Beginning the Long Journey

To pick up where I left our adoption story in The Decision, we thought we had our direction to pursue adopting a child from Africa.  I won’t bore you with the mindless details or lack thereof from the time we received the pre-application from NHA and the time we actually filled it out and sent it in.  I’ll be honest, the packet sat on our kitchen counter for over a month.  It was something we both wanted and at the same time, something we both knew would change our lives forever.  For me anyways, that resulted in the delay to complete the 40 pages.

Until one night, we brought a bottle of red wine to our bedroom and started filling out question after question about ourselves, our families, our careers and our hope for our future.  We left the pages blank that required us to choose whether we wanted to pursue a foreign or domestic adoption because we felt we needed more guidance and confirmation from the agency on that decision.  Turns out, it was one we didn’t have to make.  I called NHA the next day and learned that adopting from Uganda was no longer an option.  The government, as many African countries had already done, passed a law within the past months that requires potential adoptive families to have at least a one year residency in country before even being considered for placement.  We can’t do that.  As much as our hearts feel led to Africa, that is a commitment we cannot realistically fulfill.

Domestic adoption was our new focus.  This would be the first of many turns we did not expect to make during this process.

In true Nikki fashion, I dove in.  I anxiously checked our mailbox each day to see if we were pre-approved and thus could move on to the real application process.  It finally came.  It was a very thin manilla envelope.  My heart fell.  The pre-application had been so thick, how could this be so thin unless we were not approved, right?  I compared it to a college application approval letter- you know- the thicker the better🙂.  Somehow, I managed to wait until Josh came home from work and we opened it together.

My fears were unfounded.  We were pre-approved!  The application itself paled in comparison to the work of competing the pre-application.

I am, to this day, so very touched by the outpouring of support that we received during this time- and continue to receive. Finding enough references -9 total- wasn’t an issue at all, as we had many friends offer to serve as one for us.  Turns out, we have a community that truly believes in us as we take this next step.  And thank God for that!  I would need this community to lift me up and keep my eyes focused on the bigger picture through the next several months.

“… and I will give you rest.”

A funny thing has happened in the last month.  As my anxiety levels have sky rocketed and my energy levels have plummeted, I have been knocked out for few weeks with mandatory rest.

I had a gall bladder attack on September 1st- yes, it’s a real thing!  I didn’t believe my doctor until I googled it and lo and behold, I had 9 out of the 10 symptoms.  From there, I underwent several tests including ultrasound and HIDA Scan, which eventually showed I have chronic inflammation due to chronic gall bladder disease.  My gall bladder is operating at 29% of what it should be.  Since my symptoms were progressing pretty fast, a rush was put on surgery orders and last Friday, my gall bladder was removed.

I am very optimistic that this will resolve ongoing problems I’ve had with my digestive system- including nausea and throwing up bile during tough races.  It all makes sense now, understanding what the gall bladder is responsible for, and I am convinced I’ve had symptoms occurring throughout the past several years.

In my usually fashion, I deeply underestimated the time it would take to recover.  It didn’t dawn on me that I did have an organ removed and not only do I need to heal from the incisions, my body also needs to learn how to operate sans organ.

So, now I rest.  And I find comfort in learning to be still.

It’s a humbling situation to be in and I feel like the most unreliable person at the moment.  I have had to cancel fitness classes I teach through my small business Kick@515 and I have had to notify my fellow coaches at Girls on the Run that I cannot be present to lead sessions this week.  It’s not my MO to be unreliable and it is an uncomfortable place to be.  It’s also uncomfortable to rely on my husband to do everyday simple things for me, like help me put on socks, help me get up and out of the recliner I’ve been spending both day and night in in order to use the bathroom and refill my ice pack for me every few hours.

I can’t help but wonder if this experience, this time to be still is just part of the journey, part of what I need to go through before I become a mother.  To learn to rely on others. To learn that expressing I cannot physically do all that I want to is ok and it does not make me unreliable.  To learn that where I am at in life right now, imperfectly perfect, well, simply put- is enough.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Now, for some humor- because let’s be real, every surgery comes with it’s own🙂.

I was given the nickname “pee wee” upon waking up in the recovery room by a male nurse.  He noticed I was trying to do too much on my own and not asking for assistance to cough and blow my nose.  I had already asked for a sip of water a few times and he came up along side of my bed with a table on wheels and a cup of water with a straw and said “here pee wee, you’re really too much of a whiner.”  Of course, my altered state of mind reacted and I started apologizing and asking if he was serious?!?  He said no, the opposite, I was exhibiting too much of an independent streak and didn’t think I would want to wait on my next water request.   Smart guy🙂

The nick name “pee wee” stuck throughout my time in the recovery room- which they explained was due to my size- I was just a little pee wee on the bed.  A pee wee with a flair for independence.  Due to my pee wee size, I was instructed to only take 1/2 of a pain pill once discharged and they only gave me half a pill once I got some food in my system.  Which- yuck!!  I had to settle on jello because the other options were not gluten free.  I kind of loathe jello.  It’s a texture thing- I can’t really stand the way it wiggles in my mouth.  And to make it worse, the flavor they brought was cherry.  Which makes me gag.

After I finished my snack, I continued to struggle to open my eyes, so I stayed a bit longer in the recovery room.  I have no idea how long, although it felt like hours in my altered state of mind.  During that time, nurses or techs would come by and check out my blood pressure and heart rate stats.  I guess they were pretty low.  I heard the nurse taking care of me repeat over and over “yeah, she’s a runner.”  The male nurse made his way back over and made an ordeal over the stats exclaiming “pee wee!  I also work in the ER and if you came in with those stats, we’d be rushing to resuscitate you!” Which, of course is an exaggeration cuz my heart rate would have to be zero for that to occur.  My heart rate was steady at 39.

For now, well, I’ll enjoy the accolades for just accomplishing the simple stuff.

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And instead of a delightful glass of red wine, well, a virtual cheers with my best friend will have to do

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Thy will be done.

Four simple words- thy will be done– that pack a large punch.

It’s been exactly one month since we were approved to adopt a child.  It feels like it has already been an eternity.  As I wait, those four words have been put in my heart and in my head.  This process, this time of uncertainty- it’s not about me.  This is time the Lord is using to perfect our family.  It is HIS will- not mine.  It is HIS plan- not mine.

For someone who has been so wrapped up in my own emotions, my own wants, my own desires- these four simple words have changed the course for me.

My plan was to tell our adoption journey from the beginning, each post continuing from where the last left off.  But, I feel compelled to pause our story and update on where we are today.

It’s hard to admit and as I look back over this past month, which should have been full of joy, I see how depressed I’ve let myself become.  I have been so obsessed with what I don’t have and not enjoying the blessings that surround me every day.  I have been so focused on the future state of our family, that I have not realized how awesome my husband is and enjoying our active lifestyle.  I have spent more hours this past month in bed either sleeping or watching T.V. than I have living.

This is not God’s will for me.  Scripture calls on us to give thanks in all things.  Scripture calls on us to cast all of our anxieties at the feet of Jesus.  Scripture teaches us that God is our strength in our weakness.  And… scripture teaches us that every season of our lives is part of God’s perfect plan.  God uses our weaknesses to His glory.  If we let Him.

The irony is all of this, is that I wanted to proceed with adoption because I thought I would have more control over this journey than I would if we kept trying to conceive.  How very naive.  It is a daily struggle for me, but I know that I have no control over the current process or when we will finally meet our child.  It is all in God’s hands.  It is all in God’s timing.  Thy will be done.

The Whole Truth

My last post left it seeming as though adoption was the only road we were considering to expand our family.

Here’s the rest of the story.

While we decided to pursue adoption, we also decided that we would begin to try for a biological child as well.  And, whichever happened first, we would be happy with.  I wish I could write that I was as complacent and carefree as that sounds.  I wasn’t.  And those of you that know me, are probably smirking because you know I am someone who likes to feel a sense of being in control.

True to self, I became one of those women who became obsessed with cycles, timing and schedules to ensure that we would become pregnant first.  I bought multiple versions of ovulation trackers and read text book style books on sure fire ways to get pregnant.  I spiraled for about 6 months as it didn’t happen.  I called my mom in tears when it became obvious that we hadn’t conceived again.  It wasn’t fun and I certainly wasn’t fun to be around, although Josh is too kind to ever say that out loud.

As all of this was occurring, multiple friends and cousins posted their baby news on Facebook. It was heartbreaking.  I don’t mean it in a jealous way either.  It’s a heart wrenching situation where you find yourself so excited for those you love and so sad for yourself at the same time. It’s a sense of loss for something you never had, but so desperately want.  It’s a sense of true joy for your loved ones as you share in their excitement of becoming parents.  It’s a sense of fear that you will lose some of those relationships because you remain childless.  I was stressed.  I was sad.  And, I knew it wasn’t healthy.

My attitude started to shift the closer we got to our adoption home study being finalized.  That process was exhausting in and of itself- more about that in a  separate post.  But as it started to come to an end, I started to feel excited about adopting and knowing that child will be ours, just as much as if we had conceived naturally.  For whatever reason, the more Josh and I talk about this dream, this desire, this hope to expand our family, adoption just seems to feel right.  The whole time I was losing my mind, tracking cycles and following schedules to conceive, it didn’t feel right to me.  Not to say that we are ruling that road out in the future, but here and now, our decision to adopt our first child feels natural.  I can’t explain it beyond that.

This process to adopt- it’s messy.  It’s hard. Most of the time, I feel as though I can’t catch my breath and I am certainly not in control of this journey either.  But I have more peace about the direction we are heading now.

The Decision

Why are we adopting?

Adoption has been laid on my heart since I was a little girl.  My siblings are all adopted and for as long as I can remember, this has been my vision for how my family would someday grow.  I’m not saying that my vision for growing my family doesn’t also include having biological children, but I have always held the desire to adopt children as well.  So much so that on our third date, I asked Josh what his views were on adoption.  To my surprise, he was completely open to the idea!  Little did he know at the time, that was a deal breaker for assessing whether he was future husband material🙂.

We did some initial research shortly after our wedding, assuming that the process to adopt would take time.  We found that nearly every agency required couples to be married at least 2 years before applying.  For us, it was important to have time to grow as a couple before we began to add children to the mix, so a 2 year wait actually took some pressure and anxiety off of me.

We revisited the idea of adopting in November 2015 as our 2nd anniversary was approaching in January.  One night as we were cleaning up the kitchen after dinner we started talking more seriously about the option to adopt.  I will never forget the scene in our kitchen because this was surely a God thing.  We both shared that we had been praying for God’s direction for our family as we weighed this decision and we both shared the word “Africa” kept turning itself over and over in both of our minds and hearts.

That was it.  From there, we dove in and began looking into agencies that were still open to working with African countries because many are closed right now.  We used the Christian Alliance for Orphans as a resource to find a reputable christian agency and that led us to New Horizons Adoption Agency.  NHA was working with Uganda and currently taking applications for adoptive parents!  It seemed like this was the direction we were to move in.

The week of our 2nd anniversary, we filled out the online request for a pre-application packet.  Thus, began our journey.

It’s About the Journey

The journey is where life happens. It’s not about crossing the finish line.  It’s about how we get there.  When I started this blog 5 years ago, I was focused on my adventures in running and sharing my tales of crossing the finish line. Over the course of the past year, I’ve found that I no longer have the same drive to post about my adventures in training for and running the next big race.

My life revolves around being a faithful wife, a loving sister and daughter, an encouraging friend and balancing a successful career in public policy.  Most days, I excel at some better than others, but this is where my drive comes from.  Running is now my release.  What keeps me functioning and able to remain centered in chaos.

Our life- my husband and mine- is about to change drastically.

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We are excited to add another pair of feet to our pack!  I realize now, more than ever before, that our journey is the most important part.  I have been so focused on the finish- finally meeting and mothering our child, that I have lost part of the “now.”  It has been six months of stress, tears, joys, longing and fear.  What keeps me going is knowing that the best part of this journey is still  unwritten.

The focus of my blog is changing as the my journey has changed course over the past year. I am excited to change course and I am excited to share this journey with you.  So, let’s dive in.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll take a look back to the beginning and share the rollercoaster that we’ve ridden thus far.  My hope is that you will get a sense of what we are experiencing through this new direction of our lives and that you will share in our tears, fears and joy along the way.

Cheers!

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I didn’t PR… but I WON that race

I ran the Carmel Marathon one week ago.  I can’t say enough good things about the race. It was very well organized.  Water stops were well run.  The course was beautiful and a great mix of on the road and city trails.  And to top it off, only a 200 foot elevation change throughout the entire course!
As I sat down to write this race recap, I looked back at my last post before the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon in October and I had to chuckle.  I wrote that I was going into that race with a different mindset, but knowing what I know now and having trained for the Carmel Marathon differently, I know that I went into my fall marathon already beat.
As I was training for this marathon, I read How Bad Do You Want It by Matt Fitzgerald. Honestly, this was a game changer for me.  I realized that by setting my goal so narrow and tying my performance to a specific goal time, I was defeating myself before I even got to the first mile.  The past 2 years I have struggled to enjoy race day.  With so many factors outside of my control on race day, anything that affected the chance of me running my goal time deflated my spirits and left me feeling like a loser, for a lack of a better way to describe it.  I was self-sabotaging!  So, a few weeks before this marathon, I decided my goal was to run strong.  To beat down those mental monkeys that had been following me.  The rest would follow.
Race week, I was surprisingly calm and in a great mood.  I felt great.  I was confident in my training.  I felt strong- for maybe the first time ever- heading into the marathon.  My coach suggested that I think of it as another long run.  I love long runs!  So, with that mentality, I was excited to lace up on Saturday morning and run relaxed.  I knew the key would be stay relaxed and remain confident in what my ability was on that given day.
Race morning.  I woke up and finished reading the last chapter of the Fitzgerald book as I ate my breakfast.  It renewed my excitement and my commitment to go into this run with no regrets.  It was going to get hard and I was ready for that moment.  It was going to hurt at some point and I was going to run through it.
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I laced up and Josh and I sent our race morning pictures to my mom so she could mentally picture us racing and I could mentally picture her along the course, cheering us on.
We got to the start, got in line for the portalet and found our way to the start coral.  The strategy was to run the 1st mile relaxed as a warm-up and then bring it up to the pace that I thought I could hold for 25 miles.  It worked. I felt like we were just starting out on another long run with a few other “friends” on this particular morning.  I should add here that the Carmel Marathon is a very small race- capped at 1,000 runners.  However, for the first 5 miles (and subsequently weaved throughout the rest of the course) we ran alongside the half-marathoners.  So, it was a little crowded starting out and we weaved our way through the sea of bodies to bring ourselves up to pace.  Josh had to go pee from the start.  I thought I did, but the feeling subsided as I ran further.  Once we broke away from the half-marathoners, Josh veered off course for a stop at a portalet.  I kept going, with instructions to stay at a steady pace.  I did.  As I ran alone for a mile and a half, I took it all in. I felt GREAT!  We were running on a country road and passed a field with a horse and I thought of my niece and my intention to be an inspiration to her, in all that I do.  It was in that moment, while I was running alone, that I knew I was going to run the race that I had set out to run.  I was going to finish this run strong.  I just had to keep running by feel, rather than by time.  Once Josh got back in step with me, he gave me feedback on my pace and I told him I didn’t think I needed that.  I just wanted to run what felt good and if I got to the point where I started to lag noticeably, to give me a nudge to pick it up.  I fully trusted him to keep me on pace.
Around mile 11, I realized I needed a stop at a portalet if I was going to finish strong.  Unfortunately, the stop took about a minute… but it is what it is and I got back on track afterwards.  I remember thinking going into the half-way checkpoint that I couldn’t remember the last race where I felt as good as I felt at this point.  And as quickly as that thought passed, I started to feel the mental fuzzies come into my head.  I worked through them and by mile 15, I felt like I was back on pace with renewed energy.  It helped immensely to see one of my colleagues around mile 14.5 cheering us on!
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By mile 17 we were back on a trail and I saw a photographer ahead.  Doing a mental check, I felt strong, so I ran and leaped into the air before the camera and hoped I didn’t pay for it later.  (note: photog fail😦.  There is no picture of my beautiful leap)
My coach has told me that the marathon doesn’t really start until mile 20.  That is where you give it all you’ve got.  I never understood that because I was always defeated before mile 20.  I got to experience that this marathon.  Actually around mile 19, my effort got much harder to maintain and I knew I was slowing.  It was also getting VERY hot- approaching 70 degrees (which doesn’t seem that hot, but anything about 60 is not ideal running conditions for me).  Mile 19 is where the mental race really began for me.  Actually, at mile 21 I shouted out “OH MY GOD!!!”  I wanted to quit.  But I wouldn’t let myself.  In every other marathon I have ever run, including the race I PR’d in, I have given up by mile 21 and slowed my pace by 2- 3 minutes per mile.  Not this time.  I started telling myself I have grit.  I have the grit to pull through this.  I started telling myself that there was no one I had to make proud EXCEPT for myself.  And I wanted to be proud of myself.  At that point, Josh turned and yelled back at me “no regrets today.”  It was like he was in my head and this happened repeatedly all they way to the finish line.  Once I started thinking a new mantra to try and propel myself forward, he would say it out loud and reinforce my thoughts.  God was certainly with us on that course.
At mile 23, Josh told me to sprint. It would be the hardest 5K I had ever run, but it would be worth it- no regrets today.  I dug in and sprinted… although, looking at my time splits, it wasn’t a sprint. I did, however, maintain a steady pace.  Until mile 25.  Mile 25, I sprinted.  I got my pace back under 9:00 per mile AND that was uphill (I distinctly remember this because I was making a mental note to tell the race organizers that was a cruel joke :)).
I have never taken a worse picture crossing the finish line and I have never been more proud to be pictured looking as bad as I do.  I clearly left everything I had to give on that course.
After crossing the finish line, I immediately went to the medical tent, with the help of Josh, and asked for a bag of ice.  I didn’t realize how hot it was, but all I could seem to think about was ice and I wanted it NOW!  I got the bag and put it on top of my head to cool me down.
There are so many small victories that I overcame during this run.  I ran through every single water stop.  Past races, I have stopped and walked through water stations.  This time, I mastered how to run through them and stay hydrated.  I started to feel sick, probably around mile 19 when it got hard, although I can’t remember exactly.  I had bits of my oatmeal breakfast coming back up and lodging in my throat and nose, but I ran through it and didn’t let that stop me.  Most importantly, I stayed engaged the entire time.  Sure, my pace slowed, but I didn’t throw the towel in.  I kept running as hard as I could.

I WON.

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