Friday, March 29, 2013

About our boy

We've gotten some requests to know more about our new little guy and, being happy to brag on my kids (so weird to be writing in plural!), I am happy to share what we know.

Like I mentioned in the previous post, Pei Song is in Zhengzhou, Henan, the same province as Nora.  He is living ain an extremely nice facility and is getting superb care.  We really have no worries about how he is doing currently, but are anxious to bring him to his forever home. 

He was born April 7, 2012 and his name means Abundant (Pei, pronounced like pay) Pine tree (Song, pronounced like song).  At 4 months old he was already 24 inches tall and weighed 18 pounds.  As of last month he was 30" tall and weighed 24 pounds!  Of course, that is probably a weight with all his winter layers on, so he probably weighs more like 22 pounds.  Still, he is not a tiny boy, it would seem. 

Now for the fun stuff!  He likes to walk around in his walker, he is nimble and likes to rip up paper.  He likes people he's familiar with to play with him and will stick out his hands to be held.  When a stranger plays with him he will just stare at them and not give a response.  he can understand adult's expressions and will run to the nannies in his walker when they call his name.  He likes being held and spoken to.  He likes to play by himself quetly or sit in his walker and go back and forth through the room leisurely (why does this make me picture him giving small nods of approval and waving?).  He is a quiet, tranquil child but at his nany's side will become lively.  He will crawl to his nanny asking for hugs.  He will measure up strangers and wait for his nanny to get involved before he will give them a response.  He likes sweet pear juice between meals and his favorite activity is to "talk" with the nannies.

The last paragraph of his description is my favorite:
We hope that after seeing Pei Song, he can have a loving home adopt him and we ask that his parents give him a loving and healthy development.  We wish him a happy childhood and a beautiful future!  We are confident that he will bring bundles of joy into your home.

I'm sure he will.

Monday, March 25, 2013

All's well that ends well

That last post was a doozy, wasn't it?  Let's all take a deep breath and find our happy place, shall we?

A couple things before I write the conclusion of finding our boy.  We had talked prior to getting our paperwork started about what our ideal situation for a second adoption would be.  Nora had been given such wonderful care at Eagle's Wings that we got quite spoiled.  Most families only get a handful of pictures of their child prior to meeting them.  When Nora was placed in our arms, we were also given a flash drive that had several video clips and hundreds of photos.  Yes, hundreds (I think between 2 and 3, but the fact remains that we got MANY pictures).  Aside from being ahead developmentally, she was incredibly loved and properly spoiled.  Heck, they even began calling her XioaNora to get her used to hearing her English name.  In a perfect world we would bring home another little Eaglet, be able to visit all of Nora's ayis while we picked up the new little guy, and be spoiled all over again.  This actually looked like a slim possibility when we finally had our dossier to our agency as they had one little boy on their list who was from EW as well.  There was one significant problem with his file.  He was exactly two weeks older than Nora.  I know there are lots of opinions on virtual twinning and adopting out of birth order, but for us it just seemed like a recipe for disaster.  Nora is VERY strong-willed and bringing in a brother who is instant competition like that would be unfair to her and to him.  That said, I am still sad to say this little boy has not found his home and his file is going to the shared list very soon.

So, our dossier was to our agency, they were reviewing it, and it looked like we were going to need to choose between two very cute, though very different boys.  The boy Kevin felt more drawn to was only 6 months old and had cl/cp, a need we were very familiar with by now.  On paper it seemed perfect, and he was incredibly cute.  The boy I kept coming back to was over a year old with a repaired heart condition.  He was in a foster home that seemed to be doing a great job with his care, and I had felt from the beginning of our adoption journey with Nora that we had a heart baby out there.

Here's the thing.  Having to "pick" your child sounds silly and novel in theory, but it is absolutely cruel and tortuous.  I sat for hours staring at two little faces wondering if one was our son and heartbroken that one, maybe even both, was not meant for our family.  How do you look at these precious babies and weigh pros and cons objectively?  How do you let yourself grow attached to one at the expense of another.  The one redeeming factor was that a few kids we had looked at previously had been matched to their families.  We ultimately had to go by faith and trust that if one of these boys wasn't "ours" it was because there was a better fit out there for us and for them.  It didn't make it much easier, but it did make it mostly bearable.

About 3 days into our 9-10 business day wait, a few new boys were added to the site.  As always, they were adorable.  As always, several fit into our list of needs and ages.  I had Kevin look at them and ask what he thought, hoping that he might say "Ah, this one is ours" and take the decision out of my hands.  After all, I had to be the first to verbally commit to Nora, it was only fair for it to be his turn, right?  He mentioned a couple, but said that the little cl/cp boy (let's call him C) was probably still his top choice.  He did point out one little boy who was incredibly cute and say he was curious about him (we'll call him S).  I also thought he looked like a good potential match, but mostly I just felt frustrated and confused about all of it.  I didn't worry about it too much, though.  We still had over a week and surely these new boys would be matched before then.

The next day I looked at the site again, and again that new little boy kept drawing my attention.  His medical description was a little confusing though.  He was listed as having a hemangioma on the side of his head, but in his pictures, his ear appeared to be affected as well.  On a Facebook group I am part of there was a discussion on him and wondering if he also had microtia/atresia or not.  As it happens, one of Nora's buddies from EW has microtia/atresia of both ears and her mom works with hearing impaired kids everyday.  We have spent the last year seeing updates on this little girl, and learning what a manageable need this really is.  I spoke with her some and started feeling like we may need to add this little guy to our list of "contenders".

That night, Kevin and I had a long heart to heart about everything.  He too had felt more and more drawn to this little boy, but having no real experience with hemangiomas or microtia we were a bit scared.  For those who don't know, hemangiomas are birthmarks that typically disappear on their own by age 6-7 and rarely have any other underlying syndromes or worries with them.  We talked very openly and honestly about where our comfort levels were with those needs.  We also talked about the other two boys.  What life would be like, why we felt drawn to them, what resources would be available for them, etc.  It became clear after much talk and prayer that we would not be getting our heart baby just yet.  For whatever reason, I was feeling less of a draw to him, and so we decided to stop considering the file of the 1 year old heart baby.

After that discussion I had pretty much decided we would be requesting the cl/cp baby's file.  It's not that I felt more drawn to him (honestly, I didn't though the idea of such a young baby was very appealing) it's that I was worried about losing another file.  I was emotionally tapped out.  I wanted the decision out of my hands.  We had talked plenty about the other boy and both seemed excited about the possibility of being his family, but there were some worries.  S's need was not one we had originally listed on our medical sheet.  Surely there were other families ahead of us open to his need.  I felt sure that he would be matched before we could request his file, or at the very least there would be a long list of people in front of us wanting to review.  As these worries popped into my head I felt calm.  I felt a peace about it and new that if he was ours the way would be made clear.  In a way, I wanted it to be C.  We already knew we had "dibs" on his file.  We knew he'd still be there.  We knew we would probably travel to meet him before his first birthday, which is a huge luxury in this situation.

I wouldn't even let myself consider that I may have gotten an answer that night.  I was too scared to be wrong, or lose a file, or who knows what other horrible things could happen in this crazy adoption story to do anything more than hold my hands over my ears saying "lalalala" while I got that moment of confirmation.  I couldn't admit it then, or even after we were finally reviewing a file, but I can fully recognize now that I got as strong of an answer about our son  as I did while looking at Nora's picture for the first time.  I knew that night.  I knew standing in front of our fridge in our dinky basement kitchen who our son was. 

I felt peace, but knew we still had to wait another week or more for our dossier to be sent to China.  I sent an email to our agency asking for clarification on S and whether there was more than just the hemangioma or not.  I told her we were interested in possibly reviewing his file when the time came, but we understood that he was probably being reviewed already.  I got an email back saying that our dossier review was done, and now it was being translated before going to China.  She said that there was no microtia/atresia with S, just the hemangioma pushing his ear forward a bit.  She sent a picture that showed it better.  After looking at the picture, I noticed the file name was his name--his full name.  Many orphanages assign one surname to their kids to help keep track of everyone.  Nora's orphanage assigned a different one to the girls and the boys.  I looked at his surname and started crying, finally admitted to myself what I'd known for more than a day.  S was our boy.  Nora had been given the girl's surname of Zhou, S had been given the surname Zheng, the one for the boys.  They were from the same orphanage.  I still didn't tell Kevin since I wanted him to have his own answer about this.  Plus, we still had a bit of a wait...or so I thought. 

The next morning I got an email from our agency.  Our dossier was completed and off to China, which file would we like to review?  I called Kevin in a bit of a panic.  We talked a bit and he said "There's just something about S.  I think we should ask for his file."  I was having second and third thoughts all over the place.  What if I was wrong?  What if we were supposed to ask for C and if we ask for S we will lose C???  What if our boy wasn't either of these two??? So many worries.  I stopped and forced myself to calm down.  I felt the peace I had been feeling come back and, after a brief prayer, felt a strong comfort and the thought, "You already know you need to ask for S, so do it and don't be scared."

I called S and we laughed about what a different situation this was than our last referral call.  After a bit of chit chat I asked her is S was available to review.  She said he was and would I like to have his file sent?  Yes!  Yes, I would.  After about 10 minutes my email chimed and I saw the pictures and medical information for our little boy.  Everything looked great.  There were some questions about the hemangioma, but otherwise our pediatrician had no concerns, nor did we.  As it so happens, while he is still at the big orphanage that Nora was at for only a week or so, he is being cared for by a charitable foundation that has it's own floor of the orphanage called New Hope.  It is almost exactly the kind of care that Nora received at Eagles Wings. 

Remember my post about the little boy from EW that lives a few miles from us now?  As it turns out, when his family was in China they made a visit to the New Hope home and had a picture of S from back in August.  Oh, as it also happens, his dad just happens to be a radiologist who just happens to be BFFs with a highly renowned pediatric radiologist at our children's hospital, and they both just happened to be able to take a look at S's file over the weekend to help clarify his medical situation to us.  At this point the amount of confirmations we were getting was a little ridiculous.  I asked Kevin how he felt about it and he said it seemed like things were pointing to a yes, but he wasn't 100% positive.  He asked how I felt and I said, "I'm pretty sure he's ours.  Actually, I've known he was ours for three days."  He just smiled at me the same way he did when I told him I had seen Nora's face before and said, "So when do we tell our family?"

Without further ado (cause really, haven't we all had enough of that???) here is the cute little face that we fell in love with.

And that's the story of how little PeiSong became our son. 

At the risk of even more words, I just want to say a few things about C and the other little boys we considered.  Any of those little boys would have been wonderful and amazing additions to our family, but we know that there are other families set aside for them that will give them what they need more than we can.  Song, please don't ever worry that you were somehow less wanted or "meant" for our family than your sister because we had to take a bumpy road to find you.  We needed those bumps to get us ready to see your perfect little face and know without any doubt that you were the missing piece of our family.  We needed T to teach us about opening our views more, we needed C to remind us that even if something sounds great on paper it can still be different than the plan our Heavenly Father has for us.  At the beginning of our adoption journey to you I read a quote that was one of those "just for me" moments and I knew I would need these words as we waited, and as we still wait to bring you home. 

  "Pray for your children; hold onto them with your faith.  Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God."  --Orson F Whitney

There will be many more hard days, both before and after you are with us.  There will be many more times when I need to hold onto you with my faith, but in finding you I have already seen the salvation of God.  I love you, my sweet little BaoBao.  In a few short months I will be able to hold you in my arms and tell you how much I loved you from the moment I saw your face, but for now this will have to do.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The plot thickens

I consider myself to be a somewhat patient and mostly reasonable person.  Actually, I was pretty certain I had it together, but after this last month I'm not so sure.  We decided early on in this second adoption to not go public with any announcement that we were going back to China until after we had been matched and gotten PA (pre-approval).  It's not that we felt any less excited about this than last time, or that we were worried about people's reactions, but I know people's patience for this tedious process is pretty thin.  Eyes glaze over when you have to respond with acronyms and various steps when they just want to know if you have a picture of your baby or when you are going to bring them home.  The fact is, if I had been blogging about this before there would have been a lot of rage, frustration, and acting like a big baby.  No one wants that, at least without an immediate resolution to the story.  I guess what I'm saying is this post could have been a lot worse.

I'm not going to go into a whole diatribe, but I have gotten some questions about why a boy and people who are surprised that boys are even available.  When people think of China adoption they think of girls.  The one-child policy combined with cultural preference for boys made for many orphaned girls.  Things have changed a fair bit in the15 years, though.  There is another side to China adoption, and that is all the boys who wait.

The waiting child program is designed to help special needs kids find homes.  Now, what China considers special needs is a bit different than what we do.  There are, of course, the more demanding needs like Spina Bifida and Down"s Syndrome (I know there are many people who consider these totally doable needs, and I am not disputing that, it's just an example of some things that people tend to think of when the special needs tag gets used, apologies if I have offended anyone), but there are also things like cleft lip and palate, or birthmarks that can be repaired or don't affect daily life.

The thing with special needs is that, generally, they affect both boys and girls.  For whatever reason (and there are many, but I won't go into it here) most adoptive parents chose to specify they would like a girl rather than a boy.  I've heard different numbers, but the stats my agency gave me say that for every 4 families who specify a gender preference, only 1 will be open to a boy.  I'm sure there's all sorts of math that could give a better idea of what the result of this is, but the quick answer is that many, many boys sit and wait for a family and their gender is the biggest strike against them.  Nora's friend from Eagle's Wings who came home last year had almost the exact same medical condition she did waited 18 months longer than she did to be placed.  Kids that don't fit the requests of the families our agency has get posted to their website in the hopes that a family will be found for them.  Recently, a little boy who is only 6 months old has been sitting for over a month.  It's pretty depressing, actually.  Knowing what we do about the situation, I couldn't state a preference for a girl.  We left it open to either, knowing we would almost certainly be bringing home a boy.

I spent the time during our paperchasing checking the waiting child page on our agency's site.  I looked at pictures and brief descriptions and felt strongly that this time around we would have to do more than just sit and wait for a phone call.  Sometimes I hate to be right.

We were, as I said in the last post, about a month from DTC (dossier to China) and we saw a picture and file that looked really promising.  He had a different need than what we had originally planned on, but it felt quite manageable.  We let ourselves hope and wonder if we had found our boy.  We felt good about it and it seemed like God was letting us know we were on the right path.  The next day I called the agency hoping to get more information.  I was not prepared for that phone call.

You see, China gives the agency about 60 days to find a family for the kids they get sent.  After that the file must be returned to a list that allows every agency to look at and lock a file for a family (meaning they can decide to move forward or not, but until they say no, no other families can review the file).  This little boy, let's call him T, was going to be returned to the shared list very soon.  Since our dossier wasn't yet complete, we were not eligible to review his file.  This sweet little boy who had been sitting on their site with no one requesting his information would now be moved when a family was actually interested.  It seemed so unfair!  Could they ask for an extension? No.  Was there a chance we could find him on the shared list?  Slim, but yes.  The problem is our dossier still wasn't done and he would have to sit there for another month before we could review his file. She would keep an eye out for him, but he would likely be matched quickly since the pool of potential families was so much bigger.   She was so very sorry, but there was nothing we could do.

Three days later T's file was returned to the shared list and we lost all hope of being matched with him.  Our agency couldn't find him and could only conclude he had, in fact, been matched.

I was devastated.  I thought he was our boy.  We both felt drawn to him.  He seemed like a great fit.  It didn't make sense.  I thought of all the weeks we lost waiting for our social worker to get paperwork done and realized that if we had been faster we could have reviewed his file.  It was an ugly time for me.  I felt toyed with.  I was pretty unpleasant to be around for a little while.  I had to try to keep it together while Nora was around, though she did occasionally find me crying and would put her arms around me saying, "Mama, don't be sad.  It's ok.  Be happy."

Two things made me feel like things would work out and I shouldn't give up hope.  I knew that Nora was the absolute perfect child for our family and that no other little girl could have been a better daughter for us than her, so the same would be true of our son and we would eventually find him.  I also realized that perhaps our boy had a different need than we had planned on and we needed T to help open our eyes to other possibilities. 

I eventually began looking at the listing of children again.  I did it haphazardly and without much enthusiasm for a little while, but soon we were so close to having our dossier ready that I thought I was ready to open my heart to some kids again.  I want to state, for the record, that I do not for one second regret a single tear I shed over T.  These kids deserve families.  They deserve to have someone fighting for them.  They deserve so many things we can never give them.  At the very least I can make sure he was wanted by someone.

I felt drawn to a number of children and had a really hard time figuring out what that meant.  I guess the best conclusion that I can come to is that there were many cute kids and I liked them all.  Kevin and I talked often about children we were interested in learning more about and who we felt we could provide a good home to.  We jokingly talked about brackets and front-runners because how can you possibly "choose" your child?  It was exciting and horrible at the same time.  What made it ok was knowing that we were only deciding what children we were interested in looking at their medical files.  We knew that if the child in question was "ours" we would get a confirmation of it like we did with Nora.  That made it a bit less horrible.

Finally we had all of our paperwork done and sent our dossier to our agency.  I called S, the same woman who called us with Nora's file almost 2 years ago, and asked her what the possibility of reviewing a file soon would be.  We had two boys were were interested in looking at (though you can only look at one at a time) and were very leery of having a repeat of the situation with T.  She said she wanted to get our dossier in hand, give it a quick once-over to make sure all was in order, but then she'd be happy to let us review a file so long as they didn't have to return it to the shared list soon.  Things were finally looking up.

It was a short-lived happiness.  Without going into it too much, we thought we were going to be able to review a file that weekend, S confirmed it, then S emailed the next day saying our dossier needed to be fully reviewed before they would consider it and the two files we were interested in might both have to go back before our deadline.  This couldn't be happening.  I was a MESS.  Full ugly tears sobbing mess.  I couldn't handle this again.  We waited a few days and despite our complaints the agency wouldn't budge.  After many conflicting stories about what could and could not be done, it seems they made up their minds.  They wouldn't let us see a file until our dossier was sent to China, having been fully reviewed by our agency.  Dossier review takes 9-10 business days.  We were over two weeks from looking at files when we had been told it would be a day or two.  That was a bad weekend.

The long and short of it is I had to find a peace about it.  We confirmed with S that at least one of the files, but possibly both, should still be available and we were at the front of the line to review.  At the very least, we could still be matched with one of these boys, we'd just need to be patient.   I was ok with that, though I wasn't sure how it would turn out, and I still wasn't letting my heart get involved at all.  A wall of protection was up and I wasn't taking it down until I had a file in my hand and the agency saying we could move forward.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Once more unto the breach!

It's official!  We're adopting again!
On Friday we got PA for our little guy and hope to be traveling to bring him home around August.  We've gotten quite a few questions of how we got here, how we found him, and what we know about him, plus I want a record of how this adorable little boy came to be our son, so I suppose I better start at the beginning.  I'll probably have to break this into parts since it's a bit long and convoluted.

We have truly been enjoying being a family of three and have had so much fun with Nora.  We knew we wanted more children, but figured it would be a while until we were ready to have another one and we felt comfortable with that plan.  We were planning on selling our house and getting settled in before starting any paperwork, but someone had different plans for us. 

On November 4, 2012 we were sitting with our extended family at church while our newest nephew was blessed.  Nora was sitting between us, and her cousin who is only a few months older than her decided to come share the chair with her.  I looked at my little girl squished next to her cousin gabbering about crayons to each other and got a unexpected revelation.  It was time to start paperwork for another adoption.  I was not expecting this at all.  I thought we would wait another 6 months at least before even discussing the possibility.  Nora's adjustment has been tricky and she still doesn't like to let me out of her sight.  How would she deal with another child vying for my attention?  How would I handle being outnumbered while Kevin was at work?  So many questions popped up.  The only question that really mattered to me was how could I ignore this feeling?  I couldn't and wouldn't try.  It was time and I trusted (and still do) that this is how it should be.  I turned to Kevin and said, "How would you feel about starting paperwork after we move?" (at the time, we were planning on listing at the beginning of the year).  He was surprised, but said he felt good about it.  For a few days I was sure this was the plan, but I kept getting a nagging feeling that while waiting to move was more convenient for us, it wasn't what we needed to do.  We needed to get started right away.  Soon after that we contacted our agency and social worker to get the process started.

In many ways it's been easier this time around.  I knew what papers went where, who I needed to talk to about what, and where I could push and where I had to just deal with it.  China allows families to re-use their dossiers, but only if they get approval for a specific child by the anniversary of your previous adoption.  Since that was coming up in February it wasn't really a possibility.  Sadly, we had to start from square one.  New homestudy, new social worker (some changes had been made in requirements after we got Nora, so our social worker from that adoption wasn't able to do our homestudy), new fingerprints (because those change?).  Lots of paperwork and mundane stuff that no one cares about.  The good news is that we had our dossier ready in about 3 months vs. the 7 months it took last time.  I kept pushing for it to get done faster because I kept feeling like it was a time-crunch to get done.  Why?  Well a little baby from Eagle's Wings was getting paperwork ready to be placed for adoption and, though it was a long shot, I knew there was a chance for us to be his family.  We were about a month away from our paperwork being sent to China when he had his final physical prior to his file being sent to be placed.  As it turns out, his heart defect had healed on it's own and he was getting such good care that he was no longer considered part of the special needs program.  I was sad for about 3 seconds and then had to smile thinking of his family waiting 6 years for the file of a little girl from China and getting a phone call that it was actually a boy.  Talk about surprises!  Ultimately, I knew that our boy was out there and we needed the motivation to get our paperwork done quickly, but that this little guy was not ours.

Things seemed to be going (relatively) smoothly.  Little did I know the drama that was coming.

If you recall from all the paperwork last time, one of the last things a couple needs to get done is an approval from US immigration to bring a child in as a citizen.  Our dossier was complete, save for that paper, and we new it was a matter of days until we had it in hand.  Our placing agency has a website where they post pictures and information of little kids who have not been matched with a family and I looked at it quite frequently to say the least.  I saw so many adorable little boys who seemed to match our needs so well.  Unfortunately we were not yet eligible to look over any files since our dossier wasn't completed.  I was disappointed, but not heartbroken since there was no one file that really stood out to me as "ours".  That is, until we were about a week from sending our dossier to our agency...