Friday, December 26, 2014

Wrapping Up Christmas

This Christmas was oh so special for Colin and me. The very first one home with our daughter, Caris. Last year we spent our most favorite holiday in the NICU, and it was sad for me, as I thought we would have been home.
But 2014....Christmas was amazing. We chopped down our tree right after Thanksgiving, decorated it and our house with meaningful ornaments and words like 'joy' and 'noel'.
Most importantly, we relaxed. We dedicated Caris at our church on December 21st, and I barely held back gushing tears as our pastor told Caris' story. When he said she was due December 25 and born September 17...I heard so many gasps across the congregation. I almost lost it.
It is easy to push down the emotions from all we experienced during Caris' first few months of early life. But, I think we did a good job of balancing memories of the past and being thankful for our many blessings. Loving Jesus and God for His sacrifice. Being joyful. Enjoying smiles and giggles of our little one.
Colin, Caris, and me spent Christmas Eve listening to beautiful music and words at our church, and Christmas day, well, in our jammies, opening gifts, and making memories, just us three.
Here is my Caris Noelle. Filled with love and joy!


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Two Years Waiting


Today, on Orphan Sunday, we have been on the waitlist to adopt our Ethiopian baby girl for two years!

We joined the waitlist in 2012 with so much hope and joy, and my prayer is that we continue having the same hope and joy now as we first did.

It is tough--rush, rush, rushing through 6 months of paperwork, just to wait, wait, wait. And it is tough starting this process with a timeframe of 2-3 years in our minds, and now 4-6.

Our first waitlist numbers were #139 for an infant girl and #63 for siblings. AGCI stopped giving out waitlist numbers, but I had been hearing rumors that if you asked, you would recieve!! SO, I asked. Last week!

We are......... #93 for an infant girl!!!!!

This number is lower than we expected, so that has been a breath of fresh air. We were thinking we may be between 100-110, and that was thinking positively. I think the lower number, unfortunately, doesn't necessarily represent the amount of referrals that have gone out, but rather, the number of families that may have left the program for another country or other reason due to the lengthened wait times.

I like our number, and it feels good to say that! I wasn't given a siblings number--I am not sure if we are technically on the siblings list right now, because our agency will not let a family adopt out of birth order, and Caris is 13 our age range of acceptance right now is very slim--especially because they require a certain age range between children (I think it may be a year?). So, if it is a year they require, essentially we are only eligible for a 0-3 month old baby right now.

However, moving forward, if Caris is indeed around 5 years old by the time we are closer to referral, we may choose to open up our age range to accept a 0-4 year old girl or siblings. Or we may keep it at infant. We could also choose to be open to a boy, too! We will see where God leads us--and we are very excited about whatever that may include.

Thank you from my heart for praying us through this path God has led us on. It is long, and it is winding, but it is good.

Our agency is working with 2 orphanages to create new partnerships...this would give so many orphans a home, and AGCI would be the only agency partnering with the orphanages, which could bring some big movement to families in wait.

The seas have lifted up, Lord,
the seas have lifted up their voice;
the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.
Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea—
the Lord on high is mighty.
Psalm 93:3-4
*Aren't these verses so good?? I looked up the commentary on them, and loved what I found. My Bible commentary states that 'the Lord has shown himself to be mightier than all the forces of disorder that threaten his kingdom. The thunder of the chaotic waters is no match for the thunder of the Lord's ordering word'.
**And then I looked up the commentary on verse 5, and found that God 'has made the world secure and has given his people life directives that are stable and reliable--and that they must honor'. This gave me reassurance that God has given Colin and I a directive to adopt from Ethiopia and we are called to honor Him with patience, love, and hope, no matter the cost.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Caris Noelle: A Micropreemie's First Days

A month ago, to the day, I shared my birthstory of Caris entering our world 14 weeks early.

Caris was brought to the NICU just minutes after her birth. I did not get to touch her before her departure, and I certainly did not get to enjoy the immediate snuggles most new mommas and babies get to experience.

It would be over 2 1/2 hours before I would get to see my daughter again. I think Colin and I were in immense shock. Thoughts were rushing through our heads, but we didn't know what to say. We were new parents, but we couldn't rejoice. I think I asked Colin several times if he thought Caris was okay. We weren't getting any updates, and I just wanted to be given reassurance and hope.

At 9:18 pm, we signed into the NICU to visit our sweetheart. The NICU had 4 rooms, and Caris was in the Balloon Room. She was in the back left corner of the room in an incubator.

We approached the incuabator cautiously. We saw our daughter for the first time up close. Caris had soft, dark hair. She opened both of her eyes a little bit for us! A precious jewel.

Her nurse showed us how to touch Caris through the small doors of the incubator. We touched her hand, and she held our finger. Amazingly sweet.

Although Caris was breathing on her own, she was intubated and on a ventilator for back up. She was also given medicine to help her breathing. She had a feeding tube in her mouth. There were IV lines in her belly button so the nurses could give her fluids, draw blood, and monitor her blood pressure. She was given antibiotics through her abdomen to help prevent infection. Caris was started on caffeine to help with her breathing.

Caris was 3 hours old, and had already been through so, so much. Breaks my heart.

When I say Caris is the strongest person I know, all of this is why. My little miracle girl. I had a painting made for her nursery that says 'Such a big miracle in such a little girl'.

It was incredibly hard to leave her that night. So difficult for Colin and I to get any rest.

The next day we were aching to visit our daughter again. Being near her again brought us so much joy.

Hanging in Caris' room were two little preemie outfits, that at first we did not know who put them there (they were donated to the NICU and a social worker chose to give them to us). One had a bunny on it! This was so very special to me, because we knew we were going to decorate Caris' nursery with bunnies. God. Only God.

Caris was not yet going to be wearing clothing, nor did she yet fit into the preemie outfits, but the two special sleepers gave me hope each day for this milestone.

Caris was placed under a phototherapy light, because she had jaundice. She was on and off the light for a few weeks. When she was under the light, she had to wear cloth 'sunglasses' to protect her eyes. We like to say she was sunbathing.

I changed Caris' diaper for the very first time. I was a little bit nervous--not only was Caris itsy bitsy, so were her diapers. I think I did well.

We nicknamed Caris--Popcorn. Preemies are supposed to have their arms and legs contained in a special blanket to mimic the womb, but my baby girl loved to be all stretched out. She would flail her limbs just like kernels of popcorn being popped. She liked to do that in my belly, too.

She enjoyed her stretches, but she was calmest contained in the blanket, holding one of our fingers. This became a huge comfort to Caris.

Three days after Caris' birth, her ventilator was removed. Oh, this was beautiful to see. A big milestone.

After four very long days, I got to hold Caris for the first time.

The NICU encouraged 'Kangaroo Care', which is skin-to-skin cuddling. We did this every day Caris was in her incubator.

I needed nurses to help with all of the tubes and lines. I scooped her up so gently. She melted into my chest. This was so very good for both Caris and me. Caris was able to hear my heartbeat once again and feel my chest raise up and down. I talked to her and hummed. Our most precious time together.

The next weeks and months were filled with more precious times, but also plenty of apneas (pauses in breath), heartrate drops, needle pokes, blood transfusions, and more scary things.

My miracle of a pregnancy became my miracle of the tiniest little fighter.

More to come....

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A First Birthday

Somehow, Caris has already been 1 year old for 10 days. I like to think we are still celebrating her first year of life. Why not? My girl has earned extra celebration. 

We had a simple birthday day on September 17th. We gave her some gifts from us--I am in love with the fact that she went straight for her birthday card rather than the presents themselves first!

Day after her birthday....being swung through the air by Daddy is the Best Thing Ever!

BUT, hanging upside down in Daddy's arms is a close runner-up. Seeing my favorite two people together makes my heart explode with joy every day.

We had Caris' birthday party on September 20th. Sadly, the flu is going around and most of my family caught it and couldn't join us in celebration. And, my brother's wife went into labor that morning, so of course they were not there either. But, we welcomed Braxton Michael into this world that day!

I love this little girl too much!

Because of Caris' prematurity, she is just now starting to eat foods other than purees, so I decided that we would forgo birthday cake and give her birthday ice cream instead! Vanilla, with caramel apples for the adults. She was in love with her ice cream.

I have had an amazingly blessed year with Caris. She lights up whichever room she is in with her joyful presence. God is good. All the time. I think Caris was singing her praises to Jesus into this microphone.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Birthday Girl Facts


Caris turned ONE yesterday!
Here are some facts about the birthday girl.
*Loves to: play the piano and 'sing'
*Favorite book: Pat the Bunny
*Number of teeth: 0
*Lots of: smiles and giggles
Very: observant
*Looks like: the perfect mix of momma + daddy
*Beginning to: army crawl
*Favorite foods: avocado + butternut squash
*Loves: her walker
*Doesn't like: men
*Enjoys: plucking grass and leaves
*Adores: her two kitties
*Is: a huge snuggler
*Nicknames: Care Bear, Sugar Pie, Caris Love, Bunny
*The only tv she will watch is: Daniel Tiger or her Praise Baby dvds
*Lots of: babbling- dadada, mamama, bababa
*Favorite bathtime toy: Hawaiian rubber ducky
*Despises: peas
*Favorite songs: Jesus Loves Me, If You're Happy and You Know It
*Loves: being held upside down
*Pulls: Mommy's hair and Daddy's ears
*Starting to: wave, eat puffs and melts, pull up to a stand with help, have big opinions
*Is: a major miracle, her mama's biggest blessing, her daddy's biggest joy, LOVED

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Caris Noelle: Birthstory of a Micropreemie

My baby girl was due December 25. Christmas day. I was sure she would be born late, in January.

After experiencing 6 years of infertility, I was aching to hold my little one. I think God felt my ache to become a mother; He gave me my daughter much earlier than I expected.

Around September 10 (2013), I started to have mild contractions and light spotting. I was cautious, but this being my first pregnancy, I was convinced I was having Braxton Hicks contractions--a normal symptom.

As the week progressed, the contractions became more painful, and were about 10 minutes apart. The worry kicked in. I began to feel like this was not normal.

Fast forward to September 17--I was 25 weeks and 6 days pregnant. I did not sleep well the night before due to the pain. I got out of bed at 6 am and began to have heavy bleeding. The fear kicked in.

My husband Colin woke up. My contractions were now just 5 minutes apart, and I was feeling pain in my upper legs as well. Colin was very concerned. Somehow, I was sure I would still be going to work that day. Colin insisted on calling my hospital to see if we needed to go to the ER. He spoke with a triage nurse at 8 am, who told us to go immediately to the ER.

We arrived at 8:45 am. I was crying. The tears would not stop.

Nurses did a check-up and then I was finally able to see my doctor. She said I was not dilated, but was 7 mm effaced. I was started on IV fluids to get hydrated, procardia pills to slow down contractions, and betamethasone steroids to help my baby's lungs strengthen and mature, in case she were to be born.

My contractions began to slow down. This was a relief. I did not want to believe my baby could be born this early.

A belly and a vaginal ultrasound were done. Everything about my baby appeared healthy. She was head down and belly down. I happened to notice on the ultrasound that my baby's head appeared very low, right at my cervix. This frightened me.

My doctor explained that there was a chance my baby could be born within 48 hours, and that the hospital did not have medical equipment/teams to support micropreemies. She told me she wanted me to be transferred to a different hospital that specialized in micropreemies, as a precaution.

At 1:45 pm, I took my very first helicopter ride. This was a little frightening. I was laying on a stretcher in a tight enclosed space. Thankfully I had no contractions on the 15 minute flight.

We arrived to my hospital and I was wheeled on my stretcher to room 369. My contractions returned. I was given more pills and magnesium. A machine was monitoring my contractions and my baby girl's heartrate. She kept swimming around and kicking the probes off. I was thankful she was so active. She made me smile.

The pills worked to reduce my contractions. My nurse told me that if the pills continued working, the goal would be to send me home in about 48 hours with more pills. This was hopeful. I was feeling good with that goal.

At 6 pm, a doctor arrived. She did an ultrasound and confirmed my baby's head was very low. She did an internal exam, and sent for my nurse to get a speculum.

(Unbeknownst to me, my doctor held up 10 fingers to my nurse and mouthed, "She's a 10!")

My doctor used the speculum to examine me further.

Then, the most fearful moment in all of my life happened. My doctor revealed to me that I was fully dilated at 10 centimeters. She told me we would be having our baby.

Instant tears. Uncontrollable sobbing. Panic.

The only thing holding my baby girl in was the water sac. I cried so hard for my baby girl. I was devastated that I could not keep my baby in my belly any longer. I prayed so hard. I feared for both of our lives.

At 6:28 pm, I was wheeled into room 359. Nurses were piling into the room. It was the middle of a shift change, so both shifts of people were there to help. It felt chaotic with people, yet they seemed relaxed and cheerful--this both perplexed and calmed me.

Colin held my hand at the left side of my bed. A nurse asked us if we had a name picked out. I became speechless and looked at Colin. He started crying (and I restarted crying) and he said, "Caris". We hadn't yet solidified a name, but we knew it was the one. Caris means 'love'. Caris Noelle. The nurse wrote in on a whiteboard.

The doctor broke the water sac.

She warned us that we would likely not hear a cry, because our little girl's lungs would not yet be fully developed.

I started pushing in sets of 3. I hadn't prepared for this. I never got to take birthing classes. On the second set, I cried out in pain as Caris arrived. 6:40 pm.

She cried. A tiny little voice that showed her strength.

The nurses immediately took her to the other side of the room to assess her.

I was too frightened to look.

I was told her left eye opened a little bit. She scored 9/9 on the Apgar test.

A nurse held her up to us for a brief second, and then she was whisked away from me to the NICU.

Caris weighed 1 lb 13.6 oz., and was 13 inches long.

To be continued....

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Almost One

Caris will be turning one on September 17. ONE.

It is simply a miracle that we were blessed with our baby girl, and that she is healthy and growing beautifully despite her early arrival. Strangers ask how old she is and think that she should be older because of her size. This is awesome. She is a tall girl!

I am so lucky to have a little girl.

Growing up, I always wanted to have a boy first, and then a girl...perhaps this was because I have an older brother. But, Colin had wanted a little Daddy's girl. Sometime after I met him, my heart began changing for a little girl. And when I got pregnant, I really wanted a girl and just 'knew' the baby would be one.

In the following picture, Caris is wearing my old dress! Almost 30 years old, and still so cute I think. My mother saved so many of my outfits, and now I get to have much fun in dressing my doll!

Caris is learning to have opinions on her daily activities--which toys to play with, which books to read. I love this stage. One of her preferences is to play my piano! I have had this piano since second grade, and it is wonderful that Caris is already taking up an interest in plunking on the keys, and even 'singing' while playing. Sitting her at the piano always calms her and puts a smile on her face.

Caris is becoming increasingly mobile. She has been sitting up and rolling for a long time. She is working so hard at crawling. But, we think she may skip crawling and go straight to walking, as she always prefers to be on her feet, and is just beginning to pull up with help. She is seeing an occupational therapist biweekly to help with all of these things, as she has low muscle tone due to her long NICU stay. We are so proud of her progress!

Her personality is so fun! She has always been a smiley lady. Full of giggles.

Here she is in her bunny pajamas. We decorated her nursery in a bunny theme. I will write about her nursery sometime! Her very favorite book is Pat the Bunny. When given a stack of bedtime books, Caris always, every time, will choose Pat the Bunny!

The little love of my life is also the little love of her daddy's life, too. Colin was home for his dinner break this last week, and as I was doing dishes, he took her outside to swing. I snapped this most perfect picture. Caris loves her daddy.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Choosing To Write

Hi Friends!

I have received a few gentle promptings from you requesting an update. I last wrote in this space in April, not knowing if I should continue writing. Not knowing how to continue writing.

Since becoming a mother to Caris last September, I have become more private. More busy. More sleepy, too. Smile.

Through my miracle pregnancy and miracle micropreemie, I have had a year and a half of change. And a year and a half of being overcome with emotions I had never experienced before.

I believe my pause in writing has so much to do with my emotions. I think I have had waves of being both over-emotional and under-emotional. And I have not known what to do with them. Now I know what I must do.

I am choosing to write.

I need to reflect better on this last year and a half. I have a year's worth of daily journal entries to read through for the first time and process. It is going to be difficult, I think.

I gain so much by reading others' writings--spiritual encouragement, learning about being a wife and mother, and being let into the lives of people across the country and the world.

There are many blogs I read that I would be (at least mildy) devastated if the writer decided to discontinue writing.

If I can share my story of mothering a micropreemie and help one mother through her own journey, and if I can tell about my adoption and encourage one woman to pursue adoption, too, then I need to write.

For myself and God willing--for others--I will choose to write.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Life Update

Where to start.....

I am struggling with what to make of my time with this blog--what to share about my family, to post pictures or to not. Should I make time to share anything at all during this season of my life?

My blog journey started with my experience with infertility, which became the start of our Ethiopian adoption, and now concurrently--the motherhood of my beautiful micro-preemie daughter, Caris.

About our adoption...we have been waiting about 1 1/2 years to adopt 1-2 girls from Ethiopia. Our agency, AGCI, has told us to expect a 4-6 year wait for a referral. So, that takes us to 2 1/2-4 1/2 more years, which could decrease or increase in the future. A lot is being done in Ethiopia to change the adoption process, and many families have chosen to leave the Ethiopia program to adopt from another country, due to the uncertainties that lie ahead. We have chosen to wait for as many years as we need to--we feel whole-heartedly led to Ethiopia. Our hearts have been there this entire time. There are so many children that need homes--we pray ethical changes are made so children can have families, and families can share their love with children. So, we wait in hopeful anticipation of adding to our family.

And my sweetheart, Caris. She is 7 months old. Because she was born 14 weeks too early, she is about 4 months old adjusted (physically and developmentally). She is doing amazingly well. Such a strong girl! So pretty. So smiley. Love her so much.

Colin and I are doing well! We are in love with parenthood. Colin is working hard as a police officer in our town, and I am very blessed to be able to stay home with our miracle girl.

A friend recently asked, "So, what do you do for fun?"....well, I am a mama! 24/7. Caris is my sunshine. Caris is my fun!

The weather is finally beginning to be warm enough for getting outside with Caris on stroller rides and such. I am so thankful for warm days. We have been cooped up during flu/winter season, and I know we both need some fresh air, for sure.

So, I leave you with these bits and pieces of my life lately. What are your bits and pieces lately?

I desire to get back to really writing someday. I am just not yet sure if that someday is near or far. And I believe that is okay. Someday!

Friday, February 14, 2014


This is how we know that we love the children of God:
by loving God and carrying out his commands.
~1 John 5:2
Happy day of LOVE from Caris and me!
Thank you for praying our little girl to health. Caris is almost 5 months old already. She is still on her apnea monitor and caffeine, but is otherwise a healthy, growing, sweet, and darling girl! 
Today is extra special because her name means LOVE!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Home From The NICU

Caris Noelle is home from the NICU!
After 104 days at the hospital, Caris and I came home to her daddy on December 29th.
Oh, that last week was a struggle for Colin and me. Caris had been learning to take her bottle since the middle of November, and it was a much longer process than we had anticipated. That last week, they took her feeding tube out of her nose, and was strictly bottle fed--hoping she would feel her hunger and start taking in more by mouth. She did pretty great, but a couple of the days her feedings were lower than the doctors liked, and they threatened to put her feeding tube back in if she didn't do better. Thankfully, she always did better the next day.
I broke down at the hospital on Christmas, because I was tired. Tired of fighting so hard to get Caris home. Stressed out. Worn from living 3+ hours away from Colin and not having our family together.
Towards the end of that week, I had the nurses' support to convince the doctors that we could do better at home. We knew the consistency of just Colin and I feeding Caris, and being in a home environment would be so much better for her. Finally, a doctor agreed to discharge her.
The first two days home, I was so nervous with fear that she would end up back in the hospital because of dehydration from not taking in enough.
But, each day we did a little bit better together! A nurse has been weighing Caris in our home twice a week to ensure she is drinking enough and gaining weight, and she is! Praise God!
For a little while, Caris will be on caffeine (to help mature her lungs) and be on an apnea monitor (to alarm us if she does not take a breath within 20 seconds or if her heartrate drops). It is really comforting for us to have her on the monitor, or otherwise I think we may not have been able to sleep at night out of worry.
Colin and I are in love with having her home in our care 24/7 and snuggled up in our arms as often as we can. We waited over 6 years to become parents! We are savoring each moment.
God has been so good to us. Our little 1 lb. 13.6 oz. miracle is home! She is a sweetheart.
Our little 9 lb. 11 oz.!