family

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Reflections on Arriving Home

Published April 25, 2013 by megchristo

ImageTonight was the first night I saw pictures from February 10, 2013. This was the day we arrived home after spending 3 weeks in China. This was the day that Elle and Mae became US citizens simply by stepping foot on US soil. This was the day Elle and Mae finally met their brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncle, cousins, and close friends. This was also Chinese New Year…so began the year of the snake! This day was so many things! It was so emotional. I was so happy to finally hold my boys again. I was ecstatic to introduce the girls to so many important people in their life. I was relieved to have them home, and to be home. I was exhausted. I was overwhelmed by Elle’s reaction of shear exhaustion, confusion, and terror. I was so proud at how brave Mae was acting even though she was also exhausted and confused. Although I wanted to spend more time with all of my family and best friends that came to greet us, I knew I needed to retreat quickly to our house with the girls. We needed to settle in for the night, so that the next day we could begin the journey of finding our normal home life again.

I really loved seeing these pictures tonight…thank you Annie Shelton!!! It brought a tear to my eye. I am absolutely awe struck at how much progress both Elle and Mae….and really my whole family has made in just two months! Honestly I don’t think that my girls even look like the girls captured in these pictures. They have begun to blossom into the confident, sassy, brave, strong, beautiful girls they really are! All they needed was the love and security of family. When you think about it, isn’t that all any of us really need? When we have the love and support of a family, all of us are able to be the best we can be!

In the two or three weeks following the airport, life certainly did not get easier. We were all in a new, unfamiliar terrain. Elle in particular went through major grieving. I couldn’t leave her side. Everyday she went through a spell where she would cry so hard it would break your heart and your ear drums. The crying would last for hours. Her world had been turned upside down. While she loved having a family, we all talked a different language she couldn’t understand, and we couldn’t understand her. We ate food that she didn’t like. She practically lived on hard boiled eggs and milk for two weeks. We smelled funny. We did odd things like watched movies, and relaxed in a hot tub. We left the house everyday to run errands, go shopping, or visit the doctor. We had a dog living in our house. We took baths every night. We played games. We had lots of visitors. While all of these things sound fairly benign, think about how overwhelming all of these new stimuluses are when they are coming at you all at once. These break downs would usually come at night before bed for Elle. They usually seemed to be stimulated by me doing something like holding or carrying one of the other children. I would sit next to her on the floor literally for hours as she cried. I would calmly reassure her that everything was going to be ok! Occasionally one of the boys would come down to complain about the noise. I would hug them, promise them it would get better, and tell them to shut their bedroom door. Matt wasn’t handling it well either. His nerves were rubbed raw. Some nights I was afraid he would run away to join the circus. I am only half kidding. ūüėČ Slowly it did get better. The meltdowns wouldn’t last as long, and were not as frequent. Now they don’t even happen. Elle is a happy, funny, confident girl full of life and moxie. She knows what she likes, and definitely knows what she doesn’t like. When I am home from work, she is usually very close to me. She is my wing girl! Her English is coming along well. She is now starting to talk in 3 to 4 word sentences. We still hear a lot of Chinese words, and I love that!

Mae Mae’s transition has been much smoother even seamless. The only obstacle was getting her belly full. She could eat and eat and eat. Now her belly is full of love. Her chubby cheeks are evermore irresistible. I tell her multiple times a day in a sing songy voice, “Mae Mae is Mae Mazing!” We do see more smiles and hear more laughs. Both are contagious. She too is picking up more English words. She loves trying to keep up with her brothers!

The boys are doing GREAT! Gabe and Carsten are busy with baseball. Gabe can’t wait to get home from school so he can give his sisters some “sugar.” Carsten is enjoying the fact that Griffin now focuses his ornery energy on Elle. It has been quite a respite for him! Griffin has blossomed quite a lot himself. He is now talking a lot more, and is enjoying mothering Mae. Mae not so much. On the few nice weather days we have had, the kids have all gone outside to play. They fill the neighbourhood with laughter and squeals of joy. Watching all five of them play together sends my heart soaring! It feels, sounds, and looks like heaven on earth. In fact, I can’t picture heaven offering me any more than this….complete and total contentment and happiness.

Matt and I have found our equilibrium. We even enjoyed our first date night on Friday thanks to Grandma Jo. We talked and laughed about the kids, our jobs, our hopes, and our dreams. Our hearts are so full! I don’t think it would be possible to be happier. Adoption is so amazingly beautiful….not easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. I am happy we finally found our daughters…exactly the way we were meant to. Life is better than good!

The Day That Changed My Life

Published March 25, 2013 by megchristo

Today was my first day back to work. ¬†The time to bond with the girls seemed to fly by! ¬†Last night I could hardly sleep. ¬†I was tossing and turning worried…panicked even on how the girls would do with me leaving for work everyday. ¬†How would this effect them? ¬†I was worried the most about Elle. ¬†How would my work life interfere with the progress we have made on her abandonment fears? ¬†Would we take 10 huge steps backwards the moment I walked out that door? ¬†When I left the house, I pulled alongside the curb a few blocks down the street and balled. ¬†I mean ugly cried. ¬†I allowed myself to do that for about 5 minutes. I then fixed the makeup, and was off to the races.

Now, don’t get me wrong. ¬†I really like my job. ¬†I love my customers, and I feel like a truly make a difference. ¬†But have you ever had one of those scotch tape kind of days? ¬†You are fairly put together on the outside, but if anyone looked close enough they would see you were being held together by scotch tape at the seams. ¬†At any moment the scotch tape might give, and your heart may come popping out. ¬†Today was one of those days for me. ¬†Luckily I made it through with my heart still pumping in my chest!;)

On days like this I remember so clearly the day that changed my life and my perspective.

This happened to me on May 31st, 2006 at 10:30 am.¬† Matt was sitting on the left hand side of my hospital bed at the University of Missouri.¬† Carsten was just a little over 10 hours old, and we couldn‚Äôt stop staring at our perfect baby. ¬†Then I heard a knock on my door, and 8 doctors that I had never seen before came filing in.¬† They lined up in an ‚ÄúL‚ÄĚ shape around my room.¬† From my days as a hospital sales rep, I knew that 2 of them were attending physicians, 4 were residents, and 2 were med students by the length of their white coats or lack there of.¬† I also knew they weren‚Äôt there to say ‚ÄúGood morning.‚Ä̬† The first NICU attending physician opened by saying, ‚ÄúHas anyone expressed the concerns we have about your baby?‚ÄĚ

I quickly answered, ‚ÄúNo.‚Ä̬†

She followed by saying, ‚ÄúYour baby has several characteristics of Down syndrome.‚Ä̬† Her eyes then filled with tears.

Time stopped for a moment.¬† I then glanced down the line of doctors till I got to the next attending.¬† I asked her, ‚ÄúWhat does this mean?‚ÄĚ

She said, ‚ÄúWell, if your baby does have Down syndrome he will have mental retardation.‚Ä̬† The rest of the scary medical things she rattled off I couldn‚Äôt even keep up with.

I remember saying with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, ‚ÄúCan we fix it?‚ÄĚ

I don‚Äôt remember how they responded to this illogical question because I then looked down at Carsten curled up in my arms. ¬†At that moment he looked up at me with those beautiful, almond shaped eyes, and for the first time I heard his ‚Äúvoice.‚Ä̬† His heart spoke to my heart and he said, ‚ÄúMommy they aren‚Äôt here to fix me.¬† I am here to fix you.‚ÄĚ

For six…almost seven years…Carsten has gone through the difficult job of fixing me. ¬†He is my beacon of truth, honesty, love, and all things good in this world. ¬†Everyday he shows me how much the human spirit can endure and triumph if one just puts their mind to it. ¬†I am not sure of the person or mother I would be today if Carsten hadn’t been born with an extra chromosome. ¬†I don’t think the person I am today would approve of her though. ¬†I am so thankful to be exactly where I am today. ¬†I am thankful for all of my children! ¬†They all have helped shape the person I am, and only will help push to make me a better person tomorrow. ¬†Their job will never be done! ¬†So when I think that my scotch tape may blow, or that the girls will retreat into the depths of their despair while they were waiting for Matt and I to find them, I remember how silly I must be being. ¬†

After all how could all of the love, security, and safety of our family be erased by a working day? ¬†When I returned home and saw the pure joy of my return on Elle, Mae, Griffin, Carsten, and Gabe’s faces, I knew it couldn’t be erased. ¬†Somehow my love surely lingers around them like protective cloaks even when I am not physically next to them. ¬†Besides nothing beats all of the hugs, kisses, and exuberant “MOM!” screams I hear when I walk through the door. ¬†

Hopefully tomorrow when I leave for work, I will feel like I am held together with a substance more sturdy than scotch tape….perhaps duct tape will do! ūüôā

 

The Guilt

Published February 21, 2013 by megchristo

No one could have prepared me for these feeling. ¬†No one could have possibly explained how visiting the orphanages where your daughters spent their lives previous to you would change me. Not just change me….gnaw at me…scream at me….wake me up in the middle of the night with a tears in my eyes. ¬†The simplest word to describe it is guilt. ¬†Here we are back in America living a life that is like heaven compared to those circumstances, and it seems all of us take it for granted. ¬†We don’t appreciate how beautiful, extravagant, fruitful, dare I say easy our lives are. ¬†We don’t have to worry where our next meal will come from. ¬†We know what meat tastes like. ¬†Our diet isn’t limited to what is the cheapest, quickest and easiest to prepare, or what someone has donated to us. ¬†We know what it feels like to have a family’s unconditional love, support, and bond. ¬†We have heat in our homes in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. ¬†Our children have toys, clothes, and beds that our theirs. ¬†Every child is given an education. ¬†We have huge lavish gala’s to celebrate and raise funds for people with Down syndrome, so they can be the best people they can be. ¬†Here we can be anything we truly want to be.

For children without a family, there life is covered in a thick haze of grey, and it is hard to see the sun both literally and figuratively. ¬†There is no heat or air conditioning in the orphanages. ¬†That is a luxury they can not afford. ¬†Meals are made for more than 600 children, and must be done so cost effectively and quickly. ¬†What few toys there are belong to everyone. ¬†Cribs are shared with 1 or 2 other children. ¬†Clothes are community property, and most have been donated. ¬†Education is something only a few may receive. ¬†In Elle’s orphanage there were six floors. ¬†We were only able to see one floor. ¬†We were told by our guide that the other floors had “unadoptable children”. ¬†I asked what would make someone unadoptable because surely everyone deserved the right to have a family and a home. ¬†She said those were the children with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, etc. ¬†It is almost impossible to find families for them especially if they are boys. ¬†I cried after seeing Elle’s sleeping room, and she was deemed worthy of a chance. ¬†Can you imagine what those floors would have looked like? ¬†I shutter at the thought. ¬†Then there are those that have minor special needs or healthy, and have never been adopted. ¬†They will forever have the title of an orphan. ¬†A social stigma that will haunt them even once they are able to leave the walls of the orphanage.Once they leave the orphanage the government tells them who and what they will continue to be. ¬†Many will become cheap labor in factories, and work 12-14 hour days 7 days a week for the rest of there life.

These children have become silenced, voiceless people. ¬†Their only real hope is for someone to open there hearts and their homes, and call them their daughter or son. ¬†I am haunted by the faces of the other children I saw in the orphanage. ¬†Their sad eyes looking up at us begging to be held, to be loved, to be saved, to be someone, to have a voice. ¬†I am guilt ridden by the fact that I took my two beautiful daughters out, and turned my back on all of them still there. ¬†How do I continue my life “as usual” when I have seen this level of injustice in the world? ¬†These children don’t want perfection. ¬†They want to matter. ¬†They want to be loved. ¬†They want a family. ¬†It really is that simple. ¬†So what am I to do? ¬†Sell everything, and move to China? ¬†Do I start a non-profit here that will help fund these orphanages? ¬†Maybe I can start a GiGi’s Playhouse in China.;) ¬†None of those things seem to really solve the problem. ¬†I guess I will continue to tell my story. ¬†I will hold my daughters high for the world to see. ¬†I will show people that they can do this. ¬†I will keep sharing the progress my girls are making. ¬†I will ask people to once again to look into their hearts, and find a place for one of these children. ¬†Image

Here we are outside of Mae’s orphanage in Kaifeng.

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This is one of the two sleeping rooms we saw in Elle’s orphanage in Luoyang.

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Here are two incubators with 4 babies that we saw in Kaifeng orphanage. ¬†The smallest baby was so tiny. ¬†I would say 2 pounds. ¬†These nannies were not only taking care of 35-40 0-2 year olds, but also these tiny babies. ¬†Clearly they should be in a hospital NICU, and not an orphanage. ¬†I don’t know how these nannies even begin to try to meet all of these kiddos needs.

Wow! What a crazy three days!

Published January 30, 2013 by megchristo

The last three days have been the most emotional days of my life. There has been the highest of high, and some pretty devastatingly, sad moments. We went to the registration office on Monday morning for “gotcha day”. ¬†The orphanage directors were bringing the girls there to us. Mae was in Kaifeng orphanage. She was already there when we arrived. I recognized her instantly, and went running to her. She came to us very willingly. Mae is quite simply gorgeous!! ¬†She also is quite fond of her daddy, which is adorable. ¬†Luckily we were able to spend two hours with her holding, kissing, cuddling, etc. Elle was n Luoyang orphanage which is 2 1/2 hours away from Zhengzhou. Their bus got caught in traffic, which is horrible here. When Elle was walking up the stairs to the registration office I could barely hold myself back! ¬†Her eyes are so beautiful, and she draws you in like a magnet. When she first saw me she smiled big and jumped up and down. That lasted about 10 seconds, and then she melted. She cried harder than any kid I have ever seen just in shear sadness and fear. We both collapsed onto the floor in the registration office, and there we cried together for 30 minutes. Finally I was ¬†able to stand up, and hold her to finish the paperwork. All of the other adoptive families hearts were breaking for Elle too. No one wants to see a child that sad. You could literally see in her eyes her inner dilemma. Does she go back to the hell she knows, or does she go with these strangers that may or may not be better. It was heart wrenching. We then got back on the bus to head to the bank. On the way there our bus hit a van, or vice versa. We were fine, but caused a delay. When we got to the bank, Elle popped up. ¬†She held my hand, gave me that million dollar smile, and we were off. Progress felt great! ¬†I now has the only person in the world she trusted, but she still wasn’t sure how much she could yet trust me. We are still building it one drink, one meal, one hug, one smile, one kiss, one bath room trip at a time. ¬† Matt and Elle are working on it too. They mostly like to share laughs together, and that is good enough for now. Mae is easy (dare I say that). ¬†She just wants to be held…..all the time! ¬†Either one of us can hold her with no problems. We saw her smile the first night, and it made our day complete! ¬†That first night Elle would not take off any of her orphanage clothes to sleep, which included shoes. We just cuddled up together, and she held my hand throughout the night. I think she wanted to make sure I wasn’t going anywhere. That was heartbreaking and sweet all at the same time.

Tuesday was a long day. We had to go back to the registration office for our adoption certificates, and the the notary office in the morning. In the afternoon we ¬†had to take the long bus ride to Luoyang to apply for Elle’s passport. The Chinese people there were very confused on why MJ and I had two Chinese daughters. One older lady was very concerned, and I had to find someone to translate what we were doing there. She then gave me a thumbs up, and walked on. We then went to the orphanage. I was so worried about how Elle would handle this trip. Actually I was petrified. On the way there I had our guide tell Elle in Chinese that we were only visiting. ¬†That mommy and daddy were forever, and that she would leave with us. She nodded, and looked straight ahead. When we got to the orphanage I had the guide tell her we could stay on the bus together, or she and mommy could go in, and she could show me around. She wanted to go in. She ran to her school room to show me. She was smiling and laughing, and saying hi to her nannies. She then pulled me to her sleeping room, pointed to her crib and ran out. ¬†After that she ran to the bus. Yay! ¬†She understood. What a smart girl!

Let me tell you a little about her orphanage. There are over 600 children in the orphanage. The people working there do truly care about the children, but they can’t keep up. We saw two of the sleeping rooms. We were there around 5:00 pm, and all the children were already in their cribs. All of the cribs had at least two children, and most had three. The crib Elle was in had three. Let me remind you Elle is 4 and weighs around 37 lbs. When she sleeps, she doesn’t move….at all. In these rooms there was row after row after row of cribs. It was a sea of little faces staring at you, begging you to take them. It was heart shattering. MJ and I both wept in the hall. After seeing with your own eyes, it is impossible to do nothing. If you have considered adoption, please look into your heart, and find room for an orphaned child. The need is great. These children don’t need perfection. They need love, and a family that believes in them. If you haven’t considered adoption, please do. We are only three days into this lifelong journey, but the progress we have made with these two girls already is amazing. If you want to talk us, we are glad to. We will share everything we know.

anyway….Tuesday night Elle still wouldn’t take off her orphanage clothes or shoes. So that’s how we slept again. Oh….and with a bow that I gave her to wear in her hair. ¬†She also met us wearing the jewelry I sent her in November. That never comes off either.

Wednesday morning we took a van to Miss Mae’s orphanage in Kaifeng. We weren’t worried about her reaction because her personality is quite easy going. When we walked into her room, her nannies wanted to hold her. We let them. They all started crying because they love her so much. She looked at them like, “what are you crying for?” ¬†It was priceless. It was nice to see how much she was loved, and she came back to Matt and I very happily! ¬†In Mae’s orphanage there were tiny little babies in incubators. I mean tiny…..maybe 4 pounds. It was so sad. Again all the little faces stared up at us wanting to be held, to be loved, to have a family. There are only 100-120 kids in Mae’s old orphanage, so their care seemed better. We did find out that Mae was found in a rural, farming village, so she is a farm kid like her mom and dad!:). She is such a good girl! ¬†We didn’t know if she could walk or not till Wednesday afternoon, since she wouldn’t let us put her down. This afternoon we played in the hallway with some of the other adoptive families, and oh boy can she walk! ¬†She is a pro! ¬†We are calling her Mae Mae (little sister in Chinese), and she is responding to her name. Elle started responding to Elle just this afternoon too. She is already using some English words and phrases! ¬†No one can believe what a big change they have seen already. She is a different girl from the one we all met on Monday. ūüôā

So I will conclude by saying we are happy, happy, happy. Every hour we are making progress! They are both blooming like little lotus flowers. It is amazing to watch, and be apart of. We can’t wait to get home to the boys, and be our crazy, happy family of 7! ¬†Thank you all for you sweet words of love and encouragement. All of your thoughts and prayers are felt, and they are appreciated. We love you all!