home. Annie at 8 years old plans on being a little mother to the girls. The three girls will share a large room, and honestly I am thankful that Annie is my little helper around the house. She will be such a great help with the little girls!