Finding My Son through Google Maps

I figured out the orphanage that my son is in. I am technically not supposed to know at this point in time (even though we are only weeks away from travelling) because oddly enough that is not a "luxury" that new adoptive mommies and daddies are awarded until they meet their child in person (along with medical history, current photos, or any photos for that matter). But I am sure I am not the first adoptive mother to ask questions, grasp the puzzle pieces that are let out and begin to build and construct a fuller picture of what my child through adoption may be like in person and where they came from. My son currently lives in a very small town. This small town has very few orphanages in it and given the information we know about his medical needs I have concluded that there is really only one orphanage he can be in. And I have sought insight from those who know the area, asked the questions needed to get some clarity of why my child would ever be put in such a place. Because this place is not somewhere he, or any child, or adult for that matter should ever call home. If I am correct (I fear, but know that I am) my 6 year old son resides in an institution for people with "deep and moderate mental retardation" (their words, not mine) and the age range goes from 6 years old to 35 years old. This means that my son is with institutionalized adults older than myself. Just think about this for a moment as we head into the "Back to School" season: What would the impact be to allow a 6 year old to try to learn and thrive alongside 35 year old adults? And this is not just his school but his residence, his home. And the labels my son carries that brought him to this place: "Orphan", "Mentally Retarded", none of which represent who he really is, and yet they dictate his cruel circumstance anyways. I could spend my day worrying about his circumstance. I could, quite literally, curl up into the fetal position and let his reality control how I navigate the very fortunate world that I am in. These worries that I have are only softened through prayer and trust in the bigger plan and the knowledge that God loves him. They are softened by looking into the smiling face of my first son and knowing that there can be a happy life for children who are adopted (even if it does not solve every sorrow).

Google maps is heaven sent. I spent a bittersweet hour scouring the whereabouts of my son's orphanage, the surrounding streets, the "hot-spots" that I am sure we will frequent while living in this small town. I plan for my first son- where we will play, where we will eat, how to fill his day with happiness and healthy challenges. I am unable to plan much for my second son, only look at a single google maps photo of a run-down institution with a very large and decrepit brick wall surrounding it. The reality is that my first son's life is very full. My days are spent just fulfilling all of his desires and needs, and I love every moment of it. My second son's life is so very unfair, painful, and drastically stunted by his circumstance. These two realities come crashing together and I turn to God for understanding and assurance as their mother.

The orphanage/ institution is set apart from what seems to be a small but bustling town. I imagine it would be possible for you to pass the orphanage without knowing exactly what it was for and assume that you had just gone the wrong way. Most would very likely turn around or quickly go in another direction. And when they walked a few blocks up, they would feel a greater sense of safety. They would be able to go to a cafe in fact they would have their choice of several. They would see market places, restaurants and stores to shop in. In the centre of the town there is a very large fountain surrounded by people and children who are smiling and enjoying their day. I detected one little girl skipping while holding her mother's hand. At one of the cafes sits a business man on his cell phone. There, it is full of life, and only a few blocks down where the orphanage is it seems nearly dead. And I would not blame the residents of this town for wanting to keep this orphanage a secret, for appreciating that it was set apart from the general population, we do that here too. The hard stuff seems so easy to push to the side and hide. We all at one point in time choose to squash down our feelings about something that makes us sad or angry, out of fear that if we took the time to acknowledge it we may just have to know the truth and ultimately do something about it. It was only a few short years ago that I myself didn't know that children died at such young ages just for being orphans and it took me all of that time to acknowledge that I should do something about it. And in other avenues of my life where I still squash truths I hope one day to have the strength to do more and that God can help me overcome my selfishness and pride.

Until we leave, I will likely "check in" on this map as means to be close to my son just like I do with the few photos of I have of him. I don't expect that when we adopt him and he is relocated to our home that somehow his circumstances of abandonment, or medical issues, disappear. There is a lot of healing to do, a great amount of it having nothing to do with him moving to another country, although it does help. Very soon I will be walking these streets in person. Very soon my husband, son and I will be on the doorsteps of this orphanage so that we can meet him for the very first time. And for now, I will be thankful for the opportunity to have a small glimpse into his whereabouts and use what I can of this map to be the best mom for him. It's all I have right now- and I am eager to do so much more.   

Travel Date!!!

The call we have been waiting for has FINALLY come :) The Teeter Family will be flying to meet their son on October 9th, with the official meeting on October 11th. We received the news in the middle of the night last night via email and nearly dropped on the floor in excitement and anxiousness. It is really happening. We are on our way to bring our son home. Everything we have set out to do for over a year now is unfolding quickly. And at the end of it all we will have a son, a brother for Pierce and he will have a family and a home.

We have been saving a bottle of ice wine since we were married. It is not anything really special, but the sentiments behind saving it for an important day are. We told ourselves we would not open it until something really amazing happened. We adopted our son Pierce and would have opened it then, but somehow it got lost among all the moving boxes from several moves along the way. But we found it a while ago and knew that it would be opened on a special day during our second adoption. This is that day- it feels rather momentous. We are ecstatic.

So cheers to adoption. Thanks to everyone who has supported us on this journey so far. There is still a lot of work to do, but tonight we celebrate, because not long from now there will be one less orphan.

DIY Therapy Swing

Adam and I have/ will have the privilege of raising two kiddos with special needs. Our son Pierce is a boisterous 2 year old, who has some fun sensory quirks that makes it so he can benefit from the calming motion of a swing like this. Our son who we will be bringing home this year will certainly benefit from this Therapy Swing, so it was a no-brainer to install one. He currently is unable to walk unassisted, talk, and has achondroplasia. He also has been living in an orphanage/ institution for 7 years, so has had very little stimulation to aid in his physical and mental growth. But your child does not need to have special needs for this swing to be something that would benefit them. It is loads of fun for any child to play and release energy on!

We live in a very small house, so space is limited for this sort of set up- so our therapy swing is right in the centre of our living space. It has the option of being taken down when company is over, or the swing is not in use. This DIY Therapy Swing is a very simple project that can be completed within hours. In total this project cost us $13 to do (keeping in mind that we got the hammock for free).

You will need:

-A Fabric Hammock (the conventional hammock that you hang on both sides)
-2 Carabiner Hooks (we bought ones that can hold up to 500 pounds each)
-2 Eye Lag Bolts (we bought ones that can hold up to 300 pounds each)
- Drill

1) Screw the Eye Lag Bolts into door frame (or consider somewhere that there is ample space, and they won't pull out of the ceiling). We screwed them about 40 inches apart, but test out your hammock first and what width would make sense. We wanted more width because we wanted our sons to have the option of using it both as a swing, and lying in it like a more conventional hammock. |
2) Attach the Carabiner Hooks, and give them a little tug to ensure everything is secure.
3) Attach the loops of the Hammock to the Carabiner Hooks. Have an adult take the swing for a test drive before allowing your child to swing on it. In doing so, you ensure that it is completely safe.
4) FLY!


Missing A Child We Have Never Met

The last few weeks I have been going through what carries similar qualities to that of depression, it isn't that, but what I feel there seems to be no name for it. We are waiting for our son to come home to us, a child that we have never met, know very little about, and have only ever seen a photo of and read a bit of a bio that drew us to him. And even though this seems like very little information to go on, we love him, we miss him, we grieve that he is not here, and we wait- have been waiting- for what seems like a very long time, much longer than it should be to give a child the family he deserves.

Adoption can be full of paradoxes. There sits in an orphanage a little boy who was abandoned. He has no familial connections to speak of, although he is surrounded by many orphaned children, and some paid workers who are to be his stand in parents. Surrounding him is a cultural and political system that would see him closed off from the rest of the world, cast away from society as a leper and taught both directly and indirectly that he has very little worth. He likely believes no one will come for him, no one will love him, and that this orphanage, or one like it, will be in his life forever. Thousands of miles away we discuss and make strategic plans to bring him home to us. We think about him and we talk about him daily. We think about who he is, the things he will like, the things he will dislike, and how it will look when he is in our family for good. We know we love him, and knew this since the day we looked at his file. He is already our son, although he does not think about us as his parents. We love someone so immensely who does not know we love them, who we are, or that we are coming to take him home.

I think about what he does on a day to day basis. Is he scared? Is he sad? Does he feel loved? Does he have any sense of all that we will come for him? Does he have friends where he is? Has he bonded with any of his caretakers? What does he like? What does he dislike?

I think about how it will be when he is home. Will he like/ love us? Will he be happy to be here in Canada? Will he be sad and or angry about his new life here? Will our sons get along? Will the age differences be an issue? Will we all be able to handle the stress? Can we do everything that is needed to make sure he thrives in our family?

Many people ask us how we knew this was our son. They ask us why we did not choose a baby. They ask us why we did not choose to adopt a girl. The people who ask these questions have likely not adopted themselves, or have not sincerely thought about adoption as an option for their family. I worry that they do not have the gift of seeing "the bigger picture"; that a life worth living is one that makes life better for others, and that when it comes to the life of a child, age and sex are secondary topics. This may sound negative, or blunt, but I know most fellow adoptive parents would very likely not ask me these questions, because at the point when a child is chosen there is a bit of magic that happens. God appears strongly when adoptive parents are presented with a child that is to be parented by them. It is hard to describe in words the emotions and pearls of understanding that come out of the experience of meeting your child for the first time via a file. You feel very drawn to this child, protective, and a sense of longing and love builds. A longing that will aid you in the heavy load of paper work, receipts, and negative responses from families and friends.

So here we sit, filled with excitement, but also a lot of sorrow. Because it shouldn't have to be this way for our son. He shouldn't have to wait for his family, wait to be loved. He should have never been abandoned in the first place. And I know there is a "happy" ending to all of this, but in all of it there is sadness too, and by writing this I honor that sadness- and I grieve, because adoption is not only beautiful.

So we cocoon ourselves, shut ourselves off from the things in the world that do not nurture us, or help bring us closer to him, battle hard for him, grow during this time, and wait for the flight that will bring us to him. 

A Perspective on God After Miscarriages

I remember the first time I saw a positive sign come up on a pregnancy stick. In that moment my whole mindset changed: I was a mother, and my world would now be intertwined with the life of this little one that grew inside of me. There was great joy in hearing babies heartbeat, seeing them grow into a little person, but this beautiful vision of what our family would look like melted away with the words “there is no heartbeat anymore”. I would go on to hear this 3 more times: 4 precious lives lost and with them that vision of motherhood I had built up on them living seemed to die too. With these losses came a strained relationship and understanding of God. In one moment I would be cursing Him and doubting his existence and in the next I would be begging him to comfort me, to give me a sign that my life was still meaningful, even without my children in it. How would I rid my mind and heart of the gruesome images and memories that exist from birthing deceased babies in hospitals and on my bathroom floor? How could I come to terms with holding their bodies in my hands, the bittersweet moments of seeing their sweet tiny faces, little hands and feet, lifeless on earth, knowing that I would never hear them laugh, cry, or say "mommy"? How would I work through the immense pain, anger and loss that I felt? And in my mind was a broken record- an evil voice telling me “its your fault” “its your fault” “its your fault". Grief can be so complicated and often contradictory. While I aimed to rid myself of all sadness in favor of faking happiness, I also wanted grief to become a warm blanket, to swallow me up in sorrow so that I could lash out in anger rather than face the world bravely. It was easier for me to do that than be happy. 

Now that we have completed the adoption our my son, I know more clearly that what may seem like a horrible thing at one point in time, can lead you on to the most life changing path and give you your greatest blessing at another time. If I had not gone through years of miscarriages, I would not have adopted my son because my heart needed to change. I was angry at God, didn't understand the plan He had for my life, stopped believing in Him at one point, and just felt at a loss and betrayed. I was walking pain and wanted to shut out the world. I was only looking at the short term, immediate picture for my life, and didn't like what it looked like at the time, whereas God knows my BIG lifetime picture. His vision of what is best for me is clearer than mine. Once I got to the "other side" of my trauma (and trust me, it wasn't easy), I realized how good He is, and when I face trials now I know they will lead me to a better understanding of self, and purpose. We are in the process of adopting our second child from Ukraine who has special needs....would I have pursued that 5 years ago? No way!!! But now, I can't wait to have them in our home. He loves me enough to not only give us one child through adoption, but a second one as well! He has equipped Adam and I to raise a child who is "extra special"- how wonderful is our God?

I just want to encourage any of you who are struggling with how your life seems- trust God. Our human minds can not even begin to understand how merciful He really is, always is. The hard truth (and some people may disagree with me on this, but this is the perspective that I have found the most healing in)- you having to wait to be pregnant, or have a healthy pregnancy is not God. You having to struggle and feel pain in all of this, is not God. Losing babies, sinking into depression, being swallowed up by grief, is not God- it is the evil one; it comes from the dark place, not the light of God. I prayed and begged for God to give me a healthy pregnancy but it just didn't happen at that time. God showed himself clearly to me through the adoption of our son, the best gift of my life. He knew my son was waiting for me, and He knew exactly how to work through the brokenness of infertility that the evil one tried to ravage my body and mind with. God can work in anything, and this darkness led me to Him. Does God have the power to make you pregnant with a healthy baby?...absolutely. Does God have the power to fulfill all of your desires?...absolutely. But what would giving you exactly what you want, how you want it, manage to do in shaping you into the person you can be, the path you can be on, even if it brings pain? You don't want a God who is a genie in a lamp. You want a God who knows your best interests and will hold strong to His promises, even when you feel as if you can't cope with the process at times. I have more to offer my son as a mother now, someone who has experienced brokenness and extreme hurt, than I ever could have if my life had turned out exactly the way I had wanted it to. I do not deserve the blessings He has given me, but He loves me enough to give them anyways. 

Meditate on Proverbs 3:5 ("Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding")- try your very best not to succumb to your own thoughts and understanding of what you "need". Trust that God knows better...even if it is hard.

Launching our Adoption Video Intro

We have been thinking about this video and making plans for it for what seems like a very long time now...too long of a time. There are many reasons for the time we took, especially since we have no idea how to explain the calling God has placed on our hearts so that others can entirely understand where we are coming from. All we know for sure is that our God is great, our God is good and that He loves us enough to know we are equipped to take on the responsibility of caring for a child who has special needs. Of course this video has lots of things missing that we wanted to say, and because we are by no means professional videographers there is no doubt lots of glitches. But none of that matters. What matters is that we get this little one home to us so that they can be loved for the rest of their lives. We think that by sharing our lives (within our comfort zone) there will be the potential to educate others about the orphan crisis, about the need to have more families make the choice to adopt and hopefully help us gain prayers and funds to move our adoption forward, sooner. 

Our hope is to continue filming our journey to bring our child home from Eastern Europe and we hope that you will come along! We will be posting our videos on youtube, facebook and this blog. So without further ado, here is our first video: 

The Way of a Father

I have been blessed to experience the close presence of two amazing fathers in my life: my own father and my husband. I have learned so many things from both of these men: the value of being strong when times are tough, the importance of hard work, sacrificing for your children and how it feels to know you are safe. Growing up, and to this day I have always considered myself a "Daddy's Girl". Even at a young age I appreciated my Dad's honesty- it was always humbling and maturing to hear what you needed to, versus what you wanted to. My father was concerned more about developing my character than telling me what would let me only feel momentarily happiness. But there were still those moments where he would treat me to special gifts: a date over a small bag of chips and a chocolate milk, a new pink bike with spokes (remember those?), a new animal, especially a baby animal from our farm, a gentle hug, kiss, or a meaningful apology when needed. My father has the hardest exterior, but the softest core. I am very lucky to have grown up with a father who always showed me love and worked very hard to give his family the best he could, which was a lot. My father is a teacher at heart and even now I am restless making a decision unless I can have his advice to guide me. My father is also a man of God. I owe my early interest in having a relationship with God to witnessing my father so involved in our church, the first volunteer to pray at any function, the one who would get his food last so others could get fed, the one who purchased almanacs of sorts to further analyze words in the Bible, and the expectation he placed on us to go to church, every Sunday, even when we would rather sleep in. I love my Dad for many things, but I am most thankful for the way in which he showed me how to love God.

My husband waited through some very difficult times to become a father. During our time of loss, where we just couldn't seem to hold on to our babies, he was a rock. I was a mess- and he was the one who would take care of me, the house, the dog, and keep our lives afloat. I have no doubt that the pain I felt so strongly was shared by him, but he had this amazing ability to keep it more under the surface and only bring it out when he had alone time. I was so excited on the day we found out that our son would be coming to live with us, not just because I would become a mom, but more so because I was eager to see Adam be a Dad. He said to me once that he was worried he may not know how to do it, because his own father had died when he was so young. This sentiment shows not only how much he thought about becoming a dad, but this fear he had about whether he would be a good Dad, meant he would be. Because Adam is always thinking about others before himself. There has not been a day in our marriage, or his time as a Dad, where he made a decision selfishly. One of the main reasons I married Adam is because I knew our children would always feel loved, protected and safe with him, even when I could not fulfill those qualities. When Pierce came into our lives, Adam melted into the experience of loving a child more than himself and differently than the way he loves me. The way he loves our son makes me love him even more than I thought I could. They have this special bond that is such a blessing to see. Pierce loves his Daddy for being fun, funny, and able to match his own energy level. Pierce loves his Daddy because he always wants to play with him, build with legos, eat treats together, or read books (after book...after books...after books...). I watch Adam stare lovingly at Pierce. When he looks at him he does this borderline dorky grin that speaks how grateful he is for him. I love my husband for many things, but I am most thankful for the way in which he takes care of our son.

To all the father's out there who may be reading this. Know that you're job is so very important. Know that you make a great impact on not only your children, but your wives and partners who get to see the way you love your children. You are loved, you are necessary, you are worthy of gratitude. Happy Father's Day to my Father, and my Husband!!!