Wednesday, May 8, 2013

And then we had...four?

It's been a while since I updated this. A long while. I know, I know. I am the worst blogger ever. I guess I was waiting until the whole Russia situation played out. Well, it has.

Russia is done. Caput. No more. The end. El fin. In a series of negotiations between Russia and the United States it has become clear that Russia will not allow any families other than those who had already legally adopted russian children to proceed with their adoptions. The Russia program in our adoption agency closed and we were given other options of "transferring" our adoption to another program through the same agency, to save a few thousand dollars. A nice gesture, and all they could do, but it did little to assuage our heartbreak and shock over what transpired. So we sat on that decision for a while. I am due to start residency in just a few months and we are moving, so our home study will have to be redone anyway. Plus, adopting a child, especially internationally, in residency will be no easy task. But I am not willing to give up on adoption. I have always seen my family being grown through this process and I will not let politics get in our way. Tim and I talked and researched tons of countries for adoption, but in the end we decided that international adoption is just too crazy for us, the uncertainty is not something we can really deal with. I think I was more stuck on sticking out an international adoption than Tim, but after a lot of research on domestic adoption we both felt that domestic adoption is the best way to go for our family now. So...we filled out the paperwork with our current agency and will be adopting a newborn baby girl in the next few years...hopefully! She will be of any race and from any state. Only time will tell what our future family will look like. After we move to Richmond we will look into starting a home study . We will likely hold off on starting things for several months, though.

For, you see, once again we find ourselves in the absurdly ridiculous position of signing adoption contracts while pregnant. Who does this...twice?

We both lost hope in Russia pretty quickly. Even before our agency officially "closed" their program it became quite clear to us what the outcome would be. I knew it would take years to adopt another child, especially because we'd have to re-do our homestudy in the late summer/early fall. So..within days of deciding we'd adopt a 4th child and have a 3rd ourselves, we were pregnant. (Its true, people can call me a lot of things, but infertile is not one of them.) We pushed the adoption decision back until after the 1st trimester because we wanted to see how things played out with this pregnancy. Obviously, I have been fraught with incessant nerves. And I've also been sick as a dog--making it next to impossible to work, let alone think about adding another child or update the blog for you fine people. I hope you'll forgive me. Almost 16 weeks pregnant, I am still quite nauseous and exhausted but much better than in the earlier months. We are due 10/24...the same due date I had with Matthew.

I have reiterated to Tim about 1,000 times that if this baby is healthy--which we pray to God it is--then this will be my final go at gestating the miracle of life. I cannot do this again. Adoption seems so much less....nauseating.

And we go. Another crazy Larson adventure is about to begin at the exact same time as other major life changes. But hey, that's how we roll.

We are delighted about our pending adoption, even if it is a few years away, and I am glad to be able to share in this new journey with you as it plays out. At this point, we signed the contract (our agency basically forced our hand into a decision because they had to close our file from the Russian adoption) but that's all. We will wait several months until we start our homestudy and start our family profile which goes to birth mothers. I think it all depends on how things are going once we have this third kid. I've heard 3 is a shock to the system, and anything after that is sort of negligible (our neighbors just had their 5th child in 8 years.)

We hope you'll follow our new journey. We remain saddened and disappointed (and a few other choice words) by the outcome in Russia. We still think about those orphans, about that girl that would have been ours, and pray they will find good homes soon.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

To Russia, on Pride and Prejudice

So I suppose all of you have heard by now: things are not looking good for the Russian orphans trapped by politics and the American families trying to adopt them. An update with some explanations, the information we have now with how this affects us, and a bit of an editorial are long overdue. Here you have it:

The Politics
On November 1, 2012 the bilateral agreement went into affect between Russia and the United States.  This agreement, among other things, called for greater and more in depth pre-adoption training on the part of American families adopting and also allows Russia to have greater oversight in the post-adoption placement of their children--meaning they should have "access" to see how these kids are doing in their American homes. The bilateral agreement also stipulated that, should either party wish to pull out of the agreement, a one year notice was required.

In December the United States passed the Magnitsky act which, to the best of my knowledge bans Russian citizens who have known human rights violations from entering the US and also freezes their American assets. In retaliation, just before the New Year, Moscow passed a bill designed to retaliate against the Magnitsky act.  One small amendment of this bill, which notably did not get added on until the bill had already made much headway in the Russian parliament, was a ban on adoption of Russian children by US citizens. Much to the shock and dismay of many around the country, including many Russian officials and Russian citizens, the bill was passed overwhelmingly and was signed into law by President Putin effective on January 1, 2013.  The Russian officials who endorsed the bill sited the abuse and/or death of 19 (out of thousands and thousands) of Russian adopted children brought to the USA in the past decades as reason for their support of the amendment.  

This bill is a domestic law, and as such it (apparently) overrides the "bilateral" agreement that was put forth in November which I referenced above and thus the Russian government does not feel the need to honor the "one year notice" clause given in the bilateral agreement. At the time of the signing of the bill there were somewhere between 26 and 50 kids in Russia who were "legally" in the custody of their American parents (meaning the Americans had passed the 2nd and final court hearing in Russia) but who were in the mandated 30 day waiting period before they could legally be taken to the US. At the time it was said that these children would not be allowed to leave the country and would be returned to the orphanages and the Americans sent home.

The Progress
There has been little progress made in negotiations on this bill, but not for the USA's lack of trying. We have had 2 conference calls with the state department. They are actively working to try to urge Russians to allow those cases who are already in process (i.e. have a submitted Russian dossier) to continue in the spirit of the "one year clause" of the bilateral agreement. Russia has gone back on their initial word about those 26-50 children and the supreme court recently issued a statement saying that all of those children who have passed the 2nd court prior to January 1, 2013 would be allowed to leave the country with their American parents. So far 19 of those children have successfully exited Russia. More will undoubtedly leave in the next few weeks as the regional courts have been given the "ok" to process adoption decrees and passports for these children. There has been no word thus far on the rest of those families in process to adopt from Russia--i.e. anyone who has not yet had 2 court dates. There are ongoing attempts by the state department (including a recent letter from Hillary Clinton to the Russian Parliament) urging them to allow those families in progress to continue. However, nothing official has been stated and it is my perception, though I do not know it to be fact, that the overall sentiment in the Russian government is not looking good for us.

Where we stand
Our adoption agency has urged us, on multiple attempts, to stay the course. They truly believe that we will be allowed to process our adoption, they just believe it will take months to get it sorted out. They have worked in Russia for decades and so I have some trust in them. However, I am deeply concerned by the general lack of support from the Russian government and I am not very optimistic.

In a very interesting, and rather depressing, turn of events, I found out a few weeks ago from our adoption agency that they have identified a little girl for us and her information is in our file. They informed us that she was coming available for referral in January and we would have received her information to view this month.  We were so, so close to getting to see our (potential) daughter. Tim and I now wonder if we can be considered in the category of people who have gotten a referral but have not yet a court date since it appears that the Russian adoption people released her information to our adoption agency as a referral who then put it in our file, to be tabled until after the holidays. We have not gotten word yet as to whether or not we would be considered to have already received a referral, and frankly, this does not really matter as not even people who have received a referral and traveled for one court day have been allowed to continue with their adoption. We continue to wait for Russia to make some kind of official announcement as to whether or not our adoption can proceed, but I expect this will take months.

Because many of you are wondering, yes, yes, we will lose the $15,000 that we have already put into this process. We will lose all the emotional energy, all the hope, and all the time we put into this. But it is not about the money. It is not about the time. Its about this little girl, still waiting in Russia, who was supposed to go to our family. She is still sitting in a Russian orphanage, being fed watered down tea and coffee instead of milk, watered down oatmeal and soup, getting more malnourished by the passing month. She is not developing her language skills, her motor skills like she should. I believe that the Russian orphanage workers are wonderful, kind hearted good intentioned people, but they cannot love each child like they need to be loved for proper development.  This little girl is getting far, far more punished than we are--as I sit here by the fire place, with tons of toys from our two, healthy, well adjusted children on the floor around me. The Russian children--not the American families--are the real losers here.

Our plans
Well, this royally screwed up our future plans. We had originally planned that I would delay residency by one year and stay home with all 3 kids once we brought our girl home from Russia. But looks like I have to proceed with residency. We have researched other international adoption alternatives, and found several good ones, but none will be so quick as to be completed in such a timely manner as to be reasonable to delay residency. The same thing was told to us about domestic adoption options. I definitely think that we will adopt (hopefully internationally) in the future, but with residency looming it's not smart to start that process until after we have moved. Once we start a process, pick another country, etc, etc it will likely be years until the adoption is final. In the meantime, we will wait out Russia and see what happens and continue to pray for a miracle. Many have asked us (and some said rather nonchalantly) whether or not we would just have another biological child. The answer is most certainly of course. I am not waiting 2-4 years until I can add another child to my family (if I can help it), but I would really rather that tomorrow Russia called me and said that we could bring this little girl home from the orphanage.  I have become so invested in this process I hate to just nonchalantly say, "oh well, we'll just have another baby."  That, and (let's be honest) I totally believe Tim and I can make only boys.

My thoughts
I believe it goes without saying that I am upset, outraged, in shock, utter disbelief. Perhaps I have too much optimism (or denial) in saying that there is a small part of me that believes Russia will get it in gear and allow us to finish. I cannot believe that their government has decided to sacrifice their most vulnerable children for pride and a political statement.

But this is sin. This is the perfect picture of sin. This is the same sin that allows a young man to walk into an elementary school and indiscriminately shoot 6 year old children. The same sin that causes parents to neglect and abuse their children--landing them in orphanages or foster homes around the world. The same sin that causes broken, damaged, and lost relationships with family and friends.  Even the same sin that has caused the death and abuse of 19 adopted Russian children here in America. his is the same sin that is in my heart, my husband's heart, my children's heart. I do not mean to say that the Russians passing this bill is equivalent to Matthew hitting Samuel after we tell him not to, but I do mean to say that in the sinful world we live in, anything is possible. Sin drives men towards all sorts of evil. Pride. Greed. Retribution. Selfishness are the root of much conflict and evil.

In 12th grade English class I had to do a project on "the human condition."  This is it. The ugly part of it. Sure, there are wonderful, wholesome, feel good parts. I believe it was Anne Frank who said that "in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart."  That may be true, Ms. Frank, but I think you of all people would have to admit that, even if we are really good at heart, we have a remarkable ability to act on our pride and selfishness in ways that hurt, damage, and (in your case) destroy others. History continues to paint pictures of prideful, selfish men (and women) who, for their own gain and due to their own prejudices, sacrifice the most vulnerable around them.  

And so, I continue to look to the One who will one day wipe sin from our world.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The changing vision of Elizabeth

Sigh.  Wait, let me do it again.  Sigh.

If you are reading this thinking that you will glean some insight for your own adoption journey as you are contemplating taking the leap, I will give you my most important piece of advice yet.

Stop. Run. Have your own babies, or steal them from a neighbor, a friend, a relative. Foster some, adopt from America.  But do not, under any circumstances, wake up one morning and turn to your husband and say, "honey, lets adopt a baby from...Russia...Ethiopia...China...Guatamala...Ukraine...Thailand....Pakistan.  Just don't.  Resist the humanitarian urge.

If that did not deter you, then my second piece of advice is this:

Have no expectations.  If they give you a time frame, double it.  If they give you an age range, triple it. If they give you a gender, think the opposite.   Do not try to plan your life, picture your child, or make any plans for the presence of the child in your family until that child has been in your family for at least 3 months. Maybe longer. Just to be safe.

This whole process has been so unbelievable its unexplainable.

When we started this process...18 months ago, we were told that we should have the girl in our home 1 year later.  Well...18 months later, we don't even have a referral.  Some idiot woman from Tennessee put her son on a plane back to Russia and ruined any sense of timeliness we'd hope to have in this process.  Russia came to a grinding halt.  First, they told us we'd have to take 3 trips instead of 2.  Then, they tell us there were no referrals happening. Then, they told us we had to do all this new required (additional) training and a few weeks ago we dropped everything to go to Chicago and get it done. I think the theme of this process has been "hurry up and wait.''  Last November we rushed to get our dossier in before the end of the year so we'd get on the wait list early. That was 1 year ago.  Then we got a referral 7 months later and we rushed to get the child evaluated only to turn her down.  Then they told us we had to hurry, hurry, do this training immediately because there are no referrals without them. So we hurried to Chicago. We hurried through some online training courses. We hurried to order this book we needed. And we got that all in last week. Then we heard there were some referrals coming available in November. But we also heard our dossier was expiring (the one we submitted a year ago). So..hurry up and get it done. Hurry up and re-do the forms, the notaries, the certifications. Tim's boss left work in the middle of the day to get an employment verification taken first to the bank and then to the courthouse (remember, we are in CO, we can't do any of this in OH) and my dad had to drive up to our house in Dayton and fed ex copies of our passports overnight to our adoption agency. Tim drove around like crazy in CO getting this together. We sent our new, updated dossier just before November so we could hopefully get a November referral.

So...when we came down from the mountain (literally) on our hike today and Tim is on the phone walking towards me and smiling, I knew he was on the phone with our adoption agency. This was it. Finally.

Wrong. Instead, now, they say that we will be waiting over a year for a referral of a girl under 2.



If we are willing to make a decision to accept a child up to age 3 (read: the oldest she can be when we bring her home to the USA is 2 years 11 months old) then we can get a referral in the "beginning of the year" which I finally found out will be either February or March. (read: 3-4 more months of waiting...)

So..hurry up! Make this decision! We need to know! We will have to redo your paperwork ASAP. No big deal. We're just totally changing everything we've imagined about this adoption. Adopting a baby and adopting a toddler are two very different things. So we talked about it..weighed our options...for all of about 30 minutes...because it was almost close of business in Ohio. The emotional challenges a 2 year old and a 1 year old faces from being in an orphanage are huge, and I do not pretend to be ignorant of the potential behavioral and emotional challenges bringing home an orphaned and poorly cared for 2 year old will present to our family.

But, here we are, hurrying now to redo our paperwork by Monday to allow us to adopt a child up to her 3rd birthday. Only to wait again..for 3-4 more months.

I feel incredibly at peace and incredibly unsettled about this decision all that the same time, but we have until February or March to change the vision we have for little Elizabeth Claire (insert Russian name here) Larson and to prepare ourselves for what this will look like when we bring her home next summer(?)

I am very thankful I now have some kind of timeline, but if the the last 18 months have taught me anything, it's that any expectations I carry are really quite laughable.

God, I hope this works out. I hope that somewhere in Russia right now is our daughter and that in 3-4 months we will get to see her picture and travel to Russia to meet her.

So...again, I implore you: make babies or steal babies. It's really the best way to go.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On parenting an (almost) three year old

Some days I feel like the world's worst mother, I wonder if my kids have any hope of turning out normal.  It is SO easy to parent other people's screaming children in the grocery store or in the hospital or out at a restaurant (if they would just tell that child, no.  Perhaps if you didn't yell at him like that....)
But parenting your old child is hard, hard work.  And some days, most days, I feel completely inadequate.

I've been working in the ER lately and some days I work 1:00pm-11:00pm.  Today is such a day.  I know that if I don't keep Matthew home with my in the morning, I will not see him at all, so I do it, despite the fact that it throws of his schedule. But on those days I do, I feel like such a parenting failure.

Our morning went as such:
Go for a quick run. Come back and pump (stationary time, can't really do much with Matthew.)  Meanwhile, Matthew is "playing" with the blender pretending to blend food like he sees me do for Samuel.  "Mommy, will you blend with me?"  I can't right now, Matthew. I'm pumping for Samuel. Then I ask Matthew what he wants for breakfast. Eggs. I start to make eggs. No, waffles.  But I'm making eggs, Matthew. Let's have eggs.  No, waffles. Minor temper tantrum. Since I haven't already started to make the eggs (only gotten them from the fridge), I commence making waffles, going back on my "no."  Meanwhile, "mommy will you plug this in? Mommy will you blend with me? Mommy, will you get me milk? Mommy, can you pick that up?"  I get frustrated. No, Matthew, I'm trying to make you waffles now because I have to feed Samuel his breakfast and we have to go to school soon.  I finish the waffles. Give them to Matthew. Sit down with some of my own.  Mommy, can I have yours? No, matthew, you have your own (which are half gone by now).  These are mommies. They are the same. You need to eat yours.   Breakfast is done. Samuel is screaming. I somehow manage to feed him is fruit.  Mommy, will you blend with me? Not right now, Matthew, I'm feeding Samuel.  Matthew is playing with his plate and knocks Samuel's bowl off the table and onto the floor. It spills.  "Matthew!" (in an exacerbated voice!) I'm so frustrated.  I go to get more food, "are you getting Samuel more food?" "yes," "Why?" "because you spilled it, Matthew."  The kid is 3. It's not his fault, what happened to the days when he was a younger baby and would knock something over or spill something and I'd simply say, "uh-oh! No problem!"

Then, the kitchen is a disaster. I commence cleaning.  Samuel is screaming because he's tired and a little sick with a cold. Matthew is still "blending." I'm telling him "no" every other second because he's trying to do something he's not allowed to do.  I finally finish cleaning and put Samuel in his crib since he's so tired.  He falls asleep.  I take a shower. Matthew stays downstairs, alone, still blending. After my shower, he comes upstairs for a band-aid because he has a cut on his finger.  I give him a band-aid, change his diaper, get his shoes on, put him in the car.  

He plays with the keys in the car, opening and closing the automatic door while I get Samuel ready to get into the car. While putting Samuel in the car, he starts to close the door on my. "Matthew! Stop.  He does not listen.  "Matthew Benjamin, give me those keys right now!"  He complies. But he's only 3. He doesn't understand. I'm the one who gave him the keys in the first place, because if I don't, a large tantrum ensues. I get Samuel in the car, and we go.

I never did blend with him.

And when we get to school I drop him off and he clings to me. How on earth can he love me so much and not want me to leave when my interactions with him that morning consisted of, "no," and "not yet."

I get so frustrated with him all the time for the stupidist things.  For not sitting still like I want, smiling for pictures like I want, for always wanting to play with my phone, for not listening to me when I tell him no (ok, maybe that one is not so stupid), for not laying still when I change his diaper, for still needing to USE a diaper, for splashing water onto the floor in the bathtub.   He's 3.  He doesn't know. It doesn't really matter. And while I don't "yell" at him, I often get quite frustrated and change the tone of my voice more than I want. Or raise it just a little. Oh, to have the (non-existent) temper of my husbad, or my mother.  But...I got my father's temper and I got a child with my, shall we say, zest for life.

I go back on my "no" more often that I should--typically after i've re-evaluated the situation and decided I don't have the energy for a battle. But then why did I say no in the first place?

I have no idea if I'm normal or if I'm just a huge failure. I definitely have no idea how single mom's do it, and I have no idea how stay at home mom's do it. They must have the patience of a saint, because at least going to work revives me in someway so that I'm a little more patient with my children when I return home.

I apologize to Matthew sometimes, which I hope will help him in the long run, but all the time I feel like I don't spend enough quality time with him or have enough patience with him or enforce the limits like I should.  

I need a parenting mentor.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Our budding photographer

Matthew's favorite thing ever is to take pictures.  He is always using our phones as cameras and pitches a big ol' fit when we pull out our real, expensive camera and tell him he can't play with it. He turns everything into "cameras": legos, blocks, pieces of paper, etc.

We got him a kids digital camera for his birthday. His birthday party is next Saturday and we're going to give it to him then. He's going to flip a lid. We're going to have to video him opening it.   Here are some of the "better" pictures Matthew has taken. I think it's funny, because it documents so many things that wouldn't otherwise get documented.

 This is Matthew's gummy vitamin that he takes every morning. I'm pretty sure it's the highlight of his day.  Its obviously important enough to him to take a picture of it:

Signing forms for Samuel's shots at the doctor:

Exer-saucer fun

Samuel loves his Exer-saucer.  We had some fun while Daddy and Matthew went to the store. 

The rogue agent

I have a problem.  A personal problem. And so this blog is about to get really personal because I need some serious help, so I'm going to have to tell you all about it.

Bertha has gone rogue.

(Big) Bertha is my left boob.

My "extra" pumping has been, until this point, something I have done in order to build up a giant (and I mean giant) supply of extra breast milk and also something I've done to continue burning as many calories as humanly possible (hey, I love my ice cream).  Samuel has slept through almost every single night since he was about 6 weeks old.  He is now 6 1/2 months old.  I have not slept through the night since sometime during my pregnancy with Samuel because, since he started sleeping through the night, I've been awakened by painful boobs (mostly my left) and gotten up to pump.  I did this with Matthew, too, to build up my supply. So every night since Samuel was 6 weeks old I've pumped and typically I would get I'd say maybe 10-11 ounces of milk in my night pumping. Samuel drinks 7.5 oz bottles. Sometimes I've gone through spells where I'd get 15 ounces of milk, and I would like to tell you that 9 or 10 of those ounces were pumped from Bertha alone. I said that at 6 months I was going to stop the middle of the night pumping. I have no idea how to do this.

With Matthew, around 6 months, he started waking up consistently in the night to eat.  And I'd feed him and he'd always eat way less than the 10 ounces I had been pumping, so for a month or so he did this and my supply decreased and I wasn't in pain because he drinking, but just not that much.   Then, when he started sleeping again, so did I and it was pretty nice.

But this is not happening now. Samuel woke up in the night for about like 4-5 days and I fed him and those nights I didn't pump, and I thought we had a nice streak going that would end my pumping drama.  But then he started sleeping again and I was still waking up in pain.  My supply had definitely gone down but was still there. I was pumping maybe 8 ounces instead of like 10, and Bertha was putting out 5-6. But then I started working nights at the ER (just 3 nights in a row) and so I had to pump in the middle of the night. And now I've been done with nights for like a week or so, but for some reason, the last couple of days my supply has just skyrocketed. I am trying to force myself to stay in bed and not wake up in the middle of the night, but like 5:30 rolls around (which has been my wake up time the last few days) and I am in so much pain I absolutely have to pump. It's like, I had no idea I had bread tissue up by my collar bone. Seriously. And I've gotten like 15 ounces, with 9 coming from Bertha. And after I pump, oh my gosh, the relief.  My aunt Linda once said that pumping that much milk after you're that full is better than sex.  So, so, true.

But...this cannot continue. Because I only have one more day of waking up at 5:30 for work (Thank you, God) and then I will be sleeping until like 7 and I'm not going to be happy when Bertha wakes me at 5:00 or 5:30.

So what do I do? How do I tame this beast? I need to sleep in the middle of the night. But my schedule is so erratic. It changes weekly, if not, monthly, with each rotation and so, therefore, does my pumping schedule, so that's probably not good for tying to decrease things.  Do I just pump until I'm not in pain? (Because today, that was like 6 ounces out of Bertha alone until I was not in pain) or do I set an alarm at like 2 or 3, before I'm bursting, and wake up and pump just like 3 ounces out of Bertha? And how long do I do all this for? How long is it going to take to tame this?  Do I need a stepwise program here to decrease my addiction, here? I'm not sure I can go cold turkey. I'd be in so much pain that'd I'd be awake for hours in the night thinking about my pain when getting up to pump and going back to bed takes 20 minutes to 30 minutes. Not sure how long it would take to decrease things, though, if I went cold turkey.

Has anyone ever dealt with this before? Things just worked so seemlessly with Matthew, but with Matthew I was nursing more often than I was pumping and now that's not really the case with my schedule. I think the pump has caused my problems, which have not really been problems until I decided I really, really, need to sleep through the night.

So, nursing friends, and particularly those who pump a lot (I think I even have some whose kids never took the breast and they exclusively pumped...) fix my problem. Please.