Saturday, 29 November 2008

Good News on Thanksgiving

We really missed Leah on Thursday. We distinctly felt the hole in our family as we celebrated together and thanked God for his many blessings. A good friend invited us over for dinner with his family, and we enjoyed a delicious meal and had a wonderful time talking and playing games.

We have been dog-sitting the last few days, and it has been a huge blessing to be out of our apartment for the holiday. Since we hadn't been home for a few days, we stopped by on our way to dinner and checked the mail. Our mailbox contained not only the confirmation that USCIS received our orphan's visa application, but also our fingerprint dates. The dates are both soon and convenient. I feel very relieved. Thank you all for your prayers. I am hopeful that we could now get our visa early in January. After such a long and sad day it was really nice to have a glimmer of hope.

Thursday, 27 November 2008


Today we are reflecting back on how good God has been to us this year. He gave us the gift of a child. She was beautiful. He gave us time with her, time to hug her and kiss her and tell her how much we loved her. He assigned to us the most caring nurses and competent doctors. He gave us family that surrounded us in our time of grieving. He gave us friends that cared for us and brought us many delicious meals. He brought the wonderful people at NILMDTS into out lives, and now we have amazing photographs of our Leah. He has given us people to listen and love us as we mourn. He has surrounded us with a community that prays for us and encourages us. He has given us hope for the future of our family. Most important of all, He has given us His own son and through Him assurance that we will be with our daughter again. We have a lot to be thankful for.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Certificate of Live Birth

We recently ordered and received Leah’s birth certificate. I am so thankful that she survived labor and that the state of Illinois acknowledges her life. It means so much to have this slip of paper. As parents to a baby who died so soon after birth, we have had so few chances for normal parent experiences. Filling out a form just like all the other parents and receiving in return a validation of Leah’s life makes us proud. Knowing that her tenacity has been officially recorded, that her presence on this earth has legal standing, provides us with comfort.

My heart breaks for all of the parents of stillborn babies who never have the chance to receive an official acknowledgment of their baby’s existence. All babies who take a breath have a right to a birth certificate, but those who pass away in their mother’s womb or during labor only receive a legal recognition in 25 states. Parents of stillborn babies are often only entitled to a death certificate. If you ever have a chance to sign a petition or to support a law concerning "Certificates of Birth resulting in Stillbirth" please do. This law would give parents the option of requesting a type of birth certificate for their stillborn baby. Since stillbirth is legally defined as the death of a baby later than 20 week gestation, most of the women who experience this must go through labor and give birth to their baby. Their babies are not born alive, but they give birth. Every mother and father deserves to have their baby positively recognized by their state.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Our Home Study is Complete!

This week we got our foster license in the mail, which means that our home study has been received by the state. It will take a while, but hopefully not more than a month, for them to review it and send it on to USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). We sent an application for an orphan visa (I-600a) to USCIS. Our home study will meet up with our application. At some point (we are not sure if this happens before or after USCIS gets our home study approval), we will get a letter telling us to go for fingerprinting. For those of you thinking, didn't you just get your fingerprint clearance back? The answer is yes, we did. But that was the FBI check. This fingerprinting will be for the Department of Homeland Security. And yes, this inability of branches of our government to communicate is costing us $160.00, another few hours of our day for the trip to the fingerprinting office, and more waiting. Visa approval can take up to three months. Since we sent our application in mid-November we should have it by mid-February. I have been told that USCIS in Chicago moves more quickly than the estimates and that we could have our visa approval by the end of January.

We are waiting for the list of dossier documents from our international agency. Apparently quite of few of them are compiled in the course of the home study, so we already have a third of the list finished. We would like to have everything together before we get our visa approval.

After we send our dossier the timing of our adoption will depend on how things go in Uganda, and how quickly our agency's Ugandan representative can find a baby available for adoption. It may be a little harder because we are asking him to find one as young as possible (the youngest allowed is six month) so that I can breast feed. That means he has to find a baby with really good paperwork proving Ugandan citizenship and abandonment.

In terms of timing, our home study was finished a month earlier than we expected, but because of some mail mix-ups and other delays our visa request was mailed later than we would have liked, so the visa and dossier may take longer than we had hoped. There is still a good chance, if everything goes smoothly, of us traveling early next summer.

Right now, on our side of things, we are praying for fast approval from the state of Illinois, quick processing from USCIS, a fingerprint appointment that we can both easily make, and no paperwork mix-ups or other unnecessary delays. We are also praying for our baby, his or her caregivers, and his or her birth parents. We would love it if you would join us in praying for any or all of these things.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

No More Scabs

When I was in seventh grade, I took my first and last ride on a dirt bike. The ride lasted all of thirty seconds and ended with me face-down in the dirt. After my mind caught up with my body, I got up and brushed myself off, completely stunned and absolutely numb. When I looked down to clean off my legs I noticed huge raw patches on my knees.

The wounds on my knees bled and bled, then they itched and itched as scabs formed around the rim and slowly worked inwards, over the course of the next few days, to cover the oozing centers. The scabs took quite some time to form, and because of their location they cracked, and bled a little more, and reformed, and chipped off, and it all resulted in a very unpleasant mess. However, because of those ugly and uncomfortable scabs protecting my skin my knees had a chance to heal.

My heart felt like my knees did then. For so long we bled grief profusely, and now, almost five months since Leah’s death, I finally felt like there was a good solid crust forming on the outer circle of my wound. Not covering it, but promising to. I still hurt, I was far from healed, but it felt like I had that little bit of protection that I needed to begin.

The events of last week have re-exposed our hurt. The little protection and distance we built up over almost five months of grieving have been brutally ripped away. We feel raw again.

I think it is far more about the rejection and much less about the loss of the baby. Not that we wouldn’t have loved to have him, but until Tuesday morning we had settled into waiting for our baby from Uganda. We had a measure of contentment with things as they stood. Having the possibility of having a baby now dangled in front of us and then taken away hurt, but what hurt more is that someone else examined our lives and decided we wouldn’t be the best parents for her child.

As we move into the holiday season, one that we planned to spend with our Leah, things were already getting tough, but we felt like we had the resources to deal with hard situations. Now we feel drained and vulnerable.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Dwarfism Awareness Week

It may not be exactly official, but Tonya, who keeps up one of the most informative blogs about dwarfism that I have come across, What is Normal? has declared this week "Dwarfism Awareness Week." She has asked other people to post about why they chose to continue their pregnancy after they received a diagnosis of dwarfism.

We continued on with the pregnancy because we loved our baby and wanted to spend as much time with her as possible, and we hoped for a few minutes with her after birth. As I have shared before, those minutes we had with Leah were worth the hard times. We had joy. We held it in our hands when we held our beautiful baby, our precious Leah whom God created and gave to us - if only for a little while. I believe we mourn more deeply because of those moments, since we can more fully comprehend what could have been if our beloved daughter did not have SRPS. That said, the memory of Leah and the time we had with her also help mitigate our pain. We had joy.

Our Leah had the cutest cheeks, precious pudgy legs and arms, and perfect little ears. We wish she would have had a non-lethal dwarfism so that she would still be with us.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008


I am so frustrated with God right now. I cannot understand why he put us through the events of the last two days. On Monday night we were excited about the way things were going with our adoption plans. We had specifically said no to a “dual track” pursuit of both domestic and international adoption. We were all about Uganda. We signed all the contracts our agency had sent us, prepared our orphan visa papers, and were ready to mail everything the next day. Then I realized the next day was Veterans Day, so mailing was not an option.

On Tuesday morning I got a call from our domestic agency asking if they could show our information to a birth mother that might be a good match. We said yes, of course, and I marveled that perhaps God had timed things very well. On Monday I had prayed and asked him to intervene if he planned for us to take a route different than the one we were on. When I got the phone call the next morning I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the answer to my prayer. I rushed around preparing our “profile” material, and managed to get it all turned in two minutes before the office closed. Everything seemed to be falling into place.

We have struggled since yesterday morning not to get too invested, but it is nearly impossible not to, especially because we feel called as Christians to pray over the process, and the mother, and baby, and everything that is going on. When you are praying for someone like that you can’t hold back your heart.

Today was miserable. Neither of us slept well last night, and both of us felt so nervous all day. I have felt like I was going to throw-up since I woke up this morning. At 5:30 this evening we received a call saying that the birth mother chose another family. Our feedback was that she liked us, but wanted a couple that was more “settled in their careers” and “older.” This was not a surprise to us. When we first started looking into adoption we were told that we were poor candidates for a domestic case because most adoptive parents are older and far wealthier than we are. One of the reasons, and there were many, that we chose international adoption in the first place was to avoid this anxiety and this rejection.

I simply cannot understand why we were pulled back in, and with this timing. Had our agency called on Wednesday, after I mailed that contract and check, I would have said no to participating in this process. We were perfectly happy with what lay ahead of us with an international adoption. We were content to wait (albeit somewhat impatiently) and excited about something. We don’t get very much of that.

I don’t understand why we were taunted with a baby this week. It just doesn’t make sense.

She didn't choose us.


I am officially a wreck. I barely slept last night, and I feel like I am going to throw-up. This feeling is one of the many reasons we chose not to go the domestic route. But how could I say no when they called?

I know that this is in God’s hands, but given the past six months, that doesn’t comfort me in regards to the amount of pain I might experience. If she doesn’t choose us, or changes her mind, I will know that this baby was not the one that God had in mind for our family. Then I will wonder why on earth God decided to put us through this. We have fragile hearts. We have lost so much in the last few months, and we do not feel ready or willing to lose again.

In the C.S. Lewis book that I quoted from yesterday, A Grief Observed, Lewis writes a metaphor depicting God as a surgeon. He describes how God, as a good surgeon, must continue his cutting and finish the operation no matter how badly it hurts the patient or how loudly the patient cries for mercy. If he stopped the surgery prior to its completion, the patient would be far worse off in the long run. The patient simply doesn’t have the perspective to realize this, so the surgeon cannot listen to his pleas.

I have no perspective. I don’t know if this opportunity is God’s answer to our pleas for a child, or if our “surgery” simply isn’t finished. That scares me. I don’t want to bleed anymore.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008


My adoption agency just called. Tomorrow a birthmother will look at a letter from us and pictures of us to decide if we should be the parents of her baby. This is completely unexpected, so I am now making an album and writing a letter. Please pray for the mother and father, the baby, and us. We don't know if this is the baby God has for us or not, but it would be amazing if it was.

A Grief Observed

I picked this book up at my church library on Sunday, and read the whole thing Sunday night after small group. That is not nearly as impressive as it sounds, since this book is only 60 pages long. In those short pages C.S. Lewis documents his reaction to the death of his wife. It does not comprise a coherent theology relating to grief, but rather the ramblings of a man whose heart remains in shambles. I loved it. Although I did not relate to all of his struggles, I found that his musings on the process of grief reflected so well many of my feelings. As he recounts the stages he passed through, I found myself nodding in agreement. I know those aches. Below I am including a few of Lewis' thoughts that resonated with the pain in my heart.

"Part of misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief."

"If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to 'glorify God and enjoy him forever'. A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bath him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild."

"What do people mean when they say 'I am not afraid of God because I know He is good?' Have they never even been to a dentist?"

"Tonight all the hells of young grief have opened again; the mad words, the bitter resentment, the fluttering in the stomach, the nightmare unreality, the wallow-ed in tears. For in grief nothing 'stays put'. One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?

But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?

How often- will it be for always?-how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, 'I never realized my loss till this moment'? The same leg is cut off time after time. The first plunge of the knife into the flesh is felt again and again."

Saturday, 8 November 2008


One common line of advice you hear with any grief situation is not to make any major decisions for at least one year. Don't change jobs, sell you house, or make any major financial changes. This advice is good for two reasons: one, grieving people are ill equipped to handle the stress of these major decisions, and two, grieving people are more likely to make a hasty decision they will regret later.

Unfortunately for us, we don't have the luxury of not changing jobs or not moving.

Originally I planned to finish my dissertation over the summer, have a baby, and job search in January. Since the first two didn't happen, the last one won't either. I simply didn't have the focus or the energy to complete my dissertation after we learned of Leah's diagnosis. Although things have vastly improved, the stress of meeting the deadlines for a January job search proved too much, and I had to give it up. My wonderful advisor has worked things out so I can turn in my dissertation when I feel up to it. Actually, I have turned in all of the chapters, I just need to do some revisions and work on the introduction and conclusion. Some days I am able to work with focus, others I'm not. I have learned to accept that...although "bad days" become harder to deal with as I continue to have more "good days," because I am often unprepared for them. I am thankful that I am in a position to grieve slowly, and to focus on my health instead of my work.

Jeff, as the bringer-home of most of our bacon, has not had that luxury. He will also finish his dissertation this year, and he is looking for a job. We are hoping to remain in the spirit of the "no big changes for a year" advice by finding a post-doc position at the place where he currently works. His present boss has a possible post opening up, if the money comes through. We continue to hope and pray that this will happen. Even though we long to return to California, we can’t overlook the benefits for Jeff from staying in a position similar to his present work and avoiding the stress of an extensive job search.

That brings us to our final decision, pursuing an adoption. Actually, we made that decision long ago, before we knew Leah wouldn't live, and that having biological children would carry such a high risk. We have always assumed we would adopt after we finished having biological children. Now we know that God has a different timeline and a different plan for us than the one we made. Although we continue to grieve the loss of our daughter, and of our incorrect belief that we had control over planning our family, we find joy which is greater than sorrow as we embark on this new adventure.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

John 9

Last week John 9 came up as one of the readings in my daily devotion book. The passage opens with a question, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"

Jesus answered "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him..."

The day after we first received Leah's diagnosis I went home to see my Mom graduate from college. That weekend I planned an open house in celebration of Mom's achievement. Organizing the party helped to distract me and gave me something positive to focus my attention on. Attending the party was very difficult, because not everyone had heard the sad news. One of my sisters stayed by my side to intervene when it became obvious that someone did not know about the change in our situation. It worked well, but there are some things that you just can’t prepare for.

About half-way through the party one of the guests said, "I don’t know very much about these things, but I'm sure that this just happened because you have so much stress from being in school and writing a dissertation."

She was right about one thing; she doesn't know very much about "these things."

Given the advances that have been made in scientific research, I thought that blaming parents for genetic problems was passé. Apparently I was wrong.

I am happy to say that this solitary comment is the only one I have had to deal with in regards to any blame that Jeff and I have in our daughter's death. We have messed up genes, and we passed them on. I don't blame myself for this any more than I blame the parent, the grandparent, the great-grandparent, and so on, who passed this on to me. None of us has any control over our genetic code. For all the faults of my DNA, I am who I am because of it, and the same goes for Jeff.

We don't know why God allowed our daughter to inherit the bad genes, all we can do is pray that God's works might be revealed through Leah's life and ours.

If only Jesus could follow us around to answer hard questions for us.

I have been thinking about the man in John 9, and his parents. They are all featured in the passage. The man is healed of his blindness, and the parents are called upon to confirm that he is their son and questioned about is healing. I wonder what they all thought when they heard Jesus' answer. Were they happy to be absolved of responsibility? Were they excited to have their lives be such an important part of God's plan? Or was it all lost in the sheer joy of knowing their son could see?

Did they question the suffering they had endured, the years of people whispering about them behind their backs, the subtle disapproval of strangers who blamed them, or the burden of guilt they had lived under assuming they had done something wrong?

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Adoption Update

Last week Jeff and I found out that we have been officially accepted to our international adoption program.

We have been working on our home-study with a local agency since the end of September, and it seems to be going really well. We have filled out a great deal of paperwork, begun our education, and done about half of our interviews. The big hurdles left to clear are our final couples interview, our home inspection, a day-long adoption education seminar, and getting our clearance from the FBI. We anticipate finishing all of the things we are responsible for by the end of November, but we may not be able to finish our home-study until December simply because the background checks take so long.

When we finish most of our home-study we will begin working on our dossier, which is all of the paperwork required by Uganda. We will also be applying to immigration for pre-approval for an orphan's visa. The visa is another thing that will take quite some time, and we will have no control over how long it takes. Once our dossier is complete it will be certified and sent to Uganda and we will wait for a referral.

We are requesting a healthy baby younger than 12 months. Since we are not requesting a boy or a girl we will probably get a boy, because apparently most people ask for girls.

This is going to be a long process. It might not take as long as many countries, and there is a chance we could be traveling by next summer, but with international adoptions things often take much longer than expected. We need prayers for patience, and the ability to trust that God's timing will be perfect. It is much easier to say it then to live it.