Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Going on a Lion Hunt

Have you ever gone on a Lion Hunt? It usually happens in a group of children, at church or school. An adult leader sits you down, and leads you through a story. It commences with you getting out of bed and getting ready, proceeding down a path, through a gate, and into the bigger world. You traverse rivers, forests, sandpits, marshes, prairie grass, and any number of other obstacles before finally ending in a cave with a lion. On the trip out, every obstacle you encounter is greeted with the refrain "Can't go over it, can't go under it, can't go around it, guess we'll have to go through it." At the end of your journey, you light a match, take one look at the ferocious beast, and run for you life, proceeding at top speed through those land elements you previous conquered, to end up back where you started, safe in bed.

Sometimes I feel like we're on a Lion Hunt. We get through one hard thing, only to be confronted with another. The challenges and hurts never seem to end. We survive the holidays (barely), only to be faced with kindly meant but cruel comments and unintentionally hurtful actions. When you are already struggling to survive even a small blow can knock you down. In the distance, we can see more obstacles looming. Every time, all we can say is: "Can't go over it, can't go under it, can't go around it, guess we'll have to go through it."

I understand that we have to keep on slogging through the trials life hands us, big and small, those brought on by this grief process and those merely exacerbated by it. But it feels like we have been running from the beast for a long time now, and I just want to be back home in bed.

I recently came across a page of quotes entitled "Hope for Troubled Times."

This Dallas Willard quote really struck me, and I'm trying to take it to heart:

"There are none in the humanly "down" position so low that they cannot be lifted up by entering God's order, and none in the humanly "up" position so high that they can disregard God's point of view on their lives...The barren, the widow, the orphan, the eunuch, the alien, all models of human hopelessness, are fruitful and secure in God's care."

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Handling the Holidays

I am happy that Christmas and New Years have passed. We really struggled throughout the holidays.It didn't help that Christmas Eve marked six months since Leah's death. Milestone days tend to be awful, and combining it with celebration and socializing created an extreme amount of stress for both Jeff and me.

Both of us entered into the holidays exhausted. Jeff was worn out from work, travel, and delays. I was worn out from too many activities with family, and way too much time at the mall. I find that busyness can be really helpful when I am emotionally overwhelmed, because sleeping comes much easier when you wear yourself out. Thus I stayed very scheduled in the days leading up to Christmas. My strategy worked well until Christmas day, when the combination of not enough sleep and too much stress collided with grief and my body shut down.

On Christmas day we woke up early for presents with my immediate family, then had brunch with my Mom's side of the extended family. By about noon I felt sick to my stomach, and was completely unable to keep my eyes open. I ended up falling asleep on the couch. I slept until it was time to go to Klug Christmas. I made it, although I still felt really sick to my stomach. We opened presents and had dinner. It was nice and low-key, but I felt awful. I ended up going home early, putting on my pajamas, and falling asleep on the couch, again.

Now that the holidays have come and gone, things do seem a bit better. Family traditions and gatherings really amplified our sense of loss. Leah should have been there. We felt her absence.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Thank You USCIS

I love United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

We got our visa approval! The wheels of bureaucracy moved quickly. We know that they didn't get the information from DCFS until the very end of December, and processing time is supposed to be six to eight weeks. It has only been three! Thank you for all of your prayers.

Today I went to FedEx Office and photocopied everything twice over, then I hit the bank for a cashier's check, and finally stopped by the Post Office and mailed everything off to our agency. Our dossier is complete!

The next step is certifications for all of our paperwork. Our agency will be checking over our paperwork this week, then sending it to the Embassy in Washington DC. The verification there will take about two weeks, then the paperwork will be sent back to our agency. From there it will go to Uganda.

As you can see, our paperwork has quite a lot of traveling to do in the next two to three weeks. We are praying that nothing gets lost and that everything will be approved.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Cuddly Blankets

At the end of our first ultrasound, our doctor told us to prepare for the possibility that the baby's heart would not be beating at our follow-up appointment in two weeks. Thus we had a very small window of time to prepare for the possibility of his or her birth. Since I was in California between the first and second ultrasounds, my mom and I went shopping for receiving blankets. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find anything that was perfect. Knowing that I only had one chance to wrap up my baby, I wanted perfect. All the blankets we found were so big, and I wanted something that wouldn’t engulf our baby. After searching multiple stores, I realized that I would have to make my own blankets to get what I wanted.

Mom and I spent an entire afternoon searching for fabric. I wanted to find something with either bunnies or squirrels, and I hoped to find two fabrics so that I could make a blanket for a girl and one for a boy. The first store we tried had nothing I liked, and I felt so discouraged. We tried another store, where we found some great options for the "boy" fabric. I decided on a blue background with white bunnies.

Finding a "girl" fabric proved more difficult, and I ended up settling on a Beatrix Potter character fabric on a green background since I couldn’t find anything I really liked in pink.

I picked out a soft white material as the backing for both blankets. It had a cute pattern of raised bumps on the back for a little added style. These bumps turned out to be a real lifesaver because they provided the perfect guide for sewing straight lines without having to measure and mark the fabric.

I began work on the blankets the very first afternoon back in Illinois. First, I cut the white material into a twelve inch square, which I pinned to the patterned fabric. Then I measured and cut the patterned material to create an overhang of ½ inch. I folded that in half and folded it over on top of the white material and then sewed it down. I folded in the corners so that they looked nice. I finished both of the blankets in that one afternoon.

Working on the blankets was difficult. That day I felt exhausted both physically and emotionally. Fear that I would go into labor and not have a blanket for my baby drove me to finish them quickly. Balancing the drive to finish with the desire to make the very best blankets possible proved a lot to handle. I nearly broke down the second time I had to seam rip a mistake. Yet even though that afternoon caused me a great deal of anxiety, the memory remains very special to me. I felt so helpless during that time, because nothing that I could do could make my baby healthy. I had a small window of time to care for and connect with my daughter. Making her blankets allowed me to lavish my attention and love upon her. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to do something special for my Leah.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Back on Track

DCFS has approved our paperwork! Now USCIS (Citizenship and Immigration Services) has everything they need. We hope to receive a letter from them in mid to late February approving us for an orphan's visa (although I always like to hope that it might happen sooner). I also got my new passport this week, so once the visa letter comes our dossier will be finished. Then we will have all of our paperwork authenticated before sending it to Uganda.

We are excited that things are moving once again. Of course we are still waiting on more paperwork, but that is to be expected. The only thing we have to work on right now is grant applications. We are so tired of both extensive paperwork and exposing our entire lives to strangers, but it has to be done. Hopefully we will get good results!

Please pray that USCIS would process our application quickly, that we would trust in God's timing and have patience (this is getting easier), and that our baby would receive good care in his/her orphanage.

I am back in Illinois after an extended Christmas break. It is miserable here. The high today is below zero. I am staying inside, and hoping that my confinement will serve to motivate me to get some work done.

Friday, 9 January 2009

The Small Things

This past weekend I went to visit my oldest friend. By that I mean, the friend I have known longer than any other friend I have. We have been friends since her birth, which occurred four months after mine. Seeing her brought back memories from right after we first learned about Leah's condition.

The last time I saw this friend we were both pregnant. She full term, her healthy belly bulging far out of proportion to her small frame. When we hugged her warm, expansive womb pressed into my small, hard, bump. It had been less than two weeks since I found out that Leah wouldn't survive. In the days between her infrequent rolls, I wondered if she still lived. When our pregnant bellies collided I knew that hers held life, but mine, maybe not.

The last time I saw this friend, we both wore hydrangea blue. She a bridesmaid's dress, me a loose, high-waisted dress from the Gap that still fit over my tiny stomach. I never graduated into true maternity dresses. When we hugged, it felt like we melted into each other, the matching dresses blurring the lines between our awkward swells. We cried for the tiny life growing inside of me that had so little time left.

Two days after Leah's birth, my friend gave birth to a daughter. A daughter. We should have both had girls, born four months apart. This echo of our friendship, of what could have been, made losing Leah feel even more cruel.

It still amazes me how hard the little things can be.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Remembering Ally

Three years ago the phone rang in the early morning hours. I heard it, but I stayed in bed, half asleep. We get lots of wrong numbers. Then, through the fog, I heard the dreadful sounds of movement: my parents softly talking, opening doors. I knew something was terribly wrong. Nothing good ever comes from unexpected phone calls like that. So I tried to sleep, because I didn't want to know.

The news, when it came, was terrible. Our next-door neighbor, Allison, had been severely injured in a car crash. The doctors were working, but it didn't look good. Later that morning another phone call revealed that there was nothing more they could do for her.

The injustice of it all still bothers me.

Allison's family, Z, Michael, and Aimie, are often in my thoughts and prayers, but they are especially on my heart today as yet another year passes.

Michael and Z have been wonderful role models for Jeff and me. They have grieved so openly and unapologetically. I really admire their honesty. It takes a great deal of courage to live with grief, and they do it so well. Without their example, I don't know if Jeff and I would be so willing to expose ourselves and our heartache.

Tonight we will eat Mexican food, and miss Ally.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Adoption Update, or, Christmas Ornaments Continued

At the risk of appearing completely obsessed with Christmas ornaments, I thought I would share that I purchased another one. This one is for the baby we plan on adopting this year. The projected timing of the adoption is for us to travel in late spring/early summer. We are requesting a baby between 6 and 12 months. Thus, there is a good chance that our baby has already been born, and had his or her first Christmas this year. Jeff and I went to the Hallmark store on the day after Christmas for one of those "Baby's First" type ornaments. The selection was limited, but we ended up with one that we really like:

The script across the bottom reads, "A Baby," Said Pooh, "Is a very nice thing indeed." We think it is pretty perfect.

As a bonus, the "2008" is on the back, so if it turns out that our baby was born after Christmas it would be pretty easy to cover up and still use the ornament.
Right now the adoption is not going as well as we had hoped. We were approved to adopt by the state very quickly, but there is an extra step for international adoption and although our application was technically complete they wanted some additional information. They only allow you a few days to get the information in, and circumstances beyond our control prevented us from being able to get them what they wanted according to their schedule. In such cases they send your application back, and when you resubmit you are placed in the back of the line. So we are still waiting for them to approve us so that USCIS can process our visa. I am really frustrated about this, because we did EVERYTHING we could to get the homestudy done really quickly.

We are hoping to get that approval within the next week, and then who knows how long it will take for USCIS to process the visa approval. I am especially anxious because I found out that the Ugandan embassy has been moving really quickly lately on their certifications (the next step after we get our visa), and I would like to get all of the paperwork completed. We will be waiting for quite some time after the paperwork is done, so it would be nice to have it behind us and be able to focus on something else.

If you would please pray for speedy DCFS approval, fast USCIS orphan's visa processing, for my passport to come quickly, and patience while we wait, we would really appreciate it.