This is Us, Adoptive Families

March 23, 2017 1 Comments

I am thankful for my family. I’m thankful that we’re all safe 
and there’s no one in the world that I’d rather be too hot or too cold with. – Jack Pearson, This is Us

Time’s been storytelling with us. Our family life is a sitcom and a drama. Our script has been sweet and fun and challenging and gut-wrenching. It’s been real, raw and full. Giggles and tears have walked in tandem. We are husband and wife turned father and mother. Our cast of characters has expanded, and we certainly aren’t who we once were. We are family built by adoption and biology, time and circumstance. There have been plot twists and surprise endings, and it’s a messy kind of beautiful. With every memory though, every point in time, our us gains strength and definition.

Tomorrow calls us forward, but oh how the past has shaped us. Our scrapbooks bulge ever open, full up with happy photographs and ticket stubs memories. But the highlight reel also holds loss and secrets, hurt and pain. The memories all so intertwined now.

This is us, adoptive families.

Our marriage stretches and grows and groans. As we’ve moved from wearing jerseys and cheering on our college team to delivering a daughter in an operating room and boarding planes to adopt daughters and a son, we’ve had to figure us out over and over again. We’ve planned romantic nights out, but also sometimes turned the kitchen into a battleground. We get it right and get it wrong. We make sacrifices for our family, yet still give each other space to be individuals with gifts and interests. Through all the complications, I like us. We’re fun.

Every child’s birth into us is a miracle story. There’s been birth and adoption, loss, birthparents, abandonment, surrender, acceptance, beauty and blessing. We deal with race, have questions about unknown birthparents, and wonder about lost culture. Our kids hold their arms up to ours and ask why the color is different. The outside world looks in on us and has questions too, and we respond at stores and at the pool.

As a wise TV dad once said, we love our kids as much a human heart can. We don’t want to be 10 out of 10 parents, we want to be superhero, 12 out of 10 parents. So we make sacrifices and plans. We pack lunches and sports bags. We do homework and pop movie night popcorn. We cheer at soccer games and plays. We build traditions and hold hard to them like safety nets during life’s plot twists. We carry our kids on our backs and hope they’ll feel the arms wide open, weightless freedom that comes with being carried.

We are one team, yet each family member is unique in temperaments, talents, appearance, and personalities. One kid has charisma, and another is quiet. One battles self doubt, and another anxiety. Sometimes we’re left sitting in the hallway, dazed and confused, trying to make sense of what each child needs. Sometimes we try to protect them from standing out, when actually shining is just what they need. We get it right and we get it wrong. Our kids love each other, envy each other, enjoy each other, and are tired of each other’s big needs.

We hope and pray that someday our grown-up kids will look back with fondness at the life we strung together. We hope they’ll grin, shake their heads and tell stories about birthday parties, vacation blunders, and living room dance parties. We hope they’ll see the hard moments through the lens of being loved. We hope joyful memories will trump painful ones. We hope solid sibling relationships will give our kids an us, long after we’re gone.

Our us is messy and quirky in the best way. We like road trips and have a fondness for jazz and Disney tunes. We have epic meltdowns, occasionally in public. We have secrets, sicknesses, arguments at Thanksgiving, and have lost people we love. We have history, inside jokes and a handshake. We have relationships that come together, fall apart, and then come together again. That’s just us.

We are discovering beauty in the messiest parts of life. We’re realizing that sometimes we smile, even while crying. We are learning to carry bouquets of rainbow balloons even on hard days, because the hardest parts of life are seared with a beautiful rawness.

We aren’t the best at it, but we love each other, and that’s something. The days are passing and the years are already blurring together, so imperfect us is trying to live our here and now days to the full. We are trying to choose joy, to say yes to the dance floor, yes to blessings disguised as interruptions, yes to music up loud and windows rolled down. And, why not, yes to goofy family chants and silly traditions.

In the end, we’re just being us as best we can, in and out of days, in and out of years.

I like our life.

…life is full of color. And we each get to come along and we add our own color to the painting, you know? …And these colors that we keep adding, what if they just keep getting added on top of one another, until eventually we’re not even different colors anymore? We’re just one thing. One painting… I mean, it’s kind of beautiful, right, if you think about it, the fact that just because someone dies, just because you can’t see them or talk to them anymore, it doesn’t mean they’re not still in the painting. I think maybe that’s the point of the whole thing. There’s no dying. There’s no you or me or them. It’s just us.
– Kevin Pearson, This is Us

Glad We Didn’t Know: Adopting a Child with Von Willebrand Disease

March 22, 2017 1 Comments

For four years I prayed that my husband would say yes to adopting again from China. And out of the blue he mentioned – in passing – that he felt like we had another child waiting for us.

Within 24 hours, a friend had sent me a photo of a four year old little girl who had been waiting a very long time. This precious little girl was 28 days older than our first daughter, which I did not know when I first saw her face.

But I knew she was our daughter.

The agency that had her file had a policy against adopting out of birth order and artificial twinning. And she had a heart condition, which made my husband very nervous…..

But she was ours, I just knew it.

Fast forward to ten months later and we were finally meeting her, our Alexis. She was very tiny at five years old, she weighed only 21 pounds, and she was so very pale. When we met her, we were given a packet of iron pills. And we were told she was anemic, that she bruised easily, and she would have a bloody nose quite frequently.

The orphanage staff mentioned that her heart condition was not an issue, and basically told us she was pretty healthy. I knew this was not the case just by looking at her. Our Alexis could barely walk and was in a lot of pain.

Once we arrived home, her pediatrician took her off the iron pills so that she could be tested to be sure she was really anemic. Her blood work did not show anemia, but there were red flags of concern. So off to the hematologist and oncologist we went.

Within a month of being home, Alexis ended up in Pediatric Intensive Care due to a significant issue with her lower aorta. During this time, she was diagnosed with Von Willebrand disease, as well as Takayasu’s arteritis‎ (I’ll save that disease for another post).

Von Willebrand disease is a lifelong bleeding disorder in which your blood doesn’t clot well. Most people with this condition inherited it from a parent. They have a faulty gene that causes problems with a protein important to the blood-clotting process.

What this means for Alexis is that she has to have infusions of factor prior to any surgery or invasive treatment. It also means that she will need medication occasionally even for a baby tooth that falls out. These include infusions of prepared doses of concentrated blood-clotting factors containing Von Willebrand factor and factor VIII.

Von Willebrand disease has not stopped Alexis from doing the things she loves and she even is training in Shaolin Wing Chun, which is Chinese based Kung Fu (think Bruce Lee). When she begins sparring, we will have to carefully watch her for bleeding, mainly internal, but even that can be treated with factor.

Unfortunately, because she has Von Willebrand, it has made it harder to treat the Takayasu’s and congenital heart disease (which is still an issue) because she has to take blood thinners for the rest of her life. If it was not for her other health issues, Von Willebrand would not be a big deal.

I am thankful that all of this information was not in her file because if it had been, she would not have been our daughter. We would have been too terrified of the unknowns.

If you have any questions about Von Willebrand disease, Takayasu’s arteritis, or congenital heart disease, please feel free to email me.

– guest post by Kendra

Medical Mama-Ness: Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing

March 21, 2017 0 Comments

One foot here, another foot there.  

How we walk — it’s a bit of a balancing act, isn’t it? A bit of an awkward dance in a minefield.

Jolting, yet fluid. Slippery, yet steady. Unexpected potholes, but given with Sovereign purpose.

The sun rose with a crying little girl in my lap, her alligator tears a result of the effects of her new seizure medication. And as I comforted her, another one of our sweet little bundles of joy came around the corner with a quiet stream of tears running down her cheeks and a pouty lip bulging out where her big smile usually resides. Her scar was itchy. Well, one of her scars — the one that spans the length of her chest, there from surgeries which have helped sustain, but not fully heal, her broken heart.

I gathered up the alligator-teared girl in my arms and reached for the scar cream to rub on another daughter’s chest. As I squirted the cream out of the tube, my glance shifted, and I witnessed my own scars — those reminders of a horribly tragic accident last year and the hard days that have followed it.
We walk hardness and we walk hope. We walk in the things of ordinary days and sunrises and we walk in the things of long silences and dark nights. We walk in excursions to the park. We walk in countless trips to the operating room. We walk in bows and bubbles and childhood joys. We walk in catheterizations and feeding tubes and electrodes stuck to chests.

We walk in the recognition that our lives look nothing like we thought they would.

The becoming of a mama and the becoming of a medical mama happened in the same instant for me.

The sheer joy and magnificent anticipation of looking into little eyes that you were made to love. The agony and anxiety of fragile and foggy futures and a journey to be forged and bonds to be formed. They mingle — the sheer joy and utter agony, in all the strangest and most glorious of ways.

Hospitals. Therapies. Fatigue. Despair. Endurance. Growth. Perspective. Lament.

We walk here. In the sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. And yet we long for There, where weeping is no more. And while we journey, part of being a medical mama is living this conundrum. Such deep joys to watch them grow, such anguish to see them struggle.

But we are with them. They are not doing this alone and without. And we are so much better because they are with us. And therein lies the treasure.

And His very name testifies that He is with us — we are not doing this alone and without. And we are so much better because He is with us. And we are so much better because He gave us each other. And therein lies the treasure.

These scars, the ones easily seen and the ones well-disguised — He uses every scar to remind that He is the One who writes our stories, and He is the One who heals every wound.

God’s love is meteoric,
his loyalty astronomic,
His purpose titanic,
his verdicts oceanic.
Yet in His largeness
nothing gets lost;
Not a man, not a mouse
slips through the cracks.

– Psalm 36:5-6, The Message

This mama-ness and this medical mama-ness — somehow, the hardness and the ease, the grief and the joy all bear testimony to one true and lasting thing that gives breath and life to all the places we walk: grace.

Underneath are the Everlasting Arms.

Waiting for a Family: Wallace

March 20, 2017 0 Comments

Three-year-old Wallace couldn’t be cuter! He started rehabilitation training shortly after being found as an approximately one-month-old baby. Wallace loves to share and play with other children. He is shy around strangers, but opens up once comfortable. Wallace loves to be praised and enjoys spending time with familiar people. His file diagnoses him as having …Read More

Different Routes Toward Adoption: Always Worth the Fight

March 19, 2017 1 Comments

We all have our buttons. One squeeze of the trigger, and we fire away. One of the quickest ways to trigger a release in my momma bear persona is to hear or read an often used comment in regards to adoption. No, I’m not talking about the things we all hear as adoptive parents when …Read More

Seeing Him in the Daily: A Transforming Perspective for the Hard Days

March 18, 2017 2 Comments

Today. Today feels like one of those “the days are long but the years are fast” kinda days — busy, demanding, a mile long to-do-list sort of seasons of motherhood. Have you been there? Maybe you are like me and feel like you live there! It’s in these impossible laundry-piled days that’s it’s easy to …Read More

Waiting Child: Seraphina

March 18, 2017 0 Comments

It’s easy to see how this little cherub got her advocacy name- the face of an angel. Adorable Seraphina recently turned four! At the time her file was prepared (fall 2014), she had good use of her limbs and was able to sit on her own and walk with support. She wasn’t able to speak. …Read More

Crying Over Cheerios: Overcoming Feeding Challenges

March 17, 2017 1 Comments

Where I grew up, food was a love language. I learned at a very young age that food was the center of any worthwhile gathering. I remember once in the sweltering heat of a Mississippi summer, we attended a family reunion. It was a potluck, and table after table was overflowing with plates of styrofoam …Read More

Waiting to be Chosen: Mary Beth

March 16, 2017 0 Comments

Sweet Mary Beth recently turned 7 years old- such a fun age, yet Mary Beth has experienced such loss in her young life. Mary Beth spent her first five years with her parents, turning up at an orphanage in December of 2014. It is unknown whether her gender or her special needs caused her parents …Read More

Meet the Contributors: Liberty

March 16, 2017 0 Comments

Continuing today with our series in which we share a short Q and A with one of our contributors to give y’all, our faithful readers, a little more behind-the-scenes insight into the amazing group of writers assembled here. And it will also give each of our contributors a chance to share their heart in a …Read More

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