Thursday, August 27, 2015

not your average monday

I guess you could say our Monday was eventful.

To sum it up quickly, Monday featured an email from the Embassy regarding Clementine's case, a scheduled induction for Baby O, an update on Clementine's health, and good news about visas for adopted children in DRC, all within a number of hours.

My induction was scheduled for 7:30 am on Monday, and when I woke up around 5:45 I did what I always do: checked email. I saw something from the Embassy in DRC. The email's title: Case Cleared for an Interview. I quickly opened it and read enough to see that we had PASSED our I-604 investigation. (You might remember, our Child Finder missed his interview twice and made it to one a few weeks ago). The email stated a whole bunch of other info and details, but in all of my excitement--and the need to get ready for Baby O's arrival--I couldn't focus enough to read the whole thing. Seeing that email title was enough...enough to make me lose my breath for a second and almost gush into a round of tears right there. (You'll be happy to know I kept it together while praising the Lord for this gift over and over again.)

I did read enough of the email to see that we were given a date for Clementine's visa interview (within the next few weeks!). The only problem was that visa interviews were being scheduled and subsequently canceled due to the fact that DRC wasn't issuing passports to adopted children. (Another consequence of the Exit Letter Suspension.)

After that big victory for Clementine and for us, I got ready to leave for the hospital to be induced. Monday was my actual due date, and it was a SHOCK to all of us--my doctor included--that I made it full term, considering Brecken's 31-week arrival. We chose to induce Monday because, well, because we could.

At my last prenatal appointment my doctor asked about induction and then asked if I wanted an epidural. Yes. Yes, I did want an epidural. (I'm not necessarily a sissy, but my opinion is this: Why not?) In that case, she said, we should probably schedule an induction because after my water broke I would go FAST and might not have time for one to take affect. That pretty much made my decision for me, and I lived the last bit of pregnancy with bags fully packed and waiting in my car.

Long story short, labor was short and easy. For real. I'll be back one day soon to write about it, but from first drip of pitocin to first glimpse of Baby O it was probably less than four hours.

And then we met her: Oaklee Scout Lotz. She is a doll. (And drama-free so far, which is more than we can say about the entrances of our other three kids. Compared to Brody's crazy adoption, Brecken's early arrival and Clementine's STUCK status in DRC...Oaklee's entrance was EASY.)


Within an hour of Oaklee's arrival, I opened my phone to take pics and check email again (habit). I had an email from our agency: News about Clementine's health. The test results from the swollen throat I wrote about last week showed that Clementine has TB. As I read through the email, the nurses in our nice clean hospital room scrubbed Oaklee and checked her over as I struggled to hold myself together. Here we were with a perfectly healthy baby and excellent access to health care while our other daughter, just as loved, was faced with a serious health issue and no one to hold her through it and ensure she has every possible way of thriving through it.

This diagnosis blindsided us. We didn't see it coming, and we knew nothing about what she will be up against. With a few hours of research, we have found that it will require at least six months of treatment. The treatment will need to be diligent, consistent and precise or the TB will change to become more resistant to treatment and do more long-term damage. This is the scariest part for me, because we can't do a thing to ensure that her treatments are consistent and prioritized.

I'll be writing more about the TB later on, as well. It's a lot to process, especially with everything else we have going on.

Lastly, we got another email from the Embassy later Monday afternoon. This email stated that visa interviews would now continue in DRC without the need for passports for adopted children. This is huge, as it means that interviews won't be canceled when children don't present passports. For us, it means that Clementine's appointment should produce an actual visa a few short weeks after her interview, leaving us lacking only a passport and Exit Letter.

And that was our Monday...plenty of rejoicing, plenty of grieving, plenty of thinking, and plenty of hoping. Overall, plenty of things to pray about. Please pray and praise with us.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

pensive

The mood around our house can best be described as pensive.

We are waiting for Baby O to make her grand entry. Her "nook" in our master bedroom is ready and waiting. Clothes washed. Floors cleaned. Even the master bathroom remodel is almost done. There's literally nothing I can do in there without Brad's help, so I'm just twiddling my thumbs around here while the boys run around like the two crazy kids they are.

We are waiting to hear from the Embassy in DRC regarding our Child Finder Interview and investigation. HOPING and PRAYING they have good news for us that we passed the investigation and are ready to get Clementine's visa.

And as of this morning, we are waiting to find out about a mysterious swollen throat and jawline on Clementine. We got an email from our agency saying she was sick and they tried to take her to the hospital to be checked, but without upfront payment they turned her away. Our agency wired the money this morning and in-country staff will try to access the money to take her back to the hospital tonight.

There are several nuances involved here that would not be happening if she were here with us, her family. She would have nearly immediate access to great medical care. She would not be refused treatment without upfront payment (because we, her family, could find a way to pay AND because the U.S. doesn't refuse care like that). Also, she probably wouldn't have this medical issue if she were here. (My preliminary "research" leads me to believe she has mumps, but I am waiting to hear from a doctor here.)

Lastly, she'd have a mama and daddy to hold her through this.

This waiting stinks. All of it. Please pray Clementine is kept safe and makes a quick return to health.

Friday, August 14, 2015

i'm feelin' it, friday

My friend sent this to me the other day. Sooooo accurate...

From Pinterest, of course.
I was way off in my prediction that I'd bust this girl out around July 25. In hindsight, I should have planned on carrying her to September 1, just so I'd (hopefully) be happily surprised by something earlier. (And for the record, I NEED to have her out of there by September 1, because that's when my non-insurance insurance--Christian Medi-Share--Annual Household Max starts over for the year.)

How's my sleep, you ask? It's neat, averaging around 2.5 hours a night. :o)

The silver lining here is that we've had more time to finish this silly bathroom remodel before Baby O gets here. (Imagine a 9-month-pregnant lady on her hands and knees wiping grout lines...because that's been me.) The tile and grout is in, and all we have to do before we move one of the 12 dressers residing in our bedroom into the bathroom is to seal the grout and place the trim. Woot woot.

That is all. Carry on. (Easier for you than me, at this point!)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

thankful

Finally, some good news to pass along. We received word from our agency that our Child Finder Interview with the Embassy in Kinshasa--which took three tries--went well yesterday! Praise the Lord!

Seriously, praising the Lord over here.

We haven't heard from the Embassy regarding the status of our investigation yet, but we are hopeful this means we passed and our paperwork was approved, meaning Clementine will be visa-(or at least visa interview-) ready. Holding our breath a bit here, but we are hopeful.

On the DRC adoption crisis front, we had a conference call yesterday with Assistant Secretary of Consular Affairs Michelle Bond, who traveled to DRC last week to meet with key leaders in the adoption sector over there. I can't necessarily say that her meetings went swimmingly, BUT the picture that was painted on Monday afternoon seemed fairly more negative than Tuesday's conference call information made the situation seem. Yes, it is not a great situation, but Bond has a great handle on the climate and politics at play in DRC, and it was nice to hear of her dedication to our kids who are stuck there, despite the many hurdles to be crossed.

Overall, the situation is not great, and there continues to be conflicting information and many negative attitudes that hamper adoption progress in DRC. We HOPE and PRAY that their adoption commission actually meets this Friday and officially approves cases to get Exit Letters and GET KIDS HOME. We are not holding our breath on this, as we have done before, but our greatest desire is to see kids come home to families.

Along the lines of good news and continual prayers, I must tell you that my prayers have shifted significantly in the last few weeks. I've been completing the One Thousand Gifts Devotional. by Ann Voskamp, and something finally clicked the other day: True thankfulness in prayer. Yes, I have generally said thank you to God when I begin my prayers..."Thank you for this, thank you for that...blah blah blah," but it has been half-hearted and overly general, at best.

I have even been making a list of things I'm thankful for (currently at 170 things), but in my haste I have not actually stopped to specifically thank God for those things. How silly and ridiculous of me. As if writing words in the back of a book are enough to convey my gratitude to God for His lavishing of gifts upon me.

Voskamp reminded me, though, of this:

"In every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." -- Philippians 4:6

I often forget thanksgiving in all of my moaning and groaning to God.

Voskamp also reminded me that, when Daniel was thrown into a den of scary blood-thirsty lions, he "got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before" (Daniel 6:10).

He was in a pit, possibly a pit of despair like the one in which I often find myself regarding this adoption, but he gave thanks to God just as he had done before.

We have plenty to thank Him for--including Sweet Clementine's giggles and Brad's time with her and Baby O who still refuses to make her appearance, and Genuine Brody who loves so freely and Sassy Brecken who gave hugs and high fives and long conversations to absolute strangers today--and I am now seeing the importance of gratitude in my daily walk down this long road.

I am thankful, even for this hard thing. In this ugly, detestable, unjust, disheartening, pain of waiting in adoption, I can see the beauty of moms and dads fighting with every ounce for their children because of God's great love for them. That's a beautiful thing.

And yet, even more beautiful than the fight of moms and dads, is the knowledge that, while we are fighting an uphill battle, the battle truly belongs to the Lord. This has always been clear and known to us, but it is now something that we cannot take for granted. It is His battle. And He is the one who makes all things beautiful.

Monday, August 10, 2015

on our knees again

Once again, a few things to be on our knees about:

1. We have our make-up Child Finder interview tomorrow. This will be the third try to get this done, as the person who was to be interviewed (who found Clementine) did not show up to the last interview and supposedly wasn't allowed into the Embassy the first time. (We have heard it is very common for these interviews to take a few tries over there.

-- Please pray with us that he gets to his interview (and is allowed in) and can provide plenty of accurate information for Embassy officials to approve our case. (Once we are approved, Clementine will receive a visa interview appointment and--hopefully--be declared visa-ready. At this point, DRC kids are not being given passports, thus disabling them from receiving visas.

2. We have a conference call with the Department of State tomorrow regarding the state of adoptions in DRC. Assistant Secretary of Consular Affairs Michelle Bond traveled to DRC last week to discuss the crisis with several officials there, and we have heard conflicting reports about how those meetings went. One report says an official told Bond that all cases had been reviewed by the commission, meaning families should be be notified "soon" regarding their status and possible Exit Letters. Another--more negative--report stated that the DRC official wasn't truthful with Bond and only about 140 cases have been reviewed by the commission.

Even if the more positive of the two reports is true, we still don't know what the process for receiving Exit Letters will be moving forward, since this commission and review is a totally new step in the process.

Furthermore, we were told all cases would be reviewed by the end of July, and we have been told since April they hoped to get kids home "soon." No kids have come yet, but ANOTHER has died while waiting.

If you need me,  you'll find me on my knees or in Labor & Delivery.

*More info on the latest happenings in DRC adoptions:
http://www.honeybunchesoflotz.com/2015/07/in-this-valley.html
http://www.honeybunchesoflotz.com/2015/06/when-will-she-be-home.html
http://www.honeybunchesoflotz.com/2015/05/dance-party.html (When we thought kids were coming home "next week.")

**An article from the New York Times about upcoming elections in DRC that will undoubtedly cause all sorts of trouble in DRC that will likely affect our kids and possibly even put them in danger. This is yet ANOTHER reason these kids need to be home NOW. --http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/08/09/world/africa/congolese-see-no-end-to-presidents-final-term.html?emc=edit_tnt_20150809&nlid=59345285&tntemail0=y&_r=1&referrer

Friday, August 7, 2015

2.5 pregnancies

I'm still pregnant. (I really can't believe it.)

The day I thought I'd deliver Baby O came and went. And now it's so far gone I don't even remember what I did that day instead.

I haven't even hit the magical 40-week mark, and I'm READY to hold this baby. (I'm a few days from 38 weeks, if you're wondering.)

It's nice to know, however, that the day I'll hold her is coming, and it's coming soon. Even if I pass my due date, it will still be within this month.

Imagine not having a due date.

That's how this adoption feels. Actually, this adoption feels like we have had several due dates, and we've passed every single one of them without a hint of a new one.

The original process was supposed to take 6-9 months total. That would have put Clementine in my arms in the same amount of time it takes most babies to grow en utero. That would have put her in my arms in early July 2014, at the very latest.

That date came and went.

Her first birthday was July 25, 2014. That date came and went, too.

When DRC said they were halting the issuance of Exit Letters in September 2013, they said it could last UP TO one year. September 2014, one year later, came and went. She still didn't come join our family.

Christmas 2014 came and went, too. It would have been such a joy to take her to family gatherings, buy her gifts, show her off in sweet little frilly Christmas dresses, and let her eat my mom's famous Christmas brunch. But she still wasn't able to come to join our family.

April 2015...We were told kids would be given Exit Letters "soon." Officials alluded to July 2015 as the due date for reviewing files and getting all kids home with their families.

Brad was able to meet her, hold her, and love her in DRC for three glorious days. It was like feeling the kicks and hiccups and seeing the face of Baby O in my belly, but it was even more real and out of my grasp. Clementine has a personality, likes and dislikes, bonds, sass, a beautiful smile...(and some truly awesome hair). We thought she'd join us very soon

The end of July, a very hard month, came and went. No kids were given Exit Letters. The process continues to change, the due date being pushed back each time. Promises keep getting broken.

We have been "expecting" her for nearly 680 days...that's the length of nearly 2.5 pregnancies. It's hard on a heart. It's hard on a body, too, in case you're wondering. (Lots of chocolate and ice cream consumed on those hard days of waiting.) Other parents have been waiting nearly three years to get that Exit Letter...that one piece of paper that says their children can leave the country.

Sometimes it's hard to be present with the kids we already have and love. I have been testy lately. My kids have felt the sting of my disappointment in this wait for two babies. It bubbles out in my wrath over spilled milk (no crying, but there is definitely a harsh exhale of breath as I clean another mess). It bubbles out in my impatience over seat belts that aren't fastened yet, books that aren't put away yet, pillows scattered on the floor. It bubbles into my thinking, my inability to express myself or answer 700 questions patiently, or help them get another drink.

This waiting is tiring. It weighs heavily. It hurts, and keeps me up at night. It's uncomfortable.

It's nice to have a due date for one little girl, but it's so hard to carry the weight of another sweet, precious child across the ocean.

Dear Lord, thank you for the four beautiful children in our family, even if they aren't all here yet. Please provide peace and patience. Please remind me that you are completely in control, that when you say "It's go time," the timing will be perfect and exactly what you've always had in mind. Please provide rest for the crazy journey ahead. Please help Clementine know that we love her and are waiting for her. Please keep both babies safe and healthy. Please hold us through this wait. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

no show

We spent much of the weekend at the lake with friends. It was good to get away, but it was also good to not be so far away that A) We couldn't still make it to Labor & Delivery if needed, and B) I couldn't still check my email for adoption news. 

I woke up early on Friday morning and immediately checked my email for adoption updates, just in case. I wasn't necessarily expecting anything, but it's a habit I've developed over the last two years. 

(Adoptive parent salute...this is how we roll: Wake up--check email. Check Facebook group board for movement in DRC adoptions. Email notification chimes--check email again. Finish breakfast--check email. Clean up breakfast mess--check spam folder, just in case. And so on and so on, until we finally close our eyes at night after one last email check.)

It was 6:30 AM, which means it was 12:30 PM DRC-time. I saw an email from the Embassy in my inbox, but before I could get to it my phone died. (Darn that vacation-mode forgetfulness of not bringing regular charging devices. Heart racing with the possibility of news regarding our Child Finder interview on Thursday, I headed out to the car to charge my phone.

A few minutes felt like hours until my phone finally had enough charge in it to function. I slid it into email mode and opened it, then my heart sank. Our Child Finder (the person who found sweet, abandoned Baby Clementine in DRC), didn't make it to his appointment. Again. Last time he said the guards didn't have his name so he couldn't get it. This time, I don't know what happened. 

It's so disheartening to have no explanation of why he didn't show and, most importantly, to have no control over whether or not he will ever show up for this appointment in the future. 

The good news is I didn't come undone with the bad news this time, as I did with the first missed appointment. After all, we had the lake to enjoy, and I have realized that it isn't right--particularly for my family--to let delays like this that are out of my control take over my attitude, emotions and sanity. 

After all, we are not the first ones to experience this sort of thing. Several other adoptive parents said this has happened to them, and it took multiple tries to have a successful appointment. 

That said, it's still difficult for me to understand what is happening in this situation. To me, an appointment at an Embassy is a HUGE deal. If I were in this man's shoes, I would take the appointment and my confirmation of attending it very seriously. However, a very flexible and fluid schedule seems to be a cultural thing in DRC. Add to that the CRAZY traffic situation, and it seems plausible that "something came up" to impede him from attending his second appointment.

I have requested another appointment (third time), and I continue to pray that he shows up for it and provides clear information about the night he found our daughter. (I will also be begging my agency to send someone to help him get to his appointment.) 

I'm not sure what will happen if he never shows, and I do not want to find out. Furthermore, we need to get her visa ASAP so that if anything were to shift in favor of Exit Letters given to all we can get her in her permanent HOME with us. We miss her terribly, and three of us haven't even met her yet.