Monday, July 29, 2013

Life Lately

Life lately... well it hasn't been a bowl of cherries but we're making it through.  And with Gabe there is guaranteed moments of laughter, happiness and sweetness. 

 Sometimes you just need to wear your bike helmet inside.  Better safe than sorry, right?

 Gabe was watching the flamingos.  I was watching my boy stand alone at the fence.

Gabe officially loves his pool although he's still not happy when Nemo's daddy moves.  It's actually a sprinkler that sprays the slide and fills the pool.  We've definitely not worked our way up to using it that way.  Yet.

After hugging doggy, Gabe always says "You so sweet."  His sweetness is just too much sometimes.

 Fishing at the Children's museum.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A letter to my son

Sweet boy,

Four years ago today, I found out I was going to be your mama.  It was one of the best days of my life. 22 days later I held you in my arms and the rest was history.   We were head over heels in love.

From those first moments spent with you, I knew my life would never be the same.  My heart was fuller, the sky seemed brighter and life just brimmed with joy. 

The day you came home, I was a nervous wreck.  How could the hospital just let us leave with this sweet boy?  What if we don't know what we're doing? Amidst my joy in you coming home those thoughts kept coming to mind.  But somehow we did know what we were doing and being your mother was the most natural thing to me.  Before being your mama, I never knew where I fit into this big world.  I loved your daddy with everything that I had, but besides being a wife, I was just a feather in the wind. 

Until you. 

Our first photo!
You changed everything. 

My heart seemed to double in size and then still burst at the seams with love for you.  We love everything about you: your smile, your laugh, the way you pucker your lips when you're disobedient, how you won't get out of bed without permission, the way you ask Daddy to be an elephant and how the first thing you want to do in the morning is snuggle on the couch watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

There was endless joy with watching you grow from a little baby to a toddler to the sweet little boy you are now.  Joy in seeing you light up each night your daddy comes home from work, joy in watching you use your first mode of movement: rolling over and over to get where you want to go, joy in hearing you giggle when we pull into Nonny and Papo's driveway, joy in getting to enjoy childhood a second time - through the beautiful eyes of you, sweet boy.

Pride.   Watching you accomplish things doctors weren't sure you would ever be able to do.  Rolling over, sitting up, using lefty, taking your first steps in a gait trainer, taking your first steps in a walker and then taking your first steps independently.  Pride at the way you work so hard to learn how to communicate and even more pride at the sweet, kind, spunky little boy that you've become. 

First time your daddy held you!
There's just something about you Gabriel that makes people just want to be around you.  You have the best smile that people can't seem to refuse.  You truly delight in life and make the best of any situation.  I've said it so many times in the past months, but you Gabe are a miracle.  A miracle that truly enjoys life and no matter what's going on, you just like to be part of the fun.  You live life with a reckless abandon and that's how we love you.  Recklessly.  Without abandon.  To infinity and beyond.

You, sweet boy, are kind and gentle, daring and shy, everything a little boy should be and so much more. 

Because of you, Daddy and I love deeper, bigger and know that miracles happen every day as long as you look for them.

Four years ago, I knew my dreams were coming true.  I just had no idea how awesome that dream would turn out to be. 

We love you sweet boy, more than you will ever know and more than we could ever imagine.

XOXO, Mommy

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 
 Psalm 37:4

Monday, July 22, 2013

An Unexpected Ending

Whenever I thought about what was happening, I'd marvel at the miraculous way God was rewriting our story.  It wasn't the first time we thought life was going one way and God redirected our paths. We were nervous, yet excited.  Anxious but filled with hope.

You see, the ending to this story isn't what we anticipated.  Instead, the blissful end of July we were expecting has turned into another season of loss.  A season where tears are bountiful, hearts are heavy and our souls feel worn.  We thought we'd be adding a sweet daughter to our family and instead we are walking through another loss.  The second in just 8 months.

The story begins at the end of April when a birth mother connected with us.  She knew us through her cousin and wanted us to adopt her baby girl.  Us!  Confusion was the first emotion.  Why us?  We never planned on adopting an infant domestically; there are so many people waiting to adopt healthy infants and that was just not on our radar. However, after Gabe's adoption we did make the statement that the only way we'd adopt a newborn was if God brought a birth mother to us.  Joy and guilt were the next emotions.  Joy that we would be adding another child to our family, a precious daughter. Guilt that there were children in developing countries desperately needing a family and we were adopting a baby that thousands of couples in the US would quickly welcome into their family.  After prayer and conversations with people we love and trust, we knew this precious one was meant for our family.

Now, let me digress.  Each state in the US has different adoption laws.  In Ohio there is a relinquishment period of 72 hours, in Georgia where our little love was going to be born there was a relinquishment period of 10 days, starting after the birth parents sign their surrender papers.  The 10 days was a bit of a shock; we were dismayed by the long length of time but we knew God had brought us to this baby.  Answering our request that a birth mother find us, providing scripture from friends to affirm what He has asked us to do and giving me a deep, silent desire of my heart - the gift of mothering one more newborn.  

The past few months were spent preparing our lives, hearts and Gabe's heart for a new little sister.  We had a surprise reveal to our families on Mother's Day where Gabe wore a shirt (and football helmet) for the big announcement.  We discussed nursery colors, found a milk sharing program and bought sweet little baby girl clothes.  

Those few months also provided us with time to get to know Miss J, our sweet girl's birth mother.  Each discussion brought tears, laughter, love and an affirmation that we were meant to walk this road together.  Her hopes and dreams that she shared for her daughter, while she wasn't able to provide them for her, the love she had for her was real and deep.  Deep enough that she created a plan of adoption so that her little one could have everything in life growing up that she did not.  Some of what she shared took my breath away and I knew without a doubt that adoption truly was the best and only option for both of them.  God used these conversations to graft her fully into my heart. My prayers for Miss J went from good health for her and her baby to prayers that the Lord would pour into her heart, speak into her life and show her just how precious she is to Him. 

Tuesday July 9th I received a phone call from Miss J.  She was on her way to the hospital and would be delivering our girl soon.  She was scared and alone and after a few clicks on the computer, Matt reserved me a ticket to Atlanta.  A hastily packed bag and lots of reminders of what else Matt needed to pack before he made the trip later that night with Gabe and my mom, and I was on my way.

On my way to meet our girl.  Our daughter.  Our precious joy.

Divine intervention allowed for two adoption mama friends to pick me up from the airport and take me to the hospital.  Less than an hour after touching down in Atlanta, I was with a nurse walking towards the nursery to see our baby.  I was only allowed to see her through the nursery window but she was perfect.  Honestly, she could have had two heads and six arms and I don't think I would have noticed.  I was humbled by God's goodness that I was seeing our daughter just a few moments after entering this world.  

I spent most of the night with Miss J and ended up sleeping in the hospital waiting room (after walking around Atlanta after a hotel didn't have my room for me and a whole debacle of trying to find a new room - that's a story for another time.  Note to self - walking through a big city at 2:30 in the morning, alone, is not the brightest thing to do).  Matt, my mom and Gabe pulled into Atlanta around 10am, we ate lunch and then headed to our hotel.

We were told we wouldn't be seeing Miss J or our girl until after the relinquishment papers were signed. Imagine our surprise when Miss J called and asked us to come up.  Matt and I couldn't believe this surprise blessing and were so excited to officially meet our daughter. 

Although I'd seen her through the glass nursery window, meeting her was something else. It felt sacred.  It felt holy.  It is a moment we will never, ever forget.  

You see, I didn't care if we ever had a daughter.  Gabriel is an absolute joy and I was perfectly fine with being a mom of only boys.  But then those first moments of holding our girl, they completed me in a way I wasn't expecting.  She filled a hole in our lives that I hadn't realized existed until she was already filling it. Absolute perfection is the only way to describe her; sweet soft skin, a head full of dark brown locks, glorious little eye brows and long, delicate fingers.  Our love for her was immediate, it was deep and it was an everlasting kind of love. 

Because of certain adoption laws in Georgia, Miss J didn't sign the paperwork until Saturday meaning the first day of the 10 day relinquishment period wouldn't start until Sunday, July 14.  We couldn't wait to get the adoption agency and after what seemed like a lifetime, she was in our arms.  

After a little bit of a rough start (Gabe fell asleep in the car and woke up a little sad) Gabe was as smitten as we were with our sweet girl.  Every sound she'd make, Gabe would check on her and say "okay baby"  He showed her his favorite toys and tried to get her to dance to Junior Asparagus on the iPad.  For only a few days old, she had some great dance moves. Gabe was going to be a great big brother.  

Everything about her was perfect.  She wanted a bottle every 3-4 hours, was smiling (and no it wasn't gas) and didn't care if you changed her diaper.  Her coos were sweet, we barely heard her cry and she had her days and nights reversed.  While I love my sleep, I was so grateful that we had those hours together at night.  Hours to just look into each other's eyes, time for me to pray over her, sing to her and tell her all about our hopes and dreams for her.  Spending all night awake with her and then watching her sleep during the day - pure and utter bliss. 

Matt had to come back to Ohio for work Sunday afternoon and we hunkered down at the hotel to wait out the 10 day relinquishment period and then for the Interstate Adoption paperwork to be completed.  My mom's cousin and her daughter came to wait out a few days with us and we all spend Sunday night marveling at our sweet girl and laughing at Gabe's antics.  

Monday dawned early and we prepared to go take in the hotels super delicious complimentary breakfast. And then the phone rang.  I missed the call by seconds and saw it was our caseworker, C.  Not thinking much of it, I hit the call back button and waited. The second she answered, I knew.  There was the long, pregnant pause and then the crack of her voice as she said "I'm so sorry, Meredith."  

Miss J had changed her mind.  And while we knew this could happen and we tried to prepare our hearts as much as possible, we were not prepared for this.  There is no way you can keep your heart prepared to lose your daughter, when she's resting in your arms. It is just. not. possible.  In an instant our hopes and dreams for our daughter died.  The life we had envisioned back home came crashing down.  We lost our daughter. Gabe lost his sister.  My mom, who graciously came down to Georgia with us, lost her granddaughter. Intellectually I know she didn't die, but for us, the grief is so real, so strong and losing her... we lost a beloved child.  

After calling Matt to tell him the news, I had just 3 hours to spend with our girl. Three hours to fill her with enough love to last a life time, three hours to say every prayer I could think of over and to whisper scripture verses into her ears.  Three hours.  It was not nearly enough time. My thankfulness for her days and nights being reversed soared.  Just three hours.  The tears wouldn't stop.  My heart felt like it stopped beating. And my sweet Gabe, he had no idea what was happening, why he had to say goodbye to his baby sister and why Mommy was so sad.  

C came.  She let me carry our girl out to her car and then gave me a few extra minutes to love on her.  From the first time I saw her through that glass nursery window until the second I put her in the car I would tell her frequently "I will love you forever, I will love you for always."  And even though she's no longer ours, we always will, love her forever and love her for always.  

Blindly we made our way home.  We stopped halfway to sleep and give Gabe a break from being in the car. Although my mom offered to drive, I drove the whole way. Driving was the only way I was holding myself together.  Coming home to an empty house with just my sweet boy broke me in two.  Falling into Matt's arms when he walked through the door and him not leaving my side for the next few days propelled me on. 

On but not forward.  

Moving forward means leaving behind our sweet girl.  The girl who we love completely, stole our hearts and completed us in ways we didn't expect.  While she was only ours for a few days, she was ours.  We loved her from the time we knew of her and a week apart isn't going to change that.  

Where does that leave us?  Besides heartbroken and weary, it leaves us with hope.  

Right now, the hope is hard to find sometimes.  Occasionally I don't believe it's even there but now and then, we find it again.  It sparks up.  It's in Gabe's smile and laughter, it's in the morning sunrise and freshly laundered bed linens.  I would be lying if I said I understood why God brought us to this situation to experience another loss. We may never come to a point where we understand losing our girl.  

But understanding is not an underlying factor in faith.  God brought us to this little girl. For a second time in 8 months he has asked us to stand in the gap for one of his children; to love them and pray for them for the rest of their lives.  Most times I want to scream at him, ask him how he could do this to us.  Again.  I'm mad that the life we could have given her; a daddy, a mom, a belly that would have always been filled with good food, a house filled with love and a foundation in Christ was stolen from us.  From her.  I hate what we lost but I'm filled with rage when I think about everything she lost. 

My predominant feeling is grief and sadness.  Periodically though, I feel glimpses of gratitude; gratefulness that He allowed us to have her at all.  Thankful that he continues to entrust us, however briefly, with such prized possessions. Beholden that He loves us and His plans for our future our good.  And when these periodic moments are few and far between, we have family and friends to remind us of these as they pray for and encourage us through this shattering loss. 

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
Hebrews 6:19a

We know that this isn't the end of our story... our hearts are weary and worn but we are trusting in a future in which God's plan for our family will be revealed.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

Come to me all who are weary
and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Sun Came Out

After the rainiest June on record, July has been much of the same.  Some days I just want to stand outside in the rain, and say "really, Ohio... we came back to this?"

Occasionally though, the sun will shine and we hurry outside to catch a glimpse and feel the suns wonderfully warm rays on our skin.  We finally had the chance to fill up Gabe's new pool.  

It's just a small inflatable pool.  But it has a slide and came with floating clown fish.  

In our house clown fish are always named Nemo or Nemo's Daddy.  Gabe's pool came with a portable Nemo that has somehow since made it into the house and a stationary Nemo's Daddy that sprays water out of his mouth. 

 The hose water was cold so Gabe played outside of the pool.  Nemo took many trips down the slide before Gabe finally ventured IN the pool!

After getting used to the cold water Gabe, Nemo and Nemo's daddy had hours of fun.  

Giving Nemo a hug.

Gabe and Nemo played in the shade, talked to Marlin (the name of Nemo's daddy on Finding Nemo), splashed, slid down the slide and soaked in the beautiful sun.

It wasn't too long before clouds covered the sun, rain started to fall and Gabe's pool was stored in the garage until the sun comes out again.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The BIG reveal

At the beginning of 2013, we found out my lovely Megan was going to be adding a second baby to our 'family.'  Her and Steve were unsure if they'd want to know the gender of the baby so they asked me to be the secret keeper.  Just like Albus was the secret keeper of James and Lily's hideout, I was the secret keeper of baby A2's gender. 

Eventually, Meg and Steve decided they did want to know... and I was given the opportunity to find a way to surprise them with the gender of their sweet little one.  Matt and I will probably never have the opportunity to be surprised by our baby's gender and I felt incredibly honored that Meg and Steve entrusted me with this.  I was also beyond excited and went directly to Pintrest for some ideas. 

After lots of looking and testing my creative abilities (or lack of creative abilities), I pinpointed a reveal idea that would be fun and relatively easy.  I wanted to have another fun activity at the party.  I became enamored with the idea of "a bow or a beau" but couldn't find a way to make it work.  JoAnn Fabrics and Michael's failed me big time! 

Then I had an idea.  An idea all my own.  I was ridiculously proud of myself if I'm being completely honest.  The theme was "A second little mister or a new baby sister?"  and I made mustache and flower clips for people to wear.  It was truly so much fun and such a fabulous way to celebrate a new baby coming in the world!

Pre Reveal

Mama-to-be Meg.  Yes, she's one of those really cute pregnant women that most women can't stand.  Truly darling!

Team Girl led by Steve:

Team Boy led by Megan:

Matt and I weren't allowed to vote so that we didn't give anything away.  Or make Meg and Steve think we were sending them subliminal messages or something.

The Reveal.

Opening the box.

I love how they matched! 
 What's in there?

Megan was certainly in disbelief.

She was sure baby number 2 was a boy.

But she was wrong.  I'm so glad she was wrong.

 Fly away balloons

The happy little family of 3-soon-to-be-4!

 Meg's mom Christy thought she was having a boy....

but sometimes Dad's do know best.  Megan's dad Tom was certain he'd be welcoming a granddaughter. 

Gabe and Eli, best buddies hiding out in a box.

 Eli celebrated his new baby sister with a cookie... or two, Christy and I aren't telling. 

Me and the Mama-to-be.  So excited to have a little "niece" in our sweet family.