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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It's a Boy!!!!

Chris and I have been matched with a 15 month-old boy in India!  A lot has happened in the last couple of weeks.  It's been a whirlwind; the good kind of whirlwind that makes wheat fields look gorgeous and blossoms fly and nothing gets destroyed, and the world is just full of more flowers and trees and life because of the whirlwind... I still look back at everything in absolute awe of God and how He has worked.  Usually, I try to somewhat edit my blog posts (hey, stop laughing, 3 pages is the edited version for me)... I swear I don't try to write entire book chapters, they just start pouring out.  This time, I'm not even going to try.  I am going to tell you about our precious child, and I am going to go on and on and on.... As Chris told his Mom last night in reference to talking with me about our child... "just make sure you have an escape route!"  I have fallen in love with this little boy.  I think everything about him is exquisite and wonderful.  I want to plaster his picture on billboards, have Chris write it in the sky that he's ours, and announce it at the Super Bowl.  I am so incredibly proud to be his mommy.  (Oh no... I am going to be one of those facebook moms that writes a post every time her kid moves his pinky toe or wipes a booger on his shirt....oh well, I guess there are worse things I could be than that...I can't think of any of them right now, but I'm sure there are worse things, right?)  Speaking of plastering his picture everywhere.  For those of you who have gotten this far, and are yelling, "Where are the PICTURES, jerk?!??!  That's all I care about, I want to see the pictures!"  We can't post his pictures on the internet.  Indian adoption/privacy/kid-friendly laws prohibit it.  We can email his pictures to friends and family, as long as they also know not to post the pics on the web.  So, just send me a message or email, and I'll show you some pics :)  Really, just ask, I'm dying to show him off!  Fellow India adoption families, do you have a better solution to this?  Is there a secure site where you posted pics and people could access them?  It almost feels like I have way less control over where his pictures go if they just keep getting emailed over and over...  We're also in the process of setting up private access to a video-sharing site.  We'll keep you posted.  The videos of him are adorable!  He has the cutest personality.... best little boy in the world. 
     So, back to your regularly scheduled programming about how our son came to be our son.  16 days ago, Chris and I were thinking it would be years before we could bring a child home.  We gritted our teeth and hunkered down for a really long wait.  Then, on Thursday, January 12th, I saw a blog post from Holt on one of the waiting children.  I love to check out these posts, share them on facebook, and pray for these children to find families.  This little boy tugged at my heart right away.  I thought, "he would be a perfect fit for us, but he's in India.  We're not old enough to adopt from India.."  Read the blog post here:
I figured it was worth a shot, though, to check out India's requirements again.  I went to India's Central Adoption Resource Authority website, and I couldn't believe what I read.  I almost fell out of my chair with happiness.  India had recently changed their guidelines, so that now, married couples only had to be 25 years old to adopt, rather than 30!  I contacted Holt, and asked, "is this really true?!  Seriously?!  We can adopt from India?!?!"  India is where my heart has always been.  The orphanage in India changed my life.  We love Thailand, and have learned so much about Thai culture in the time we were in the Thailand program, but let's face it, God gave me a special place in my heart for India.  One of the waiting child program staff emailed me back, and said, "yes, it's true!"  She sent me all the information they had on this little boy, so we could begin to research his condition and decide whether or not we wanted to apply to be his parents. 
     Before we got "Hudson's" information via email (not sure if I can post his Indian name online, so we'll refer to him as Hudson for now), I spoke with Erin from the waiting child program on the phone.  She told me all about him, and I froze when she read the words: paralysis of lower limbs.  "Oh, I said, so he will need a wheelchair.... ok."  She continued to talk about him, and even though my heart was sad that he might never walk, I never felt that he wasn't meant to be our child.  After I got off the phone with Erin, I took our dog Gus for a walk and thought about this little boy.  I grieved for the things he might miss out on if he couldn't walk, I grieved for him feeling different from his peers and struggling to do what came so easy to everyone else.  This whole time, though, I felt God whispering to my heart, "He is yours, I'll be with you every step of the way." 
     I had a lot of questions, "How are we going to give this little boy everything he needs as a military family?  We move every 3 years, can we guarantee that every location will have what he needs, that everywhere we go we can find a wheelchair friendly house, and wheelchair friendly activities for him, and what about the specialists and therapies he will need?"  One by one, God answered every single question.  I was amazed to discover what resources and specialists we have close to our little southern town, and all the other places we might go over the next 15 years have even more resources than we have here!  We could be in San Diego, California - home of the Challenged Athletes Foundation.  This organization is amazing - they provide special wheelchairs and other equipment for athletes with disabilities.  They provide free mentorships for kids 8 and older.  We could be in Quantico, close to D.C.  We could be at Camp Pendleton, which is right between San Diego and L.A.  We could be in Virginia Beach.  The only location I had my doubts about was Camp Lejeune, NC.  But the great thing about the military is they have the Exceptional Family Member Program.  So basically, they'll never station Chris anywhere that doesn't have adequate resources and care for our child. 
     Even in our little town, there is horseback riding for kids with disabilities, there are a plethora of swimming pools and obviously, beaches.  Wheelchair tennis and basketball organizations are not too far away, and all the medical professionals we need to see are no further than 1.5 hours away.  (Yes, I know this seems kinda far, but for a girl who has driven 14 hours in one day to visit family... this is a piece of cake!  I just have to figure out how to make car trips fun for Hudson.)  Chris started cracking up when I told him about all of this stuff.  He said, "You know, he'll only be about 2 years old when we bring him home... I don't think they'll let him go horseback riding just yet."  Ok, good point, Chris, I guess I'm getting a little ahead of myself!  All that to say, the more I researched, the more encouraged I was, and the more convinced I became that we could provide this little boy with all the resources, support, love, and encouragement he would need to lead a happy, fulfilling life. 
     Another amazing answer to prayer was how open Chris was to this little boy from the moment I told him about Hudson.  Chris has been adamant that we would know who our child was through a traditional "match".  Meaning, we wait in line, Holt picks a kid and says, they're yours!"  I, on the other hand, have been pleading with him to consider one of the waiting children for the past year.  Amazingly enough, the two waiting children who had been most on my heart before Hudson both had some similar medical and physical needs as he does.  I really feel that God used these other two children to prepare our hearts to be open to Hudson.  When I told Chris about Hudson, I expected him to say, "absolutely not, we are not applying for a waiting child."  Instead, his reaction was, "ok... " and we both started talking about how we could adapt our house for a child in a wheelchair, and how we could give this little boy what he needs.  There was definitely some blood, sweat, and tears as I tried to get Chris to make a decision faster.  Umm, I threw a spoon into the sink in frustration, that was my worst moment.  Chris thought I was going to throw the spoon at his computer, so he was actually impressed with my level of self-control.  Yay, me!  (Ok, not really, still working on controlling my emotions.)  Chris does not like to make up his mind quickly.  It's really a great balance to my do-a-triple-back-flip-dive-into-the-deep-end mentality.  But I'm not gonna lie... sometimes his brain's processing speed drives me completely coo coo for cocoa puffs!  I would ask him, like a used car salesman, "So what can I do to get a Yes out of you today?  How can I help that brain of yours along?"  Chris responded by saying, "You can quit bugging me, because every moment you distract my brain, it will take me longer to decide."  Again, I think God was chuckling at me, thinking "You can't change his mind or heart, Beth Anne, that's MY job!"  After all of that, it only took him 4 days to decide.  Wow, I am incredibly impatient.
     "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."  2 Peter 3:8-9.  I know this verse is talking about God's eternal plan for the universe, about saving people for His glory, about when Jesus will come back.  But I also think it applies to the promises He writes on each of our hearts.  God was not slow in keeping the promise to give us a child to love and care for.  He worked everything out in His perfect timing.  For those of you who are still driving the endless, circular, monotonous racetrack that is the waiting game, know that God will not be slow in keeping His promises to you too.   I am amazed by the fact that, last year when Chris and I first started talking about adoption, our little boy was being born in India.  God knew all along.  It gives me chills.  It takes my breath away.  He had this marvelous secret for us.  I can just see him waiting with anticipation for the day when He could reveal His plan to us! 
     Sorry, got sidetracked again.  How could I not?!  God is just way too cool.  Ok, so on Tuesday, January 17th, Chris told me we could apply to be Hudson's parents.  By the way, 17 is a special number for us.  It was Chris' sports number all through high school and college, and on November 17th, 2003, Chris asked me to be his girlfriend.  (He swears he didn't plan it that way.... sure, sure, just like you didn't plan to make me wait 4 days so you could tell me Hudson should be our son on the 17th too!)  I wrote to Erin and she sent me all the questionnaires.  I spent the next four hours pouring out my heart on those pages.  (before you shake your finger at me for filling out all this stuff while Chris was at work, trust me, we had already talked about each and every one of the questions on that list.  I already knew what both of our answers were.) 
   Ok, really, this is getting extremely long, let me cut to the good part...on Monday, January 23, Jessica from the Waiting Child Program called to tell us that we were chosen to be Hudson's parents!!  I cried, I was shaking, I couldn't believe it was true.  I'm still in shock.  I feel like I won the lottery, but instead of winning a bunch of money (useless, right?) I won the gift of a beautiful, precious, smart, social, happy little boy.  Wow, Chris and I feel so blessed.  So now, we fill out a bunch of paperwork for India.  Create a photo album and video to send to Hudson, and wait...  It will probably be 6-12 months before we can go get Hudson and bring him home.  6 months would be super extremely amazingly fast.  The reason I even dare to mention 6 months is because supposedly, with India's new and improved adoption system, things are supposed to progress a little faster, and kids with "special needs" are supposed to get expedited a bit.  I'm  not sure where Hudson would fall in this category.  He is clearly healthy and happy, but he does have physical needs. 
     So let me explain a little more about Hudson's condition.  I am still struggling to find the balance between what to share and not share.  In his case, I'm going to share a lot of the physical stuff, because it will be very obvious, when you meet him, that he's different in that way.  I also want to share in the hopes that it might make other adoptive families more open to a child with "special needs".  I don't really like the term, "special needs".  It kinda reminds me of kids making fun of other kids in elementary school and calling them "special".  I heard one parent refer to kids with disabilites as "exceptional children" whereas normal kids were called, "typical."  And yes, I know that every child is exceptional to their parents and family, but for now, that's the term I'm going to use:  exceptional.  I mean, really, the level of work and determination it will take Hudson to do the things that other kids can do without even thinking about it, really is exceptional.
     Hudson was born with sacral agenesis, also known as caudal regression syndrome.  This condition starts in utero, during the development of the neural tube, but it's different than spina bifida.  It can have a similar presentation, but its cause and what's going on in the body are quite different.  Fortunately, this condition does not cause hydrocephalus (build-up of fluid in the brain) as spina bifida can.  Children with sacral agenesis have normal intelligence and are not at any increased risk for learning disabilities or ADHD, as is the case with spina bifida.  Here's what it can cause:  absent or malformed sacrum (the sacrum is a triangular bone that has 5 fused vertebrae S1-S5... they don't fuse until adulthood, and sits below the lumbar vertebrae and just above the "tailbone"  here's a link to a picture of it and definition:
  We're not sure exactly what Hudson's sacrum looks like.  The MRI report simply says:  "posterior element in sacrum are partially deficient and held together by a fibrous band"  So I'm sure we'll figure more stuff out once he's home.  We do feel really blessed at his overall health and stage of sacral agenesis.  Some children born with this condition are missing parts of their lumbar or thoracic spine, can have affected kidneys, have missing bones in their legs or contractures in their legs.  Hudson's kidneys are healthy.  His lumbar and thoracic spine look great, and his legs are relatively normal.  He had a congenital hip dislocation of his L hip and a healed L femur fracture - we think due to his breach position at birth.  He had club feet that were casted.  (His feet are absolutely adorable, they were just turned on their sides at the ankles, and to be honest, still look a little turned so we'll have to see about that when he gets home.)  We also know that he doesn't have normal knee or ankle reflexes, so this tells us his spinal cord and nerves are not functioning properly in his legs.  The two doctors who have reviewed his information for us, tell us that they do not think he will ever walk.  They also say, "never say never, kids are amazing and always surprise us."  We're going to give Hudson the best care we possibly can, and whatever his outcome and level of mobility, we're just fine with that.  We're somewhat hopeful, because we've learned that walking depends a lot on hip movement and control, and he appears to have some level of this from the videos we saw.  But who knows, it's kind of fun to just be surprised by what he can do when we bring him home.  I'm also kind of concerned that he's missing tibias (shin bones) or they are deficient because his calves look different.  Chris thinks, "surely, they would have noticed if he was missing his tibias and only had fibulas."  Who knows.  Another surprise for later! 
     We've learned about many children with this condition.  One kid, Cody, was missing his tibias and patellas (knee caps), so his parents made the very tough decision to amputate his legs above the knee to give him the chance to walk with prosthetics.  He is doing great!  Here's a video on him:
Cody's legs were definitely in worse shape than Hudson's are, and to be honest, we don't know yet if Hudson's lower legs can bear weight.  If they can bear weight, or if he has no hip movement and control, amputation would be useless.  We'll just take things one day at a time.  Here's another inspirational story:    Really, just type in challenged athlete profile in youtube, and you'll find all sorts of stories that will change your perspective on people with "disabilities", or exceptional people. 
     Ok, now that I've bored you with all of the medical stuff.  I'll just conclude by saying this:  parenting this precious boy is going to be the biggest challenge of our lives thus far.  We are ready!  Well, as ready as any parent could even be....  We know there are going to be rough days, days where we are exhausted, and Hudson is exhausted, and we don't want to see another doctor, and we don't want him to have to go through another procedure.  There will be days when we're just downright discouraged.  Days where we just ache for him to be like every other "typical" kid, not for our sake, but for his.  But we're counting on every single day with Hudson being an absolute blessing.  We love this little boy with everything we have.  We love his fascination with the world and people around him, his enjoyment of being held, his dark curly hair, his sensitive brown eyes, and his round smiley cheeks.  We can't wait to discover a million other things that we love about him.  We have a conviction that cannot be shaken that God meant for him to be our son.  We will not give up, we will not dwell on the hard things, we will trust in God to walk with us every single day. 
19 "I remember my affliction and my wandering,
   the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
   and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
   and therefore I have hope:
 22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
   for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
   therefore I will wait for him.” 
Lamentations: 3:19-24

Ok, just read all of Lamentations... it's good stuff.

Also, congratulations if you've made it this far!  You clearly do not have adult ADHD!

I just want to thank everyone for all their prayers, support, and encouragement.  We have been overhwhelmed by everyone's love and support.  We know we will continue to need it, so thanks in advance for that. 

The end... for now... of course you know I'm going to keep talking about my precious son for the rest of my life! 


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Timing is Everything

     We received some interesting news this week about the timing of our referral (aka., getting matched with a child).  Chris is scheduled to deploy in Spring of 2013, to return in the Fall of 2013.  This deployment seems pretty certain right now.  The military often changes their minds/schedules/etc., but this one seems unlikely to change.  I am so very glad we let our social worker at Holt know about this schedule.  She had some very interesting news for us.  Thailand can only "hold up" a couple coming to get their child for less than 1 month.  After that, too bad, so sad, that child will go to someone else deemed more fit.  I see their reasoning:  if you can't come get your child right away, we'll give them to someone who can, and what kind of parents are you, anyways, isn't this child the most important thing in the world to you?  Also, both parents have to be present to get their child and appear before the adoption board.  I don't even think Thailand allows single people to adopt, so this may explain some of their reasoning on this one.  (Shh, don't tell them Chris will probably deploy about 6-10 times in the next 16 years... they might just tear up our dossier altogether...) 
     And yes, we prayerfully considered how a military lifestyle and daddy being gone on deployments would affect our future children.  We know that adoption can often make future losses even harder for a child, so it really is a lot to ask of them.  We prayed, we felt a peace about it that God would give us strength and help us give our little ones everything they need to cope.  We just couldn't say no to children who need families.  We might not seem like the perfect family on paper, but we're going to give it all we've got :) 
     So back to the timing issue, there are really only two options:  Either we will get a ridiculouslycrazyinsaneunexplainablemiraculous early match this March.  (Absolutely not likely at all, I mean less than 1% chance... we are #13, other couples are open to medical conditions, this would absolutely be God placing a little one in our hands and saying, "This is my will, this child is for you, this is my timing."  OR... we will get matched next March.  Holt will hold us back from a match for June, September, and December referrals, and then jump us back into the referral group for March of 2013. 
     Why is this:  A June 2012 match would put us getting our child sometime between March and May 2013.  Either just in time for Chris' deployment, or just after... no good, and Chris needs to be present for at least one post-placement visit.  (They happen at 2,4, and 6 months home with our child.)  A September match is even worse, right in the middle of Chris' deployment....not happening.  A December match is too iffy:  He might not be back in time to go get our child.  And we can't imagine if the timing didn't work out, having to give up our precious one just because Thailand couldn't delay things one more month for us. 
    So March of 2013 it is (barring the miracle I mentioned above.)  Then we would be set to get our child in Thailand around December 2013-February 2014.  There are many positives to this:  Chris and I would have gotten through our first deployment.  We will have 2 YEARS to prepare for being parents, to grow in our faith, to save for maybe 3 more adoptions.  2 YEARS to read and learn about adoption, to learn Thai, to collect darling little trinkets and make and sew treasures for our long-awaited child.  2 YEARS to learn patience, and maturity, and trust in God. 
   Before you start thinking, "Wow, I wish I had her patience, what a great attitude!"  A few days ago, this was NOT where my heart was.  A few days ago, I said to Chris, "I hate your stupid job!  Why can't you just deploy now?"  Wow, that's pretty hurtful.  I basically said, "I'm not thankful for the extra year God has given us together before your first deployment, just leave so we can get a child faster...."  And, "I hate your stupid job." is pretty much the biggest lie I've ever told.  I am so incredibly proud of Chris and what he does.   I can't imagine him doing anything else.  I can't imagine not being a Marine Corps wife.  This is God's purpose for us right now.  I have no doubts about that.  I let my emotions and my immaturity get the best of me.  Something I really need to work on in the next 2 years.  Chris, as usual, stayed completely calm, and patient, and waited until I was ready to apologize 10 minutes later.  (It doesn't usually take me too long after an outburst to realize I was a total jerkface.)  Why can't I just shove a cookie in my mouth or something?
     Thankfully, God has humbled me.  He has gently let me know, once again, that He's in control of all of this.  We will have our child when He wants us to have our child.  We will have the child He wants us to have.  We will trust Him in the meantime.  A few weeks ago, God led me to Isaiah 49.  I shared this passage with a friend, who was also struggling with waiting through their adoption process.  Little did I know that God was speaking to me too.  In this passage, Isaiah is telling the Israelites what Jesus will someday do.  The Israelites have been in exile in Babylon for over 2 generations.  When finally, there is hope.  The Persian King Cyrus overthrows Babylon and frees the Israelites.  I'm claiming this truth for my life...for all the children out there waiting patiently for their families and unconditional love...

Isaiah 49: 14-18 (emphasis mine)
14"But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me,
   the Lord has forgotten me.”
 15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
   and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
   I will not forget you!
16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
   your walls are ever before me.
17 Your children hasten back,
   and those who laid you waste depart from you.
18 Lift up your eyes and look around;
   all your children gather and come to you. As surely as I live,” declares the LORD,
   “you will wear them all as ornaments;
   you will put them on, like a bride.


 Oh, and if we do get that ridiculouslycrazyinsaneunexplainablemiraculous early match this March... you'll be the first to know :)