The first step is to penetrate the clouds of deceit and distortion and learn the truth about the world,
then to organize and act to change it. That's never been impossible and never been easy. ~Noam Chomsky

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hope Shaped

Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul
and sings the tune without the words
and never stops at all. Emily Dickinson

On the last day of September 2013 I peed on a stick in my aunt's bathroom in Flordia - in transit to Haiti.

Negative as usual. That's fine. Just taking an extra precaution since I'd soon be popping malaria prophylaxis like candy.

The next week I was crabby and bleeding. And have I mentioned crabby? The poor women who joined me in Haiti. I was silly and then silent and then crabby. I cried! It was a lot of emotion in a very short period of time.

In mid-October I was very sick and by late October I was in the hospital with what they thought was Dengue Fever. 2 days of IVs and anti nausea medications being dumped into my veins... and chills and sweats. So much fluid was pumped in me that my wedding rings were stuck on my giant sausage finger.

By early November I was bleeding again which seemed normal and on time. And then the bleeding didn't stop.

I was in bed by 8:30 every night in October and November and napping for big portions of the afternoons. I felt weary. So weary. Even making dinner was too hard. We agreed that this was complete mental and emotional exhaustion from the new delays in Haiti.

Then there was this day. I think it was a Monday. I drove to the store, bought a box of cherry pop tarts and One after another. I could not stop. The hunger for those pop tarts was out of control. A few friends online joked that I had a pop tart baby growing in me.

J was in Haiti. It was the holiday week. I began to wake up from my fog and think about the light bleeding. I dug around in my bathroom drawer, found a several year old pregnancy test, threw it in my bag and Ariam and I drove to our friends' house in the mountains for Thanksgiving.

I don't know what made me do that. I was sure it was nothing. Weird hormonal fluctuations. We were diagnosed, both of us, with infertility a long time ago.

A few days into our stay at our friends' house I pulled out that test just to get it over with. (Anyone who has ever spent many many years never being pregnant knows that getting that big old negative is a real loser moment. you dread it and dread it, put it off, and then finally just rip off the bandaid and do it.)

Except it wasn't negative. It was positive. Very very positive.
And in my pajamas, with crazy morning hair and unbrushed teeth I screamed for my friend to get up to the bathroom. I don't think I'll forget the way time stopped in that bathroom.  We were on the floor staring at each other with huge eyes. No words can describe it.

We spent the day in the sunshine. We talked about how the next Thanksgiving there would be FIVE kids between us!! I drove home the next day in a cloud of surprise, glee, giddiness. Shock.

I called a friend. I told J on skype by holding up the test. I took 4 more tests. I bought prenatal vitamins.
We calculated that it was just 4 weeks along most likely.

Sunday morning I sang in church with a secret smile on my face and a hand over my tummy.

It wasn't what we were planning. Actually it wasn't something we could plan.  It wasn't ideal timing. It wasn't convenient or affordable. But it was a baby! And a baby that was immediately beloved.

Sunday afternoon I bled. A lot. And ached. And could not get off the couch. Ariam watched kids' shows. I tried very hard to act normal.

Monday I went to the ob/gyn. I told them I knew it was too good to be true. The baby was gone. They told me not to be fatalistic.

I lay on my back in a dark radiology room, listening to his heartbeat in the wrong place. In a fallopian tube instead of in the safety of a uterus. My eyes filled up but I didn't cry because I knew, I had known, it wasn't going to happen for us. He wasn't really meant to be ours.

I challenged them to move him down to the uterus. They said that isn't a thing. They said he had to go or he would kill me.

The month of December was filled with shots that made my hair partially fall out, my body ache, and put me on my back with nausea. I had to eat constantly or I would feel sick. I gained weight that should have been baby weight but wasn't. The doctor decided that what they were doing wasn't working. He was growing (turns out he was 9.5 weeks when I was diagnosed and 10.5 weeks when I had surgery.)
Heart still beating they wheeled me in to an operating room and took him out.

I am left with 2 scars, an extra flabby tummy, about 1/4 less hair, and the memory of that 1 completely happy day back in late November.

My left fallopian tube is now gone.
I don't know how on earth this little guy arrived, set up a heart beat and then got stuck a few inches from being able to grow and be born.

We hope we will see him someday after our lives here are done.

The sermon last week at church was about heaven. About how we are designed to be hope shaped. How we strive for goodness and light and happiness now, or how we work through the hard brutal parts of life now, because of what we hope for in the future. On earth or in heaven.

I am hope shaped. We are hope shaped. And we keep going.


PS. It turns out a lot of women I know, and don't know, have lost a baby. I had no idea how common it is to experience this kind of loss or how it stays as such a big part of life's story. Why don't we talk about it more often?

Monday, January 20, 2014


I found myself yearning throughout 2013 for forgiveness for stupid decisions, wrong choices and bad vision. My prayers were the stuff of groaning and apologizing and pleading with God. Pleading that He would make things right where we were constantly going wrong.

When I could think clearly I always included in my prayers one specific request. That request was for champions. Please God send us champions. Life is hard and unfair and we are stupid and powerless. And we, even in our stupidity and powerlessness and being every bit human and not divine or all knowing, are still called to do hard...impossible....things.

We needed champions to stand in the gap when we were weak. When we were powerless. When we we wanted to give up we needed people to drag us over finish lines, hand us water bottles, and still be ready to hug our sweaty selves.

So we stopped asking for timelines and praying for instant success. We started to ask God to send physical people for us and for AJ. I asked for people to come into our lives to carry us, to advocate for us, to care for us physically, to strengthen us, to pray with and for us and to help us do and say hard things very publicly. We prayed that God would do the discerning, weeding out the champions from the manipulators, for us this year because we had been so bad at discernment the year prior.

I will never know why God did not grant us perfect timelines and easy processes as we were trying to readopt AJ. Those prayers have been prayed so faithfully by so many without ever feeling "answered." I may never know why at every step there were so many human errors and long delays.

But I will always be thankful that God answered our champion prayer so fully, with such beauty, and so completely that we could not possibly have asked for more.

I want AJ to be able to remember his champions specifically. The people who held our lives together in so many ways for the past 12 months - on AJ's behalf.

The Livesay household - Troy, Tara, Paige, Isaac, Hope, Noah, Phoebe, Lydia, Geronne and Jenny
The Livesay home is where AJ has been living for 11 months now.  In his crib, with his toys, and his dogs and his people-both American and Haitian. He could not have been moved out of his creche and into a family without the Livesays along with Geronne and Jenny. They came into our lives as the first set of God-provided champions and have become without a doubt some of our dearest friends.

In this home AJ has learned to walk, laugh, have family meals, splash in the tub, enjoy dogs, play basketball, climb stairs, dance, jump off the couch and appreciate music. He has learned to play with cell phones and Skype with us. He has also learned how to be a 2 year old and do naughty things like fill the dogs' water bowls with food and hide cell phones in random drawers.

When we found out that AJ did not enjoy hearing the word "no" from us I checked in with Tara and Geronne who are AJ's caregivers. Both laughed and said he rarely hears the word no.

He is the baby of a large family with a lot of experience fostering boys his age. God no doubt knew what he was doing when he tugged on these champions' hearts and they said yes to caring for AJ.

When Tara, Troy and kids went back to the U.S. for 5 months during the 2nd half of 2013 AJ stayed with Geronne and Jenny who have lived with the family for the past 4 years. We came and went, each time believing we were arriving to take him home with us and each time leaving in pain and with huge amounts of guilt. But Geronne and Jenny were there to hug us, cry with us, laugh with us, and reassure us that AJ was their family too and would be well loved.

AJ "helping" wash clothes

Malachi and family - AJ's first best friend

During the Livesay family sabbatical to the U.S. another set of champions for AJ arrived in Haiti. While the parents played a big part in giving ongoing continuity of an extended family experience to AJ in his home, their son, Malachi became AJ's first best friend.

Both age 2. Both with loving temperaments and strong personalities, the two boys hit it off on day one. Malachi called "where's AJ" any time he woke up from a nap and AJ happily obliged by running to him. Malachi taught AJ the wonders of playing games on an ipad while AJ taught Malachi about handling large dogs. These boys mean a lot to one another. I didn't know, but God did, that AJ would need this kind of peer relationship so badly.

Thanksgiving in Haiti with extended community 

My heart is full of thankfulness that this family bridged a gap we hadn't realized ahead of time was going to exist in the fall.

This is what God said when he answered our prayer for champions - "You are not alone."

While we have not always been together, none of us has been alone. Thank you God. Thank you friends.

More on the other champions later.


PS. The Livesays have been in Haiti for a long time and have written extensively about adoption ethics. Please take a moment to read some of their blog. We have learned a lot together this year and I hope that others will avoid our mistakes. Tara is much more eloquent as she writes for, about and with other adoptive families. Click here. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Pause - 2013

Practicing with Daddy fall 2013

I wish there were a pause button to prevent Ariam from growing any older.

It is a funny thing living with a 4 year old. She has one foot in her babyhood still drinking from her sippy cup at night, still dancing to Y.o G.abba videos, and generally still needing a lot of kissing of hurts and reminders that she will always be our baby.

She still misunderstands things that make us howl with laughter (hidden in our hands of course.) 
"Is a porcupine made of pork mommy?" 

But so much is changing fast around here.
She has declared her new favorite music to be Beyon.ce, her new favorite activity is running like an olympic athlete on the soccer field or trying gymnastics moves, and she often tells us that she can't wait to be a grown up and have her own house and husband and babies (next door of course.)

With Gordan, her classroom mascot, visiting her gymnastics class

Sometimes she says things that make our jaws drop in awe instead of laughter.
"God is going to love the hair he gave me when He sees me in heaven!"

With baby "Rosie"
This was a big, hard, long year for our family as a whole. But when I look at Ariam I see so much resilience. She is laughter even in rain and joy in the midst of defeat. Her general outlook is optimistic and happy.

My first early memories are from age 3 and 4. While sometimes she can't seem to remember what happened last week, I hope some wonderful memories settled in the back of Ariam's mind this year.

About Ariam in 2013, age 3.5-4.5:

Growth. She grew so much. It was a never ending search for clothes that fit her long legs and handing on all of size 3 and also most of size 4 to smaller friends. She has been in the 75th percentile or above for height all year and in the 50th percentile for weight. 

Heath. She was incredibly healthy which we always find somewhat miraculous. But she did have a round of what seemed like food poisoning that we hope won't settle in as a major memory for her. (Although I think we will never be able to forget it.)

Helping. She began helping around the house. One morning we woke up to find she had put away the dishes from the dishwasher. Minus the knives of course. She did it one plate at a time using her stool to reach the cupboard. We estimate it took her 45+ minutes. We were shocked and amazed. 

Reading. She began to sound out words. Nobody warned me how hard it is to sit with a 4 year old and listen to her try to sound out the words at a rate of 20 minutes per page before bed. Very very glad she is doing a lot of this hard work of learning to read and write in school. Teachers amaze me.

With Solomon, spring 2013

Praying. She began to pray, outloud and with sincerity. She talked a lot about what it means that God is always with us. Her exploration of the concepts around God, Jesus, our faith, other faiths, amaze, perplex and oftentimes stump us. 

Sassing. The sass began. And while we force ourselves to swallow the laughter, other times it is a very yucky glimpse of future teen years. We are working on figuring out how to put an end to grumbling, moaning about things being unfair, and the big pronouncements of "I wish I weren't a kid so I could make all the rules for myself!!"

This is the "angry face" - it makes us laugh
Uh oh

Firsts in 2013:

  • hair salon experience
  • roller coaster
  • feeling comfortable in and around water
  • international travel
  • meeting her little brother
  • turning 4!!
  • saying goodbye to her beloved preschool teacher, Miss Cristin
  • photographed for 2 books: Letters from Haiti and B is for Book

Santa Fe, with my sister's boyfriend May 2013

On the way to Haiti, Florida April 2013

First moments meeting. Both suck their bottom lip when nervous.

The salon with Tipheny

4th birthday at Menchie's frozen yogurt - animal theme - July 2013

2nd celebration at Aya and Papa's house
Goodbye to Miss Cristin fall 2013
Post photo shoot treat with Hilina, November 2013

Firsts we are looking forward to in 2014:

  • sleeping all through the night without her coming to our room (we'll see...)
  • reading a whole book instead of just a few words at a time
  • swimming without help/continuing to be less afraid in water
  • starting kindergarten
  • watching a movie? (Ariam is both scared of and bored by kids' movies. This perplexes us.)
  • seeing her brother come home, seeing the end to 2 years of talking about but not being with him
  • maybe taking a family vacation that does not involve going to Haiti?
This post wouldn't be complete without mentioning Ariam's best friend Solomon. Sol is a big part of her world even though he lives a few hours away. 
She and he mostly love one another even though Ariam does not really like dinosaurs and Sol does not prefer to play with baby dolls.

The infamous upstaging of July 4, 2013

Ariam has a personal goal to lose those training wheels as soon as possible 

Sometimes they hate one another. Then we take photos and laugh. Both frequently accuse each other of being "too loud." If they are tired it ends like this....

If Ariam were reading this as an adult tomorrow I would want her to know that at age 4 she is empathetic, equally ready for silliness and snuggling at all times, outspoken (some might say bossy but I call it leadership), careful with her things and a bit cautious in her experiences, athletic, full of ideas for making crafts, constantly talking and processing outloud, a performer who loves an audience, a lover of all things frilly and twirly, always hungry for a big meal, and a natural dancer. She is a classic only child and struggles to compromise with friends sometimes. She is used to getting her way because she doesn't have any siblings to share us or her stuff with. Yet. But she is also laughter and light.

Mother's Day 2013


This book has provided a lot of conversation

August, her playmate and the victim of frequently being dressed up like a baby doll 

Christmas 2013 - size 5/6 robe, long legs, and looking so grown up

Her favorite toy is her baby doll and lately her doll houses. 

Daddy is her favorite person on earth.

Her least favorite things to do include anything in the cold (me too!), having her hair washed, and ever having to miss school for any reason (doctor's appointments, holidays, etc.) She also does not enjoy hiking which we sure hope to change at some point.

Every day we are challenged by Ariam's ability to talk non-stop, overhear everything, ask hard questions, think complicated thoughts, and her desire to be one of the adults. We love it and we are...ehem...challenged by it. 

We hope that when AJ gets home Ariam will find a lot of amusement in being one of two instead of the only child.