Love makes me grow

This month, Abby turned one year old. During that time, our posts have been few and far between. Have you noticed?

We went through droughts with nothing to say during our adoption process, usually when there wasn’t much happening. But this time is different.

Several weeks ago, Kristi and I started talking about the blog. How great of an experience it was and how amazed we were by the comments and clicks we received. This story was really told for the child we had not met yet, as well as our children who were living the experience. We aren’t good scrapbookers or videographers. And we quickly forget many of the good tales of parenthood as the years crash by. This was our way of capturing the experience.

But the more we talked about what to post next, the more we realized that Adding to the Family was finished. We are there now. We are a family. She is part of us and we are part of her, and now our stories are all wrapped up together.

Sure, we will have (and already are having) experiences unique to adoptive families. Everything from hair products to birth order issues to cultural celebrations to new support networks. But we feel that those are different stories, ones that we will leave to others to share.

So this will be our last significant blog post. The last chapter. The swan song.

Let us use this opportunity to update you on Abby. It’s no longer a baby announcement, but the introduction of our daughter.

She is growing.

In the first few months with us, she quickly moved from the 10th percentile in height and weight to the 40th in height and 80th in weight. Now she is up to the between 75th and 85th in these categories – on track to match her big American siblings. She loves her bottles, is experimenting with “big people” food, and has eaten lots and lots of the little “puffs” that she picks up and rolls around with her little pincer fingers. Speaking of puffy, her hair has gotten bigger and rounder, but still so soft that it’s hard not to touch. It takes a lot of care, but even she likes to bury a couple of fingers into it as she falls asleep. It’s heavenly.

She loves to be held (especially by Mom).

The Special Mothers at Hannah’s Hope in Ethiopia wrote this descriptor down in her paperwork. Part of our cocooning process has been to indulge her all the time – always be there for her so she knows she can rely on us. Well, it worked. She looks for us and smiles at us and we squeeze her even tighter. Don’t get me wrong – she has her time on the floor or in a seat, jumping and moving and rolling. But when her bursts of energy are spent, she wants to be in our arms.

     

She is loved.

Our kids can’t stay away, and even though it can be a problem, it’s a good problem. Neither can we. We try to catch her gaze in the room. We talk to her and sing to her. She stops strangers in their tracks, who want to see her up close and hear our story, which we love to tell. Her sleep/eat/play cycles blend with us, and we are starting to get out and do things as a family.

It’s easy to say that fresh air and American food make babies grow. But we suspect that love and stability have more to do with it. She is happy and thriving and so are we. The pictures below help tell the story.

Thanks to all of you who made this journey with us. Your comments and emails and prayers and advice lifted us up and kept us excited, even when it seemed like our girl was a long way off. You are now part of our family too.

Love,

Jesse, Kristi, Hannah, Elliot, Logan … and Abby

December 23, 2010

 

 

Going Home

Abby did great on the flight, better than me in fact. The traveler’s flu finally caught up with me and I suffered through the first flight, and half way through the second before another couple offered a medicine that knocked me out, and began to knock out the sickness too.

 ***

There was one last bright spot to wrap up the trip. That morning, Almaz and our friends from Colorado decided they would pull their daughter from the hospital and take her home that night as originally scheduled. She was still on oxygen, but could bring a tank along on the plane in case she needed it.

We were all very relieved, as the alternative would’ve been very rough on our friends. One parent would have to leave the other one behind, and hope for a quick recovery. However, tickets out would’ve been nearly impossible to secure.

Almaz spent the day running all over the city to get the permissions to make this happen, and our friends were rushing around to get everything ready to make the flight. They were on a different airline than us, but Kristi saw them through a glass window as we went to our gate. They held up a bright-eyed girl, and pointed to a nurse who would be on the flight with them. They were all smiles. Their child was going home now.

***

We rolled into Grand Rapids after the long journey, tired and excited. A huge crowd waited for us, including our kids, who all seemed a little bit older. They had decorated shirts with the African continent outlined, and Abby’s name written on them.

There were balloons and flowers and hugs and kisses, just like we imagined. The first group of friends and family got to meet Abby before we went home to begin our “cocooning” process. Another group of neighbors met us outside our house with a handmade sign.

At long last, our journey to adoption was now complete. We were home. She was home. Now a new journey is beginning.

Court day tomorrow (tonight)

If you read the last blog post, you know that tomorrow is a big day for us. It’s our chance to get our adoption approved by the Ethiopian courts.

In fact, Ethiopia is eight hours ahead of us, so dawn is breaking and the courts will open up soon.

We are realistic that often you don’t pass the first time. If anything is wrong with your paperwork, it gets kicked back and you have to reschedule, usually for the next month. Not the end of the world, but a longer wait to bring her home. There are also some new policy changes that could prolong the process.

At the same time, hopes are high and she has been on our minds today.

Thanks to everyone out there who is praying with us. Times like these make us realize that this is not just our journey. We share it with other friends and family, and lots of other adoptive families.

Stay tuned …

Jesse

Going to court

So, last Tuesday, two weeks after our referral call, I was out enjoying the beautiful sunny day. I was chatting with neighbors and my phone rang. Our case manager called with some more good news. We had already been assigned a court date in Ethiopia. On March 15 we are going to court!

Why is court significant? That is when your child legally becomes yours.

What has to happen to pass court? First, there needs to be a letter of recommendation from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs recommending our case to the judge. Also, a member of the birth family needs to appear before the judge.

Do you always pass? No. Sometimes the letter does not make it to the court on time. Sometimes the birth family does not come or they might come but have improper identification. If you do not pass, you get rescheduled two to five weeks later. We are prepared for the very real possibility that we won’t pass the first time, but we are going to pray that we do.

What happens after you pass? Wait for an embassy date in Ethiopia. Our agency usually has two appointment days per month. One at the beginning and one at the end. Once you get word of your date then you get ready to travel.

Disclaimer: This is an abbreviated description of the process. My brain is a bit tired as I write, so I may be leaving out a few details.

So, where do you all come into the picture during all of this? By praying our baby girl home. We ask that you join us in prayer to pass on our first attempt. In the days leading up to March 15 would you join us in praying our baby home? And if we should need another court date, would you pray that it would come quick and go smooth?

We are so thankful to all of you who are walking this journey with us. Your prayer and support has been so comforting.

Kristi

Spring breaks

The atmosphere in our home has seen a remarkable change since the referral. It’s a little scary to think how gray things seemed for the last several weeks before we received pictures of our little girl.

It’s not like we were without hope. We felt led to the adoption journey, and knew the time would come. Eventually.

The best way I can describe it is to compare it with winter in West Michigan. There is a period of flat, gray skies, dirty windshields, an underlying coldness in your bones in the weeks following the holidays. It can be opressive and monotonous, no matter what your home and work activity level is.

But in late February, or sometimes early March, you get a warm-up day. It may be only 35 or 40 degrees, but something triggers in your body. You notice that the days are longer, that the snow may still be coming, but it melts off the streets quicker. The birds are more vocal and there is a different smell in the air.

No, you’re not to spring yet. That may still be another month or more, but you have reached a milestone that gives you the strength to make it. And you know that when it does, it will bring out the best in Michigan, where nature spreads itself out, our spirits rise, as does our energy level and our hope for the brilliance and joy that the changing of the seasons will bring.

The referral is not the end of the line, but it is a shift in attitude for us. As strange as it may sound, we have passed a cold, gray period and that beautiful girl’s face is a symbol of springtime coming to our family.

Jesse

Wondering about her

We’re down to 27 now. Not light years, but it makes a big difference in our minds.

We could be as little as six months away from getting a referral and making travel plans to pick up our daughter. That’s not long.

Our baby has probably been conceived. Maybe she is even born by now. That’s amazing to think about. But it still seems a little far away. Abstract.

Someone else is taking care of her. That someone may not want her. Or she may not have the means to take care of her. That someone may be sick and not have the energy. Or not have a doctor.

That someone may have AIDS and is praying it won’t get passed along to her daughter, our daughter. Her family may be shunning her for getting pregnant. Her husband, or boyfriend, may abuse her. She may be sad and lonely.

She may be dreaming about the future of her daughter. She may not even know whether it’s a son or daughter yet. She may be wondering if it would be best to give up her child and let someone else raise it. She may think of America. Maybe.

I know we think about her a lot, both mother and daughter. We read all the adoption articles and books about Ethiopia by Ethiopian writers. We collect clothes and baby supplies. We finish our paperwork and update our passports. We blog.

It’s not too hard waiting, because we are pregnant with hope. And being pregnant can be pleasant too (so I hear).

While we wait, we pray for mother and daughter. And for the strength we will need.

And we count down. Tick. Tock.

Jesse

We have decided

It’s taken Kristi and I about two years to finally make the decision we made last night. And the last step? Getting the blessing from our kids!

I don’t know where the spark started. After we conceived our first healthy, happy child? Or our second. Or our third. Definitely by the time we had our third. It might have been travels and seeing the need. Statistics in the paper. Sappy movies. Watching some of our friends take the journey.

I have always liked the idea of having our own children, but adopting too. Add some to the world. Help some already in the world.

What’s been happening in the past few months is more than just some good ideas or the ticking of biological clocks. I don’t always see, or maybe just don’t recognize, when God sends me messages. And I don’t always see the big picture of my life – those threads that weave together events that seem random or frustrating or unconnected. We have seen those things and it’s a story worth telling.

I hope this blog will be a look back for us, but will also capture each step as we move forward. Our audience will probably be our family and friends. Because more and more we maintain our connections online.

But our ultimate audience will be our kids. The three who are sleeping upstairs right now, each with different imaginations of a coming little sister. Also the one who is on the way – who may be conceived now, and have no idea that there is a crazy family in the Midwestern United States planning and praying for her.

Jesse