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Archive for September, 2009

Little ones

There is a little person who needs your prayers tonight. Her name is Gianna and she was born the other day at just 22 weeks.

That’s even younger than when my niece, Mia, was born. Mia was very sick and just barely cheated death. Now she’s a happy, healthy five year old. I still call her Miracle Mia. I’ll never forget those days — many weeks, actually — when it was touch and go. My sister was brave and strong throughout, and Mia had a fighting spirit.

So I have an idea of what Gianna’s parents must be going through and it sure isn’t easy…

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On Saturday, I stopped by a local Ethiopian restaurant and met a couple who came home two months ago with two beautiful children from Ethiopia. The kids — a boy and a girl — were both under a year. I had no idea if anyone would even be at the restaurant, or if I’d just walk in there looking like a dork and walk back out again. (It wouldn’t be the first time.)

Occasionally, families in our area meet together at this restaurant — those in the process of adoption and those who’ve come home already. This past weekend, most of the families were in D.C. at an Ethiopian New Year’s celebration, but in November, there should be a much larger group.

I really enjoy meeting these families. Not only is it edifying to hear the experiences of other parents who’ve taken this road, but it’s inspiring to see the children. This process can be so abstract. When you’re pregnant, it’s much easier to connect to the reality of a child — he or she is right there, causing changes to your body,  reminding you every day of the new life you’re embarking on as a parent. It’s all very tangible.

With adoption, it’s a bit unreal. Rather than a growing belly and morning sickness, you have paperwork and house inspections. Instead of wondering whose hair color or personality your child may have, you contemplate a far-away country and a foreign culture and little ones out there somewhere that you do not know. There will come a day when you will see their faces, but until then, it’s just an empty canvass.

When I see the children who’ve come home, it makes what we’re doing less abstract. And the parents all look so happy, it helps quell some of my fears about this path. The couple I met on Saturday are a lot like us — married for many years and childless professionals before they adopted their two little ones. Surprisingly, they said it hasn’t been that hard of an adjustment. Yes, they’re tired some days, but the children have done very well so far and generally everything is going great. I have to admit this was nice to hear.

I also have to admit I’m being a little neurotic about the mail these days. Where is that I-797-C? On one hand, I’m impatient to get on the waiting list. On the other hand, I do believe the timing of everything is all part of Providence and I must let go. Oh, this so not a process for control freaks like me.  Which, of course, means it’s exactly for people like me.

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Having a personal blog is a little strange. While I know I don’t have tons of readers, I do have more than I realize. And they range from people who know me really well to people who’ve never met me, and everything in between. Which can make me wonder how the words I write are received.

But there’s nothing more destructive to writing than self-consciousness. You have to be real while maintaining boundaries. Blogging is a unique writing experience, and I find it kind of therapeutic. I like having a place to process some of my thoughts, feelings, experiences, progress, fears, and ideas.

Actually, most of my posts are more like tiny snippets of conversation; whatever strikes me at a particular moment. I’m a fairly private person who’s used to writing about lots of things except myself.  Just know, dear reader, that what you see here is always only part of the picture. And also, I’m really glad you visit.

Here’s something I’ve been wanting to tell you about: A book called The Hospital By the River. Brian ordered it for me, thinking I’d like it — and like it I did. It’s the beautiful and fascinating story of two courageous and talented ObGyns — Drs. Catherine and Reginald Hamlin — who moved to Ethiopia with their six year-old son in the late 50s and founded a hospital to serve patients suffering with fistulas.

A fistula is a terrible thing. It’s a condition many women in extremely poor countries experience when they suffer many days of obstructed labor and no medical assistance. A hole develops between the birth passage and one or more internal organs when the baby’s head creates too much pressure and cuts off blood supply to delicate tissues in the area. The woman is left with a hole between her vagina and her bladder and sometimes between her vagina and rectum — or both.

This means the woman becomes permanently incontinent (urine and/or feces). Most who develop this — and it’s estimated at least 100,000 women do each year in sub-Sahara Africa and Asia — are abandoned by their husbands and ostracized by their communities because they can no longer have children and their odor is so foul.

(There is also “traumatic fistula,” which is the result of sexual violence.  The violator’s aim is to destroy the women and the communities in which they live. This is very real in places like the Congo.)

Imagine the suffering!

The Hamlins arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1959. Their plan was to open a midwifery school at a city hospital and stay for three years. They discovered rather quickly that Ethiopia had almost no resources for expectant mothers and that fistulas were a terrible problem. Soon patients began to show up at their door, many walking hundreds of miles by foot in rags because they’d heard someone in the city might be able to cure them.

The Hamlins — seeing the great need — built a wing on the hospital for fistula patients, and eventually their own hospital. Ethiopia became their home. They raised their son, befriended many interesting people, and witnessed a great deal of political and social change in Ethiopia over the years.

The hospital is still in operation and although Reginald died in 1993, Catherine is now in her 80s and still very involved. They trained many other physicians and nurses over the years and there are now satellite clinics in numerous towns to reach more village women.

There is so much more I could say about the book, which is written by Catherine herself. But I don’t want to give it all away. Suffice it to say, it’s very inspiring and easy to read. I learned a lot about Ethiopian history and culture, and found the story so moving.

Here’s their hospital and the foundation that runs it.  I’ll place it on my links section at the right — it’s such a worthwhile charity to support.

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Sisters in the Spirit

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Years ago, I was part of a prayer and support group of women — most of us met in graduate school and somehow landed in the D.C. area around the same time. Once a month, we’d steal some time from our busy professional lives, bring a dish to share, and gather at one of our houses to pray and share life. We were all single then.

Eventually some of us moved… Martha back to Dominican Republic before taking a job in San Antonio. Irene to Rome. Katie to Sudan and now back in Ohio. Carrie to Rome, too. Natalie to somewhere west after her law degree before coming back again. I got married. MaryTherese got married and moved to Cleveland. Carrie got married after living in Italy and moved to Northern Virginia. Lisa got married and now lives in the burbs. Carrie had a baby. Christina moved back to Chicago. Are you keeping track of all this?

Renata — thank heavens — has stayed put, which makes her place home base when the out-of-towners fly in and we need a gathering spot. About once a year this happens and today was the day. We all brought something to create a fantastic brunch — which, of course, I have to show you:

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This really doesn’t do justice to Renata’s incredible ham, leek and asparagus quiche pictured at the rear. (The muffin in the foreground is my no-white-sugar, no-white-flour banana bread made into muffins. They don’t look fabulous, but they taste great.)

So we ate, we caught up on life, we took turns holding adorable baby Cate, and we prayed together before taking off for airports and husbands and other commitments.

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Could Cate be cuter? No. (And mama Carrie is pretty cute in her own right.)

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It’s so edifying to be with a group of women who are strong, talented, intelligent and faithful. Our bond of sisterhood is rooted in years of encouraging each other — in our trials, joys, endeavors, romances and relationship with God. We’re all so different yet we remain so connected. It’s a gift for which I’m extremely grateful.

You ladies rock.

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I’m not quite back to myself, but I’m getting there. Once I finish taking the medication, I expect to resume a normal schedule.

We just dropped off my computer at Best Buy to see what the Geek Squad could do. The bad news is, the computer is done, dead, gone. The good news is, the Geeks believe my files can be retrieved. It’ll cost us a bit, but I was so glad! I can hopefully resume working on my book next week.

Some prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) have been a little stressed lately. An Australian ABC News program, Foreign Correspondent, aired a broadcast about troubling practices in some Ethiopian adoptions this month. It’s not the first time such a story has been aired or written about. Then word came that the Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS) has initiated an investigation into possible violations of ethics by adoption agencies in Ethiopia. This Council is non-governmental, but plays a significant role in making recommendations to governing bodies regarding adoption.

Anytime you hear these things, you can’t help but worry. Will Ethiopia close to adoptions? A few bad apples can spoil everything.

Today, our agency said their program coordinator in Ethiopia is not overly concerned right now about that happening. I’m as certain as I can be that our agency — WACAP — is top notch when it comes to ethics.  Still, adoption is always a risky endeavor and you can only put it in God’s hands and hope all will be well. You never know when you get pregnant what’s going to happen either. But of course, you don’t have to face the loss of tens of thousands of dollars on top of the emotional duress.

While I’m troubled by the corruption I’ve heard about, I’m far from surprised. When we were doing adoption research, only a few countries were reportedly close to being corruption-free in adoptions. Strangely (to my mind), Columbia is at the top. South Korea is pretty good, too, followed by Thailand, which cleaned up its act in the past few years. But as far as I know, Thailand does not relinquish many children under four, and Columbia only allows people under 38 to adopt younger children.

My brother John used to work in Russian special needs adoptions and saw a tremendous amount of corruption.  After his stories, not much surprises me. Friends of ours who adopted from Romania, were not told the truth about their son’s past until they actually showed up to get him.

It makes sense to me that impoverished nations offer greedy, unethical people plenty of opportunities to exploit and make money. And in some cases, I think there are also agencies who are simply sloppy, and those who use their conviction of a spiritual mission to justify unprofessional and unethical conduct. No matter the case, there’s no excuse. Innocent children and parents get caught in the web of a few corrupt individuals and it’s always a tragedy.

Just what would happen if Ethiopia closed? I don’t know. I’m not sure if these things are ever short — Guatamala and Vietnam are still closed and it’s been a couple years I think. Nepal seemed to re-open fairly quickly, but there are many red flags with their process still.

I’m not quite prepared to think of the possibility. If it happens, we’ll have plenty to think about. For now, I’m just going to surrender the concern.

I got word today that our certified Gold Seal letters arrived at WACAP. Now we wait for our I-797-C and we’ll finally be on the waiting list.

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Getting there

I finally feel more like a human being again. Thanks be to God for antibiotics. I hate even saying that since I’m such a natural health freak. But without modern medicine I wouldn’t be around.

The meds are strong and I need to stay on them another six days — ugh. I took my first outdoor excursion today to run some errands. It was great to get out, but I felt a bit loopy and couldn’t walk very fast. I sense the next few days will be frustrating because I don’t need to be in bed all day, but I’m not well enough to get on with life as normal.

I’m also getting tired of writing about my health problems.

Additionally, my computer does appear to have died. This is really awful because there was a lot of stuff I had not backed up. Including the latest work on my book. I’m hoping when we take it in, they can at least get my files from it. This is a huge drag because it’s not a good time to buy a new computer and I absolutely need one for work.

This means it’s also tougher to blog. The trusty iPhone is helping me out, but it’s not the best thing for writing longer posts.

So, that’s it in a nutshell right now. Computer woes and ongoing recovery. Thanks to many of you for your messages of support and prayer.

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Hanging in…

I made it through my big work event yesterday, but unfortunately it put me over the edge and I arrived home with a raging kidney infection. Thankfully, I had antibiotics which I began taking immediately and they kicked it during the wee hours. I’ve spent most of the day in bed and my husband has been a good nurse.

Something in me felt defeated about getting the infection and needing the meds. Maybe because I am so devoted to being healthy and doing everything the natural way whenever possible. A kidney infection is serious business and you can’t fool around once you get there. I pray these meds will do the trick.

In other unfortunate news, my laptop seems to be dead. It would’t even turn on this morning. I’m typing this from Brian’s iPhone. I’m sincerely hoping a new computer is not in our near future. We have to send our first big placement agency payment this week. It feels like there’s a steady leak in our bank accounts these days that we can’t seem to shore up.

Well, this is getting all depressing. Since I’m so tired, it’s time to go take my drugs and crawl back into bed.

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Labor pains

Yes, still laboring over here. Not sure if anything has happened as far as moving this rock. Or rocks. So hard to know. Today I wasn’t in as much distress as yesterday, but my kidneys are aching so much that I’m hobbling around like an old woman. I told Brian to get a good look because this is what Zoe as an old lady looks like. With a few more wrinkles, of course.

Tomorrow I may have an ultrasound. I have the top stone specialist at Johns Hopkins as my urologist, so that’s pretty good — I’ll see him Thursday morning. I also consulted with my acupuncturist in D.C. today — he’s a doctor of Chinese Medicine and last night I began taking some Chinese medicinal herbs in tea form. Immediately I felt relief, but the herbs are partly responsible for the aching kidneys today. They open up the bladder and ureter tubes and help break up the stones. I’m also taking a lot of immune boosters and anti-bacterials to help fight any potential infection. Those stones are jagged and cut up the tissue when they move around.

Truly, it couldn’t be a worse week to have stones, unless you count being on vacation, traveling out of the country, or going to Ethiopia to get our children. I told Brian tonight that we’re going to need a back-up plan, just in case my kidney stones act up around the time we’re scheduled to go. That would be awful, but these stones are unpredictable and Ethiopia is not a place I want to be dealing with medical problems or emergencies.

Did I mention I have a 250 person black-tie gala to run Friday in downtown Washington, D.C.? I’m trying to keep a sense of humor about it all. My husband’s good at keeping me laughing.

One thing I love about my Catholic faith is the belief that suffering can have meaning and can be efficacious like prayer or works of charity. There are always so many people and situations to pray for, it’s nice to be able to intentionally offer the pain and discomfort for certain people.

Here’s a picture of Brian and me from John’s birthday gathering in New York a few weeks ago that my sister Clara sent:

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