Sunday, July 29, 2012

To our friends with gratitude

I just wanted to write out a quick post to express our sincere gratitude to all of our friends who have reached out to us in the wake of turning down the referral last week.  I was overwhelmed and sincerely surprised at the number of e-mails, text messages, facebook messages, and phone calls we received...many from people I have not spoken with since high school. I had no idea so many people read our blog! Thank you to all who are praying for us to get another quick referral and for all the kind words of empathy and condolences.

In the aftermath of turning down this referral we have also received many words of affirmation that our decision was the right one for our family. I cannot say how much these mean to me, as I have been questioning our decision. I know that I do not want a fetal alcohol syndrome child, but I also know that I want a daughter, and without meeting her it is so difficult to make such a final decision.  But alas, I know in my head that our decision was the right one.

We are now waiting again, and I am definitely a lot more anxious than I was prior to receiving the referral.  I have been fervently praying for a quick referral.  There were so many things that I was uncertain about with the possibility of traveling to Russia so soon, namely what I would have to do about the ever inflexible medical school.  But it's amazing how those things don't matter as much to me after I was so so close to actually traveling to Russia.  We have so many plans (we are going to Colorado for 4 weeks for an elective in October and North Carolina for 4 weeks for an elective in November) and I was so concerned about how the timing of everything would fall.  This no longer concerns me...if I don't get to go because I'm in this point I really don't care. 

Matthew says he thinks we will have to wait 3 weeks for another referral.  I hope my 2 year old has foresight I don't know about.

So anyway, friends, thank you so much for all the support you have given us.  Adoption is not for the faint of heart, and I have heard story after story of people losing their children at the last minute, some of them after they had already cared for them for several days.  If this is the only bump we have, I will be surprised and consider myself blessed.  I remind myself often that this child was not taken from me, but rather I chose to turn this referral down.  While it was hard to do so, and I do feel a sense of loss, I can still find hope that we will receive a referral for a healthier child who is a better fit for our family.

It means so much to us that you are choosing to follow our journey.  What a ride it will certainly be. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

To Russia with Devastation

My heart is broken.  The last time I felt this sad was the day and weeks following my 2nd miscarriage.   Because, in some ways, that's what happened.

We spoke today with the doctor at Cincinnati Children's International Adoption Clinic and she said there were many "red flags" about our referral.  While I understand that the child we will receive will highly likely have been exposed to alcohol in the womb, I also understand that there is definitely a "threshold" level at which the baby begins to experience effects, so not every child exposed to alcohol has fetal alcohol syndrome.  However, this child appears at "high risk" according to the doctor, for having fetal alcohol syndrome.  Several of the "indicators" for fetal alcohol syndrome were present in this child: extremely small birthweight, extremely small head size, and continued poor growth with continued poor head size, not all of which can be accounted for by life in an orphanage.  From several things in the medical report the doctor also indicated the child may have been exposed to congenital infections, and drugs.  While the child's facial features were not distinctive for fetal alcohol syndrome, there were a few things that the physician noticed which may or may not have indicated it.  However, given the child's birth history, weight, and growth, there were so many parameters indicating to the doctor that the child had significant alcohol exposure which likely impacted her brain development.  Additionally, the report documented that the mother drank.  Apparently, it is very unusual for the reports to document that the mother drank, because almost all mothers over there drink as it is an accepted social norm.  The doctor said that typically, when it is documented, that is a red flag that the mother drank excessive amounts.

When we started this process, Tim and I decided that we could not accept a child with known or highly suspected fetal alcohol syndrome.  I am about to be a doctor, and I cannot give such a child the parenting she needs if I am a working mother.  I also don't feel I could give my other children the parenting they need if I had a child who required such extended attention.  Long term, the doctor said, she would not expect this little girl to do well.  Also, she indicated that often children with fetal alcohol syndrome have behavioral and learning problems that prohibit them from acquiring the executive decision making skills they need to be fully functional and independent adults. This is just not something Tim and I are equipped to deal with long term, and while we understand that we might get this anyway, either from a biological or adopted child, with no prior indicators, it is a situation we need to avoid if we have the "objective findings" as the doctor called it, ahead of time.

I have to trust the doctor, that she is right and good at her job.  She has seen hundreds of internationally adopted children and is a mom to 3 internationally adopted kids. I have to defer to her expertise and turn down this referral even though I feel like I have been hit by a bus.

This little girl is a strikingly beautiful girl and to look at her picture and know she desperately needs a family and know she is living in an orphanage and tell her "no," well, that just kills me. I feel subhuman. I also feel incredibly unsure of our future. While I was so confidant before that we would get what we wanted, now I find myself saying, "will we ever get a child who fits our family? How long until we get another referral? Am I going to have to wait another 6 months for a referral?"  We were so fortunate to get a referral for such a young child, and I know the chances of that happening again are very, very slim.  So again I feel so uncertain and so sad about having to turn this down.  No one can answer these questions. I just have to trust that things will work out--that what God started in our family, He will complete.  I have said to Tim several times, "maybe we should just accept her, and hope for the best." But Tim keeps reminding me, we have been given enough information to know that hoping probably won't work.  This is a child I am adopting. I cannot send her back, I cannot change my mind. I cannot regret this decision. I am not buying a scarf.  I am not picking a dog out at a shelter.  I cannot adopt her out of guilt. I cannot adopt her because I am afraid that another one will not come along. I cannot adopt her because I long for a little girl. I have to make the right decision for my family and my future.  But in doing so, I feel like I have just killed this child. I pray she finds a wonderful home with a patient mother who can bring her up the way she needs.  Because I loved this little girl.  I fell in love with her.  For 48 hours I was her mother. It's impossible to explain this to you, reading this, how I can see a picture of a child and feel a connection to her as if she is my own, but that is how I feel.  The doctor stated that when she was adopting her 3 kids she also turned down several referrals.  Even though that was 20+ years ago, she said, she still remembers each of those kids she turned down, their names, their pictures, their stories. I suppose this is common.  Perhaps therein lies the miracle of how you can adopt children and love them just as much as your own biological children. 

I am sad.  I have every right to be sad because this is a very, very, sad thing.  The saddest. In a way, it feels like my 3rd miscarriage. That is the only other experience I have had in my life where I felt this profound sense of loss and hopelessness butting up against this very real and very powerful desire to be a mom to another child.

And so, we wait.  More waiting.  And pray that we don't wait another 6 months for a phone call with "Medina, OH" on its caller ID.  And also pray that when we do, that child is a good fit for our family.  A family I spoke with at the adoption picnic in June said that they turned down a referral and that it was 8 months until they received another one.  I asked the mother what the hardest part of her entire adoption process was, bringing home her children, and everything involved and she said that the hardest part was the wait after turning down the first referral.  I get it now.  But alas, here we go.  This time we have no time frame, and that is the most frustrating part of waiting.  I guess, in a way, the analogy of having a miscarriage really works.  The loss of something only magnifies your desire for it more, and makes its absence in your life that much more devastating.

Monday, July 23, 2012

From Russia with Glinda.

Well, it happened.  I did not think it would happen, to be truthful, perhaps the same way as you don't think your wedding will ever happen until you are literally walking own the aisle, or the same way you don't think you'll ever have a baby until you are actually carrying one home.  But nevertheless, while looking at the parrots at the Naples Zoo (of course, we are on vacation), my phone rang and came up as "Medina, OH."  I knew. Here we go. Or not.

I wish I could tell you all this information that I have just read, or post the pictures on here I just received, but there are so many things holding me back.  The main thing being that a year ago, when I began filling out forms and signing my life away, I recall signing that I wouldn't share any information about our referral until she was ours.  The second being that I am not sure we are going to take the child.  But I will share what I can.

The child they called us about is very young, much younger than we had anticipated, which we are incredibly thankful for.   I cannot tell you her real Russian name, but it starts with a G, and reminds me of Glinda, the "good witch" from the Wizard of Oz (or Wicked, which is my preferred reference point.)  And, like people give nicknames to their children in utero, this is what I will call her until we can share her Russian and American name with you.  She was born in December and is just a few weeks older than my newest nephew.  She is coming on 8 months.  I looked through her medical file and I am so thankful that I (almost) am a doctor because I understood the medical jargon they were using and know what the potential problems are as well as the things that are really not problems at all.  For sure, I don't care if she has baby eczema. Our first and foremost concern is that we receive a healthy child.  Since we will undoubtedly have a whole host of challenges with raising her, it is best if her emotional and physical health are as good as can be given her circumstances.  So, we are working with the international adoption clinic at the University of Cincinnati.  There is a doctor there who is trained to review these crazy documents and interpret words, findings, etc in light in the country of origin.  There are a few things on there that I am really unsure of their true meaning given what we know of how these medical records work, so we rely in the consultation of this doctor to tell us if she is healthy.  The doctor will also examine the 2 pictures we received for signs of any genetic syndromes, fetal alcohol syndrome, obvious neurologic problems, etc.  I already scrutinized and don't see anything obvious.  The only thing I will say about her picture is that if we do end up adopting this girl, my hopes of adopting a blue eyed, blonde haired Russian girl will be dashed. Alas, I shall have bigger disappointments in my lifetime.

We also know that this child was referred to another American family who turned her down.  We do not know why as they used a doctor that the adoption agency we are working with does not know.  I do not see any glaring things with her medical record that surprise me or overly concern me, but my training and knowledge are very limited.  There are several things in there that I think would be very concerning to someone if they either had no medical training and were just looking things up, or if they did not have knowledge of how Russian medical diagnoses go with children in orphanages, so part of me thinks that perhaps that family was thinking there was a big problem that is not really a big problem.  Or maybe I am just being overly optimistic. We are going to be putting a lot of weight on the report we get from Cincinnati and are not going to really be making a decision or really even able to talk about making a decision until we get the meeting with Cincinnati.  I have a ton of questions for this doctor.

So....we meet with her on Wednesday afternoon by phone as by then she will have time to review the pictures and medical records that we have already received.  After that Tim and I will have to make a very, very, very gigantic and life altering decision.  Our adoption agency tells us we have until Friday.  No pressure, here, while we are on our family vacation, trying to relax.  No pressure at all. the time I touch down in Dayton with the boys on Saturday, we'll have this decided.

I am trying to not get too attached to this little girl because I might have to tell her no.  And what's funny is that when I looked at her picture my first thought was not, "how cute!" or "my baby!" or "yay!"  My first thought was, "DARN IT! No blonde hair. No blue eyes."  My second thought was, "Thank God, she has a filtrum."  (A sign that she might not be too terribly damaged from alcohol exposure in the womb.)  But, in her defense, I often look at Samuel's eyes and find myself feeling very sad that they are no longer blue. I still love him to pieces.

Fear not, oh blog stalkers, we will update again later this week with our decision. I will do my best to update my blog regularly so you can see the whole process.

And...since I can't share this girl's picture, or name, or birthweight (she was VERY tiny) or anything with you, I will show our fun vacation.  I will try to post more from our camera, this is all I have on my phone.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


On Tuesday the United States and Russian governments ratified the long awaited bilateral agreement regarding Russian adoptions from Americans.  This agreement was put to the government because of few adoptions gone horribly wrong.  According to an article I read from the Washington Post, the Russian government has stated that 19 Russian adopted children have suffered abuse or death at their hands of their American adoptive parents.  When that crazy woman in 2010 sent her adopted son back to Russia alone, there was outrage within Russia at the adoptions that take place between the two countries.  This agreement, now in place, requires all adoptions to go through a certified Russian agency and requires that agency to monitor the child's upbringing in the US.  This doesn't affect us at all because we were already in compliance with those laws.  It also requires the Russians to provide more medical and social history to prospective adoptive parents.  I am not sure how much this will change as much is unknown about these children's backgrounds.  But what we do think this will mean for us is that things should speed up again.  We have now been waiting 6 months for our referral and we began this process 1 year ago.  We continue to wait...hopefully we will receive news soon of more referrals being handed out as a result of this agreement.

In June we went to the picnic for our adoption agency.  It was encouraging to meet the families who have adopted and see their children.  By and large, the Russian kids were as I expected.  Most were seemingly normal with reported issues from their parents such as attachment problems, sleeping problems, and difficulty controlling emotions.  A few kids I saw had noticeable fetal alcohol syndrome (and by a few I mean 2 out of probably close to 75 to 100.)  But, other than that and one child with an impressive hearing aid, no other health issues were obvious.  I think what was so encouraging about all this was seeing that my expectations for our daughter are reasonable.  Of interesting note, probably 60-70% of the adopted Russian kids were boys, and of those boys, over half were named either Alexander or Andrew.   I think a lot of families adopt older kids so they keep their Russian names. We may keep one of our girl's names as a second middle name but we have a very American name awaiting her.

And now we begin month 7 of waiting...

Cow Appreciation Day

Yesterday was cow appreciation day at Chick Fil A.  So, in an attempt to get a free dinner at Tim and Matthew's favorite restaurant, I did some last minute throwing together of some cow costumes.  I just used the cut outs that they provided online and then found a huge sheet of cow print fabric that a gift was wrapped in for our wedding and cut out some bandanas for all of us.  I must say, for getting the idea to participate in cow appreciation day one hour before we ate dinner, we looked pretty awesome. Next year, though, I will be more creative with our costumes.  This is definitely a new family tradition.

We enjoyed our free meals and are so thankful for Chick Fil A, the only restaurant that can get Matthew to eat protein 100% of the time.

In other news, yesterday was Samuel's 4 month birthday. We will have to celebrate him in another post later.