Thursday, October 25, 2012

Leaving on a jet plane

I got word at 2:23 am on Tuesday morning that I was cleared by the Embassy in Addis to go get my son. Later that morning, I heard back about my appointment day - it's scheduled for Monday, October 29th. By Tuesday afternoon, my flight was booked and so was my lodging.

I get on a plane tomorrow. I will be in Ethiopia by Saturday evening.

I will be picking my son up FOREVER on Sunday!!!! THIS Sunday. Holy cow - I don't even think it has fully sunk in yet. Tomorrow morning when I say goodbye to my dog and head to the airport - the reality is that next time I see her in less than a week - I'll be coming home with a new family member. Whoa!!!!

By next Thursday, November 1st - I will be arriving back on US soil with my son in my arms. My friends will be waiting at the airport to welcome us home. Wow! It's really happening.

I believed this day would come. But during all those months of waiting... many months of waiting and no progress being made at all... in those months, it felt like it would never come. But I held onto faith that it would. And now, 15 months later - it's here. It's really here. My life is about to change forever. I'm about to be a mom to the cutest little boy in the whole wide world!!!!

Right now, I am:
  • Thankful. 
  • Overjoyed.
  • Praising Jesus.
  • Counting down the hours.
  • Excited. 
  • Ready.
  • A little nervous.
  • Giddy.
  • Glad I have been preparing.
  • Unsure exactly what to expect.
  • Trusting God will be with me.
  • Ready to wrap Mihretu up in my arms and tell him I'm not leaving.
  • Reminded of all the miracles God worked to get me here. 
  • Thankful for the people who've been on this journey alongside of me. 
  • Praying.
  • Praising. 
  • Smiling. 
  • Thanking God.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What Happens After the Welcome Home

Ok, so I've read some really great blogs about this but I wanted to write one myself to make it more personal and so my friends and family who haven't gone to all the adoption conferences and read all the books and blogs about attachment that I have will understand what I'm doing and hopefully won't just think I'm a crazy off-my-rocker new mom that's being paranoid and weird. ha ha

Seriously though, a lot of what adoptive parents do, especially in the first few months, will sound very contrary to the first few months with a biological child. With a bio kid, everyone and their brother comes to the hospital or to your house and everyone takes turns holding the baby. It's just natural - people want to hold precious little ones. I get that. And with a biological child, that's great. But what I've come to understand is that with adopted kids, pretty much everything that seems natural and normal is out the window.

To really understand why, you almost have to put yourself in the shoes of the child. So let's do so by looking at the glorious trip home with mommy from my child's perspective.
My sweet precious 3 year old is about to have his very own mommy and while he seemed to love and attach well to mommy when I saw him several months ago, the reality is: I'm about to go take him out of his comfort zone and turn his whole entire world upside down. I'm about to take him away from all the caregivers he's used to and is probably pretty attached to, away from all the kids he sees and plays with daily, away from all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and really every single thing he knows. We're going to get on an airplane for 17 hours surrounded by strangers. We're going to a totally different country where nothing at all all is familiar or reassuring. Add to that the fact that this new mommy is going to be speaking a language he does not understand and he will soon be surrounded by a whole slew of people he does not understand. This child does not know that any part of this is a good thing or the beginning of a beautiful story. All he knows is that this new world is unfamiliar and scary. On top of that, take into account the loss he's already experienced in his young life to have even been adoptable in the first place. At the age of 3, my sweet boy has been through unfathomable hurt and loss.

All of this is why the first few months with mommy are going to be crucial. Especially in the area of attachment. Attachment is tricky and thank God there are great resources nowadays on it (thank you Karyn Purvis for writing The Connected Child). Children from orphanages have had many caregivers, so when multiple adults try to hold them and give them physical affection or act in a caregiver type role in their new environment, they can easily become confused about who to bond with. This is why I'm asking that you don't try to hold, hug, kiss or give physical affection to him for a few months. It is not personal or mean. It may seem extreme but there is a lot of research about this and trust me when I say - this is crucial to create an attachment between Mihretu and I. And once we have a healthy attachment, it will make it easier for him to have healthy relationships with other people. This no affection thing is not forever but please, please, please honor this for the first few months. It really is best for Mihretu.

For the first few weeks, we probably won't be going much of anywhere and most likely won't be having people over and if we do - it'll likely be brief visits. A lot of it will depend on Mihretu. During these few weeks, we will be establishing a calm, stable environment. We need time to adjust to one another and for Mihretu to adjust to his new surroundings and begin to understand that I'm his mommy and I'm here to meet his needs. With the language barrier alone, we're going to need time to learn how to communicate with one another. Dr. Karyn Purvis talks often about giving children a voice. So many kids from hard places have not had a voice. They've cried and no one came. They've had needs and oftentimes, those needs weren't met. The first few months especially will be about teaching Mihretu that I will be there, that I will meet his needs. So when he cries - I'm going to come running. When he needs me, I'll be there. I need to be the one who gives him a bath, tucks him in to bed, rocks him, feeds him, holds him. It's so key to this whole process that he recognize me as his caregiver. Because he didn't have this kind of care or attachment up to this point, there may be a lot of things that resemble caring for a newborn. These are all things that are highly encouraged by experts on adoption. For instance, I will be holding him alot, rocking him to sleep, most likely carrying him in my Ergo baby carrier (Lord help my back), they even recommend giving toddlers drinks out of a bottle type container that you can give them while they are laying in the usual position a baby would be in your arms while taking a bottle. Doing so helps with eye contact, nurturing and bonding. He may end up sleeping in the same room or same bed as me. All of these things I've mentioned help create attachment and bonding and establish to Mihretu that I'm his caregiver. I don't know how healthy the relationship with him and past caregivers has been so in being there immediately whenever he needs me, I will be establishing that regardless of his previous caregiver history - mommy is reliable and constant and will meet his needs. This is huge!!! This is where major healing can begin to happen for my sweet boy.

I am so thankful for the community of support I've had thus far. I have seen what the body of Christ should look like. I have experienced an outpouring of love, prayers, support and generosity during this whole process unlike anything I've ever experienced before. It has truly been humbling and awe inspiring. You have all already done so much to help me get my son home. And in the way you've supported me - I have experienced God in a whole new way. It really has felt like it's taken a village to get my son home and I know it'll take a village to raise him up as well. I am thankful for my village of people:). This whole process of adoption has been hard but at the same time - pretty awesome really. Someone I met the other day that had adopted in the past and found out I was doing it as a single said "it must be hard to do it alone" and I didn't even hesitate with my answer. I said "honestly, I don't feel alone AT ALL!" I am so thankful for that. So thankful for my village. And that's why having you understand all this attachment stuff is so important to me and so crucial in these next few weeks and months. The more understanding and support I can have from those around me - the better for me and for my precious child. I really appreciate you even taking the time to read this blog so that you can understand the things that will best help Mihretu adjust and attach. 


For other ways you can help support me in this journey, I highly recommend reading this blog by Jen Hatmaker. http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2011/11/02/how-to-be-the-village Scroll down to the part where it says "Supporting Families After The Airport" - I couldn't have said it better myself so I didn't try:)


Mihretu is 3 and a half and there's a lot that I have missed in his life. But if I focus on the beauty of adoption and the fact that God has adopted us into his family and that he is a God who restores and redeems - I have so much hope and excitement for things to come. Instead of focusing on what I've missed, I choose to focus on the time I get to have with my sweet boy. I choose to focus on what God wants to do in me and in my son. I look forward to learning who God created Mihretu to be, what his little personality is like, what he likes and doesn't like, what makes him come alive. I'm honored that God would choose me to be this little guys mom. I pray that He will equip me everyday to live and care for this precious child in a manner that is worthy of this calling.


"And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten…." 

(Joel 2:25 AV).

SOME ADOPTION RESOURCES

If you have any question about any of this attachment stuff - I highly recommend The Connected Child book or checking out the Empowered to Connect website and watching some of their great videos. Some of the video links I recommend that address these things I've talked about specifically are here: http://empoweredtoconnect.org/should-i-parent-my-adopted-child-differently-than-birth-children/

and a series of 8 videos about What Every Adoptive Parent Should know is found here: http://empoweredtoconnect.org/what-every-adoptive-parent-should-know/

The best email ever

Last night at 2:23 am, I got the long-awaited email that said in the subject header: Case is cleared; request for visa interview. I hit reply to request my first 3 choices of appointment. By the time I woke up at 7:20 am - I had word that I got my first choice. My visa appointment is next Monday, Oct 29th at 9am in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This is really happening!!!!!


Travel agent is working on flights. We leave Friday sometime and we'll probably get to Addis late Saturday night. I'll get to see my sweet boy this weekend on Sunday!!!!!! And then Monday we'll have our final appointment to get his visa and everything needed to fly home Wednesday night.

Overjoyed is an understatement. I will be arriving on US soil next week with my son!!!

Today is the exact 15 months since the day I first met him. Praise the Lord - he has fulfilled this desire of my heart.


"I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him." ~ 1 Samuel 1:27



If anyone feels led to make one last donation toward me bringing my son home, you still can. Any funds donated that are not used toward this return trip will go toward all of his medical tests once he gets here. He'll be getting a lot of blood work, parasite tests and a full medical exam soon after arriving which I just found out can be several thousand dollars. If you wish to contribute toward our travel or his medical costs, you may do from the donate tab.

Friday, October 19, 2012

15 months

This past week has been a whirlwind. So I did get the email from the Embassy on Monday morning saying I was successfully submitted and I did sell my car Monday afternoon. I was beyond thrilled about the embassy and selling the car was bittersweet - you know why if you read my last post. But God is in the details - get this: the people who bought the car were buying it for their adopted daughter who is about to go to college. And if that alone wasn't cool enough - I bought the car the year they adopted her. And as I was signing over the title and said the date aloud - the mom said "it's October 15th today?" to which I said "yup" and she said "that's the date we adopted our daughter". Well there ya have it - total awesome God thing!!!! I'm not gonna lie I teared up as the dad drove away in what had been my reliable car for the past 11 years. But at the same time, I was excited about who would be driving it and really excited that selling it signified me moving into a new season. A season of mommy-hood.

So this week was very active in my adoption process. Here's what it looked like:

Monday morning when I woke up at 2:40 am to check my email I saw that the long awaited Embassy Submission email had arrived at 12:33 am. It read: Dear Kerr Family, Congratulations! Your adoption case has been submitted to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia....   Praise the Lord!!!! Hard to go back to sleep after reading this good news.

Tuesday morning when I woke up at 5 am, I saw that an email my agency said could take a week was there telling me my portion of the approval process was done and approved and that they would next move on to my son's paperwork, checking for inconsistencies, interviewing guardians or birth family or anyone involved in the case.

Wednesday morning at 8:09 am, I got an email from the Embassy requesting my agency bring in a birth relative to interview. My agency wrote me shortly after and told me they reply to that email with a date and usually the embassy responds saying they are booked that day and then they set a date for 2-3 weeks out. I replied to that email with this "well, I'm going to pray that they miraculously have an opening next week to do the interview". My agency suggested Monday morning and...

Thursday morning, I woke up to an email saying:  the embassy came back with "we're full Monday. Your appointment is at 7:30 am on Tuesday". Not 2-3 weeks later - the very next day from the requested appointment - next week!!! Praise the Lord - this is huge. I am hoping and praying that this will be the final step needed to get the most glorious email of ALL - the one that says Ms. Kerr - you are cleared and may come get your child!!!!!!! Praying that it will happen next week.

If it does - I will be on a plane probably as early as next weekend. Once I get word - the travel is going to happen fast. So I'm in logistics and preparation think-of-anything-at-all-you-should-get-done-beforehand mode right now. And I'm stinkin excited. Like I can't even describe how excited!!!

I just realized tonight that Tuesday, October 23rd - the day of the relative interview is EXACTLY 15 months from the day I met Mihretu. Praying it's a day of favor and blessing and movement!!! Please pray with me that the interview would indeed happen as scheduled with no delay or problems whatsoever and that it will be sufficient to satisfy what the Embassy needs in order to clear my case and that after that interview is finished, I would be cleared to go get my son.

Thank you for praying. I hope my next post is the one we've all been waiting 15 months for:)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

From one season into another

It's getting closer. I can feel it. My agency has the additional document the Embassy requested and they are hoping to submit me tomorrow. So by the time I wake up in the morning, I "should" have an email saying I've been submitted. And I will be jumping for joy!!! From there, there's no defined time frame but we know someone who got clearance to come pick up their child in less than 2 weeks after submission so I'm hopeful that I could still have my son home before the end of October. His bag is packed and mine can be packed super quickly once I get word. I'm ready to go.

In the meantime, there are a few things I'm finishing up with - a few projects at work that I need to do before I'm on parental leave. About 180 thank you cards to write and mail (I'm almost half way done with that) and then there's my car that I need to sell. If you read my blog a few entries ago, you'll recall that my friends surprised me with a several thousand dollar check about a month ago - a check toward me getting a minivan. Providence Auto Group hooked me up with a great deal and I am now a proud owner of a 2002 Chrysler Town & Country minivan with (my favorite part) sliding doors and a rear door that open with the press of a button!!! LOVE it. The first day I bought it, I made use of the space by emptying my shed of all the glass and plastic recyclables I've been saving for several years and returned them to the recycling place. That was a good feeling - and one of the things on my list of things to do before Mihretu comes home. The second week I had it, myself and 6 other Visiting Orphans staffers piled in and I drove us down to Atlanta for the Catalyst Leadership conference. All that to say - I love my new minivan and I'm so happy that I have it.



But... for some strange reason - I've been having a hard time letting go of my car. I bought it new back when I worked at an ad agency in Michigan - I worked on Chevy retail advertising and we got a supplier discount so I got a discounted price on a brand new 2002 Chevy Cavalier. I got it at the end of 2001 since the new models come out the fall before the model year. That car was with me when I went through a heartbreak back in early 2002. It was with me when I packed up a 20ft moving truck, took a leap of faith and moved to Nashville in August of 2002 without a job lined up and without a single friend in Nashville (one of the best decisions I ever made btw). That car was with me on many road trips back and forth to Michigan to go home and visit family, through road trips to Florida, through all the years of singing in a band and loading her full of gear. She was with me through a move back to Michigan in 2006 and 3 months later when I realized that wasn't where I was supposed to be and moved back to Nashville, bought a house and decided to lay down some more permanent roots. She was with me through a lot of things. She was reliable. She was great on gas and she was finally fully paid off in 2006 - exactly one month before I bought my house. She's been a really good car. And while I LOVE my minivan and know it's time to sell my car, there's something really sentimental about the whole thing. It's like an outward visual representation reminding me that I'm heading into a new season. I know that life is about to change and I'm so excited to enter into this new season. I am so excited and so ready to finally be a mom!!! But I think it's good to reminisce and even be sentimental about the season I'm moving out of. It's been a good season. God has done so many things in my life and in me.

I'm not the girl I was when I bought that Chevy Cavalier in 2001. And I'm so thankful. I'm thankful for the journey and thankful for all the Lord has taught me through every tear, every transition, every celebration and every lesson. He is faithful. When I moved to Nashville in 2002 without a job or a friend, God provided a job and led me to my first ever church home and church family. A church family that I still get to do life with, praise the Lord! When I lost my job in 2009 because the company closed - He was my faithful provider and led me to Visiting Orphans doing something I love and am incredibly passionate about! During this adoption, He's been my provider, my rock, my shelter and my strong tower. As much as I wanted this process to be quick and easy and as much as I would have loved to have Mihretu home months ago, I recognize God at work in the waiting. He's taught me so much during this process. There are so many ups and downs and delays and snags and potential discouragements and moments when it looks like all hope is lost - and yet, I knew God called me to this and I could not deny the connection I had with one very precious little boy from Ethiopia. You do not have control when you are adopting. In fact, it's so obvious that you can't control really much of anything in this whole process that all you can do is cry out to Jesus and hold tight to Him. I've never prayed like I've prayed during this. I've never trusted quite so fully as I have during this. I've never held on quite so tightly as I have in this. And I can see the beauty in all of that. I can see God working it all together for good. Maybe even especially in the ups and downs. I've gotten to experience God in a new way. And though it's been my favorite bible verse for many years now, James 1:2-4 has taken on even more meaning through this season:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Faith is tested in those moments where things don't seem to be happening and you start to question whether you really heard from God. It's in the moments when nothing in the natural looks like the promise God gave you - those are the moments when you really have to decide what you believe and you really have to hold tight to the last thing you know that you know that you know God told you. Because in the months where you don't feel like you're hearing anything - those are the things you hold onto. That's when you really start to understand what faith really is. What a season it has been. What a God we serve. He is faithful when we are faithless. He is everything we need exactly when we need it. 

My friend is helping me sell my car and several people are interested. Someone is coming to look at it tomorrow. Maybe it'll even get sold tomorrow on the same day that I am submitted for Embassy which would actually be a pretty cool way for it to happen. I pray that whoever does buy her will experience God in new ways during this next season and have as many great memories as I have with that trusty ole Chevy:) When I say goodbye to her, I will be a little bit sad - I'm not gonna lie. But I'm also going to rejoice because of the new season I am heading into as I am just one month away from my 37th birthday and hopefully only a few weeks away from being a mom. I've wanted to be a mom since I can remember. I not only get to be "a" mom but I get to be the mom of the cutest little 3 year old boy I've ever met. He has so much personality and I only got to see a little bit of it in the week I spent with him. I get the honor of getting to be his forever mommy and getting to see who God made him to be every single day. I am SO excited. I already love him so much my heart feels like it is overflowing. I can only imagine how much more that love will grow as I get to share life with this precious child. 


Thank you Jesus for deeming me worthy of this calling. May you equip me every day of my life to be exactly the kind of mom you want me to be and Mihretu needs me to be. Amen!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

God is in the details

Waiting is hard. Delays are hard. Not being with my sweet boy is hard. But.... in the midst of waiting and being away from him, I'm reminded of all the miracles God has already worked. I'm reminded that everyday gets me one day closer to having him home. God is bigger than all of this. He's in the details. Details like how, after a year, things finally moved with his paperwork right at the exact time that I was going to be in Africa and therefore, I was able to visit my sweet boy at my agencies care center and have an interview with the judge and pass court! That was all a true miracle - God's timing is perfect. Details like how well he connected with me and attached to me (and praying that continues even moreso when I go back to get him). So much to be thankful for.

I'm so thankful for all the support of so many people, including our Visiting Orphans staff who is fasting sweets with me until I get word that Mihretu is coming home. I'm thankful for all the other friends and family who have been and will continue to pray, for all the generous people who've supported this adoption financially and with encouragement and prayers.

I'm also thankful for the other adopting families who post pictures and videos of my sweet boy on our agencies sharing site. Yesterday, I watched the cutest video I've ever seen of my adorable boy playing ball with one of the dads and another boy. Mihretu had such a huge smile on his face and was just so cute. It warms my heart to see him smiling. That makes the waiting a little tiny bit less hard because at least I know he's ok and he's being loved on and played with and cared for. So thankful for that. Here are a few frame grabs I took from the video. Can this kid get any cuter? Just when I think he can't, he does. I cannot wait to get him home. He's got such a fun little personality and we are just going to have so much fun together. My heart is overflowing with love for him. I can only imagine how much more that will deepen once he's here. Once I get word that I can go - believe you me - the world will know because I will be jumping for joy and updating my blog, facebook and shouting it from the rooftops. So excited for that day. Soon. Soon.


Perseverance

By definition Perseverance is: steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, o...