Monday, December 17, 2012

Thoughts on Special Needs adoption

Often when I describe our daughter, I don't mention any of her diagnoses or disabilities.  She is so much more than her CP or any other label that has been assigned to her. I think many of her delays are a result of orphanage environment, prior neglect and it will be wonderful to see how she progresses in our family. But I am acutely aware that her special needs are a big part of why she ended in an orphanage and why she waited so long for a family. And why no one in her extended family was able to care for her.

Adopting our daughter doesn't make us special. In working with many children with her diagnosis, I know these children to be funny, joyful, determined, smart and full of life! I know the challenges that are ahead of us, but I also know the beauty that exists in the midst of that. There is no doubt that we will be the blessed ones for having her join our family.

I may write about this in detail some day, but while we were visiting Afua, a taxi driver pulled up next to us and began to make small talk. I could tell he wanted to ask me something and once we got the pleasantries out of the way, he finally said it: "Why you pay for her? She doesn't talk or walk. Pay for a healthy one". It took all the grace I could extend to tell him how she is perfect to us, just as she is, just as she was created. We would give her every opportunity to improve in America, but if nothing worked, if there was no progress, we would love her. Because she is worth it. I held back tears because at that moment I realized how my little one was viewed by some in her own country. And how us foreign adoptive parents have probably have made it known that we will only adopt the healthy ones, the little ones. Because we are paying. Wow.

I know that Afua is a perfect addition to our family.a perfect daughter, sister, cousin, niece and granddaughter. I also know it doesn't make sense to people why we adopt any child, let alone a child who is going to need medical care and therapies. It doesn't make sense to people in her country and it doesn't make sense to some people here. But what they fail to see is that she is not her labels and she is not her past experiences. And in failing to see that, they fail to see the blessing that she is to us.

Linking up with Love that Max

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Fundraising Update

I haven't taken the time to mention some great news. Last month, right before our trip, I received a wonderful phone call. We received a generous grant! It was the best news possible as I knew we would have a payment due to our agency very soon. It also eased the burden on fundraising as we finished the auction in October and had no big fundraisers planned due to our trip.

As of today, we still need to send $2500 to our agency for fees. We also continue to send a monthly foster care fee which is used for Afuas needs at her orphanage. I am amazed that we are so close to being fully funded! Of course we will have 2 more trips to West Africa (including Afuas one way ticket!!!) but those needs are not as urgent as the agency fees.

If you are considering making tax deductible donations before the end of the year, would you keep us in mind? We can accept donations of all amounts through Reeces Rainbow, a non-profit organization that advocates for orphans with special needs. You can leave your name so we can thank you, or anonymously, if that is your preferenc. The button on the right side column on this blog will take you there. We receive 100% of all donations.  Once our account states $4000 we are fully funded on agency fees.

I am so grateful for all the encouraging words, all prayers, all donations to take on our trip and all financial gifts. We have everything we need to provide for Afua once she joins our family, but getting her here on such short time frame is a challenge. It's humbling to ask for help or participation on fundraisers, but so many have done so gladly and went above and beyond in generosity. All for our girl who is so loved already.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The best news ever!!!

This morning, I got the best news ever!!! Little "A" is now officially our daughter!!! It was totally unexpected and highly unlikely to happen this year. But as adoptions are often unpredictable, this time the surprise was a pleasant one! A kind judge agreed that she would be perfect addition to our family.

I am now able to share her beautiful picture with the world and will do so in future blog posts as I share about our trip. But here is one of my favorites, it shows her sweetness that I saw all week.

Isn't she just sweet? Oh, how I miss my baby girl.

Monday, December 10, 2012

From My Travel Journal Day 5

Today would be our last day at the Fern House and last day with little "A". The reality of that was evident by the heaviness in my heart. But it would be a full day of experiences and I didn't want to miss out on anything by dreading our goodbyes.

Early in the morning, we made our familiar trek to the Fern House. Taxi to the church house and someone came with us to show the way. When we arrived, we were once again welcomed by little ones and two sick little baby boys. Both had been up all night with fever and congestion.

Emmi helped Mary wash baby equipment outside and she went out to get okra for lunch. I love how comfortable she was just jumping into various tasks and serve any way she could. I knew her to be a sweet girl, but the time we were able to spend together is priceless. I pray she stays this sweet through the rest of her teen years. Lucy and I talked more about the water situation so I could relay the information to others in the US. Once again, I was reminded that nothing is easy here (not in a complaining way, but every task just seems to have several steps and complications) and I needed to learn a lot about water tanks and how they are filled in order to grasp the situation.

Our time for goodbyes were coming and I didn't want to make it a sad occasion. The girls gave us a proper send off with an African prayer and before long we were on our way to the hotel. I hope they knew how much we appreciated their hospitality. And how much this place became a refuge to us after each visit to little "A"s orphanage. Some day I will put into words our experiences, but now I can't find them.

Next was our last visit with little "A". Ugh. She came to us sweet as ever. Smiling. Tired. Floppy. But smiling. I wanted to tell her a million things but I couldn't. I knew if I said a word I would begin to cry and there would be no end to it. She had become my daughter but as a parent we are never supposed to say goodbye. At an orphanage. It seemed so cruel. Yet that is exactly what I was about to do. This time our visit was monitored closely so it felt tense and very short. I gave her a long hug and then her caregiver took her from me. I held her hand and said "I will be back, I promise". I watched as she was carried away and I had no idea when I would see her sweet little face again.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

From My Travel Journal Day 4

Today, I wanted to visit a nearby orphanage but I still had many things to accomplish for the Fern House. One of the big items was to figure out their current water situation and how it can be improved. I also hoped we would be able to visit "A" even though Sunday may not be the best day to go. Our driver would be coming after his church to get us, so at the last minute I decided to wait at the church, attend the service and visit until our driver would arrive.

I have never experienced a church service here, but I heard it was long and hot. Our hotel was out of water and nothing was open between the hotel or church. It was Sunday after all. I had asked Mary what time their service started, she said 9am for locals, 9:30 for obrunis, meaning it would begin at 10am. I love how time is such a different concept here. We would be told "I will be ther in the next hour" which could mean a wide range of minutes. Or "it's just 10 minutes away" and end up walking a half an hour. So of course I arrived at church around 9:20 and no one was there. Except the choir practicing so we listened and enjoyed sitting in the shade. Then Mary arrived and took us to get some bottled water. Woohoo!

The church service was so different yet so powerful. The first hour or so was spent in worship. Beautiful singing, lifted hands and such devotion was present in that building. I can't even imagine what circumstances people leave behind when they come into this church and what they need at that moment. Once worship was over, the songs became more upbeat, the tambourines came out and dancing was joyful and free. My moves were obviously "white" but I didn't want to miss out by feeling self conscious. Then our section started our dance around the aisles. Before I knew it, I was following the ladies trying to keep up. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lucy taking video of me and I figured it would give many people laughs later on.


When the preaching began, at first they were using English. They asked me to stand and I was honored to be recognized as an "international" guest. Then they realized they had guests from different regions and switched to two different tribal languages. Amazingly, Comfort decided to translate the entire service for me, and I will cherish that gift and sacrifice for years to come. She could have soaked in the message herself and I would have been fine just listening. But she spent the time explaining things to me. What a gift she gave me.

The children's service was done so little ones started to came into the sanctuary. Precious climbed on my lap, which was the first time this cutie gave me the time of day. After 1pm she was getting antsy so we stepped outside as the service was ending. Emmi was outside eating a frozen yogurt so she had obviously enjoyed herself with the little ones.

Emmi and Mary went for snacks, Precious decided to join them

After the church you could see what Comfort means to her community. Person after person came to her with their needs and she counseled, prayed, gave and advised each and every person according to their needs. I don't know how she juggles all that is her life and does it with such compassion and care.

Soon enough our ride arrived. We were unable to visit "A" afterall. Disappointed but understandable. We decided to take a trip to the beach and have Emmi experience something different for the night. She rode a horse on the beach, we sat and enjoyed the ocean breeze and watched the entertainment. We dipped our toes into the warm water and got sand everywhere. By the time we returned, it was dark and we were done for the day. Another day of cultivating friendships, learning and enjoying was done. And how I missed my three at home....and the one I couldn't see today.

Emmi at the beach

Friday, December 7, 2012

From My Travel Journal:Day 3

So the plan for today is/was to go visit little "A", do some shopping at the Art Market and then take our donations to Fern House for sorting. Sounds like an easy list but once again I have to set aside my Americanized attitude of "hurry up and get moving" and get on Ghana time. In the morning, Emmi and I woke up to what we thought was a parade outside our hotel. We heard drums, trumpets, singing and lots of cars and trucks honking their horns. As it turns out it was a political rally and quite lively at that. I love the passion of people in West Africa and how everything turns into music and celebration. We opened our window and ultimately sat on a balcony and watched it. We knew our driver would not be there for a while as traffic was backed up.

We took a walk down the street once the traffic slowed down and got ourselves some ice cold Fanta and fried bread dough. I don't know how else to describe the treat, but it is dough that is fried in oil right where they sell it. I thought it was the most wonderful snack to start our day.

Once our ride showed up, I wanted to load our donations in his vehicle. For whatever reason he thought tomorrow would be better so the stuff stayed at our hotel room. We made our drive to see our precious girl, who was sweet as always, but very tired. She had a hard time sitting up and she kept drooling a lot. I feared she had more "seizures" (we saw some what appeared to be seizures the day before) and this was the after effect. But I took all the cuddles I could get and I snapped a picture which may become my all time favorite thus far. During these visits, I am falling in love with this wonderful little one and starting to feel like her Mom. But as wonderful as that sounds, the hard part is that I have to leave her behind every day. Visiting my child feels so unnatural but holding back my feelings feels even worse.

Next was shopping. I felt horrible leaving her in order to buy things, but we didn't have a choice. This place tells us how long we have to visit, and we are grateful for every minute. I found adorable dresses for my girls and dress shirts and footbal (soccer) jerseys for the boys. It was so nice to buy for my 3 girls now knowing little "A" s size. Even though I wasn't with her, I was able to get something for her.

We returned to the hotel and I called the Fern House to see if anyone was there. We took a taxi to the church and they had someone go with us, as it's still impossible for me to direct anyone how to get there. We loaded all our donations with us (stubborn American didn't want to wait until tomorrow, LOL) so we must have looked like crazies standing at the side of the road with a rubbermaid bin and bags full of baby clothes.

We sorted the donations, Emmi filled the shelves with things. We had such a lovely time discussing various things as we got some things done. While the shelves were fuller, Mary reminded me that 4 babies are expected to be born in the next month. The newborn clothes will definitely be needed. And as we stocked the shelves, we learned that women must bring all their own supplies to the hospital when giving birth. Even things like bleach and medical supplies. Can you imagine that? Another thing that Emmi and I wrote down to be thankful for.

We stayed late into the evening, talking and visiting. Emmi learned how to dance the Azonto dance and the little ones were helping her learn it. To me it's amazing how the little ones have the sense of rhythm and the ability to move their bodies. But Emmi was holding her own, and we had the best laughs. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

From My Travel Journal Day 2

Day 2

Sometimes I feel like my days here are a big puzzle. I know what I want to accomplish, but as I rely on friends for transportation and knowledge of where to go,  things get complicated. I am so grateful though that I don't have to figure these things alone and help is just a phone call away. Yesterday, I bought a cell phone to use. But it didn't work Because the SIM card must be registered at an office before use. The office was closing by the time we were going there, so instead Mary gave me her SIM card to use. And we stopped by to load some cedis on the card, which was another stop on the way. And I don't want just to rush around, but also cultivate friendships and spend time with people who do the work I admire so much. So it feels like days are short and time goes by too quickly.

Today, we planned to visit our daughter, take donations to the Fern House and then hopefully connect with a friend who will be taking us shopping over the weekend. But TIA (this is Africa) so sometimes the plans change, actually they often do. We left to visit our daughter later than planned. Once we got there, we were allowed to stay for over 2 hours. What precious time with our sweet little one! I was able to understand her special needs even more. And I am glad that she can hear, see and make sounds. It may seem like basic things, but we really weren't sure. Unfortunately, we also discovered more medical needs but I view this as a blessing also as we can get medical care lined up ahead of time. Some of those things will need lots of medical intervention, but I see the potential that is inside this little one. The entire visit, she was content on my lap although she moved her body to indicate which way she wanted to sit. Her smile is beyond description, it warms my heart.

By the time we got back, I realized the store to register the SIM card would close soon, so we walked to one near our hotel. It's funny to see people's reactions especially to tall Emmi. One guy walked passed us and said to her "marry me" and then kept on going. Then we took a taxi to take Mary's SIM card back to her only to find that she was back at the Fern House. Auntie Comfort went with us and we had a lovely visit on the way. Before we left though, she was in the middle of braiding a girls hair and I got a wonderful hair lessons from her. 

At the Fern House, Emmi was surrounded by little ones who adore her quite a bit. We learned about the different things grown there from okra to watermelon. I rocked babies, visited with the moms and soaked in the wisdom from Auntie Comfort. She spoke with Emmi about life and making right choices. We ate fried plantain, which is such a good meal for me, Emmi's first time trying it and she loved it. This place is so special and I feel privileged to get to visit and learn about all that they do. 

Emmi and Auntie Comfort

I told Comfort about the sexual education in America and she was fascinated by the computerized babies that high school students take care of  in some programs. I also told her about how I had to carry an egg around as my "baby" before computerized babies came about. We had a good laugh about my cracked egg (somehow I have managed to keep 4 kids alive without broken bones). In some ways teenage pregnancy is a similar issue here as it is in the US.  In other ways the cultures are different and belief systems are different. Either way, seeing a young mom tend to her babies while being a baby herself is hard knowing she is giving up so much. And here, education is key to getting out of devastating poverty. So devastating that it can lead to the hard choice of relinquishing a child. At the same time, these women have hope, because they have auntie Comfort and the Fern House. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

From My Travel Journal: Day 1

Day 1

I woke up to the sun rising early in the morning. Our guest house (small hotel) is in a residential area, so I began to hear people talking, cars passing by and the familiar sounds. While I didn't sleep the best (my sinuses were bugging me), I felt rested and excited to start the day. Today we would meet little "A", my daughter. All kinds of thoughts ran in my mind about our first meeting.

I went to pay for our room and order breakfast. We had omelettes and toast. I got hot water to put my Starbucks Via in (yay!) and we also got pineapple juice. Delicious! Emmi's sinuses were starting to act up and after breakfast she decided to nap. I was too excited to do anything. I sorted out donations some more, organized around the room waiting for our in country coordinator to take us to see our little one. 

After a short while there was a knock at the door. It was time to go to meet our soon-to-be daughter. We checked in at the office of the orphanage and sat down to wait for her. Her auntie (care taker) was getting her ready for us. Then we saw her: she was wrapped in a blanket and taken to the office and then to us. She was placed on my lap and she gave me the biggest smile. I saw her try to look at me, but due to her eye condition she had to look at me sideways. So we sat there, getting to know each other while I studied her features and tried to remember it all. I didn't want to forget the way she would focus on a feature on my face and then attempted to reach it. Or the way she blows bubbles with her lips. Or the sounds she would make when I got her really excited. She loved being outside and would stop to listen cars go by or the goats that were roaming near us. I knew once i got home, i would want to remember each little detail of her face, each expression and every little noise she made. We had her until her next meal, which went by too quickly. She was smitten by Emmi too, and the girls were getting to know each other a little bit. I was so thankful that they could meet each other and begin to bond here. 

Then it was time to say goodbye for the day. We headed next to Fern House, which is nearby our hotel. I learned that they had 3 very small babies there and of course I would have the opportunity to love on these babies. We arrived shortly and was greeted by the entire staff. And both Emmi and I received twin baby boys to hold and love on. Little ones began to emerge from the rooms and we had a lovely visit. Mary and I learned more about each other, our lives and about the Fern House. 

This Thanksgiving Day has been full of things to be thankful for: family and friends. Old ones and new ones we met today. Our daughter who is perfect just as she is and the potential I see in her. And experiencing this all with my oldest who loves this country as much as I do also. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

From My Travel Journal: Travel Day

Travel Day

This time we had 3 flights that would take a total of 22 hours to get to our destination. Emmi is a wonderful travel partner and we enjoyed each take off, each landing and time spent talking about all we would experience. Her excitement was contagious and it reminded me of our first trip to West Africa. I watched two movies which was 2 more than I have watched in many months. While it was a long journey, I took advantage of the time where I had no responsibilities, no to-do lists and precious time with my first born.

Our last flight was 7 hours. Before take off, a little girl (just under 3 years old) sat in front of us and walked over to me to say hello. Instantly she climbed on my lap and put her head on my shoulder. With one of my little girls at home, and another little girl waiting for me in Africa, it was just what this Momma needed. We spent a good part of the flight with her, singing songs, playing patty cake and giving her Momma a well deserved break. 

Once we landed, the air was extremely hot and humid. Since it was evening and the sun was down, I began to imagine what tomorrow would be like during the day time. Extremely thankful for flowy skirts and breezy tops. We got in line with others and after an hour of waiting, I was told I needed to purchase a new entry visa. I thought mine was good for another 6 months (as did the official in the US) but they insisted I pay for a new one ($150  cash, ouch!) and paperwork was all it took to get to the next part of the airport.

The rest went smoothly, but the extra time all this waiting took, I was afraid our ride might have left already.  But he was there waiting and relieved to see that we did not miss our flight. He said he kept looking for a mother and daughter combo and was worried we had missed our flight. 

We drove into our hotel, it was dark and hard to see much. I wished Emmi could have experienced the sights and sounds right away, but it would have to wait until tomorrow. As we pulled into the hotel gates, I saw faces I knew from pictures: the Beebe family! They are a missionary family serving in West Africa and I love reading their blog about their work there. We had arranged for us to take them some goodies from home and I was so glad to see them waiting for us. Having lived 19 years away from my native country, I know how important some simple reminders of home are sometimes. I quickly unpacked their things, and they were on their way as it was late.

Emmi and I took quick (cold) showers, set our fan blowing just right and before long, we were sleeping. 3 flights, 4 airports, 24 hours and we are here!