Friday, June 30, 2006

Katie and Levi, snuggling on the couch. Everyone always told me that as you have more kids, the amount of attention they get from each other outweighs the reduced attention for each child. They (whoever they are) are so right. Katie just turned 14, and most girls her age are so obsessed with boys and make-up that they wouldn't have a moment to spare for a little brother. Not Katie. Now, she is also obsessed with boys and make-up, but she adores her brother. I am surprised Levi ever learned to walk, since Katie carried him all the time. She loves to show him off to her friends and takes him everywhere. She has taught him cheers and dance moves, how to do a cartwheel, and several other not-so-cute tricks. (Fake burping comes to mind...) If we are shopping, the girls always want to buy something for Levi and Ahren. They will even use their own money. I find it quite amazing. My amazing family!!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Introducing Ashley! She is 11 years old, extremely smart (she missed only 1 question on all of this year's TAKS test) has a flair for art, drama and the arts, and loves all things medical. If someone is hurt she will be right there with her medical kit and bandages. She wants to be a lawyer and with her gift of gab she will make a might fine one!
Levi says that Ashley is his best friend. How sweet! She will spend hours playing with him and begs to take him everywhere we go. She is very excited about Ahren, especially since he was born on her birthday. She calls him her mini-me. They even look alike. Both have darker skin, big dark eyes and a square face. Ashley's hair is lighter and not as curly, but there are definite similarities between these two. That is really special, since Levi looks exactly like Katie. Now Ashley feels she has a special little brother who is just like her!

We had a pretty exciting evening on June 16th. First, it was Katie's birthday, plus Ashley was in a play at church that night. When I got home from work at 5:30 I was expecting to round up everyone and head to the church for the play. Instead, I walked in to Levi vomiting continously. I made arrangements for Ashley to go with another family, sent Katie to sleep at a friend's house and started trying to get fluids into Levi. By 6:30 when Chris walked in the door we knew we had one sick little boy on our hands. At 7 pm I was on the phone with the nurse from the pediatrician's office when Levi's eyes rolled back in his head and he went completely limp. The nurse told us to call 911 immediately. Levi was barely breathing and completely unresponsive. The ambulance and EMS arrived and got an IV going. He roused up a bit then but was very lethargic and pretty much out of it. They transported him to St. Luke's where we got excellent care. They pushed fluids in very quickly, got anti-emetic meds into his IV and kept a close eye on him. By 1 am they were processing his admittance paperwork and I sent Chris home to get some badly needed sleep. Sometime during the night the diahrrea and fever kicked in, but I am a little foggy on the details.

For the next 4 days Levi was in the hospital on IV's, fighting this nasty virus. Ashley began vomiting Saturday morning, Chris got it that night. Katie stayed at her friends and managed to avoid it, but everyone else who came in contact with Levi got it. I really didn't though. I think I was just too stubborn to give in. I was needed to take care of my babies and that was all there was! Levi came home on Tuesday evening, but was still pretty sick. We had to watch him closely for the next couple of days. By Thursday he had lost 1 1/2 pounds and was getting dehydrated again. If he lost any more by Friday he was going to be put back in the hospital. Luckily, he turned the corner and by Friday began to drink and eat a little. Whew!

Finally, a smile! We have been very fortunate to get frequent pictures from our agency. I read about other people who don't get pictures for months at a time. How sad! The pictures show us how much he is growing and his developing personality. Doesn't this picture just make you smile? I just want to kiss those cheeks!

Still no real progress on the birth certificate. We get weekly updates but the last several have all said that they expect the paperwork any day. We have resigned ourselves to bringing home a toddler, not a baby. We are looking at around the beginning of 2007 to be bringing him home (maybe) if we can get the birth certificate soon and start the real process. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers, especially Ahren.

Rectification. That is why we were stuck. It seems that the birth mother gave the baby one first name when she filled out the birth record in the hospital, but gave him a different first name on the official birth certificate. This caused a problem since everything has to match and be correct for the adoption to be able to proceed. The process of rectfication meant that the Civil Registry and the Bureau of Statistics had to come together and investigate the difference, propose a fix and submit it to an office of PGN. Once PGN approved the fix, the Civil Reg. would do the fix and submit the documents back to the Statistics office and a new birth certificate would be issued. Then we can file for DNA and Family Court.
Has anyone else realized that the pace of life in Guatemala is vastly different than what we have in the US? There is no sense of urgency about anything down there. They are a happy, loving, caring people. They don't stress out over everything like we do. They don't rush around. They don't get hyper. I think there is a lesson for me in there! How does the song go? 'I rush and rush until life's no fun'. Yeah, that's me. No fun! I have to realize that getting all bent out of shape over this doesn't help and only results in me being miserable. (Again, sorry Chris! My miserable = your miserable) So I am officially adopting a Guatemalan view of life! I vow to enjoy more, stress less and be happy. Wish me luck!

So here it was May already and we hadn't gotten anywhere with the adoption. All our agency could tell us was that we were waiting on a new birth certificate for the baby. Week after week, no progress. At the same time we were reading about how the new temporary director of PGN had stalled all of the cases. Nothing was coming out of PGN. Great. We can't even get into the system, and once we did we might be stuck for ever. This is when I began to get very anxious. I thought God was telling us that this was not to be our son. That something was terribly wrong and we would lose the referral. That the birth mom wanted him back. All kinds of awful tormenting thoughts ran through my mind all day and all night.

If one more person asked my why it was going so slowly I was going to scream! Yes I knew it was unfair. Yes I desperately wanted to hold him. And NO, we have no control over the process. This isn't like buying a car, people. I can't just put in an order and get a delivery date. My frustration level was out of control. (Sorry Chris, you got the brunt of my emotions!)

We made the decision to do what we could do and we hired Adoption Supervisors. This is a group of Guatemalan lawyers who specialize in assisting difficult adoption cases. This was the best decision we ever made! We immediately began getting information. I don't blame our agency. I read the e-mails they got from the lawyers and they just weren't getting much info either.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Take a look at those cheeks now. This picture was taken 4 days after his surgery and he looks none the worse for the wear. Whew! It is hard enough to be so far away from him, but to know he was in pain, and not being able to hold and comfort him....well that tore me apart. The stress of the waiting got to me big time! The agency was telling me that they were pushing the lawyers to get the DNA testing done. You are not supposed to visit until the results are in and there is a match. The reasoning being that this is one more step where the birth mom can change her mind, and the last time she will see the baby. (They schedule the tests together and require a photo of the two together for the records)
This is where things began to slow down. We waited and waited, but no DNA was scheduled. The agency couldn't get information from the lawyers. As April came and went, all we knew is that this first step in the actual official adoption process was not initiated. We were still hopeful and hoping to bring him home this summer. Every adoption has snags and delays. What time we were losing now would be made up later. Not a problem. We just needed to keep the faith.
By the way, check out that head of curls on our boy! I guess they finally gave up on greasing it down to try and control it. I had never seen such curly hair on any of the Guatemalan children from the adoption websites. I just always assumed he would have stick straight hair. We are so delighted to see the curls! Between his enormous dark eyes and the curly hair, he is one gorgeous little guy. The funny thing, though, is that he looks so much like Ashley! She has the same dark eyes and square face, and they were born on the same day (11 years apart). She has started calling him her 'mini-me'. I think she already feels a special bond with him. Isn't God wonderful!

March came in like a lion, and went out like a lion as far as our adoption was concerned. We learned from our adoption agency that the baby had a hernia and that the doctors wanted to operate right away. Now, getting information back and forth is not easy. The foster mom took Ahren to the checkup, then reported back to the lawyers what the doctor said. The lawyers then contact our agency here in the states and our agency contacted us. We had questions, so they went back thru the channels etc etc. Over a period of about 2 weeks we got all the info from the doctors and surgeon in Guatemala, and made the decision that he needed the surgery sooner rather than later. He had the operation on Saturday, March 22nd, and he did beautifully. We also learned that in addition to the inguinal hernia, he had an umbilical hernia as well, but that it was expected to heal on it's own.

Chris claims that Ahren doesn't have hernias as much as he is just popping at the seams from growing so fast. By the end of March he had grown 5 inches and was a whopping 17 pounds. What happened to the tiny little babies from Guatemala? Ahren had far outpaced the growth of any of our biological kids. We had no fears that he wasn't being well cared for. Between his fantastic growth and the medical care he received for his hernia we were very happy. Someone down there loved and cared for this little guy as much as we did. That makes the waiting easier, knowing he is in good hands.

In March, we also received word that our dossier was in Guatemala, in the hands of the lawyers and we paid for our DNA testing (required by the U.S. government) Things were moving along really well. We were hopeful we would have him home in the summer.

February came and we got the next pictures. He had changed so much at first we weren't even sure it was the same baby! It's hard to tell in this picture, but his hair is all greased down and there are little curly wings sticking out in the back. He had gained a tremendous amount of weight, and by the looks of it a lot of it went into his cheeks! The comment from our agency was that the foster mother reports him to be a good eater. I think we could have guessed that!
So as far as the adoption case is concerned, we have all of our final approval documents from the U.S. government and the entire dossier is off to be authenitcated and translated. Someday I will go into more detail about all the paperwork and the myriad of hoops we had to jump through.
We had been struggling with choosing a name for the baby. We both like biblical names, and we wanted a short, strong name that went well with our last name. For months we had been tossing around names but so far nothing was quite right. Then one day, Chris said 'Aaron'. I thought about it some. Aaron is Moses's brother in the bible. It was short and strong, not too common, and it went well with Christopher, the name we had picked for his middle name. Chris wanted to keep the common spelling of Aaron, but I wanted to be a little different. I had seen it spelled 'Ahren' recently and I had liked it better. So, after much pleading and begging, I talked Chris into spelling his name Ahren. (OK son, now you know who is to blame for the oddball spelling of your name. Don't hate me for it! ;-) So, big world, I would like to present to you Ahren Christopher, brother to Katie, Ashley and Levi, son of Chris and Wendy.

So this is the picture that stole our hearts. He is 2 days old in this photo. His tiny little arms didn't even poke out of his sleeves. It's funny, but in this picture he reminded us of Levi as a newborn. Maybe it's his nose, or the way his lips are. It's hard to tell. Maybe just the hand of God leading us to our son. Whatever it was, we signed all the paperwork and sent it off and he officially became our 'referral'.

His birth name is Darien. He was born in Guatemala City on January 7th (Ashley's birthday) He weighed in at a whopping 5 lbs 6 oz and was just under 18 inches long. The medical report showed him to be healthy in every way. Tiny, but healthy. From everything we had read, we knew to expect babies from Guatemala to be smaller than babies in the U.S. so we weren't concerned. It would be more important to watch how he grows in the future.

Our agency sends us pictures and growth updates at least once a month, so we were anxious and excited to see the next pictures. Newborns change so much so quickly. What would he look like? It was all so exciting.....

Way back when Chris and I were getting married, we discussed kids. (OK, well that was really only a little over 4 years ago) We both thought that if we wanted 2 kids, we would try and have one ourselves first, and then adopt the second time around. We were married in Feb. of 2002 and by October that year we were pregnant. Levi was born on July 1st, 2003, and has been the light of our lives, not to mention the sun and moon to his two older sisters.
For a while, we didn't even think about another child. My pregnancy with Levi was not uneventful, and caring for 3 kids kept us pretty busy. Then, this past summer, the idea of adopting kept creeping into my mind. I began to read about adoptions and talk with Chris about it. At first, it was just a fun pastime. What if.... We would discuss different ways of adopting, domestic/international, open/closed, etc. Then, one day, it got more serious. We talked about a son that was out there somewhere, and how were we going to find him. We decided to take the plunge.
Our research led us to the decision to adopt from Guatemala. For us it was the best fit. We began the paperchase in October of 2005. We signed with an agency, filed our i600, got fingerprinted, completed the homestudy, etc etc etc. The list of documents needed was daunting! Each and every one had to be perfect, then notarized, shipped off to the Secretary of State to validate, and then authenticated at the Guatemalan Consulate. We had to re-do several documents as we went along until our agency and the Guatemalan lawyers felt we had it all perfect.
Then, in January, came the day we had only dreamed about. Our agency sent us photos of the baby boys that were available at the time. I forwarded the files by e-mail to Chris, and we both looked at each tiny baby trying to tell if one of them was our son. I had worried so much about how we were going to know which one was ours. Well, we looked through the photos, and we each found one we felt drawn to. When we revealed to each other which one we had picked, we were delighted to find out we had picked the same infant! He was a tiny 5 lb 6 oz bundle of joy with drool on his chin. He was so wrapped up you couldn't see much more than just his little face. Still, he was ours.