The Rest of the Story

There is a piece of our adoption story that we have withheld from many people until now.  The reason for withholding it was simply to protect our child from hurt and discrimination and to allow her the ability to decide who she wanted to tell when she was older.  It was against our "open book" nature to withold information, but we knew it was the right decision at the time.

However, due to recent happenings, we feel comfortable excited about sharing it with you now.  It’s a huge part of our journey to Eden and we hope that it answers some questions…but more importantly, we hope it challenges your thinking.

Sorry to be so mysterious.  Here goes…

The calling that we felt on September 16, 2009 (sidenote: the 8 hour time difference meant that it was September 17, 2009 in Ethiopia—one year to the day that Eden was born—you can’t tell me God doesn’t care about the details!) was very clear to us. Adopt an infant. Adopt internationally. Adopt right now.  We based all of our decisions (what agency, what country, what age child, etc.) on those 3 things.  If there was a decision we had to make that was not clear based on those 3 parameters, we prayed and researched and went with the one where we felt God’s peace.  

When we first submitted our adoption application, we had to select whether or not we were open to a child with special needs.  (Note that “special needs” is a broad term that covers medical needs, physical deformities, chronic diseases, etc.)  Ben and I talked a lot about it and decided to say “no” and thus submitted our application for a healthy baby.

A big change:  Fast forward almost one year.  I (Lauren) hadn’t exactly been feeling at peace with that “healthy” selection.  Through a series of things including another blog and a small group study, I felt challenged to consider adopting a child with HIV (you might need to give that a moment to sink in, but please don’t be scared!).  

The discussion:  Ben and I spoke about it over dinner on September 3, 2010.  Ben mentioned that he could definitely see us raising a child with some sort of special medical need—he just didn’t know what kind of special need, and he didn’t anticipate it being our first child.  But he said that if God was speaking something to me, he was certainly willing to listen!  In order to stay true to the 3 things we felt called to, we decided that if it would delay our process at all, we wouldn’t do it this time around (because of the “adopt right now” calling).  We left dinner that night feeling excited and nervous of the possibilities.

Slam dunk:  God knows what He’s doing, people.  His timing is perfect.  And if He sees His children needing confirmation of a calling, He’ll give it to them.  When we got home from dinner that night, our agency’s update email had come to our inboxes and the headline was “Introducing AGCI’s Positively Chosen Program.”  There you go.  Our agency had decided to have sub-program where you can adopt children who are HIV positive.  The SAME day that Ben and I had our discussion.  And after talking to our case manager and finding out that it certainly wouldn’t delay us—if anything, it would speed us up, that just sealed the deal.  

More education and paperwork:  In the following months, we completed a long list of training and eligibility requirements for the Positively Chosen program and got all of our paperwork updated to reflect our change in parameters.  We had an overwhelming peace about our decision and were certain that this is what God had called us to do.  We went into this knowing there would be additional challenges we would face, but firmly believing that God would provide in every way for our family. 

Tough road:  We only mentioned our change in parameters to immediate family members and a few very close friends.  As you can imagine, HIV is a very sensitive topic that many people are scared of.  In fact, you might be looking at Eden in a different light just from hearing our story thus far…  Well, we encountered a couple of very tough responses regarding our change in parameters and simply prayed (and cried) to God that He would be glorified and that He would protect our child from any discrimination once he/she was home with us.  It was a very tough road.

Best Christmas ever:  As you know, on December 22, 2010, we got a phone call from our agency with a little girl they had in mind for us.  We were told that her birth mother had HIV, Hepatitis C, and TB—the “triple crown” of infectious diseases, our pediatrician said.  After that phone call, and officially accepting our referral, we were on cloud nine!  Edeneku was SO precious and we couldn’t wait to share the news with our families for Christmas! 

Prayer works, people!  To say that we had a lot of people praying for Eden would be a drastic understatement.  We were seriously SO blessed to have so many people praying for her!  And let’s just say, it worked!  Long story short, Eden is healthy!  When we were matched with her, we knew she didn’t have TB.  Before we even traveled to Ethiopia to meet her, we were told that her bloodwork came back negative for HIV.  And now that we’re home, our pediatrician can’t even find anything that would lead him to believe she has Hepatitis C.  He said he couldn’t explain it.  We said that anything could happen through prayer—that’s explanation enough for us!

Bottom line:  We love Eden no matter what her health status.  We had people praying for her health in general (they had no idea of any of this) and for God to protect her.  And, of course, we prayed that our child would be protected from harm of any kind and we trusted that God would take care of our family.  God chose for Eden to NOT have these infectious diseases and for that we are grateful.  However, please understand that health status does not define her—or anyone.

Be open!  We ask you to approach this with an open mind and open heart, just as we have.  If reading this made some emotions come up that you want to talk about, please reach out to us.  We have a TON of great resources on HIV and how it is and isn’t transmitted (if you think you know, you’re probably in for a surprise).  This 3.5 minute YouTube video and the Project Hopeful site it mentions are our favorite—check them out!  And obviously, this blog is a very short version of the entire story, so let us know if you have questions, comments, concerns, etc.

Our takeaways: 

Give God complete control,

be obedient to what He says,

allow Him to show off, and

give Him the glory! 

Oh, and pray with persistence and confidence!

Here's an example of the blessing that came from our obedience in this situation...

What's been missing

I finally figured it out.  There was something missing in my life.  Don't read into this too much and get concerned.  I'm completely in love with my husband and my daughter and I love life as a mommy.  It's just that...well...something was missing.  I guess I was having somewhat of an identity crisis or something.  But "crisis" makes it sound dramatic, which it wasn't.  So anyway, it was just a void, I guess.

But I finally figured out what was causing that void.

A lack of reading.

I love to read.  And, while I've been reading a LOT of books lately, not a single one of them has been for fun.  I've been reading books about adoption, books about parenting, books about how to still be a good wife while being a good mom, books about how to be a better servant and a better steward, books about how to live life like Jesus wants me to. 

And all of these have been good books and appropriate books and challenging books.  But what was missing was the fun.  You know, leisure books.  Turns out I hadn't read a single "for fun" book in a LONG time (for sure since we started the adoption process in October 2009).

So, I went out and bought one.  Sisterhood Everlasting.  It's the sequel (is that the proper term for a book?) to Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.  It's obviously in the "just for fun" category, as there is not much to be learned from it.

And I'm LOVING it!

I decided that I would carve out some "me time" every night just before I fall asleep.  Eden is asleep, Ben is usually playing some type of game or watching a show in the man room (that's his "me time"), the dogs are winding down for the I decided that, instead of doing the dishes or washing clothes during that time, I would just read.

And that is EXACTLY what I needed!  Feels good to be reading for fun again!

Drop me a comment with some book suggestions if you've got any.  Just remember--I don't want to be challenged or learn anything from these books! ;)

"Oh, I could never do that!"

Those words kind of annoy me. I feel like it's a way the person is trying to sound nice while they actually think I'm crazy. Like when a Southern woman says "bless her heart." Or it could also be that they are trying to justify why they aren't doing the thing they are referring to. Like a defense mechanism. Or it could actually be a compliment--inferring that I am some kind of super woman because I do that thing.

Either way, it annoys me. (just being honest)

Here is a real-life example for you...we use cloth diapers on Eden. Yep, cloth diapers. You can imagine that I've received at least a few of the "oh, I could never do that!" comments on this topic. And I get it. It sounds very hippy / granola / old-school / gross / hard / time-consuming / June Cleaver / whatever. You know what I say to that? Don't knock it til you've tried it! Seriously. The modern cloth diapers are NOT what you might be picturing. I hadn't even considered it until a couple of mommy friends of mine mentioned a class they went to and the brand they chose. So I checked it out and, guess what? I decided to try it (after convincing Ben I wasn't crazy)!

Our main reason for using cloth diapers is for the cost savings. You buy your diapers and inserts ONE TIME and that's it! It's already been a HUGE area of cost savings for us! Especially because most of our diapers were gifted to us! The added benefits are that it's much better for the environment (none of our diapers will end up in landfills), it's better for Eden's bum (only soft fabric touches her skin), and they are super-stylish (the cute colors are adorable).

Another point I want to make is this: don't assume that because I'm using cloth diapers, I'm against disposable diapers. I think some people give me a defensive type of response because they think that I think they are a bad mommy for using disposable diapers. That couldn't be further (or is it farther?) from the truth. In fact, we do use disposables on Eden every now and then. And when she's in nursery or daycare, we will likely have to use disposables because many programs do not do cloth diapers.

The bottom line is that every parent should make decisions based on what is right for their own family. I see a lot of moms get into a bad place with this type of thing--comparing to other moms. It can be about breastfeeding, sleeping habits, schooling, working away from home or staying at home, you name it. You know what I'm talking about. You've heard the tense, awkward conversations between moms before ("oh, you're homeschooling?" "wow, your baby still doesn't sleep through the night" "you know that breastfeeding is best, right?"). Here's my stance: it's ok for moms to be passionate about these topics and share information if it is solicited; however, we MUST be encouraging to other moms and respect that their choices are just that--their choices.

Moms unite. Build each other up. Don't judge. And definitely don't do the annoying passive style of judgment with not-so-subtle comments as I've mentioned above. And on the other hand, don't be a super-defensive mom who thinks every other mom is judging her.

And P.S. If you're not a mom, it's probably best to NOT chime in on these topics. You don't want to be "that girl" who thinks she knows how she's going to do it when she's a mom. Believe me...I speak from experience...sigh.

Click here if you want to see the brand of diapers we're using. And if you want more information on what cloth diapering looks like for us (what our "routine" is), please ask!

One final note about the "oh, I could never do that!" comment: many people have said that to us regarding our adoption. Please, please, please understand that you CAN do that! We LOVE talking about our adoption journey so that others will you can see just that! So please ask us!

Our Fundraisers

We will be wrapping up our adoption fundraisers soon, so we wanted to give you the info in case you want to put a final order in.

T-shirts: we're closing out our "store" at the end of June, so if you want one of these awesome t-shirts (they aren't all adoption-realated), you need to place your oder by June 30th.  Check it out here!

Coffee: we're leaving this "store" open until our post-adoption social worker visits and adoption-related paperwork is complete, so you still have plenty of time to order.  Check it out here!  Even when we close ours, I encourage you to still buy your coffee from them, as there are plenty of other adoptive families doing their fundraising on this site.  And, let's be honest, the coffee is AMAZING!

Thanks so much for all of your support!

Can you even imagine?

Be thankful that you don't live with this type of fear each day...but also do not forget that this DOES still happen around the world.   Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours.

The LRA (rebels out of Uganda) are terrorizing children in Sudan, then taking them as soldiers and sex slaves.  (Read more on this blog and this BBC article.)  Please pray with me for Sudan.  Pray with faith and pray with persistence.

What you REALLY want...

Sorry that I didn't put any pics in the last post.  I put so many on facebook that I forgot about putting them on the blog.  I'm going to redeem myself here....

Water Lover

Dog Lover

Upside-Down Lover

First Easter

Laughing with Auntie Rah-Rah

Laughing with Grandma

In the fire truck with Daddy

First (of many) trip to the zoo

In the sling with Mommy

Mother's Day and first trip to church

Eden Recap: month 8 of life; month 1 home

It has been quite a whirlwind since arriving home on April 23rd and settling in as a family of 3.  As with all new parents, there is very little sleep going on in our house as well as the occasional moment of feeling completely overwhelmed; however, at the center of it all is our beautiful baby girl who we love more than anything.  If you’re a parent, you get it.  Our love for Eden is so deep that nothing else seems to matter.

We wanted to document some of Eden’s milestones and other things we want to remember about this time in her life.  A snippet for her scrapbook, I guess.

We call you “little bird” or “bird.”  It just seemed to fit you from day one.  Your little mouth looks like a little bird and your little chirps sound like a little bird.  We LOVE our little bird!

You are 15 pounds (10th percentile) and 28 inches tall (90th percentile).  Long and lean—just like your Ethiopian roots!  And you are healthy as can be!  

You have soft, tight curls and a widow’s peak hairline.  You have very long fingers and fairly large feet for your age.  

You don’t have any teeth yet, but you’ve been teething since we met you—everything goes in your mouth!

You are a very content baby.  You totally go with the flow and it’s awesome!  You will play on the floor by yourself and just talk to all of your toys!

You have an extremely long attention span and are very smart.  You will work on something for a while and then we’ll notice you doing it on your own!  For example, we worked on you using your fingers to pick up puffs (instead of palming them) and you focused hard on it, practiced several times, and now you’ve got it down!

You went from only rolling over to now sitting up on your own.

You haven’t quite figured out how to crawl, but you can scoot backwards and spin around on your tummy just fine!

You went from only saying “ba ba ba” to now being VERY vocal!  You squeal a lot and you say something that sounds like “hi” and “ay” a lot.  You also say “da da da” (which your Daddy loves!).

You love making sounds with your mouth (blub, bzzt, smack, etc.) and mimicking our sounds.  You crack up laughing when we make silly sounds.

You have the funniest “trill” that you do when you are frustrated.  It sounds like you are rolling your tongue and squealing at a high pitch.  When people hear it, they always comment on it.  It’s hilarious (not that you’re frustrated—just the sound)!

Your hands are always moving.  You love feeling different textures—tags are your favorite!  You wave your hands like you’re saying “hi” or “bye” (but you haven’t yet associated the waving with that).  You will grab one hand with the other and move them up and down.  You talk to your hands a lot…wonder what they are saying to you?

You had one visit to an international adoption pediatrician (Dr. Heidi Schwarzwald at Texas Children’s) when we got home, and one visit with your regular pediatrician (Dr. Richard Byrd at Kelsey-Seybold Fort Bend).  You did great at both visits!  Poor Mommy didn’t do so well when Daddy had to hold you down for them to draw LOTS of blood from your tiny little veins.  But you did so good!  You cried (who wouldn’t?) during the process, but you quickly calmed down after it was over.  Same with the one vaccination you had to get.  You weren’t a fan of them sticking you, but you calmed down very fast.

You had your first ear infection (in your right ear), but didn’t seem to mind it at all!  We only knew about it from your routine pediatrician visit.

When we picked you up at Hannah’s Hope, we noticed some extremely dry patches of skin on you.  Unfortunately, you have a bad habit of scratching one spot a lot—on your chest under your chin.  So, we keep lots of anti-itch cream on it and we always have a bib on you to create an extra layer of protection from your little fingernails.  We also cut your fingernails very often and we lather you with thick creamy lotion several times a day.

You also have a habit of scratching your forehead (by your hairline) when you are sleepy and even in your sleep.  We’ve pretty much fixed that by keeping your nails very short and keeping your skin hydrated with lots of lotion.

Your little bottom has some very dry patches as well, so you get lots of creamy lotion there, too!  You also have some skin discolorations on your bottom that we learned are called “Mongolian spots” and will disappear by the time you are in kindergarten.  Thankfully they aren’t painful for you at all (we thought they were bruises when we first saw them!).

You drink 4 bottles (approximately 6 ounces each) a day and you eat purees 3 times a day.  You are such a good eater—you are not picky at all!  You’ve had everything from spinach and lentils to apricots and prunes and you love all of it!

You love eating “puffs” (little Cheerio-type treats that dissolve in your mouth) and “mum-mums” (rice teething biscuits).

You are consistently taking a 1 - 2 hour nap in the morning and the afternoon, which is awesome!  You easily fall asleep in our arms when we give you the signal of draping a blanket over your eyes, then we put you in your crib and you take your nap.  You wake up in SUCH a good mood—it’s so fun to go get you from your nap!

Like all of the infants at Hannah’s Hope, you were on a schedule of being woken up every 2 hours at night for feeding.  Breaking that routine that you had for 5 months of your life has been our toughest challenge so far.  Your bedtime now is around 8:00pm-8:30pm.  You typically wake up a few times during the night, but only one of those times requires us to pick you up and do bedtime routine all over again because you are wide awake (typically around 3:00am).  After that, you tend to sleep until 7:30am-8:00am.

You sleep with a humidifier in your room and when you have a runny nose, we put Vick’s in it.  It has helped your nose tremendously!

You love having people around.  You especially love being around your grandparents and aunts, uncles, and cousins!  And when Grandpa makes all of his funny noises, you go nuts!

You love your 4-legged sisters.  Heidi lets you play with her (pull her fur, her ears, her tail, etc.).  Layla is more protective of you like your “Nana” from Peter Pan.  She comes and checks on you if you’re fussing or if you’re squealing really loud, but she keeps her distance so you can’t hurt her. ;)

You love going places—to the store, to the zoo, anywhere.  You’re not too keen on sitting in the car seat for very long, but you love getting to the destination!

You love being outside and feeling the breeze on your face.

You love TV (uh-oh—we’ll have to moderate you!).  You mostly watch PBS shows like Dinosaur Train and Sesame Street, but you also like to watch the Ellen show with Mommy—especially during the dancing time!

You absolutely love water!  Getting sprayed in the face is a particular favorite of yours!  You love baths, swimming pools, water hoses,…anything with water!

You are hilarious to watch in your “Johnny jump-up!”  You squeal and smile and kick your legs like crazy.  You’ve also figured out how to twist it around and then you’ll pick up your feet, tilt your head back, and enjoy it spinning while it unwinds.  

You love your “soothie” (pacifier)!  We have several of them around the house and we keep one clipped to your bib during the day.  You just pick it up and pop it in when you feel like you want it.  

You love mirrors (everyone would if they were as cute as you!).  You sit and talk to yourself and have the funniest conversations!

You love to be upside down.  Daddy is mostly the one who will flip you around while he’s playing with you.  But sometimes you’ll just arch your back and flip upside down while sitting in someone’s lap.

And you love your Mommy and Daddy!  You are really recognizing us as your parents and that makes us SO happy!  You will fuss if Mommy walks past you without picking you up—a great sign of attachment.