Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holding On

"I wonder how bad she was," my dad asked, as he watched Princess cram another noodle into her mouth. "I'm sure she didn't have much longer to live."

I'd never actually thought about how close Princess must have been to death. But I'd never seen a baby with heart condition struggle to hold on to life. My dad had.

He was with me when I went into cardiac arrest. I was born with Transposition of the Great Veins and had open-heart surgery when I was 6 weeks old. It was my first and last surgery.

Princess was born with Tetralogy of Fallot. While not as complicated as Transposition, it can still be fatal if it's not surgically corrected. In the United States it's corrected shortly after birth. Evie lived with it for two years. She probably turned blue and had a hard time breathing. Combine that with her cleft lip and palate, her poor weight gain, and life in an orphanage, it's a miracle that she survived.

I will always wonder who held her when she had a Tet spell? Who got her knees up to her chest so the blood would start flowing again? Who decided this child with two significant special needs, should get life-saving surgery to correct her heart in hopes that a family would adopt her?

Someone was with her in those early fragile days. Someone had to love her. Without love and human contact, it's not unusual for sick babies to give up.

Princess fought. But she couldn't have done it alone. What angel did God place in that orphanage to care for her until we got there? I wonder if she's still there tending to the sickest, to the least of these? Is she helping other babies hold on for just a little bit longer until they can finally come home.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Boy + Girl = Bonding

It could have been a very bad day.

The toilet backed up.

The dog got sick.

A carton of orange juice spilled all over the counter.

And this was all before 8:00 am.

It could have been a very, very bad day. I needed help and the only person around to help me was my four-year-old.

"I'll help you, Mommy," he agreed. He played (gently) with Princess. He helped carry the rags I used to wipe up the OJ to the laundry room. And he managed to keep the dog out of all the messes. Then we flew out of the house to run our errands. My Middle Guy pushed Princess (gently again, after I reminded him) through the store in her stroller. He helped load bags into the trunk. And he did it all without complaining. He was such a good boy, he got to out to McDonalds for lunch.

At McDonalds he held Princess' hand as I balanced the trays in my arms. He even fed her french fries. Then he was off to play in the tubes. She has refused to even try to say his name. She has been calling him "boy." But when he popped his head out of one of the tubes, Princess looked up, waved, and yelled, "Love you."

Sometimes the best times come out of the worst days.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mommy Guilt

Within 48 hours,  my four-year-old got a new sister, said goodbye to his grandparents who live halfway across the United States, watched his best friend move from the house next door, and waved goodbye as his older brother got on the bus to go to school all day.

My Middle Guy was stuck at home with me. No friends. No grandparents. No brother. Just me and Princess who cried and cried and had to go to countless doctor appointments. He went from being my baby to the middle child. He was dragged to all of the Big Boy's stuff and now all to Princess' appointments.

And I poured on the mommy guilt. It got better when his preschool started, but even after 3 months of being home I still have guilt about him. Just this week, he sat through 4 different appointments. On Wednesdays he has to hurry up and go to school, so I can hurry up and get Princess to speech therapy. Then after school he has to hurry up and come home, so I can hurry up and get Princess to physical therapy.

I haven't figured out how to slow it down. Until he asked to watch Tom and Jerry--with Evie. I don't normally let my kids veg in front of the TV. But they were sitting on the couch as close as close could be and begged. Even Princess said, "E-V," and pointed to the screen.

As it started, my little guy laughed and laughed. And so did Princess. But not at the TV--she was laughing at her big brother, who, for a moment, slowed down with his sister. They are bonding, but it's slow. Maybe there are more Tom and Jerry episodes in our future. And maybe my mommy guilt will one day fade with the laughter.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Heaven Is the Face by Steven Curtis Chapman

I heard this song by Steven Curtis Chapman on my way to Target yesterday. It was so moving, I couldn't go into the store. If you have time, take a listen. You can hear it here:

If not here are some of the lyrics:

Heaven Is The Face
Heaven is the face of a little girl
With dark brown eyes
That disappear when she smiles.
Heaven is the place
Where she calls my name
Says, “Daddy please come play with me for awhile.”


God, I know, it’s all of this and so much more,
But God, You know, that this is what I’m aching for.
God, you know, I just can’t see beyond the door.
So right now...

Heaven is the sound of her breathing deep,
Lying on my chest, falling fast asleep while I sing.
And Heaven is the weight of her in my arms,
Being there to keep her safe from harm while she dreams

But in my mind’s eye I can see a place
Where Your glory fills every empty space.
All the cancer is gone,
Every mouth is fed,

And there’s no one left in the orphans’ bed.
Every lonely heart finds their one true love,
And there’s no more goodbye,
And no more not enough,
And there’s no more enemy (no more).

Heaven is a sweet, maple syrup kiss
And a thousand other little things I miss with her gone.
Heaven is the place where she takes my hand
And leads me to You,
And we both run into Your arms.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I'm Tired

I'm tired. I know every mom can say that. I know every mom is tired and spent at the end of the week.

But I'm really feeling it. Princess has been home for a little over two months. I have taken her to the doctor 27 times. Yes, 27 times. And this week has been, well, hard. There's no other way to say it.

I wasn't prepared for the sores on her tongue and around her mouth after surgery. I wasn't prepared for her to just stop eating and drinking. She is so tiny she needs every calorie she can get. I wasn't prepared to battle her every single day about her thumbs. She so desperately wants to pop them back in her mouth. But if she does, she could jam them right through her palate. Which would mean a repeat of this entire week.

But today, I got the biggest surprise of all. It was a beautiful day, so we met some friends at the park. Exactly one week to the hour post surgery, she climbed up to the top of the slide, smiled, and slid down by herself. I know that's a pretty typical thing for kids to do. But Princess isn't typical. She could barely climb stairs last week--her muscles just aren't developed.

As her mouth heals, I am seeing more confidence in her. She also said her first sentence today. She said, "Love you, Mom."

I may be exhausted, but that's enough to make me want to get up and do it all again tomorrow.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

1:15: And We Wait

Princess woke up and downed a cup of juice, which means we can go home.

But there's a really sick kid on the floor, so the doctor has to deal with him before she can come back to us and sign all the papers. The nurse hopes we're out of here by 3:00.

There is no rest in a hospital. Just when she falls asleep something or someone wakes her up. An MA to take her temp, a med student to ask questions that we've already answered for the doctor, the cleaning lady, the loud speaker paging docs, another kid crying. I'd like to bolt the door shut so my tired little girl can sleep and start to feel better.

Back at the Hospital With a Grumpy Girl

She's grumpy and highly annoyed by the tubes and all the poking and prodding.

Princess is a stubborn girl and when she doesn't want to do something. That's it. She's not doing it. She absolutely does not want to drink out of the syringe anymore. But she can't get released until she drinks. So we are holding her head and squirting it down her throat. She did eat a few bites of pudding, too. So hopefully, it will be enough and we'll get to go home this afternoon.

The inside of her mouth looks pretty nasty. They cut the roof in two different places then stretched her skin and stitched it together. It will grow as she grows.

She's very tired. She only slept in three hour stretches. Jonathan slept on a reclining chair next to her crib. We are thankfully in a private room.

I think she will do much better at home. We can't wait to get the OK to hit the road, because there truly is no place like home.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Finally Some Sleep

Deciding on a special needs adoption and actually living through the treatment and surgeries are two very different things. Princess is in much more pain than I thought. I am exhausted, stressed, worried, but glad it's over.

Honestly, I am not looking forward to 4 more surgeries in the next 5 to 10 years. I don't like to see her hooked up to monitors or in pain. But I am thankful for the care she is getting. I'm thankful that we live in a country where being born with a cleft really isn't that big of a deal. It can be fixed. She will live a full life. She will learn to talk.

Princess is finally in a deep sleep. The docs are hoping to release her tomorrow. We decided last week that Jonathan would be the one to spend the night with her and I'd go home. He does so much better on no sleep than I do.

So I am heading home before I'm too foggy and tired to drive. I'll be back tomorrow morning and hopefully all three of us will be home by dinner.

It Isn't Pretty

Princess had trouble waking up.

She kicked, screamed, cried silent tears, and tried to rip her IV out.

She is mad because of the arm restraints.

She is mad because she has no idea where she is.

She is mad because the roof of her mouth is raw and cut in two different places.

She was so mad, confused, and in such pain she arched her back and we couldn't even hold her.

Then she got another dose of pain medication and after a while she calmed down and slept for two hours in my arms. She is drooling blood and her lips are cracked and raw, too.

But at 3:00, she looked up at me and smiled. Then waved bye-bye to the nurse and downed 2 cups of juice. She is sleeping peacefully in the crib now.

It's not pretty, but it's getting better.

10:15 am: Wake up Call

They are waking her up now.

The hearing test went well. One ear is normal and the other is borderline normal. We were worried about hearing issues, but with the tubes everything should be resolved.

We hope to see and hold her within the hour.

It's 9:00 am and she finally has a palate

The plastic surgeon just came out: He's done!!! She has a closed palate. She is a double thumb sucker, so she will be in arm restraints. He did say she will be very, very unhappy and sore.

Now they are starting the ear tubes and ABR hearing test. She likely has some hearing loss, but now we will know exactly how much she can hear. As I understand it, the ENT team will stimulate her eardrum and then measure her brain waves. The test should take an hour.

Thanks for all the emails. We could never get through this without support from friends and family!

Early Morning Car Problems

The alarm sounded at 4:00 and we headed out the door at 4:45. Princess was sleepy, but talkative and all smiles. By 5:00 we knew something was terribly wrong with the minivan. Then engine felt like it was revving, then dying, the revving again. We got off 290 and headed back home. Thankfully we made it.

By 5:10 we had switched cars and were back on the road. We arrived at UIC at 5:45. Evie was still playful and happy. Then she got really happy (and a little tipsy) when the anesthesiologist gave her "happy medicine." It made her limbs floppy and eyes droopy.

Then we handed her off and watched her disappear into the OR.

My little guy's preschool teacher reminded me on Wednesday that when you hand over a child for surgery it's a reminder that that child isn't really yours. She's totally in God's hands.

So now we wait.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Genetic Testing

The day after we accepted Princess' referral I googled cleft lip and palate with the cardiac disease Tetralogy of Fallot. 141,000 sites came up. All of them describing a chromosomal defect that the vast majority of people with both Tetralogy of Fallot and cleft lip have.

I slid my laptop in front of Jonathan. "Read it," I said. "She could have DiGeorge Syndrome. Heart defects we can handle. Cleft lip and palate we can do. But we cannot deal with this."

I reread the medical jargon over his shoulder: mental retardation, severe learning disabilities, hearing loss, compromised immune system, schizophrenia.

He slid my computer back to me and shrugged his shoulders. "We don't know she has it."

"We don't know that she doesn't have it."

"You're focusing on the worst case scenarios," he cautioned. "It also said she could simply need to take calcium supplements."

He was right. The scale and symptoms of DiGeorge Syndrome varied. Some kids who have it show no symptoms. But even still, I couldn't sleep that night.

The next morning was Sunday. I felt half sick. "I'm not sure I can parent this child," I cried. "I'm sure that's why she wasn't placed with the other families who reviewed her file. People get scared when they hear the word "syndrome."

Jonathan sighed. "Let's talk to the specialist at Children's who reviewed her file. Let's see what he says about DiGeorge."

That morning, I sent the International Adoption specialist from Children's Memorial Hospital an email asking if he thought our future daughter could have DiGeorge Syndrome. He emailed me back within 20 minutes and said there was a slim chance, but it could only mildly affect her. The truth was we wouldn't be able to have genetic testing to find out if she had it or not until she was home.

"Do we move on with her adoption?" Jonathan asked me.

I sighed. "This is really about faith."

Jonathan nodded. "It's totally out of our hands. And you can't worry about it."

"Then we move forward," I said. "And I'll do my best not to worry about it."

Fast forward to early October. Every doctor that saw Princess suggested she be tested for DiGeorge Syndrome. So two weeks ago, we met with a team of genetic counselors. They oohed and awed over her. Then measured her eyes, which were too close together, and her ears, which were too low. Then they drew five vials of blood.

And we waited.

"What if she has it," I asked Jonathan.

"So what?" he said. "We can deal with it."

I knew I could deal with it. She would still be my girl. I had no regrets about her adoption. Our family would be incomplete without her. I could handle DiGeorge Syndrome--because I wanted to be her mother.

The next day the genetic counselor called with the test results.

Princess is not missing a part of her chromosome. She doesn't not have DiGeorge Syndrome. Both of her birth defects happened independently--not part of a syndrome.

Our adoption journey has been based on faith. We've been tested in ways that I never imagined. But what's harder for me to imagine is what would have happened had we said no to Princess because of what might have been.

It's just unthinkable.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Closed Doors

People ask me all the time if we'll go back to China for another adoption. I try not to laugh. Because it's like asking a mother who has just given birth if she plans on getting pregnant again right away.

But I can't laugh at my sons when they ask. When we first started this process in 2008 my desire for my boys was to first have a little sister. I think a siblings are one of the greatest gifts you can give a child. But I also wanted them to learn about compassion for children in the world who live with much, much less than they do. Even still, I was a little taken aback when  my six year old announced that there was still an empty seat in the minivan. The four year old also chimed in that we had an extra chair at the dinner table.

Almost once a week the boys ask if we can go back to China for one more little girl. They remind me that there are many, many more children who just need a mommy and daddy to love them.

We love our girl. And I will be forever grateful for our adoption experience. My family has been blessed beyond measure. But she has special needs. And demands a lot of attention and time. I want to give her that time and attention. I want Evie to grow and develop and catch up with her peers. I absolutely cannot image caring for another baby right now. I know people do it--and do it well--but I doubt that I could juggle it all.

So we told our boys at dinner that our family was complete. We have three beautiful, smart, amazing, (and mostly) healthy kiddos. We are thankful for every one of them.

So for now the door to adoption is closed. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that there is a faint light filtering in through the crack.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Beginning of Our History

I spend every waking moment with Princess. We have tea parties, push around a shopping cart, rock, read books, and eat...all the time. She demands so much attention my house has never looked worse and it's hard to make a meal with her perched on my hip.

I'm not complaining. She needs the extra TLC. And I'm happy to give it to her. But today it really hit me, I can tell you this child's schedule minute by minute. I can tell you what she likes, how she likes you to gently tap her back (and if you don't do it right, she'll move your hand), I can tell you how much of a kiwi she ate and how many calories she consumed throughout the day. I know her favorite shoes, blanket, and bottle.

I can't tell you, however, when she started crawling, how much she weighed at birth, or when she first smiled. I don't know how she recovered, from open heart surgery without a mommy and daddy to rock and hold her. I wasn't there when she was left completely and utterly alone almost two years ago when she was abandoned.

I often wonder what did she do in the orphanage all day? Was she in her crib? Did she have friends? A special nanny? Did someone come running when she cried?

An orphanage is a complicated, sad place. There are too many kids and not enough help. So many kids are sick and my girl was one of them. With a very serious heart condition, that would have killed her, she was likely blue, sluggish, and very sick.

This much I know about her She is not a mistake. She is a fighter and a survivor. I may not have been there physically in the beginning, but I was praying for my daughter I hadn't met yet.

Our history together started on August 15. I cannot change her past. I can help her mourn and move on with a family who loves and adores her. That's my job. Simply because I'm her mom.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Am Her Real Mother

"Is she your daughter?" a girl asked me at church. She wrinkled her forehead and studied Princess' crooked nose and jagged scar on her lip.

"Yes." I told her, offering no explanation.

"But," the girl continued still scanning Princess' face, "she doesn't look like you."

"What's different?" I pressed.

She was silent for a moment, then said, "I don't know, but something is different."

There's no denying it. She is different. But different doesn't have to be bad. Or scary. Or wrong. From the day we met her, we loved her because of her differences.

A lot of people have opinions about adoption. I've been asked how much we paid for our daughter. If you're truly interested in adoption, I'll tell you the fees you pay for services--not for the child. Most people won't adopt, so I politely ask them how much they paid for their car or house. I've been ask if the government paid us to take in an orphan. People ask why her "real" mom didn't want her. Some wonder why we didn't adopt domestically or foster. After all there are needy children in the United States. I'd never argue with that. My answer is simple: A kid is a kid. They all need homes. So why not the United States, Russia, or Ethiopia. My daughter happened to be in China.

These questions aren't new and they won't ever go away. People in China were just as curious. Our guide told us that most Chinese citizens don't know adoption is an option. The government doesn't tell them there are hundreds of thousands of children waiting for families. We carried around a card that said in Chinese: We are from USA. We are adopting Ling Chen. We love her and Chinese culture.

Most people either hugged us or gave us a thumb's up. We heard "lucky baby" over and over again. Luck had nothing to do with it.

I believe God meant for her to be part of our family from the beginning of time. It is his perfect plan for an imperfect world.

So, yes, I am her real mother. And if you saw us together, there's no denying it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

August 18: Passports

Once Princess started smiling, she never stopped. In just a few hours, she went from newborn to toddler. She cruised around our hotel room and even started babbling. We taught her sign-language, which she picked up in a matter of hours.

Part of the reason the adoption trip to China is two weeks is to complete paperwork and to allow enough time to process the child's passport. Most provinces can process a passport in a week--except Beijing. They usually take 10 days to process a passport, making the trip three weeks. I was already so homesick for my boys, I was physically ill. I absolutely couldn't imagine waiting another week for a passport.

Susan took us to the passport facility where we met five other American families adopting children. All of the children were from the same orphanage, although Princess didn't seem to recognize any of them. We all applied for passports at the same time and were all given receipts to pick up our passport in 10 days.

Susan shook her head, went back to the counter, and came back with an emergency passport receipt. Princess could receive her passport in five days. The others, expect one other family, did not receive emergency passports.

When I prayed for mercy for Princess, I was simply praying about shots and blood draws. But God, in all of his awesomeness, extended that mercy to emergency passports and smiles.

Princess--who probably hadn't ever laughed--now had a loud belly laugh that was absolutely contagious.

August 17: Mercy

Princess was a little girl who desperately needed mercy.

I wondered if she'd ever smiled. Her glassy eyes stared past us, when her thumbs weren't stuck in her mouth, her arms dangled lifelessly at her side. She screamed whenever we put her down, so we weren't sure if she could walk. She was more like a newborn than a two year old.

Susan, our guide, had managed to talk the orphanage into giving us the report from Evie's surgeon that noted the extra vessels in her lungs. We went back to the Beijing clinic early the next morning. Susan handed the radiologist the report. This time, the radiologist smiled and signed the TB certificate. In doing so, she gave us the freedom to bring Princess home.

According to the US consulate, all orphans must have a medical exam before they immigrate into the United States. This includes getting all immunizations even if it means getting six or more at a time. Thankfully, Princess was mostly up to date. But she needed blood tests and the clinic didn't have any pediatric needles. So we had to lay her on a gurney, Jonathan held her head and arms, I held her legs, Susan had her hand on her stomach. Then a nurse jammed a large needle into her teeny tiny vein. Evie's glazed over eyes were suddenly filled with fear, terror, and anger.

Still sweaty and screaming from the blood draw, we took her to the next station to get her immunizations. Since her birth certificate said she was two years old, she was scheduled to receive her two year old shots. But at 16 pounds, Princess looked more like a 12 month baby. As the nurse lined up the needles, I prayed, "Lord have mercy on this child."

The nurse who was supposed to give her the shots, took one look at Princess and shook her head. "Not two," she said in broken English. "Won't do it." She took the needles, tossed them in the trash, signed the forms, and sent us on our way.

We took Princess back to the hotel and she fell asleep in Jonathan's arms.

Two hours later she woke up and smiled at us. It was the picture of mercy, beautiful, beautiful mercy.

Monday, September 7, 2009

August 16: Chest X-Rays

Princess wouldn't lay down to sleep. The only thing we could compare her to was a dog who was too afraid to roll over and expose its chest. She slept sitting up on Jonathan's chest. Her body was tense and in the morning she ramped up the crying again. The only thing we could do was hold her tight. The note we got from the orphanage said she took one bottle of formula. When we took her to breakfast and she saw all the food, she threw her bottle and opened her little mouth like a bird. At 16 pounds, she was tiny, but ate more than we did combined.

Our next stop was the Beijing medical center. It was recently approved by the US consulate to give medical exams to orphans immigrating into the United States. Princess was one of the first patients. Since her skin test was positive for TB, she needed a chest X-ray. Once the x-ray was taken, we were shuffled into a little room and the radiologist showed us the film.

I immediately saw cloudy crisscross veins on her x-ray. We stood around the x-ray as our guide Susan, talked to the radiologist. Every once in a while, Susan would break out of Mandarin to tell us what was happening.

"The radiologist says she 95% sure she does not have TB," Susan told us. "But she won't sign the form."

They argued for another hour, pointing at each other, pointing at us, pointing at the baby who stared blankly into space. Still talking at breakneck speed, Susan called the orphanage. The radiologist talked to whoever was on the other line. They hung up and argued some more.
Nearly two hours went by. Then, suddenly, Susan led us out of the room and into a cab.

On the ride to the notary office, where we would sign papers that would legally complete the adoption, Susan explained that the orphanage knew her x-ray would be cloudy. In fact, the surgeon who performed her open heart surgery, noted in a report that she had extra blood vessels, not TB. If we could find that report, the radiologist would sign the form.

We met four other families at the notary office. We all signed the papers together. What should have been an absolutely joyful day, we clouded in confusion and sadness. We once again got into the cab and went to the orphanage to pick up the report. We were not allowed inside, but we were met by an administrator outside the gates. Susan and the administrator started arguing.

Even though I couldn't understand what they were saying, I knew she didn't have the report. I stared at the orphanage. It was massive. We'd heard there were 600 children living there. But I'd double or triple that number.

In China's eyes, Princess had American parents. But according to the United States, if she didn't have a negative TB certificate, she could not enter the country. She was in fact, a child without a country.

I knew if she had to pass through the gates and go back into the orphanage, she would without a doubt, die.

Friday, September 4, 2009

August 15: Meeting Our Daughter

Some babies come from the hospital. Some babies come through revolving doors in hotel lobbies.

By 9:30 the next morning, we were waiting in the lobby to meet our girl. We weren't allowed to go to the orphanage because of fear of spreading Swine Flu. We also weren't allowed to meet her nanny because in the past nannies have contacted families for money. China is very careful about what may or may not be a bribe.

So we sat for an hour in a smoke-filled, bustling lobby waiting for our daughter. We watched business men, a wedding party, and countless bellboys pass through the revolving door. Each slowed down just a bit to have their temperature taken by the automatic scanners.

She was an hour late.

"We're not thinking about TB today," Jonathan reminded me.

I gulped. It was all I thought about. I was about to be handed a baby that I may have to hand back. But if I was truly meant to be her mom, I knew there had to be a miracle in store for this child.

Suddenly, a young woman can through the revolving door holding a baby. I knew in an instant it was my daughter.

We jumped up, and the woman told her, "Mama," and pointed to me. She handed Princess to me. I'd never seen such fear in a child's eyes. She screamed, like she'd been kidnapped. I held her for the next 45 minutes and her heart broke into a million pieces. Everything this child had known was gone. Everything, whether is was good or bad, had changed.

Hours later, Princess stopped crying. Her face was blank, she stared at nothing, and her limbs were limp.

She had shutdown.

August 14: Taking Flight

On August 14 we boarded a direct flight to Beijing China. It was 14 hours and neither of us slept. In less than 24 hours we'd meet our daughter for the first time. I had two major concerns. First, that we'd get quarantined once we got off the flight because we'd have an elevated temperature or someone near us would have a temperature. China had in the past quarantined entire flights because they were afraid of Swine Flu. And secondly, that Evie would be TB positive.

TB had been on my mind a lot. On July 1, the US passed a law that states no immigrant may enter the United States with TB. Unfortunately, adopted children were included under the law because they are not granted citizenship until they step foot on US soil, even though the adoption is completed in China. It also doesn't matter that children can rarely spread the disease. For the past few weeks, I'd been following a family's blog whose daughter did test positive for TB. They could either stay with her during the treatment, which lasts 6 to 9 months or they could leave her. They had to go home because of jobs and other children. It was heartbreaking. And it was my nightmare.

As the plane touched down in Beijing, I prayed that we wouldn't get quarantined and Princess would have a TB negative test.

We got off the plane and had our temperatures taken by security wearing surgical masks and were allowed to go. Our guide, Susan, meet us at baggage claim.

"I just found out your daughter tested positive for TB," she told us.

I dropped my bag. I hadn't even left the airport and I was already questioning God. Would you really bring us all this way to make us leave her behind? Or do you really intend for me to stay in China for six months or more?

I knew the answer to both questions was yes.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I love this picture of my big boy. The motion. The energy. And the question: where will he land?

The picture also reminds me of faith. Along this journey, I've often felt like we were jumping off a cliff. Praying that we'd land on solid (and soft) ground. And that we'd quickly be able to get our footing.

Jumping off this dune took courage. It wasn't easy, but once he did it he knew he'd land safely. No one ever said faith was easy either. But we know that we're not alone. Our Princess came to us through many miracles. And without faith it would have been easy to walk away and say that it was too hard. Too painful. Too long.

Faith is what brought us to this point.

So tomorrow we jump.

Pray for a safe (and soft) landing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Countdown to Change

Joshua woke up three times last night crying. Caleb is being a little bit more hyper than usual. And the dog won't eat.

Change is brewing. Everyone can feel it.

There are two big suitcases sitting at the top of the stairs ready to come down. The boys are going to grandma's house on Thursday. I've tried to picture this goodbye a hundred times in my head. I'm trying to come up with a way to will myself not to cry. If I don't cry, maybe they won't either. I know they are safer here. I know they are in good hands. I know it's the right thing to do. I just have to do it.

Then on Friday, we leave for Beijing.

In all the furry of activity, the packing, the excitement and the nervousness, it really comes down to one thing. There's a little girl who is halfway across the world. And she only has three more nights without a mommy and daddy.

Three more nights. Then everything changes. For everyone. For our daughter.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Why 1001 Tears?

Funny name for a blog, right?
It's the name of the book I'm working on about the adoption journey. The title came to me one day after viewing a little girl's file who needed a heart transplant. Of course, she was beautiful and deserved a family who could pour love and energy into her. But I knew her special need was more than my family could handle. Still, I couldn't sleep the night I saw her picture. At about 2:00 in the morning, I got up and just started writing and praying. I prayed that another mother was crying 1001 tears for this little girl and would bring her home.

The next week, her file was no longer on the agency list. She'd found her mommy and daddy.

1001 Tears. I think there were days when I cried that many for The Princess. I cried that she wasn't with us, I cried that our paperwork took so long, I cried that someone would love her. And today, I cry tears of joy that she will be with us in a few short days.

Our Timeline to The Princess

Spring Break 08: Jonathan and I read Lost Daughter’s of China while in St. Thomas. Even though, we’re told that China is the hardest country to adopt from, we know that’s where our daughter is. We’re also told the wait for a healthy child is 3 to 5 years. We begin to pray about special needs that we think our family can handle. Out of a checklist of 50 different needs we choose three: heart condition, cleft lip, and palate.

May 18: I wake up suddenly with an overwhelming sense to submit our special needs check list. Now. I e-mail it an hour later to our first agency.

May 19: We start the paperwork process. It takes 8 months to complete.

December 26: We see a post information about a little girl named Fang Ling Chen who has tetrology of fallot and cleft lip and palate. She’s not with our agency and it’s not possible for children’s files to be transferred. We pray about this little girl and three days later we request to see her file.

December 29: We’re told two other families are ahead of us to see Fang Ling Chen’s file. One is writing a letter requesting to adopt her. I cry when I find out we waited too long.

Jan 16: After waiting three months, we receive approval from immigration to adopt a child under the age of two. Our paperwork is finally finished! That same day, the agency calls to say the other family’s insurance does not cover Fang Ling Chen’s special needs. And a private donor has paid for her open-heart surgery. She is doing well and is turning two in a week. They give her file to us to review. But because our paperwork is written for a child under the age of two, we are not approved to adopt her. But we look at her file anyway.

Jan 20: A doctor at Children’s believes Fang Ling Chen has a promising future. He suggests we speak to the top ranked plastic surgeon in the city—Dr. Cohen. Jonathan happens to know him personally.

Jan 22: We decide Fang Ling Chen could be our daughter. We will have to switch agencies and redo all our paperwork to be approved for an older child. Everyone says it’s impossible. We think she deserves a family as soon as possible, and cannot wait a year for us. However, we also decide if God opens doors we will walk through them. We submit a letter to China and officially ask to be Fang Ling Chen’s parents. China gives us three months to submit all our paperwork.

Jan 26: We being the impossible and frantically redo our home study and resubmit our paperwork to immigration. It takes us six weeks to make all the changes.

Jan 27: Fang Ling Chen’s birthday passes quietly. We’ve only known her a few days, but we pray that we’ll be able to celebrate her next one.

March 23: We receive our updated immigration approval. Our paperwork is almost done. I go to the Chinese consulate with Caleb to get all our documents authenticated. It’s the last step and we don’t have any extra days to spare in order to meet China’s deadline. What I don’t realize is that in order to get same day service, the documents must be presented to the counter by 11:00. After horrible traffic, getting lost, and going to the old consulate, I arrive at 10:30 and am handed number B265. They are calling B245. The security guard tells me there’s no way I’ll get to the counter on by 11, but I can leave my documents and have them mailed back to me if I give them a return envelope, which I don’t have. Plus, time is running out. Everything needs to be translated and if I don’t get these papers authenticated today, we will likely lose our referral.

The place is jammed packed; probably nearly 200 people are there. I find the only open seat and call my friend. I can tell Caleb and I are really bothering the lady I sat next too. She’s grumpy and Caleb kicks her several times on accident.

After talking to my friend, I pray, “I need a miracle. Now.” The grumpy lady sitting next to me leans over and says, “I’m number B248. Take my ticket. You’re next.”

April 10: Our paperwork is officially logged into China. Our wait beings for an official letter of acceptance. We’re told it could be over 100 days.

June 16: Day 67. We receive our letter of acceptance. The agency calls it a miracle. We now officially apply for Feng Ling Chen’s American visa with her American name. 

July 14: We get updated photos of The Princess. Her cleft has been repaired. We realize that God saw it fit to give us a child with every special need we chose, he also saw it fit to have them surgically repaired before we even meet her. Now we don’t have to rush her to major surgery when she gets home, she can just ease into our family.

July 30: We receive our official travel invitation from China. We plan to leave on August 14 and meet her on August 16.