Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Our Adoption Story: Part 10 (Conclusion)

It's hard to know how to even wrap this up. Adopting Francie has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. From start to finish, the Lord has been SO faithful. We can see His hand in everything from first placing the call on our hearts to adopt, to leading us to domestic adoption, to bringing Francie's birthmother into our lives. He was in all of the details of Francie's birth and surgery and recovery.

There were so many things that I was nervous about going into this. I was worried that I wouldn't bond with Francie right away and that I would have to go through the motions for a while. But God gave me an overwhelming maternal love for my little girl the first minute that I saw her.

I was dreading being away from my other children for so long while we were in Baltimore. But God gave me a peace and an assurance that they were being cared for and that I was right where I needed to be.

I was concerned that I would hate living in the Children's House and miss my home and my privacy. But God provided such a sweet feeling of community in that place, and He opened my eyes to what a wonderful ministry these houses are for families in need. I can't imagine going through something like that again and not staying there.

I was nervous that I would feel so alone and isolated in a city where I knew no one and was away from my support group during such a pivotal time in my life. But God was there, and I felt His presence and His peace. David and I both felt so loved and supported from afar by our friends and family.

I was scared for my baby going into such a major surgery. I was fearful that there would be complications and setbacks and that something would happen to Francie. But God, our Great Physician, took care of our little girl, and there were no complications. Francie's recovery couldn't have gone any better, and the Lord even gave us the sweet gift of less time in traction than we expected.

Since arriving at home with Francie, we've been doing really well. It's been wonderful to be able to introduce her to so many people who have loved us so well and been so faithful to pray for her long before she even existed. Right now, Francie is a very typical infant. She eats well, she sleeps (like a newborn ;)), and we change her diapers just like any baby. The biggest issue that we've dealt with since being home is reflux, and it's not lost on me what an enormous blessing that is. I'm sure there will be hard days to come. Francie will most likely require more surgery down the road for her bladder exstrophy. I'm sure there will be days when I feel overwhelmed and totally inadequate for this job. Days where I cry and feel alone and worried sick. But I hope during those times that I will remember back to the beginning of Francie's life and how the Lord brought us through those hard days. He has always been faithful to us, and I can rest assured that He always will. He has given us the GREAT privilege and joy of being Francie's parents, and He will equip us for that job. Because the fact of the matter is that I AM inadequate for this task. I just cannot do it on my own. I can't parent any of my children well in my own strength. But God has blessed me with this role, and His grace is sufficient.

It is our prayer that Francie's life points people to Jesus. Her life has value because she is created in the image of God. She is precious to Him, and she is precious to us. It is our absolute HONOR to be Francie's family.

I have loved sharing our adoption story on the blog. I'm sure there will be MANY more Francie posts to come, but they won't really focus on adoption so much as just being Francie's mom. We are SO GLAD that the Lord called us to adopt. It has truly been a very worshipful experience for us. But we're also really glad to be on the other side of this adoption and to have our sweet baby HOME! :)

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Our Adoption Story: Part 9

David and I knew that he would be driving back to Mississippi with Aubrey, Jude, and Alaina, and that I would be flying home with Francie. Her legs were going to be wrapped together for 2 weeks after she came out of traction, and even if she had been able to be in her carseat for 16 hours, that's not something that I was comfortable with or even considered. Anyway, we were sure about those two things, but what we weren't sure about was if we would be flying and driving by ourselves or if we would bring people to Baltimore to help us get home. I wasn't really comfortable with David driving that long by himself with the kids, and he didn't think that it was feasible for me to fly alone with Francie. I'd obviously be holding her the whole time plus mixing bottles and doing all of the check-in at the airport. It was hard to justify buying plane tickets for two extra people just so that they could turn around and travel home with us, though.

David and I were going around and around about what we should do when a very generous friend offered to fly my parents to Baltimore on his plane. This was the perfect solution, and we were so grateful! So, late Friday night after Francie came out of traction on Wednesday, my parents got into town. The kids were already asleep and I was with them, so David picked my parents up and took them to meet Francie. It was so sweet for Francie to FINALLY be able to meet some of her grandparents!

On Saturday morning, David picked my parents up from the hotel and brought them to The Children's House. The kids were excited to see them after being away for two weeks! We went over to the hospital so that the family could say goodbye to Francie, and then David, Aubrey, Jude, and my dad loaded up and started the long drive home. As they left the hospital room, Alaina was crying and screaming for me :( It was really sad to see them go. I was super thankful to have my mom there with me, though! We weren't sure exactly when Francie would be discharged, but we found out that it was going to be that day! We just had to wait for some prescriptions, and then we were on our way. I cannot even tell you how wonderful it was so pick up my baby and carry her out of that hospital FOR GOOD. I was on cloud nine :)

My mom, Francie, and I had plane tickets home for Monday, so that meant that we had the rest of Saturday and Sunday to just hang out and relax at The Children's House. On Saturday, I held Francie all evening while we watched some football and ate dinner at The Children's House. That night was a little...challenging ;) Francie was up a lot, but I was still so happy to have her with me!

On Sunday, we ventured out once. We walked several blocks to Walgreens for some formula and food. We cooked a frozen pizza for lunch and just hung at at The Children's House some more. We ate dinner there that night and did a bit of packing before bed. It was another long night. I was really missing David at that point ;)

Speaking of David, they made it home on Sunday night. Apparently the trip went ok.... I think there were some stressful parts, but they made it home safely, so I'll call that a success. Especially since I didn't have to experience any of the screaming that went on in the car. Haha!

On Monday morning, we woke up very excited to be heading home that day! We spent the entire morning cleaning our room and packing. Apparently Francie accumulated a lot of stuff in the hospital because we could barely get my suitcase to close. We even had to throw a few things away and my suitcase was still 3 pounds over the weight limit. When we checked out at The Children's House, we had been there for 37 nights. Whoa. That doesn't even count the 5 nights we spent in a hotel close to the hospital where Francie was born and the 2 nights we spent in the Ronald McDonald House. Wow.

We took a cab to the airport that afternoon. I had to hold Francie during the cab ride, which isn't something I'm comfortable with, but that was our only option. Thankfully, we made it to the airport safely. Our trip home was uneventful. I'm SO glad that my mom was with me for the trip. There's no way I could have done all that by myself. We flew to Atlanta and then to Jackson. On the trip from Atlanta to Jackson, my mom and I weren't sitting together. I was trying to hold Francie and mix a bottle and then feed her and burp her all without bumping into the person next to me. And then right before we landed, Francie had a massive spit-up and her leg wrap fell off. (It was just an ace bandage wrapped around her legs to keep her from moving them apart too much.) So, that was super stressful. I was trying to wipe up the spit-up and keep her happy AND hold her legs together. Needless to say, I was SUPER happy to land!

My mom and I got Francie all cleaned up and re-wrapped in the bathroom, and then we went to see our family. I teared up when I saw David and our kids, my dad and brothers, my two grandmothers and my grandfather, plus two of my best friends who had surprised me by coming to greet us. It was just so wonderful to be home, and to be greeted by people who love us and who had been praying for this day for so long was just such a special moment. I'll remember that homecoming forever.

I think I'm going to do one more post in this "adoption series" before I wrap it up. Mostly because I can't stand to end with 9 parts instead of 10.... haha!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Our Adoption Story: Part 8

David flew home on a Thursday night, and we rushed around trying to pack everything that we would need for three kids to be out out of town for several weeks. It was a crazy night! The sweet nurses at the hospital FaceTimed us that night so that we could see and talk to Francie. We hated that she was by herself for a few days, but we knew she was in excellent hands.

On Friday morning (not as early as we had hoped), we loaded up and began our long drive. When David and I originally were talking about taking our kids to Baltimore for part of the time that we would be there, we assumed we'd fly. But we quickly decided that flying with all of the kids would be a two parent job. So that meant that David still would have had to fly home to then turn around and fly back with the kids and me. That's a LOT of plane tickets to buy! Then when David and I were in Baltimore by ourselves, we realized how limited we would be in what we were able to do with the kids without a car. I wasn't comfortable with taking cabs everywhere with no carseats, and renting a car for two weeks on top of all of the flying just didn't seem like a good option financially. So, we finally decided that the smartest thing to do would be to drive. I'll be honest - neither of us were excited about this option. It's about a 16 hour trip from our house to Baltimore, and David and I figured it would be a miserable 16 hours with our three kids stuck in their carseats for so long. We knew that we'd stop somewhere and spend the night to break up the trip.

So, on Friday we drove and drove and drove.... all day long. The trip was actually much better than we expected. The kids watched a LOT of movies and there was definitely some whining and crying, but it really wasn't miserable. It was kind of nice to be able to visit with David in the car after not seeing him for so long :) Around 9pm on Friday night, we stopped in Bristol, Tennessee to spend the night. Our night in the hotel wasn't bad, and it gave us hope for the rest of the trip.

The next morning, we woke up to SNOW. I couldn't believe it when I looked out the window and everything was white. Thankfully, the roads were fine, so we continued on our way and the snow actually completely melted as we got further north. Weird, I know. We finally arrived in Baltimore just in time for dinner. It was nice to get settled in at The Children's House with the kids. After we ate, we walked over to the hospital to introduce the kids to Francie. I was really curious to see how this would go. I wasn't sure how the kids would react to seeing Francie hooked up to so many things with her little feet straight up in the air. But they weren't phased a bit. They absolutely fell in LOVE with Francie right away. It was so precious and sweet to see all four of my babies together finally!

We ended up spending two weeks in Baltimore with the kids. They were really fun weeks with some really stressful and not-so-fun times thrown in ;) For the most part, it was a great time with our family in a new city. There were definitely challenges involved like all five of us sleeping in one little room. We had some long nights. But we adjusted after a few days and did manage to get some sleep. The Children's House has passes for all kinds of fun things in Baltimore, so we tried to do as much as we could with the kids. We went to the zoo, the aquarium, a train museum, the children's museum, played hospital bingo several times, walked around the Inner Harbor, met several therapy dogs, and of course we spent a ton of time visiting with Francie, too. We ate dinner at The Children's House every night, and a lot of times they had fun activities for the kids after dinner.

On Wednesday, November 12th, exactly four weeks after Francie's surgery, she got to come out of traction!! It was such an exciting day. David and I were so happy to be able to hold her again, and the kids got to hold her for the first time. We knew then that it was only a matter of time before Francie would be discharged to go home, so we started making plans to travel home!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Our Adoption Story: Part 7

The day after Francie's surgery was pretty calm. She slept most of the day. She wasn't even eating at that point, so there was nothing for David and me to do except to be in her room and talk to her and touch her face. The second day was harder. Francie was awake more and seemed uncomfortable. She cried a good bit, which was heartbreaking for us since there was NOTHING we could do to comfort her. She had a whole "pain team" taking care of her and adjusting her medications. One of the doctors reminded us that keeping her comfortable during recovery was a marathon not a sprint, and it was going to be a lot of trial and error. He said that just because something worked one day didn't mean that it would work the next, and just because something didn't work yesterday didn't mean that it wouldn't work today. David and I were thankful to have such knowledgeable medical professionals taking care of Francie. The nurses in the PICU were wonderful, too!

On Saturday, Francie got to leave the intensive care unit and go to a regular room where she would be for the remainder of her stay. As soon as we got to her room, nurses were in and out and making adjustments and switching out her bed for another one and so on and so forth. They recover a lot of bladder exstrophy patients on this floor, so we knew that Francie was in VERY capable hands. David and I developed a routine during this time of spending the day with Francie and taking a lunch break and then taking turns getting little breaks in the afternoon. We spent a lot of time on our laptop and kindle and we talked to Francie frequently. It was during this time that I actually wrote a lot of these blog posts :)

Once Francie was out of the PICU and doing so well, David and I decided that I would fly home on Monday to be with our other kids. By that point, we had been gone for 16 days, and my mom had taken care of our kids the whole time. I missed our kids SO much and couldn't wait to get home to them, but I was also so sad to be leaving Francie and David. I just felt so torn, and I knew it was going to be hard to be separated for a while. On Monday morning, I went to the hospital and said goodbye to Francie, and then I took a cab to the airport and flew home. I was SO thankful that David was able to stay in Baltimore with Francie. We are so blessed that he has such a great job and was able to do a lot of work from Maryland! I don't know how we would have been able to make this work without that.

When I got home, my mom and Aubrey were waiting for me at the airport. I was so happy to see my sweet girl! That was by far the longest I've ever been away from my kids. When I got home, I was greeted by Alaina and a very grumpy Jude. Haha! I felt like I jumped right back into the saddle ;) David and I are both so incredibly thankful to my mom for taking care of our kids for such a long time and never once complaining. I know it was HARD, but she was so generous with her time, and again, I don't know how we would have done this without her.

So, for the next 10 days, I did this single mom gig. I had been pretty nervous about how this was going to go (I'm super blessed to have a husband who does a TON to help me with the kids and around the house, so I knew that I was REALLY going to feel his absence), but it was actually a very sweet time with my kids. I know that people were praying for me because of the fact that I was able to take care of my kids by myself for 10 days without feeling like I was going to pull my hair out. Haha! It was kind of weird to be home and just jump right back into our normal routine after the whirlwind 16 days that I had just experienced, but it was also really refreshing and encouraging to be home. I missed David and Francie tons, and it made me LONG for the day when our whole family would be home together. The evenings after I put the kids to bed were the hardest part. The house was just so QUIET and it was kind of lonely. During this time, I would call David and he would give me a full update on Francie's day.

Thankfully, Francie did well and continued to progress during this time. While I was away, she was able to start taking bottles again! That was an exciting milestone to reach! She still got some of her feedings via tube, but they offered her bottles and let her take some by mouth too. David was able to give her bottles, which made me happy :) He spent all day everyday at the hospital with Francie. I was so glad that she had her daddy by her side when I couldn't be with her!

Even though my time at home with the kids went as well as it could, we knew that we wanted our family together. So, after 10 days apart, David flew home for one night so that we could then DRIVE back to Baltimore the next day with the kids. The kids were SO happy to see David! By this point, they hadn't seen each other in almost 4 weeks. We were all excited (and a little nervous) about our big adventure to come in Baltimore!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Our Adoption Story: Part 6

Francie was readmitted to the hospital on Tuesday in preparation for her surgery on Wednesday. As soon as we got to her room, people started coming in to prepare Francie for surgery the next day. Her nurse told us that Francie wouldn't eat again before her surgery, and that made for a long day. It was sad seeing her hungry and wanting a bottle but not getting one. She was also going to be given something to "clean her out" before surgery. So the poor girl was EMPTY and she wasn't pleased. A team came in to look at Francie's veins for her PICC line that would be placed the next day. David and I spent the day at the hospital with Francie and signed about a million consent forms on Tuesday, and that evening we went back to the Children's House to try to get some sleep. We knew we were in for a long day on Wednesday.

David and I got up at 5:15 on Wednesday morning and went over to the hospital. I was feeling really emotional and jittery that morning. When we got to Francie's room, it was still dark and she was wrapped up sleeping in her bed. She looked so peaceful, and it made me SO sad to think about what was to come. She wasn't connected to any wires at that point, so David and I were able to pick her up and hold her for a few minutes. I was crying as we prayed over her. Pretty soon, someone came to take us to the OR waiting room. I sat in a wheelchair and held Francie and David walked with us. It felt similar to leaving the hospital with a new baby. Except this tiny baby wasn't leaving the hospital. She was about to have major surgery. It was surreal. When we finally got to the OR waiting room (it felt like it took forever), they put us in a little curtained off room. There were more consent forms to be signed and people coming in to talk to us about what was going to happen when suddenly someone mentioned Francie's PDA in her heart and everything came to a full stop. I need to back up a little bit right here.

After Francie was born, they tested her heart to look for possible heart defects. Children with Down syndrome have a pretty high chance of having heart abnormalities, so we were very relieved and happy to hear that Francie's heart was structurally good. This was a huge answer to prayer. They did tell us that Francie had a moderate to large PDA in her heart. They told us that this is common in newborns and that it would most likely close on its own. When they told us it wasn't cause for concern, we kind of put it out of our minds. All of this happened at the first hospital where Francie was born, and after she was transferred to Hopkins several people asked us if Francie's heart was ok. When asked, we would mention the PDA, but again, no one seemed concerned.

So, back to surgery day.... apparently the doctors at Hopkins had just gotten the results from the other hospital, and they were concerned about the size of her PDA and going under anesthesia. Different doctors kept coming in to talk to David and me about the benefit of going ahead with the surgery vs. the risk of putting Francie under anesthesia for so long and putting stress on her heart. (They had told us that the surgery would take about 10 hours, Yes, you read that right. TEN HOURS.) They said they were going to need to do a sonogram to see if the PDA had closed or at least gotten smaller. They said if it hadn't, they weren't comfortable going forward with the surgery.

That was a blow. Of course David and I were thankful that they were being cautious. We absolutely did not want to put Francie's heart at risk by going forward with the surgery. But we were literally sitting there waiting for them to take her to the OR. They had done the surgery prep. We were as mentally prepared as we were going to get. We were THERE. And suddenly it just felt like the rug had been pulled out from under us. I was a little bit frustrated that this wasn't discovered sooner, to be honest. But it wasn't, so there was nothing to be done at that point but wait and see. I'll be honest, I did NOT think that the PDA would be closed. I even told David that there was no way the surgery was happening that day. One of the doctors even said that sometimes "people with Francie's genetic makeup (meaning Down syndrome) are a little slower to do things"... like close PDA's. I prayed that it would be closed, but I'm ashamed to say that I didn't have much faith.

They took us into the actual operating room for the sonogram. David and I got to stand there and hold Francie's hands and watch the whole thing. Of course we had no clue what we were seeing, and the person doing the sonogram just told us that a doctor would have to read the results. So, after it was over, we waited. There were a couple of doctors and nurses in and out and we made small talk for a bit. But I was so nervous and tense the whole time. Finally, one of the doctors got a text and she said, "It's closed. We're on." I think I probably looked really shocked and I said, "You mean she's having surgery?!" She said yes, and I just remember thanking the Lord and being so blown away. I know that the Lord closed that PDA. At that point, David and I had to quickly leave the OR. We kissed Francie goodbye, and walked out. The goodbye was actually a lot less sad than it could have been because we were just so thankful that the surgery was actually HAPPENING at that point.

David and I then had the whole day ahead of us, and it was hard to figure out what to do with ourselves. They had our phone numbers, so they told us there was no need to stay in the waiting room or even the hospital. They advised us to go back to the Children's House and try to get some rest. I thought we probably would, but we ended up never leaving the hospital. We went to the cafeteria for a long time and called/texted family and friends and then we walked around the hospital and went back to the cafeteria, and on and on the day went. Every once in a while, someone would call to tell us that the surgery was going well.

Finally late that afternoon, they called to tell us that the surgery was over and the doctors wanted to talk to us in the waiting room. We hurried up and got to talk to Francie's surgeons. They told us that the surgery had gone really well and that Francie would need to be in the hospital recovering for about 4 weeks. I don't think I've mentioned yet that Francie had to be in traction after her surgery for the whole 4 weeks. Part of her surgery included closing her pelvis, so they had to keep her totally still so that it could heal properly. That meant that we couldn't hold her that entire time. Four weeks is a LONG time, but we were expecting her to be in traction for 6 weeks, so we were actually really pleasantly surprised and excited when the doctor said 4. After we finished talking to the doctors and they left, David and I stayed in the waiting room waiting for them to let us know that Francie was in a room and we could see her. We waited. And waited. And waited some more. It was literally about two hours before they told us she was in a room. Apparently when they said they were "finishing up" they just meant that the surgeons' work was done. They later told us that they still had to close everything up and bring her out from anesthesia.

David and I finally got to go to the PICU and see our sweet baby, She was lying on a full size hospital bed with her little legs tied up completely vertically. It was really bizarre to see her like that, but I was just SO relieved to see her! She was still asleep and the nurse said that she would be for a long time. They have to keep these kids pretty sedated so that they don't move around too much. Thankfully, Johns Hopkins does a GREAT job with pain management post surgery. This surgery that Francie had is an EXTREMELY painful recovery, so one reason why we wanted to go to Hopkins was because of their great pain management. Fun fact: Francie actually had an epidural! That blew my mind. It was great because it kept her fairly still but after she got past the most painful days, she was able to be awake and still comfortable instead of just being completely sedated the whole time.

Anyway, David and I visited with Francie for a while that night, and then we went back to the Children's House to get some sleep. By the time we left, we had been at the hospital for about 14 hours. We were exhausted, but we went to bed oh so thankful that night.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Our Adoption Story: Part 5

Thursday was the big day! We were finally moving to Baltimore and Johns Hopkins. Francie was being taken by ambulance, and David and I were driving. When we arrived in Baltimore, we returned our rental car and then got a cab to the hospital. We immediately went to the NICU to see Francie. I'll be honest - it was really difficult for me emotionally when we first got to Hopkins. First of all, it's huge. It was just super overwhelming, and we had no idea where to go. Second, when we did get to the NICU, we realized that it was going to be a VERY different experience than the other hospital where we had been. At the other hospital, the NICU was a big room, and everyone was in there together. You saw other parents there visiting their babies, and you even got to know your "neighbors" a little bit. The people next to us would ask us about Francie, and we would ask about their baby too. You constantly saw nurses walking around and you could hear them chit chatting and visiting. There was just a lot going on, in a comforting way. It had sort of started to feel like a little community to us, as cheesy as that sounds. Well, when we got to Hopkins, it was just a completely different atmosphere. All of the patients in the NICU there have private rooms. I know that sounds really nice, and it did have its advantages. But you really never saw anyone other than your nurse. And ours wasn't friendly. At all. I don't know if she was just having a bad day or what, but I was not a fan. All of our other nurses the entire time we were there were super sweet, but it was just hard to be greeted at a new place by someone who was less than warm. Plus, the NICU at Hopkins was just so quiet. In a weird way. I felt like I needed to whisper. (We did eventually adapt, and overall we had a good experience in the NICU.) Oh, also: on our first night at Hopkins when we were leaving the NICU, David and I saw a fight in the waiting room. There was yelling, cussing, and much drama which resulted in security being called. At that point, I was thinking, "What the HECK are we doing here?"

Things started happening immediately after we got to Hopkins. A urology team swarmed the room and examined Francie, and they scheduled an MRI and hip x-ray for that day. It was a whirlwind. But we were thankful that things were happening! This was the hardest day for me emotionally up until that point, though, like I said. I just suddenly felt super homesick. I missed my house, my town, my support group, and most of all, my kids at home. David and I were able to get into the Ronald McDonald House that night, and when we arrived, I started feeling a little better. There was a home cooked meal for dinner, and the atmosphere was very friendly.

The next morning, Francie had an exam under anesthesia. This was when it was going to be determined if Francie's bladder was big enough to go ahead with the surgery or if we needed to wait until she was older to have the closure. David and I were really praying that we could go ahead with the surgery because we wanted to just get it over with, and mostly because there is a high success rate when this surgery is done early. David and I got to meet the doctor who would be performing Francie's surgery (he is the reason we were at Johns Hopkins in the first place - he's the best of the best for this surgery), and he immediately put us at ease. He said that he did believe that we could go forward with the surgery, and he said it would happen on Wednesday (this was on Friday). Then he said that there was no reason for Francie to stay in the NICU over the weekend and that they were going to work on getting her discharged!! This was a huge shock! David and I NEVER expected to have any time at "home" with Francie before the surgery. We didn't have any baby stuff with us and were completely unprepared. But really excited! Since Francie had been under anesthesia that morning and hadn't eaten since midnight the night before, she was going to need to stay in the hospital that afternoon and night, but they said that she would be discharged the next day.

That night, David and I took a cab to Target and bought some baby essentials. We didn't have so much as a onesie with us in Baltimore (remember that we left home really suddenly and earlier than we expected). Haha! The hospital was giving us bottles and diapers, so we bought formula, swaddlers, and some pajamas for Francie to wear. That was a surreal shopping trip! We spent that night at the Ronald McDonald House, too, and then next day we were moving to the Children's House. It's very similar to the Ronald McDonald House, but it's right across the street from the hospital instead of a cab ride away. They were going to provide a pack n play in our room for Francie to sleep in.

Saturday afternoon, Francie was discharged from the hospital and we were able to take her home for a few days. When I looked at our sweet little baby dressed in footie pajamas and wrapped in a hospital blanket, I had to laugh at how different this was than our other babies' home coming. It got even weirder when we walked out of the hospital and proceeded to cross a busy street and walk down the block trying to shield her from the rain and cold with our arms. We then took her inside of our "house" which was actually somewhere that I had never stepped foot into until that very minute. It was a pretty bittersweet moment. To be honest, I kept thinking about how I wished that we were actually taking Francie home where she would have a room full of baby stuff set up just for her and be greeted by her sisters and brother who I'm sure would be arguing over who was going to hold her first. We'd have grandparents popping in and friends dropping off meals and it would just be a completely different experience. I got a little sad thinking about everything Francie was missing out on. But my perspective changed that night. The Children's House has a "family meal" every night. Immediately two other moms came and introduced themselves to me and were just so warm and sweet. After chatting for a minute, we found out that their children have exstrophy just like Francie! We connected over that right away, and it felt so good to talk to people who have been in our shoes. As we sat around the table eating dinner that night talking to complete strangers, it hit me that Francie's "homecoming" was no less special than our other babies'. Of course I still wished that things were different for Francie's sake and that she wasn't facing major surgery, but this is Francie's story and it's a beautiful one. It occurred to me that night that even though Francie didn't get to come home to a house full of visitors and baby paraphernalia that she doesn't really need anyway, she was at least out of the hospital and with her parents who love her more than anything. It was just a neat experience because I felt like the Lord took something that could have been sad and redeemed it. He provided an atmosphere of home and community amongst complete strangers and He gave me an attitude of thankfulness when I was originally feeling a tiny bit sorry for myself.

We had two full, beautiful days with Francie at home. We didn't even venture outside the whole time we had her with us. Our days and nights were broken into 4 hour increments around her feedings. She ate well and slept great. We held her almost constantly. She became more alert during that time, and she would have pretty long periods of awake time. She was so sweet and laid back. She rarely cried, and when she did, she usually quit crying immediately when we would talk to her. We got to FaceTime with my mom and the kids, and they were able to see Francie out of the hospital and awake. Those were just really good, happy days, and I'm so thankful that we were able to have that time with her before her long hospitalization. We had to readmit her to the hospital the day before her surgery, so on Tuesday we got up, dressed her, gave her a bottle, and made the short walk over to the hospital for the LONG journey that awaited us.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Our Adoption Story: Part 4

The days after Francie's birth were both incredible and incredibly frustrating.

They were incredible because David and I were able to have full access to the NICU where Francie was being cared for. We could come and go as we pleased, and we were able to hold and and love on Francie and bond with her. She was doing great! She was breathing on her own, and she was a fantastic eater. All of the nurses raved over how well she ate. She was taking 2-3 ounces of formula when she was just a day old (apparently that's a lot for a brand new baby - since I've breastfed all of my other babies, I had no idea how much newborns eat. Ha!). David and I were able to give Francie her bottles, and the nurses even taught us how to change her diapers and care for her bladder. We originally thought that Francie would be transferred to Johns Hopkins immediately and that the surgery would happen within the first 72 hours after her birth. Because David and I knew that we would have to get plane tickets after we got word that birthmom was in labor and then travel to be with the baby, we didn't even know if we would arrive in time to hold her before the surgery. So to be able to not only hold her, but to have days of caring for her and spending hours at a time with her was a huge blessing. We bonded so much during those days.

This was also an incredibly frustrating time, though, because we had heard over and over from different doctors that it's best if the surgery happens within 72 hours after birth, and it became apparent pretty quickly that we were going to miss that window. We should have expected this, I guess, but there is just a LOT of red tape that comes along with an adoption. Add in the fact that this adoption was spanning three states (our state, the baby's birth state, and Maryland where Johns Hopkins is located) plus the fact that this was a special needs adoption and the baby required major surgery soon after birth, and it was kind of a logistical nightmare. There were just a lot of insurance issues that had to be worked out before Francie could be transferred. Thankfully, the doctors, nurses, and social workers at the hospital where Francie was born were WONDERFUL. They were so sweet, and we knew that they were working as hard as they could to get everything worked out.

Those days were kind of an emotional roller coaster. David and I stayed in a hotel close to the hospital, and every morning we woke up, packed our suitcases, and checked out of the hotel with so much hope that THIS would be the day that we were transferred. We would then drive to the hospital in our rental car, spend the morning with Francie in the NICU, and take a break for lunch. We ate in the hospital cafeteria (the food was way better than you would expect!), and then we went back to the NICU. During this time, David would often go to the lobby and make some work phone calls, send emails, and talk to our insurance company on the phone trying to get everything worked out. Sometimes after he came back to the NICU, I would go take a breather and get a cup of coffee while I played on my phone, texted friends, or called my mom and the kids. Around this time each day, it would become apparent that the transfer would not, in fact, happen that day, so we would call our hotel once again and get a room for another night. We would stay at the hospital until around dinner time, and then we would leave and go out to eat. There were several restaurants close to the hospital, so we would go to one of those for dinner. After we ate, we would go back to the NICU, hold Francie some more, maybe give her one more bottle, and tell her goodnight. At that point, we'd go to our hotel, get ready for bed, and repeat it all the next day. This became our routine, and it lasted Sunday through Wednesday. That doesn't sound like long, but believe me, it felt like AGES at the time. Finally, on Wednesday afternoon, we got word that Francie would really and truly be transferred to Hopkins via ambulance the next morning, We were SO excited and thankful!