Saturday, November 30, 2013

This Isn't How I Thought I'd Feel

Carrie is a beloved, NDFH team member. She and her husband lived and worked at New Day for four years and gave birth to their first-born in a Beijing hospital. Carrie's writing has a track-record of making people cry, or at least sending shivers down their spine because of the truth and realness of what she says. This piece is no exception. I asked her to write something on the blog for National Adoption Month, and I'm so glad that I did. I think that you will be encouraged and inspired by what she has to say. It will make you think. Read it. ~Hannah

I spent years working in international adoption and four years serving at New Day Foster Home.  I have made referral calls and been there when parents met their children for the first time.  I’ve seen the reactions of more parents than I can count, and I thought I knew what to expect as we embarked on this journey ourselves… but this isn’t how I thought I’d feel at all.

For one, I thought when we decided to adopt and were matched with a child, that I’d know, bone deep, that it was what we were “called” to do… I thought the questions would go away and the fears dissolve.  But it hasn’t been like that at all.  My questions became deeper and the fears became more specific. 


I’m still wondering if this is going to totally disrupt our happy little existence as a family of three; just as I wondered this time 3 years ago, nearly 9 months pregnant with my first daughter, if her birth would turn our peaceful little “party of two” upside down.  (It did, in all the best ways, and in my heart of hearts, I know the same will be true as we bring our next daughter into the fold of our family.)  But in the meantime, I’m still questioning how my three-year-old daughter is going to handle being a big sister… not to a newborn, but to a busy toddler who immediately gets into her stuff.  I’m wondering if I have the energy and the patience, when I feel totally spent at the end of most days now.  What if she doesn’t attach?  What if she arches away from me when I hold her? What if we find out her delays and medical needs are far more severe than we anticipate?  What will I do if the child I meet in China is in far worse condition than the one I expect to see? What if, what if, what if.  (Side note: I loved Amy’s post earlier this month about her own struggle with the “what ifs”… it was exactly what I needed to read. Don’t miss it!)

Her eyes are deep and soulful.  They are curious, bright, and sparkling with life.  She’s beautiful.  I can see that clearly in the picture – Rosebud lips and a sweet button nose.   When I was still imagining the moment I’d be matched with my child, I thought I’d immediately feel that she was mine.  When Cora, my biological daughter, was placed on my chest for the first time… in that small delivery room in central Beijing, surrounded by nurses chattering in Chinese about her beautiful “double eyelids,” I felt like I’d met a stranger for the first time, and for several days (maybe weeks?), it felt more like babysitting than mothering.  This isn’t so different, except it is even more abstract.  My finger doesn’t yet know the curve of her nose, and my cheek doesn’t know the feel of her breath.  She is a stranger who I’m choosing to stitch into my heart.    


I know for some families the connection is instant and the feelings and certainty are there right away.  God bless them.  Maybe I’ll feel that way when she’s placed in my arms in a few months, when we’re standing in that crowded Civil Affairs office in Central China.  Or maybe it will take months.  It will be OK either way.

The reason I write all this out is because there’s been a question nagging in the back of my mind for weeks now… what does it mean to be “called to adoption?”  Because on the surface, this doesn’t look at all like I thought it would (and that you may think it should).

Please hear me: I don’t think everyone should adopt.  Some people would not make good adoptive parents.  Some adoptions would not be successful because the parents are not in the place they need to be to help bring healing to a child.  I’m not in the “if everyone would adopt, the world would have no orphans” camp.

But what troubles me is how often I hear people say something that amounts to “we aren’t called to adopt.”  Maybe it is true, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s ever been seriously put on the table for discussion?  What troubles me is how few people stop to truly consider if adoption could be right for their family, and sometimes I wonder if it’s because we have the wrong impression of what “being called” would look like and feel like.

“Being called” doesn’t always mean an absence of fear.

“Being called” doesn’t always mean certainty that everything will work out ok.

“Being called” doesn’t always mean that your adopted child will fit seamlessly into your life.

“Being called” doesn’t always mean that the road ahead will be easy.

There’s a new song by Hillsong called Oceans.  (I’m listening to it right now… you should,too.)  The chorus of the song has been my heart’s anthem these last few months, as we’ve wrestled with referral decisions and realized that we were far more terrified than we expected with all the choices we faced.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.
Let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.
And my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.


I want to go to a place where my trust in the Father is without borders, even if that takes me to the other side of the world to find my daughter and disrupts my comfortable little life in every possible way.  I want my knowledge of His Love to grow deeper than my feet could ever wander, even if it means I spend the next year cradling, in the darkest hours of the night, an inconsolable baby who wants nothing to do with me even though I’m her mama.

The truth is, we are walking this out in holy terror.

Are we called to this?  I don’t know.  I know we want to adopt, but are we “called?”  That phrase seems to be so loaded that I’m hesitant to use it.  We are choosing to walk out this journey, trusting that He is with us – leading us and equipping us along the way.  As his Kingdom-people, we are always called to love, so we can’t go wrong anytime that is our destination.  And as we submit our plans to Him and call upon His name to prepare our path, we are walking this journey with clammy hands and fast-beating hearts… honest with Him about our fears and insecurities and choosing to trust that He is leading the way.

The reality is, we’re still living in the “in between.” In between the decision to step forward and the uncertainty of what that will mean.  I can’t put pictures of our happy, beautiful family in this post.  I can’t tell you that “It’s been hard, but it’s been worth it” yet.  In my particularly panicky moments, I am finding comfort in C.S. Lewis’ wise words: “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

It is a journey of faith for us, and I don’t know much… but I do know if you have thought that to “be called” to adoption meant feeling fearless and certain – unworried by all the chaos it could unleash in your life and untroubled about your ability to handle it all, and therefore surmised that you aren't called to adopt, then I can assure you that we aren’t called to do this, either. 

But just as I felt when my daughter Cora was nothing more than a dream of “what if” – in spite of the fear, I’ve never wanted something more.

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I do realize there are people who feel “called” to adopt but cannot, for any number of reasons… ineligibility, disagreeing spouses, marital status, etc. Please hear that I am not speaking to you.  Often I find your passion for “orphan care” exceeds that of my own. I’m talking to the people who look a lot like me… whose lives are full and happy and who are living the “American Dream.”  Those people who quiet the occasional whisper in their heart that maybe there is room at the table for one more because they look at what they have and worry about what might happen if they change that.  The people who stop the conversation with an abrupt: we can’t afford that, we can’t handle that, we can’t put our bios through that, etc.

All I’m asking is that every single person put the question seriously on the table.  Instead of “we can’t afford that,” ask “How have other average, working-class families afforded adoption?  What sacrifices could we make to do this?”  Instead of “We/Our Bios couldn’t handle that,” ask “What do other families a bit further down the road or adoption say? What has been their experience?”

If you do that and come to an honest, resounding “NO,” then thank you for wrestling with one of the hardest questions you’ll ever face… like I said earlier, not everyone is equipped to adopt, and there is no judgment there.  But then the question can turn to, “How can I support waiting children, orphans, foster families, adoptive families, and orphan care organizations?”  Because as the fatherless, those children are “OUR” children, and if the little ones who gather around our breakfast table each morning were in the same situation, we would desperately pray for the kindness of strangers to care for them while we could not.


We all have a role to play.

NDSouth: Marshall's ABC's

Marshall has recently mastered his ABC's. We thought you would enjoy hearing them!

 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thankfulness and Pie

We hope you have all had a very happy Thanksgiving!

Here at New Day Foster Home we have had decorations, costumes, potato-mashing, pie-eating - the full works.  Some things are rather different from the traditional Thanksgiving feast, we had chickens instead of turkeys and there was no football to watch, but in the ways that matter it was the same.  We enjoyed being together as a big family, and we celebrated the blessings that we have to be thankful for.

We have a vast pile of photographs from our Thanksgiving celebrations, and an equally long list of things to be thankful for this year.  It's hard to know where to begin...

  

Let's begin with one of the smallest.  We are thankful for Albert.  He is tiny and adorable, and we get to wait and hope with him for the miracle that he needs.


We are thankful for Talley, for the miracles that her life already displays.  And, of course, for her spectacular cheeks, which she filled with Thanksgiving food.


We are thankful for Christopher, that he is home after his surgery.  We're so happy to see his sweet little face around here again.



We are thankful for Rosie, for the beautiful young lady that she is growing up to be.  Due to her special diet, her Thanksgiving dinner was less traditional than everyone else's, but we were so happy to have her at the table.


We are thankful for foster parents.  They give such a loving home to kids like Wendy and Seth, and we couldn't do what we do without them.


We are thankful for Austyn and the beautiful progress that he has made since he came to New Day.  He doesn't look very impressed with the roast chicken, but we sure are impressed with him.











Thursday, November 28, 2013

NDSouth: Happy Thanksgiving!

We wanted to wish our American friends a Happy Thanksgiving from our preschool class at New Day South!


Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful.


A time to look at all the blessings that are in our lives.


Here at New Day South, we have so much to be thankful for.  These three handsome boys are just a handful of our blessings here.


We are thankful for joy. These are children who were left and abandoned. In time, with much love and attention, they can now smile and laugh. Love truly does make a difference.


Happy Thanksgiving! We hope you have a day filled with laughter, family, and thankfulness.

Wordless Wednesday: Sleepy


...better late than never, right?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Benjamin's Memorial Fund: Iris

A tiny, two-month baby girl arrived into our care Friday afternoon. Her name is Iris.


She's a darling little thing with a serious heart condition that needs surgery right away. But right now, Iris is very sick. She's not nearly stable enough for her heart surgery - the past few weeks she has been in the PICU of her local hospital, deteriorating. Her orphanage, when they heard how poorly she was doing, took a risk and asked us if we would help save her life.

Then they bought train tickets and Iris made the long, overnight, trip to Beijing. It's a miracle that she survived. When our staff met Iris and were on their way to the hospital here to admit her, she kept up a conversation with her sweet little voice. She settled comfortably into our arms as we told her that we would do everything that we could to give her a hope and a future.


However, the doctors have told us that Iris' condition is very serious. She needs surgery right away but, while she is stable, she is struggling to breath on her own.


Iris is in PICU right now and her surgery will probably happen this week. It's our Acute Care fund that is making her life-saving care possible. 

This is why we have introduced Benjamin's Memorial Fund - to give children like Iris a chance to survive. No matter what her future is, Iris deserves to be fought for today, to be given every possible chance at life. She is an orphan, but we will fight for her as if she is our daughter. 

Will you join in?


Monday, November 25, 2013

Rosie's Laugh

Rosie is a very special little girl; the fact she is here today is a miracle. She has many special needs, but she is a joy to be with and spend time with in therapy.


She loves movement- forwards and backwards, round and round, the faster the better! So in therapy we will spend time swinging, moving forwards and backwards and sideways, singing songs in time with the movement. After some time Rosie will often join in with our singing- singing her own songs with a huge grin on her face. Other days she will choose to bounce and move on the therapy ball, squealing as she bounces higher, or spots herself in the mirror on the wall.


Rosie can certainly be the nosiest child that we see for therapy, and staff in the medical office will often pop out to share in her fun and joy.


Rosie responds well to routines, particularly around transitions from one place to the next. Therefore once we’re all tired and have done several different activities we will finish with brushing and joint compressions- this helps to relax her and calm her muscles and brain so that she is ready to return to pre-school. Good work Rosie, ready for more tomorrow?

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This post was written by our Occupational Therapist, Jenny

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mama, Look at Me!

When people first meet Esther they are struck with her silent beauty. However, it only takes a few hours of getting to know miss Esther to discover that her personality is about 10x bigger than she is. Esther has spunk, determination, and a hilarious sense of humor. 


She's been learning sign language, which has done wonders for communication. Because of Esther's ENT defects, not only is hearing a challenge, but she struggles to even open her mouth! Sign language is the answer, but have you ever tried to get someone's attention without making a sound? Esther had this problem the other day in preschool.

It was snack time, and Esther had just finished the crackers on her plate. She wanted more, so signed "ready" which is what all of the children do when they'd like another serving. Esther's nanny wasn't looking her way, and so didn't notice her. Esther tried again, this time signing, "More eat." Her nanny was still turned the other way, and Esther began to get a bit frustrated. Finally, catching her nanny's attention, Esther signed, "Look at me!" by pointing her two fingers at her eyes and then at her nanny. 


We laugh every time we hear this story. Esther knows what she wants and now she knows how to get it!

And don't you get a kick out of the way she signs "more"? The official sign for "more" is putting pinched fingers together, but Esther prefers to use her fists, actually making the sign for "shoes." We just figure that she's a true girly girl and wants more shoes. What do you think?

Benjamin's Memorial Fund: What it Does

You've read the story, now you want to know what this fund will do. Of course you do, as a donor and supporter of our work, you have every right to know where every single penny of your money will go.

It will go right here... to them.


We're raising money for our acute care fund, which is essentially the money we spend when the children get sick. ICU costs are the biggest. It costs about $400 a day for a child to stay in ICU. Ya'll, that's a lot of money.


Our Acute Care fund also pays for things like hospital stays when a child needs treatment for pneumonia or bronchitis. It pays for their post-op time, when they need additional care before being released home to us. 


We never know when we'll be required to dip into this fund... sometimes a child crashes quickly and suddenly and we're filling up oxygen bags and on the phone with doctors trying to locate an empty hospital bed before it's too late. We can't anticipate it, although wintertime is the hardest on our little babies, but we are always so thankful that it is there. 


Last year when the flu came through and Lydia and Wayne and Grace and Jeffery were struggling with pneumonia, their hospital costs came from our Acute Care Fund.

Earlier this year when Benjamin was admitted into PICU and was intubated again and again and we told the doctors to "do whatever they could", that was the Acute Care fund at work.

Last week, when Mason and Albert's breathing became labored and their wheezes audible without a stethoscope and they had to be admitted into the hospital... we were using the Acute Care fund.


The Acute Care Fund is there to save lives, like it is right now...


Iris' story, coming soon.

(Donate Here)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

NDSouth: Sister Like Sister

Sadie and Leila are the two oldest children living in our "baby apartment." These two girls play together nicely most of the time and love each other dearly. 


Leila is older and such a good big sister to Sadie.



Where one child is found, the other isn't too far away.


Sadie wants to be just like her big sister.


The other day Leila had a fancy hairdo going on. Of course Sadie wanted her hair done too, just like her big sister.


Leila was so pleased with her new look!


Two beautiful girls.


Our children really bond with each other like siblings. When a child is adopted, as exciting as that is, their foster siblings definitely miss them.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Benjamin's Memorial Fund: The Story

This year we've decided to do something different and special. Over the next few weeks we'll be telling you more about it, but for today... a story.

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Benjamin lay there in PICU, surrounded by IVs and wires and they had just intubated him again. Crying out on behalf of this little boy, whose life was already a long string of miracles, we prayed that he would make it. We prayed that he would be able to breath on his own once again.


It seemed like nearly all of Benjamin's seven-short months of life were spent in the hospital. And many of them were. But when he got better and defied all medical hope again he had a home to come to and a dozen mamas who fought to hold him and love him and fight for him. Every time he stabilized and was able to transfer from PICU to the regular ward, we had no problem finding a nanny who would stay with him. In fact, the hard thing was choosing which nanny would go... they were all so eager.
Laura loving on baby Benjamin
Laura, one of our nannies,loved Benjamin like her own and was the last one to hold him when he was admitted into PICU the last time. She was the last one to cuddle him tight and stare into his big brown eyes and she will probably be the last one to stop grieving... because Benjamin, an orphan, was not only cried for at his memorial service. He was sobbed for.

Laura taking Benjamin to the hospital... for the last time.
There was never any hesitation when we went to the hospital to put money into Benjamin's account as he fought for his life. We never second-guessed covering the costs of the hospital stays, even though they quickly exceeded $10,000 USD. There was never any question about it. Benjamin's life was worth fighting for and even though he didn't make it, we don't believe that a penny was wasted. Not a single penny.


But funds are funds and the money that helped Benjamin fight made a deep dip into our accounts. We don't regret it, but we want to do something about it... something that will honor Benjamin's fight and enable other children like him to have their own chance.


In honor of our little guy, we want to continue saving lives. He touched our life and we know that he touched yours too. Together, we can do this. Together, let's raise $10,000 and tell the world that life matters. Every single breath of it.


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Donate here: http://www.crowdrise.com/BenjaminsMemorialFund/

The Cookie Monster

Melinda attends Speech therapy with Lillian straight after her nap. She will often bounce into the therapy room with a loud ‘Ni Hao’ and a huge grin on her face. Some days her hair is still in a post-nap style, but Lillian being a great Ayi and previous nanny to the kids, soon rectifies this!

 Melinda is learning sign language in her therapy sessions, and is doing great. Recently a Cookie monster toy was donated to the Foster Home- he has a bag with cookies in, and his mouth will open for you to feed him, saying ‘Cookie, cookie, cookie’ at the same time! Lillian quickly saw the great resource that he could be for their therapy sessions and the signs that could be practiced with the game- don’t we all learn best when cookies and fun are involved?!

 Melinda was initially somewhat apprehensive about seeing the bear, particularly when he started opening and closing his mouth (not surprising really)! After signing ‘more cookie’ and being given it by Lillian, she would throw it into his mouth and wriggle away as quickly as possible. They practiced this and other signs each day, and soon Melinda became an expert at feeding the monster and hearing his ‘Mmm cookie’ upon ‘eating’ his food! She will now pat his head and tell him to ‘eat’ his ‘cookie’.

Melinda and Lillian have a great relationship in their therapy sessions, learning new signs and having such fun as they do so- it’s hard not to become drawn into the monster feeding sessions too!

Check out this video that we got of Melinda in therapy with Lillian. Obviously, cookies are the theme!



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This post was written by our Occupational Therapist, Jenny

Thursday, November 21, 2013

NDSouth: Chris on the Move

Chris looks like he has something up his sleeve, doesn't he?


And that, he does! Chris has mastered the art of crawling.


He is a "baby on the move!"


Yes Chris, we are talking about you.


Do you think he is rather proud of himself?


We sure are! Way to go, Chris. Before we know it, you'll be walking!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Most Important Signs, By Lydia

The foster home is being taken over by sign language! It started with Christopher and Annabel learning a few simple signs upstairs in the CCU, then followed with Lillian (our speech therapist) teaching Noah, Melinda and Esther some basics. Next, the "blue room" caught on and Isaac and Christopher's nannies encouraged them to communicate with their hands because their voices were a bit slow to catch on. Now? It's definitely the "in thing" here.

Lydia has learned a few of the most important signs. Not sure what those are? Watch and learn. This video is not only adorable, but educational too!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Our Amazing Staff: Grace Liu


The staff here at New Day Foster Home are all incredibly dedicated to their work.  They are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to help the precious children here, and we have the photographs to prove it.


Grace, our medical director, was not feeling great.  She really needed some IV medication, but her translation skills were also required.  The solution ?


 Our doctor hooked her up to an IV, and she got right on with the task in hand. 


We have a wonderful doctor from the US visiting at the moment and she was able to help treat Elijah.  However, she does not speak Mandarin, so she needed someone who could translate back and forth with Elijah's foster mom.


We are so thankful for Grace and all the other staff, who treat their work as more than just a job.  Their selfless efforts make such a difference, and they are true heroes.