Monday, January 27, 2014

My final 6 days in Ghana


When I came home from Ghana last July, I thought that I would post my travel journal here. But as I began to do so, it was stressful to relive everything that happened. Visiting my daughter in an orphanage that was secretive and hostile, seeing corruption, experiencing government red tape and realizing how much I had changed in the process, I needed time.



There is a wonderful story that I want to share though, something that I can only describe as a miracle that happened over the last 6 days in Ghana. Anyone who has been to Ghana or another similar culture knows that things move slowly in government offices. Painfully slowly. An official may suffer from "head pains" or be tired and they require rest at home. Or you may be told to come back "tomorrow" and it ends up being another week before a document is ready. Or when describing a location they say it's "not too far" and you end up driving for several hours.  It's part of the culture and in general I love it, but not so much when trying to make progress in an adoption urgently. So with that in mind, the last 6 day in Ghana was full of miracles and full of God's favor. I hope this story encourages anyone who finds themselves waiting, in a tough spot or feeling like they can't see a wait out of a impossible situation. Because for us, these 6 days were full of miracles and the impossible became possible.


Day 1: Thursday

Eric and I made the painful decision that I would come home next week. Only flight out is on Tuesday due to Ramadan and it being July, the busiest travel month.  Airfare is so expensive and most flights have layovers in weirdest places. We don't have enough money for him to fly to Ghana as we had hoped so I will either come home alone or with Afua. Neither choice is what we really wanted but it's been 5 weeks and my family needs me home. Afua doesn't have a corrected passport yet. Off to the passport office to check on it once again.

~~~~~

Back from the passport office. No passport and the supervisor moved our file as far as she could. Maybe tomorrow it's ready. I got a message from a family who needs their daughter "little Z" escorted home. I explained our situation but didn't know if I could escort her home if I had Afua with me. We are still talking how to make this work as this little one has urgent medical needs and needs to come home. I really want to help them as I know the worry of a sick child across the Atlantic. Their visa is ready tomorrow. I wish Eric was here.

 one of our many visits over 5+ weeks

Day 2: Friday

Another frustrating day at the passport office. Our poa's assistant told us he was at the office but he was nowhere to be found when we arrived.  I called him and insisted to see him or I would find the file alone. I'm not usually this pushy, but days are running out and I need to make a daily appearance at the office so they know how urgently we need Afua home. She has lost weight daily, she has infections that are not treated and the seizures scare me. We went inside the passport office and I pleaded my case once again. They tried to work on it but because our passport was a re-do it required supervisor intervention every step of the way. Otherwise I could be accused of child trafficking and be arrested. The office closed and I had no passport once again. My flight is booked for Tuesday and time is running out. Starting to get ready to come home without Afua.

~~~

Eric calls and says he spoke with the family who needs an escort and they were prepared to pay for the escort's ticket. He is able to come to Ghana afterall and we get to escort little Z home! His only flight option is tonight so he worked 2 hours, went home to pack and 2 hours later is on his way to the airport. What????? I get to see my hubby after 5 weeks! And he will be here as we go home either with 2 girls or 1 girl. PTL!!!!!

 my key chain at the guest house...looked at this and believed I would be home soon

Day 3: Saturday

Passport office is closed. Went shopping for tomorrow's baby naming ceremony. There is excitement in the air. This could be a wonderful miracle in the making or yet another road block. Either way Eric will be here and we can get through it together. It's easier to be on the other side of a miracle and say "wow, look what God has done for us". It's another thing to be in the midst of it and wonder if you are really doing what you are supposed to do or if you end up looking like a fool for all these leaps of faith. I would prefer to have a cool story to tell :)

~~~
Eric's flight was canceled. Instead of arriving tonight he will be here Sunday night. Ugh. Come on!!!!
one of Esther's delicious dinners
Day 4: Sunday

Baby naming day. Patrick's baby was named Erica, after Eric. What an honor to see it and be present at the ceremony. We love this girl so much and want the best for her. After seeing so much sadness it's nice to be with a family that is happy and together. After the celebration we will go to the airport to get Eric. We have kept his arrival a surprise from our Ghana family so tomorrow should be great. The funniest part of the baby naming day was that I was introduced as the wife of the "obruni at the wedding". Eric was a chairman at Patrick and Esther's wedding and the only "obruni" (white person) so everyone remembered him. Now I am the wife of the obruni. LOL.

 baby naming day for Erica

Day 5: Monday

Eric is here!!!! Seriously I'm like a teenager with my first boyfriend. So good to see him and have him be my rock.  Tired of fighting this fight alone. We went to the passport office at 7 am and by 8:30 Afua's passport was printed! Miracle #1!!!!! We raced to the Embassy only to be turned away. They said to come back in the afternoon. We still need a visa in her passport and our flight leaves in 24 hours. They need 24 hours to print the visa on the passport. Cutting it close.

~~~~

Couple of hours spent getting lunch, shopping and waiting nervously, we were back at the Embassy. Spoke with our consular who did our visa interview. She apologized for being turned away, it was a mistake. Ugh. We now have 16 hours to get the visa, get custody of Afua and head to the airport. She promised our visa in 16 hours!!! Miracle #2!!!! Made arrangements to get little Z from her region to us. We will meet early tomorrow morning before going to the Embassy. It will give us a few hours in case her transportation is late. Miracle #3!!! Could we really be going home with BOTH girls????  Went to visit Afua at her orphanage. Daddy and daughter seeing each other after 5 months apart, it was precious.

their last goodbye...tomorrow it would be time to go home

~~~~

Went to surprise our Ghana family with Eric's arrival. It was a wonderful surprise and we were able to tell them about 3 miracles in one day!!! 
SURPRISE!!! Eric came after all.
Day 6: Tuesday

Today we have no wiggle room in the schedule. First, we will meet our POA who gives us custody of little Z, who we are escorting home. We will do it near the embassy and then take her with us to the embassy to pick up Afuas passport and visa. Then we have to drive to Afua's orphanage to finally get custody. They have not let me take her out of the orphanage so things have to go perfectly there too. Our POA spoke to them yesterday, but we have not filled out any papers yet. Then it's off to the airport and fly into our happily ever after. Can we really pull this off? 

9:00am 
We met with our POA and little "Z" and her foster mom. They were having breakfast near the Embassy. The foster mom was visibly upset and it was evident she has loved Z. She showed me how to give her seizure medication, how to fix her bottle and she gave me food and a bottle. Phase 1 went smoothly...almost. About 20 min after they left we realized we were not given Z's passport. We called them to come back and we were given a bag of documents for Z. Good thing we checked. Ok, phase 1 compete.

 Little Z and her foster family. She was loved by them.

Next we lined up at the Embassy. This time our name was on the list, we walked right in and to the window. Our consular was not there, but we received Afua's passport with her visa securely attached.We were in and out in 15 minutes. Phase 2 completed.

Our driver was picking up our Ghana family as they wanted to see Afua leave her orphanage forever. We sat under a tree near the Embassy, called Z's family to let them know we had custody of her. We got to know Z better and I realized how stiff her body was and she was having seizures.

Next we went to get Afua. We pulled up to the orphanage and told them we had her visa and would be leaving today. They asked if I had clothes for her. I did in my suitcase but asked that they would dress her one more time. After some grumbling one of the aunties brought her out and no one acknowledged that we were leaving . We had signed all papers and that seemed to be the only worry. We saw Afua's file. Her last two years there contained 3 sheets of paper. No medical records, no history, just three pages of administrative records. Phase 3 was complete and I cried as we left the orphanage gates behind us. Forever.
 no more orphanage life, Comfort held her as we exited the orphanage gates

We grabbed some pizza and we actually had time to spare. Miracle after miracle has occurred and I was overwhelmed. 5+ weeks in Ghana was coming to an end. Daily battle, pressure, worry, anxiety and fear was releasing and now it was time for goodbyes. Lucy and I cried as we looked at each other. No words were needed. We knew the experiences we had together and what she had meant to me and Afua. Lucy and Comfort visited Afua faithfully while we waited and they reported back as her health declined.
Lucy and Afua. Their bond is undeniable. 

Finally, it was time to change the girls, feed them and head to the airport. The next 24 hours would undoubtedly be exhausting but we would be together. Afua would be home and that would be worth all that we would endure. Eric and I gave each other a glance that held so much meaning: this is the moment we had been fighting for. 
24 hours later, we were home

This is a video of Afua leaving her orphanage. I think auntie Comfort was just as happy as we were for Afua  to start a new life in a family. (the video does not seem to show in all devices, sorry)

video

Friday, January 24, 2014

6 months home




Today marks 6 months since Afua officially joined our family by landing on US soil. Once again, I am amazed at how much progress she has made in her attachment, her skills and abilities. She is a family girl, she knows where she belongs. Last time I wrote about her new abilities was 3 months ago. Those abilities are listed in parenthesis for comparison.

Afua is able to:

~ crawl everywhere in the house without fatigue (across the room in October)

~ sit for 1 hour (30 minutes in October) if engaged in an activity

~ scoop food who a spoon with help and bring spoon to mouth independently (with help in October)


~ stand while holding hands for 1 minute (15 seconds in October)

~ crawl to her Daddy when he gets home for snuggles, this wonderful thing has not changed 

We have new equipment, more interaction and we are trying to find a way to communicate. And a wonderful thing is that Afua is comfortable to meet new people and enjoys news experiences. This used to be overwhelming to her.





Happy 6 months home baby girl! You are a blessing and a joy to us. Your story continues to speak for those who are still waiting.

If you have ever thought about adoption, please don't hesitate to contact me about questions or resources. Special needs are not as scary as they may seem at first and these are the children that are overlooked, hidden and often left behind. Every child is deserving of a loving family. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Wheelchair

Afua has a new wheelchair that we are starting to use more. It is a wonderful chair compared to the stroller we have, as it allows her to move her arms more freely. Her posture is better and she is also safer during school bus transportation.

One aspect of the wheelchair that took me by surprise is that people now view her as a child with a handicap. Maybe with the stroller it was less obvious, but the chair makes it very clear.

During a family outing, a person we did not know commented that it was probably so hard for her to be "confined to a wheelchair". I didn't have time to respond which was probably a good thing :) but of course I continued to think about this. Is this how people view children and adults in a wheelchair? Are they met with pity and thoughts of being confined?

Afua at the Air and Space museum in Washington DC.

Waiting for her hearing aids.

A Christmas family outing.

Afua's wheelchair is not a confinement, it is her freedom to join the rest of the world comfortably. She is not in it all the time, but it places her at eye level with her friends.

 Friends, let's not look at children in wheelchairs as someone in need of pity. It may be the best way they experience life without fatigue. For Afua, her wheelchair has opened up new possibilities and she has blossomed as a result. There is hope that she may not need it in the future or she may only use for long distances. But even is she ends up being a full time wheelchair user, she is a child ready for the world.





Monster Trucks coming to Cleveland!!




Our family has enjoyed Feld Family entertainment for many years. From Disney On Ice productions to Monster Jam, we always have a great time. We will be taking our boys to Monster Jam over Valentine Day's weekend as they arrive to Cleveland. They can't wait!!!

Show details:

Monster Jam is the most exciting form of family motorsports entertainment on the planet.  The stars of the show are the biggest performers on four wheels: the Monster Jam trucks! The twelve-feet-tall, ten-thousand-pound machines will bring you to your feet, racing and ripping up a custom-designed track full of obstacles to soar over - OR smash through. The 2014 touring season brings more Monster Jam excitement providing entertainment tailored perfectly for your family's budget, and these colorful, larger-than-life beasts are sure to capture the hearts of both young and old. In 2014, Monster Jam will receive 26 hours of original programming on FOX Sports 1 followed by a minimum of two re-airings on FOX Sports 2.

Purchase your tickets HERE

  • Opening Night tickets $12.
  • Kids Tickets $12.
  • Pit Passes $10.
  • All tickets $3 more day of show, so buy your tickets early!


Use Coupon Code MOM25 for 25% off (not valid on Opening Night. not valid on Gold Circle or VIP seating. No double discounts) 

The most exciting part of Monster Jam is:


Party in the Pits
A sold-out event year after year, Monster Jam’s Party in the Pits runs from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 15th and Sunday February 16th, prior to the 2:00 p.m. show. The pre-show pit party gives fans (with a pit pass and show ticket) the chance to see these larger-than-life monster trucks up close, meet the drivers behind the wheel, take pictures and get autographs! Pit passes will be available for $10 online attheQarena.com after tickets have been purchased and at the Quicken Loans Arena box office, while supplies last.






Disclosure: I am a Feld Family Ambassador. In exchange for my time and efforts in attending shows and reporting my opinion within this blog, as well as keeping you advised of the latest discount offers, Feld Entertainment has provided me with complimentary tickets to Feld shows and opportunities to attend private Feld pre-Show events. Even though I receive these benefits, I always give an opinion that is 100% mine

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Busy Life

I have neglected my blog greatly and it's not because there is nothing to report. I wrote a post in November and just couldn't hit "publish". It would make the news too real.

During a minor surgery, Afua had a hearing test done under anesthesia. The news was not good and it was unexpected. Afua has profound hearing loss and according to the experts has not heard people talking to her. Ever.


Nothing changed in her world with the news, but for us, it seemed really hard. I have friends who are fluent in sign language, who would not consider being hearing impaired a huge special need, but we felt so out of place. I was sad because she has never heard me say that I love her. Our lullabies are probably vibration and mumble to her. And we KNOW she loves Frank Sinatra....were we just dreaming this? And this would be yet another barrier between her and the rest of the world. My heart was so heavy for weeks as I processed this.

We started the process for hearing aids and we will get them soon. Ultimately she may need the cochlear implant and that is what we are planning on. That way the hearing aids will not be a huge disappointment if they don't help.

December came and Afua had surgery to correct her eyes. The difference was amazing!

Her eyes were still swollen in the "after" picture on the right, but they were both looking in the same direction!

December was full of Christmas activities after the eye surgery.




Lots of family time, bonding and making memories. We constantly dream about the possibilities with Afua while loving her in the moment, just as she is. If nothing changes, she is a precious treasure. But we know we have only seen a tiny fraction of her potential. Walking this journey humbles us, stretches us and teaches us each day.

I will end this with a song I recently found. It is perfect for where I am today. If you don't see the video here, the link is http://youtu.be/B9RZ4V34WhY