Adoption

Adoption Terms

Adoption Terms

Adoption Terms

Adoption Terms Closed, Semi-Open, Open. These terms can be daunting. I’m not sure about the other adoptive mamas out there, but when we first embarked on the adoption journey, these terms were never tossed around.

After eight years of being in the adoption world, I am very familiar with each of these things, and I stop and look at what they each mean to my family.

Ethiopian Adoption

In an ideal world, my kids would have been parented by their biological parents. My two children’s biological mother would have had a great support system who would teach her how to parent correctly. My Ethiopian son’s biological mother would’ve been taught basic hygiene, basic first aid, garden, manage money, and live successfully in the country she loves.

Sad Reality of Adoption: International, Foster to Adopt, or IntraFamily Adoption

We live in a fallen world. We all have a choice, whether good or bad. The reality is that when bad decisions are made, natural consequences will occur. My two kids’ lives were riddled with all sorts of negative things. It has changed their lives and shaped who they are and their thought processes. My Ethiopian son had medical issues that could not have been avoided. A death occurred, and unforeseen issues came to the surface.

International Ethiopian Adoption

 With my son from ET, I yearned for open adoption. I knew things. I have a heart for his sweet mama and his brothers and sisters. Open adoption is impossible due to laws (ET and American) and the fact that an ocean separates us. This sweet family lives deep in the jungle. I have no way of getting them anything. So we hang pictures, talk about them, and watch videos. I want my son to know that she loved him so deeply that she gave him life twice.

Future Adoptions

I will still choose semi-adoption or open adoption with any future adoptions. One day, I would love to be chosen by a birth mom. To allow her to be in their child’s life in a controlled, safe environment. I would love for grandparents to be grandparents if that is an option. Aunts and uncles to still be aunts and uncles. I will say when red flags occur, changes can be made. Safety is a number one priority.

 

 

 

Adoption, Medical Issues

Turning the Page of a Book to a New Chapter

Turning the Page of a Book to a New Chapter

Turning the Page of a Book to a New Chapter

Ethiopian Adoption

My baby came to us when he was 5 yrs old, after a long, intense battle to bring him to America. Being a child of color, more aged, and a boy, his odds were against him ever getting adopted. See, little black girls turn into sweet gorgeous black women. Little black boys turn out to be thugs, murderers, etc. There is a sad stigma, and that does not mean it is just in America. There is racism in the country of Ethiopia as well. Suppose a male child is three or younger and “caramel” in color. He is an excellent child to be adopted. If a male child is four or above and darker, that is a lot of odds.

How can one look at that face, those eyes, that smile and say he is going to be ANYTHING but a child of the King and a warrior for His kingdom? This baby, this baby, I cannot even. My heart bursts with love, pride, gratitude, and thankfulness for what the Lord did in our story. I seriously cannot even.

Discovering He Was Deaf

We did not know he was deaf for almost a year, LOL. He was learning the language and how to live in a family and acclimate to the USA. That was his only job. To learn to be loved, to know he is safe, to help him with his loss and grief of not being with his family and beautiful country. He was, at one point, trilingual. Oh, and he was LOUD. He could speak and worked hard at his broken English until he mastered it. After almost 6 yrs, he still says a few words wonky, LOL.

“I No Hear In That Ear.”

On his birthday, my mom calls to sing to all the kids. She always calls in the morning. I answered the phone, and I knew it was her, so I went ahead and called him upstairs and handed him the phone. Now, remember, he is an Ethiopian who had only been home for eight mths. I put the phone up to his right ear so he could listen to her sing. When I did, he said, “mommy…I no hear in that ear.” I laughed and said he was a funny boy, and I raised the phone to his right ear again. He said, “Mommy, I no hear in that ear.”

Understandably, he switched ears and smiled as she sang. He is a man of little words, so as he was grinning (he thought she could see his approval), he handed me the phone. I was sitting there, with my mouth opening, looking at him like he had an eyeball that had just sprouted up on his forehead. I held the phone and could hear my mom speak, but all I could say was, “what do you mean you can’t hear in that ear?” He said, “I no hear in that ear.” I could’ve caught flies with my mouth.

I’m Sorry, But What???!!

I put the phone to my ear and said, “Martha….he says he can’t hear out his right ear…I gotta go and figure out what the heck he is talking about.” We got off the phone, and I looked him square and said: “WHAT THE HECK DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN’T HEAR OUT OF THAT EAR?” He took his hands and clapped them on my cheeks. J pulled my face, nose to nose with his face, and said: “MOM, I NO HEAR OUT OF THAT EAR.” I asked if he heard out of that ear in Ethiopia. He waved his hand like it was nothing, saying, “No. I no hear in that ear in Ethiopia (that is how he pronounced it).”

Bumfuzzled

I think I sat there staring at him for 30 minutes. I’d plug one ear and talk. He could hear me. I would plug the other ear and talk. He could hear me. I did not get it. At all. I turned all the fans on, made him turn around, and whispered. He heard me. I am stumped. In a last-ditch effort to understand what was happening, I got in the van with him, turned up the radio, lowered all the windows, and whispered. Guess what? He heard me. Either he was insane, or I was insane.

ENT Part 1

I took him to an ENT. We did hearing tests. He was in the “soundproof” booth, and the lady said some words, and he repeated them while one or the other ear was plugged. He did it. She said he was fine. In another moment, “I am such a bad parent because if he is hard of hearing in that ear, I didn’t know. Also, I didn’t do anything about his inability to hear. The audiologist said he was fine, but I want a second opinion from a friend. She is good at what she does and she is free. I will leave this alone. If she tells me that he is fine, I will assume I am nuts. Also, I will assume he is nuts. We are all just nuts.” Yes, that is the long run-on sentence in my head.

ENT Part 2

I headed to see my friend Susan Brown. She did her initial stuff and then put him back in the booth. I sat in the booth with her. This time was different. She said things, but she covered her mouth. When she did that, we discovered that he was stone-cold deaf in his right ear. I didn’t realize that he was reading my lip and everyone else’s lips. Most people are deaf from either their outer ear to their eardrum OR from the eardrum to their brain. J is deaf from the external eardrum to the brain. He has all the mechanics of a “good” ear….he is just deaf. We are guessing he was born this way, which explains SO much.

ENT Part 3

J was pretty stoked when I took him from Susan to the NEW ENT. I told him we were going to see Dr. Jones. With his wide eyes, he said: “We are going to see DR JONES?” I said yes, we are. He is going to check your ears. I asked why he was looking at me like that, and he said, “Dr. Jones? As in Indiana Jones?” I smiled and said, “No, Dr. Shawn Jones.” Let down.

Stupid Question

As we talked, I asked Dr. Jones if this could be hereditary? He said it could be, and why do I ask. I explained to him that my mom was born without a bone in her ear and that she was deaf. I told him that she had surgery, and they placed a metal plate there; now she can hear. At that moment, the dr was staring at me, the nurse was staring at me, and J was silent. I couldn’t figure out the silence.

Dr. Jones leaned WAY into me and said: “Brandi, is your mom black?” I said, “No. She is a little short redhead. Why are you asking me if she is black?” He smiled and said, “Brandi….your son is black.” Duh, I forgot. I don’t think about things like that, so I felt pretty stupid. After many visits, many types of hearing aids that did not work, and learning some sign language to help him in crowds, five years later, yesterday was the day we turned the page to a new chapter five years later.

ENT Part 4: Surgeon

We were in Louisville for Dr. Severtson to perform a BAHA surgery yesterday. Usually, this surgery would have a titanium screw, and in about six mths or so, once it is healed, you snap a hearing aid on behind your ear. The sound bypasses the ear canal and goes straight to the brain. The post requires A LOT of attention and maintenance. We were going to do that because the older J gets, the more it bothers him about his hearing. I get that. Our dr was recently approved to do a new type of BAHA hearing aid.

Instead of the titanium screw, he put in a magnet. This takes 2-3 mths to settle in and heal. Once that is healed, we go back to the processor. His hearing aid will also have a magnetic on it, and it will just stick to his head, behind his ear, and it does the same as the original. This is good because there is zero maintenance. You get your processor quicker. He is the first in our area to receive it, so we can hopefully help other families. More importantly, he will be able to hear out of both ears for the first time in his life. How freaking cool is that?

Recovery

The recovery is not fun. He has to keep his head wrapped for three days. Also, J cannot wash his hair for a week or so. In the end, it will be awesome, and that is what I have to remind him. I am so stinking excited. He is excited too, but he is hurting pretty good, and his incision site itches. Which is driving him bonkers. All in all, welcome to his new and improved HEARING story 🙂

 

Adoption, Guest Blogger

Meet my Guest Blogger and Sister Tera

Meet my Guest Blogger and Sister Tera

Meet my Guest Blogger and Sister Tera

 

Do you ever step back and take a look at where the Lord has had your journey? Reflection is an amazing reminder of our sanctification process. Sanctification….the word I view with both dread and anticipation. It is God’s plan of growing us into the likeness of Christ. Sounds lofty, but what does it require? Sanctification requires stretching. I am not a fan of being stretched, but the Lord has stretched me over the last several years in ways that I would never have asked, but in ways that I would never trade.

Memories

Recently I took a look at the blog I kept during our adoption processes. We have six children, three of whom joined our family through adoption. These three were older when they joined our family and all came home with memories of their life in their home countries.

During the adoption process, my blogs consisted of all the typical thoughts and anxieties that a mother exhibits while waiting for her precious child to be in her arms. Nothing ever happened on my timetable. What was the Lord thinking? Didn’t He know that our child needed to be home? Also, didn’t He sense our pain in the waiting? Wait, didn’t He part the Red Sea? Wasn’t He capable of blasting through the Red Tape? I feel anxious typing all of that right now! So, as I re-read my entries I ran across this note that typifies what I pray the Lord has taught me and continues to teach me in my walk with Him. We were on our way home with our newest son.

Previous Blog Post

This week we have watched God’s hand guide every aspect of our journey. Lots of travel troubles, UGH. Through it all, when I would feel anxiety welling up in my heart, I would hear Him asking me, Do you trust me? Also, do you really mean all the things you say to everyone else? Do you trust me to work out circumstances according to My plan, not yours? Finally, do you recognize that you are not in control? Over and over, I know that He was and is telling me that in good or bad I must choose to trust that this journey is HIS.

This journey of my life is the one that He has planned and intended. I still get very anxious, wanting to control situations and people, but honestly….deep within my soul, I do trust Him. I may not like the plan, but I trust that He has it ALL worked out. I’m on a plane right now on our last leg home from bringing home our son. We are surprising the other kids with an early flight home.

Soon we will be the eight of us. Our sweet boy is sleeping peacefully. He fully trusts us as his parents. We know where he is going and we know what is in store on the other end of this plane ride.  There was a plan to bring him home. Everywhere we’ve led him, he has willingly gone with a smile on his face, handheld out to take ours. Fully trusting. May I be the same with my Heavenly Father who has the plan?

Encouraging Words

As your family journeys along in life, I ask you to trust Him with the plan. Recognize that He sees the view from above the plane. The full view. You only see out of your little window. How we react to our journey will show the world that we trust HIM and love HIM more than we trust and love our plan. Ask yourself what you desire more…the child to be added to your family, your children to be whole, relief from difficulties, or is your desire for a relationship with the ONE who made both you and your child?

Lean Into Him

Marriage. Parenting. Adoption. Life.  Complex, beautiful, hard.  Embrace the hard as God’s provision for your sanctification.  Growth is never easy. Cling to Him.

Isaiah 55:8-9 “The Lord says: ‘My thoughts and my ways are not like yours. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, my thoughts and my ways are higher than yours.’ ”

 

Adoption, Guest Blogger, Medical Issues, Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome

Guest Blogger Big Daddy on Adoption

Guest Blogger Big Daddy on Adoption

Guest Blogger Big Daddy on Adoption

This post was originally written in 2017.

Guest Blogger Big Daddy on Adoption and his thoughts. After having three biological children, we decided to enter the realm of adoption. We believed our quiver wasn’t complete, so the decision was easy. What we didn’t realize is that adoption is HARD. It doesn’t matter what kind of adoption it is. Whether through foster care, international adoption, or one of your relatives, adoption is not for the faint of heart.

Adoption is Rewarding

 

However, adoption is very rewarding. Knowing that you have taken life into your home that otherwise was not wanted or was being mistreated, abused, or neglected is an amazing miracle. God intended for children to be raised by their parents, but circumstances sometimes do not allow that to happen. That’s why we took the plunge to care for the orphans.

Our Wild Ride to Adoption

 

As for our journey, it has been a wild ride. We have had a lot of good days and plenty of bad ones. But so far, we have stayed the course. We have tried to instill Godly values in our children while teaching them honesty, integrity, responsibility, and character. Sometimes we think that we are not making much progress, but honestly, we believe if we are consistent with the kids, they will turn out fine. Each child is different. We have learned how to parent each child with different behaviors and personalities.

 

At first, I was resistant to adoption, but after I met the little girl my sister-in-law and her husband adopted from the Philipines, my heart melted. I saw the love shown and given to her and believed I could do the same. So we decided to do it.

Our First Experience

 

Our first experience with fostering to adoption started pretty good other than the fact that these children were brought to us, and we knew nothing about them. It was hard, especially with Shay, because she was non-verbal at two years old. She never did warm up to me very much. Tay, on the other hand, was very happy and always smiling. Also, they were very sick, and we could not get them well.

 

Then the day that nearly broke us into the world of fostering/adoption happened. The kids were suddenly taken away from us by the Cabinet. We had no idea….one minute, we are raising these kids, and the next minute they are gone. We were told the reason but truly believed the social worker lied about us in a court hearing that we were not present at. I was furious, and it crushed my wife. To this day, she still has the scars of them being taken from us. We had to believe that the Lord had different plans for those sweet children and us.

Never Again?

 

At that time, we told ourselves we would not go through a horrible experience like we just had but decided to give it another go around. We started fostering D and G in the spring of 2007. At first, it was really good, but we learned quickly how many of these children in the child services system could be damaged. To find out the kids you just took into your home were previously abused is a tough pill to swallow.

 

Having to raise children during an investigation of abuse and ensuing court proceedings is not the way it should be. But the kids were safe, and we did our best to cope with the behaviors stemming from their past. We finally adopted them about two and a half years later. Since then, we’ve run the gamut of ups and downs with them. Some days are good, and some days are bad, but in the end, they are loved, and hopefully, they will be able to overcome the terrible start they had in life.

International Adoption

 

Our subsequent adoption was a foray into international adoption. My wife had always dreamed of adopting from the county of Ethiopia. After I met my new nephew from Ethiopia, my sister-in-law’s second adopted child. I was ready to go to Africa. The process was a lot of paperwork and a lot of money. (Not sure why it costs so much to adopt a child who has no home or no one else wants). Within a few months, we had a referral and got a picture of our son. It was amazing how we could love someone so much whom we had never met.

 

The anticipation was unbearable. But soon after that, we could travel to Africa and meet our son. It was an experience like none other. We met our son and spent three or four days with him. We went to court and were granted the adoption. The hardest part was leaving him there. But we were told that it should only be about eight weeks before we could return and bring him home. Little did we know then that eight weeks would turn into 14 months.

Huge Mistake Made by Home Study Agency

 

Our home study agency made a huge mistake, and the US government told us we did not make enough money to bring him home. How ridiculous is that? It’s a shame that money, or the lack thereof, keeps so many people from adopting children that need good homes. When we found this out, we desperately tried everything we could to get clearance from USCIS but were flat-out denied two months later. My wife was crushed beyond all belief. From December 2010 to about November 2011, she was just a shell of a person.

 

Yes, she lived and breathed, but that was about it. She was vacant. And there was nothing I could do about it. I believed that there was no way God would allow us to travel 7000 miles to meet a boy and tell him he would be our son, then him not ever come home. Not necessarily for our sake but for his. He was an innocent child growing up in an orphanage with 50 or 60 other children like him. But God made way for us to get our clearance to bring him home, and in December 2011, we brought J to his forever home. We were made whole.

Here We Go Again

 

After we brought J home, we thought our quiver was full. But God had other plans for our family. In November of 2015, we had an opportunity to take in our great-nephew, H. His mother, our niece, had been in trouble with the law and could not take care of him. H had been living with a man who believed he was the father. He had troubles of his own and agreed for us to keep H for a while. We decided to file for emergency custody of H mainly for his safety at the time. The man he was living with turned out not to be the biological father, and we were granted temporary custody of H.

His Biological Mom

 

His mother got into even more trouble later and was facing a lot of time in prison. She made a tough yet mature decision to terminate her rights and allow us to adopt H. I can’t imagine how hard that was for her. I am very proud of her for sacrificing for her son. H invigorated our family with joy. He has so much energy and is very sweet and funny. However, in June, he was diagnosed with an extremely rare neurological disorder called Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome. He has been through a lot, which has been tough on him and us. But we take it one day at a time and trust in God for healing and comfort.

Adoption is Tough

 

So those reading this and considering adopting do not have preconceived notions of lollipops and rainbows. Adoption is challenging and not for the faint of heart. But the rewards are unending. Giving a child a home and stability is a beautiful thing. Whether they know it or not, children crave structure, discipline, and a sense of worth.

 

That’s the beauty of adoption.

 

Adoption, Medical Issues

All About Single-Sided Deafness

All About Single-Sided Deafness

All About Single-Sided Deafness

Here is the info All About Single-Sided Deafness. According to Healthy Hearing, Single-Sided Deafness is “Living in the head shadow of singlesided deafness. …Singlesided deafness (SSD) is a condition in which a person has lost hearing in one ear, while he or she may have anywhere from normal hearing to profound hearing loss in the other.”

A Small Familiarity

This is something that I have grown up with but never really understood. As you discuss it more, you find out that more people have hearing loss or are completely deaf in one ear. They have just learned to deal with it throughout their lives. Keep on reading from my “blonde” moment regarding my slight familiarity.

Bringing J Home

We met our child when he was 4. In our adoption journey, we flew to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and met this sweet child. It was love at first sight. There was, of course, a huge language barrier. He spoke the native language, Wolayita. Also, he was learning Amharic (the native language of most of Ethiopia). As a bonus, this teacher was teaching the kids in English.

We were in such a fog of the information overload we were experiencing that we didn’t notice much else. Our child was a typical 4 yr old child. Busy, opinionated, hungry, loving, affectionate, and full of smiles.

Fast Forward 2 Years Later

It was this child’s 6th birthday. Per tradition, my mom called to sing to him. He flew upstairs to talk to Jojo. I put the phone up to the right ear. He looked at me and said: “I no hear in that ear.” I must have just looked like I had swallowed a bug because my mouth was open, and I suddenly could not comprehend broken English.

He moved the phone to the left ear and smiled as she sang to him. I took the phone back and told my mom what he had said. We discussed it for a minute, and she told me that I needed to do more investigation. She asked if I remembered her surgery on her ear. I did remember, but I never knew what it was, so she explained it all to me again.

Our Conversation

Me: What do you mean you cannot hear in that ear?

Child: I can’t hear out of that ear.

Me: But what do you mean? Could you hear in Ethiopia?

Child: I no hear in Et-opia.

Me: I don’t understand what you are saying.

Child: Put both of this child’s hands on my cheeks and brought my face closer to this child’s face, and he spoke slowly. Mom. I. No. Hear. In. That. Ear.

Then he casually walked away.

Over the Course of the Day

I would sneak up on him and try to whisper in this child’s ear to catch the “deafness.” I had no idea what SSD was. I started making phone calls. We got a hearing test done with my friend Susan Brown at Murray State.

She confirmed that he was deaf in one ear, but we needed a referral to see the extent of that. We took her results and gave them to our pediatrician (who said this child’s ears were perfectly healthy and fine). I insisted on a referral to Dr. Shawn Jones, and they did that for me, though they didn’t think it was necessary.

Seeing Dr. Jones

We introduced J to the Indiana Jones movies. He was obsessed. He had the bag, hat, and whip to prove his devotion to this character. As I tried to explain to him where we were going and what the dr was going to do, I failed to mention the name of the dr. When we walked into the clinic, I told him we would see Dr. Jones soon.

Our child’s eyes were wide, and the mouth dropped. He looked at me and said: “Dr. Jones?!” Me: “Yep, you are seeing Dr. Jones today.” Child: “As in Indian Jones??!!” Me: “Uhm, no. As in. Dr. Shawn Jones.” Our child was deflated.

Our Appointment

Now, Dr. Jones and I have gone way back. He has done tube surgeries on a couple of kids and taken my tonsils out. We know each other. He is a believer, his wife is a homeschooler, and he loves to challenge and relate to each kid/person that walks into his clinic.

We giggled over J’s mistaken identity moment a few moments earlier. Then, I went on to talk about this child’s medical history (we pretty much knew nothing). I told him what Susan had said. Also, the pediatrician thought he was fine, and it was more of a selective hearing loss (aka, he is a kid).

What We Learned

We learned that you could be deaf from your outer ear to your inner ear OR from your inner ear to your brain. It is not quite as common to be deaf from your outer ear to your inner. When Dr. Jones looked into this child’s ear, he found that everything was as it should be. Nothing was missing; all bones were intact, so that is good.

He sent us to Kelli, who did another hearing test. This time, she covered her mouth as she spoke to him. That was the key. He could read lips perfectly! That is why the pediatrician thought he was fine. He had become an expert at it.

The Results Were In

When all the tests were done, we discovered that he is NOT slightly or even moderately deaf in that right ear. He is entirely, profoundly deaf from the outer ear to the brain. Although mechanically, everything is fine, he is a sonic boom type of deaf. Deaf deaf. They were so surprised that this child’s speech was so good. That at one point, he was trilingual. He had learned to compensate so well that he surprised everyone.

We Had Choices

First, we could leave it alone and let it be. Second, we could get cross hearing aids to magnify the sound in the good ear. Third, we could be the first in our region to get a magnetic BAHA hearing aid.

The cross hearing aids did not work at all. It is designed to have two hearing aids. The one in the bad ear takes the noises and slings them to the hearing aid in the good ear. Once there, it magnifies it and makes things louder. Yep, that didn’t work at all. Plus, they could not get wet. Also, he couldn’t get sweat on them. He was in sports, so he never wore them. When he did, it just irritated him.

The BAHA hearing aid can be better explained by the company we used, Sophono. There is the snap-on hearing aid, which most people get. The magnetic one was newer when we started this process. This device helped take out the maintenance of the abutment device.

What We Decided

We would leave it alone, but as he got older, we noticed more things. This child’s deafness started becoming more noticeable (or maybe we were more aware). He was still unfamiliar with life in the states, so he often darted wherever and whenever. He was in a walled area in Ethiopia, so he had freedom without fear. Here, he could very quickly get hit by a car. He often ran across the street to get a ball or see a dog.

After trying the first two less invasive options, we chose to do the BAHA. He can wear it in the rain, and he can sweat! It is rechargeable, so it removes the need to buy batteries constantly. He can do it all alone, a vast difference from the cros hearing aides.

Aging

As this child gets older, the magnetic will never need changing/replacing. He cannot have MRIs or go through metal detectors. This child’s hearing aid does not need to be replaced unless broken. We get yearly maintenance on it.

He picks and chooses when he wears it. I don’t push it. We have learned he does not like wearing it while eating (he chews too loudly) and also during worship time at church (too loud). I let him dictate when he wears it and when he doesn’t. Now, when school starts, he will have to wear it.

Alright, Alright…Here is My Moment

This is the conversation that Dr. Jones and I had while discussing J’s medical history.

Me: Can SSD be hereditary?

Dr. J: Sometimes, why do you ask?

Me: My mom was born without a bone in her ear. She was deaf on one side. She got some surgery where they put a metal plate in her ear. It bounces sound off, and now she can hear. I remember when she got it. She was sleeping in her room with the door shut. The rest of us were in the kitchen eating sandwiches. She came flying into the kitchen, crying, telling us to stop chewing loudly. Could J be missing that same bone?

Dr. J (and his nurse): Staring at me like I had a third eyeball.

Me: If this child is missing that bone, can he pass that on to biological kids? Is this a generational thing?

Crickets chirping

After a moment of silence and Dr. J continuing to let me babble on…

Dr. J: “Brandi, is your mom black?”

Me: Uhm, no…you have met her. She is a short, fiery redhead. Why?

Dr. J: Brandi, your son is black.

Me: Yep, I know that.

Moment to let me absorb his question and my answer.

Dr. J: Bursts out laughing, as does his nurse.

Me: Realizing what I just asked. Oh, well, I feel stupid.

Dr. J: You don’t distinguish between your bio and adopted kids. To answer your question, I don’t think your American mom’s ear has anything to do with your Ethiopian son’s hearing loss.

 

 

 

Adoption

Our Story of Falling in Love and Adoption

Our Story of Falling in Love and AdoptionOur Story of Falling in Love and Adoption

 My husband and I met in the spring of 1993. We quickly fell for each other. I remember walking into the game room, where we both worked, one evening before school started. People lined up at the counter, and I saw this man, in these faded blue jeans, with this butt that made my heart pitter-patter. He was tall and had eyes that were the color of the sky. He had a hat on, so I did not know what color his hair was, and I noticed his bottom lip all stuck out because he was chewing tobacco. I fell in love, and I did not even know his name. Swoon.

The Kid Question

 At any rate, that is the year we met. We were engaged by the fall of that same year and married in June 1994. When we talked about our life, I asked him how many children he wanted. He stated that he wanted one, maybe two. I said that I wanted four. I also told him my desire to adopt, and he was NOT for that. He felt he could not love a child he did not see grow in me. I decided that I would let God deal with him on that, and I would stay out of it.

Life Now

 Fast forward 22 years later, and we did not have one, two, or four kids. We were blessed with six children. We have three children who were born “under the heart” and three children who were adopted. We have adopted from our local foster care system, and to add the icing on the cake of our family, we adopted from Africa. All of our children were “older” child adoptions. The Lord profoundly changed his heart.

Contentment

 There was a day, back in October 2015, when I was in the bathroom, and I was thinking to myself (and yes, I speak to myself, and I answer myself). The prayer that was lifted that day was one of thanksgiving. My heart has always yearned for my children, but we could not have any more biologically. We could not from our local foster care system because our home was deemed “full,” and we could not adopt internationally because of finances. 

We had had two separate opportunities to adopt privately, but the birthmothers made other choices, and now those babies are with Jesus. There was nothing more to do. My quiver was full. We had six kids. Our oldest was in college, our second was finishing up her high school year, sprinkled in some behaviorally challenged kids and a hard-of-hearing kid, oh, and homeschooling them all, and our life was complete.

God Laughs

 While I was in that bathroom that day, I uttered these words “Lord, I finally am content. I’m content with myself, my life, and my family size. Thank you for finally giving me that peace about being finished bringing children into our home.” I can imagine God, upon His heavenly throne, chuckling at my “contentment.” He was fixing to throw me a curveball the size of Montana. Almost immediately after my revelation, the phone rang. It was my oldest sister, Kim. 

I was surprised at her phone call on a Saturday morning, and instead of saying hello, I asked her what was wrong. She was panicked and straightforward. She and her husband, Joseph, were out of town, and there was an emergency with two of her grandchildren. She requested me to get to where they were and keep them until she and Joseph came home. 

Well, she did not have to ask me twice. My husband and I loaded up our kids and drove separately to have enough room for everyone. We got to where the children were, and there they stood, amongst complete chaos and sadness.

Damage Control

 I plastered on my “it is going to be okay” face and whisked them off to Bob Evans to eat. They were filthy and hungry. We made our way to the bathroom, and I cleaned up their precious little faces. We sat to eat, and boy, did they eat. The rest of the weekend was much like my very own three-ring circus. There was damage control, lots of hugs and kisses, snacks, movies, rocking, and soothing their weary little souls. 

We made it to church without any incident on that Sunday. My sister came back into town that afternoon to pick up the beauties. Their world was fixing to shake, and they needed that solid foundation of my sister and Joseph. Oh, do they love those kids? Gracious.

Carnage

After they left, I looked around at the carnage of the house. There were toys strung from here to high heaven. Clothes, barbies, shoes, Polly pockets, animals, trains. Anything and everything we could find made an appearance, and it spread throughout my living room. 

There were half-eaten sandwiches, purses, and stickers galore. I plopped down on the couch with a sense of accomplishment. We all survived. I was pleased I could help in this challenging time, but I was so glad my sister took over.

At It Again

 Again, contentment. Again, pleased with feelings of peace. Again, God laughed. Furthermore, He rocked our world. Only a few weeks later, our family changed. Remember Bart wanted one or two, and I wanted four? Remember how we ended up with three biological kids, then five, then six, and then done? 

Remember? 

We added our seventh child, 21 months (let that soak in for a moment. I had not had a toddler in 9 years, and I am over 40 people!), sashayed into our home. He had beautiful curls with these green eyes. He was nonverbal and loud. Holy moly, he was loud. We took in my sister’s other grandson, her youngest grandbaby. 

 

Adoption, Medical Issues

FDA Warning for Ethiopians: Codeine & Morphine

FDA Warning for Ethiopians: Codeine & Morphine

FDA Warning for Ethiopians:  Codeine & Morphine

 

WARNING:  Do Not use Codeine in Ethiopian Children!

FDA Warning for Ethiopians: Codeine & Morphine. Codeine is a medication that is used to relieve mild to moderate pain. I have used it before. Some of my children had used it (before we adopted our son). After a procedure or severe illness, we discontinued using this type of pain relief after my daughter began hallucinating. It also makes me violently ill.

I would slightly hallucinate or be violently ill.

Then the alternative of taking it kills me because parents or doctors (our local doctors), for that matter, were not informed of the dangers of this drug when we brought our son home from Ethiopia when he was six yrs old.

The article Codeine Therapy and CYP2D6 Genotype explains this phenom to a degree that is mind-boggling to me, so I will put it in “Brandi Terms.”

When my son had surgery at the tender age of 7, the doctors prescribed him Tylenol with Codeine for pain. I mentioned to the doctors that he was Ethiopian, and they did not bat an eye. They asked me why I was telling them this. I kindly told them about the FDA warning, and the anesthesiologist told me she had never heard of that before.

FDA Warning for Ethiopians: Codeine & Morphine

To help with her knowledge bank, I gave her the website and the warning. She proceeded to research it, as she looked at me like I were a crazy person. I tried to explain that he could be an “ultrarapid” Ethiopian, and by the time the meds took effect, he could be dead.

“Thirty percent of Ethiopians studied had multiple copies of the 2D6 gene (up to13) and increased enzyme activity resulting in ultrarapid metabolism.2 Ultra-rapid metabolism results in lower blood levels following a standard dose of any drug metabolized by this enzyme. Therefore these patients may have an inadequate response to standard dosages of ß-blockers, narcotic analgesics, or antidepressants and may require higher dosages for clinical effectiveness.”

Be Wise. Be Aware.

Preventable Adverse Drug Reactions: A Focus on Drug Interactions

Please be aware. Do your homework. Ask questions. Do not assume your doctor knows all the answers. They are humans too. Our doctor was shocked by her findings and very apologetic.

I understand that that seed has been passed on to other doctors at that hospital and even further from there. It’s all about educating others to help others. Awareness.

If your doctor hasn’t yet notified you of this, please discuss it with him/her. Make sure this information is in your Ethiopian child’s medical file. Our doctor advised us to NEVER give use codeine for any situation/reason.

Maybe someday we can get genetic testing to see if he has the (enzyme) gene. I plan to enter it into his file. Codeine and Morphine are fatal drug allergies. Period. The end.

 

 

 

Adoption, Guest Blogger

God is in the Details

~~Guest Blogger: God is in the details is something I posted, a few months ago.  This post is about the love, adoption, and loss of this sweet family’s sweet daughter Freh.  Amy and Sten’s story continues and the light of the Lord shines through dark times.  She has graciously let me repost her original blog (you can find her blog here).  Amy and Sten’s story is powerful and their faith is an inspiration~~

God is in the Details

Sometimes Writing is Painful

Putting words into print somehow solidifies the reality. But everyone knows that writing is therapeutic and sharing one’s story is really more for the writer than the reader, right?

I have had an aversion to sharing in the past several months, because how do I say it? How do I justly tell a story that has so many details and changing parts that won’t leave me feeling torn apart and raw or worse yet…vulnerable. After all, isn’t dealing with child loss and grief enough? I mean why tell a story that will make me look like a glutton for punishment? I don’t know. But what I do know is that an amazing story is unfolding in my life, and I haven’t shared it because of vulnerability. I have avoided the messy, ugly, scorching parts to preserve what little dignity I have left. Questions, opinions, judgment, they all raise the hairs on my neck.

I Have Turned to Close Confidants

Also, my prayer posse to stand there, in this foggy ditch, and intercede on my behalf until I can muster the words……God is still working. He has not set my tapestry down and forgotten. He is very much working out the finest of details. This ‘new us’ is now on a constant quest for joy. Consistently, almost methodically searching and seeking not the temporary thrills and distractions from our pain, but eternal, long-lasting, blanketing joy. We did a lot of talking and praying about this joy. I asked God to tell me where to go to find this gift He had for us and very clearly he pointed us to children, the beautifully packaged joy that He has time and again chosen for us since we were just 18 years old.

May 2014

Mother’s Day weekend. We got an email that informed us that a young, homeless girl in Florida is pregnant and has chosen us to be the forever family for her baby, due in October. We were ecstatic! Oh, how we had longed for a baby to hold and love since that day just a year before when our lives were shattered, and our Freh was taken from us. I finally felt like there was some joy to be had. A baby, a young mother in need, a little package of hope.

Flying to Florida

We flew to Florida and met “D” and her boyfriend. We went to an ultrasound and saw the little life inside her. It was a boy. He was healthy. We enjoyed the time we spent with this young girl, talking about her life and her plans for herself. Seeing that the relationship she was in with her boyfriend was not healthy,  Sten and I spoke with her about that and ways she could get help.

We bonded with this young mother. I felt an immediate love for her. She showed us the hotel she was now staying in, and we taught her how to cook some food for herself.  On the flight home, Sten and I admitted that we felt conflicted. We really wished she could somehow find a way, as we had over 19 years ago, to keep her baby and yet, we still really longed for a baby. I committed to praying quietly that God would move in D’s life and that He would guide her to the right decision.

She and I Texted Throughout the Summer

I was able to have a few significant conversations with her. We talked about purpose and God and joy. She knew that we had lost our daughter a year before and she asked me how I handle that, a question that brought such a lump to my throat because I knew what possibly laid ahead in her future. I simply answered that I just let God handle the hard parts and I never stop seeking Him. She responded that her grandmother used to tell her the same thing.

35 weeks, ultrasound day….we received a call that D had not shown up for her ultrasound and that she called to tell our consultant that she has decided to leave her boyfriend and keep her baby. She had reunited with her mom, and they were going to raise the baby together. Now, you might think that we were angry with her for this…after all, how could she string us along with all summer and take thousands from us in support? We had our house ready for a baby.

We Were Supposed to be His Parents, Right?

Nope.

God had protected our hearts so perfectly that when we got the news, and the initial (5minute) sting wore off, we were so HAPPY for D. She found a way. She gets to be a momma to her baby!! How could that make anyone angry? God had worked it out to the smallest details. My concern was that she knew we were so happy for her and that we loved her, no matter what. It was ok. I felt that peace that only God can wash over me.  This is where it gets ugly and messy and, for the sake of sanity and humility and all things sensible, I will just share the watered-down version.

Have you ever had an experience that is so confusing and awful that all you can do is chalk it up to the darkness in this world? Well, that’s kind of how this next part played out……Two days later we were matched with another baby due “any day now.” He was 100% certainly ours, or so we were told. We let our guards down, went to Target, and bought everything we would need for this soon to be born child. Then, I asked if a prenatal record was available for us to look over, so we knew what to expect with this baby and just like that he was stripped from us and given to a family who would “love him unconditionally” (aka pay more money and not ask questions) To my friends in the adoption community, you may take a short break to wash the vomit from your mouths.

I know.

Brutal

Two weeks of refusal to answer our emails and phone calls. We had nothing. We were devastated, angry, hurt, seething mad. Talk about God putting up a huge wall. In the midst of hurt and loss upon loss like this, we barely could see straight. I pushed hard into God and the very close, personal friends he has gifted me with. They spoke the truth to me.  I cried, paced, spit…all of those ugly things you do when you get seething mad. But, God was loud and clear to me, once again, to wait to be quiet. TRUST HIM.

I Decided I was not Going to Share Publicly What Had Happened

I was going to let things pass and hopefully ease into the next chapter, without any scars or should I say judgment. People would notice when November comes, and we don’t have a baby. I just didn’t have the words. I kept hearing God nudging me to ‘write it out’….share what He is doing in the midst of pain, but golly! That is just such a vulnerable place to put yourself. And in the center of all that confusion and hurt, I certainly couldn’t see the thread of God’s needle. I could feel more of the flame of his blowtorch… How could I possibly find some wonderfully divine inspiration for writing? But God kept revisiting the issue. Write.

Behind the Adoption Drama Unfolding Another Ache

Our oldest son. He has had a difficult stretch these last few years, and we have had to let him learn some incredibly hard life lessons. Ones that you think to yourself, “son, this is going to wreck you possibly, but you must walk across these burning embers to heal and learn.” I can see now that God knew. God saw the way in advance that if we had been given D’s baby, we certainly would not have been available to help our first-born child through quite possibly, the most challenging time in his life. I love my God for protecting my children that way. For answering my very own prayers for my children so perfectly. Weaving our hearts together in the most intricate way possible.  I am thankful.

My Husband is a Patient and Introspective Man

He encourages me to do things that really stretch me, like be patient, wait it out, be quiet (HA!), listen. He is such a ROCK for me. After all the dust settled from that terrible “you have a baby, wait, no you don’t” week…Sten said to me that we should wait a month, get our bearings and start looking around us at what we should do next. We indeed agreed that we weren’t going to give up on adoption. God put that call on our hearts, and we haven’t felt as if he is taking it away.

On November 6 we signed with an adoption consulting firm called Christian Adoption Consultants. Turns out, Freh’s friend in Heaven, Mattie Sam, well, his mom is one of the lead consultants there, and they orchestrated the whole “hey, our moms should totally meet” thing. Tracie and I firmly believe that they are up to some serious Heavenly Shenanigans! Isn’t that cool? Isn’t it amazing how if you just take a half step back, you can see that GLORY IS RIGHT THERE?

God, just waiting to do His thing! Now, we are working with Tracie’s team at CAC to meet a need and be matched with a baby who needs us, and we cannot wait to see what God will do with this. It finally feels like we are right where He wants us to be. Adoption is very hard. Adoption is very risky. But, with God and Godly people by your side, He will use the ugliest of situations and bring beauty from them!

All This Time

I have heard God speaking to me to write. “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:1-4  This verse has come to my plate many times over the course of the past 8 years. Be a lamp. Still, I struggled inside my own head with sharing.

People Will Just Understand, I Told Myself

God will understand why I don’t want to write about it, it’s painful. But then, without even mentioning this spiritual struggle to anyone, God used one of his people to deliver a message. A Facebook friend wrote me and said she had been feeling like the Lord was leading her to pray for me. We chatted about that, and I let her in on the very surface details of our adoption trials. Then just Sunday morning, she messaged me again, “Have you blogged about any of this? I’m wondering if sharing your thoughts, your story might bring your baby home? I believe God is not asking you to share your sorrow rather share His love and openly SEEK your baby. I’m positive God is asking me to tell you to listen to that voice you hear calling.”

WAIT.  WHAT?

Yes. My God. Our God. He does these things. He uses his people as 2x4s to smack us upside the head. He’s done it before. Why am I surprised?  So, I just spent the better part of a Monday writing to you about the wonderful, faithful, amazing love that is God. He is in the very details of our lives, even when we feel so far from him. He is right there. Listening. Beckoning. Leading.

I am not giving up. Refinement is painful at times. I can see joy and sorrow, contentment and longing all rolled up into a holy ball of fire and ice, beauty like nothing ever witnessed before.

If You Have Endured This Post to the Very End, Would You Do One More Thing?

Would you please pray for us? Pray that whatever baby God is intending for our family will make it to our family soon. Praise God with us for the mighty work He is doing in our oldest son. Ask God to give our weary hearts strength in this wait. Pray for protection and peace over our children. Ask God for grand logistic graces for all of the ifs and whens of this adoption and the impending adoption of Mihret’s brother from Ethiopia. Please pray that I will continue to seek and see Him in all of the details.

Love you all.
Amy

 

Cooking

10 Minute Injera

10 Minute Injera

This is a 10 Minute Injera, so you know that it is not true, authentic injera.  My son is from Ethiopia and he would eat this daily.  I would love to figure out how to make it more like what he ate.  For now, this will work.

10 Minute Injera

1/2 c. whole wheat flour

1/3 c. all-purpose flour (I used all-purpose flour because I didn’t have whole wheat)

1 T. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/8 tsp. baking soda

~ sift all of this together in a glass bowl.

Directions for 10 Minute Injera

In a separate bowl, whisk 2 eggs and 2 c. buttermilk (I didn’t have buttermilk, so I used 3/4 c. milk and then I poured enough lemon juice in it to make a full cup).

Mix liquid with dry ingredients.

Get your griddle or skillet very hot with 1 T. oil.

Pour out 2 Tbsp onto your griddle and get super thin someone told me to pour the batter out with a ladle so you can swirl it around and it will get the “look” of traditional injera.

They look like latke’s but they taste like injera.

It was fantastic!

 

Adoption

Falsehoods and Truth of Adoption

Falsehoods and Truth of Adoption

Falsehoods and Truth of Adoption.

Let me start off by saying that ADOPTION is a beautiful thing!  It has been a desire of mine since I was a child and the Lord saw fit to bring this desire to fruition.  Yet there are some Falsehoods and the Truth of Adoption.

There are several things that people do not tell you about adoption that I wish I had known, way back when…but it still would not have turned me against adding to my family through our domestic and international adoption.  I just believe that I would have been better prepared.

You will automatically love this child.

I wish this were true but there are times when that connection is just not there and love is a CHOICE and not a FEELING.  There are times when adoptive mamas go through post-adoption depression just like mamas who give birth can struggle with postpartum depression.  It is tough.  If you feel like you are struggling or want to sleep all the time.  Maybe your emotions are all over the place or you are struggling with loving this child.  Please, seek help.  There is no shame in talking to a doctor or a therapist.  There is no shame if you need medication to get through this emotional hump.  You are still a good mama.  Relax.  Breathe.  Trust the Lord.  Ask for help.

It will be an easy transition into your family.

Any adoptive parent will tell you that this is a lie lie lie.  I will say that it was much easier with Little Man than it was with Gigi and Catfish.  There is a honeymoon period.  It can last for days (or hours) or months.  When it is over, it is over….that is when real bonding begins.

You have to be rich to adopt.

With the help of friends, family, yard sales, craft shows, and grants….you can adopt.  You do not have to be rich.  In the case of foster care adoption, there is no cost to adopt a child from the foster system and the need is great!

You will love this child(ren) differently because this child “did not come from your body.

Again, it does not take birthing a baby to be a mom.  It takes the next lifetime to be a mom.  I love ALL of my kids DIFFERENTLY.  It is a fact that I do not love them the same.  Yet, I do not love one more than another.  I just love them differently whether they are grown under the heart or in it.

It is easy to adopt

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…..uhm….no.  International, domestic, private, family, foster care….adoption is A LOT of hard work.  A lot of dedication, a lot of paperwork, a lot of tears, and a lot of emotions.  Those who tell you differently are on medication.

All children in foster care have some kind of physical, mental, or emotional handicap; that’s why they are classified as “special needs.”

Special needs can include several different types of kids.  Children who are of a different race are special needs.  Children over 3 are special needs.  Sibling groups are special needs.  Boys can be considered special needs just because they are boys.  There can be mental or physical needs, as well….but my son, adopted at the age of 4 was special needs because he was black, a boy, and over the age of 2.  He is perfectly fine.  My other 2 children are considered special needs because they are a sibling group.  There are additional needs from those 2 kids, but far, they are just fine.

Natural parents do not care about the babies they surrender to adoption

My son’s mother loves him.  My children’s mother loves them.  They love in their own way.  They were relinquished for different reasons.  Both moms wanted a better life for their children.

The infant does not experience her separation from her mother

There are implicit memories (from birth to 3) and explicit memories (from 3 on).  Whether a child can verbalize or physically remember or not, they will always have those memories.  That loss and grief will always be there.  Regardless of age.

The adoptive family will be the only family the adoptive child will know

Uhm, again…no….These kids will always wonder where they came from and what their story was.  Do all you can to find out for their benefit…even the hard stuff.

Your identity is tied to the adoptive family and not your past

An adoptive child’s identity is founded on their heritage and their past.  They adapt and learn new ways, but their past is a huge part of who they are.

Adoptive families make up for a child’s loss

Again, that loss and grief will always be present.  It should be talked about and openness needs to be encouraged.  A child should never be afraid to talk to a parent about their hurts, fears, and confusion.  It does not mean they do not love you.  They just want to know.

The adoptive child never thinks about their biological family

Yes, they do…all the time.  They just very well may be afraid to verbalize for fear of hurting their adoptive parents.

You should sugarcoat the truth to make it easier on the adopted child

Nope.  This information should be sought after if you can.  It should be delivered in 100% truth as the child can understand and their complete past, what you know, should be completely told to a child by the age of 12.

Adoption damages a child

I don’t believe it does.  My children, though here for different circumstances by their biological families, know they are loved and they are safe.  They also know that their families loved them the only way that they could.

Adoption means waiting years for a child

I was waiting for a year for 2 of my children.  It took 2 years for my other child.  It all depends on what you are open to.  The more open you are to a child of God, the sooner it could be a reality.  If you are tied down to a newborn, blonde hair, blue-eyed little girl…your wait time will be longer.

Children must be placed with same-race families in order to thrive

We are a trans-racial family.  Our family tries to keep his heritage alive by listening to music, reading books, and having pictures, and things from his country.  Also, we try to get together with fellow adoptive families from Ethiopia.  We do the best we can knowing full well that we can never replace a first-hand experience he would have had had he stayed with his biological family.

Single people or people over 40 cannot adopt

Not true and not true 🙂  Age does not matter.  I say if the Lord is calling you…be obedient.  You won’t be sorry.

James 1:27  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Matthew 18:5 “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to ask and I will address them.