Surgery Day

Registering with Snoopy
When Liam had surgery for his cleft lip in November 2011, I wrote him a letter that I posted on my blog, sharing my feelings at that time. I wanted to do the same for Tucker last night, but I just couldn't figure out what I wanted to say. Now that his surgery is behind us, my mind and heart are full, and I'm ready to write. Here it goes.

Snuggles with Daddy
Dear Tuck,
Today marks 15 weeks that we have been together as a family. You sure got a raw deal having to celebrate the occasion by having surgery this morning - not a very fun party indeed! We woke you up bright and early just before 7:00 a.m. to load you into your car seat. You were a great sport and greeted all of us with a cheerful "Good morning!" When we dropped off your brothers at Christy's house, you immediately became sad. Those crazy boys just bring you so much joy. God certainly knew what He was doing when He chose us for one another. You are definitely a kid who needs siblings, and you know what, Noah and Liam need you. Noah has been praying for you, and as soon as we picked up Liam, he immediately wanted to kiss your boo-boos. :) I love the way you all love each other.

Snuggles in his hospital gear
While we were at Riley Hospital, we once again experienced the most compassionate, organized, and competent professionals. We had the same experience two years ago with Liam, and I found myself thinking about how lucky we are that you can have the best care by the best doctors and nurses. It was no coincidence that the lady who registered us adopted from Korea 23 years ago. It was no coincidence that the nurse who prepared us for surgery adopted from Guatemala in 2003. It was no coincidence that the nurse who discharged us was adopted herself. Whether purposely scheduled at the hospital or organized by the Lord, I know that it was no coincidence. When you meet other women who have been touched by this beautiful gift, you are instantly connected to one another. It is beautiful.

Loopy Juice

Sack of potatoes in my arms
Because of the trauma you've experienced being taken from all that you know in China and having received almost no care from anyone other than your daddy and me since we met you, I prayed that God would make the transition from our arms to the operating room a smooth one for you. I am so thankful that the Versed (loopy juice) made you silly, then calm, and then completely relaxed. I sang our song - One Step Closer - to you as you laid limp in my arms, eyes focused intently on mine. You didn't bat an eye when I laid you in that bed, and the nurse wheeled you away. God surely answered our prayers! We also had asked that once you woke up that we could quickly be with you. The nurse called us back immediately so that you saw us just after you woke up. You were crying a little bit and seemed disoriented, but you saw our faces and soon calmed down. The nurses and doctors took such great care of you and made sure to accommodate for your needs as being new to our family.

After surgery - in the arms of his daddy
After your procedure was over, and your daddy held you in his arms, I found myself crying - not because I was scared or relieved but because I was so thankful that you have a family to make sure you receive the best medical treatment. I thought of all the orphans in China and around the world who need surgeries and medical care, yet most of them do not receive the help they need. I thought about a little girl in an orphanage from your same province who had a broken leg. Her femur was protruding out of her leg for months, and yet, there was no money to help her. This poor girl lived for months in chronic pain, unable to walk or play. She stopped smiling and slowly became more and more sick. Her leg became badly infected, and although Love Without Boundaries secured the money to pay for her surgery, the poor sweet girl died before they could get her treatment. She died an orphan, with a correctable issue - something that we in America would fix without any difficulty - all because she was an orphan. Today I cried for her and all the kids just like her.

Every child deserves a family to care for them.

Because you and Liam are the same age, we were asked several times if we started the adoption process and then became pregnant with Liam, giving us two children the same age. It is a good question, but it also made me think even more about how our culture views adoption. When will our mainstream culture begin considering adoption NOT ONLY in the context of ...

"What will adoption do for me and my family?"

but rather/additionally...

"What will adoption do for these children?"

Tuck, sometimes I worry that I write too much, that I share too many intimate details about your life. We try to protect pieces of your story, like why you had surgery today, but at the same time, we know God is using your life to soften the hearts of people around us. We have had confirmation of that time and time again, and I hope as you grow up, you will understand the impact your life has had on not only our family but also the world around you. You were created for a purpose, and we are blessed to be your family. I thank God that you are home with us, that you had access to incredible care, and that we can make sure your recovery is as smooth as possible. Your bravery and ability to trust us after only 15 weeks together inspires me. I can't wait to take advantage of the extra cuddles we share while you heal. Love you, buddy!


Snuggled under a blanket on the way home #polarvortexproblems


What About "Our" Kids?

Tomorrow will mark Noah's 20th day home from school since Christmas break began. Snowpocolypse 2014 still has us snowed in, and to be honest, we are loving it! After spending the first 6 weeks home from China cocooning, staying home is kind of our new thing. Don't get me wrong - I have needed breaks and have been thankful for a girl's night and my first date with Ryan post-China (breakfast at Panera and Saving Mr. Banks afterward - so good!). However, I LOVE having Noah home with the boys and me. Seeing them play together for the past 19 days has honestly made me think a lot about what adoption does to the biological kids in a family.

One step closer
Throughout the adoption process, Noah gained the knowledge that there are children in the world who need families. He learned about a little boy in China who lived in an orphanage. Noah understood that Tucker was waking up just as he was heading to bed, and that when Noah was waking up in the morning, Tucker was getting ready to sleep. He watched Ryan and me go through the emotional roller coaster that our wait for LOA brought, including me completely falling to pieces and crying harder than I have in my adult life, thinking that Tucker would never come home.

Meeting Noah

Meeting Liam
Then while we were in China, I watched as Noah and Liam met their new brother for the first time. I saw them having fun with their grandparents while we were away, and then toward the end of the trip, I could see how ready they were for us to come home. When we flew home and first met eyes at the airport, I saw them look at Tucker for the time. I knew, without them saying a word, how much they had missed us. Lord knows we missed them.

I still get tears in my eyes when I think about this moment
I saw how after we first got home, the honeymoon quickly ended. The excitement to have a new brother faded away. Noah missed the days of our family of four, and Liam did not want to share a single item with Tucker, which resulted in LOTS of screaming. I prayed for God to soften Liam's heart...that he would accept his new brother. We showered Noah with lots of one-on-one time and gently worked with Liam and Tucker, showing them how to play with one another.

The transition was hard on every single one of us. This is exactly what parents think about when they are considering adoption. They wonder, "How will this affect our kids?"

I get it. I really do get it. It is a natural thing to consider and to question, just as you do when you are thinking about having another biological child. However, many kids who are adopted come from hard places. That is the key difference. You are bringing a child into your home without having any idea what he or she has experienced and how those experiences will affect the child's ability to form relationships with your other children.

If we hadn't brought Tucker home...

...Noah might never have SHINED like he does in his role as big brother. He leads his little brother in ways I never would have imagined. When Liam and Tucker need something, Noah is often the first one to help them out. When the little boys want to watch Noah playing a game, he pulls up chairs for them or moves to a place where they can see. When Tucker wants to play with something Noah has in his hands, he oftentimes says that he is all done and happily gives it to him. Noah has showed his brothers how to pray, helps them when they are in the middle of a conflict, and leads them in games and activities. I have told Noah many times that God chose him to be the big brother in our family, and although it is a big job, God knew that Noah could handle the job. I can say with all honesty that Noah's heart grew 10 times bigger having Tucker in our family. He looks out for Tucker and is more gracious and patient with his brothers than I feel sometimes. It gives me accountability and makes me a better mom.

Baby burrito, anyone?

If Tucker never came home...

...Liam might never have learned how to happily share and take turns with his toys. Seriously, this child went from having a death grip on anything Tucker looked at to later playing with something for a short time and then handing it to Tucker saying, "Here, Tucka, it's your turn" without anyone asking him to do so. When Liam finds a toy to play with, he will often find Tucker something similar to play with, too. With Noah at school all day five days a week, Liam now has a best buddy to play with all day long. He consoles Tucker when he gets hurt and laughs hysterically when playing with his brother. Liam also is teaching Tucker how to pray, and without knowing so, he is helping Tucker learn English, climb stairs, run faster, and how to follow the rules in our home. Tucker has given Liam the opportunity to be a leader, and he often steps up to the plate.

Our boys - Noah, Liam, and Tucker - will grow up with the knowledge and belief that EVERY CHILD DESERVES A FAMILY. Adoption won't be as scary to them. It will be their norm, the familiar, no big deal. I love that!

We all want our children to grow up to be these amazing, incredible people who love others and leave a positive print on the world, right? One of the best ways to create those kinds of kids is to give them opportunities to be just that. If we don't challenge them with difficult situations, how will they grow? If they have the chance to love the least of these as children, maybe they will find it easier to continue that behavior as adults.

Of course this isn't easy. Raising a family is not easy. Having siblings is not easy. Someday, someone will tell Noah or Liam that Tucker isn't their real brother...that we aren't his real parents. Someday, someone will ask us how much Tucker cost us...in front of our children. Someday, someone will make fun of Tucker because he doesn't look like us. We are teaching Noah (and someday Liam and Tucker) how to handle those situations. They will be prepared to show how love makes a family and nothing else.

So you wonder how it will affect your other children? I hope this post helps you see that even though it's not always a cake walk (few sibling relationships are 100% of the time), the way that I've seen Tucker's presence in our family grow Noah and Liam in nearly 12 weeks brings tears to my eyes. Our boys have become REAL brothers even when my own heart sometimes falls into hard places. They inspire me. They help me see that even when my heart feels disconnected (which still happens every couple weeks lately), glue has already connected the three of them through and through. These brothers help me believe that we are a REAL family.

On December 14th, I saw the picture of a child who caught my eye. Our adoption agency has given him the name, Tate, and he lives in Chongqing, China (where Tucker is from) in an orphanage called Love Manor. I have heard incredible things about Love Manor in terms of it being a very nice orphanage where the children are well-cared for by the nannies. He will turn 9 years old in just a couple months. He has a repaired cleft lip, and his palate is 98% closed. Is he beautiful or what? My heart seriously skipped a beat when I saw this precious boy. He lives with a foster family within the orphanage, so he has the ability to experience a more natural family situation than many kids who are raised in a more traditional orphanage setting. He loves to play outside, shares with his family, and cares for his younger siblings. For reasons we will never know, his file to be adopted was just created this summer. This means he has waited a very long time for the chance to be adopted. In just five years, he will "age out," and his opportunity to be adopted will end. Please do not let this boy wait any longer.

The unknown can be overwhelming and even scary. You might wonder what having Tate in your family would do to your other children (if you have other children already). My guess is that his presence would bless your children and your family in ways they would never experience otherwise. I pray his face sticks in your mind like it has in mine. All he needs is a family. I hope you are his family.
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