Tag Archives: adoption

Adoption Reflections: Getting to know you

I left off my story the night before Brian & I flew to Michigan.

Saturday morning, Brian and I got up before the sun. We went shopping for a few more baby things and for some presents for Patrick’s birth family. Then we went to the airport.

It was so strange waiting in line with a carseat, but no baby. In fact, the sight of us juggling so much luggage and an empty carseat drew some attention. A very kind man ended up helping me in line while Brian was off getting some money at the ATM. We were talking about our reasons for flying. He was taking equipment to Africa where he was going to teach people in 3rd world areas to build and maintain wells. When I explained why we were flying, he was in awe. It was very strange to meet this great humanitarian and have him be impressed with what I was doing.

We were flying standby, so Brian ended up about 10 rows behind me. I remember hearing him telling other passengers why we were flying and thinking “This is all so surreal.”

The amazing thing was, for all I was nervous, it was also all so peaceful. I’ll always remember how beautiful the fall leaves were on the trees as we landed.. and how right everything felt.

It was evening before we got to our hotel room, and then to the hospital.

We arrived and explained why we were there and were shown to a family waiting room. Where we waited, and waited, and waited. Finally, we met Patrick’s birth family… his mother, grandmother and aunt. Our timing couldn’t have been worse. We ended up arriving in the middle of a family crisis. But they amazed us with the grace and kindness they showed us.

We talked to the head of the NICU and to Patrick’s family for a while…learned more about his medical needs, and then finally got to meet Patrick.

I remember thinking that he was SO tiny! Just this fragile little ball of baby, with a head full of black hair. I got to hold him that night and was just amazed by him. We also got to know his birthmother and her family a little bit.

Soothed by my paci

We went back to our hotel a bit overwhelmed and not sure what to do. We were overwhelmed by how much of his medical status we hadn’t known… and by the whole situation in general.

But, we’d made a committment to give Patrick a day, and so the next day we went back to the hospital. We explained to the nurse that we’d like to learn all we could about caring for Patrick, and she was wonderful about giving us that chance. She taught us to change his diapers (around tubes). And she let us hold him.

Brian and I each got some time alone with him that day. I remember holding and rocking him and singing to him the words of a children’s song:

“I am a child of God,
and He has sent me here,
has given me an earthly home
with parents kind and dear.”

And my heart broke at the idea that Patrick didn’t yet know where his earthly home and parents were. And I didn’t know if I was able to provide that for him or not.

As the evening wore on, the head of the adoption agency finally came. She’d gotten word that no one from the agency had really acknowledged our arrival. She explained to us Michigan’s adoption laws, and what she knew of Patrick, his medical needs, and his birth family.

While she was there, two elders from our church arrived… courtesy Patrick’s grandma. (I’ll forever be indebted to her for sending them). They came to bring us the sacrament, and while they were there gave us priesthood blessings of comfort.

We visited with the adoption supervisor for hours, and then went back and spent a bit more time with Patrick. Then we went back to our hotel.

That night, as we were sorting through the dozens of pictures we’d taken that day, one jumped out at me. I looked at it and just KNEW that I loved this baby! And that I wanted him to be my son.

First days

Monday morning, we went back to the hospital. Finally people were there! We met more doctors, the hospital social worker, and the care manager who’d help us to get Patrick home. Calls were made to Primary Children’s to see if the doctors in Utah could take care of Patrick. His surgeons came and talked to us about Short Gut and transplantation. Finally we felt like we were getting a grasp on this situation, and amazingly, we felt like it might be something we could do.

Then we had the big decision to make. The night before, the woman from the adoption agency had explained that the papers we’d signed in Utah would expire if they weren’t filed on Monday. Besides, Brian had to fly back to Utah that afternoon for a conference at work. We had to make a decision before he left for the airport about whether or not we were adopting Patrick.

We held a “family conference” that morning… Just Brian, Patrick and I. We talked about the decision we were facing… and the fact that we felt ready to move forward. Then Brian turned to Patrick and asked him if he’d like to join our family.

He had been sleeping, but he opened his eyes and kind of looked at Brian, as if sizing him up. Then settled back down to sleep in his arms, as if totally content. We took that as a yes.

We asked our nurse to take our first family picture.

At 1, Patrick’s social worker from the adoption agency and the hospital social worker met with us. We didn’t have much time, so we signed papers in a hurry. Then we left to take Brian to the airport.

And that was it… Brian kissed me goodbye at the curb and said “Take care of our son.” We had a son! One with far more troubles ahead that we could imagine… but one who also just filled every room he was in with the feeling of peace and joy.

We’ve never looked back. Patrick is our little boy and we love him with all our hearts!

Through Grandma’s eyes

I have so far resisted the impulse to write and to let Emily handle all the blogging. But after reading her most recent post about the beginning of this journey, I feel like adding some of my own thoughts.

It is difficult for a mother of seven to see her daughters struggle with infertility. I always have a prayer in my heart for them to be able to experience the joy that I feel as a mother and grandmother.

When Emily and Brian came to us with the story of the little baby born in Michigan that might not have a long life, I had such mixed feelings. I wanted them to have this little guy in their lives, but didn’t want them to have to suffer any more sorrow. There were so many unknowns. I can’t tell you why I fell so instantly in love with that little 2 x 2 inch digital image, but I did, and hoped that things would work out.

I don’t want to jump ahead too much from Emily’s story…but the best part of November last year for me was that I got to go to Michigan and meet Patrick myself. Brian had to come back to Utah and complete a project at work. Thankfully, we have access to Delta Buddy passes and I was able to fly out and stay with Emily for the week he was gone.

She picked me up at the airport and I don’t remember if we went to the hotel first, but we were at the hospital in no time. We had to check in at a secure desk and then off to wash. This was an event in and of itself. Roll up your sleeves, take off your jewelry, look at the clock and then begin to scrub and not just for a few seconds, it took several minutes.

Then through a maze of sorts (took me a couple of days to figure it all out) and we were in Patrick’s room. The lights were dim and there he was…big brown eyes and lots and lots of dark hair. He was so tiny. Just over 5 lbs. His tiny head fit easily into just the palm of my hand. Holding him was no effort at all, except that he had leads and tubes that connected him to life-saving and monitoring equipment.

The next few days were spent mostly at the hospital. We spent very little time in the hotel, just enough to heat up some food (can’t cook everything in the microwave believe it or not) and send home the many, many pictures that we were taking to keep Brian up-to-date. We had time to attend a Sacrament Meeting and catch some people at the Detroit Temple and ask them to place him name on the roll there. But we made sure that we were there for rounds morning and night as much as possible. Every day there were new things to learn about Patrick’s condition.

Emily was swamped with the details of the adoption, the insurance, medical decisions, travel plans and keeping family back home in the loop. Because she had phone calls to make, I got to hold Patrick for many, many hours. He isn’t able to have much by mouth and the instinct to comfort a crying baby with a bottle or breast just wasn’t an option. We quickly learned the value of a “paci”.

The nurses there are amazing. They are caring and skilled. They seemed to have an instinct for being available but not in the way. I felt comfortable enough to sing him and tell him stories and I know Emily did, too. And I know that when we weren’t there, they were holding him and loving him just like we did.

I will forever treasure that special week getting to know this grandson. I am grateful for the self-less decision that Brian and Emily made to bring him into our family. They are amazing, completely prepared by the Lord for their role as Patrick’s parents.

Adoption Reflections: The call

First pictures sent to my parents

November is national adoption awareness month. It’s also the month that we adopted Patrick. The miracles of last year are fresh in my mind right now, and so I’ve decided to write a small series of blog entries about Patrick’s adoption. Please excuse me as I reflect.

It was a miserably snowy Wednesday afternoon. I was sitting at my kitchen table finishing a shopping list and trying to gear myself to go out in the storm when the phone rang.

It was Emily, our caseworker. She started the call like this: “There was a little Korean boy born in Michigan on Halloween.” I’m pretty sure my heart skipped a beat. I’d had this crazy idea in my head all week that I should have heard something about an adoption opportunity by that very week, and now here she was calling. I didn’t quite believe it.

When we’d applied to adopt, we’d explained to Emily that we were open to adopting a child with special needs. So her next statement didn’t surprise me. “He has some health problems,” she said.  She went on to explain the information she’d been given… that he’d had gastroschisis, a birth defect where the intestines develop outside the body, that he’d need to see specialists at an out-of-state hospital, and that he may only live a couple of years.

I didn’t know what exactly to say. I asked a couple of questions, then I told Emily I needed to talk to Brian to decide if we wanted to be considered as parents. She promised she’d e-mail me the details she had. This is the message I got:

We have a baby boy born 10/31/08. He has Gastrocesis and is only expected to live 1-2 years. He is part Korean and part Caucasian.

 

The  LDS birth mother wants to place with an family that will have the baby sealed to them.

Mary the NICU social worker said last night that the baby might be ready to discharge soon.  The adoptive parents would need to be trained in paliative care.  Why the life expectancy?  She said that d/t the TPN the liver would die out soon.  She said that the doctors are communicating with hospitals in Miami, Florida; Cleveland, Ohio; and Pitt, PA to be reevaluated for a surgury.

 

There was a picture attached, too.
My eyes won mom over

I tried calling Brian, but didn’t get through. I left him a message telling him to call me right away. I’m pretty sure I was crying.

While I waited, I called our insurance company to find out if they’d even cover a 5-day-old child with this severe of a medical problem. Meanwhile, Brian called back. He heard the end of my conversation before I told him the news. He said he’d come home right away.

The rest of the day was very emotional and prayerful. We’d said we were open to whatever the Lord thought was best for our family. Now that was being put to the test. What neither one of us had expected when we said we were open to adoption a medically fragile child was the grief we would feel. From the time the call first came, we both were grieving as though we’d just found out about a serious medical problem in a child who was already ours.

We went to the temple, where we could seek an answer through prayer and mediation as to whether or not this child was meant for our family. During the ceremony, I just kept thinking about how drastically this choice would change my life. It meant changing EVERYTHING in my life. But I also kept thinking about the promise of the resurrection, and of eternal families.

I was scared, but when Brian said, “I feel good about this. Let’s find out more,” my heart said “OK.”

So, sent a list of questions off to Michigan through our adoption agency. And then we went to tell our parents.

We had this adorable picture that I couldn’t take my eyes off of. There was something angelic about that little face. So we swore we wouldn’t show it to anyone… But we failed and showed it to parents. The picture was labeled “Patrick,” and we knew that was supposed to be his name.

That night my family started praying for Patrick.

We e-mailed off a list of questions about Patrick, and after we got a few answers, we sent a copy of our profile to be considered. Brian sent this e-mail to our families:

We have a little more information on the baby.  We are not the only parents considering adopting him.  However we did give our case worker the go ahead to forward our profile to the case worker in Michigan (i.e. throw our hat in the ring).

We don’t know when we will hear back, we doubt it will be today.  So the waiting game goes on.

It sounds as if he will need a lot of care (we pretty much knew that already).  They have also said that he will need a bowel transplant at his first birthday (we don’t know more about that).

Emily and I are doing ok.  We are both attempting to work today, I think I have accomplished 2 things since I got here.  I have started about 50 other things.

We are rather afraid of what we are approaching, but can’t even think about not doing this.  We appreciate your support in this decision, please continue to remember us in your thoughts and prayers.

Friday morning, we thought we had our answer. Brian wrote this in another e-mail:

This morning we both woke up with the feeling that he isn’t going to come to our house.  Whether that is just us preparing for the worst, or just a glimpse of what is to come, we don’t really know.

We had flu shots that day at Brian’s work. I had just met him at his office, when my cell phone rang. It was our caseworker. She told us that the birth parents had just seen our profile and wanted us to adopt Patrick.

We were stunned! We locked ourselves in Brian’s bosses’ office (thank goodness he was at lunch) and we started making calls. Because we’d been chosen as parents, we were now allowed to talk to the hospital social worker and the birth parent’s social worker at their adoption agency.

We sent one more e-mail to our families with what we’d learned.

Patrick was a full term baby.  He is completely normal except his bowels don’t work (they aren’t sure if they aren’t there, or if they just don’t work). Because he can’t eat he is somewhat fussy (who wouldn’t be).  We need to explore if he is a candidate for a bowel transplant, but that can’t be performed until he is 1.  He will be on a feeding tube until he can eat on his own.

The hospital won’t discharge him until we have things in place to take care of him here.  He will need to be on a TPN machine (what that means, we aren’t sure).  But that is equipment that we will need at our house.

Chicken and I have decided that we are going to go out to Michigan and see exactly what it is going to take to care for this Patrick.  We have not committed to take the child, but this is the last step before we do it.

I will give you more details once I can think straight, course that probably won’t happen for a while.  So I will give details once we get a bit more settled in Michigan.  And I’m sure that I will be in contact with you soon.

The rest of the day was a flurry of excitement as we ran around trying to pull together the necessary details to be able to fly to Michigan in the morning. We went to the adoption agency to finish the paperwork required for us to be able to see Patrick in the NICU. Meanwhile, my mom and grandpa worked to get us airline tickets. We packed for an indefinite stay in Michigan. One small bag held all the baby things we owned, including a baby quilt I’d just finished Tuesday night. We made a shopping list for the nursery that Brian would come home and put together if we followed through on the adoption.

And then we tried to sleep. It was probably one of the longest nights of my life! We didn’t know what the future held, but we knew already our lives had changed forever.

It’s a year later and some things are the same. This Wednesday was sunny, but I still sat down and made my list of errands to run. And today, Friday, we’re headed for our flu shots. Our families are still 100% behind us. And we’re still depending every day on prayer. But, as expected, pretty much everything else is different. What I didn’t expect was that, with as challenging as it all is, it is much more wonderful and rewarding than I’d ever expected.

Happy Birthday Patrick!

A year ago, I was a basketcase. Against all reason, I’d convinced myself that I should have gotten a call from my adoption caseworker about a child.. even though we’d only been approved to adopt for a little under 2 months.

Little did I know that two time zones away, a beautiful little boy had just been born. At birth, the doctors doubted he’d survive. Labor had been induced three weeks early because when his birthmom went in for an ultrasound, the doctors discovered that Patrick was in trouble (beyond the already known problems gastroschesis and suddenly missing intestines).

After he was born, Patrick was swept immediately away to surgery where they discovered that his Short Gut was substantial. His birthparents were told maybe had 24 hours to live.

Now here we are, a year later. Patrick is thriving, in spite of all he’s been through and the many, many times that doctors have questioned how long he’d live.

Patrick’s life in every way is a miracle. What a blessing it is to have him in our lives.

Happy birthday, Patrick!

For all your party-goers, the party’s still on at our house this afternoon.

Prayer Trading

I came across this quote recently from an address given at the Families Supporting Adoption National Conference. The speaker Troy Dunn said, “My mom introduced the beautiful concept of adoption in a very simple manner. She said, ‘There is something that is called prayer trading, and we’re going to trade prayers with somebody. Somewhere out there is a girl praying for a good family for her baby. We are going to pray for a good tummy with a baby in it, and we are going to answer each others’ prayers.'”

When we were considering adoption and meeting and learning from birthfamilies, I sometimes felt guilty that I would benefit through someone else’s loss. My prayers to become a mother would be answered though another family’s suffering.

I expressed these feelings once at an adoption conference and was quickly cut off by a birthmother  who overheard me. She reminded me adoption benefits both parties. For me, obviously, it provided me with the chance to be a mother… something I wouldn’t have been able to have on my own. For a birthfamily, it provides a hopeful solution to what otherwise might be a hopeless situation. In the case of adoption two families are suffering, and in the end, two families get a happy ending.

And so, as we prayed to adopt, we prayed that Patrick’s birth family would be blessed, comforted, and guided through a difficult time. We continue to pray for them.

We’re in a situation of prayer trading again. I’ve heard other families with children on transplant lists express feelings of extreme guilt as they consider the loss that another family will experience for a transplant to be possible. I’ve felt guilty about this idea myself. However, I’ve also watched families who have lost children and who have chosen organ donation. And I have seen the comfort that comes from knowing that their loss could at least help someone else.

One family in particular comes to mind. One of their sons is waiting for a transplant. Another was recently killed in an accident. When we attending the funeral for the son who’d been lost, I heard his parents and brothers and sisters all proudly state that he had been an bone and tissue donor. I also heard them say that they were praying for their other son’s donor family – as they could now relate in a new way with them.

What a beautiful testament to this miraculous gift organ donation can be. Not only does it give the gift of life to the recipient, but in some small measure the gift of peace to the donor’s loved ones. Prayer trading at it’s best.

I don’t mean in writing this to diminish in any way the grief associated with the loss of a loved one, especially a child. It is real and deep and not something we take lightly.  However, organ donation lets a light of hope shine where otherwise there would be two sad endings.

What a marvelous things that sometimes when we are going through our greatest trials that Heavenly Father allows us to answer one another’s prayers.

Please join us as we now trade prayers with Patrick’s donor family. And please consider, if you haven’t done so, registering as an organ donor yourself.

Fathers Day Reflections

Chicken and I had the opportunity to go to church at the hospital today (for those who haven’t heard, Patrick is in the hospital, but those details will come later). While we were sitting there a lot of emotions regarding fathers day came to mind. I thought that I would try to write some of those down.

First my very own fathers day… It seems like a long time ago. A year ago, Chicken and I were just starting into the approval process for adoption. Oh how things can change in a year. It is hard to believe that we now have a little guy that is growing and progressing. So this is my first official fathers day, the gray hairs show that I’m a dad.
It is also amazing to think about all the stuff that we have learned. It is a humbling experience to arrive at the hospital and have the doctors take orders from you. We (mainly Chicken) have come up with a routine that has Patrick growing and staying relatively healthy, the doctors don’t want to mess with that situation, so they listen carefully to how we do things. I appreciate all the wonderful nurses that will sit and listen to all the little things that we do for Patrick, and attempt to follow it.
This fathers day also makes me think about my father, who is out of the country, so I won’t see him today. I sure hope he is enjoying his time in Mexico, in some ways I wish Chicken and I were there to show him some of the joys of visiting Mexico. I can see a lot of me in my dad. Thanks for helping to make me the person I am today. (I hope that doesn’t sound conceded).

I have also spent some time thinking about birth fathers. They kinda get left out of the adoption picture, or get blamed for the adoption situation. I think that it is very rare that birth fathers forget about their children. Some may make choices that don’t reflect the love that they that have for that child. But they do make the sacrifice to give their child a good home with another father who cares about their child. In our case the relationship with the birth father has slowly grown, it shows very much that he cares for Patrick. Thanks, Nick.
Well I think is enough out of me for one post. I probably won’t tell anyone else that this is here, if you stumble across it, thanks for reading.
– This post was written by Brian, a.k.a. Howie

Transplant Pre-evaluation: Day 2


Monday morning I woke up at around 6 a.m. to try to get everything packed and ready for a day at the hospital. Our first appointment of the morning was at 9 a.m. and we needed to arrive early enough to check in and find our way around.Our transplant nurse, Sandy Mitchell, met us in the “Whale” (outpatient) wing of Seattle Children’s Hospital. We had to stop and get badges at a security desk at the entrance identifying us as Patrick’s parents. Then we went to a registration desk in the middle of the main floor and they got us checked in. They gave us a “purple pass” to use to check in for the rest of our clinic visits that day so we wouldn’t have to wait in line again to check in, and then gave us a pager and sent us off to the cardiology waiting area.


Patrick’s first appointment was for an EKG. They stuck probes all over his chest… so many that you could barely find a patch of visible skin and then in just a few minutes had a printout of the electrical readings of his heart. The funniest thing about all this is that we did it all with him still in his stroller. Hooray for whoever at Carter’s thought up the snap front bodysuit. Best hospital clothes every dreamed up for a baby!

Next Patrick had an echocardiogram. This is an ultrasound of his heart and it took about an hour to do. We undressed him this time and I laid on the table with him and kept him calm and entertained. Between Baby Einsteins on the TV and the cool black and white images on the monitor, though, he didn’t need my attention much. Funny the opportunities that life presents you, though. I finally got the chance to see my baby’s heartbeat on ultrasound!

After lunch, we headed upstairs and met with the nutritionist for the intestinal transplant program. She looked over Patrick’s most recent lab results, his output history, and his current diet and then she made suggestions, which I’ll be blogging about in a future post. It was great to hear he say that she was happy with how Patrick’s care is being managed and that she fully trusts our dieticians here.

Our next appointment was probably the most brutal of the day. We spent 2 hours with the transplant coordinator and she went over all aspects of the transplant. She explained what they’re looking for in a transplant patient and how the approval process works. (Basically, after the workup the transplant team meets together and decides if Patrick is a good candidate for transplant and if they’re willing to list him, or if there might be other things they can do to care for him w/o a transplant). Then she explained that Patrick, if accepted, would be followed closely by the team in Seattle and would probably make regular visits back to Seattle pre-transplant so they can monitor his care.

She explained a bit about what to expect when an organ became available. We learned that he will have 6-8 hours max to get to Seattle once we get a call saying that there is a donor organ. He’ll need to be healthy at the time, of course. The surgery will be a very long one, followed by a hospital stay of at least a month.

Most of the talk was about what to expect after transplant, though. First of all, to prevent rejection of the new intestine, his immune system will be surpressed. Because of the risk of rejection and other complications, we’ll need to live close to the hospital so that he can have regular follow-up visits, including biopsies to check for rejection. He’ll be on immunosuppressants for the rest of his life, but in that first year, at least, his immune system will be incredibly weak. We’ll have to avoid public places as much as possible and avoid exposure to any kind of illness, bacteria, or other source of bugs that can cause him problems.. His diet will be limited, and at first he’ll probably still be on TPN as he learns to eat and eventually to get enough nutrition that way, but they’ll work to slowly wean him off of that. He’ll be at risk for a lot of big scary health problems, including rejection, infection, and a certain type of cancer that can develop when the immune system is supressed. Here’s more information about the risks and ramifications of life after transplant.

Our last scheduled appointment was with pre-anesthesiology, which was really a simple one, considering that Patrick’s had surgeries before. They we headed upstairs because they’d ordered a bunch of lab test. We pushed to have labs drawn through his broviac, but they still wanted us to ask at the lab for it to be drawn by just sticking a vein. They told us to ask for their best tech, which we did. He took one look at the list of tests and then at Patrick and said that he didn’t feel comfortable drawing that much blood from a kid this size, especially through a needle, when he has a broviac line. So, he took a little blood for some blood typing, gave us a bag to collect a urine sample and sent us on our way.

We were pretty overwhelmed that day and avoided giving updates because it was so much information to process ourselves. Instead, we went out to dinner and Patrick made our evening for us.

While we were eating, I looked over and noticed that Patrick was imitating my expressions while I ate. He was making chewing faces and licking his lips when I did. Then he started to blow bubbles and, well, I decided to blow bubbles back at him. The next thing we knew, he’d learned to blow raspberries and would happily spit back at us whenever we spit at him. It was a fun game to play for the rest of the evening and week, and definitely helped to lighten the load of a HUGE day.