To Love a Rose: An Ethiopian Adoption Journal

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Paper Pregnant!

Mr. C and I outside the Holt International Kansas City office after receiving our required parent-in-process training classes.  You can see the reflection of our new friend, K, taking our picture for us.

Well, it's officially OFFICIAL, everyone!  We are [paper] pregnant!  *dancing*  I heard another adoptive mom-to-be say, "There aren't any stretch marks, but boy are paper cuts painful."  Soooo right - literally and figuratively! 

Last weekend was spent in Kansas City getting our required 12 hours of parenting classes.  It seems like it would be long and tedious, but we really enjoyed it and met some wonderful families who are in process just like us.  Most exciting was meeting a young family who just received their referral of a beautiful baby girl from Korea.  Hearing stories like this really gives us hope - with patience we WILL get to our child, FINALLY!

Possibly the most intriguing part of the whole weekend, for me, was getting to watch videos Holt had made in which they interviewed adoptees themselves.  Wow!  Very eye-opening!  Mr. C and I were both super grateful to hear these candid conversations on what it means to not only be adopted, but also what it means to be adopted into families that often do not identify with you culturally or ethnically.  The kids and adult adoptees were so insightful and full of wisdom and truth, I had to keep myself from crying most of the time; because they were saying such beautiful, heart-wrenching statements of what it means to be a family, adopted, loved, a person of color, adopted-American, etc.

I can honestly say that while I went into the weekend thinking, "Ugh, this is just something boring and tedious I have to do in order for the adoption to go through."  I left feeling much differently - very humbled and grateful for the entire process.  And honestly, most of what we talked about, while specifically related to adoption, could probably truly benefit parents of biological children too.  I think it would be great if every new parent could not just "be forced" to go through a class like this, but to have the benefit of such a valuable resource.

Holt stresses the concept of being "adopted for life", and I think it really showed in the weekend's seminars that there are constant, valuable, and often FREE resources available for our child and family in the decades of life to come.  We are NOT ALONE in this process and never will be.  Our child will have access to counselors, camps, seminars, meetings, fellowship groups, etc. where they can speak honestly and be respected and cared for in any capacity that they might need.  That was really comforting to me.  Thank GOD for this agency that doesn't just care about the trade of services for a fee, but the overall and total well-being of my child for life!  We are so blessed!

So, what's the next step?  You are probably wondering this.  Well, our home study is over and approved, we've finished the PIP classes, and we're getting ready to apply for our I-600A (visa for Mr. C and I to travel to Korea to adopt Baby C).  So, really, we're just in the "hurry up and wait" mode.  Which, really, we're not in a hurry at all.  As much as we would like Baby C home ASAP, we are realistic about the wait times and the circumstances of our life right now.  So, here is how we plan on spending the months until we get our referral for Baby C and then approval for travel:

1. FUNDRAISE LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE:  That's right...we're going to be doing LOTS of fund-raising.  Honestly, I don't know how people afford adoption without grants, loans, and fund-raising.  Yes, there's a part of me that says, "Well, people who have children biologically don't ask others for cash.  How is it fair to ask for assistance when adopting?"  But here's the hard core truth: if we got pregnant, our insurance would pay for EVERYTHING, and I mean that quite literally.  The only cost we would have out of pocket is our $3,000 deductible (if applicable).  Conversely, our entire adoption will cost $20,000; and we have no luxury of being helped by insurance, etc.  It's "out of pocket", folks! 

(And yes, I hear all the time from people..."Well then why don't you adopt through the state?  It's practically FREE!"  I could get really cranky here, but I won't.  We have MANY reasons for not going through the state.  MANY.  This is what's right for our family at the moment; so, this is what we're going to do.  You don't have to like it or agree with us - that's fine.  We don't care.  We have prayed about it and believe this is right for us.)

So, in addition to MUCH grant-writing and filling out loan applications, we will be running our own little on-going fund-raiser.  For every increment of money given, there will be a different gift for the donation.  So, we are giving back a little "thank you" gift for every, single bit of assistance you give us on this journey.  Why?  Because we are SO GRATEFUL that you care enough to help us bring Baby C home!  *More on our fund-raising website coming soon!

2. GET MOM READY FOR HER TRANSPLANT:  Mom is officially half-way done with her chemotherapy treatments which are preparing her for her bone marrow/stem cell (the phrases are interchangeable, really) transplant.  In total, mom's protocol before transplant is four rounds with two parts each of chemo, or you could look at it as eight total rounds of chemo.  Mom just finished round four - exactly half-way done!

We leave Branson for Zion again on Monday morning.  We're switching off with M to help dad.  I have no clue how long we'll be there this time (last time I was there for 2 1/2 months straight!).  Because of mom's current situation, I'm not really in a huge rush to get our referral and travel; which is good, because the whole process start to finish can take a while...12 to 18 months.  But as you can see, we have plenty to keep us busy in the meantime.

I really want mom to feel as good as possible when Baby C comes home.  I don't want her to feel stressed and out of the loop, just because she's still dealing with recovery.  Deep-down, I know that God will bring our baby home at the perfect time for our entire family so that it can be celebrated as the truly miraculous and joyous occasion that it IS going to be.  So, for now, I just try to live in as much peace as possible.

3. FINISH THE NURSERY/HOUSE:  Currently, the nursery looks like this:

We made the elephant/chevron curtains ourselves.  The black and white flag/banners were just added last week.
So, as you can see, we have a long way to go yet.  We have several art pieces that need to be hung on the walls; and we need to order the furniture we've been researching for months and months now.  Right now, the room looks a little boy-ish to me; but Mr. C disagrees, he thinks it looks perfectly gender neutral.  I'm not too worried about it either way, though; because we always intended to throw another accent color in when we found out the gender of Baby C - teal for a boy and varying shades of pink for a girl.

I have to say, it's pretty darn fun decorating a room for a wee one!  I keep imagining what it's going to be like when the baby is home FOR REAL - it's a bit surreal at the moment.  We've got lots of fun things on our crafting schedule for the nursery too; we really have a lot of fun making things for our house, so this is no different, of course.

There are a few finishing touches that the loft itself needs too - such as the office which needs finishing and some paint touch-ups throughout the house and furniture for the living room, etc.  One step at a time!

*To be continued...obviously!

4. GET MY INNER-SELF IN ORDER:  I'm sure most future mothers think, "Oh gosh, I'm pregnant, I've got so much to do in these next 9 months!"  But, I think for me, beyond my writing and music projects (which, don't get me wrong, ARE a source of stress in a way), I need to work on my inner-self.

It's no surprise that the last several months have been terribly stressful for me, but until Mr. C and I got home on the 9th of this month, I hadn't realized that I had not been dealing with anything (truly, emotionally/mentally).  And I broke down.  I'm not too proud to admit it - I really do think I had a sort of mental break this past week.

I know what set me off - an allergic reaction to a sleep aid - and after that I was on pins and needles every day.  It was as if months and months of anxiety came bursting through all at once.  And it hit me HARDVery hard.  And I even had a thought last week, "Am I ever going to recover from this terrible and terrifying anxiety?"  That thought only made things worse, of course...but it was a real fear at the time.

I can tell you right now that I'm not 100% again.  And I can also say, I'm not sure I ever really was 100% to begin with.  The last few years have been incredibly stressful for my entire family, and as I started to confront some of the darkness I was encountering the past couple of weeks, I think {looking back now} that I probably have never let myself grieve, be scared, break down, or be honestly vulnerable through any of it.

Even now, it's not easy for me to write this; but I need to.  I need to be honest out in the open, because I'm beginning to believe it is a necessary step in my healing process.

So, that's the truth - I'm Mandie, and I have anxiety.  Yes, I know that having a kid isn't going to make this fact easier; but I also know that I'm not the only one coping with this chronically who still has to make things work and keep on pushing through life.  I know God is helping me put the pieces back together, and I'll "get there"...I really will.  Everything is going to be (better than!) okay.

Those are my goals before Baby C arrives...

I know that some of them will take more time than others...some have set schedules over which I have no control, and others are a day-by-day process; but the one thing that keeps me going through it all is knowing that we are "paper pregnant".  That we are on a straight-shot to Baby C, and that our dream of being parents is only months away - how amazing is that?!  God is SO GOOD!

Many Blessings to You and Yours,

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year, Happy New Post!

A note I wrote to mom on New Year's IS going to be a GREAT year!

Today, mom is out-patient again for a while; which is fabulous and exciting.  Mom always loves being OUT.  I don't blame her, it's hard to feel like a normal person when you spend months at a time in a hospital room wearing a gown and eating off of trays.  So, we're all happy she could get out again.

Actually, it's pretty amazing/miraculous that she's been allowed out at all to begin with.  One of her nurses informed her that most leukemia patients in her position, are so bad they aren't allowed to be out-patient EVER in the whole process, and this is mom's SECOND time as an out-patient; so, that's a testament to how powerful and wonderful God is - keeping mom safe and her numbers up every step of this journey.

Being out-patient, she still has to stop by the stem cell unit out-patient clinic every day to have her blood drawn in case she needs something like potassium, magnesium, or blood/platelets.  But so far this cycle, she hasn't had any real issues.  Of course, she's been tired, a bit dizzy, etc.; but it's nothing compared to what she could be feeling, so we are grateful!

We also got some amazing news today:  a committee comprised of mom's two doctors, another doctor, and the stem cell world-wide databank liaison met today to pick mom's donor out of her three possible donors!  All three donors were notified a few weeks ago that they were possible matches for mom, and all three signed the releases to continue to round two of testing and on to the end if necessary.  Thank you GOD for these amazing, willing, giving people!

Once the committee picks the donor with the closest match possible, then said donor will be given shots to stimulate their bone marrow to begin producing over-time for about 5-10 days.  After that time, their stem cells/bone marrow (we were told these phrases are used interchangeably) will be "harvested" (a fairly painless process for the majority of people who go through it that is akin to a combination of giving blood and dialysis), frozen, and sent here to America.

It is amazing to me how God has had a hand in this from the beginning.  His plan is so far-reaching and always has been; He truly cares for us, and wants to heal us and get us through whatever we are enduring.

Mom was super tired on New Year's Eve; so, Mr. C and I went back to the Guesthouse North to hang out with the other patients/families there celebrating in the common room downstairs.  The CTCA is amazing, and always tries to have festivities available for each holiday/special time of year for those of us forced to be here when we'd much rather be home.  We had a pretty decent night...there was sparkling cider, music, party hats/noise makers/funny glasses, and all sorts of finger snacks.  It was really nice.

Mr. C and I in the CTCA Guesthouse North for New Year's Eve.

 The next day, Mr. C and I had a day off from the cancer center; my sister, M and her husband C, stayed with mom.  This was literally my first day away from the hospital since November 16th.  We hardly knew what to do with ourselves...we literally mostly just wandered around for the first part of the day; it felt so weird to not be on a schedule or hurry up to get to the hospital room to sit and wait all day.

We ate at the Rainforest Cafe (a place I had not been to since I left Nashville in 2004); then we visited a place called Serpent Safari to hang out with a bunch of cool reptiles - it was a blast!  And lastly, we went to a movie theater and watched the new Sherlock Holmes.  It was great to be "normal".

Mr. C with his seafood cannelloni.

The world's heaviest snake (not longest, just heaviest); she was beautiful!

Can't believe I caught this shot of this snake yawning - so cool!
Me with my favorite animal at the zoo, a crocodile monitor lizard; he was so adorable!
I hope you all had a fabulous time ushering in the New Year; and I wish for you ALL a year to follow that is over-flowing with all of God's greatest blessings!

Be Well...Be Love,