Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Welcome to Our Adoption Story

We hope that those of you who are in the process of adopting will learn something from our adoption experiences, success and failures. We have shared what happened with our domestic infant adoption process and our international adoption processes, as well as the important lessons we learned along the way. I can't believe how challenging the whole process was. It was an emotional roller coaster ride. Worse than dating!!

Anyway, if you have any questions or would like to post comments, please don't hesitate to ask or post. Our blog is automatically set up to show most recent dates first, so if you would prefer to read the story as it happened just start with the "We've Been Chosen" post from the list on your right.

Take care and have a great day!!!!


The Bullet Train

One of the many things we wanted to do while in China was ride the bullet train. Our trip from Nanchang to Guangzhou provided the perfect opportunity! Train stations in China can be overwhelming to say the least because most of the signs are in Chinese. Luckily we were able to travel with the wonderful family we connected with at our hotel, which made the journey easier. We figured if we got lost at least we weren't alone.

The train was amazing! We purchased upgraded seats, so they were large and the rail car was really clean. The bathroom was bigger than our master at home and unlike many u.s. public bathrooms, was completely spotless. We knew the train could go about 300 miles an hour, but were surprised how often our ears popped (every time we started and stopped), which was a little tough for me, but it was a great way to see more of the Chinese countryside. It was gorgeous. Everything was so green!

Unfortunately, our little man didn't do so well on the train. It may have been a mix of the motion and the pressure changes, but he screamed the first half of the trip and then finally slept the 2nd half. The poor little guy was miserable. Not only were these strangers taking him from the only family he's ever known, but now they were making him ride this miserable train surrounded by a cloud of cigarette smoke and even more strangers.

Ours was a non-smoking train, so at every stop we saw all of the chain smokers make a b-line for the doors to grab a quick 2 minute puff before the train left again. It is amazing how many Chinese men smoke. Unfortunately we were very near the doors and the smoke would drift in toward our seats. It made me sooo very sick. I even started losing my voice. Since one of the smokers sat directly behind me, my entire trip was wrapped in a cloud of cigarette smoke. By the time we got to Guangzhou (4 hours  later) I was wheezing and had trouble breathing from the constant exposure. We think this was the major catalyst that started my downward spiral while in Guangzhou.

Once in Guangzhou we met our guide and checked in to our hotel (The Marriott Tianhe). That's when our poor little guy got really REALLY sick. He just started projectile vomiting. I ran around the room like a crazy person trying to find a trashcan, but was too late. We tried to clean the carpet the best we could and called house keeping for help. We were told that adoptees often suffer from motion sickness. It looks like our little man is one of them. That's probably why he screamed the 1st half of the trip. Between his ears popping and his queasy little tummy he probably wasn't feeling very well. Poor little dude.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Our Remaining Time in Nanchang

During those first few days as new parents we were very cautious. We could tell our little guy felt uncertain and nervous about what might be coming next. We hugged him and held him close, but we also gave him his freedom. It was important for him to move around and do what he wanted, when he wanted so that he still felt like he had some control over his life and the situation he suddenly found himself in. What made things easier, was the staff. I can't say it enough about the hotel staff!! They were wonderful!! 😍 Every time they saw our little guy, they spoke with him, loved on him and did everything they could to help him feel safe and comfortable.

After a day or two we began to understand what the orphanage meant by "developmental delay". For example even though he was 18 months old, he either didn’t know how, or wasn't  strong enough to hold on when picked up or carried. He was just dead weight. We had to support his body and sometimes his head just like we would an infant.  He was also very weak when standing and sometimes when sitting. The only way he could walk or stand on his own was while pushing a chair or when holding on to something else he could lean on. He just wasn’t strong enough to carry his own weight, but with help he did great.👍

He was very curious, charming, and obsessed with TV. 😀  Many adoptees have issues around food.  Our little guy couldn't drink from a straw without choking, but a baby sippy cup worked fine. The good news is he has a great apatite and ate whatever we gave him as long as the texture was right.  We noticed the only time he seemed picky about food was when he didn’t like the texture. Eating raw or cooked veggies or fruit is out of the question, but if we puree them into baby food or a smoothie he eats them without complaint.  The only major dietary issue we struggle with is bingeing, so we have to limit the amount of food he has access to at any given time, but that is easy compared to what others have to deal with. 

The day after gotcha day (Monday) we went to the Jiangxi Province civil affairs offices to finalize our adoption. From that day on we had another family with us which made the process a little bit easier. Our little guy did really well while we completed the final paperwork, but by the time the pictures came he was soooo over it. The staff did a really good job trying to get him to smile, but unfortunately our first family picture and his passport photo show a little guy with a really big boo boo face. I remember when leaving those offices, I still felt worried that something would go wrong and we would lose him, just like our first domestic adoption experience. It took a few days to feel safe and sure that he was ours forever. 💗

The following day was a free day so we hung out at the hotel, walked around the neighborhood, and played at the hotel playground.  Since he was struggling a bit we decided to use that time to bond and build trust. On Wednesday we had the opportunity to meet foster mom, tour the orphanage, and visit the hospital where our little man was abandoned. It was a really difficult day because we quickly found out how much our little guy loved his foster family. Now we understood why he didn’t want to leave. In his mind he already had a family (including siblings) that he loved dearly. When he saw foster mom again his face lit up like a Christmas tree. He was so happy. He immediately reached for her, but our guide said we shouldn't let foster mom hold him because he was already struggling with the adoption. We didn’t want to make him more confused and upset than he already was.

Unfortunately, when he couldn't go with her he screamed. A lot!😭 At that point, we decided that I would do a quick tour of the orphanage while Don stayed in the car and tried to calm the little man down. Unfortunately he screamed the whole time. God bless the cab driver who stayed in the vehicle with Don because a toddler screaming at the top of his lungs for that long would frazzle anyone’s nerves. 😞  The orphanage and foster home were clean and bright.  The staff seemed really sweet. I really liked foster mom. She is a very sweet woman who I still keep in touch with today.

 Our visit to the hospital was very short (our guy was still crying and it was raining), but I’m still glad we went. A few years ago, the government gave the ok for a small outbuilding (paid for by adoption charities) for birth moms to use as a safe house for abandoned children. It’s about the size of a large shed, with large windows, a crib and a preemie bed. Even though it is against the law to abandon a child in China, the building gives birth mom’s a safer option than the local markets or other public places where people often leave their babies. The police are right across the street, so when someone drops off a baby, hospital security calls the police, an officer comes and picks up the baby and delivers him/her safely to the hospital. This building is where our little guy was found. It feels good to know his birth mom cared enough about him to leave him at the safe house, instead of a market or somewhere else.

During the rest of our stay in Nanchang we spent a lot of time at the hotel bonding.  The Shangri-La gave us a great view of the nightly fountain and light show (when the pollution wasn't blocking the view), which our little man loved to watch from the window of our room. We were also able to visit the tallest building in Nanchang, the Pavilion of Prince Teng and do some shopping for souvenirs that our little guy could cherish when he got older. All in all our time there was really great. Hopefully some day we can all go back and visit again.

Monday, July 3, 2017

"Gotcha Day"

Almost everyone has their amazing "gotcha day" video. We've seen so many heart touching videos showing a nervous child meeting their forever family for the 1st time. Yes, there are usually tears, anxiety and fear, but when that child ends up in the arms of their forever mama they seem to calm quickly.

Our gotcha day was stressful and exciting all at the same time. After almost 20 years we were finally going to be parents! What if he doesn't like us? What if he is screaming? How do we communicate since he doesn't know English? How will we pay for college? These questions and many more flooded our brains that day and the unexpected delay just made it worse.😖

We took custody of our little man on Nov. 6th and unfortunately it didn't go as well as we had hoped. We don't have a heart warming "gotcha" video to show him when he's older.  We only have a small 1 1/2 - 2 minute video showing a completely terrified little boy in between sobs. Originally, the plan was to meet in our hotel room, but when they realized how upset he was, they decided to move our meeting down to the lobby. We were sooooo excited we could barely stand it, but what we saw when we got down there broke our hearts to pieces. 💔  Our once smiling, beautiful baby boy was terrified, confused and completely freaking out. I don't mean the standard tears and uncertainty, I'm talking about eyes full of "fight or flight" type of fear, loud screaming, shaking and choking. He was absolutely terrified and could barely catch his breath. They couldn't calm him down, he just kept screaming, crying, and struggling. It was brutal to watch. Finally, he calmed down long enough for us to get a little footage, but we quickly decided to stop filming. It just didn't feel right.  We didn't think our little man would ever want to watch a brutal adoption video featuring one of the most traumatic events of his life.

I tried to speak to him in Chinese hoping it would comfort him a little, but he just looked at me and started crying again. He wasn't very interested in the stuffed animal we gave him or the snacks we brought. He was obviously completely overwhelmed and struggling with the whole situation. It felt like we were kidnapping him away from the family he loved.😥

After what seemed like forever, he calmed down enough for us to take him back to our room. We didn't smother him with kisses and hugs like most new adoptive parents do because they seemed to upset him even more. We just showed him his new toys, sat very close by and tried to give him time and space to adjust to what was happening. After playing some fun games like bongos on the furniture and a lot of peekaboo🙈, he eventually started to warm up to us a little bit.  After a while he began to calm down. That night he woke up a lot, but the next morning he seem to be okay, considering all he'd been through. I remember us sitting there looking at him that first day thinking holy crap we have a toddler now!! We were so overwhelmed and happy, meanwhile he was in shock and traumatized.😞  It was an odd mix, being overjoyed to have him in our lives while feeling his pain and loss as if it were our own.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Off to China We Go...

I originally intended to document every little detail of our journey, but after being home almost 8 months now, I just don't feel like I need to anymore.  This blog was originally created as a way for family and friends to find out where we were in the process.  There are so many other, more talented bloggers out there documenting their adoption experiences that I feel like adding every little detail from ours would just be white noise.  So we'll just cover the basics instead. 👍🙂

We found a wonderful travel agent who helped us book our flights and hotels.  Even though we could have done that ourselves, having someone else do it made getting ready for the trip a little bit easier.  Our flights to China routed us through San Francisco and Beijing, two very different airports.  I've never seen San Francisco and was eager to fly over.  It was very pretty, the city was not as beautiful as I thought it would be (at least from the air) and the airport was your normal U.S. airport.

After a couple of hours in SFO we boarded our flight to Beijing.  That is when things suddenly got real.  Holy Cow!!🐮  We were about to "give birth" to a toddler!!  After so many years it just seemed unreal.  The flight was super long, exciting, and nerve racking all at the same time.  People had me so worried about blood clots before we left that I totally freaked out when I couldn't find my compression socks. The German family across the isle looked at me like I was nuts!! 😆  The reality is I was so afraid of another "change of heart" that it made the smallest things seem overwhelming that day.  We were told it rarely happens with international adoption, but after all we had been through I figured if anyone was going to be the rare exception, it would be us.😟

What made the long flight even more difficult was the dark cabin.  The airline staff kept the blinds pulled the entire flight.  I hated being in the dark all the time and feeling like we had to keep the blinds closed for fear of waking someone up.  When I was able to sneak a peek outside we were near Russia, I think, and we saw nothing but white.  Lots of snow and nothing else. I remember being a little nervous and thinking if we crashed here, no one would ever find us. 😱

Finally after 13 hours we landed in Beijing.  The airport was modern, bright, beautiful and extremely clean.  It was gorgeous.  There was great art, bright colors, and even play areas for the kids. 😲  It was unlike any airport I had ever seen.  We landed in thick fog.  Visibility was so bad we couldn't even see our next plane from the terminal.  We were worried we would be stranded over night until the fog cleared, but our flight took off as scheduled.  We later found out that our flight was the last to get out that night.  The next morning, in Nanchang, we were told that the "fog" in Beijing wasn't fog at all, but pollution. 😷 Yuck!! How scary is that?!  Pollution so massive it prevents air travel.
Our flight from Beijing to Nanchang was pretty short.  We stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel in Nanchang.  The staff was sooooo wonderful.  They were friendly and engaging and very interested in our adoption.  Once we took custody of our son they showered him with attention and love.  There were so many sweet young people at that hotel.  Our stay there was great.

That brings me one of the most interesting cultural differences we experienced in China.  In the U.S. kids in their late teens or early twenties are usually pretty wrapped up in their own lives and don't seem to notice babies much.  It was the complete opposite in China.  It seemed like every 18-25 year old we came across would cry baby! 😍 and stop to say hi.  I can't tell you how many young men and women came up to meet our guy or play a quick game of play peek-a-boo.  It was so sweet to see.  Maybe it has to do with the restriction on family size in China? Or maybe it was because we were American?  I'm not sure, but it was so sweet to see. 👼

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Home at Last!!

Just a short note to say we are finally home.  I'll be writing more about our journey later on once we get settled and our little man is sleeping on US time, not China time.  All I can say is a trip like that with both a sick baby and a sick mommy is one of the most difficult things I've had to do.  But we got through it.  Now it's time to heal, and settle. More to come later on...

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Things Coming Together??

I know it's been a while.  Things have been a bit hectic, but here's where we currently stand. 

Unfortunately, we had to disobey the agency in regards to contacting our guide in China.  We continued to ask for help, but they just brushed us off over and over again.  They insist on email communication where they are cc'd, but that just wasn't working.  Finally I did what years of experience in dealing with difficult challenges has taught me....I chose to take things into my own hands.  A few other mom's told me about something called WeChat.  So we signed up and were able to contact our guide immediately.  I can't believe how easy it was!!  We quickly learned that she wasn't getting any of our email from either address.  For some reason our email addresses couldn't penetrate the Great Firewall in her area.


Meanwhile, while battling for help contacting our guide, I was also referred to someone in China who could deliver a package for us.  Since I have a lot of experience with trauma, I feel it is very important that we send photo albums and stories to our future son ahead of time so his caregivers can start to prepare him for what's about to happen.  When we couldn't contact our guide the agency response was "it's probably to late anyway, just take them with you".  Really???  Are you kidding me???  UGH!!!!So, instead I put together our package and sent it off to Readthread.  She repackaged everything for us and forwarded it on to the orphanage on our behalf.  We were hoping that since everything was relabeled in Chinese, he would be more likely get it.  It appears (through tracking) that the package got there, but we really don't know for sure if his items reached him.

Currently we are getting ready for our trip.  Soon we will be in China and have our little man in our arms.  Unfortunately having to take so much of our own food makes things more difficult, but we'll figure it out.  Hopefully all will go smoothly and we'll be home by Thanksgiving.

Now for the tough stuff.  It's unfortunate, but over the last few months it has become abundantly clear that not everyone's adoption experience is the same.  For example, some folks have it easy with constant contact, lots of pictures, videos, and even the opportunity for a video chat with their kids.  While others like us are left to fend for ourselves much of the time.  The inconsistency can be brutal.  We certainly weren't expecting this level of disorganization.  Don't get me wrong, the people at our agency are really nice, but the reality is they are horribly disorganized.  The right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing.  We now know how very spoiled we were by Catholic Charities.  Every question was answered and we knew what was happening at all times, except for the Colorado Springs incident when we were on our own.  But that situation was a 1st time coop between offices, so you would expect something like that to be buggy the first time around.

We are generally patient and laid back about the process.  We don't like to pester people and since we've been trying to adopt for a while now we know things can take time.  We trusted we would be notified when necessary.  But I think our attitude just resulted in us being forgotten.  Our initial paperwork was delayed by a few weeks because we were waiting for pre-approval to come through.  If someone had advised us we were already approved, all following paperwork would have been completed right away.  Then we had another 3 week delay regarding the visa that could have been easily remedied had someone communicated with us and given us the contact info we needed to check by phone instead of the traditional email way (which elicited no responses from the gov't).  We've had another 2 month delay connecting with our guide in China which also could have been avoided had they been organized and willing to help more.  They could have sent emails asking why she wasn't receiving ours.  They could have allowed us to use WeChat sooner.  Heck, they could have just called her directly!!  All were options that were never offered.  We've felt abandoned and unsure about what is to come because of the agency's disorganization.  I even went so far as to find other guides in Guangzhou just in case our agency didn't come through and left us stranded in a foreign country without help.  How sad is that?? 

I don't know how things will go from here.  Although I love the folks at our agency, I don't trust their competency very much at this point.  We have contacts in China to fall back on in case of an emergency, but I sure hope it doesn't come to that.  The worst thing...... we've heard that this agency is one of the best.  If things have been this rotten for us at times, can you imagine how things work at other agencies??  They must be terrible.

Anyway, all the above equates to lessons learned.  We can use our experiences to help others so that hopefully they don't have to feel like we have.  I guess that's the silver lining.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Travel Approval!!

The last week or two have been challenging to say the least.  The good news is we received our travel approval which means we are now in the process of requesting our consulate appointment in China.  Once we get that confirmed we can buy airfare and book our hotels.

The bad news is after 2 months of trying I just don't seem to be having any luck getting in touch with our guide in China.  Everyone else I've spoken with is having no issues, but we never get responses.  I've spoken with our agency and they said they would check, but again... we never hear back.  We are trying through a different email address to see if that will work, but if not we may be on our own.  I'm not sure what to do in that case.

Luckily there is a group I've been in contact with (other adoptive parents) who say that an app called Wechat is a great way to communicate with our guide.  So, if we don't hear back soon, then we'll try that.  The group was also able to recommend someone to help us get a care package to our little man.  So I'm now in the process of packaging up some stuff and sending it off to China.  Hopefully he'll get his photo albums and story book within the next 2 weeks or so. :)  Fingers crossed this all works out well.  We are little worried about the guide part, but hopefully it will all come together in the end.

Monday, September 5, 2016

National Visa Center Approval

Wow!!  That was a long wait!   So here's the latest update.   We applied for our little guy's visa right after signing the letter of acceptance.  We got approval on the 4th of August and were told our adoption letter would come in a couple of days.  At that point it was looking like we might be able to squeak in and go get our little man at the end of September.  YAY!!

Then 1 week went by, and 2 weeks went by, and 3 weeks went by...   In the meantime, I kept contacting the National Visa Center to find out where our letter was.  At first they told me "it's in the mail", but when it never showed, and after the 3rd or 4th formal document request, they just quit responding to me altogether.  Finally after 3 weeks of trying my agency gave me a number to call.  After a a little while on terminal hold I found myself speaking with a less than pleasant gov't employee who acted like I was imposing on her very important day.  Then she got extremely quiet and I quickly found out they had dropped the ball and never sent our letter.  Not only that, but they never even wrote it!!

Once the rep realized the NVC error, her personality changed and she became much more friendly as she frantically typed up a letter while we were talking.  She forwarded it to her supervisor for immediate approval and said we should hear back within 24 hours.  Now, after the last month of dealings with the NVC I was very skeptical, but the good news is we had our letter 2 hours later!!  The bad news is that it was 3 weeks late which means, no September travel for us.  Even if we could leave toward the end of September, we wouldn't be able to get everything in order and be home before the October holiday in China shuts everything down.  Such a bummer.

So now it looks like we might have to wait until November.  The holiday and huge trade shows in Guangzhou mean airfare and hotel costs triple during the month of October.

So for now, we are waiting for our travel approval.  Our paperwork should be walked over to the consulate in China this week.  Once that happens travel approval comes within a week or two.  Luckily after 3 change of hearts, and 3 other failed adoption opportunities (that's including Ethiopia), we are used to waiting.  It's been 10 years since we originally started our adoption journey, so waiting a couple more months won't be that big a deal.

Friday, July 15, 2016

It's Official!!

Wednesday we got our official letter of approval from the Chinese gov't.  It's official!!  This little man is ours!!  Today we met with our adoption agency and signed all the necessary paperwork to proceed.  While we are waiting for the rest of the legal/document/gov't stuff to happen, we will start the process of getting our own travel visas.  Then we can go get him!!  In the mean time we need to get some photo albums ready to send over so he can begin to learn who we are.  I'm so afraid of this falling through like the many tries before, but I'm really excited too.Ugh!!!  The back and forth is killing me.  LOL.  This is going to be one heck of an adventure!!