Sunday, September 1, 2013

Labor and Delivery Via International Adoption

We are sitting here waiting to meet our new daughter. Never in my life have I wanted to impress a four year old so badly. I feel so very ready and at the same time completely unprepared. Keep praying for us! Thanks for you sweet comments and encouragement! You don't know how much that means to us!

I feel like I was admitted to the hospital Saturday and we are finally being wheeled into labor and delivery now. I will never forget the first child born of my heart. I can't help but remember the day I first met our precious Daniel.

My longing to adopt began when I was a little girl. This longing continued to grow early in our marriage but Brad wasn't feeling it was the right time. But in the summer of 2007 we heard about a need for 27 children in an orphanage in Guatemala to find families. That call for help ended with us being the last person on a list of folks who had inquired about adopting and our son Daniel being the last child on that list still needing a family. We had many confirmations during our adoption that being matched with this precious boy was no accident. I'm still in awe at how what seemed so random was so providential.

What made this process easier was the fact that we were going through this journey with 9 other families from our church who were also adopting from the same orphanage. And in November of 2007 several of us plus some other friends from our church, went on a mission trip to help at the orphanage with the added blessing of us getting to meet the children we were adopting for the first time.

I had been on mission trips before, but it's different when you know you will be bringing home a souvenir that wears underpants and calls you mom. (I knew he wouldn't come home with me on this trip but we all thought our kids would be home by that spring.) The reality of this fact hit me on our flight to Guatemala. The paperwork was done. A complete stranger was about to be our son and there was no turning back. I was feeling all kinds of cold feet knowing once I introduced myself as his mom this would be for forever. I felt like a little kid on a high dive with no ladder of escape. I had no choice but to jump into the deep end of the pool and start swimming.

I'm a white knuckle air traveler and the turbulence on the flight and within my being didn't help. We landed at their tiny airport and I followed my friends through customs, silently taking it all in. We pushed our way through a crowd of locals grabbing at our luggage with the hope that they could carry it to our van and make a little money. I got my first glimpse at children selling their wares and begging for help. I was a domesticated animal that had been let loose in the wild. I wanted to go home.

We hopped in our getaway van--no seatbelts or air-conditioning in a land where the need for emissions inspections had not crossed anyone's minds. Black smoke poured out of every tailpipe and white feathers drifted out of every chicken bus. I was in the back row of our van holding onto my carry-on bag like a security blanket. It was a long drive up winding mountainous roads--the beauty of the Guatemalan landscape juxtaposed with people living in shacks with cardboard walls and tin roofs. There was an occasional storefront with American signage--a McDonalds, a Pizza Hut, a Chuck E. Cheese in the midst of barefooted children wandering dangerously close to a road without a speed limit accompanied only by a dog with open sores and ribs showing.

I closed my eyes as the wind blew in from the open windows--I was praying for peace and keeping my contact lenses from clouding up from the polluted air. A headache had turned into a full-blown migraine and I was getting the business end of it behind my left eye. Occasionally someone would call from the front of the van to check on me, "Kathie, you okay back there?" I'd give them a thumbs up and mouth the words, "Awesome!" but I knew I wasn't fooling anyone that the bag of peanuts eaten on the plane was dangerously close to reappearing.

Then there was the announcement that we were almost at the orphanage. I felt a knot in my stomach--all nerves, no excitement. I was so disappointed in myself.

I did all I could to take control of a situation that was so out of my control. I applied hand-sanitizer, popped a breath mint, and reapplied my lipstick. Not an easy task on these gravel roads. I looked at my traveling companions--some smiling, some chatting, some taking photos to never forget the excitement of the day, all looking like they had stepped out of an L.L. Bean catalog if they carried a mission trip collection. I, on the other hand, had hair that had been teased by the wind and the smog and had lipstick zig-zagging from my chin to my nose. I was going to meet my new son looking like a clown from a horror movie.

We entered the iron gates of the orphanage. The number of children greeting us as we stepped out of the van was overwhelming. A friend who had arrived a few days earlier asked if I was ready to meet Daniel. My mouth said yes but my mind said no. We walked into his dorm with a courtyard full of children ages 0 to 8. I spotted my sweet boy in a sea of big brown eyes. A mom knows her child and it was like we recognized each other. I leaned down to say hello and he put his arms around my neck. It was one of the sweetest moments of my life. That moment was every bit as special as the moments that I held my other children for the first time. The week I was there was truly special yet heartbreaking that I couldn't bring him home. Little did I know that it would be another 2 years before finally coming home. It was that very first hug that kept me going and kept us fighting.

I'm grateful that today, Ella won't have to wait for us to come back and get her. I pray that she recognizes us as her new mom and dad and she will know how much we love her from the very beginning. I'm so very grateful that God has blessed us once again through the miracle of adoption.

The Uncertain and the Certain

We are in Guangzhou, China just hours away from meeting our new daughter! We arrived at our hotel about 2:30 pm yesterday--China time. We are exactly 12 hours ahead of our home base in Atlanta, Ga.

The flights were long but the kids did great. Brady is such an easygoing little guy that you can take him anywhere. Victoria is your typical 2 year old but thinks she is 22. Apparently she must be under the impression that she is some kind of goodwill ambassador to China. When she got restless on the plane, we'd let her walk down the aisles. She would wave and chat with the passengers like she was one of the flight attendants. By the time our flight landed the Korean Air crew knew her by name and all the flight attendants said,"Bye, Victoria!" The 5 hour layover in Seoul, South Korea, gave her additional opportunities to make friends on the little playground they had. She talks nonstop (very little of it actually English). Other travelers must certainly have wondered what language she was speaking.

Today we rested and ventured into the city a bit. We went to Trustmart which is their version of Walmart and to the mall across the street from our hotel. It's funny but this city reminds us so much of Guatemala City, Guatemala. You see poor and rundown areas next to luxury hotels and shopping malls. Then there's glimpses of the western world with their 7 Eleven, Pizza Hut, and Starbucks. More than once I have tried speaking to people here in Spanish. I guess Spanish is my default second language.

I'm sorry I can't post photos yet. For some reason I can't access my blog from our laptop (anyone else have a problem with Blogger when traveling?) and am doing this from an iPad. I've posted a few pics from my phone to Facebook and will continue to do so till I can get them from my camera to my blog.

Before we left I had many ask if we were nervous or excited. There's been an equal mix of both. As we inch closer to actually meeting Ella, the nerves seem to be winning over the excitement. It's a lot to ask of a 4 year old to be handed over to a group of strangers and be told that this is your new family. We know it will be hard on her and my heart already aches for what she is about to go through. And as her new family, we know we will be parents to a little girl who is hurting, may not trust us, may not like us, and may need some time and patience throguh this transition. We also don't know the severity of her medical needs. To be honest, I think those emotional needs are harder to heal than the physical ones, yet I still worry that I'm not prepared or equipped for what she needs from her new mom. The only certainty today is the uncertainty ahead.

It reminds me of when Daniel first came home. We took him to Disney World. (By the way,I wouldn't recommend taking a newly adopted child to Disney World. Too much stimulation. Rookie mistake.) Anyway, we arrived and he loved the park but was afraid to ride the rides. We begged and pleaded and he finally agreed to get on the Buzz Lightyear ride. When it over he announced that he loved it and wanted to ride it again. We were thrilled but explained that we would come back after riding some other rides. He had a meltdown, refusing to try any other ride. He liked Buzz, he knew it was fun and knew what to expect. We finally persuaded him to try the race cars and, of course, he loved them and then only wanted to ride Buzz and the race cars. This went on all day, but he eventually learned to get over his fear of the unknown so he wouldn't miss out on the fun of the next ride.

I find myself doing the same--only wanting the ride that is known, familiar, and predictable. But I know I would have missed out on so much of what God has planned for us if we had let fear of the unknown guide our actions. And yet, as we stood in line at midnight Thursday night ready to board a plane to China with our two youngest kiddos, Brad turns to me and asks, "What are we doing?" We started laughing because my only answer was, "I don't know."

Yes, lots of uncertainty but here's what is certain:

1. I have one awesome husband who would travel to China with me during the first weekend of college football.
2. I am truly blessed that our children are so supportive and so excited about their new sister.
3. We have such an amazing extended family who never questioned this adoption (even if they had concerns)and are taking care of the three kids we've left at home. I can't tell you what a blessing it is to have grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins for Ella who have loved her and been praying for her for the past year.
4. We have a dear community of friends from church, our neighborhood, and from the schools our children attend. Their love and encouragement means so much to us.
5. Most of all, we have a God who is faithful, who has been preparing Ella's heart for our family and our hearts for her.

Tonight I rest in that truth.

Thanks for your love and prayers!