Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Got Hope?

She was born on a Tuesday during Primary season of the presidential election.  Once settled into my room, I remember the TV being on and the news was all about secured presidential nominations.  The following morning, I scrolled through my Facebook feed and there was a great deal of incredulity.  Despair and hopelessness even.  I quickly turned away from it and struggled to get out of the bed, to begin my c-section recovery.  I had a precious little baby, Hope, to take care of after all.  I couldn't get swept up in the emotions of the what is going on in our nation, in the upcoming election.

And since Hope's birth, there have been many crazy, hard to believe, tragic events.  And during that time, my main focus has been on this precious life, on Hope.  It has been amazing how focused I have been on Hope and my job as her mother.

I need to nurse Hope.

Help Hope grow. 

Love Hope.

Nurture Hope.

Cuddle Hope.

I need to hold on to Hope.

As I heard the news about the tragedy in Orlando, I was nursing Hope. 

When I prayed for all those affected by the tragedy in Dallas, I rocked Hope to sleep.

And as I watched the reports of the tragedy in Nice, France, I was holding on to Hope, cradling her in my arms.  She began to coo.  Hope was seeking my attention. I looked at her, she smiled at me. 

Hope smiled as she so often does.  She is such a sweet, happy baby.  And in that moment, I knew what God was teaching me, having a child named Hope.  


Hope is a world changer. 
(Hope (upper-case H, Hope) has already changed ours and I frequently call her a world changer)

My focus needs to be hope.  There is much evil, but my focus as a Christian HAS to be hope.  

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

It is my responsibility to hold on to hope, to nurture it, to make it grow in this world.  It is so, so easy to fall into despair, hopelessness.  This world is full of hate and evil.  Incomprehensible hate, brokenness and hurt.  Yet, there is Hope.  Hope is embodied in our home and the only way it will be embodied in our world, is if we nurture it, allow it to grow and hold tightly to it.  

Over the last 11 weeks, Pete and I have often talked about how amazing it is to have a baby named Hope.  How it changes us, in a way we never thought it would.  Each day, Hope cries, pleads for our attention.  There are times, when I am knee deep in parenting toddlers who have come from great loss and brokenness, weariness starts to creep in;  and then Hope cries out.  And I am snapped out of it.  Hope needs me and in that moment I am reminded that there is always hope. Hope that needs to be nurtured and grow.

I am so thankful for Hope and hope that Christ gave so freely.  I pray that I can help hope to grow in this world.

I need to be the instrument of hope in this world.  Because if I do not let it grow, who will?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Quick update

It has been a while since I have come here to update you all on life.  Even friends in real life say they don't see me much (I don't leave the house that often) and many only get to see Thomas and Hope through photos on Facebook.  I recognize that this is just our state in life right now.  I knew, in a way, that this time would feel like we were on a high speed train and it truly does.  The days are busy with playing with and reading to toddlers, nursing Hope and just staring at her when she is giving her smiles and coos, and conversing with our three oldest (and shuttling them to different activities).  But, I am slowing things down for a moment to share a little in this space . . . 

Hope is 7 weeks old!  She is only 7 weeks old, still so young, yet I already miss the tiny newborn stage.  Last week, I had to put away all of the newborn clothes we had for her and switch it with 3 month clothes and I started to get all nostalgic for the teeny tiny newborn I had just a few weeks ago (I am weird, I know).  I just love having a baby again. I love baby grunts, baby smiles and baby coos; which she has been happily supplying us with for a few weeks now.  I love the way she scrunches up her body and face when you pick her up while she is sleeping.  And I adore how all of her brothers and sister adore her too.  

We celebrated 4 months with Thomas just yesterday!   That boy is just a tank of joy and we all are so smitten with him.  He is adjusting well and seems to know we are his family.  As time has passed and we have emerged from cocooning, we are seeing some issues come up here and there.  Nothing that we are too concerned about, but we won't be making family trips to the pool or spending too much time in large social situations with our little man.  In the mean time, we continue to spend lots of time at home, allowing him to grow into our family more and more.

At the beginning of the month we baptized Hope and Thomas.  We had a triple baptism with Thomas' God parents who had a baby girl just weeks before Hope was born.  I could not wait for the day.  It was beautiful and so special  After having such a rough road in bringing theses two souls into our family, I was so ready to witness them come into our church family.  I had two favorite moments of the day.  The first was the moment I first saw Thomas in his baptismal outfit.  Pete had gotten him dressed in the hall next to the chapel while I had gone to the car to get something.  I closed up the car,turned around, and there was my son in his white Chinese outfit, ready for his special day.  Seeing him, ready to be baptized, looking so so handsome, made me cry with joy.  I scooped him up and held him, thanking God for the promise of this life coming into our family.  My favorite part of the baptism was probably not what you would think . . . .it was the moment when our pastor asked is "What names have you given your children?"  There was something so amazing about hearing "names." Plural.  More than one. BOTH my children, long prayed for, long hoped for, were in our family, in our arms.  In that moment, I was in awe of the mercy of our God who allowed for the day to come; for these gifts given.  

I am doing well.  There is lots of hard and I am working to get used to it all. I think I am handling all the adjustments fairly well.  I wish I had more time to spend with each child, individually, but, I know this is just a season.  I am working to embrace the constant laundry and dishes that need to be done, and the mess of toys that is so frequently found on my floors. I often feel bad that I am not getting my kids to more activities, sports, library story times, etc, but it is good that I am not too.  It is teaching me that the most important moments in parenting aren't the activities you have your kids in, trips you take them on, or gifts you give them, but it is your presence.  It is rubbing your toddler son's back as he falls asleep.  It is sitting in your almost teen son's bedroom, chatting about his day.  It the smiles and laughs shared.  Those are the things that matter most. 

This time also feels very lonely at times too.   As mentioned before, I stay home A LOT.  The longer Thomas has been home, the more I realize that I cannot be as attentive to his needs as I need to be if we are in social situations.  Most people probably wouldn't even notice the subtle changes in his behavior etc, that I see, but I do see them and I know that he needs more time separated from social situations, than I need to be out of this house, so we stay home.  We take cocooning very seriously.  We know this time is precious and so needed and so we sacrifice to do what is best for this precious boy.  I try to remember that on the days that I just want to be at the pool, chatting with friends.  And all I need to do is look at Thomas for more than a second, and I melt. Yep, totally worth it!

So, this blog may be really quiet for a while, as lots of life happens on the other side of the computer screen.  But, I will try to update it every so often.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hope's Birth Story

When it comes to birth stories, most women do not write up, nor do I think they want to read about, scheduled c-sections. But, I want to remember the day and if I do not write it here to publish, it is unlikely that I will sit down for my own sake, and write, so bear with me as I recount the day.

As with most scheduled, repeat c-sections, the date was scheduled months in advanced.  I knew that Hope would arrive on May 3 unless she decided to surprise us and my body would decide to go into labor for the first time ever.  Although I am older and anything is possible, I thought it highly unlikely, so I was not too worried that she would be born any sooner that May 3rd.

The hospital that I deliver at has started something called the "Family Centered C-Section."  If you are having a scheduled, routine, c-section, you can elect to have a family centered c-section.  Basically, they allow you to have some of the experiences that you miss in a c-section that you have in a natural birth.  Instead of the baby being whisked away, out of the OR right after birth, the baby is given to the mom to hold giving the baby the all important skin-to-skin contact.  If desired, you can request a clear surgical drape so that you can see the birth of the baby.  And, your husband can cut the umbilical cord.  Although I did not elect to have a clear drape (let's be honest, I wanted to see Hope being born, but really did not want to see myself cut open . . . Pete was able to take photos of it all and they are NOT for the squeamish), I did want to be able to experience some of the things that I longed for in the birth of my sons' but never experienced. So, we planned for a family centered birth and I just hoped that I would not go into labor early to thwart my plans.

On the Saturday before the scheduled c-section (and the day before Andrew's First Communion)  I woke up to contractions.  They were inconsistent, but coming with a frequency that made me uneasy.  I timed them and began to GUZZLE water (since dehydration can cause contractions).  Thankfully, by mid afternoon, the contractions had slowed and were infrequent, but they continued on through the next two days.

My c-section was scheduled for 10:30 AM on Tuesday, so we headed to the hospital bright and early in the morning.  Once checked in, we were greeted by our pre-op nurse, who took us to our pre-op room.  Time seemed to fly by.  She got me ready for the c-section. My OB came in.  We met with the anesthesiologist and before we knew it, our OB was saying that it was time to head back to the OR.  I was pretty calm at this point.  Our pre-op nurse (who would be with us during the whole c-section), my OB, and the anesthesiologist were incredible.  They were friendly, sweet, and kind and put me at ease. Our pre-op nurse said, "Let's get this birthday party started!" as we walked down to the OR.

Once in the OR, they prepped me for the spinal.  It is the thing I have been the most nervous about in all my c-sections.  It is also the thing that, mentally, I tell myself, if I can get through the spinal, the rest will be ok.  The spinal was completed without any problems and before I knew it, I was laying down, with very numb legs.  All of the nurses, my OB and the assisting OB began to move around in a flurry of activity. Yet, during all of this one or more of the staff continued to talk to me and ask me questions.  The anesthesiologist asked me about how many "babies" I had had.  That naturally led into a conversation about our kids and adoption.  My OB chimed in that she was adopted and thought adoption was just the best.  Her parents had 5 biological children and then adopted her and one of her sisters as well.  Then, the music came on.  Our nurse had asked me what music I would like in the OR and she put on contemporary christian music.  This is Amazing Grace by Phil Wickman filled the OR.  One of the nurses began to sing and my OB thought it was me signing.  She said that would have been a first!  To be honest, at that moment, I was so calm and at peace that I could have been singing at that moment. I am not sure if it was because of all of the prayers of others, all we had been through to get to this day, or the incredible people I was surrounded by who were taking care of me or the perfect combination of all of it, but I truly was so peaceful about this c-section and birth; more than I had ever been with my other children.  

Before I knew it, my OB told Pete to get the camera ready, Hope was about to be born.  I could feel the tugs.  Pete said, "I see her.  She's beautiful!"  I can still see the excitement and joy on his face.  And then I could hear her scream.  I started to cry a little and just could not wait to see her and hold her.  One of the nurses asked me if I minded if they cleaned her up just a bit before they gave her to me, and I was fine with that.  Only moments passed, and they brought her over to me and they placed her on my chest.  Hope had been screaming the whole time, but the minute she was placed on my chest, she just stopped and was so content.  It was such a gift to be able to hold her right away.  My boys had been brought to me bundled in a towel and I was able to look at them for a moment before the nurses took them out of the OR and to the recovery room, with Pete following.  And with each of those three c-sections, I was left alone while the OB finished up.  This time,I got to hold Hope until my OB had finished, Pete by my side.  The time went quickly as Pete and I just gazed at our beautiful little daughter and chatted.  Before I knew it, they took down the surgical drape, my OB came to talk to Pete and I and then the three of us (Pete, Hope and I) headed to recovery.

That was a week ago today.  And this has been, by far, my best and easiest c-section recovery.  The irony of that is not lost on me.  Just a few months ago I thought I might be having a high risk c-section delivery, and instead I had the best c-section experience with recovery of all four.  I could not have hoped for a better birth experience with Hope and recovery since.  I am grateful for all of the prayers over the last several months and for the amazing staff at AAMC who made the day so memorable and special.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

40 days as a family of 7 and 20 days to a family of 8

Easter Sunday 2016 - Family of  7 and as close to a baby bump photo you will get

40 days ago, Pete, Joshua and Thomas came home from China.  If you have not seen our video on Facebook, take a minute to watch it here.  I am biased, but I cry watching it. EVERY. SINGLE.TIME.  It, and all the photographs were taken by Nicoleinbold, LLC, an amazingly talented photographer I found through Red Thread Sessions.

Thomas's US Gotcha Day from Nicole Burmeister on Vimeo.

Right now, a mini miracle is occurring in our home . . . . both toddlers are napping! So, I am going to attempt to write this post and hit "publish" before either wakes up!

So, let's just get to the details, shall we?

Things are going well.  Thomas is adjusting very well and I seriously cannot imagine life without him.  He has been attaching to me well (and to Pete too, of course) and we have seen improvements in his interactions with strangers over the last month.  He is a super sweet little boy and we all adore him.  His smile melts me, but all of my boys have been able to charm me with a sweet smile.  Although things are going well, please do not read that as "this is easy."  We are living the HARD right now. Good and beautiful, but hard.  And there are moments that I do not think it would seem so hard if I weren't just so big and pregnant.  Felicity has "battle scars" from her dear brother. The toddlers can create more mess than I ever knew possible. Getting Thomas to nap when Felicity no longer naps, but just HAS to be in the room when I put her brother down for his nap has taught me a whole new level of patience I did not know exists.  After I dropped my boys off at their tutorial this morning, I went to daily mass with the toddlers, for the first time since Thomas came home.  It was 9AM when mass was over and I officially considered the day highly successful.

Thomas has been through all of his doctor's appointments and is doing so well!  Since he has a heart condition, we were very concerned about his cardiologist appointment, but after his echo, the doctor declared that his surgery in China was beautifully done and that he is HEALTHY!  Thomas will only need yearly appointments at this time!

At the cardiologist, waiting for his echo, and showing off his CHD warrior scar

This week marks the 36th week of pregnancy for me.  I am BIG and probably look continually tired.  I get insomnia in my third trimester, so there are nights I sleep very little.  While I know adding a newborn to the mix will be challenging, I often think it will be easier than right now . . . . we will see. We are officially 20 days away from baby Hope's arrival. I have to have a scheduled c-section, so we know the date and approximate time of her arrival already.  The crib is up, car seats are set, and my hospital bag is almost completely ready to go.  A sitter for the toddlers is lined up and as of right now, we have not scared her off yet!  I know the next few weeks will fly by and before we know it baby Hope will be in our arms.  I have not spent much time getting excited about her arrival.  Really, I am so busy with the "now" that it is hard to even think about what is to come. But last week a friend gave birth to her baby boy and as I saw the updates and photos over two days, I began to get excited about having a newborn again. It has been so long that I wonder if it will feel new again, or if it like riding a bicycle; that it will all just come back to me once she is in my arms???

A grainy phone photo, but it shows the pure joy for this crazy life!

So that is what is going on in our little corner of the world. Other than the details, I have to say that I am often left with this overwhelming sense of awe at all that God has done.  Each day I look at Thomas, I am profoundly grateful and amazed at how God brought him into our family; from that day I played with him in the orphanage, to the mountains moved during the adoption process to bring him into our family and at the timing of it all, I am simply in awe.  This morning, I was pondering it all and I looked at our little man and said, "God must have known we needed you."  Yes, Thomas needs us too, but there must be something about him with us that is just right.  I have so many thoughts on this whole subject and how it has left me changed in a different way than how Felicity's adoption impacted me, but those thoughts and feelings are to be written another day.

For now, I know, that to so many, our lives may seem chaotic and our decision to add more family members through adoption just a little bit crazy.  And there are days that it truly is.  But, I can say that our hearts are bursting with love and joy more than ever before.  To see my three boys light up when they see Felicity or Thomas? Oh, pure joy.  To see Pete play and hold these two silly toddlers?  Pure joy.  To have Thomas wake up in the middle of the night and say, "Mommy?" and then immediately fall back to sleep when I simply say the words, "I am here Thomas."? . . . . joy.  To see Thomas and Felicity pat my belly and wave "Hi" to baby Hope  . . . . oh, yes, pure joy.  

So, we may seem a bit tired and haggard some days, but we "consider it all joy." 

Monday, March 14, 2016

All things Thomas and how things are going (really) after a week home

I have had to change the title of this post already.  I had grand plans to post days ago, but, you know, life with a new one is happening right now and I am at the mercy of his plans (really, HIS plans).   I have not written much since Thomas came home last week.  If you are on Facebook or Instagram, you will recognize most of these photos, as my phone is pretty much the only camera that comes out lately.  Yet, I wanted to take a moment to update everyone on how things are going right now and answer some things you may be wondering about.

Overall, we are all doing well.  Life seems so natural with Thomas in the house and I am really proud of how all of the kids are adjusting to having another toddler in the house.

Just a few things about our boy:

- He is a super, cute, chunky little thing.  He is much shorter than Felicity, but has the most adorable chubby belly.

- He has a charming smile. Too charming, really.  He will often use that charming smile to get out of trouble.  So far, we are resisting his charms.

- He has the softest skin of any of my children.  It is butter soft and I cannot help but rub his cute little cheeks whenever I get a chance. Pete said that the guides in China would comment on how great his skin is and now, I can understand why.

- He is all boy and combined with some bad behaviors learned at the orphanage, he can be a handful. But, not too much of a handful that we cannot work though it all.

- He is picking up English words here and there and his receptive language is great.

- He is very social.  Which is nice, but, in the long run, will make our cocooning phase longer and attachment more of a challenge.

Speaking of attachment:

- After a rough start with Pete (Thomas was deathly afraid of men), he warmed up to Pete very well in country.

- He was very scared of me when he first came home.  Pete had important meetings at work just two days after coming home from China, so Thomas had to get used to me quickly. By the third day, he had seemed to warm up to me.  He allows me to cuddle him and rock him to sleep.

- He loves his brothers, and honestly, prefers them to anyone else.  This, again, can be a challenge, but the boys have been so great about letting Pete and I take the lead in the care of Thomas, so as to firmly establish us as the care givers and those Thomas should seek first.

- I adore the little boy.  He had my heart before he even came home and that has not changed.
While, the first week has gone well, we have a LONG way to go.  The process of attachment is often 2 steps forward, one step back, or sometimes just a crawl.  It has been hard not to compare him to Felicity and where she is at now, but she has been home 18 months and grown in so many ways and we know that we will look back a year from now and see a lot growth in our relationship with Thomas too.

Felicity and Thomas:

These two are now affectionately named "The Toddlers."  And, as you would expect from any two toddlers, they can get along beautifully one moment, and then not-so-beautifully the next.  We were very concerned about Felicity's adjustment to Thomas and she is far surpassing our expectations.  She has been doing well overall and I have been so impressed with her ability to adjust.  Thomas and Felicity are just 7 months apart in age, but right now, developmentally, they seem about 18 months apart.  At this moment, it is a great thing because it is helping to establish Felicity as the older sister.  She has become a mini-mom in many ways and is amazing at grabbing diapers and wipes when I need them for Thomas.  I barely get the words "sippy cup" out of my mouth and she is on her way to get his sippy cup so that I may give it to Thomas. While, Thomas may prefer his brothers, I really think these two will become very close over the years.


How would you guess sleep is going in a house with one toddler still slightly on China time, one toddler adjusting to having a toddler brother, two other family members overcoming jet leg and a 32 week pregnant woman??  If you can imagine all of those scenarios under the same roof, you can imagine just how sleep is happening, or not happening, in our house.  Melatonin has become our friend to help regulate Thomas' and Felicity's sleep.  And, as long as I can avoid having to sleep on the floor, next to my toddler daughter, I can get sufficient enough sleep to get me through (yes, at 32 weeks pregnant, I have had to sleep on the floor! I do not recommend it).

These early days of melding Thomas into our family are not easy.  And since this is not our first time at this, we did not expect it to be easy.  Add being pregnant onto it all and it does complicate things.  But, in so many ways, this feels so much easier than last time.  Even admist the craziness, there is much joy.  I was changing diapers and getting "The Toddlers" ready for bed one night and Pete looked at me and said, "You are happy, aren't you?"  Yes.  Yes, I am very happy.  Even though I am tried and my body is just not able to move the way it did just weeks ago, I am very happy.  Adding a two year old, full of energy, to the mix, and yes I am still happy. I am sleep deprived, and I am still happy.  And I think that it all stems from an excessive amount of grace.  Grace that comes when you are walking the path that God wants you on..  Even though it may be hard and challenging, there is still an incredible amount of joy that comes with it.  Joy in knowing that we are getting a little glimpse of God's love through this whole process.  Joy in knowing that there is one less orphan in the world and that a son is HOME.