October 11, 2012

It's 6:10 AM....

It's 6:10 here and my daughter woke up around 5:15... I must have gotten up 10 times during the night: go to bathroom, go cough where Abi wouldn't wake up, take cough medicine, drink more water, etc. etc. TO say my brain is on overload is an understatement. I'm sitting here with my stomach churning, eating my upteenth peanut butter and tortilla roll-up (they now officially make me gag- but thankful to have food) , watching Abi rock out to the music coming out of my iPod, and thinking about how in the world I'm going to get through the next 30 hours...

Hold on- must go feed  my daughter...

Okay, I'm back. Food eaten WITH a burp.  Oh how quickly the things that get me excited have changed :)

Today is important.

I have an appointment today with the visa department at the embassy.  If Abiella's visa is printed then we're heading to the airport immediately after to go get on a plane and begin the 24 hour / 3 flights home... These tickets were NOT easy to get, and my husband worked for countless hours finding a way to get us home before the "next available seats" (Next Week!) Praying we get the visa and can USE THESE TICKETS.

It's been a good trip, a hard trip, a great trip, a memorable trip, an incredibly special trip, a blessed trip, a scary trip, and an EXHAUSTING trip.  This mama is SO ready to be at home and begin our life as a little family of 3 I can hardly stand it.  I'm scared to let my mind wander too far (will I be home by Friday?) b/c you never know what will happen.  But for now, I'm praying my daughter will poop (Hey, Milk of Magnesia- live up to your hype won't ya?), taking my 2nd Excedrin,  packing bags, charging all my electronics, downing some eggs that were just delivered to our room, gathering my paperwork for my visa meeting, figuring out how to pack everything I need for myself and a baby in a backpack for 30 hours, and praying the visa is printed and the day goes smoothly and we're given super natural peace and STRENGTH.  I'm also trying to remember to be THANKFUL. We have SO much to be thankful for, and the great people I've met here have reminded me that life is FUN and that you can enjoy the ride and lean on God, even in the challenges.  As my new friend Paul put it, "God brought you here.  He brought you to this baby.  You must let Him bring you through it all. Do not worry.  We're not made to worry."

So right now my rock star mama is giving Abi a bath and handing me gatorade bottles and peanut butter roll-ups with a look that says, "Eat this, or else."

So thankful she is here.  So, so thankful.  I don't know how I could have done this without her.  It is a true blessing and gift from God that He made it possible for her to come with me.

And...Abi is HAPPY.  Very HAPPY.  She wakes up smiling... she laughs at loud noises... Sometimes I look over at her and she's just sitting there grinning ear to ear.  I'm so thankful for this 2 week "learning curve."  We've gotten through a lot together and I feel like the bonding has been so sacred.  Now I just need to show her Daddy all her new tricks :) For one, she laughs at Beyonce's song "Upgrade You" EVERY SINGLE TIME.  I'm sure it's the beat or the drums or Jay-Z's voice or something that resonates in her little ears, but the timing is hilarious b/c she laughs right when Beyonce says something sassy.  Looks like this little girl's a lot more like her mama than I realized :)

The power / internet here has been limited so here's a few photos I meant to upload earlier... More to come for sure...

Abi's first head scratch...
Our angels...Paul and Lawrencia. God used them to quite possibly save Abiella's life... They're love is unbelievable.  In fact, yesterday they sent someone to do our laundry for us and Paul came by last night to visit and pray.  He said, "We are your only family here.  We must do this.  You are our sisters and your baby is our baby. And one day when I meet your husband, he will by my brother. When you are a Christian you have family all over the world."

Practicing sitting up and using our neck muscles... (aka- playing.)

View from our hotel. (I bought a cute dress at one of the shops across the street and an incredibly special woman made my mom a scarf just for her...)

Okay, off to continue packing and perhaps change my daughter's poopy diaper... could we be so lucky?!???

If you think about it, please pray for a visa and a safe trip home!


October 9, 2012

How Am I Going to Get Through this Day?!?

Right now I’m sitting in my hotel room, watching my precious baby nap (in a hoodie with no A/C… she’s going to need a down body-suit when we get to TN) and I am ALL nerves.  Today I wait and see if the embassy has mercy and expedites our visa.  My POA is there right now on behalf of our case (and 5 other children.)  Phew.  Lord, JESUS, may they give us a stamped visa TODAY. 

So while I wait, I thought I’d write about last night.  Wow.  Just wow.  Our friends (the angels) who helped save our baby's life, invited us over for a traditional Ghanaian meal.  At 5:45 we heard a knock on our hotel door and it was their 10 year old son, there to escort us to their home.  As we drove in the car through the bumpy, red dirt roads, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the incredible experiences God has allowed me to have throughout this adoption journey.  I’m experiencing new cultures, observing different ways of life, appreciating things I typically take for granted, and meeting absolute angels along the way.

When we arrived at the house we were graciously greeted by all of the children and aunties and grandmother we had met during our last visit.  One child ran up and gave us a hug, dogs were barking (Abi LOVED the dogs barking) and the grandmother came to give us a hug.  It was such a warm and loving welcome. 

We took off our shoes, walked inside and visited with the children.  A few minutes later the children were asked to leave the room and a table was set for two.  (Just my mom and me.)

Paul told us that the grandmother would take care of Abiella while I ate, so I could enjoy my meal.  So I handed Abi to the amazing woman who had so beautifully prayed for her health two nights before. Before long,  2 beautiful plates of hot food came out, 2 sachets of water, and a bowl and soap for us to wash our hands.  They told us to enjoy the meal and left the room.  While we ate our meal, they were in and out, checking on us, and telling us, “You are not strangers! Eat every bite!” with huge smiles on their faces.  The dish was called “Red Red” and it was DELICIOUS. (Beans, plantains, meat…) Lawrencia made it (the amazing woman who had been bringing Abi porridge all week) and at the end of the meal we thanked them profusely for the honor of enjoying such an extraordinary dish in their amazing home. We visited with them some more and before long, the taxi was back and we all gathered around for one more prayer. This time we asked for a quick visa and an easy trip home.  The grandmother said a BEAUTIFUL prayer (again, different language, but I could FEEL it) Paul said a prayer, and then we said “Hallelujiah, Amen!” 

We hugged and laughed and said goodbye. I hugged these people like they were my own kin and told them I loved them and that I would be sending photos of Abiella.

30 minutes later we were back at our hotel with full bellies, thankful spirits, and ready for a good night’s rest. 

Today, we wait in the hotel room for news regarding the visa.  I am more nervous than ever!!! We have tickets on hold to leave for home Thursday night but we have to confirm them today.  If I don’t have the visa today I’m not sure it’s wise to confirm the tickets and possibly lose the money… But if I don’t confirm I literally lose the only seat available until the 15th of October.  Ahhhh…

Abi (praise God!) has been doing great! This is the BIGGEST BLESSING. She is feeling good and has been very smiley. She finds almost everything funny.  (Loud noises, other people laughing, etc.) Praise God for a happy, healthy baby. (She still doesn’t feel 100%... she threw up this morning from so much mucus and she had some gas pains… but MUCH Better!  She’s SUCH a trooper.)

 Alright- off to go edit photos, drink a coke, and somehow make it through the rest of this day :)

October 7, 2012

The Good, The Bad, and the Miraculous

Where to begin…

It’s been beautiful, hard, scary (really scary at times), exhausting, and exhilerating. 

Let’s start with the beautiful. Last Saturday,  I got to pick up Abiella from the orphanage.  My mom and I waited in the director’s office quietly when all of a sudden a woman walked in with my precious bundle wrapped up in a blanket.  I ran over, grabbed her, and Abiella started smiling immediately.  I swear she recognized me.  I held her for a long time, playing, and laughing (while remaining paperwork was filled out by the director.)  I then handed Abi over to her “Nonny” (my mom’s grandmother name) and the two of them met for the first time (so awesome to watch).  Administration finished the paperwork quickly and then all of a sudden , they said, “Okay, you can go" and before I knew it I was walking Abiella out of those orphanage doors for the last time.  I couldn't get her out of there fast enough. 

We then got in the car and headed back to the hotel.  There were two more little boys in the car who were being adopted soon and working with our POA to get their visa medicals. They were very quiet but as I held and played with Abiella I told the boys they would love America.  They perked up when I told them about how they could go to school there. As gospel music played on the radio, the lyrics “It’s God’s timing… It’s your time for a miracle” were blaring through the speakers. As I held my precious baby, saw my mom watching from the front seat, and felt the car rumble far away from the orphanage I thought I was going to lose it.  Abi was finally in my custody and the song coming through the speakers could not have been more poignant. 

30 minutes later we were back to the hotel and when we stepped out of the car into the sun Abiella squealed.  (For a child who rarely makes a peep, this was an amazing time for her to share a shrill of excitement. My mom and I laughed at how perfect the timing was. Again, I swear she knew she was finally out of the orphanage for good.) For the rest of the night we gave her rice cereal (instead of porridge, in an attempt to begin transitioning her diet) and played. A fellow guest "auntie" here, assisted in showing how she assumed Abi had been fed at the orphanage (since they wouldn't show us.) It worked and she ate it up. She was beyond happy and throwing her head back and even giggling.  In addition, that night, my POA’s assistant came and brought Abi’s passport!!!! (A piece that could have taken weeks to get was received IN ONE DAY!) Unbelievable. The blessings were pouring in.

We had a reasonably good night’s sleep… (Me, Nonny, and baby sleeping in a double bed) and then the hard stuff came in.  The next day Abi started crying…a lot.  For the sake of not writing a novel, (and not reliving those terrifying moments) I can summarize with this:  4 trips to the pharmacy, 2 rounds of constipation, incessant heart burn, possibly a stomach ulcer, and serious aspirating.

In the midst of one of her fits, out of nowhere a foster father who lives a 15 minute taxi ride away (whom we had hoped Abi would get to stay with months ago) heard we were at the guest house and decided to come introduce himself to us and, "Thank us for loving Ghana's children." (Unbelievable soul.) The timing of his surprise arrival couldn't have been more miraculous. I looked down from the communal porch and there he was walking through the gate.  I recognized him from pictures and ran to him, “Paul!!!!”  He sat with us for an hour, visiting, listening to Abi's cries and then he held Abi and stood up with me and prayed for her.  Just miraculous.  He then told me he would check with us in the morning and send his wife to treat her if she wasn't feeling better.  The next day, she wasn't feeling better... in fact, she felt so bad that at first glance his wife thought she had malaria! BUT she didn't have a fever (at least not a high one) so the ultimate consensus was digestive issues. So for 4 days Paul and his family assisted us in treating Abiella.  His wife came every day (sometimes twice a day to bring her home-made porridge and we are now trying to transition her to American food more slowly). In addition to her raging stomach problems she was suffering from a debilitating cold.

For 5 days she was almost always constipated and in severe pain. On the worst day, Paul's wife came over and suggested that we take our treatment to the next level... a traditional "pump." (enema.) She explained that the procedure had been passed down from grandfather to grandfather. I was desperate and completely out of resources.  Abi was in so much pain and we had exhausted all of our Western Medicine resources.  She had received milk of magnesia, cramp water, cough meds for a cold, lacutose, 4 trips to the pharmacy and everything I had brought from home…  Nothing was working and since I trusted these people with my own life, and they had fostered two of my friends' own babies I decided their advice was the best choice and said,“Yes, let’s do it.” 

So that night, Paul sent his son (10 years old) to come get us from the hotel and take us to their home.  Upon arrival, 16 children Paul is fostering at his incredible home greeted us, women smiled warmly as food was being cooked over a fire outside, and we were invited through the screen door and inside the home.  As my mom sat with Abi, Paul encouraged me to come outside to watch and learn how they were preparing the traditional African "pump."

Step by step, they taught me how how to grind leaves and ginger on a rock, make it into a pudding consistency, strain with warm water, and then use it as an enema.

Before giving it to her, Paul had all the other children leave the room and told us, "We are waiting for the grandmother to come in and pray. We are Christians and we ask God to intervene in everything we do. So we always pray first.” I thanked them for this.  Moments later an absolutely stunning African woman walked in, sat down, and began praying. The prayer was powerful.  It was in a language I didn't understand but I felt connected.  This amazing woman screamed a prayer to the heavens and when it was done we all said, "AMEN" and then they began the procedure. Within 20 minutes Abi was feeling better (and cleaned out.)  They bathed her (showed me how they bathe their African babies) and then they fed her.  Before we left the grandmother held Abi one more time and we all stood up, put our hands in the air and the grandmother prayed again.  This time she started with a song.  It was beautiful and powerful.  One of the most incredible and loving experiences of my life.  I've never felt so loved by those whom I had only met days before.  The place radiated with the love of God. As Paul said it, "The second you walk into my home you are family.  You are my sister and she is our baby."

Despite my pure joy that Abi was acting like her old happy self, by the end of the experience I was feeling feverish… but I didn’t want to alarm anyone so I thanked them profusely and quickly got in a cab once the boys got us one.  They escorted us back to the hotel. 

When I got to the hotel I collapsed on the bed and just cried.  So much to handle and so little resources.  I was so thankful for these angels that God had sent into my life.  I thought the worse was over (Abi was asleep immediately) and I went to bed. But the next morning, I woke up with a fever of 102 and a crazy sore throat.  Of course, my first fear was malaria… but I didn't think it would be accompanied by a soar throat.  Throughout the day the fever came and went. So while I was sick as a dog, my mom got up, took care of Abi, and sure enough an hour later Abi was screaming in pain again.  (Don’t you know the hotel loves us??) This is when I decided it might be acid reflux or an ulcer.  She’s NOT a fussy baby, you know that when she’s crying she’s in SERIOUS pain.  So helpless.  So the angels (Paul and his family) returned and helped us treat her.   AGAIN.  This time, no enema... just a lot of holding and rocking and speaking to her. 

Meanwhile, on the paperwork front, I took Abi to my I-600 meeting on Wednesday and she did great.  No crying! (She LOVES the car and loud music...which is perfect since mama does too :) At the end of the interview, when I asked a time frame for approval the woman said, “60 Days” I then proceeded to BEG them to expedite… I told them I was staying in a hotel with Abiella until she could come home and that we had SERIOUS health concerns.  I followed up with an email describing our situation (a few other amazing folks wrote them on our behalf too) and guess what?!  Less than 48 hours later I had a notice of approval in my inbox!!!!  No 60 days here!

Then I emailed the Visa department (our next and final step) explaining the emergency we were in regarding Abi's health and 30 minutes later THEY CALLED THE HOTEL MANAGER looking for me! They said they would try to expedite too. So they have a meeting with my POA on Tuesday morning and possibly our exit interview Tuesday afternoon. (Please pray we get the that interview Tuesday afternoon and immediate visa approval.) I don't want to wait any more days for a visa stamp. Soooo we’ve had many miracles (Praise God! And many heartaches… But God’s getting us in and out of them. )

Please pray!!! Please pray for Abi’s stomach issues to cease until we can admit her into American health care.  Please pray for a peace and for us to enjoy these remaining days in her beautiful country.  Please pray for the visa to go swiftly.

Update:  (I wrote the above portion a few days ago... but was unable to upload due to lack of power at the hotel.)  The past two days have been much better!!! Abi's stomach pains are a little more manageable and thanks to all the help (ESPECIALLY my amazing mother) we seem to have hit a groove.  Today she was laughing when she ate and even giggling when I tickled her neck.  She looks MUCH heavier, healthier, and happier and life is looking brighter... Please continue to pray for success in this area as we're still unsure of the cause, but we think it is acid reflux, swallowing more air than usual (due to her swallowing issues) and stress due to an immediate change in the amount of stimulation she got.  Even good stress can cause your bowels to change... any of you can't go to the bathroom when you're on vacation?  That kind of thing. :)

All this to say, we're doing well, eager to get home, and loving every single second Abi is happy, healthy, and becoming more and more like her old self. Praise Jesus!!!!

Also- My beautiful sister Lindsay got married yesterday and Abi and I celebrated the big occasion from Africa :) Here I am in my bridesmaid dress toasting Lindsay and Ben from the terrace of our  hotel :) Woohoo!!! Cheers to Lindsay and Ben!!!! Love you Sister and Brother!

Sidenote: Despite the fact Abi looks like she's crying here, she was really squealing b/c a bus had just honked it's horn and she loves loud noises. 


Phew- that was long...

God bless- over and out from across the ocean. 

mary susan