Tag Archives: Transcultural Adoption

Getting Sick

15 May

This week has been a little hectic in part due to a sick kid.  If you assumed the sick kid was my HIV child, you would be wrong.  She has been home for 5 months and has only had one little cold that did not require a doctor’s visit.  On the other hand our son, who has been home for 4 months, has been sick several times and is the one that is sick with his second double ear infection plus he has ringworm on his scalp.  We have thought several times…isn’t this our “healthy” child?

Aside from the HIV virus (which may need medication),  children with HIV are “normal” kids.  If their HIV medicines are controlling their virus well, they really don’t have a compromised immune system – where they are getting sick all the time.  Our child’s blood work or CD4 count looks like a “normal” child.  SO she has not been sick more than “normal” kids in fact she has been sick less often than our other two “normal” children. 

I assumed our HIV child would get sick each time one of our other children got sick…that has not happened yet. 

That being said…I would like to write about a few of the things I do for all of my children which I think benefits my HIV child as well.  These are common sense good health practices for all children.   Here are a few of the things I do…

*We wash our hands before eating even when we have been at home.
*We don’t eat or drink after each other.
*We always wear shoes outdoors.
*We don’t eat raw cookie dough.
*I wash all fresh fruits and veggies with soap before we eat them.
*I use hand sanitizer on their hands if we can’t get to a sink.

But you can only do so much.  Kid will be kids.  Our daughter has already eaten a handful of potting soil  and has been caught playing in the toilet 5 times.  What are you going to do?


The Road to My First Mother’s Day…

8 May

I am so giddy about celebrating my first mother’s day this year!  A little birdie told me that I may be getting an apple tree (4 year olds are easy to get secrets out of!!)  More than the apple tree or the day off from cooking, I am still giddy and excited about how I became a mom this year.  I am amazed at how God matched our daughter with us even before we were ready to consider adoption…

You see, our daughter was born before we got married 🙂  We will be married 4 years this fall, and she is 4 next month.  When we started the adoption process last year as first time parents, we were sure that we wanted a healthy infant girl.  We didn’t look at the Waiting Child List because special needs and older children weren’t  something we thought we could do for our first adoption…”Maybe later” we told ourselves.  After moving twice, paperchasing, and buying baby clothes, God changed our hearts in a big way.  I had this “curiosity” for what the children were like on the Waiting Child List.  I found the password, and up popped a little girl with a HUGE smile.  She was all the things I didn’t think I could handle…Three years old, been waiting almost a year, HIV+, etc.  I must not have gotten much done that day at work, I bet I looked at her photo 100 times, and said no to God 99 times.  When I got home from work, I told Ed how I had seen this little girl and I was afraid.  It’s the only word I can use to describe how I felt.  I was afraid I had already fallen in love with her, I was afraid she would die as soon as we got her home, I was afraid that she had a damaged past and would act out in some horrible way, and I was afraid I wouldn’t know what to tell her or how to help her when she got older and began to realize the stigma attached to her virus.

We had some really great friends pray for us.  Ed was hesitant at first, he was still partial to the infant girl plan.  I prayed that God would bring us together on this issue in an undeniable way.  Later that week, Ed came to me and said “If we don’t do this, then who?  She needs a family, and we need a daughter”  Both being on the same page at this point, we met with a specialist from Nationwide Children’s Hospital who was awesome, and actually got us really excited about this.  We left the meeting thinking, we can do this for sure.  I called AWAA that day and accepted the referral.

This past January, we met our daughter in Ethiopia.  There was a long line of families ahead of us.  They were calling them up one at a time, and the tension grew as families were closer to their child.  All of the sudden, they say “WXXX  family-your daughter is getting anxious and must come next.”  The next minute of my life changed me forever.  I became the mommy to a beautiful bouncy, energetic, healthy, loving girl.  Words can not capture the way I felt.  After we played ball a few times, and had cookies, I just knew she was always a part of us.

We’ve been home almost 4 months.  We feel like she has been with us since the beginning.  We have family jokes, nicknames, and quirky ways we do things as a family… for example, Pill time at our house is the time when we all take our vitamins and supplements while our daughter takes hers.  We each look for the disgusting tasting one, and we have to eat it first.  Some days she is forcing me to take my fish oils! 

Our daughter’s viral load is undetectable.  We do meds twice a day.  We go see the wonderful people at the clinic every 2-3 months.  There are weeks when it doesn’t even cross my mind that our daughter is positive.   She is much more healthy than other 3-4 year olds we know around here.

We’ve also learned that 4 year olds are so much fun to explore with and discover.  My daughter tried to read her first book tonight.  She loves to make up dances and we follow her with them.  She loved to eat all our favorite food from before she was adopted.

All of the things that scared me the most were erased quickly.  I am so proud to be her mommy today.  I hope to have years of spending time under the apple trees with my kids and remember back to the time when God changed my heart and made me a mother to the most wonderful little girl.


It’s Not About You

26 Apr

When I look in the rearview mirror, I realize that the biggest risks were the greatest opportunities. Those were the moments that I came alive. Those were the moments when God set the stage and changed the trajectory of my life.

A year ago we didn’t set out to adopt an HIV positive child.  We were only thinking HEALTHY INFANT.  I didn’t want to deal with any “issues”, so I figured this was the safest route.  When our family was getting shots at Public Health for our trip to Ethiopia, the nurse said, “If you get referred an HIV child, don’t worry about it, I’ll help you get through it.”  I thought that was an odd comment, but it stuck with me.  Shortly after we had sent our dossier to Ethiopia I ran across the cutest little sisters on the Waiting Child List.  The older sister was HIV positive.  I felt like these girls could possibly be for us, but there were a few things that didn’t match up with MY PLANS.  They weren’t infants, one had a disease, and there were two of them!  His ways are higher than our ways and his plans are not our plans.  I went back to the core reasons why I set out on this adoption journey to begin with.  I knew I wanted to LIVE out the gospel for my children to see.  And I remembered that THIS WASN’T ABOUT ME! 

I talked to three families who had adopted HIV positive kids, including a pediatrician and pharmacist.  They all said basically the same thing.  It’s a managable disease and HIV was the least of their concerns.  I’m so thankful that they were a resource and source of encouragement for me.  Our newly adopted girls are a total joy for our family!!  HIV is not something I think about on a daily basis because our daughter does not require medication at this time.

I’m so grateful that I didn’t miss this opportunity to adopt these precious girls.  I’m thankful that I didn’t let fear steal my joy.  And I admire all you mothers who LIVE out the gospel everyday with courage and calling.

The Road We Traveled. . .

23 Apr

Some families always have a clear destination in mind.

Others like to travel the open road.

Some people set a course at age 8 drawing up house designs, and dreaming of their life 25 years down the road. Others take it as it comes. For the course charters, those free-thinkers are perhaps way to out there, dare we say, “irresponsible.” For the free-thinkers, those planners never take any risks, they just don’t “have faith.” So what kind of person or family are you?

Did you have elaborate plans and conversations before you got married about just how many children you would have? Did you attempt the, “we’ll work 5 years, and then start having kids approach?” or perhaps the, “what’s birth-control approach, lets start our family now!”, or maybe like others THOUGHT you had “THE PLAN” only to find out that your plan wasn’t necessarily God’s plan- you couldn’t have children. Have you ever met someone who actually sat down pre-marriage, planned, prayed and asked God to give them a medically fragile child, or a son or daughter that had attachment issues, and was labeled special needs? (just a thought)

Well, no matter what road you traveled to arrive here today at this blog post, you ARE reading about adoptions, and you ARE at a blog about HIV+ adoptions. So maybe now’s a good time to take a second and ask yourself, “Did I intentionally set this course searching for information about HIV+ adoptions, or was I just clicking on links?” Regardless here you are, and here’s our families story. Which as you’ll see combined the free-thinker and the course setter in God’s amazing sovereignty to land us in this beautiful journey we’re on!

Needless to say, no one really just ends up accidentally pursuing an adoption for a HIV+ child. For us we pursued our first adoption of a sibling group throughout 2008. This process began differently though. We applied requesting one healthy infant of either gender. About 3 months into the process and after discussions with our social worker though we thought we might be open to some “special needs.” Mainly correctable, but even to the extent of a deaf child. Our agency asked us to fill out a special application to be matched with a waiting child and we went through and checked off different needs we’d be open to. In the end we ended up with a broad request for healthy siblings under 8 or one “special needs child.” However we did NOT include HIV as a medical need that we were open to. It just seemed too scary, too unknown, too difficult. Shortly after we were matched with siblings who have been a wonderful addition to our family.

Once life semi-normalized again with the addition of 2 children I became curious about what was happening in adoption and which children were still on the waiting child’s list with our agency. I logged in and saw a familiar face. A face of a little boy who had been on the WCL (waiting child list) for well over 14 months, he had been on their in fact since the early stages our first adoption. He was 5 and had HIV. So here he was with 3 strikes against him: 1. Over three years old 2. a boy 3. Hiv+ I started to wonder if anyone really adopted HIV+ children. I sent an email to our agency asking if they had processed any HIV+ adoptions, they said they had and gave me names of families willing to be a reference. Then I asked if anyone had ever reviewed this little dudes file for adoption. They said that sadly no one had. That night or shortly there after I brought up the topic with my husband. His response, was something along the lines of, “well sure lets look into it!” So I showed him the WCL with multiple children on it and the next day from work he texted me and said, “So how much do you think it’d cost to adopt all 14 children on that list?” I love the heart that my husband has, he is the spontaneous, yet faith-filled man that is open to traveling whatever road God may highlight in our lives. I of course was also ecstatic, but in a different way. My next few thoughts consisted of: finding everyone who had ever done something like this, developing a multi-page questionaire for them to answer, researching what life looked like living with HIV, what were the risks involved, . . . etc . . .etc.

Finally one year after returning home with our first children by adoption we reapplied with AWAA with the intent to adopt that precious and positive little dude on the WCL and possibly one other positive child. We haven’t been referred him or any other child yet as we are not so patiently waiting for our homestudy to be signed off on at headquarters. ( I may or may not be finding some way to almost daily send reminders that we’d like our homestudy rushed to the front of everyone’s priority list. . . wink wink)

So here we are, in process and approved to actually be referred 2 HIV+ children. I look back and wonder, “How did we get here?” At the beginning of the post I mentioned that I don’t really know anyone who prays, “Lord please give us a ____________ (insert HIV+ child, Downs Syndrome child, ADHD child, heart defect child, etc) Even I haven’t prayed that specific prayer and here we are! So how did this course charting, detail planning mom get to this place? Simply turn-by-turn. I never really got my concrete 5 yr plan, but everyday God has been faithful to unveil the next step. Sometimes I think if God laid it all out for me at the age of 8 with my fancy house designs which included an indoor/outdoor swimming pool and horse barn, I would have freaked to think that He’d have me on a course with no college degree, infertility, 6 moves in 6 years of marriage, renting apartments, homeschooling children, and now in a cozy townhouse that we rent pursuing our second adoption of 2 HIV+ children! I actually laugh at the thought! Can you imagine that childhood conversation with your mom? “Hey mom look at my cute house design there are 4 kids in the 3 bedroom house, they’re of a different race and ethnicity, they have some special needs that may deplete our savings accounts, knowing their histories causes me tremendous heartache, we decided not to save for the down payment on a house so that we could adopt these children. . . Isn’t that awesome!” YES my friends – IT IS. Its the most incredible thing ever actually. And I’m so glad this is the road we’re traveling.

The Known of Our Unknown

20 Apr

All three of our children have had little to no information given to us about their birthfamilies.  All the unknowns are difficult, but I think the information that is most concerning to me is what I can know to be true about our precious HIV daughter’s birthfamily…either her birthmother and/or birthfather has HIV or AIDS.

Are they already sick with AIDS?  Are they getting medications?  Do they know they have the virus?  Did they know their child had HIV?  Can they find help?  How are they treated?

In the book, There is No You Without Me, I read about how people with HIV were treated in Ethiopia.  I believe there is still widespread ignorance about the HIV virus in Africa.  People don’t want to be tested for fear they will lose their jobs or will get run out of their neighborhood if they have HIV/AIDS.  That book was written in 2006 so I hope and pray things have begun to change in Ethiopia.  

What will I tell our daughter someday about her birthfamily?  I don’t really know how I will completely word things yet.   But I will be able to tell her I  pray for her birthfamily and for Ethiopia.  I will be able to share with her that although her birthfamily was not able to parent her that they loved her and wanted her to get good care.  I will also tell her that God had a purpose and a plan for her life and that include her Ethiopian family and ours. 

Oh, how I wish they could know their daughter was in a family 
Oh, how I wish they could know she is receiving the best medical care.   
Oh, how I wish they could know how much we love her.  
Oh, how I wish we could know them too.

Praying that God gives them peace.

Our Journey (Part 2)

18 Apr

As we continued to consider this little girl with HIV, we began to try to answer the question…Why not a child with HIV?  We had two main questions that we had to answer.  1.Can we afford to parent a HIV child? 2.Is it ok that we live in a community that we feel like we can’t be open about her HIV?

My husband is a pastor of a small rural church and God gives us all that we need, but we are definitely not wealthy.  We thought God probably calls doctors, lawyers, and businessmen to parent HIV children, not a rural pastor and his stay at home wife.  Wrong!

We checked into whether we could add a HIV child to our insurance.  Yes! 
We looked into the costs of copays for prescriptions.  Not too bad. 

Really finances could not be that closed-door for us.  We really believe that everything we own is provided by God and it  belongs to Him.   God will continue to provide for us.  If He has a HIV child for us to parent, He will provide for all of our needs.

So then we turned our focus to the much debated decision of disclosure.  We sought counsel from several different people (our family, our social worker, our HIV doctor’s office, and our state’s department of health).  They agreed with some of our concerns about our rural community, and no one  recommended complete openness about our daughter.

We then asked our agency… Did AWAA feel comfortable with a family if they believed that they needed to keep their child’s HIV private?  I was told that AWAA believes that each family can best make the decision about what to share about their child.  They said we know our community and we will know our child best. 

So we began to feel that if God was calling us to this child maybe privacy is what is best for her.  We also acknowledged that God knows our future and that maybe we will not always live in our town or maybe our community will change. 

So in the end we could not find an answer to why Not?

We really began to not want to find a reason.

Over a month’s time the fears of all the “what ifs?” began to disappear and we gained confidence about parenting a child with HIV.    We were able to say, “Yes” to a very little almost two-year old with the prettiest big eyes and an even bigger smile. 

Earlier this year, we traveled to Ethiopia and brought her home.  She is absolutely precious.  We are so glad we took the step of faith to parent her.  We are truly blessed.  I am definitely not an expert about HIV, but I know a lot more than before.  I look forward to posting more our experience.

Our Journey to a Precious Child (Part 1)

16 Apr

 Proverbs 16:9 says, “In a man’s heart he plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” 

Our second adoption process was a long journey.  I don’t plan on going into all the details of our adoption  but want to share some things that lead us to a HIV adoption and to show God’s amazing Providential Hand in bringing families together.

We started our second adoption in 2007.  After lots of changes started happening with the country we had chosen, we decided to switch to the Ethiopian program.  In November of 2008, I read the book, There is No Me Without You.  It seemed like the thing you did when you adopt from Ethiopia, you read this book.  I read it and was deeply moved and yet at that time never even thought about HIV adoption.

After all the paperwork for Ethiopia and months of waiting, we began to think through whether we should consider a special needs toddler on the waiting child list.  We at first thought through lots of stuff we felt comfortable with… like cleft palate or limb deformities, etc…  but when we talked with our adoption coordinator, she told us the main special needs they see in Ethiopian is children with hepatitis or HIV.  We immediately told them we could not do HIV but started researching about hepatitis. 

AWAA gave us the password to the waiting child list so we started look at it occasionally for a toddler age child.  So one day two cute little children a 2 yr old boy and a 3 yr old girl appeared but they had HIV not hepatitis.   Once again we thought we can’t do HIV, but here were these two precious children.  We began to think about well…why not HIV? 

After a month or so of wrestling over it in our minds and praying and seeking God’s will, my husband said we needed to have closure on this decision and he said we needed to stop considering HIV.  I agreed.  A month later I look on the waiting child’s list again and the two precious HIV toddlers had “file under review.”  I actually felt relieved…like whew!…God had other families for these children…I was off the hook…then I scrolled down and saw a new face…of a sweet little girl…who was also HIV positive.  My stomach dropped.  I felt like God was saying to me….I have families for these other two…but who is going to be her mom?

I showed her picture to my husband later.  I told him I know he said we need to say NO to HIV, but please just look at this little girl.  As soon as he looked at her, he said ok lets really research HIV to see what we are to do.

At that time we began really researching everything about HIV from medicine to insurance and talked with other AWAA families. 

I can’t say as soon as I saw our daughter’s picture I was like…that is my daughter.  I did not feel that way…I was too scared about being called to adopt a HIV child.  But I had total compassion for this little one.  Who was going to be her mom and dad? 

For us we began to ask…Why not us? Why do we think that God would NOT call us to adopt a HIV orphan? 

Why NOT?