Wednesday, May 13, 2015

More {Mother's Day 2015}

It is a little late, but we celebrated our first Mother's Day with Hannah in our family this past weekend.  It was a big day for Miss H.  She participated in our Parent-Congregational Prayer Covenant (think Dedication Service) at church that morning and then went to her very first "large" family gathering (outside our home!!) afterward.  Wow!  What a day and she took all of it in stride (we had our fair share of recharging those batteries for a couple days afterward, but we seem to be fully recovered at this point).

I am so thankful for those four faces in the picture above.  Yes, my life is chaotic.  It is hard to get much of anything accomplished other than meals, laundry, and school on a daily basis.  I wipe a lot of bottoms and noses.  I referee a lot of fights.  I navigate uncharted adoption waters.  I struggle to understand them or meet all of their needs simultaneously.  I wipe a lot of tears and utter numerous exasperated sighs.  I am driven to my knees daily over their hearts.  But with all that there is so much more I am blessed to experience.  More hands to set to work over chores happily.  More lips to kiss and necks to hug.  More hands to hold and books to read.  More training and disciplining (which only helps me grow stronger in my own faith).  More giggles.  More romping and jumping.  More boo boos to tend to.  More hair-do's to style.  More teeth to brush and lost blankets or lovies to locate.  More car seats to buckle.  More mouths to feed.  But all that more is blessing.  Yes, more makes more work and longer days, greater frustration and additional tears shed (yep, I'm a crier!), but more makes more joy as well.

Mothering is the hardest, most sanctifying thing I have ever done.  It is the most challenging job I've ever had.  I am confronted with my own sin and the sin in the hearts of my children on a daily basis.  Yet through each moment, He is there, providing and pouring His Spirit into me in order to tackle all that each day holds.  Adding our fourth child to our family this year has been the most stretching experience I've had, but it is so worth it.  Worth it for all the more.

 As I raise my four babies, I daily come to a deeper understanding of the many sacrifices my mother made and continues to make on my behalf.  I am also deeply aware of a mother in China who may or may not celebrate the life she has given us.  I am the mother of someone else's child.  There is tragedy and privilege all wrapped up in that statement.  To her I am ever so grateful for the gift she has given our family.  For allowing us to have more.

So this Mother's Day I enjoyed all the more He has graciously allowed me to steward for this time.  The good, the bad, the hard, the ugly, the difficult, the challenging, the exhausting, the lovely, the sweet, and the tender--yes, I thank Him for all of it.  All of my more.


Hannah's lip repair was two weeks ago.  Since that time, I have heard so many comments from so many people.  Do you know what my sensitive mama ears have realized?  Adjectives matter.  They really, really matter.

The change in Hannah since her surgery has been nothing short of remarkable.  I catch myself doing double takes--is that really our child?  She looks like someone so different to me.  The entire shape of her face changed.  Her smile radically changed.  It seems like we have a new child living in our home.  It is odd sometimes.  Odd and miraculous and remarkable all rolled into one.

I know many people knew I had mixed emotions about saying goodbye to her beautiful broad smile.  I think in effort to help me feel better about her new look, many felt compelled to tell me how wonderful she looked, despite the crusted blood, days old bloody booger we didn't dare extract, and the five day old peaches puree she was sporting as a mustache.  Everyone kept saying how wonderful she looked and we would shake our heads like they were crazy.  Uhhhh...we know it is going to look wonderful, but do y'all see the chunk of macaroni and cheese hanging from her lip that she won't let me wipe??

As some of the crust started to come off (thank you, wonderful Dr. L, for truly knowing your stuff and having us put her in the shower--crust removal made easy!!), I began to really let myself hear what people were saying to me.  I was starting to get glimpses of what she was going to look like; the finished product.  So I really began to listen to what people said and that is when I realized just how much adjectives matter.

Yes, Hannah looks drastically different.  Yes, her face has changed.  A lot.  Yes, her new quirky post-cleft smile is growing on me.  Yes, she is beautiful.  But let me caution you as you talk to a parent who has gone through something like this with a child related to their appearance.  Please, please, please don't tell them that their child looks better.  Don't get me wrong, I am absolutely certain I have made and likely will make this mistake when talking to someone about their child.  It is a common error and and easy word to let slide off your tongue.  Better.  Instead, please feel free to tell me that she looks wonderful, that she is beautiful, that the change is quite remarkable (because it is), but please don't tell me she looks better.  While she needed her lip repaired for optimal health, in our eyes, she did not require the repair to improve the beauty of her creation.

Yes, the transformation is remarkable:

She looks so different and as she heals, we are amazed with the outcome.  Her surgeon was incredibly skilled.  Her surgeon was remarkable.  She is remarkable.  Yet more remarkable is our Heavenly Father whose divine design in the human body allows surgery like this to take place and healing to miraculously occur.

So if you run into me out and about, feel free to comment.  The change truly is remarkable.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Redemption {Three Months Home}

Broken and confused she came to us.  Eyes empty and wide, confused and full of sadness and abandonment.  She didn't understand what was happening.  There was not a hint of a smile.  Just grief.  And darkness.  And emptiness.

Three months ago on February 5th, a plane from Shanghai, China, touched down in Detroit, Michigan.  Travel weary and overwhelmed, she became an American citizen.  She began her journey--the work of being redeemed.


Slowly, the Redeemer began His work in her.  Touching her heart.  Healing her wounds.  Teaching her safety.  Showing her the love of home, family, and belonging.  Slowly, she began to show us glimpses--brief snippets--of who He was shaping her into.

We began to see the light.  It started a slow rise....from her lips, up into her eyes.  His light.  It began to burn bright.  His joy.  It started to radiate outward.  She fought hard.  Trying to keep the light at bay, sometimes preferring the darkness over the light.

He was patient.  So very patient and gentle.  He understood her pain.  He let her fight and yet continued to love her.  Bit by bit the light took over the darkness.  We began to see more light than we did darkness.

Three months at home and now the light shines bright.  The darkness?  It still comes.  The sadness in her eyes?  It still returns.  She has these moments when her eyes burn deep into yours and you can hear the questions they ask, "Do you love me?  Forever and always?  Even when I'm ugly and sin?  Will you still love me then?"  By the strength that only the Holy Spirit can breathe into us our eyes answer back.  "Yes.  Yes!  We love you!  We will love you forever and always!  Even when you sin and do ugly sinful things, we love you.  Yes, we will still love you then."  Our hearts tell that there is One who can offer her the always and forever kind of love that no one on this earth is able to give her.  There is One who can heal all her hurts, see past her sinful ways, and put together the pieces of her broken heart.  There is One who can place His joy inside her to shine for all to see.

Since her surgery a week ago, the light has dimmed.  Clouds of pain and trauma have rolled back in.  But we know the light is there.  We know it will return.  We know, the work of the Redeemer's hands cannot be clouded by pain and trauma forever.  It must burst out and shine for all the world to see, proclaiming His goodness, His power, His ability to overcome the deepest, darkest feelings of abandonment.

Three months home.  We have witnessed only what the Redeemer could accomplish.  We have seen the light come and break through the darkness.  We cannot wait to witness the next three months.  Redemption is a beautiful, beautiful thing.  We are so blessed to be included in the journey.

"For it is you who light my lamp;
the Lord my God lightens my
~Psalm 18:28~

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Recovery {Lip Repair}

Today is day five, post op, of Hannah's lip repair.  So many have asked us how she is recovering and we are so thankful for your loving concern for her and for our family. 

Hannah's surgery went pretty much as expected, including our overnight stay in the hospital.  Her cleft is wide and therefore the surgical trauma a bit greater than I think I anticipated, but Hannah is strong and she is recovering well.  Much like her surgery, her recovery has gone mostly as anticipated, though there have been a few things that came as a surprise to us.

Hannah began eating almost immediately following her surgery, but she'd been given a tremendous amount of local anesthetic, so her lip and face were entirely numb in those early hours of eating.  We are thankful she ate as much as she did during that time (enough to feed a grown man!) because once sensation began to return, her thoughts on food and eating began to change.  Rapidly.  She struggled in the first day or two to take in much food and really ate only macaroni and cheese for two days.  As she began to feel better, she's been eating better.  She will remain on a "soft food" diet until we see the surgeon for a follow up on Wednesday.  Then we will discuss letting her go back to her more typical diet.  She continues to refuse to drink from any of her cups or her bottle, so we give her drinks through a syringe.  She is content to accept liquid this way, so we will just follow her lead on this and offer the cup as she feels ready to accept it.  Quite honestly, I don't blame her for not wanting a sippy cup smashed into her lips!

Hannah's pain has been manageable and she is now down to just taking motrin and tylenol, though we are having doubts that this is enough for her right now.  The narcotics were providing great pain relief, but intensified her night terrors.  They were more frequent, longer in duration, and far more intense.  They have diminished since stopping the narcotics, though she's always had them, so I do not expect them to go away altogether.

Since coming home from surgery one of our greatest struggles has been sleep disturbance.  Hannah is no longer sleeping in her bed and is unable to go to sleep on her own.  Her "lovie" has been rejected because it causes her to want to suck her fingers and she knows she cannot do that right now with the pain she is feeling.  No lovie, no fingers....she's struggling to find ways to cope and soothe.  Her solution right now is to sleep only ON someone, in the ergo carrier,  or in a moving car.  She starts most nights in the pack 'n play, but has thus far not yet been able to get through a whole night sleeping independently.  She fusses and needs a lot of cuddling.  Night terrors have invaded our night time sleep (she used to only get them during nap time) and then afterward she will just moan and toss and turn the rest of the night.  We know she is capable of sleeping independently and we know her sleep will return to normal habits, eventually.

The difficult thing with surgery with any child is that it introduces trauma into their life and it is trauma that they must overcome.  For an adopted special needs child, surgery is an unfortunate necessity and is simply trauma added to trauma.  We had to press forward with Hannah's surgery and she will have to have her next one in a few months.  More trauma added to a child who has already endured far more trauma in her short two years of life than a lot of us will face in a lifetime.  While this new trauma has provided lots  of opportunities for us to solidify our bonds with Hannah, it has also caused a few set backs.  Hannah's fear of being abandoned by me is back in full force.  Her fear that I can love only one child at a time is back.  Some of they ways she manifests these fears are reminiscent of our first week home from China.  I told Chris it has a "fresh off the plane" feel to it right now.  She is needy, she is fearful, she is doubtful.  We are just trying to scale back to the basics we had when we were first home.  We are keeping her close, meeting her needs immediately, and providing as much reassurance to her as we can.  We are seeing behavior that we haven't seen in a long, long time, but we know that she's just so afraid.  This is such a big change and she truly doesn't understand what is happening to her.  We also know what she is capable of and we have no doubt that as we continue to move forward through her recovery, we'll see her quickly return to the Hannah we had pre-surgery.  We don't feel stuck in this "fresh off the plane" spot and know that progress will come and should come faster than it did the first time around.  Of course, with a second surgery looming so close, my personal sense of urgency to help her return to her pre-surgical state is pretty high.  I would love to be able to progress forward and make even greater strides before we go back for our second summer "vacation" at the UK Children's Hospital.  The benefit now versus when we were first home is that there is history for all parties to draw upon.  She knows we can be trusted and she knows she can fit securely into our family.  We know she has the ability to express herself in appropriate ways and be content to do many things independent of Mommy.  We will all get there--together.

As for me and my mama's heart?  I am adjusting to the new Hannah.  Her appearance changed drastically and yes, I cried the first time I saw her, simply because I didn't recognize her.  I have yet to see what her new smile will truly look like.  There was a tremendous amount of pulling on the right side of her face and a great deal of surgical trauma and swelling.  Due to this, her face on the right hardly moves right now and pulls in a bit of a downward direction.  She cannot smile, even if the pain wasn't a factor, due to the lack of mobility she has on that side of her face right now.  It is all expected and should return within two weeks or so.  I think  part of me will always miss her wide, open smile.  Right now  what I miss the most is the light that radiated from her eyes, telling of joy, peace, tranquility and a sense of understanding she is right where God destined her to be. I can adjust to a new smile and fall in love with its sweet post-cleft quirks.  I long to see the life return to her eyes.

In the meantime, please continue to pray for our family.  Pray that peaceful sleep will find its way to our home again soon.  Pray that Chris and I are able to adequately gauge Hannah's pain management needs and that we can find a better solution for her next surgery--without increasing the night terrors.  Pray that the new wounds from surgical trauma will rapidly heal and that we will have the stamina and compassion needed to help those wounds heal quickly.  Pray that her sense of peace and security will return and that we can move beyond and through this time of recovery so newer, deeper, more meaningful bonds can be made prior to her next surgery.

Our family is strong.  Hannah is strong.  Our God is yet stronger than any of us.  We know He will see us through this time of recovery.  We are eager to see Hannah's light return to her eyes.