Thursday, May 28, 2015

rest

I'm learning something about myself: One of the worst things you can tell me is to "just rest" or "just relax."

I spent much of yesterday timing contractions and/or cramps and calling my doctor's office, then putting my feet up while my parents watched the boys (who are absolute SAINTS) for a few hours and I tried to will contractions to stop. 

I'm 27 weeks along, and since in my previous pregnancy I was admitted to the hospital at 29 weeks, I am trying to be a little bit more in tune to what's happening in my body this time around. (With my first, Brecken, I was having contractions every two minutes and was dilated to a six without feeling a thing. I went to the hospital because I was leaking amniotic fluid, which--in the beginning--I thought was just me uncontrollably peeing on myself.)

When I spoke to my doctor's nurse, she listened to my whole explanation of what I was experiencing and was extremely nice about it, then, of course, she told me to rest and drink lots of water, then go straight to labor and delivery if contractions got closer together or more intense. 

Naturally, I had a difficult timing contractions when I have two kids who need attention and food and discipline and supervision. And relaxing? Not my favorite thing to do. I did go sit at my parents' for a few hours, but after I felt better I decided we needed to get home. 

I spent much of last night wishing a trip to labor and delivery was a quick and speedy process and an easy decision to make. I'd feel much better if I just knew that all was well and normal. 

I had planned to take it easy today, but there are breakfasts to be made, clothes to be cleaned, laundry to be folded, dishes to wash, and general unruliness to be tamed. 

When I stood up, I felt some significant pelvic pressure. So here I am, back in bed, wondering if I will have to spend several weeks here and wishing pregnancy was simple. I am getting progesterone shots, so before now I hadn't really been concerned about a second round of preterm labor. Now I'm not so sure. 

Now I'm wondering what will happen in my family if I have to be on bed rest for several weeks. Obviously, we will have to rely on help from friends and family. The only time I remember crying last time I was on hospital bed rest was when the occupational therapist came in around Day 8 and asked me about Brody, who was 16 months old at the time. He hadn't been able to visit much because of the combination of his "busyness" and all the wires and equipment in the room. It made my day when the OT said we could plan a time to make cookies with him while I continued on bed rest. 

For today, I think movies are in order around here. It's looking like a rainy day ahead, and Brody will love the chance to watch movies. Brecken doesn't sit still for much, but maybe some puzzles and books will hold him still for a little while. 

Thankfully, my parents and the rest of my family live close, and they are always willing to help. We are SO thankful for my parents, but we worry two boys will wear them out after a certain amount of time!

As for me,  if I end up on full bed rest again, I've developed a list of things I can do instead of silently stressing, like I did most of last time.
  • finish the boys' baby books (um, yes, it's about time)
  • create our 2014 family yearbook
  • read dumb, mind-stupifying books 
  • read some classics
  • do a Bible study
  • write more
  • create a photo book for Clementine
  • learn Lingala (C's language)
  • remind myself how to parent a newborn
  • figure out where all of our baby stuff is (we let other people use it...I just don't remember who!)
  • actually finish a Pinterest project (How many have I started? Approximately 237.)
  • make a rag banner for Baby Girl's nook in our room
  • create vocabulary cards with pics of daily activities and objects for Clementine
  • make little girl accessories (headbands, bracelets, necklaces, bows, ahhh!)
  • sleep
  • re-read Don't Make Me Count to Three
  • watch all the dumb/classic movies I have never made time to sit down for (I only recently watched Dirty Dancing, people...)
  • learn how to sew something
  • plan next summer's husband-and-wife-only getaway (I'm pretty sure Brad is already thinking about this possible necessity. So who wants to watch our four kids?)
  • not stress
  • con people into doing my laundry and dishes at home, then into helping Brad finish our demo'd bathroom :o)
  • ask for that OT to visit me and get a cookie-baking party on the books sooner. (The fact that Brody was nearby and I could not hug him or do an activity that helped keep him busy and happy was KILLER last time.)
Any other great ideas from those of you who have had to rest for a while? 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

dance party

Dance party in our kitchen.

Happening right now. (Dancing to Taylor Swift, in case you were wondering...my boys--all boys, let's be honest--love her.)

I awoke to a slew of announcements on Facebook stating that DRC announced the end of the Exit Letter Suspension. This news is huge, and it serves as a quasi-confirmation of all the good rumors we have been hearing since mid-April and the positive stories I shared in yesterday's post.

It seems that the end of the suspension is official. (Yet, see my disclaimer at the end of this post...) Kids will come home "soon." We are still waiting to see how this all plays out. With over a thousand cases involved in the wait, there are plenty of logistics to be worked out in DRC, and there are plenty of anxious families who have been waiting, crying, and holding their breath since September 2013 (over 600 days). Some of those families were literally one piece of paper away from bringing their kids home, and they have stuck it out amongst a myriad of temptations to run away, dissolve adoptions, or cheat the system, thus putting other families and their children at risk.

A few good sources say that children will begin coming home NEXT WEEK. As I shared yesterday, some sources say 40 children will go home next week. Because of the sources, I assume those children will be going home to French/European families. To me, it doesn't really matter WHO is going home; it just matters that KIDS WILL BE JOINING THEIR FAMILIES SOON.

And that means that "soon" Sweet Clementine will be with us. Soon is so relative. 

I hope the families who have been waiting the longest get their kids home first. Some have been waiting three or four years since they began the adoption process. They need their kids home. Their kids need to be home with them. Healing needs to begin now.

So we will wait and see, as has become our custom in adoption. We are still waiting for our court documents to be corrected (argh...they were completed incorrectly in OCTOBER) so we can file paperwork in DRC requesting the US to do a mandatory investigation into Clementine's orphan status.

Before the suspension, these US investigations were taking 6-9 months, which is purely unacceptable. We have heard that with the lifting of the suspension USCIS will add new employees to expedite the process. We hope and pray that's the case. There is no reason for the US to be the reason kids are separated from their families after this excruciatingly long wait.

We hope to file the paperwork in mid-June, meaning we would then be waiting on the US to investigate and clear her to receive a visa, THEN we could request to bring her home from DRC.

For now, we are trying to get one girl--Clementine--home soon, and we are trying to keep one girl--the little bun growing in my oven--out of our home until August. (I'm getting weekly progesterone shots in hopes that we don't repeat a 9-week premature birth scenario like we had with Brecken.)

As an aside, things are aligning almost exactly as I predicted: Brad will probably be in DRC filing paperwork, meeting our little girl, and/or bringing her home as I go into labor here. (Skype birth, anyone?) I WILL NOT complain if that's the hand we are dealt. At least that would mean our family will be together faster than we could have imagined, which has been my prayer! 

And finally, I must admit that I did something I probably once said I'd never do. I caved and bought my first set of matching outfits for our girls. I suppose this was bound to happen.


For now, we are praising God and praying for more goodness. 

(For further info, take a look at our adoption timeline to get an idea of what this process has been like...it's not fully updated, as there has been plenty to update lately!)

**Just as I hit "Post" on this blog, I received an email from our Department of State saying that the DRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated to Embassy officials that the suspension has not, in fact, been lifted. Some news organizations might have mistaken the official request for dossiers in DRC to be the end of the suspension. I believe if the suspension is not lifted today, it will be lifted soon; we just don't have the "official" announcement we thought we had this morning. Still dancing here. Just not "officially" going joyfully berserk. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

small glimpses of HOPE

So much to say.

It has (seemingly) been an eventful week-ish in DRC and among hundreds of families whose children have been stuck in DRC. (As of yesterday, children who had been adopted before September 25, 2013, have been stuck 600 days! This is unbelievable.)

Let's begin with news of last week. We saw a clip of a TV show in which Jules Kidinda (a Congolese news personality/journalist perhaps?) shared a piece focusing on the situation of French families whose children were stuck in DRC. The show was AMAZING, as it shed a whole new light on the adoption situation and potentially helped DRC citizens see what adoption is truly about. Many DRC citizens have been led to believe that adoptive families adopt children from DRC to use them, abuse them, eat them, re-home them, or treat them as sub-par family members who are not loved as much as biological children. This TV show, however, showed adopted children being pampered by their new families, smiling, and flourishing. In  as opposed to some of the lies about adoptive families that they have been fed. From what I gather from the piece, Jules spent a week in France filming adoptive families and concluded that:

The French adoptive parents show love immeasurable compared to what I thought and what is commonly imagined in my country.
A translation of the remaining part of the article (which can be found here) reads as follows: 

"Jules Kidinda himself explained that 'adopted children are better loved than in Congolese families,'" summarizes Maurice Labaisse, who recalled that "the Congolese do not adopt" and even collected nephews were " never the same status as biological children. " And still insist on living conditions "disastrous" in Congolese orphanages.

The issue seems to have surprised and moved the Congolese population. "We were contacted to intervene in two television news next week," said the founder of Family Life, which in 2014 obtained the International Balzan Prize for Humanity, peace and brotherhood among peoples.

"Speaking to the public, it was hoped to talk to politicians. After two years of intense international pressure, the Congolese government has finally decided to release all the records that have already received an adoption order. "

DID YOU SEE THAT LAST PART?! "The Congolese government has finally decided to release all the records that have already received an adoption order." 

We still didn't (and don't) know exactly what that meant, but we received more positive news in the following days that indicate something is happening. 

On Friday, we received an email from our Department of State requesting that dossiers (official court documents, not just the dossiers adoptive parents compiled at the beginning of their adoptions) to be dropped of with DRC officials for a review of some sort. It was, again, more positive news but still somewhat vague about what was happening. 

Saturday, there was this news article. The most significant line: "This Saturday in Champsecret, during a day organized by the authorized body for adoption (OAA) Family Life , the deputy head of cabinet in the Ministry of Gender, Family and Children of the DRC, Ms. Berthe Kaya Bongo has officially announced the resumption of the adoption of children between his country and the world."

More articles saying essentially the same thing followed. 

And this morning before I even got out of bed, there was this article

The most intriguing lines said this (translated): "After a two-year moratorium, these children are reassured to leave the DRC in June. Everything is ready. The latest official formalities have been completed on 12 May at the various Embassies concerned by the adoption of children went to the General Directorate of Migration (DGM) to submit complete applications by nationals of their countries covered by the protective measure. According to some information intersected, there fifty children treated files. About 40 have already been approved by the DGM for a departure early June. The others will follow. It is only a matter of time." 

This article went on to say that 1300 adoption cases would be reviewed in the next two months.

This has begun quite a scurry of activity, speculation, excitement and joy amongst adoptive families, yet we still do not have a formal announcement of the end of the Exit Letter Suspension. In addition, a US Embassy worker reiterated the fact that DRC has stated the the suspension is still in place and has not been lifted. 

So....this leaves us with a lot of questions. I'm taking these articles as signs of great things coming, but I'm also taking everything with a grain of salt. The process of getting all kids home will take longer than we hope, the processes to get kids home will be harder and more complicated than it seems, and we will still be waiting. 

BUT, we definitely have HOPE that amazing things are coming, that our Clementine is coming HOME relatively soon. I continued to pray that God moves things so quickly that we can't catch our breath. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

breathless

It started as a sort of breathlessness.

A walk up the stairs...breathless.

A walk to the mailbox...breathless.

A normally bearable workout...extremely breathless.

Then it was what I thought was a panic attack on Christmas Eve. We went through a car wash. (Yes, on Christmas Eve...these are things we do.) The doors closed around us, and I felt trapped, panicked, and suddenly aware that I couldn't get out, even if I had to. I thought of the oxygen in the car and felt myself heaving to breathe in desperation. In a silent panic, I turned the heat in the car off as my body temperature rose in anxiety. I loosened my clothes and, realizing I was going to pass out if I didn't calm myself, I turned around to talk to Brecken, attempting to fake my way back to calm.

"Brecken, isn't this fun?" I looked around, trying to see the car wash as an adventure of colored foam and clean water.

Gradually, as I focused on him, my breath returned and slowed to a normal rate. Brad hadn't even noticed my craziness, and I hesitantly told him about it a few days after the fact, fearing that I would seem--well--crazy.

I couldn't figure out the source of my anxiety...yes, we are going through a crazy stressful adoption and yes, Christmas sometimes causes anxiety for thousands of families around the U.S. because there are just SO MANY things to do. But why this sudden panic?

I can always manage stress, although I don't always manage it well. I have been stressed before...Plenty of times before, actually. I spent approximately one entire decade in stress (due to my own disobedience/lack of full trust in God, truthfully). I usually handle stress well, or at least handle it, meaning I come up with lists of solutions and possible plans, sometimes followed by a quick cry or a run to get it out of my system. I have never had such an adverse reaction to stress or anxiety.

This was clearly different. Even after Christmas, I noticed a marked difference in my breathing. I was AWARE of breaths I was taking. As a little girl, I used to take deep breaths, as I sometimes worried I wasn't breathing enough. That childhood awkwardness was YEARS ago, and I haven't felt that sensation since.

Next, I started feeling stomach-gross. The stomach flu was going around my family, and when I began feeling icky I assumed the flu was coming for me. I spent a few extra minutes of my day lying around to make sure I had energy to fight the thing off. The full flu never came, yet my belly continued to disagree with me, not violently, but in a way that I knew it was dealing with something.

Meanwhile, our trip to New York was approaching, and I was worried I would experience another "panic attack" on the plane. I hate attention, and panic-attack-induced attention would have devastated and embarrassed me for months. I began thinking about whether or not I could take something to make me sleep--or at least relax--on the plane. My mom used to take Dramamine (the real stuff, not the non-drowsy version) for motion sickness on plane rides, so I thought that might be an option to make me so sleepy I wouldn't notice that the airplane was enclosed tightly with no escape.

Then I noticed some other symptoms, and as my belly continued to be upset with me and I continued to experience breathlessness, along with the new symptoms, it dawned on me that I might have something serious going on.

A pregnancy test confirmed.

Let me tell you... a positive pregnancy test is never a promise that I will have a baby nine months later. When you've experienced a couple of miscarriages and a super-premie, a positive pregnancy test leaves you with one feeling: breathlessness.

I told Brad about the test, and while we were amused and I was relieved to have a source of the symptoms, there was no sense of exuberance, nor was there a sense that we needed to dream of or plan for a future with another baby in our house (or possibly two additional babies, IF Sweet C comes home in 2015). Sure, we were happy about the possibility of a baby, but the excitement was restrained for the time being. I had several weeks (of first trimester semi-torture) before getting past the normal breaking point of pregnancy, and I've learned that it's best not to plan too far in advance when I'm pregnant. Planning ahead, dreaming of a baby, and listing possible names always have the possibility of lingering heartache in the end.

Clearly, I didn't take any sort of medicine for the plane ride to NYC, instead opting to make sure I listened to calming music and considering the many other flights I've taken without an anxious incident. While in NYC, I spent my time willing myself out of breathlessness, exhaustion and nausea while we rode and trudged through our days on the streets with some of the most putrid smells in America. I also tried to remember the subway routes back to our place so I could get home in a hurry in case of miscarriage.

We made it home without incident, where I tried to spend my days doing virtually nothing but catching up on laundry, watching Gilmore Girls, and keeping my belly stable. (Turns out I also had a sinus infection, which took me down hard and lingered for about three weeks until I finally begged for medicine.)

By the way, "moody" and "irritable" are words that are often used to describe the first few months of pregnancy. I believe those are the wrong words in my case. "Moodiness" implies a fluctuation between moods of joyful and unhappy. In reality, I see no fluctuation in mood. In my experience, "annoyed" and "irritated" are more accurate reflections of my constant state. I would also add "antisocial." Poor Brad. Poor Brody and Brecken. Poor everyone else in my life.

I finally made it past the first trimester and felt it again, that breathlessness. Not only in the physical sense, but also in the sense that, YES, we would have another baby. And YES, we would have four kids ages four and under. And YES, God was planning something great for our future, despite our lack of understanding, our hard months of waiting for Clementine, and our doubts about the road ahead. That, in and of itself, is enough to leave me breathless for several months and even years to come.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

the right questions

My husband shared his observation with me one night several months ago: He has noticed that the wisest men around him ask the right questions. Not just theoretical questions or hypothetical questions. They ask real questions, they ask good questions, and they seek answers.

Not only that, but they listen to the answers.

Since he shared that revelation, it has been on my mind a lot. I don't think it's an accident that he shared it in a time period where I was struggling to figure out the whole parenting/discipline thing (And here's a good question for you: When am I NOT struggling to figure that out?).

His observation began to connect the dots for me between parenting, discipling, being a Christ-follower, relating to others, and being a good wife. (Let me state this right up front: I am in no way good in any of the roles above, nor have I "figured it out.")

Questions are an important part of understanding. Furthermore, the right questions are paramount in identifying issues of the heart, evaluating the understanding of others, and developing mutual trust.

This has become clear to me in many different areas, but the most poignant of all, for me, is in parenting.

For the past few months, the boys have been sleeping sideways on a queen-sized bed. This was a change from their twin beds a few months ago, which they were just pushing together anyway (and it was tough getting into Brecken's bed between the wall and Brody's bed with this little belly of mine growing daily).

The shared bedroom, and now shared bed, has created some crazy, frustrating, extra-long bedtimes. In short, bedtime has been "bidiculous," as Brody would say. Sometimes it's a cute kind of ridiculous, as in giggling and singing and tiny voices telling stories into the night, and sometimes even little visitors in our room asking questions to stall.

Other times, however, it is a frustrating kind of bidiculous, as in boys kicking each other under the covers, loud talking, and their extra trips to the bathroom. Ridiculous, as in consequence after consequence until my whole body was on edge, tense, angry that they are being so disobedient and lacking self control.

And when my patience could not handle one more second of frustrating ridiculous, I would get out of my own cozy bed to launch myself into a lecture full of wagging fingers, hands on hips and scolding. "I have told you to be quiet and go to bed. I have told you to stop touching each other. I have told you..." My voice raises as I recount all the ways they aren't living up to my standard for them, and their eyes widen but are no more enlightened.

Sometimes I would even ask questions. "Why are you disobeying?" "Why can't you just go to sleep without problems?" "What is the problem in here?"

Monday night I was in the middle of rereading my favorite parenting book (Don't Make Me Count to Three, for about the fourth time) as the boys partook in their own kinds of bidiculousness, both the cute and frustrating varieties.

Providentially, I was in Chapter 8: "Guidelines for Verbal Correction" when their bidiculousness reached and skyrocketed past my tolerance threshold. And right there, at the crossroads between my anger and my seeking answers, I noticed something new in the book I've read over and over: Questions might be the key. And the right questions are often very simple.

So I tried it out. "Brody, are you obeying or disobeying my words?" This question requires a response. It requires a probing into his mind. He must interact with my words rather than repel the wrath gushing out of me when I am in a scolding rant. He must admit his wrongdoing. (I should insert here that the right questions use the right tone and volume level, too.)

"Disobeying," he said quietly. "Brody, Mommy loves you too much to allow you to disobey. What happens when you disobey?" And then, of course, there was our set consequence for disobedience.

I am not lying...those boys did not cause another problem that night. It was so remarkable that even Brad asked what I said to them.

There was something to this questioning thing. My focus in previous readings of my parenting book had been on the topic of the child's issues (disobeying vs. obeying, being kind vs. being unkind, etc.), but after noting the questions in Chapter 8, I went back to review other topics...The right questions were present in almost every scenario of discipline.

So now I have moved my questions into other areas.

When they are telling on each other: "Brecken, could it be that you are telling me that Brody is disobeying because you want him to get into trouble? Love does not delight in evil. Instead of coming to me to tell on Brody, what could you have done to help him choose to do good?"

The examples go on and on. I'm not going to tell you that it has solved all of our problems (seriously...we are a huge work in progress), but for what it's worth, it has been absolutely MONUMENTAL in helping me relate to my children, figure out what is in their hearts, and train them in righteousness. Instead of taking deep breaths to try to calm myself before launching into another monologue about obedience (kindness, patience, self-control, etc.) to my kids, I am instead learning to find the right question about those characteristics. This not only helps me to control my exasperation, but it also forces them to interact with me and think directly about their sin. (Side note: It is very difficult instill a value of self-control when you cannot exemplify it.)

And from these small experiences in parenting, my eyes were opened to the importance of asking the right questions, which now seems to be touted everywhere. In marriage, the right questions can lead you into great discussions and greater understanding. In discipleship, we must ask the right questions to determine where disciples stand, where they're struggling, and where they lack understanding.

In following Christ, I should be asking myself the right questions, too. "Am I embodying the fruits of the Spirit, or am I living in anger, envy, selfishness, disobedience (delayed obedience), worry, anxiety, or fear?" (As an adoptive mom in the midst of a constant stressful and angst-ridden waiting game, inspecting my heart in regard to those last three traits can be KILLER. Some days I spend the majority of my time checking for updates about the DRC adoption situation, and that does not bode well for my worry, anxiety, and fear.) "Where am I not surrendering my feelings to Truth?" "Where am I not allowing God's Word to reign in my life?"

And finally, I recently stumbled across this: "The heart of the righteous studies how to answer." (Proverbs 15:28) This implies that a question has been asked of the righteous. How can our children--or anyone else, really--whom we want to be righteous, "study how to answer" without the training and experience of being asked the right questions?

That's a good question.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

hope deferred

According to an email sent from the US Embassy Kinshasa to Congresspeople last week, we were supposed to hear something about the DRC adoption crisis today. According to an email sent to DRC adoptive parents, we are supposed to hear something by the end of this week, at the very latest.

It is, apparently, supposed to be good news, or at least a hint of good news and what the process will look like from now on.

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick; but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life." -- Proverbs 13:12