Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My Heart Still Aches For You

I don't want this blog to be all about our daughter, because the main point of this blog is to encourage those who are suffering or waiting on God to not lose hope. Because there is ALWAYS hope found in God.

Recently infertility and the pains that go along with it have been on my heart. I've met and heard from some sisters in Christ that they're still struggling. Please know that my heart still aches for you. I still know and understand your pain. I may not have experienced all that you have, but I know what it feels like to want a child when you want it, and to feel disappointment that it's not time for you to have a child yet. I know what it feels like to have friends, family members, and strangers say well-intentioned things that actually hurt you deeply. I know what it feels like to watch woman after woman in your life get pregnant and have multiple children with seemingly no effort at all. I know what it's like to question your adequacy as a woman because your body doesn't respond the way you think it should.

But the most important thing for you to know is that God knows your pain too. He isn't causing your suffering, but for some reason that you just can't understand yet, He is allowing you to suffer this trial. You can read all about it in the Bible (James 1, Romans 5, 2 Corinthians 1, 1 Peter, Philippians 4, and lots more!), about how trials and suffering are meant to grow your character. I know how hard it is to read those passages and still not understand WHY you're going through this. But I can promise you that God knows.

He knows the end from the beginning. He knows your heart, your character, your strengths and weaknesses. He knows you better than you know yourself. He knows that if you choose...key word: trust Him through this time of suffering, you will experience growth and persevere this trial. You WILL get through this and come out with a better perspective than when you entered. But you must choose to trust Him and always believe that He is good and loves you. 

If instead, you choose to get angry, bitter, or lose hope, your character and walk with God will suffer. That will ultimately darken your heart and harm the relationships in your life. I've walked this line several times over the past 4 1/2 years of infertility. Sometimes I've stumbled and allowed some darkness to take over my thoughts and heart. But by the grace of God it was only for a short time.

I can only speak from my story, but for me, when we got the call that a birth mother had chosen us to adopt her baby, it started healing my heart in ways I never thought possible. I finally saw a glimpse of the final puzzle picture. I finally realized that everything...all the negative pregnancy tests, all the tears shed, all the hurtful comments I heard, all the gut wrenching moments alone with God where I wrestled with fears like "What if I never get pregnant?" I finally realized that all of those things were for a reason. I needed to experience hurt and disappointment to convict me that I don't have as much control over my life like I pridefully once thought. I needed to be broken down and question my health so that we might be open to trying a plant-based diet. I needed to experience years of disappointment so that I would start to consider the idea of adoption. I needed to see that adoption could be a possible path for us, and that maybe there could be some beauty to be found in it. I needed to wait and toil through all the time that elapsed before we submitted our adoption application. Because God knew that the month we submitted it, EVY was conceived. And God knew what we needed to put in our profile that ultimately connected with the birth family. He knew EVY was supposed to join our family long before we ever even considered the idea of adopting. It wasn't until after meeting EVY that I truly had a moment with God where I can honestly say, "God, if I never get pregnant, I know I will be okay. I know you are still good." Of course I still desire to experience pregnancy someday, but I finally let go of that "need" and truly made it nothing more than a desire.

So if you're hurting right now and you feel frustrated and confused about why you're suffering, I encourage you to turn to Him and trust Him. Lay all of your fears and tears at His feet and know that if you choose to trust God through this, you will most certainly gain wisdom and spiritual growth along the way. I'll say again something that Michael once said that I still love to remember: the blessing isn't the child (or whatever you're waiting on God for) at the end, the blessing is the trial along the way.

Don't ever lose hope!

How Is It Possible That We Have An 8-Month Old!?

I realize my blogging frequency has plummeted...I think this is just my new reality. If you want more frequent updates/pictures, please find us on Facebook. :)

But, I'll give an update on the last several months.

1-2 Months
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Her eyes started focusing on us more. Developed good head strength. And smiled! Oh what a beautiful sight! Only cried a little bit after her first set of vaccines, tough girl. Still ate like a champ and slept well through the night - a huge blessing to us.

2-3 Months
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Lots more smiling and babbling. Started hair and earring grabbing, which eventually led to my getting a hair cut. Eager to move - learned how to "scooch" on her back by pushing with her legs. Big head - 83rd percentile for head circumference. :)

3-4 Months
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I officially quit my job to be full-time Mom! EVY started blowing lots of spit bubbles. Also started to give us some soft laughs. Started rolling over to tummy and back before 4 months old...which at first concerned me during nighttime sleep because I was worried about SIDS, but after extensive Googling, I learned that once baby can roll back and forth on their own, you don't have to worry as much about it, just make sure their crib environment is safe. Started teething at 3.5 months (but teeth didn't appear for several more months). Still ate and slept great.

4-5 Months
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Made a turtle face as pictured on the right that we love. Rolled over with ease and loved sleeping on her tummy. Giggles a lot more and is very playful. Tried to sit up and push up when on tummy.

5-6 Months
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Went to visit the birth family - had a wonderful time seeing everyone again! Took many precious pictures and videos. Still ate and slept great. On the brink of crawling. Loves our pets. So playful and goofy.

6-7 Months
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And she's crawling! Also sitting up while using an arm as a kickstand. Enjoys bouncing in the jumper. Loves the pets and crawling after them. Started solid foods...banana is her favorite. She's a good fit for us! Lots of giggles. We finalized our adoption this month!

7-8 Months
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Crawls with ease and very quickly when she wants to hustle and get somewhere. Also sits up easily without arm support. AND started pulling up on things to get on her knees. Just a matter of time before she gets a foot underneath and stands up. First two teeth on the bottom came through, our cute little bulldog. Loves to play, pull things from their shelves, smoosh her face into the crib railings like she's in jail, throw and then chase after her toys...while panting like a dog (I guess they've been teaching her how to fetch). "Talks" a lot more. And screams a LOT more. Eardrum piercing squeals to communicate that she's bored, mad, or tired. Went "swimming" for the first time (we held her the whole time) and loved it! We put her in the nursery at church for the first time and praise the Lord she has yet to get sick! Church was getting to be difficult when trying to keep her entertained and quiet. Wears 9 month size clothing, weighs close to 17 lbs, and is about 27 inches long.

All videos are posted here.

Now somehow we have an 8-month old who is growing up WAY too fast. For the first 7 months, our mentality was "I can't believe she's already __ months old!" Then when she started crawling at 7 months, it shifted to "Wait...she's ONLY 8 months old??" My day-to-day routine completely changed once she became mobile. Time feels like it has flown by, but then in reality not that much time has passed. It's a weird feeling.

But motherhood has been such a joy for me. I had always heard from friends that they felt desperate to have adult conversations or to get a break. Though I can certainly understand the frustrations and stresses that come with being a mom, I truly love my day-to-day "job". My role isn't what defines me as a person, but it's a role that I'm so thankful and honored that I get to fulfill. It stretches me, convicts me of my own selfishness, and inspires me to live a life that she might want to look up to. I'm just so in love with this little girl and can't believe she hasn't always been in our lives. Michael is completely smitten with her and will probably buy her a pony if she asks for it. :)   But really y'all...parenthood has been such a blessing and wonderful growing experience. We still make our marriage a higher priority by setting aside time to talk, but our hearts and home are so much fuller with sweet EVY.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

When God Makes You Wait

I saw this on Facebook and loved reading it. I hope this encourages you as well. These truths were some of the hardest for me to learn, but the struggle and heartache have been worth it because my faith has grown like never before. You are not forgotten!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Meet EVY, The Sweetest Potato There Ever Was

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There is much to fill in since our last post, and I'll do my best to capture everything on here.

Before Birth
After we got the call that we had been chosen, we began the process of getting to know the birth family. We had the honor of meeting them in person on December 3rd in their hometown.

We took the afternoon off work and drove to their hometown. We arrived early and walked around to do a little shopping near the restaurant. We bought the best tasting chocolate ever - Taza Chocolate. Thank goodness it's not for sale at our local stores, lol.

We stopped in a bookstore and little did we know, but the birth family was there too and saw us looking at some children's books (they knew what we looked like because they had seen our profile).

Then we walked to the restaurant to meet them. It was incredible getting to meet the birth family, and was wonderful because so many family members were there and in support of their adoption plan. We got to meet the birth mother and her mom, sister, and grandmother, as well as the birth father and his mom.

These two individuals are so amazing. They're quirky and nerdy just like us, and we share a lot of the same taste in music, movies, and books. The birth family said several times that they viewed us as the grown-up versions of the birth parents. We feel so honored they feel that way!

And they are incredible. To have ended up in a tough situation, but to have maintained a mature attitude...way more courage and maturity than Michael or I ever had at their age. Michael jokes that he was still eating boogers at their age. LOL.

Anyway, we grew an instant love for them all and couldn't wait for our families to merge, all centered around a precious little baby girl. Family is not just blood and genetics. Love is all it takes. :)

Welcoming EVY into the World
The birth family felt so comfortable with us that they invited us to join them at the hospital for the birth. Understand that in TX, the birth parents must wait a minimum of 48 hours before signing relinquishment papers, so before that time, they don't have to include the adoptive parents at all. It was nothing but a gift to us to invite and include us during this precious time.

Her due date was the 16th, but EVY decided she wasn't ready yet. The birth mother was scheduled to be induced on Friday morning the 19th. But EVY decided that she'd start making her way into the world at the same time they arrived at the hospital to be induced. That's right, the birth mother went into labor as she was signing into the hospital to be induced. So she didn't need to receive as much Pitocin as would have been needed.

We arrived at the hospital around lunchtime Friday, and the birth family invited us into the L&D room to hang out. The first sound we heard when entering the room was EVY's heartbeat on the monitor...what a beautiful sound! We got to meet the birth father's dad and grandma, and the birth mother's grandpa and stepdad. The birth mother had an epidural, so she was as comfortable as the situation warranted.

After a couple hours of visiting with the family, we felt hungry and decided to go get our lunch from the car and then come back. We didn't expect it to take us half an hour just to FIND our me, it was not obvious which parking garage we had parked in...turned out it wasn't either of the two garages associated with the hospital, but it was still connected to the hospital by a tunnel. What genius thought of connecting a third parking garage and then not make a single sign directing you back to it??

Anyway, we finally found our car, grabbed our lunch, and then found the cafeteria and microwaves to heat it up. We enjoyed lunch and then received a text message from the birth family that they just sent everyone but the birth mother's mom out of the room so she could start pushing!

So we went to the waiting room and waited with the rest of the birth family. The birth mother's mom called me after a little while and all I heard was a baby crying...she let me hear EVY's first cry! After a little more time passed, her mom came and said the birth father and Michael and I could come back to the delivery room to meet EVY. They wanted us to spend "the golden hour" after birth with her to help bond - yet another incredibly generous gift that they did not have to do for us. All in all, the labor lasted 10 hours.

Meeting EVY for the first time was amazing, and such a mixture of emotions. I was ecstatic, but it also suddenly occurred to me "Oh my gosh, I'm an only child, never babysat growing up, and have a germophobic compulsion that makes me squeamish around other people's kids...I have NO idea how to hold let alone care for a baby!" EVY was just so tiny and delicate, I was afraid of breaking her. So I was a little nervous the first few times with EVY, and a little horrified/amazed at how the nurses flipped and turned the babies in the nursery - they made it look like no big deal, like they weren't handling a fragile little angel. I was so amazed with Michael. He took the initiative with feeding and changing her while at the hospital. That helped me gain some confidence back.

It was a wonderful weekend with family - with the birth family and getting to know them better, with my parents who drove down also, and with EVY getting used to the idea that she would soon come home with us.

On Sunday the 21st, we first met the caseworker to sign the adoptive parent agreement. It wasn't quite as lengthy as closing on a house, but felt pretty close. Then we waited while the caseworker met with the birth parents to sign the relinquishment papers. When it was done, we visited with the birth family for a while and then said our goodbyes. Very bittersweet experience. The birth family gave us a photo album of the birth parents growing up as a child, as well as a beautiful blanket their church had blessed. Such wonderful gifts to give to EVY someday.

After our goodbyes, we went to the nursery with the caseworker to discharge EVY from the hospital and head home. That process took quite a bit longer than expected, so we got home really late that night. EVY was an angel and slept the whole car ride home until we were 5 minutes from home because she got hungry.

EVY's First Month at Home
Since being back home, we have learned so much as we settled into a groove. First we learned that the whole co-sleeping thing does not work for us. I'm way too much of a light sleeper that I was waking up to every little coo and sound she made and got no sleep.

Once home, we started feeding her the donated breast milk several friends have generously given to us. She's about 6 weeks old now and has been almost exclusively on breast milk for that time - what a gift! She's a fantastic eater, never refusing anything from the bottle. And she guzzles her bottles, which explains why she frequently gets hiccups. :)

She's been a great sleeper too, really taking it easy on us. Our first few days home were rough because her days and nights were flip-flopped. We realized she was getting her deepest sleep during the day, so we had the thought of trying to disrupt her daytime sleep to help her get her deepest sleep at night. That worked beautifully for her. Until we got a baby monitor, I slept in the guest room (next to the nursery) and took the night shift.

Michael was sadly dealing with his mom passing at the time (high highs and low lows all at once!) and I wanted him to be fully focused on that. You only lose your mom once and he needed to honor her and take care of everything.

After her memorial service, we got a baby monitor and I started sleeping in our bedroom again. I just keep the volume on the lowest setting and can still hear her cry when she wakes up. But thankfully, she has been sleeping through the night for a while now, which is a wonderful blessing to us. We got about 1 week behind in our workout schedule, but now we're back to a daily routine of working out and the hippie-lifestyle of plant-based eating and gardening. :)

At her first pediatrician's appointment on 12/23, she already weighed her birth weight again (6 lbs, 12 oz). She was born with a few holes in her heart that they said is pretty common. The doctor still heard the heart murmur, so we followed up with a children's cardiologist on 12/31. They did another echocardiogram, and the doctor says she only has one tiny hole remaining, and he's confident it'll close on its own. We'll see him again in early February to hopefully confirm the murmur is gone.

At her 2 week appt, she weighed 7 lb, 5 oz, and the doctor said he's very happy with her growth rate, so we can start letting her decide how long she wants to sleep at night (which she started around 6 hours and worked up since). We'll see the doctor again at 2 months for her first vaccine.

She is a feisty and very active girl. When she's awake, she is very alert, and loves to look around the room. She responds to our voices and other noises. She displayed strong neck muscles early on too, and now at 1 month can easily support/lift her head when having tummy time. Speaking of tummy time, she HATES it usually, and will have a crying fit that Mommy was so mean to put her on her tummy again. She got so mad one time that she actually rolled herself back onto her back! She's done this three times now, one of which I caught on video (which is included in the video link below). Now you'll understand why she was crying during that video!

She also loves to squirm, punch, and kick when she's awake and displeased with whatever we're doing (such as changing her diaper). :) Her noises and grunts amuse us, and we refer to them as "E.T. noises" like the movie. Also, when she begins to cry, she starts off with a comical scoff sound, like "Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah!" And then works up to an actual cry. She loves her pacifier, which is so funny to watch/listen to her suck on - she looks like a little fishy. She hates to be swaddled, contrary to what the hospital told us to do. The reason is because she likes to self-soothe with her hands, which she can't do when they're tied down in a blanket. So we started swaddling her with her arms free and she was much happier.

She has recently started to smile a little at us, usually in the mornings or after I change her diaper. She's not a fan of bath time either, but loves the time right after when I wrap her up in a towel and cradle her. Her bottom lip will quiver and pout as I comfort her. Our favorite of her expressions is her frowny face.

The pets are very interested and protective of her. Ginger thinks it's her baby and that we're never doing a good enough job raising her. Sometimes she'll chase off the other pets that go near her. So far, we've only lost one pacifier to canine casualties (chewed it up).

She also is really funny right before you feed her. She knows what's about to happen and she gets really excited by munching on her hands and making the E.T. noises. She then proceeds to guzzle her bottle and pass out. She regularly gets the hiccups and sneezes, both of which are precious to see. Her hair is also growing in nicely and is currently light brown but seems to be darkening.

This first month has flown by and we are so thankful for every moment with her. :)

Links to pictures and videos.