Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Man Child

I can't really remember what our plan was, but I'm quite sure that it wasn't 2 babies in 16 months.....Trevor Dean Florida was our first experience with "God's plan for our family's children is soooo much better than our own!"  We were given the gift of a second man child, sturdy and strong with a tender heart and a will of iron on May 19, 1996.  This past weekend has been a sweet celebration of the baby grown up.

Since Trevor himself isn't too keen on hearing the details surrounding his birth (he wouldn't even let me play his birth video while his friends were here....sheesh, boys!!)  I've decided to chronicle the story here for the day his future wife or daughters want to hear his story......and maybe because it was such a precious time for his Momma!

There was a part of me that was hoping Trevor would be a girl, mainly just because I already had a boy and conventional wisdom said variety is the spice of life.  There was a bigger part of me that hoped the ultrasound would reveal another little Florida boy.  I envisioned brothers....a total immersion in little boy world with fire trucks, sports balls and super heroes.  Since I never had brothers, I think my "boy" dreams must speak pretty loudly to how great man-hood looks on my Dad and husband.  When the ultrasound tech said, "Congratulations, it's another little boy!"  I gave my baby boy blue dreams full rein.

Pregnancy with Trevor in my belly was pretty easy.  It was obvious he was going to be a big boy, but I felt strong and healthy.  He seemed to have settled in pretty comfortably....my growing belly started listing a bit to my left side where the palm of my hand could usually find the curve of a baby back nestled in as my right hand could pick out two little feet outstretched to the other side.  His first little man-cave seemed to include a  recliner where he enjoyed having a place to stretch out!

He was due May 31st.....but we woke up May 18th still discussing name options and unable to commit to one.  We got ready for a warm Saturday full of fun family and church events weighing the pros and cons of each of our favorites.  After visiting friends and playing at the park during a church picnic we gathered our church teens and headed for the local roller rink.  Momma didn't put skates on but I did enjoy watching Daddy and Riley take a few laps around the rink before sleepiness overwhelmed me.  Riley and I left Scott  and the kids to finish out the night and headed home.

As soon as Riley was snoring in his bed, I stretched out on the couch with the air conditioner at my back and the tv at my front and drifted off  to await Scott's return.  Instead of his entrance waking me as I expected though, warnings of baby boy #2's entrance did instead.  The achy, tired feeling I had brought home with me, had transformed into regularly spaced achy tired feelings with enough power to open my eyes.  I was tired enough to drift back to sleepyland after I labeled what was happening and woke the second time at Scott's return home.  He came in exhausted and declaring out loud how much he was looking forward to a deep night's sleep.  At my announcement, his eyes widened and he screwed up more "get the job done" power.  A quick check to make sure the hospital bag was ready and warning call to babysitter Uncle Eric, and he was off to sleep for as long as he could.

Now, my frame of mind at this point in the story is particularly important to the next 24 hours....so let me tell you what was going on in my mind.  First of all, everybody says that 2nd babies come in half the time of first babies because you and your body know what you're doing this time.  Well, I believed everybody and have just enough of a competitive spirit in me that I was convinced I could match that expectation and set a new record for myself just with the strength of my will.  Riley's birth had been an 8am Monday appointment for an induction and he had been born at 5:49pm.  9 hours, 49 minutes from very first fluttery contraction to baby boy.  My first contraction this day had happen spontaneously and while I was asleep, so it wasn't quite as easy to pinpoint, but I was sure it had happened by 11pm.  So by my calculations, I would be holding a sweet, sleeping newborn by dawn's early light and our church friends would all  raise their eyebrows in surprise as they sat in the pews and heard what I had accomplished in the few hours between our picnic and Sunday morning services!  In fact, I had invited my newly married little sister to be in the room for the birth this time so she could share the joy of my easy, fast, well-scripted baby birth experience....encourage her with the beauty of birth, you know??!  Keep that reasonable, totally well-thought out plan of an experienced mother in your mind as you read......

We left for the hospital around 3am and alternated between laughing like giddy kids and "breathing through" as we made the pitch dark drive to the hospital.  I fully expected the nurses to tell me I was ready to push as soon as we got settled in our room and my plan would be complete.  Instead, as they poked and prodded my belly and "ahem - other parts" I heard the words "Sunny-side up" for the first time.  I didn't know enough then for the combination of that description and the certainty of a big baby to run ice through my veins and upend my expectations.  I do now....oh baby, I know now!  These days I'm ready with a commiserating cluck and pat on the hand when I hear it applied to young moms I know.

I will spare you the details...my sister still hasn't been able to wash certain things from her memory (although I'm happy to say that the experience didn't totally scare her away...she still gave me a great nephew!) but I will tell you this.  "Sunny side up" is a nice way of saying that your kid who made himself a recliner in your womb wasn't about to give up that comfy posture on the way out and instead of maneuvering his hard, round head around your tailbone and other immovable body parts he preferred to keep his Lay-Z-boy position and attempt to come out face up like a battering ram.  Dealing with this situation takes a lot of time, a lot of not pushing when all of creation tells you you're supposed to, a lot of un-natural positions that require extra staff to be brought in from the hallways to prop you up as your "gown" gives way to gravity,  a lot of blood vessel bursting and lip biting.  Oh....and did I tell you that sunny-side up babies produce a thing called "back labor" that isn't affected by epidurals like normal labor is???

My solution to dealing with this  change of plans was to set goals and pretend to still be in charge.  I asked my very nice OB to predict when the baby would be born as the light of the sun started peeking over the horizon.  I thought we still had time to pull off a beginning of service baby announcement at church.  I'll admit to tears when his answer was, "I'm sure by noon we'll be all done here."  But I gritted my teeth and decided that an end of service announcement could be ok too.  I'm not proud to admit to the whiny tone of voice I chastised Dr. Ligon with as I watched 12:00 creep up on the clock and we were still trying to turn a baby instead of birth a baby....I may have accused him of things that weren't his fault...

The gymnastics were successful, he turned his head eventually and tucked his chin like a good baby....and entered the world at 1:10pm.  Just on schedule.....God's schedule.  I was left with a bloody lip, every part of my body swollen and bruised, and a full heart because of the precious, beautiful boy that was placed in my arms.  He greeted me with a serious, thoughtful expression and wide open dark eyes that seemed to be speaking deep thoughts.

We thought that as soon as we saw him, his face would speak a name to us and we'd know which of our two favorites to use on his birth certificate.  Scott cut the cord and Dr. Ligon asked what the baby's name was....we looked at him, looked at each other.....and shrugged.  It wasn't that we couldn't agree, we agreed too much and had two names we really like...both would have suited him just fine.  Scott solved the dilemma when he said, "You know, we can't lose, their both great names so let's just flip a coin!"  The quarter came down and declared him Trevor Dean.  I can't imagine him anyone other than my Trev.

I fell madly in love then, when I hardly knew him....and am even more madly in love now that I've had 17 years to get to know him and hear some of the deep thoughts that were behind those soulful eyes.

  This baby has turned into a man I am extremely proud to call mine.  He's good, he's strong, he's a well spoken deep thinker and a defender of justice.  I love who he is so much, my heart feels like it's going to burst when I think about offering him as a man to the needs of the world.  I'm so glad that Trevor Dean Florida was born....and that I was chosen to be his Momma.

Happy birthday sweet boy!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Travelogue Ethiopia Part 2

We met the girls on Wednesday and slept very well that night.  We woke Thursday to the sounds of Addis Ababa....new construction, children laughing and running, the rumble of cars and trucks, animals of all kinds and the occasional call to prayer over the tinny loudspeakers.

The view from our guesthouse window.

One of the (many) different and cool things about adopting older children instead of babies is that we were able to be a family on this first trip.  Usually, adoptive parents get to meet their children on the sly, pretending to be nothing more than everyday visitors to the orphanage.  Until the court date and a declaration from the judge anything can happen....and the tender hearts of the children must be protected from the potential, however small it may be, of yet another loss.  But the word "usually" hasn't figured much into our story!  Right from the first day we began talking about our girls, our adoption workers would tell us what protocol is for adopting older children, and then with the next breath say, "But your girls are about 10 years older than the normal 'older child' adoption....so we'll have to talk it over as a staff and get back to you with how we should handle it for your family."  Blazing new trails, forging new paths....for us and our girls!  So, our girls were able to "meet" us long before we even came.  They were told that they have a family and given pictures of us soon after our referral acceptance was complete.  That was a giddy day in Michigan while we imagined them coming home from school....and being met with life changing news!

So when we met them on Wednesday, we were able to meet them as Mom & Dad.  And when we woke up on Thursday, we woke up as Mom & Dad and they woke up as daughters.  We had plans to spend the afternoon with them again at the orphanage, but before then had a few appointments, the most important of which was a visit to the Bethany offices to meet with the lawyer.

He briefed and explained in a very professional manner, preparing us for our court appointment the next day....telling us that it would likely be a very smooth appointment.  The usual reason for a case to be put on hold and not immediately cleared was if a judge felt in-country family options had not been explored enough for a child.  As is our habit, we asked more questions than the average person which led us to a discussion about the system and the orphan problem as a whole.  His "on-the-ground" assessment confirmed the conclusions my reading and wondering had led me to assume.  The recent slow-downs in the adoption process in Ethiopia have been born out of good intentions.....intentions to  exhaust all resources that might keep a child with extended family or at least place them with a family in country before international adoption is considered as an option.  The new system adds double-checking to that end, which is a good end.  But the reality right now is that it's leaving children stuck while the kinks are worked out.  Too little staff and too little training at the beginning of the learning curve have slowed the flow of children to families while the flow of children to orphanages or the streets has remained the same.  The Ethiopian system is feeling the strain between big picture goals and right now needs.

It was at this point in our "big picture" discussion that our lawyer's professionalism cracked a bit and he told us, with obvious emotion in his voice, that he felt a lot of gratitude toward our family for adopting Asnaku and Ruth....that it meant a lot to the whole Bethany staff.  His words referee-ed another wrestling match that had been happening in my heart since we set foot on the Ethiopian red dirt. 

 Even with the poverty of the orphanage and the other hardships in my girls' lives, my heart had been heavy these past few days with the pain of them having to leave all they've every known behind in order to have a family.  Ethiopia is a place, a people and a culture that is very easy for me to love.  It bothers me that the girls have to lose this in order to gain us.  I wish I could scoop up part of it to bring home for them. 

 The lawyer's next words brought me peace and answered our prayer that God would lead us to a child that truly needed us.  He told us he was confident that the judge would approve our case the next day because we were the only chance the girls have at a family.  "Really??" we asked.  "The only chance?"  

His expression and body language made his answer emphatic, "They'll never have a family here."  Disease, poverty, stigma, and too many birthdays had stolen that chance in the country of their birth. Us....one family from across the world had become their only chance because God sees, He hears, and He speaks.

It was a strange peace to my heart.  It was awfully hard to hear your children described in such dire circumstances.  But it was also good to hear.....good because it confirmed our steps.  Having a family and belonging to someone trumps culture and hometown every time.  That reality explains our girls excitement for us so dramatically overshadowing the fears of the unfamiliar and a new language they must also have.

We boarded the van and headed out for our afternoon with the girls.  We played and laughed.  Scott had the bright idea of a two on two soccer match.  Ruth was game, but Asnaku had to be persuaded!  Scott used his  Daddy charm to plead and convince.  Finally, with a little roll of the eyes, she relented.  It felt very much like a typical Daddy Daughter moment to me and made my heart swell.

We played the "English/Amharic" game that's popular with adoptive families and on missions trips!  They point and speak, we repeat, everyone laughs.....we point and speak, they repeat and we cheer and tell them they're awesome!  The game ended with Ruth explaining to Scott that Addis Ababa means  "new flower" and Abaye means "Daddy" so Addis Abaye means "New Daddy."  More sweetness!  New Daddy also found out that one of his girls is pretty tickle-ish and can't help smiling big when Abaye's got a finger poked into her side!!

It was a good, good day.   My journal entry for that day ended with this, 

"So the list of confirmations and hearing from the Lord grows....not to mention how great our time spent with the girls has been.  If each day keeps continuing to get better and easier with them, everything will be more than fine.
God is good....I'm so glad He brought us to Ethiopia...."