Health Update

We were referred a “healthy” 2 month old baby boy on October 19, 2012.  Now we knew that 2 months old and 7 pounds wasn’t necessarily “healthy”, but we were overjoyed and filled with excitement about finally knowing who our child was.  We arrived in country one month later to find one sick little boy.  Our son.  We found out that he had been in and out of the hospital with infections and they labeled him “failure to thrive”.  He wasn’t gaining weight.  He was having chronic diarrhea and would eat maybe an ounce of formula a day, which would go straight through him.  They tried several different formulas hoping to find one that worked for him.  Many people fought for our son.  They fought to figure out what was wrong with him medically, they fought to feed him every two hours though he had no desire to eat, they fought the paperwork battle with us to expedite his case and get him home to his forever family as soon as possible.  We are so thankful for our agency and how they cared for our son and fought for him in our absence.

We left Haven after our first visit, a 4 month old weighing 7 ½ pounds and very sick.  He didn’t move much.  His arms and legs were pulled into his chest.  He didn’t have much energy at all, though would occasionally give a grin with one side of his mouth.  After we left, Haven was placed in the hospital for 12 days.  We aren’t really sure what all happened in those 12 days.  We know they did an ultrasound of his stomach.  We know they put a tube in him and pumped him full of vitamins and minerals.  And we know that when he arrived back at the transition house nurses and nannies worked with him constantly to get him to eat.  And he finally did.  And he finally began to gain weight, though he continued to have chronic diarrhea.  His little body was finally absorbing some of the nutrients in the formula.

We arrived back in Ethiopia after an excruciating 2 months to pick up our son and bring him to his forever home.  We arrived and were blown away by his progress.  He had cheeks.  His legs, arms, and tummy had filled out.  He kicked his legs and moved his arms about.  Praise the Lord!  We asked what happened and we were told, “This can only be explained by God.  He had us very worried.  We did not think he was going to make it.”

Oh my heart!  Oh my son!  We praised God for saving him and we were so anxious to get him home.  We had been in contact with the International Adoption Clinic since we returned from our first trip.  The doctors there had been so supportive and helpful and were tracking Haven’s weight with us to let us know if we needed to go straight to the hospital when we landed back in the states.  Because he was gaining weight, we decided to just take the first available appointment.

First of all, let me just say how lucky are we to have an International Adoption Clinic right here in our back yard?!  This just shows what an adoption hub we live in here in Birmingham.  Many people travel from other states to come to this clinic.  It is well worth it!  We have been so impressed and pleased with the care our son has received from the clinic.  The other neat thing is that every doctor or nurse that works in the clinic is adopted or has adopted.  They know this journey well and are very equipped to walk you through it.

When we got Haven home we started the breast milk, which he thrived on.  The diarrhea slowed down tremendously and has since stopped.  Within a week, Haven started holding his head up and we started practicing tummy time.

We worked with a doctor, behavior therapist, occupational therapist, and a lab center (all in this one spot thankfully).  The behavior therapist worked with us on attachment and how to help big sister adjust.  The occupational therapist worked with us on how to continue to help him catch up developmentally.  He is making huge strides and is now rolling across rooms! Our doctor was just amazed at how well he looked! Every test under the sun was run on Haven and she said they might have to refer us to a GI specialist for his tummy issues.  She was super excited that we had access to breast milk for him and told us that it could potentially repair his stomach.

On our second visit, we were informed that every test on Haven came back negative.  In the two months he’s been home, God has completely healed his stomach issues.  He is able to tolerate certain types of formula mixed with breast milk, though we are still trying to find the best option for him.

We still have vision and hearing screenings to do, but overall our boy is healthy and happy.  Again, we praise God for that!

We went to our regular pediatrician last week for his first visit with her.  We LOVE our pediatrician! She herself has adopted and she has been so very supportive and encouraging throughout our journey.   Haven had a little ear infection, which we’re hoping antibiotics will clear up.  After her check up with him, she asked me if it was okay if she brought in her nurses to hear his story and see his before pictures and look at him now.  I agreed and we all squeezed into the little examination room and cried together and our doctor kept saying, “Ladies, this is a miracle.  Only God can do this.”  I cried big tears just thinking about how Haven’s story is reaching people and prayerfully bringing glory to God.  Some people are very hesitant to share details of their adoptive child.  I have been too at times and simply unsure how much I should share.  Then that wise husband of mine reminded me of how much we love to tell Story’s story.  The miracle of how God brought her into our lives.  I was reminded of how much I love to celebrate her story and have always prayed for God to be glorified in her creation and in her life.  May He be glorified in Haven’s story.  May He be glorified in ours.

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Don’t Freak Out

Okay, so there is a really neat part of Haven’s story that I haven’t shared with many people.  It’s kind of weird and honestly I thought it might freak people out.  I was so worried about what other people might think, that I have kept this rather private.  However, my sweet mentor told me about a month ago that it is my responsible to testify to what the Lord has done.  She said she has been telling everyone, so I figured I might as well jump in and share too.  Not to say look at me, but to truly give glory to God for his incredible provision.

When we got our referral in October, I had a sweet friend call me.  Let’s call this friend “T”.  T called me and said:  “Liza, I just heard about your referral for baby Haven.  This is really weird and I hope I don’t freak you out, but I was in church yesterday and felt like the Lord was telling me to offer this to you.”

Me:  Ok.  (freaking out and not having any idea what is about to come out of her mouth.

T:  I have 3 freezers full of breast milk that I would love to give you for Haven if you would like it.

Me:  That is really so nice and generous of you.  Let me talk with my husband and get back with you.

The truth is, I was completely humbled that this friend would call and offer me this.   But, I thought it was a little weird and honestly, was planning on using formula for Haven.  There is nothing wrong with formula right?!  And there are so many options these days.  Surely we can find one for him.

Then we went on trip one to Ethiopia.  Upon our arrival, we found out that Haven had been in and out of the hospital 4 times.  They are still to this day not sure what was going on with him.  We got his referral at 2 month and traveled first when he was 4 months.  They spent those 2 months trying to feed him constantly.  He weighed 7 pounds at 2 months and 7 ½ pounds at 4 months.  He just was gaining weight and wasn’t able to keep any formula inside of him for long enough to absorb the nutrients.  We spoke with doctors and nurses in Ethiopia.  They thought he might be lactose intolerant so they tried lactose free formula.  That didn’t help.  We were told that breast milk would probably be best for his little body.

Chris looked at me and said he wasn’t sure that even if Gabriel himself came down from heaven and appeared to me to tell me to get breast milk, he isn’t sure that I would do it.  I would do anything to help my son, of course.  But, going to a breast milk bank seemed weird to me since I wouldn’t know who it came from.  And I can’t imagine even asking my best friend, “Hey, can I have some of your breast milk?”!  God knew all of this, so he sent this friend to me.  He provided for this need before I even knew it was a need.  He works in ways we cannot see and makes a way.

God continues to blow my mind with how he has put all of this together for my precious Haven.  My friend T and I just hugged and cried tears as we talked about God’s sovereignty.  She told me that with her first two children, she wasn’t able to produce enough milk and had to take supplements.  With this child, she said her cup literally runneth over.  She said it’s amazing to her that God knew that there was this baby half way across the world that would need her.  She didn’t know why she was producing so much milk or why she was even taking time to save and freeze it.

Since then, I have even had a second friend, who didn’t know about the first, offer me breast milk for Haven as well.  Okay, okay God, I get it.  Haven needs to be on breast milk and you are completely providing for that need.  And it’s a good thing that He provided for that need, because we have literally tried 5 formulas and Haven’s little stomach has not been able to tolerate any of them.  We’ve tried the expensive stuff and everything in between.  Just within the past week have we found a formula that he will take and tolerate okay to supplement with on occasion.

I cry every time I think about this.  It is so humbling that these ladies would be so willing to help my son without even knowing about our desperate need for something that his sensitive stomach could tolerate.  It is so humbling that God would orchestrate all of this so beautifully and perfectly.

I am so happy to report that Haven went from not even being on the charts to weighing in at 19 pounds as an 8 month old (10th percentile).  He is no longer having diarrhea, though he still has some explosions every now and then.   He is a happy and very healthy little boy and we are so grateful to our friends who have literally fed him for the past 6 weeks.   I’ll try to do a picture update next with details on our visits to the International Adoption Clinic.

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The Body of Christ

Well, we’ve been home for one month and I can say that never has the body of Christ been displayed in our lives more than it has in the past month.  IMG_9757This has been the hardest, most joyful month and I seriously don’t think we would have survived without those of you who have stepped in front of us, beside us, and behind us to care for us.  It is really overwhelming and humbling to say the least.  We have had friends providing us with meals, cleaning our house, and grocery shopping for us.  It is going to be a rude awakening for me when I have to start doing these things again.  I treasure each person for each task they have done for us.  They have sacrificed time and energy to serve our family.  They have ministered to us in an amazing way by allowing us to focus on attaching with our son and adjusting as a family of four.

Speaking of attaching, it is going well.  Haven actually attached to Chris first.  That was interesting since all of his nannies were female.  I guess he just loved having a daddy.  Attachment with me has taken longer, but we have made progress.  He sleeps on me now and will let me rock him to sleep.   For the longest he would push away from me when it was time for bed.  So this has been huge for us.  He loves his big sister so very much and is always looking around for her and flashes a big grin when he sees her.   He recognizes our voices and is he is beginning to be soothed by being in our arms.  I think he likes us.  We definitely like him and are more than thrilled that he is in our family.

We started baby food hoping that it would help him to go longer between feedings.  He is eating great, but still wanting a bottle every 2 hours even throughout the night.  So we continue to battle exhaustion, but that is our only complaint.  Our little man is so worth it.  He loves to talk and is rolling over both ways now.  He likes it when daddy sings a song about him and Story dances for him.  He is such a happy baby, just very serious about mealtime!

Story absolutely loves being a big sister!  She is a big helper.  She loves to get clean diapers, play with him, entertain him, and show him off to her friends and teachers.  My little fashionista picks out her brother’s outfit every day.  To be completely honest she has had a hard time adjusting, but has never shown any aggression towards Haven.  It’s all been about mom and dad not being able to give her all the attention she used to get.  So, she has been spending some time pitching fits and hanging out in time-out.  The behavior specialist we’re working with has told us that all of this is completely normal and shouldn’t last long.  We’re ready for this to be over.  It’s been very difficult to balance knowing when to give her more grace because this is a big adjustment and knowing when to discipline her because she knows that it’s unacceptable to act like this.

We would really appreciate you praying for wisdom in parenting her through this phase.

I just wanted to say thanks again to each of you for the part you have played and continue to play in our adoption journey.  Chris and I had a dream to adopt.  For us, it began as separate desires when we were teenagers.  God brought us together in college.  When we were engaged, my doctor told me it would be very difficult for us to have biological children.  While this was hard to hear, we were both relieved to discover that each of us had a heart for adoption and had always wanted to adopt children one day.  We had one domestic failed adoption in 2008 and one month later found out we were pregnant.  Having Story only made our longing to adopt a child stronger.  We dreamed of being a family to a child who needed a family.  And now that dream is a reality.  Many of you have prayed for us, donated money, donated items for an auction and garage sales, donated time, talents, and other resources.  You have given us swings, car seats, clothes, strollers, bouncy seats, diapers, wipes, and anything else we could possibly need.  While I understand that not everyone is called to adopt, we are all called to care for orphans.  We are overwhelmed with gratitude for how you have cared for orphans through our family.   By donating, praying, and scrubbing our toilets you have helped and ministered to us in tremendous ways.  You have cared for an orphan.   An orphan that now has a family.  We love our community and are so blessed to do life with our friends and family.  Thank you for being the body of Christ to us!

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Coming Home

 

We left Ethiopia on a Wednesday evening and began the 17-hour trip to the states.  The transition home gave us a can of formula and told us this should be enough to get us home and have for a couple of days.  We gathered up all the clean clothes, blankets, towels, and burp cloths that we could find.  Chris was so worried we were going to run out of things to wipe Haven down and change him into because of the constant explosive diarrhea.  He went and bought a couple of extra scarves in the airport before we loaded just in case.  We prayed very very hard that God would allow Haven to have as little accidents as possible.  God heard our prayers.  The first 7 hours or so Haven did great.  We had one accident, but the rest of the time he basically slept in the bassinet in our laps.  Hallelujah!

The rest of trip was very difficult.  I will spare you all the details of having poop everywhere about once an hour, but we basically just had to start stripping him down and throwing everything away.  It was out of control.  There was a couple sitting next to us on the plane that had adopted a 7 month old little girl.  This little girl was throwing up constantly and Haven was having diarrhea constantly.  At one point this momma looked at Chris and said, “Can this nightmare please be over now!?”.   It was hard and very long and we were exhausted.

We landed in DC and had about an hour to clear customs and immigration before our next flight left.  We were booking it.  A sweet man, who I call one of our angels, let us get in front of him in the immigration line.  He said, “I can see what kind of people you are”.   We cleared with no problems except for we were running out of time to catch our flight.  When we walked into the airport, another man, who I call our second angel, was waiting for us to get our bags and recheck them for us.  He told us to book it and that they were holding the airplane for us.  We were literally running through the airport with Haven hanging on for dear life.  BUT, we made it!  Never been so glad to get on an airplane before in my life!!  And it’s a good thing that Chris bought those extra scarves, because on this flight we did run out of clothes and had to wrap sweet Haven up in that scarf!

When we got to North Carolina some relief began to set in.  We were one hour and half flight away from getting our son home.  Something we had been dreaming about for 2 ½ years.  We were feeling good and excited at this point.  It also helped that we ourselves were able to stretch our legs, change clothes, and freshen up a bit in the airport bathroom.  As we were loading the airplane, we heard someone calling our name.  We looked behind us to see a long-time friend Scott Ross.  So technically, Scott was the first person in the states to meet Haven.  How funny!  It was so nice to see a familiar face and begin showing Haven off.

It was now I realize we are out of formula and Haven eats every two hours, so this is going to be interesting.  I called my mom before we took off and asked her to bring some formula to the airport.  Little man was going to be hungry!

I had no idea who all we were going to see when we got to the airport.  I knew it was not a very convenient time, being in the middle of the day on a Thursday and most of our friends work.  I knew my mom, sister, and Chris’s parents were coming into town to be there and I had asked our very talented friend Amy Whitt to be there to take pictures for us.  (She is amazing!  Check out her site:  www.amywhittphoto.com)  Other than that, we had no expectations.

When we came walking through the airport, emotions flooded my spirit when I saw each face and who they represented.  Friends and family that had walked this long journey with us and had been there each step of the way to support, encourage, and pray for us.  One of our social workers with our agency was there and a couple of other friends going through the adoption process as well.  To see sweet Story meeting her baby brother for the first time, the one we prayed for each and every night, oh it was too much for this momma!  The whole experience was incredibly overwhelming.   Story saw first hand how God answers prayers and that evening instead of our prayer being, “God please help us to get Haven home soon” it changed to “Thank you God for bringing Haven home to our family.”  He is so faithful and we are beyond blessed to be home, all together, as a family of four.  Home on Valentine’s Day!  Such a beautiful love story written by our Father in heaven!

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Trip #2

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I have so many blog posts in my head and am so excited to finally start updating you on all the past 3 weeks have held for our family.

We left on February 7th to head to Ethiopia to bring our son to his forever home.  The trip there was pretty uneventful.  As soon as we arrived at the transition house, Chris couldn’t stand it.  He was ready to get Haven in our arms.  He waited for all of 3 seconds before walking back to Haven’s room to retrieve him.  It was so sweet.  We didn’t do much this trip, which was nice.  We spent most of our days hanging out at the transition house and just getting to know Haven.  The only time we left the transition home was to go to embassy, to have dinner with some friends, and to go to a market.

We were amazed at how well he looked!  On Monday, February 11th, we had our embassy appointment.  It was really a lot easier than we expected.  They asked us a few questions and we were in and out of there in no time.

We were able to spend some time talking with the in-country director on this day.  We were so anxious to get some answers on Haven’s health.  When we left him in November, he was 4 months old and weighed 7 ½ pounds.  They had been feeding him consistently for 2 months.  Everything was just going straight through him and his little body just wasn’t absorbing any nutrients and he was unable to gain weight.  He had been in and out of the hospital 4 times and they honestly couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on with him.  We were obviously very concerned and hated to leave him knowing he needed medical care.  We prayed and asked all of you to pray.  Now, here we are 2 months later.  Haven is 6 months old and weighing in at almost 15 pounds.

I asked the in-country director what happened.  What changed in his little body that he finally was eating and gaining weight?  I was really hoping to hear some medical answers.  All the in-country director could say was, “This cannot be explained.  Only God can do this.”  SO, thank you!  Thank you to those of you who prayed so fervently and faithfully for our little man.

We were so excited about his weight gain and had hoped that meant he was 100% well.  That was not quite the case.  He was gaining weight and eating and obviously absorbing some of the nutrients.  However, how do I put this?  Well, I’m just going to say it.  He was/is having explosive diarrhea.  I mean like we were changing his clothes (and often times ours) about 12 times a day.  I had packed only about 3 outfits a day for him, so I was hand washing clothes in our bathroom sink every day and hanging them outside to dry.   It’s hard enough to have a baby in your own home that you’ve prepared.  But it was not fun to be in a foreign country with no washer and dryer with a sick baby.

Because the nurses were so concerned about his weight, they had been working very hard with him.  They were feeding him every 2 hours to get him to try to gain weight.  We’re so very thankful for their care for him.  Haven got very used to eating every 2 hours and does this throughout the day and night.

We were so tired and just ready to get Haven home.

Thankfully, Haven’s visa was ready to pick up on the morning of the 13th and we were flying out that evening.  The transition home gave us a coffee ceremony before our departure.  One of the hardest parts was saying goodbye to all the nannies and nurses who had been caring for him.  I was not prepared for the emotions that flooded me to see them kissing on him and so excited for him.

Then we headed to the airport to begin our 17-hour journey home.  And it was one of the hardest things I’ve every done.  More details to come soon!

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Bringing Haven Home

We cannot believe we are to the part in this journey where we get to bring Haven home!  Finally!  The real adventure is just beginning.  Look at this updated picture we got this morning from our social worker.  We praise God for how healthy he looks!  He has really chunked up!!  We love it!

We leave next Thursday and arrive home on Valentine’s Day around noon.  We know that’s in the middle of the day and not very convenient for most of you.  But, we would LOVE to have any and all of you be there at the airport to greet us if you can/want to.  I think after the airport arrival we will plan on going to eat lunch at Habeneros Mexican Restaurant in Alabaster if any of you would like to join us.  We know we are going to be exhausted, but we will need some entertainment to stay awake that afternoon.

That evening we will come home and begin the “cocooning” process.  We know this is really weird and different for most of you. So we wanted to explain a little bit of our plans to you.  Our plans come from all the 2½ years of training, books, conferences, and people we have talked with that have gone through this process.

Cocooning is a period of time where we basically stay home and teach Haven who his mom and dad are.  We will be the ones to feed him every bottle, and we will be the only ones who get to hold him.  He has been living at a transition home for the past 4 months having different nannies and nurses caring for him.  He has not attached to anyone.  So this is a time to teach him to attach to us.  We will literally have him attached to us with a baby carrier most of the time.  (This will be new and different to me since Story hated those things).

You may think that Haven is so young, he doesn’t need this, but that is not the case.  It’s true that the older children are the longer it takes to attach.  We have no idea how long this process will take.  It could take weeks or maybe even months.  We will just have to read Haven and make that call as the weeks pass.  Once he has attached well with us, we look forward to introducing him to our extended family and community.

Now, that’s not to say, “please stay away” or “don’t come visit us.”  We will want and need you all around. However, we do want you to understand why we won’t be passing him around or offering for you to feed him a bottle.  Believe me when I say, this is going to be extremely hard for us.  We rely on our community so much.  There are going to be nights I’m sure, that we are in tears and wishing we could call one of our mommas to come stay with us and get up with Haven at all hours of the night and feed him and let us rest.  There are going to be days where all we want is to have five minutes to hang out with our friends.  But this is not about what we want. This is about what Haven needs and what is best for him.

We hope you understand.  We hope you trust us.  We hope you know how much we love you and need you and want you in our lives.  This will just be a season.  A short season we pray.  And then we’ll be ready to jump back into things and into a “normal” life (whatever that new normal may look like).

Adoption is so beautiful, but it is also really hard.  I never want to forget that in order for us to gain a family member, he had to lose the family that created him and was supposed to care for him.  That’s a tremendous loss.

This past weekend, I got to attend Created for Care adoption conference in Georgia.  One of the speakers was an adult adoptee.  She gave me so much insight and wisdom, but one thing she said really stuck with me:  “Adoption isn’t just an act. It’s a process.”

So, what can you do for us during this process?  We need your prayers.  Please pray over our trip:  smooth flights, no lost luggage, easy Embassy appointment on the 11th, and no delays in getting his visa (it is supposed to ready the morning of the 13th and we fly out that evening). Pray that the attachment process begins easily even while in Ethiopia.  Pray for Story as she enjoys some time with the Davis family, my mom, and adjusts to sharing mom and dad with a baby brother.  Pray for Haven.  The next few weeks are going to be a whirlwind of taking him away from everything he has ever known and introducing him to a whole new world with new experiences, new smells, new foods, new faces, new family.  Pray for his doctors that will be helping us make sure he is as healthy as he can possibly be.

You can also take some time to educate yourself. This is an absurd request. We’ve been trying to educate ourselves for a couple of years now and have never felt more inadequate. However, we know you might have questions. So, please feel free to begin by simply reading the following blog posts about this process.

http://omearasplusone.blogspot.com/2012/09/attachment-and-cocooning-explanation.html

http://www.laurencasper.com/2012/04/04/cocooning-our-journey-of-attachment-with-mareto/

http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2011/11/02/how-to-be-the-village

http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2012/08/21/the-truth-about-adoption-one-year-later

We are truly overwhelmed by God’s grace and how He has woven our lives together with each of you.  Your encouragement and support have held us throughout this long journey and even before that.  We will continue to need you even more as we adjust to being a family of 4!  We love you all and hope to see your faces on Valentine’s Day!

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Created for Care

This weekend my sweet husband gave me the best gift ever.  The gift of a weekend away.  A weekend to retreat away with about 450 other adoptive mommas.  It was just what this momma’s heart and soul needed.  I am so grateful for him and how he loves me and cares for our family.

We have no new information on when Haven’s case will be passed.  There’s been some miscommunication, but our agency and the embassy are working very hard to resolve our case in the fastest amount of time possible.   We continue to pray for God to move mountains.  May His will be done.  May He be glorified in our waiting.

I realized this weekend how much I had been questioning God.  I’ve been frustrated and angry and honestly doing a lot of whining.

This weekend, God spoke to me in mighty ways.  He whispered in my ear and reminded me of His great love for me.  He told me He will fight for me.  I need only be still.  He told me that this is so much bigger than me, than Haven, than my family.  This is about Him.  This is about the gospel.

So, I’ve decided that there is no more whining.  I’m going to focus on the good.  I’m going to focus on the gifts.  I’m going to focus on God.

Thank you faithful prayer warriors for walking this journey with us.  We hope to be back on here very soon with an update.

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