Monday, 29 December 2008

Another View

Our dear friend Melody recently wrote a blog post that shared her perspective on meeting Leah. You can read it on her blog, Love Dangerously.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Ornaments in Action

Jeff and I decided to hang our Leah ornament on Christmas eve, when each member of my family receives and hangs their new ornament for the year. Here are some pictures.

We received another beautiful ornament for Leah, made by our sister-in-law, Mary Elise. She made this pink angel for our tree. We love it.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Christmas Eve

Tonight we will gather with family and friends to rejoice over the birth of a baby. Born under less than ideal circumstances, this baby’s birth provided hope for humanity and a promise of peace. Although this baby arrived to parents of humble means, and he did so in a lowly place, he had the most spectacular birth announcement possible:

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.'"
(Luke 2: 8-14).

Tonight, Jeff and I will give glory to God, and beg for his peace, as we celebrate one baby and mourn another. Today marks six months since Leah's birth and death. It is exceptionally difficult to have such a milestone fall on what should be one of the most joyous days of the year.

Tonight my mouth will celebrate Christmas, but my heart will be longing for Easter and the promise that ultimately the grave will have no victory and death will lose its sting.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Christmas Ornament

At Christmas we celebrate God's gift to humanity of a very special baby, his own son. This year Jeff and I had hoped to enjoy Christmas with our baby, but those dreams did not come to fruition. Although we mourn the loss of this opportunity, we remain grateful that God blessed us with Leah and allowed us a little time with her. This gift of a child did not fit our expectations, or fulfill our dreams, but it was a gift. Thus our response is -as is should be- gratitude.

Jeff and I wanted to find a way to incorporate Leah into our Christmas celebration, and to ensure that she remains there in the coming years. We do not want to forget God's goodness to us, the joy of our pregnancy and of her birth, the darkness of mourning and the hope he has provided us. From where we stand now, if feels like we could never forget, but we know that time will dull our memory. Although we look forward to an alleviation of our pain, we fear that with that we might also forget the many benefits of our brokenness. In addition, we believe that Leah's short life has been an integral tool in shaping who we are as a family. Jeff and I need to tell her story in order to make sense of us.

We decided that we wanted to find an ornament for our tree that we could hang every year as we decorate to open up conversations about Leah and what we have learned through this experience. We also wanted the ornament to represent our loss, and how much we miss her. Finding an ornament has been difficult. We wanted to stay away from glass, or delicate construction, to make sure the ornament would be something future children could touch or hang and not worry about breaking. Most of the thematic ornaments seem inappropriate, and the the colors garish.

Finally, while looking through a gardening catalog, I found the perfect ornament. Well, really, ornaments: half-inch glass "raindrops." They are very tiny, and although breakable, they come in large packs so they are replaceable.

We decided that we will hang a teardrop for each Christmas we spend without Leah. They will remind us of how hard it is to celebrate without someone you love. The beauty and simplicity of the ornament, which resembles a teardrop, reminds us that sorrow is a natural part of life and that God cries with us. The fact that they were originally designed as raindrops points to God's renewal and his provision for our parched souls. I hope to one day watch my future children hang these ornaments and reflect that while God planned my family differently than I imagined, his plan was good.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Our Christmas Letter

Dear Family and Friends, December 2008

Last year I promised myself that we would write a Christmas letter this year. As the time drew near, I found myself increasingly reluctant to sit down and actually commit the events of this last year to paper. 2008 brought Jeff and me the greatest joy and the deepest sorrow.

In February, to our delight, we found out that our family was expanding. In May we received very difficult news during a routine ultrasound: our baby would not survive after birth. After weeks of ultrasounds and confusing and ever-changing diagnoses, we learned that a further medical complication developed which necessitated an early delivery. On June 24th our tiny baby girl arrived. Leah Veronica Klug was 9 ½ inches long, and weighed 1 pound, 6 ounces. She had her mother’s cheeks and her daddy’s ears. She spent forty-five amazing minutes with us. We cherish the time we had with her, both in the womb and in our arms and we continue to thank God for this blessing. We are grateful for the incredible support we have received from family and friends throughout this time. Pictures of Leah are posted on our blog at We are so proud of our girl.

I had been on track to complete my dissertation over the summer, but my work fell by the wayside in the midst of everything. I have now turned in all five chapters of my dissertation and am working on revising them to be turned in next summer. Jeff has continued on track towards his Ph.D., and should be graduating in June of 2009. Jeff currently works at Argonne National Lab and hopes to continue in a post-doctoral position there after his graduation. Although I am not looking forward to a few more years of snow and ice, we have made wonderful friends here in Illinois who help make the winters more bearable.

In September we decided to begin working on adopting a baby. We plan on adopting from Uganda, and if all goes well we hope that we will be matched with a child and be able to pick him or her up within the next year. We have completed our home study and have been approved as adoptive parents by the state of Illinois. We now await approval from the United States in the form of an orphan’s visa.

We continue our involvement at our church, First Presbyterian Evanston. We both serve in First Focus, our church's young adult ministry. Amy volunteers at the church library, and Jeff plays electric guitar in the worship band. Between our activities and work we feel rather busy these days. We are looking forward to a break and to spending the holidays in California with our families.

We hope that you find peace this Christmas season.


Amy and Jeff Klug

Saturday, 13 December 2008

St. Mary’s Services

When Jeff and I began researching adoption, I used information from blogs written by adoptive families to help choose our agencies. We ended up with two agencies: one in-state to complete our home study, and one to handle the international side of our adoption. Now that our home study is finished, I thought I should write a quick post about our home study agency to put information out there for other prospective adoptive parents.

We ended up choosing St. Mary's Services, in Arlington Heights, Illinois for our home study. We decided to apply with them because they responded quickly to my inquiry emails, seemed interested in helping us, and were flexible on a few matters of payment. Adoption agencies bill you for post-placement services upfront, and many will not refund your money even if you don't use those services. St. Mary's agreed to refund our money if we didn't use their post-placement services due to a move out of state. We intend to stay in Illinois for at least another year and half, during which time our adoption will hopefully be completed, but since anything can happen in international adoption I wanted to make sure that if things didn't go we wouldn't be charged for services we didn't use. I understand why agencies charge upfront for post-placement visits, but it really bothers me that many will not give you a refund even if your adoption never happens.

We mailed our application in the middle of September, and were instructed to get fingerprinted right away. Our social worker, Michaelyn Sloan, contacted us within a week to set up our first appointment. We met with her on September 28 for our first couples interview. Michaelyn made our home study process easy. She responded to all of my emails and phone calls within a very reasonable time frame, she scheduled our interviews quickly, and she always gave us adequate notice when she needed to change our appointments when emergencies came up. She demonstrated an extensive knowledge of DCFS requirements and international adoption. She directed us to wonderful educational resources, and provided us with material about grief and adoption. We felt that she really made an effort to understand our situation and to connect with us by sharing pieces of her own adoption journey.

We received our foster license from the state of Illinois on November 18, only two months after we first mailed our application. We were so thankful that Michaelyn respected our level of motivation and worked so hard with us to get all the paperwork turned in as quickly as possible. Jeff and I whole-heartedly recommend using Michaelyn Sloan of St. Mary's services for the completion of an adoption home study.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Dossier Update

We are currently working on putting together our dossier, a package of documents that we will send to Uganda. It includes our home study, medical records, financial statements, criminal clearances, birth certificates, marriage license, and a letter to the Ugandan department that oversees adoption. We have finished almost everything, and are awaiting the final piece - our orphan's visa approval. Once that arrives we will have everything notarized here in Evanston, then I will go into Chicago to have the notarization verified by the state. Then we will send the dossier to our agency in Alabama, and they will verify that everything is in order before they send it for more verifications.

I had hoped that our visa might come before I went to California for Christmas. It was never really likely that it would happen, because visas usually take about 3-6 weeks from fingerprinting, but now we know that it will not happen because of a paperwork delay at DCFS. DCFS approved us as foster parents in mid-November, but did not approve us for international adoption because they needed some additional information from our agency. Our social worker did not receive the message because she was out of the country, so none of this came to our attention until last week. I was extremely concerned that they might not give us our international approval, which led to an anxiety filled day, but we now know that DCFS has agreed to approve our application pending receipt of some documents that are in the mail. As a result, even if our fingerprints clear the background check quickly, immigration does not have the information they need from DCFS to approve our visa application.

Although it was very unlikely that we would have received our visa before Christmas anyway, we felt really disappointed when we found out that it was impossible. Now I am concerned that we might not have it by the time we get back! Obviously delays are common in adoption, and things are still going very quickly, but I had hoped that the process in the US would go totally smoothly. This is really our second delay, as we turned in our visa application very late in the home study due to some mail miscommunications with our international agency. None of the delays have been anyone's "fault" and I am glad that the small problems we have encountered have been easily fixed, and that both of our social workers have worked so hard to keep our adoption moving. In the grand scheme of our adoption these issues will probably only add a few weeks to our total time. I know that is nothing, but I am impatient!

We continue to pray that this will happen in God's perfect time, but that his time will be soon, and if it isn't, that he will give us patience and peace.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Holding on to Hope

A few days after Leah's birth, a friend from church handed me a copy of Holding on to Hope: A Pathway through Suffering to the Heart of God. It is an amazing book, and has been a tremendous help to both Jeff and me as we proceed on this journey.

The book follows Job's story of loss and grief, and the story of the author, Nancy Guthrie. Nancy and her husband lost a little girl, Hope, to a metabolic disorder called Zellweger Syndrome. Her daughter was diagnosed shortly after birth and died seven months later. Upon learning that the disorder was recessive and had a 25% recurrence rate, She and her husband decided not to have any more children. Then they found out that despite their efforts they were pregnant, and that this child also had Zellweger Syndrome. He lived for six months.

Guthrie writes movingly about her experiences relating to the loss of her two children. Her honesty in addressing her sadness, her struggles, and her submission to God inspired me and helped me see hope for our situation.

Guthrie addresses her book to anyone dealing with loss, and her focus on Job, who lost not only his children, but also everything he owned and his physical health, further broadens the books’ appeal.

I am including some quotes that helped me below.

"Our culture wants to put the Band-Aid of heaven on the hurt of losing someone we love. Sometimes it seems like the people around us think that because we know the one we love is in heaven, we shouldn't be sad. But they don't understand how far away heaven feels, and how long the future seems as we see before us the years we have to spend on this earth before we see the one we love again."

"...We worship because God is worthy, not necessarily because we 'feel' like it. In the midst of a crisis, if we only do what we feel like doing, we could remain stuck in a cycle of self-pity. But when we worship, we get our eyes off of ourselves and our sorrow or problems. We focus them on God, and this puts our difficulties into proper perspective."

"But as we voiced our deepest feelings and fears out loud, we realized that we had to let go of those things too. We needed to trust God with everything we had, to open ourselves and say, God, it is all yours to do with as you will!
Some days I wonder if the letting go is ever going to stop."

"Trusting God when the miracle does not come, when the urgent prayer gets no answer, when there is only darkness- this is the kind of faith God values perhaps most of all. This is the kind of faith that can be developed and displayed only in the midst of difficult circumstances. This is the kind of faith that cannot be shaken because it is the result of having been shaken."

"I have come to the place where I believe a yearning for heaven is one of the purposes and one of the privileges of suffering and of losing someone you love. I never had that yearning before, but I do now. You see, a piece of me is there."

"In his response, God did not explain suffering or how to avoid suffering. Suffering is a mystery...and Job came to respect the mystery. Job came to understand that because he knew who God is, he can accept what God gives- even when he didn’t understand it."

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The Bunny Suit

After our confirmation ultrasound, the timing of our baby's arrival remained up in the air, and the ever present threat of a cord accident and stillbirth hung over us. Since we knew that each appointment with our doctor could yield bad news, we decided to gather the things we needed for delivery. We contacted Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, I made blankets, and we ordered an outfit for our baby.

Finding an outfit for a very premature baby is a difficult thing to do. You are limited to white, frilly burial gowns and NICU gowns. The selection of outfits for people in our situation is rather dismal. I felt it was inappropriate to dress my baby in a burial gown while the baby lived. The NICU gowns offered a decent array of patterns and colors, but they do not look like "regular" baby clothes. Given our options, we decided on a NICU gown.

Thankfully, the internet gave us access to a number of sites with a variety of gowns and quick service. We decided to purchase only one outfit to bring to the hospital, so we chose a gender-neutral gown featuring bunnies in yellow, blue, and green on a white background. In the pattern the bunnies jump on the bed, pillow fight, take baths, and nap. Chuckleberries made the gown we chose.

We ordered a micro-preemie size one gown, which fits a baby up to three pounds. Choosing a size was difficult because we didn't know how long we would be waiting until the baby was born. We knew our baby would have shortened limbs due to dwarfism, but also we had some concern about the distortion caused to the baby's torso by hydrops, and we wanted to make sure that whatever outfit we chose fit over his or her tummy. Since Leah ended up coming so early, her outfit more than covered her. Even though we ordered a short-sleeved gown in the smallest size possible, when Jeff dressed Leah he still had to roll up the sleeves! He also used pins to make the gown small enough to fit her.