Saturday, March 29, 2014

China's other Wonder

Today leaves me bereft of many words.  We visited the Great Wall of China and it rendered me pretty much speechless.  We have often said that the getting to Emme has oftentimes felt like moving mountains.  Today, we climbed one.  I had no clue how physically challenging it would be, how overwhelming, or how awe inspiring this feat would prove.  We were more than moved.  I will share pictures instead of words in attempt to portray the effect of this phenomenon.  

Tomorrow is THE day.  Emme day.  Hard to fathom it is finally here.  And again, words fail to portray the gamut of emotions we are flooded with.  But I am so grateful to say that the overwhelming feeling is one of peace.  We are so lucky.  We cannot wait to see her and know her and love her.  We are praying hard for Emme's little heart as she will be involuntarily taken from everything she knows and placed with strangers to her.  We hope she will be able to quickly know and feel she is safe and loved though we expect grief to come first.  We will follow her lead and give room for all she will go through, while quietly and persistently showing her how precious she is to us.   We have traveled a long road and every step has led to this day.  Cannot wait.  The Great Wall pales in comparison.

At 11am, we will fly to the capital city of Nanchang in the province of Jiangxi to meet her.  We will arrive there at 11am, check into our hotel, get settled, and hopefully meet her and her caregivers at the hotel around 4pm.  Lamaze breathing will be in order.  

We will post pictures and thoughts when we are able to, after getting our sweet girl settled.  According to her report, she loves snacks.  This mama has that covered.  Hoping she is like me, and treats are the fastest way to her heart.  Thank you all for loving us through this long journey.  Here we go!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Meeting Emme's Homeland

We made it!!!!  After a 15.5 hour flight from Newark to Hong Kong, and a connecting flight from Hong Kong to Beijing, we are here and in great spirits.

Our first day in Emme's homeland was quite a success. We landed in Beijing around 11am and our wonderful guide (who has met Emme!) was there to meet us. We went directly to the Old Beijing section of the city and hopped into a rickshaw and wound our way through the narrow streets to a local family's home where, after my first squatty-potty experience, a homemade meal was prepared and served to us. It was outta-this-world good. We then toured the cobbled streets and learned all about Chinese customs and culture. It was almost too much to absorb and take in. They move FAST, like warp speed fast. We then checked into our hotel, breathed in and out 3 times, and headed out again to a typical Chinese acrobatic show. Our minds wouldn't believe what our eyes were seeing (that, and lack of sleep might be affecting our vision). The kids would have flipped over it. We grabbed a pizza for some comfort food and are excited to finally rest so we can start again tomorrow. We are completely enthralled with this county that in one way is completely "other" and in another way, so comfortable to us. We are headed to a more remote (less touristy) section of the Great Wall in the early am. First impressions of China

1) it is LOUD-loud talking, loud honking, loud everything 
2) children are revered and catered to
3) personal space is non-existent
4) Chinese take much pride in their country and history 
5) meals are very regulated and important-no skipping them (I fit right in) 
6) you take your life in your hands anytime you wish to cross the street
7) people are not afraid to express their displeasure 
8) those with blonde hair attract about as much attention as I imagine an alien would 
9) it could take you 30 mins to go 1 mile in traffic
10) the skyline is crazy!!! Weirdest, coolest architecture
11) it is fascinating and altogether bursting with energy
12) we learned that Emme's Chinese name means "beautiful dream"

All for now. Two more sleeps to Emme. Goodnight from Beijing!

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Friends!  We are thrilled to report that we are in our final wait of this loooong process.  We are currently waiting for China to issue our official Travel Approval, giving us specific permission and dates to enter the country and bring our little one home.  We are hopeful we will receive this next week and leave the first or second week of April.  It blows my mind this is actually all happening!  We have worked so hard, prayed so hard and it is finally coming together.  Makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.  China here we come. 

Many of you have asked what our trip will look like, so here is our general itinerary: gotta say I'm exhausted just contemplating it.  But excited, even more.  

We will leave on a Thursday and fly almost 7,000 miles into the capital city of Beijing , in northern China.  It will be a 17 hour journey if we are lucky enough to get a direct flight out of New York.  And as China is a full 12 hours ahead of us, it will essentially take us an entire day to get there! We will be in Beijing for two days in order to acclimate ourselves to the time change and to visit some significant cultural sites.  We will climb the Great Wall of China and see Tiananmen Square and soak in the culture as much as we can, jet-lagged and anticipating meeting our baby girl.  

On Sunday morning, we will fly 900 miles to the city of Nanchang, in the province of Jiangxi, in southern China. This is the capital city of Jiangxi and where we will meet Emmeline.  Her orphanage is about 3 hours from Nanchang in Xinyu City, but it is not customary to go to the orphanage to meet your child.  Emme will travel by van with the orphanage director and her nanny to our hotel in Nanchang to meet her mom and dad (mama and baba in Mandarin).   Sunday evening, we will see her for the first time and she will be left in our care from that moment forward (known in the adoption world as "Gotcha Day"). 

I have replayed this moment over and over in my head.  She will most likely be very afraid and upset as we are removing her from everything familiar to her.  She may reject one or both of us and we expect her to experience intense grief and sadness.  It is actually a very good sign if this is the case, as it indicates that she made real attachments and bonds with her caretakers and will be able to attach to us, too, after she can grieve. We will do our very best to give her all the room we can to go through this process, all the while assuring her of our constant love and helping her to see that she can count on us and how much we adore her.  We know this will take time and patience to earn her trust.  As another dear adoptive mom put it, we have been pursuing her for 18 months, and that pursuit does not end in China.   We will get the opportunity, through our guide who will translate, to ask her nannies a few questions about her life in the orphanage in the few minutes we have with them, and thank them for taking care of our baby until we could.  Tears just thinking about this moment. We hope to capture it on film to share here as we are able to.  

We will stay in Nanchang for the remainder of the first week in order to complete our adoption registration with the Chinese government (after which Emme will officially be our daughter!!!!) and apply for her passport.  If we are granted permission, we will also try to visit the Social Welfare Institute (orphanage) where Emme lived the first years of her life.  Again, cannot fathom the impact of that opportunity, but we believe that it would be invaluable to us to see with our eyes and hearts the environment and people that are all she has ever known.  

On Friday, we will all travel by plane again to Guangzhou, in southernmost China (my girl and I are both from the "south" you see), where the US Consulate is located.   Here, we will apply for Emme's visa to be granted entrance to the United States.   Guangzhou has a sub-tropical climate and many beautiful gardens and sites we hope to explore together during our mandatory stay there.  Her visa application will require a medical exam on Saturday morning, and on Wednesday or Thursday, we will go to US Consulate to complete the visa application.  Then we will need to wait one more day for the consulate to process and issue her visa and we will finally able to bring her home to meet her (anxiously waiting) brothers and sister.

On Thursday or Friday, we will travel by train to Hong Kong and begin the long (approx 20 hour) 8,000 mile journey home. 

Cannot wait to update with actual travel dates.  Emme, we are on our way!  Thanks to all of you for your support and well-wishes.  It means so very much to us.  Now off to pack for a person I have never met (such a drag, all these adorable baby girl clothes) and get everything ready for 3 kiddos for 2 weeks while we are away..... ain't no thang.  Trying to balance finding times to rest and reflect and prepare our hearts, with the 10 bazillion to-dos.  Your prayers are much appreciated.  

Here is a little slideshow to tide you over until we have pictures of our baby girl in our arms:

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Grinch in Me

We are getting close. And I cannot lie: it has been torture. We were matched with our sweet girl in September.  September: before snow.  When grass was still visible.  Before the chaos of Christmas and the start of a new year.  On September 28th (which by no coincidence is Michael's birthday), we saw her face for the first time and fell head over heels, and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is our girl.  We were elated to say the least.  The joy was palpable.
Fast forward: it's March.  Too long.  I want off the roller coaster.  I have distracted myself (insert crazy woman redecorating her room), educated myself by reading every book I can get my hands on about attachment.  I have prayed.  I have cried.  I have railed against the wait (bucked, kicked and stomped is no exaggeration).   It didn't work. And I think I now have a small clue as to why.
I am beginning to see there is purpose in this struggle (insert God here with a big thought bubble reading "duh").  I have, (not unlike Dr. Suess' Grinch) felt my heart grow in size.  This growth, this expansion, is directly connected to the suffering and grief and longing I have experienced in this crazy process.  I know in my head that suffering serves as the catalyst for growth.  I know this in theory.  I have seen it play out in my own life and in others' lives. And yet, it seems that I had so much left to learn in this regard.  It is difficult to express the incredible helplessness and pain associated with knowing and loving your child while simultaneously being totally blocked from demonstrating that love directly.  It makes you kinda insane (my kids can attest to this).  Ok, a lot insane.  
So, instead,  I choose to sit with that pain and loss.  To hold it close until I can hold her close.  To befriend it and welcome it.  To let it do its work in me.  I could NEVER have chosen this path.  Never, ever picked waiting.  And yet God knew it was good and right for me.  Knew that my heart would grow.  And in God's time, not my own, be stretched and expanded and ready to be filled with even more joy and more love for her.  To be ready to help hold her loss, her suffering and her joy.  I needed to make more room.  So today, I am so grateful for the suffering.  ***full permission granted to direct me here when you catch me bucking and flailing again.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

My Mother's Day Prayer

On this day that celebrates what you have lost, baby girl, I wish I could hold your hand.  I wish I could look into your eyes.  You have a forever mommy, precious one, we just haven't met yet.  But I love you already.  More than words can say.  More than you can ever know.  I pray you can somehow feel this fierce and determined love for you across the a caretakers touch, in the sun on your face, in your next bottle.......your mother's love is there.  It's real and strong and will never end.   You are my girl.  You are my heart.  I am your mommy.  I can't wait to show you how adored you are.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Confessions of a Duck

Everything I read about the stages you go through in the adoption process should reassure me that my feelings are indeed "normal".   Boundless accounts of moms and dads who have already traveled the long road ahead of us, and survived,  should lift my spirits.  My faith that we are on our path and the knowledge that these feelings are only temporary should assuage my fears.  Most days, all of these helps "get in" and reach me and comfort me.

Today, I am just so very sad.  I am so sad that our baby girl doesn't yet know how wanted she is. I am devastated that her birth mother suffers along with me, faced with the unbearable reality of losing her child.  I am heartbroken that there are so many days and months that stand between our girl and her knowing the love we all have for her.

Today, I am afraid.  I am terrified that I won't be able to reach her, connect with her the way I want to and hope to.  I am scared that I won't be enough, that I won't be able to adequately process all that will come.  Today feels impossible. 

Today is so hard.

I don't always lose perspective.  In fact, my nearest and dearest have described me as "annoyingly optimistic".  Some days, and I will go as far as saying most days, gratitude wins.  Hope reigns supreme. Silver linings abound.... you get the point.  Days like today teach me not to take that for granted.  There are so many parents with harder stories, darker hours and true grief.  I mourn with them.  I pray they be comforted and consoled.   

Still today, I accept these feelings that are here as mine to hold......for today.  I know some days for our daughter-to-be must be harder. For us, and for our precious one, I know intellectually that tomorrow is not far away.  But today, it feels like an eternity.

I pray God will give me patience.  resilience.  faith.  trust.  hope.  endurance.  tenacity. acceptance.

My dear mom always reminds us that during trials, we need to remember the duck (yes, she actually says that).  A duck is the master of flapping its' wings wildly and then quietly swimming away.  Today, I'm flapping. I'm angry. I'm splashing.  Why does it have to be so flipping complicated?  Why can't we just cut through all of the red tape and get to loving her?  Why can't we just get on a plane and get this all going?  Because we can't.  And it isn't fair.  Yet, it still is.  

Today is about flapping.  

Hoping tomorrow there is more swimming.  Fingers (wings) crossed, kneeling.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Why Adopt?

Gavin 13, Luke 7, Sophia 5

Three beautiful, thriving, healthy children.  Why tempt fate?  Why complicate life with adoption?

A simple answer: Because we are called.  

And answering calls, in our world, is what it is all about.   A calling can mean all sorts of things. For us, a few have been: finding alternative education for our kids, eating family meals together, mending broken relationships, ending other relationships, prioritizing exercise, practicing kindness, standing up for the truth even when it is difficult, and loving "our people" fiercely and faithfully.

Here is the story of how adoption became part of our family's path, or how we came to understand this calling as our own.

Baby Gavin
Adoption has been on my heart since I was in my early twenties.  Having Gavin on my own opened my eyes to the plight of mothers who find themselves needing to give their children up for adoption.  I thought about, in a new and real way, both the beauty and the sorrow of adoption.  I was comforted knowing that other women in my situation, who were not able to keep their child, could find solace in adoption as an option for them in their darkest hour.

Later, when I met Michael and saw the previously unfathomable love he had for Gavin, it quietly reinforced the beauty of adoption in me.   Blood had nothing to do with their bond and yet it was the strongest father/child connection I had ever witnessed.  So these things took root in me over 13 years ago.

When Luke was born, it was a brand new experience, sharing the immediate joy of bringing new life into this world.  Michael and I were madly in love with the gorgeous, olive skinned, brown-eyed, bouncing baby boy.  He has brought so much life and candor and excitement to our corner of the universe.  
Having our baby girl, Sophia, two years later, was a new and profound gift as her light and beauty shine brighter than we could have ever imagined.  She is our princess.  The fulfillment of our earnest prayer and wish to have a daughter.

We were so lucky, so blessed.  But were we done?  According to Michael, OF COURSE!  And I felt I could be "done," but the idea of adoption, that had taken root over a decade ago, began to grow and nag and not let go of me. 

I actually tried vehemently to ignore it.  I told myself I was just sad that my baby wasn't a baby anymore and that the feeling would go away (knowing that this idea was completely foreign to Michael and that he felt secure in our family being complete).   

But it would not relent.  Would not dissipate.  Instead, the idea of adopting grew stronger and stronger in me.  In February of 2010, I broached the subject with Michael for the very first time.  He listened and then kindly but firmly affirmed my assumption that he did not feel it was the path for our family.    I was so sad, but it wasn't surprising news.   I began the daunting process of praying that the will of God be clearly revealed to me.  That God would work in my heart and allow me to find peace and to accept that we would not and should not adopt, or that God would do work in Michael's heart and open it to adoption.   I felt very, very strongly that I should not attempt to persuade Michael or "talk him into" this idea in any way.  For the next three years, I only brought up the subject of adoption one time per year.   It was very painful to do so, but I wanted to share my feelings in an attempt to avoid building distance in our marriage by avoiding the subject altogether.  I would occasionally send him information about adoption via email but tried to find the balance of taking ownership of my own feelings and not putting too much space between us.  

At one point, we discussed the possibility of adding to our family the old fashioned way, but as my pregnancies were so very difficult for me and for the family, and as neither of us felt called to have another biological child, we agreed this was not an option.  

So I waited, and prayed.  It was extremely painful for Michael, as well.  He felt like he was stuck between doing what he felt was right and knowing that it was painful for me.  I am so very glad that he shared his real and true feelings and was open with me that he did not think adoption was right for us.   I did research for three years straight.  I read everything I could get my hands on related to adoption; international vs. domestic, special needs adoption, the trends and recent changes in the process, adoption agencies, statistics . . . .you name it, I read it.   I didn't know if it was helping or hurting, but it was all I could do.  I was like a hungry infant, gulping up all the information I could find.

As all of this was happening for me, my best friend in the world was going through a very difficult and painful time and the particulars of that situation cemented my desire to adopt a daughter from a country where girls are not as valued as male children.  It stirred in me a passion to give a home to a little girl and show her all the love and protection we all deserve.  The courage and strength my best friend has shown to the world has inspired in me the hope of raising women like her.  Similarly, my own brave and wonderful mother, my grandmothers, my amazing sisters, and Michael's mother inspired me enormously, each in their own way.  

Then, inexplicably, things started to shift.  Michael started asking me adoption related questions.   He started engaging in conversations differently.  We were able to laugh and joke about it all.   I could begin to sense him opening to the idea.  I was cautiously hopeful.  On January 5th, 2013, I took a leap of faith and sent a pre-application to an international adoption agency I had felt comfortable with to see if we even qualified.  

On my 35th birthday, February 9, 2013, over dinner at our favorite restaurant, my husband gave me a wrapped gift.  I opened it to find an Asian doll.   I was blindsided.  I could not even take it in.  It wouldn't register.  Through tears, he then explained that as scared as he was, that he was "a hundred million percent IN," that his heart had been moved and he knew that adding to our family through adoption was indeed our calling.  He had named our daughter-to-be.   To say that my heart couldn't hold all of the emotions I felt is such an understatement.  All I could think of was "my cup runneth over."   I felt more connected to this wonderful man than ever.  

After that night, the floodgates were opened and we could not contain our joy and excitement.  We set out telling first, the children, then our closest family and friends.  Michael's post on facebook (after immediate family got the news), is something I will never forget.

Telling the kids was thrilling.  Here is their reaction:

Then on Feb 13th, 2013, we signed an adoption contract with Living Hope Adoption Agency and formally begun our journey to our youngest.