Beauty from the Ashes

I feel as though I am finally coming up for air post- placement.

We were as prepared as we could be to welcome Lyla into our family. But those of you who are parents and have been following our journey, well, you knew before we did that one can never be fully prepared for what parenthood is.

I am still in awe that this sweet baby girl is ours. This is the most precious gifts that God could ever give us. And she is ours!

It feels like it has been a whirlwind the past 5 months. Everyone said that it goes so fast. Already, I feel like the moments I have to hold her close as I rock her and just grow the bond between us is flashing by.

I feel as though I’ve been on auto pilot the past few months as we have transitioned into parenthood. Really, not thinking about anything, just acting on instinct and hoping to get through the days one by one.

I’ve been terribly afraid to write about this part of the transition since we haven’t finalized yet and I have so many unfounded fears and anxieties until that day has come and gone.

The reality is that this is part of the journey. And I’ve come to accept that it is so perfectly normal that to withhold from admitting it is actually abnormal.

Both Josh and I have been trying our best to keep ‘life as we know it’ and yet, life is everything but.

I have made some decisions in the last week that will allow me to slow down and enjoy just being still with my daughter.

She is, after all, truly our beauty from the ashes.

When we chose her name, because of the woman she is named after, we also loved that Lyla means dark beauty in its Arabic roots.

When we first saw that, we thought it was so fitting because we knew we would adopt a daughter who would look different than us- our dark beauty.

As I’ve come to know her, come to know the joy that it is to be her mother and am beginning to learn the art of being still, I know the real meaning of her name to us- she is the light at the end of a very long journey to grow our family. She is our beauty from the ashes.

It’s funny to see things come full circle. To not understand the why in the moment. And, to come to appreciate the hard, the long and the frustration later.

And just as I feel like a completely new season has entered our house, this beautiful orchid, given to us by dear friends after our failed adoption last summer, is beginning to bloom again. Coincidence? I choose to think not. I love how God finds even the smallest ways to show us that there is still life, even when you thought it had gone. Like beauty rising from the ashes.

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It is Well with my Soul

We are coming up on Mother’s Day and I cannot help but think about where we were a year ago at this time.

We had just found out we were pregnant. I was in shock, as it was not planned. I was terrified it would impact my ability to bond with the baby we were so desperately working to adopt. And I was crazy excited at the same time.

We found out we were matched with the first baby girl who would be due in August the day before Mother’s Day. We couldn’t believe how blessed we were to be going from a family of 2 to a family of 4 in less than 9 months. For us, it was our perfect scenario. We were ecstatic the babies would be born so close together and go through life together.

We went through a lot of tragedy and heartache in the three months that followed as we lost both babies.

As I look back on the events now, I can honestly say- It is Well with my Soul.

You see- it’s as if God was leaving me little breadcrumbs during this journey. Glimpses of hope to keep me faithful and know that His perfect plan was coming together.

I don’t think that it is a coincidence that Lyla was conceived the weekend we were matched with the first baby girl.

I also don’t find it to be a coincidence that since Lyla was born early, she was born within a few days of when the baby we had conceived would have been due.

Little did I know at this time last year that our lives would, in fact, change in the most blessed way in just 9 months- it would just be blessed differently than we expected at that time.

I can also see God was at work when we first met the baby girl who was due in August. Josh and I had settled on the name Lyla Estalene. That was the name for our daughter.But when we got to the hospital in Kansas City, something didn’t sit well with my soul. As we talked about names with the birth parents, I blurted out that we would love to incorporate a name that was meaningful to them as that baby’s middle name. I hadn’t talked to Josh about this change but naming that baby our name- just didn’t feel right.

We named that baby Lyla Rene. Rene in memory of her birth mother’s cousin.

I have no idea if her birth parents kept the name that was on her birth certificate after we left. But I know, that for us, there is only one Lyla Estalene. And she is our daughter.

She is the one who God had planned for our family all along.

And knowing- rather seeing that reassurance- that God was indeed with us throughout the entire journey- and remains with us- well, it is all well with my soul.

For the first time in a year, I have peace.

The Right Fit

Miss Lyla will be 7 weeks old tomorrow- it has gone SO fast! Hence- no blog updates!

We are all transitioning into our new dynamic as a family of 3 humans and 3 puppies. I wish I could sit here and write that it has been an absolute fairy tale since we brought Lyla home- but- well- LIFE! Life is chaotic and that is the beauty in it, isn’t it?

Lyla is a sweet girl and really she is  a very easy baby to care for. She is already sleeping between 5-6 hours at night and has been eating consistently throughout the day and night. She is already weighing in at 7 pounds! Our pediatrician continues to be very happy with her progress.

Lyla is also a very strong girl- she proved that she was from the very beginning when she stayed out of the NICU in the hospital in Utah. Now, even though she is tiny, she is a mighty warrior. She is passing all the normal milestones for her age and development like batting at the hanging animals and rattles on her activity gym play mat, gripping our fingers hair, necklaces… whatever she can wrap her tiny fingers around(!), turning her head to the sound of our voices and she is even rolling over from tummy to back!

We are absolutely in love. It’s hard to believe at times that God has really blessed us with her- that she is our DAUGHTER! I still find that I tear up at the most random times (like driving home from the store) as I think about how good and how faithful God has been to us. We have a daughter!

So I ask that you all continue to pray for us. You have been so faithful in praying throughout our journey – and it’s far from over. Please continue to pray that we will continue to transition into this new norm- that we will find the right fit for who we are as a family of 3 (humans and 3 puppies 🙂 ). That Lyla will grow to know how very much she is loved. That she will grow to know the love of GOD.

The transition thus far has been relatively easy. As I mentioned in the beginning, life is chaotic and seems to throw you curve balls at the most inopportune times.

Less that one week after we arrived back home with Lyla, one of our pups, Shadow had an episode of bloat. If you don’t know what that is- his stomach basically flipped upside down and cut off blood to internal and very necessary organs. It was very scary. Thankfully, Josh knew something very serious was occurring and called the emergency vet immediately. We packed up Lyla and rushed to the doggy hospital as fast as we could. I met my mom in the parking lot and handed Lyla off to her. Shadow was very fortunate to be on the operating table within an hour of when symptoms started.

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He is a champ and is doing GREAT post-surgery. He is actually out on a long run with Josh as I write this.

About a week after Shadow came home from the doggy hospital, I came down with a nasty virus. I was sicker than I have been in decades- unbelievable!

All I have to say, is this is not what I pictured motherhood would look like-

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I didn’t go near Lyla for 4 out of the 10 days and wore a mask for all the other days I remained under the weather.

As soon as I started to recover, Lyla caught her first cold. Poor thing was coughing so much, she actually lost her voice and could only squeak out a dry, hoarse cry. Thankfully, she never spiked a fever and we were able to treat her symptoms with an over the counter infant saline spray.

Then it was Josh’s turn. He caught what I had and endured through a week of nasty symptoms as well.

It was a rough 3 1/2 weeks. Not quite what I expected her first month home to be like. But, you roll with it, right?.

I’m learning how to roll with other ‘unexpecteds’ during this transition time.

I swore I wasn’t going to be one of those moms who became scattered brain, overly emotional and over-tired. I was sure those were all tied to pregnancy hormones and I was exempt since we adopted Lyla.  It’s ok– go ahead and laugh out loud at me now. Because I now know with absolute certainty, none of those things have anything to do with pregnancy– and I am most definitely not exempt.

So, struggling to find words that should be on the tip of my tongue is a REAL challenge. Struggling to pay attention to what others are saying is a REAL challenge.

I am a high functioning, ambitious and active person. But now I am left feeling as though I can barely get myself through one single day. So, where does that leave me? Who am I now? And is the old me gone forever?

I have a constant internal battle of what is rational and what is irrational. I have a desire to please others- that is who I am- most times to a fault. And I know that right now, I have to do what is best for my family. That means saying no to a lot of things I would normally say yes to. And I feel awful inside about it. I feel selfish. And, I know it’s the best thing for right now.

Don’t get me wrong here- I absolutely cherish and love being Lyla’s mama (MA-MA– we’re working on it being her first word. Her first sentence will be MaMa is Lyla’s bestie.)

And just as the pieces of our adoption came together when we were matched with Lyla, I am confident that all these pieces will come together very soon. As a friend counseled me yesterday, all of these phases will seem like they last forever when you are in the midst of them, but in reality they are very short.

And so, I’m excited to find out- who am I as Lyla’s mama? Who is Josh as Lyla’s dada? And I must remember (because honestly, remembering to pray even takes a lot of effort right now) to thank God that He led us through a journey that has only strengthened our marriage. I know with certainty that whoever we are as Lyla’s parents, we will continue to have a rock solid marriage because we are build on a rock solid foundation.

We will find our ‘right fit’.

The Most Unselfish Gift

That’s what adoption is… in its most simplest form.

We have been given the gift of a daughter. Lyla Estalene was born at 12:23pm on Monday, January 15, 2018.  She was born 3 weeks early. She is a tiny warrior already, weighing in at 4lb 3oz at birth and measuring 17 inches long. Fast forward nearly 3 weeks later and she has grown to 5lb 7oz 18 1/2 inches long already!

She is healthy. She is beautiful. She is perfect… that is… absolutely perfect for our family.

I have learned a lot through this journey and I know I still have so much more to learn.

There have been so many “unexpecteds”… but the most unexpected of all is how much my heart has grown before we were actually placed with our daughter.

We were matched with Lyla’s birth mother the day before Thanksgiving. Instead of feeling joy, we felt scared. So very, very scared. To trust another woman… a stranger… to keep her word that she did believe we were the right people to parent her child. Scared to believe that we were actually good enough for her to pick to love and to raise her child. Scared to trust that God is in control and will work everything out according to HIS good plan.

So, we decided to keep the match private and navigate these feelings and insecurities with our families and close friends to help us.

It grew more exciting as her due date got closer. It was so very hard to keep my heart shut off from hope. Hope and belief that she really was to be our daughter. I finally gave in and began to pray daily for this birth mother and for this baby girl she was carrying. There is something to be said about the power of prayer. When I’m praying for someone, I become connected to them in a way that I cannot explain… and the walls I had built around my heart following our fail in August began to crumble down.

We got the call on a Friday afternoon that Lyla was going to be induced 3 weeks early because she had stopped growing in-utero. We were actually in the process of packing up our car to head to a cabin up north for the weekend… so we quickly unpacked and began to pack to travel for the birth of our daughter instead.

As our adoption consultant says- it was another weekend of “very high highs and very low lows.” Our emotions were flowing all over the place. Excitement. Fear. Incredulousness. Doubt. Once again, we relied on our prayer warrior friends and family because it just became too much for us to pray as we were living out these waves and feeling every single one.

We hopped on a plane early Sunday morning and met our birth mother for dinner that night. The nerves I felt about meeting her completely melted away the second I hugged her. It felt very natural to be near her. It felt very natural to talk with her and share in her excitement (and I did sense some fear too) about the birth of the baby girl the next day. Most importantly… it felt very natural to LOVE her.

We were invited to be at the hospital and in the delivery room for the birth of our daughter.  Never having given birth myself- I was terrified! And I knew this was an event I did not want to miss. Once again, it felt so very natural to be around our birth mother and support her that it didn’t even phase me to be in the delivery room. I even had the honor of cutting Lyla’s umbilical cord.  From the beginning, our birth mother was very inclusive of us in the entire process and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Our birth mother requested to spend the first 24 hours with Lyla alone and we respected that. As hard as it was to not be near her, hold her and get to know her habits and her cute little sounds… we understood the importance of this time her birth mother needed with her. Still, we worried until we received the news we had been waiting so long to hear… she signed the paperwork. She truly did believe in us and she wanted us to parent this child.

Panic hit the next day as we learned that Lyla would need to stay in the hospital one more night and our birth mother may wish to stay as well. Fear that we would be kept from visiting Lyla for another 24 hours overtook both of us. Looking back at this moment, I feel very foolish. Emotions were flowing out of my control. The situation was out of my control. And even though parental rights had been terminated, fear once again took a grip over me.

We did visit Lyla that day in the hospital. And we spent quality time with our birth mother before she discharged. I will forever remember my time with her that day.  She loves Lyla… and yet, she placed Lyla with us. That takes bravery. That takes strength. And I promised her, Lyla will know she gets her strength from her birth mother.

As we said goodbye to our birth mother, emotions once again swept over me. I was a wreck. Another one of those “unexpecteds.” I didn’t want to see her walk out of the hospital. I wanted her to stay and to remain a part of… our family. As she handed me Lyla, I felt so selfish. Again, another one of those “unexpecteds.”  Here, she was giving me the most precious gift. She was acting so selfless… and I was taking… so selfishly.

I had been told that the love you will feel for your birth mother is a love like no other. I didn’t understand until we were placed with Lyla. But now I know. I am forever grateful. I will forever love her.

The most unselfish gift that we can give to her in return… is to love Lyla fiercely and forever.

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*Note: We will not be publicly posting pictures of Lyla until finalization is complete in 6 months. Thank you for respecting our decision during this time.

Immanuel

Meaning “God with us”

As I have been reflecting on this Christmas season, I have never felt God’s presence more in my life.

This may have been the most challenging year of my entire life.  The loss we have suffered. The grief we have endured. The healing that is still taking place.

But, in the midst of it all, God has been with me.  I will be brutally honest here… I wanted nothing to do with God in June. The thought that He could let our baby die was too much for me. I couldn’t pray. I couldn’t go to church. I couldn’t listen to praise music. I questioned Him. I was very angry with Him.  Yet… He stayed with me. He is faithful, even when my faith is weak.

It’s incredible. Really, it’s more that I can ever wrap my head around. Which, shouldn’t come as a surprise.  Scripture says He is capable of far more than we can ever imagine.

Now to him who by the power that is working within us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think… Ephesian 3:20 (NET)

I close out 2017 with light and with hope.  God is faithful and He is good. And He has the power to do more than I can imagine.  What amazing outcome does He have in store for our future that I cannot even begin to fathom?

So, I will wait and I will trust and I will hope.

Because… Immanuel… God is surely with us.

The next adventure

Josh and I recently got back from a much needed vacation. We realized that we have put our lives on hold for the duration of 2017 in anticipation of, the match for and eventually the fail of the adoption.

So, at the last minute, we made it happen. We went on our own private adventure.

It was exactly what we needed. To recenter on ourselves. To recenter on God. To recenter on the purpose behind our decision to adopt.

The thing that I realized during our trip, is that we are good at adventures. I mean, we are good together at handling new and unexpected things. We are good together in navigating unchartered areas. We are a team. We lean on each other. We build each other up. We support one another in the other’s weakness. Really, we thrive together in adventure.

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So, it also hit me that this time of wait is so very hard… because we feel so very ready for the next adventure in our lives.

As our vacation came to an end, I fought back tears. I didn’t want to come home. I didn’t want to face my regular existence. To come back home to the status quo.  Yes, I felt like a spoiled brat, crying on vacation because I have to come home to a life that really isn’t awful. We have many many blessings and many many things to be thankful for. And sometimes, the sadness and the grief of the loss we have experienced is so great that it overwhelms me and I lose sight of all that I have.

I am reminded of all the times in my life that God has made beauty out of ashes. In fact, one of the most profound examples of that is included in this blog post. The fact that God has blessed me with a spouse who lifts me up, who supports me, who thrives with me during unknown and difficult times. It is not lost on me what a blessing that is. It is also not lost on me that the wait I endured to be connected with Josh was long… and hard… and so very very worth it. I couldn’t see it at the time. Just like I can’t see it now. This wait will also reap a blessing that I cannot even imagine.

And so, it’s time to begin writing the next chapter. While the first chapter remains incomplete. It will never have an ending. That baby girl will always be our baby girl. I will always remember her. Picture her. Feel her. The milestones that pass as she grows older each month. I will always remember those days. And for the time being, I will mourn her on those days. I see it as part of the larger process of letting go.

And so… we continue down this journey to welcome our baby home. Preparing our hearts for what God has in store for our family.

 

Contentment

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:12-13

In my last post I wrote that I am learning how strong I am inside. I am learning what I am capable of… and what I am not.

I am not capable of weathering this season of my life without God.

After our miscarriage, I fell apart. I can honestly say that it was the first time in my entire life that I questioned God. I mean, really questioned him. I could not pray. I could not listen to praise music. I could not step foot in our church. I was so angry with him. I lacked faith.

The failed adoption found me in quite a different position. After questioning God, I had learned to lean on him again. And in this new season of pain and hurt, I leaned on God. I felt like all I had left was my faith. And the hope that I have in God’s future plans for me is all that continues to pull me through each day.

In the week leading up to the baby girl’s birth, that awful week when the birth mom cut off all contact with the adoption agency and we were wondering if she would still place, I cried out loud in my worry and anxiousness that I was not strong enough to lose another baby- I did not have the strength to lose two.

The fact is, I’m not. I do not have the strength to keep the pace through this season on my own. But God… has the strength to carry me through. And somehow, in the midst of this crazy awful sad time, I’m finding the strength within me to put one foot in front of the other every single day.

I am learning that this event, this season… it will not be what defines me. Rather, I am discovering what I want this season to be defined as. It’s a work in progress and I haven’t quite arrived at the definition… but I know that when I look back at this season, I want to know that I came out of it loving my husband even better than I did before. I want us to be strong in our faith and in our relationship with each other. I know that I want to walk in faith.

Walking in faith is hard. Trusting God is hard. My struggle to do so often leads to discontentment.  The exact opposite of what I so desparately seek.  I’m working hard to find contentment in the season that I’m in right now.

In reality, everything is ok.  I have a family with Josh. We are a family. In addition, I have my parents and my siblings and I have my friends. I have a job that I enjoy.  There is nothing wrong in our lives. There is nothing to cause discontentment…  and I am working to find contentment in that.  To find contentment in the midst of this season of wait.

I haven’t found that contentment yet.  But… I am finding myself in more frequent and longer periods of peace.  In my head, I know that when I am faced with the moments where I don’t feel strong, everything is still ok.  Because God is orchestrating others to pray for me and for us in those moments.

This morning, as I took time for my personal devotion, the author made a reference to what David wrote in Psalm 52 as he faced adversity.

But I am like an olive tree in God’s house. I trust the mercy of God forever and ever.  Psalm 52:8

The author went on to explain… An olive tree is strong. When cared for… it can live thousands of years and be fruitful. And it’s a symbol of joy, peace and happiness. What’s interesting, is that an olive tree is completely dependent on its caretaker. It is not strong on its own.  In order to thrive, it must depend on its caretaker to provide the right nutrients, water and climate.

God is the ultimate caretaker. I am not strong on my own. And yet, I have an ongoing and never ending struggle with trusting God completely. I will never perfect the art of trusting wholly and completely… because I’m only human. But it’s my desire to work towards it. It’s how I want to look back at this season. It’s how I want to enter the next season that stretches me.

God has placed this desire to expand our family through adoption on our hearts.  We know that is real.  And God will see this through to completion.  In His time. As part of His perfect plan.

It definitely doesn’t look like what I pictured or what I had planned for us.  And I will find contentment in that.  We will be ready for the next season when it comes.