Heavy Heart Today

I apologize in advance.  My heart just isn’t in this post, but I have several updates to make.  My writing is just going to be to the point, so bear with me.  After I let you know what’s going on with our family I will explain why I have such a heavy heart this morning.

First thing, I’ve had some questions, so I will just reiterate my answers here in case others have also been wondering.  Someone asked if I could share pictures.  I would love to, but I don’t have a camera here.  I asked my hubby to bring ours up today so I could document some of our hospital time in pictures.  To tide you over, here is what my other two littles have been doing at home while we are stuck here:

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Someone also was wondering why the hospital is not feeding her more if she’s hungry.  The reason why we are in the hospital is to prevent re-feeding syndrome. If you feed a child, who has been in starvation mode for an extended period of time, without going slowly and taking proper precautions, their bodies will reject the food. It can be serious and deadly. 

I doubt her body is in that malnourished of a state, but they are being careful so she can stay as healthy as possible as we slowly increase her calories.  It’s tough for her and for me, but it would be tougher if we fed her too much at once and her body started rejecting it.  Only a few more days and she should be up to a healthy calorie intake for the first time in her life.

I also had a question about her bowel movement situation.  Still nothing.  She went without one for eleven days after we picked her up and she’s going on day five now.  She isn’t in pain (nor was she before for this reason, I’ll explain in a second) or any discomfort and she isn’t constipated.  The doctors and I have come to the conclusion that there simply isn’t enough food going through her system yet to prompt regular stools.  Suppositories and Miralax will do her no good, nor does she need them.  We just have to wait till her body is ready.

There are also updates from yesterday I wanted to share.  First I will talk about her discomfort after eating, as we used to think that was due to constipation, but she’s not constipated.  Yesterday morning they gave her a big helping of yogurt and oatmeal for breakfast, she’s never had those two things together before, and she was writhing in pain.  She sobbed for about fifteen minutes, and I have never seen her cry.  Crying doesn’t come easy, so I knew she was suffering.

At lunchtime, after I wrote yesterday’s post, I had a light bulb go off.  She had meat and veggies for lunch and very little discomfort afterward.  I started thinking back to all her previous meals, which ones went well  and which ones didn’t?  The day before she had also had a meat and vegetable only meal and didn’t do too badly.  All her other meals have had either fruit or yogurt or oatmeal in them…. light bulb.  Her stomach is just not handling grains, dairy or fruit right now.

In country, fruit was just about all we could get her to eat, so that and yogurt made up the bulk of her diet.  No wonder the poor thing was in pain all the time!  I talked to the dietitian and requested her meals be changed to meat and vegetables only, with the exception of the pediasure, which she seems to be doing ok with.  We will continue that at home and try to slowly add back in the other food groups as she tolerates them.

Needless to say, dinner went fabulously.  Absolutely zero pain or discomfort.  In fact she was laughing while I burped her and thought the whole experience was hilarious.  She was in the best mood I have seen her in since we took her out of the orphanage.  So thankful we’re getting our happy girl back; I had forgotten how much fun she is when she’s not constantly afraid and hurting.

So that’s all for my family’s updates.  Now, for the reason I am not doing so well, even with Hope’s improvements.

Last night I learned that a dear friend of mine lost her son in a tragic accident yesterday.  I linked to her blog a little while back and so many of you were touched by their family’s story.  Here is her blog.  Susanna has been an amazing mentor to me in the last two years.  Recalling Tommy’s adoption journey, and her transparent writing about the hardship their family faced through all of it, gave me the strength and peace to consider Hope’s adoption.

As I look at my sweet girl now, I often have thought of Tommy after he came home, and I look forward to Hope one day blossoming and growing and learning just as Tommy did.  His story gave me such peace and comfort.  I was honored and privileged to watch his life truly begin with his new, loving family, even if just through pictures.  I am heartbroken for his Mommy.  I can not imagine the pain she is going through.  I feel like a piece of my own heart has left this Earth, such a precious boy, such a precious gift to so many.  It’s an overwhelming grief, not only for his family, but for so many people who love them.

Please pray for Susanna, her husband Joe and all of their children who are grieving their brother.  Susanna still has many little ones to care for and love on during this dark valley.  Please just add them to your long term prayer list, as they desperately need all they can get, and I know I have so many amazing prayer warrior readers here who can do just that.

Rest peacefully in the arms of Jesus sweet Tommy.  I cannot wait to meet you on that Glorious Day.

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Rough Morning

I slept much better last night.  I think I got about six hours total in short little 2 hour nap increments.  I feel great compared to yesterday!  I don’t know if it’s possible to sleep any better than that in this place.  My hip is killing me though, the bed is a pull out chair, so basically a single.  And I’m sharing it with my two year old, so not a whole lot of wiggle room and I must have not been in a good position last night.

This morning, though, has been the worst so far of our stay.  I have a new nurse who hasn’t read her file yet and doesn’t know anything about her situation or history.  Haven’t had time to sit down with her and talk that out yet.  Her poke didn’t go well this morning, the lab lady came up with no hand warmer, so we had to wait for one from the nurse’s station and it didn’t get put on long enough so it took longer and she was getting pretty distressed about it.

After that it was time for breakfast.  I am so glad we are able to increase her calories today.  Nothing makes you feel like a horrible mom more than eating meals in front of your very hungry child.  At every meal she screams because it’s all gone.  Heartbreaking.  So I was glad for a bigger meal this morning, but her digestive system was not.  This is the first time I have ever seen her cry.  (It takes a lot!)  She just sobbed for fifteen minutes; I was so concerned that I asked for the doctor to come take a look.

The doctor ordered a suppository, thinking that might help move things along and ease her discomfort.  After that the nurse came in and said a routine urinalysis was ordered.  I had no idea what all involved the “bag”, but I felt like she had a rough morning and I didn’t want any more interventions than necessary.  She assured me it was quick and painless, so I went ahead.

Putting the bag on was not bad at all, but once we got the sample and she came to remove it she said “Now this is the hard part.”  I felt like punching something… not someone of course… ahem.  More crying.  It took like five minutes to get the adhesive off of her.  I was infuriated.  I never would have agreed to a non-necessary urinalysis had I known what was involved with it, and I told the nurse as much.  This girl has been through so much, the last  thing she needs is unnecessary trauma.

After I had her diaper back on and calmed her down the nurse offered to do the suppository.  Umm… no go away.  I think I said it nicer than that.  But anyway, I’m holding off on the suppository for now.  Her diaper change is the only thing she was not scared of here, and that’s just been taken away.  I mean, it doesn’t seem like a big deal.  But that seriously is a big deal.

I was thankful that they had a volunteer come up to take Stephen to the play room.  Normally I would never let a stranger watch my child, but Hope needed me and he needed out of that room.  There was about a half hour they were both just crying and it was not a good situation for anyone.  He loves the play room, and had been begging to go, so I think it’s the best I could have made out of a bad situation.  I wanted to go down and be with him now, but Hope is sleeping and I feel like it’s more important to stay with her.

The doctors ordered and EEG again for today (I had declined it the first day).  The EEG technician came up and I talked to her about Hope’s situation, since we asked for a portable EEG due to her trauma of being moved away from her bed at this point.  I thank God for that dear woman.  She asked my why they ordered an EEG and after explaining to her everything I had been told she was totally confused at why they had ordered one in the first place.

The doctors before had assured me it was non-invasive, but after explaining Hope’s situation to her, she was straightforward with me that this would definitely be an invasive procedure with her very sensitive state.  I thanked her and asked to wait on the EEG until the doctors did their rounds.  When I spoke to our senior doctor about it, it became evident that there was some misinformation about her medical history that they were going off of, so I was able to clear that up.  And they decided to have neurology come take a look at her and wait on the EEG since (as I had presumed already) there isn’t a specific reason in her medical history for her to have an EEG at this point.

That was a big victory for me this morning.  And little victory, they cancelled her second lab today, so we only have to do pokes once a day now!  Woohoo!  Hope is asleep now, and I’m praying the rest of the day goes a little smoother for her.  I think we’ll have some visitors later, so that will be a much welcomed break for me as well!

Hospital Life

I have not slept well in two days…

I have not eaten well in two days…

I have not had a break in two days…

And not one of those is from lack of trying, I assure you.  I have help coming this weekend, but right now that seems forever away.  Hospital life gets really old really quick, especially with a little two year old to entertain and attempt to feed and put to bed.  He’s not eating or sleeping or playing well either!  Although, he has been an almost perfect kid this whole time, I’m so proud.  The nurses keep telling me how well he listens and how good he is and I’m thinking “I know!  I wonder where my real son went to…”  Haha…. sigh…  And I dearly, dearly miss my husband and my other babies at home.  I’ve never been away from Evangeline so long.  And although I know they’re doing alright there, it’s so so hard to be away.

So we are here until Tuesday at least.  I have a huge new found respect for any mother or father who has ever had their child hospitalized.  It’s tough.  Knowing how I feel now, with a child who is going home soon and is on her way to great health, I could not imagine doing this under more painful circumstances.  My heart and prayers go out to the mamas who live this hospital life with children who are in constant pain, or who may not come home, or who need to be hospitalized for weeks or months of their lives, or whose children needed hospitalization urgently without any time for mental preparation or planning, or who have major procedures to walk through with their little ones, or who don’t have the blessing of such an amazing hospital staff.  I could not imagine the hardship that they endure.

Remember all these parents in your prayers tonight.  They all need it so much more than I do.  As for our sweet girl, she is doing better today.  She seems less scared and didn’t scream *every time* I picked her up.  Usually she smiles and laughs when you hold her, here it’s just mostly screaming.  I don’t think she’s in pain anywhere, just scared.  But it’s getting better.  She is obviously hungry.  Poor thing is so upset when her meals are over.  I am thrilled that we can finally up her calories tomorrow for the first time.  Will let you know how it goes!  May God grant us all a peaceful sleep tonight.

Things I’ve Learned

In the last 24 hours I have learned a lot of things.  Here are just a few of the things I learned….

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  • We can survive a car ride with all six of us!  At least for twenty minutes…
  • We are awesome together and it is awesome to be together.
  • We’re a normal family.  We love each other to the moon and back, theoretically of course… practically so far we just love each other to Ukraine and back but that’s besides the point.  My point is, we love each other tons, but we also scuffle and wrestle, learn and grow, and live this beautifully messy and chaotic life that only a family could step away from and realize they never want to leave it again.
  • Sometimes it’s ok to bribe the two year old with Skittles at 7:00am in the morning.  Not saying that happened, just saying that apparently there are situations where that is totally acceptable.
  • We have the best husband and father in the world.  We are so blessed to have him.

About the Rest of the Week

  • We are going to be here a while…
  • The Ronald McDonald House will hopefully have room for us on Friday.
  • Daddy, Evangeline and Jacob just left.  They will stay at home for one or two nights so Daddy can get a little work done and we can save on hotels.  Feeling quite alone tonight.
  • My Daddy is taking a long weekend to come help out at the hospital!  So excited for him to meet his new grandkids and to have the extra hands.
  • It’s going to be long and hard, but in a good and necessary way.  This is the road to healing, and we’re glad to finally be on it.

About Nurses

  • The nurses at our children’s hospital are amazing.
  • EKG nurses do not like being asked to wait until morning to run their tests.
  • There are a lot of pregnant ladies here and they look super cute in scrubs.
  • Just because they say something has to be a certain way doesn’t mean you can’t ask so many questions that they finally give up and consult the doctor about it to get away from you.

About Jacob

  • We were very hopeful that he would be able to get a walker right away to get him off the ground, but the OT didn’t think that would be realistic.  His feet are profoundly contracted and will need some time to get to a neutral enough position where standing properly is possible.
  • He needs an MRI just to check everything out and some x-rays and blood work, but other than that he should be fine until we can get him therapy at home.
  • He is super happy to have his Daddy back.  And that doesn’t even begin to describe it.
  • He has a real sense of humor.  We were able to have a translator with the doctor and he was telling jokes all during the visit and loved conversing and interacting.
  • He’s compassionate.  He asked the translator several times why Zhanna was sick, was she going to be ok, etc.  He was obviously concerned and we were able to comfort him, but how sweet to see he cares so much about his little big sister.
  • He kept telling us all throughout the doctor’s visit “I’m not scared.  I’m not scared of anything.”  Our brave boy, denied a real childhood all these years.  So excited to introduce him to the experience of being carefree.

About Hope

  • She is a warrior princess.  I am totally in awe of her ability to endure grueling, painful and terrifying circumstances for days on end with so little resistance and so much joy.  How much she’s teaching me.
  • She will need to be in the hospital for at least a week in order to get her nutritionally stable.  We were hopeful for a much shorter time frame, but God’s hand has been so near to us here it has actually been spiritually replenishing for me to just totally rest in His arms through this.
  • She tolerates her IV so well!  She hardly touches it and hasn’t tried to rip it out once, even though it is preventing her from propping herself up or laying in her favorite position.  So proud of my girl!
  • She is quite anemic, which you can totally guess just by looking at her, but strangely enough her iron levels aren’t that bad.  They’re running some more labs to figure out exactly what time of anemia it is so we can work on getting her the supplements she needs.
  • This girl is going to learn to walk!  The physical therapist believes there is no reason she cannot learn to walk with a walker as her strength increases.  Her bone density looks good and she will be able to bear weight when she’s ready.  In fact, she highly recommends we get her a stander right away so she can start getting used to being in an upright position!  How exciting!
  • And I knew this already, but the nurses are confirming it again.  She has a beautiful spirit and a delightful smile.  She is charming the socks off of everybody… except for the x-ray technicians… and the people with the pokes… She doesn’t seem to care for them much.  Not sure why.  ;)

Until tomorrow friends!

It is Finished.

They are home.  We are a family of six and it feels amazing to be together (well in the same city at least) again.  Stephen and I are hanging out with Zhanna at the hospital.  Be in prayer for her, this is tough!!  Daddy, Jacob and Evangeline are at the hotel to get a good night’s sleep.  Daddy sure did earn it!  Will update more tomorrow. Thank you all so much for everything.  Truly.  We love you guys.

Home

A Little Quick Housekeeping

Hi Everyone!

Super excited!  Jake and Hope got their visa (as per my post earlier this morning) and they will be on their way home tomorrow!  Please pray for safe travels!

The local paper covered our family’s story.  You can read that here.  Hoping to get a hold of the lovely reporter who interviewed us to get it updated with the awesome news!

My sweet girl is coming home and just in time, her discomfort is increasing, she is not doing well and I don’t know how much longer she would be able to go without care.  We are so blessed that God has interceded on our behalf right when we needed it the most.  Your prayers have been felt friends!  God has used them to do marvelous things.

Thank you all so so much for sticking with us as we finish this marathon, that went a couple miles longer than it was intended ;)

Please continue to follow along and see what love will do for these precious children!  There is so much of this story that has yet to be told, and I am excited to continue it as we move forward and get settled in.

Keep us in your prayers as we will be leaving our home again for a few days to be with Hope at the children’s hospital, as she is being admitted upon arrival in-country.  Pray especially for her peace and comfort.  Hospitals are quite often traumatizing places for institutionalized children who have been abused and neglected in hospitals prior to coming home.  There is no way of knowing ahead of time how she will handle it.  Pray for her!  And also that the painful care, pokes and such, will be at a minimum so that her stress levels might stay down.

Pray also for little Jacob.  He will also be seen and evaluated, which may be stressful.  But most of all, leaving our home is terrifying for him.  We will be staying the night elsewhere and he may think we are not coming back.  This is so hard, even though we are able to get a translator to explain, he just has trouble wrapping his mind around leaving a place and coming back to it.

Thank you again and may God richly bless all of you as you have so blessed us these last several months.

Thank You Lord!

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Just for Jacob

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I have been so focused the last few days on the hardship we’re dealing with.  Short version, there is no news.  So today, instead, I am going to take the opportunity to talk about sweet Jacob and how well he is doing and all the progress he’s made since coming home.  We really have had a great week with him, filled with highlights and milestones.  Here are a few things just for Jacob…

First English Words.  He has always repeated English words with prompting, but typically he doesn’t use them spontaneously in conversation.  I think I posted before about his very first sentence in Ukraine,“Take off booties!” (Directed at his little brother.)  But we hadn’t had any since then.

Well, the day after we arrived home I was cooking dinner and he came in speaking Russian very earnestly.  I told him apologetically “Ya nee ponamayu”, or “I don’t understand”.  He thought for a few seconds and then said “Yum, yum, yum!”, communicating successfully that he wanted to eat.  It was super awesome and adorable.  Other words he says now regularly are bye-bye, shoes, ok and water (referring to our backyard pool which is his favorite thing ever).

He Knows His Name.  Back in Kiev at our embassy medical, the doctor asked his name and he replied “My name is Yura, but when I’m with my mom they call me Jacob.”  That was a little disheartening, honestly.  But twice since we’ve been home he has owned his name.  He spoke with a family friend on the phone in Russian the other day.  Our friend greeted him as Yura and he immediately corrected saying “My name’s not Yura, it’s Jacob.”  He also corrected Babushka a couple times.  This is so exciting!

Trust is beginning to show.  Orphanage nannies are not the most attentive of supervisors.  Usually if someone  is harassing you, you need to handle it on your own.  When we first had Jacob, if one of his siblings would do something he disliked he immediately tried to amend the situation himself, usually by yelling, swatting or grabbing.  Now, if I’m in the room, he waits patiently for me to correct the injustice, or he calls for me if I’m not within eyesight.  Huge progress!  He has also stopped crying when I take a toy away for dinner or bedtime and tell him that he will be able to use it later.  He is starting to trust!

He’s reaching out for affection.  Between night time cuddles, random hugs during the day, giving kisses on the cheek, being held or holding hands… this kid has started truly enjoying and seeking out touch and affection.  Something he did a little at first, but also became adverse to after just a little interaction.  He is seeking these little moments out more and more, and tolerating them longer, and I couldn’t be more pleased.  He is also reaching out with affectionate words, like telling me “good night” at bedtime.  Wonderful emotional progress!

Attachment, maybe? I hope!  It’s so hard to say if we’re making progress here or not, and one day it might feel like we definitely are, while the next I see red flags all over again.  But he is certainly (at least for now) preferring me over Mima (who has been staying with us this week) and others.  He asks for me specifically for getting dressed and other things, even though I am the tough disciplinary figure at this point! This is hugely comforting to me, and I think it will continue to get better.

He is such a joy!  I can’t wait for all six of us to be together again.  Jake said he thinks it will be even better than our wedding day.  I might have to agree.

Trying to Trust

Today is another round of emails and phone calls to our senators and congressman.  I am doing everything I can on this end to somehow get Hope exempted from this backlog and get her into the U.S.  She simply cannot wait through the weekend for this issue to be resolved.  We very much need to get her home, but I feel like all my efforts have been fruitless.

I hate hate hate this.  There are so many good and wonderful and positive, God-filled things going on in the lives of our two new children.  There have been countless joys and milestones and they are both adjusting so marvelously to our family.  I have so much I want to say and gush to you about!  But my brain is totally preoccupied with this mess.

I can’t think about anything but that my baby girl is hurting and she needs to come home.  And there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.  We could be waiting another day or another week; we have no idea.  But barring a miracle it looks like they will be stuck there through the weekend again.  This is so hard, so so hard.  Last night as I went to bed, exhausted and emotionally empty I heard God’s still, soft voice… “Are you still trusting Me?”  Yes, Lord.  Yes.  It seems simple, but trusting right now feels like the most difficult thing in the world and every fiber of my being is fighting against it.

But yes.  I am choosing trust.  God please make my heart glad again, as if the dawn had already come.

Please continue to pray for us.  Some people have inquired about contacting their representatives in Washington D.C.  That is not necessary; ours are already doing all that they can.  This delay has cost us nearly $2000 in transferred tickets, extra hotel expenses, etc.  Our grant fund at Reece’s Rainbow has been put back up, so there is still a tax deductible way to donate funds that we will have access to immediately.  Here is the link.

But most of all just keep praying; right now that’s about the only avenue I have left.  And perhaps that was the point all along.

As if the Dawn Had Already Come

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As I write this it is still pitch dark outside.  I have had a few hours of sleep here and there, but at 4:30am I have been wide awake for an hour, praying and emailing our senators and representatives, pleading for their help.  Here is the update I posted on Facebook just a little bit earlier:

Visa Update & Prayer Request

It is the middle of the working day in Ukraine and it was expected that this issue would be resolved, but it hasn’t been. Apparently this particular technical issue with the visas has never happened before, and they do not know how long it will take to resolve.

This is a worldwide problem affecting dozens upon dozens of families. After the problem is resolved it is not known how many visas they will get out immediately, or whether or not ours will come out of the queue on the first or second day.

Because it is a new problem there is no way of knowing when it will be fixed. They are hopeful that it will be before the weekend, but that is far from certain. The embassy has been wonderful. The consular officer has been calling every half hour on our behalf, and staying long hours to wait for news, but there is only so much he can do.

I am in the process of emailing our senator, representatives and the ambassador to beg for some kind of help or medical exemption to get our daughter home. We were told there are already senators involved, and we are not sure what difference this might make, but we are willing to try everything at this point.

We continue to covet your prayers, both for Zhanna and for Jake. Pray for comfort, health, peace and a speedy resolution.

There is something I don’t talk about often, but this dire situation at the end of our adoption reminded me of it fully, and I thought it would be an appropriate time to share here.  Anyone who has ever met our daughter will tell you how joyful she is, how her smile affects people, how loving and compassionate her heart remains, soft and beautiful even after a lifetime of neglect.

I am 100% certain that she had angels attending her the nine long years she remained without a home or the love of a family.  God poured out love and compassion on this precious child, and preserved her when we could not be there, so much so did He overflow her cup with these things that she cannot help but to heap such joy on everyone she meets.

Yes, our daughter is incredibly special, but not in the way one might think at first glance.  Her heart and her soul have attained a spiritual strength and beauty that I could only hope to come close to one day.  I have long known this about her, but I’m not the only one.

I truly believe that the Enemy had no desire for this child to leave her place of seclusion; that he has fought tooth and nail to keep her locked away, that her grace-filled life might be hidden from the world.  Her very presence testifies to the goodness of God, to the mercy of our loving Creator, to a faith that trusts beyond all hopelessness.  Meet her and you will see!  This child has good works prepared for her in great multitudes; God has great things planned for her and for those who will be blessed to know her.

This is a despicable and unbearable thought for the Father of Lies, the one who would rather that Truth never comes to light.  Dear friends, I will have to recount for you one day all the many obstacles other families and ultimately our family faced in the fight to give Zhanna Hope a life outside of the bars of her crib.  Once we officially began the process for her, the battles intensified.

We experienced nothing of the level of spiritual warfare in our pursuit of Jacob that we have in adopting Zhanna. It has been consistent, unrelenting.  There were many times we believed she would not come home, even after meeting her in person.  We have kept most of this information private, but one day there will be time to share our struggles.

Her life is a spiritual battleground, and Satan knows he has lost it.  He knows that there is One Greater than he that has commanded she be a beloved daughter and no longer an orphan.  He knows that she is only days and hours from being home where she belongs.  He knows he has lost this battle and it infuriates him to no end.

Just as he torments the world, clawing and flailing in his feeble and futile attempts to take what belongs to the Lord of Hosts… he now torments our daughter and our family, knowing there is nothing he can do to take away what God has generously given.  The power of Satan is terrible and seemingly great, compared to our weakness and frailty.

But my friends, it is not up to us to fight, for Christ has already destroyed the power of the Devil and won for us the victory.  He has promised us that no finger will be laid on us by the Evil One that has not been allowed by God.  And we know that what God allows is for our ultimate good.

Satan is using this situation to discourage, to beat us down, to destroy our joy and our hope in the midst of what should be the most joyous and praiseworthy of times.  I am on to your wicked games.  Get behind me Satan, I will not succumb to fear, to despair, to depression, to bitterness.  Though I thirst, I will not drink from your poisonous cup any longer.

I am turning all my attention to the Lord.  I wait on Him and drink from the Fountain of Life, after which any earthly thirst seems trivial.  He will deliver me, He will deliver my daughter.  I will seek first His Kingdom and Righteousness and the rest will be added without thought or care.  It is not for me to struggle against you.  Instead I will be still, and will wait on my Savior.

Now it is dark, but the dawn will break soon.  This He has promised.  Oh how He loves us, how certain it is that He will come through.  Just as certain as the sun rising in the East.  My heart sings as if the dawn had already come, truly this is what it means to hope.  Thank you Lord for the gift of Hope.

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