Saturday, December 26, 2015

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

2015 has flown by--it has been a good year full of great joy. We are very thankful to God.

Colin is working as an investigator, and I am staying home with Caris, who is now 2 1/4. Caris (born premature) was discharged from occupational therapy in the spring and is not only developmentally on track, but ahead in some areas! Her vocabulary and speech skills are astounding, probably helped by the thousands of books we have read. She has a memory greater than mine. We feel so blessed to have her as our gift. So blessed. 

Our adoption agency shut down our Ethiopian program after 3 years of us waiting. Our hearts were sad. We made the decision to switch to a domestic adoption, and are hoping to adopt a waiting child from the foster care system. We have inquired about many children, but have not yet been matched. We are praying that 2016 is THE year to bring our adoption journey to a close. We long to give Caris a brother or sister, and we long to show love to a little one. We are approved for one child, age 0-6. We are open to special needs and are drawn to children born premature, since we have our experience with Caris being born at 26 weeks. I would love to have another pregnancy in our future as well, but have not yet been able to have that. 

Here is a little recap of our Christmas season. We start preparing the day after Thanksgiving.

*At a tree farm. We took a wagon ride to cut down our own Christmas tree! A small dusting of snow made it just perfect.*

*Colin and Caris*

*Caris showing off our finished tree!*


*Sneaking some cuddles in on Christmas*

*Dada is smitten with her*

*Caris and her miniature grand piano! Grammie loves to spoil her.*

Here is to a new year ahead full of big joy in a great God!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Last 6 Months

What have Caris and I been up to the last 6 months???

Caris says, "I don't know." GRIN.

A whole lot of fun staying home together. I have been loving this 1:1 time with my baby girl. She is more of a toddler now than a baby! She is 21 months old already. 

She LOOOOVES cats. She has 3 favorite stuffed animals we have named Douglas, Aurora, and Albert. She loooooves books. She loves balls. And she loves being outdoors going on walks in her wagon, playing with her water table, or just wandering through our yard.

She loves her mama, too. Mama's girl, for sure!

Mama loves dressing her up. 

She learned to walk in March and has been on-the-go ever since! Especially when Dada is chasing her! Ha.

Time is a-flying.

A little spring sunshine.

My cheerful babe.

Her swing she could swing in all day.

How are y'all???

I just can't have an update without pictures of Caris. Seriously. She is my earthly light. I am in love with her spunk, her cuddles, and her laughter.

We don't have a very great outlook on our Ethiopian adoption. AGCI is making one 'last' trip to Ethiopia in July to assess the program and any possible orphanage partnerships, but it has been stressed to us time and time again that the corruption in adoptions doesn't leave our program with much hope to continue on ethically. We have been told a final decision will be made and shared the first week of August. We have been told over and over that it would be wise to switch country programs, but our hearts just won't let us walk away until the door is fully closed. If that happens in August, we will then begin pursuing adoption within the United States. Please pray for us and all families who have continued in the program, and also all the orphans left behind due to corruption. 

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....