Day 32

The days all meld together, each one hardly distinguishable from the day before.

I spend a lot of time quietly sitting on the couch in Oliver’s NICU room, in the cafeteria eating, outside with the pigeons, in my rental car, or on the bed at the Ronald McDonald House. It’s a lot of quiet time, even for a recluse like me who enjoys the quiet.

Today I had an interesting encounter with the hospital chaplain. We have spoken several times in the month that I’ve been here, but never for longer than a few minutes. Today, as we passed each other in the hall for the fourth or fifth time this week, I commented that we are always passing by each other. He stopped and began walking with me then, replying that there are a lot of patients now and some of them require a lot more of his attention. I laughed and said I understood. He went on to tell me that he knew I was “very religious” and that I was always smiling. He said I was coping very well.

I told him that I have learned that God’s plans are best. Even though I didn’t plan to parent a child born so small and fragile, even though I don’t know what the future holds, I have seen it time and time again : God knows what He is doing. Through the hardest and most painful times of my life, I have felt God draw near. I have seen how all things work for the good of those who love Him.

My short sermon ended, and the chaplain stared at me for a few seconds before remarking with a simple, “Wow”. We continued our conversation for a few minutes before he went on his way, headed to help other families coping not quite as well as I.

There is nothing special about me, except what God has done for me. My ability to cope and to smile through the darkness is something I learned long ago. God has long been preparing me for this moment, and so I am well equipped to face these obstacles.

As I hold my baby boy, I look down at my chest and see a miracle asleep between two scars. Two of many scars that remind me every day that God is sovereign over all.

And I am staring at a promise fulfilled.

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Day 15

Yesterday Oliver turned 2 weeks old! I’m learning all the terminology around here and he is considered 26 weeks 3 days gestational age. I’ve joined some preemie mom’s FB pages and have enjoyed reading other people’s stories. Of course every journey is different, but it gives me some idea what to expect.

When I got to the hospital yesterday, the nurse asked me if I would like to hold Oliver. I jumped at the opportunity of course! It took me way too long to figure out how to put on the hospital gown to do skin-to-skin. You’d think someone who had spent the better part of 5 years in and out of a hospital could figure out a simple gown! But these newfangled buttoned sleeved gowns really gave me a run for my money. I finally figured it out though, and the nurse and respiratory therapist got Oliver ready to be moved.

It’s quite the ordeal to move such a tiny baby. All of the tubes and monitors had to be moved carefully. They are pros at this, and had him on my chest and situated in a matter of minutes. After making sure all the monitors were working correctly and taping down any tubes that might pull, they left me alone to bond with my son.

It was a surreal experience. Up until that moment, he was just a little baby in a big box. But as soon as I felt his body against mine, it was real. I cupped his entire body in one hand, and whispered random thoughts to him. I wanted to sing him a song, but I could not recall one single song. Out of all the songs in the universe, the only one that popped into my mind was “You’re a mean one, Mr Grinch.” I wish I was kidding. Needless to say, I chose not to sing it to him.

As the minutes passed, I soaked in the feeling of my baby on my chest. I prayed over him and thanked God for him. After almost two hours, the machines in the room were beeping and driving us crazy. Oliver was getting restless, so we decided to move him back to his isolette.

As soon as they took him from my arms, I knew I was addicted. I felt such an intense longing to just scoop him right back up. So today, I woke up and headed over to the hospital, excited to hold him again. I got to hold him, but only for about 35 minutes or so, because they came to do some tests on him. I did have enough time to tell him the story of how God brought him to his daddy and me. It’s a good story. I think he enjoyed it.

A few updates:

  1. Oliver’s vent had a “leak”, meaning that the air going down into his lungs was leaking around the tube and back up. He was still satting fine for the most part, but the ventilator machine was in a constant state of distress, beeping and throwing a fit because it was sure that he wasn’t getting any oxygen. So last night they decided to extubate him and test his blood gases. His CO2 was still high, so they reintubated and this time the leak doesn’t seem to be as bad.
  2. They want him to be on a weight gaining trend before they will consider extubating again. For a baby, the extra effort it takes to breathe can cost a lot of calories, so they want to make sure he can handle it. They increased his calories in his feeds from 24 cal to 26 cal, so hopefully that will help him beef up a little. Unfortunately the change in feeds can cause constipation, so pray that he keeps pooping!
  3. They re-did the head/brain ultrasound yesterday morning and it was mostly the same. The small hematoma on the left was resolved and the blip on the right was still there. The doctor said it was probably nothing, or something that happened in utero, but nothing that we would be concerned about at this time. Bigger fish to fry.
  4. And that bigger fish is called a PDA. Oliver has a heart murmur, which is not uncommon for preemies. Something I never knew (my anatomy class didn’t cover this!) is that when babies are inside of their mommies, they have an extra vessel in the heart that connects the pulmonary artery to the descending aorta, allowing blood to bypass the lungs. Which makes sense…since babies don’t really use their lungs until after they are born. Well, in many preemies, that extra vessel hasn’t closed yet, and that allows blood to still bypass the lungs, keeps the lungs from functioning well and developing further. The good news is that it is fairly easy to fix. Most of the time, PDAs will close with a few doses of medication. The doctor said the medication used is a special kind of ibuprofen. He will receive 3 doses and then they will check to see how things are progressing.

So that’s the news!

How to pray:

Pray for Oliver’s PDA to close, so that his lungs can start to grow and work the way God intended!

Pray for him to GROW!

Pray for me and David, as we are already missing each other. I miss his hugs the most.

Day 11

Oliver is 11 days old today, which means that I’ve been in Phoenix now for 8 days. I was able to spend my first few nights at my Granny’s house, which I really enjoyed. David arrived on Monday and we came straight to the hospital for him to meet his son.
Neither of us had the joyous, tearful reaction that I was hoping for when we first met Oliver. Honestly, I could hardly feel any emotion other than shock for the first five days or so. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy! But the shock of being matched, and then immediately picking up my life and moving to Phoenix for an unknown amount of time…that’s enough to put anyone into a state of shock, I think.

For David, I think Oliver’s tiny size and all of the medical machines probably distracted from the first father/son moment. But within a day, he had a meaningful moment when Oliver latched on to the tip of his finger and wouldn’t let go. I was so happy to capture that image with my phone.

In all of the adoption resources we were required to read, it was emphasized that bonding with the baby is imperative. The baby is used to sound of his birth mother’s heartbeat and voice. One book even described it as a trauma for the baby to not be with birth mom after birth, because he is taken away from everything that is familiar. Adoptive parents, then, should try to do as much skin to skin contact and talking to baby as possible. Get him used to you and familiar with your voice, touch and smell. Limit the number of other people you allow to hold him in the first several weeks of his life.
Well all of those plans went out the window. Haha. We haven’t been able to hold Oliver yet, and I’m not 100% sure when that will happen. A small part of me is a little afraid that we won’t bond as much as we would have had he been full term, but the majority of my mind says that is nonsense. I will have tons of time to bond with him, even here in the NICU.

David and I checked into the Ronald McDonald House on Monday night and have really enjoyed being close to the hospital. I’m not sure how long we will be able to stay, but I am very thankful for any time I have there.

I just dropped David off at the airport a little while ago. We decided it would be best for him to go back home and back to work for a while until Oliver is bigger and can be held. There’s not much David can do here other than keep me company, and while I’m really going to miss him, I know that this is only for a time. Soon we will all three be together at home.

As I mentioned before, the doctors expect that Oliver will be here until about his due date. Late April or early May is a good estimate. Of course there are always variables that can shorten or lengthen our stay.

Medically, Oliver is doing as expected for a baby born at 24 weeks. The first day of life is critical for preemies, and he soared through that. He was on an oscillator for about a week, but got a little feisty and extubated himself on Tuesday. The doctor was planning to switch him over to a regular ventilator that day, but decided since the tube was out, to give him a chance using a machine that is similar to a CPAP. We were warned that it was a 50-50 chance that he would end up back on the vent, but that either way, there was no harm done. Oliver seemed to be doing well off the vent, and his bilirubin level was bobbing around the normal range, so they took him off of photo-therapy lights. On Thursday his blood gases weren’t quite what they wanted, so they decided to reintubate. Also, his bilirubin was up a tad, so they put him back on the lights. None of this is uncommon.

After losing almost 3 ounces after birth, Oliver bounced around from 1 lb.6 to 1lb.7 oz. The doctor said he wanted to see him back up to birth weight by day 14. Last night he weighed 1lb 9oz. They gradually increased his feeds from 1ml last Friday, and he is now up to full feeds at 14mls. He receives fortified donor breast milk every three hours via an orogastric feeding tube. He is tolerating his feeds well so far and our hope is that he continues to gain weight!

On day 7 of life (Tuesday), they performed a brain ultrasound to check for bleeding or swelling of any kind. This is normal procedure for any premature baby. The doctor said that the results were mostly good. There was a small hematoma on the left side of his brain that should resolve on its own without complication. The radiologist saw something that he said could have been shadow or blip of the machine on the right side of his brain, so they are redoing the ultrasound sometime this week just to check and see.
We take all of this as good news. Every doctor we have spoken to has informed us of the risks involved, but has also given no indication that Oliver will not survive and thrive. We have a long road ahead of us, full of bumps and twists and turns, but this is the path that God chose for our family. God writes the best stories and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us.

I will try to keep everyone updated as much as I can, but the day to day will probably stay mostly the same. We are celebrating every tiny victory and milestone.

We covet your prayers during this time as I adjust to life at a hospital again. I thank God that I am so comfortable in this type of environment, because it take a little of the stress off of me. I am used to all of the whirring and beeping of machines and I am familiar with the comings and goings of nursing staff and teams of doctors.

Also keep David in your prayers as he returns home to a quiet, empty house. He is fairly self-sufficient, but I still hate that we can’t be together.

Trust God in the Process

It’s 6:30 Thursday morning, January 25th. Late last night we got the call. We are parents! I haven’t slept a wink. I can barely talk my heart down below 100bpm. I’m getting on a plane in less than 24 hours to come meet you.

The butterfly wings in my belly must have stirred up all my stomach acid because it keeps threatening to come up.

I can’t believe it. Just two days ago I was crying, second guessing our profile, wondering who would choose us based on all the things I had shared.

But yesterday afternoon, Courtney sent an email telling us you were born. So early. So tiny. But so, so strong already. Fighting and winning. And although I was nervous, although I was sure your tummy mommy wouldn’t choose us, we said yes.

A few hours later, my phone rang. It was Courtney. I couldn’t process what she was saying to me. We are matched…I’m a mom now!

We are shocked. We are thrilled. We didn’t plan for this! But God’s plans are best. He knows what He is doing.

Your daddy won’t be able to come see you until Monday, because he has other kids at church who need him. But don’t you worry, he will be thinking of only you the whole time.

They asked us what we wanted to name you, so that they could start calling you by name. We hadn’t decided yet. So we spent and hour trying to find a suitable name from a list I had already compiled.

We wanted your name to mean something, but in the end we decided on a name that mommy has loved for years. Oliver. Your name is Oliver. And even though it doesn’t mean anything other than Olive tree, it IS the name of a pretty awesome superhero called The Green Arrow, so that’s something.

Courtney said you are 1.5 lbs. I can’t even fathom that. She also said you are amazing the doctors and nurses already with how well you are doing. You are defying the odds little Oliver.

——————–

The above is what I wrote the morning after we found out about baby Oliver. It seems like forever ago! I have been running on adrenaline since then.

I got to Phoenix around 1pm Friday, then rented a car and went straight to the hospital. I met the adoption case worker at the hospital and she took me up to meet our little baby.

Oliver was born early, at 24 weeks gestation. He weighed 700grams at birth, which calculates to roughly 1lb and 8oz, but he lost a few grams in his first few days of life. So when I first saw Oliver he weighed only 1lb 6oz. The nurses were doing his cares at that time, so he was not under the blue photo therapy light at the time. I stood over his isolette excited, but mostly relieved. I hadn’t even seen a picture of him yet. So my imagination had pulled from my limited knowledge of premature babies and had formed an idea in my head of what he’d look like. But the relief came from seeing that in actuality, he was perfect. Just a teeny, tiny human being. Ten fingers, ten toes. A nose, a mouth and two little eyes that both opened briefly for the very first time while I stood there.

He was bigger than my imagination had construed, but not by much. The tubes and lines and monitors attached to his body would be overwhelming for someone who didn’t know what most of them were for. Thankfully I have a medical background and recognized most of the things.

Oliver is on an oscillator, which is a specific type of ventilator meant to give small continuous puffs of air instead of the traditional inflate/deflate of a vent. This is ideal to keep from injuring his already underdeveloped lungs. He is doing fabulous and they are working on weaning him off of the oscillator.

He also has a PICC line for fluids, meds and nutrition, in addition to a feeding tube. He has been taking very small amounts of donor breast milk via the tube. On Friday when I met him, he was only getting 1ml. They have been increasing as tolerated, and yesterday he was up to 5mls.

He had an umbilical line in that was continuously monitoring his blood pressure, but after five days of a perfect BP, they didn’t feel need for that anymore. So now, they check his BP with the tiniest cuff I have ever seen.

David got here yesterday and was able to meet our son. In a matter of minutes, Oliver grasped David’s finger and didn’t let go. It was so sweet to see how tightly he was holding on.

Oliver will probably have to be here until about his due date (early May). He is one week old today! We are taking things one day at a time and thanking God for everything.

Let me just share something absolutely amazing about God’s plan. Some people might say it’s only coincidence, but I know better.

Phoenix, Arizona is the place that our son was born. Not only does the mythical phoenix have a special, personal meaning to me, but it also is where my Granny Val (dad’s mom) lives. Out of all the places in the United States, this is where God chose. And because Oliver was born so early and will need to be here for several months, I will get to spend more time with my grandma than I ever have in my life.

David will be traveling back and forth between here and home for the duration of Oliver’s stay in the NICU. We have a room at the Ronald McDonald House for the time being, and if need be, I can stay with Granny. She lives a little further from the hospital than I’d like, so we are very grateful for the RMH.

Many of you have asked how you can help. Obviously, prayers are huge! Prayers especially for Oliver’s lungs as they continue to develop. We won’t get to hold him until he can be weaned off the oscillator. Pray also for David and I. Honestly, the hardest part of this is probably going to be the amount of time we will spend apart.

As far as physical ways you can help: many have asked about sending care packages. We welcome care packages, but please be aware that eventually we will be traveling back home via airplane (and with an infant!), so we don’t need a whole lot of extra things to carry. Some ideas for care packages:

1. Gift cards for toiletries and food (Walgreens, Target, McDonald’s, Sonic all nearby)

2. Parking money/vending machine money (there is a free parking lot across the street, but the deck charges. Leaving the hospital at night in the dark by myself, I’d rather be parked in the deck instead of a lot across the street)

3. A good book. Or Amazon gift card for my Kindle. (Lots of free time on my hands!)

4. Comfy socks.

5. Pens/notebooks/coloring books/colored pencils/ Bible journaling supplies.

6. Emergen-c or Airborne. ( I can’t afford to get sick!)

7. Gum. (I’m a nervous chewer and I have already started biting the inside of my cheeks again.)

8. A private jet so David can come whenever he wants! (I kid!)

Honestly, we would just enjoy getting mail of any kind! Thanks in advance for your prayers. We already feel the outpour of love!

You can send mail to

Amber Siler c/o Val Brown

3672 W. Windrose Dr.

Phoenix, AZ 85029

A Tree in the Desert

For years I have had the name “Oliver” on my baby name list. I have always loved the sound of it. It was just sweet and charming to me somehow. But I have always wanted my children to have names that meant something special. I wanted my son’s name to represent the journey we have been on to find him or to be a proclamation of God’s goodness and faithfulness.

To my dismay, my favorite boy name didn’t really live up to those expectations. But on Wednesday, after hearing the news that we were parents, David and I decided on “Oliver” because it just seemed right. And we vowed to find a middle name with the criteria that was so important to me.

On Friday when I was traveling to meet our son, I was still struggling through our name decision, when I heard the voice of God whisper: Amber, there’s a reason you’ve always loved that name.

So I decided to do some digging.

Oliver means “olive tree”. So I googled “facts about olive trees” and was not disappointed. I came across this article, and was moved to tears by the things I read. Of course, I am the one who thinks in metaphors, so put on your metaphor filter before going any further:

I’ve always known that olive branches are offerings of peace. The dove brought Noah the olive branch after the Flood, and ever since they have been seen as a symbol of hope for a peaceful future.

But did you know that olive trees can live for thousands of years? And not only do they live that long, they still produce olives! The olive trees in the garden of Gethsemane are over two thousand years old and still bear fruit.

Did you know that olives trees THRIVE in poor soil and drought. They have long roots that penetrate deep to overcome the harshest of environments.

Did you know that one olive tree can produce up to 20 gallons of olive oil per year. But it’s a very laborious process.

Did you know that the doors of the ancient temple in Jerusalem were made of olive wood?

And did you know that the Jewish tradition of menorahs during Hanukkah recalls the miracle of the olive oil, when one small flask of oil, enough to burn for only one day, burned for eight.

I sat overwhelmed after reading the article, amazed at the promises I was reading from God based on a name that I mistakenly felt held no real meaning.

The quiet promises of God are at work in my heart, and I am at peace. Though it was a laborious process to get to this place and though we have a long road ahead, I know that little Oliver will thrive in this Arizona desert. And I know that his life and his story will produce much fruit, maybe even a legacy lasting thousands of years.

Oh, and Zane means Gift from God.

I know everyone is itching for more information on how we got here/what the plans are, and I promise as soon as we get settled in, I will be doing a lot more updates, so stay tuned!

References:

http://www.aish.com/jw/s/17-Amazing-Facts-about-Olives.html

Snowy Christmas

It’s Christmas morning; the house is quiet. There’s a freshly fallen layer of snow outside, undisturbed by plow or footprint. Everything is still. No lights in the neighbor’s windows, no cars inching along our slippery street. Even the squirrels and birds are absent and quiet. I can hear every pop and crack as my 70 year old house complains about the weather. 

I’ve been awake since 5, and tried my best to go back to sleep, but I don’t sleep much these days. My brain is always on the move, not wanting to rest. I dream wild, vivid, nonsensical dreams in which I am married to Jim Gaffigan or running to catch my shuttle into space. The Jim Gaffigan dream is now a recurring nightmare. I am not really sure about what goes on in my head while I’m sleeping. 

I don’t know why sleep eludes me recently. I’d like to think that it’s some sort of conditioning: like training for a marathon. God easing me in to sleepless nights, preparing me for things to come with a newborn. In reality, it’s probably just stress. 

I pride myself on being a patient person. If there’s anything my life has taught me, it’s patience. I’ve had to wait for a lot of things in my life, and though I haven’t always waited well, I’ve learned a lot along the way. 

At any given time, we are waiting to hear back from our agency on 1 – 5 cases. Waiting for a call that she has picked us. Waiting for the email that says she hasn’t. It’s an exciting time. It’s a wonderful, expectant, joyous time. It’s a heart pounding, breathtaking, tear-jerking rollercoaster. And just like after riding a rollercoaster, my body is protesting.

Every night as we wind down and get ready for bed, I realize how tense I am. My shoulders are just clusters of knots and tension. I almost constantly have a nagging stress headeache. 

In the past week I’ve had at least 5 people ask me if I was okay. The answer is no — and yes. I’m tired. I’m tense. I’m achey and on edge. Between the adoption wait, the recent water damage in our basement and the basic wear and tear of every day life, my mind and body are wearing down. But I am renewed day by day with the tender love of my Savior, my Comfort, my Friend. I am loved beyond measure by the Creator of this beautiful planet. He is breathing life into my lungs again this morning and smoothing back my crazy bed-head curls, opening my eyes to the beauty of a quiet, snowy Christmas morn’. 

Actively Waiting

I’d like to start by thanking you all for your support and prayers so far. David just now used the word “endless” to describe the process thus far, and I chuckled, but I agree. It has felt at times like there would be no end to the paperwork and email correspondence back and forth between us and our social worker.

But as of last week, we are officially “active” with our agency! This means that they will begin approaching us with cases to consider. We will review cases as they come to us and based on the information provided, say whether or not we would like to be “presented” to the birth parents.

Our profile, along with several others, will then be presented to the birth mother (and father if he is in involved), and she will make a decision as to who she would like to parent her child. If she chooses us, we will be considered “matched”!

Without a pregnant belly to remind me, sometimes it’s easy to forget that I really am an expectant parent. Sometimes it feels as though I’m playing house. But now it’s finally starting to feel real. In a matter of months, the nursery we’ve prepared could be inhabited by a little one! Eek!

This is an exciting time for us, but it’s also a stressful one. I’ve spent a lot of sleepless nights recently obsessing over the dumbest of things. A few nights ago, I awoke from a dead sleep panicked about where I’m going to store the baby’s bottles. Haha.

As we move forward, we ask for continued prayers. Specifically, we’d like to ask you to pray that God gives us wisdom, clarity and guidance as we review the cases we are sent. We want to approach each situation lovingly and respectfully. We don’t want to be fearful or “too careful”, but we also want to be wise about the situations we are open to committing to. Above all, we want God to lead us to the baby and birth mama that He has already chosen for us.

From this point forward, we will likely share very few details for the sake of privacy, but we appreciate any and all prayers and encouragement through this time!

We are still actively fundraising, so if you’re interested in donating please don’t hesitate to contact us or give via our You Caring fundraising page.

The Empty Nursery

When beginning the adoption process, one of the things I was most fearful of was the home study, afraid that no matter how great we thought we were, the social worker wouldn’t approve us. The fate of our parenthood  rested solely in the hands of a stranger, and that idea fanned the flames of my insecurities.

Being clueless about home studies, insecure, and a perfectionist, I needed to know what to expect. So I dedicated an entire “secret board” on Pinterest to adoption and tips for the home study. I looked for adoptive parent message boards and forums. I obsessively read everything I could get my hands on.
On one message board, a certain post caught my eye. A woman asked the question, “Should I have the baby’s room set up before the home study or not?
The majority of people answered that it wasn’t necessary to have a fully furnished nursery. The social worker only wants to see that you have adequate and appropriate space for the child. Then some people answered that they would never have a nursery ready for fear of seeming too desperate. Still others said that it would be far too painful to have their nursery complete and sitting empty. The comments that followed were the stories of so many childless women, sharing – some for the first time- their heartache and their sorrow, agreeing that there is nothing so painful as an empty nursery.

As I sat staring at my computer screen, I couldn’t help but feel as though I had just stared straight into the dark and bleeding heart of so many women struggling with infertility. We are afraid to seem too desperate for a child, afraid to face another day with empty arms, afraid that motherhood is a dream that will never come true. We are just… afraid.

David and I – mostly I – decided to go ahead and prep for baby as much as we can, because we want to be prepared when the day comes. So I made a baby registry on Amazon, and we have slowly been purchasing items for our nursery. We have all of the essentials – a crib, changing table, dresser, and a glider I got on Facebook marketplace for $50!
And when I sit in the nursery, as I so often do, I am not filled with sadness nor stricken by grief. Instead, my heart quickens with excitement and anticipation for what I know is coming.
I sit in the floor and I pray. I sit in the corner and imagine all of the memories we will make in that room. Our empty crib is not a bleeding heart for me, but I can see how it can be for so many others.

When I think of all of the women who try for years in vain to get pregnant, my heart breaks for them. I know many of them personally. Too many. Good, faithful Christian women whose deepest desire is to become a mother.

It seems so wrong. It seems so unfair. And no matter how loudly we cry out, God does not answer us with a pregnancy. We read the story of Hannah in the Bible. We read how she cried out to God and was given a child in return, and we are strengthened. We read of Abraham’s wife Sarah who gave birth at an age that the vast majority of us will never live to see. We read these miracles and we wonder, why not me? If only I pray hard enough. If only I do everything my doctor suggests.
If only, if only

I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I don’t have an answer at all. I asked God those questions too, especially right after David and I were married. People would innocently comment that babies were next for us, and when I shared about our inability to have children people would innocently say, “You never know. It could happen.” I could only smile and agree. Yes, yes it could.

And so my silent struggle began.
I knew in my heart that God was calling me to adoption. I had known it for years. But every month, I would wait with eager anticipation. And if I was a few days late, my heart would drop into my stomach and my imagination would run wild.
One time, I was over 30 days late, and though I was told at the age of 17 that I was close to menopause, and my period has never been regular, I stood on the “family planning” aisle at the pharmacy staring at pregnancy tests for 10 minutes before finally walking away empty handed.
After 60 days, I did go back and buy a test. You see, I had to know. And the next morning I experienced for the first time what so many women have experienced before me: The heartbreaking disappointment of a negative pregnancy test.

This same scenario has happened two more times in the 2 1/2 years David and I have been married. Each time, I have stared into the bathroom mirror, telling myself over and over that it would be negative, all the while hoping that it wasn’t.
But it was.

And that’s okay, because I am completely dedicated and in love with my call to adoption. God has been sowing the seed of adoption into my heart since I was 17 years old. And what my womb lacks in fertility, the soil of my heart more than makes up for. Jesus has nurtured those seeds planted so that I would be ready to embrace with joy the path set before me. I thank God for preparing me for this journey from a young age so that now I am able to face it with a heart that is whole and is held in Jesus’ hands.

But why are there so many good Christian couples who struggle to conceive or carry to term? I have pondered this for years, and my take-away is probably going to step on some toes. I do not want to offend anyone, I simply wish to share my thoughts.
James 1 tells us that “Religion our Father accepts as pure and faultless is to look after widows and orphans in their distress…”.
There are so many children in need of a home, in need of a family. But the majority of God’s people have turned a blind eye. And those who are unable to conceive often seek treatment and medical interventions of all kinds, exhausting resources and every other option, only turning to adoption as a last resort.

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t judge couples who choose this route. Quite the opposite. Some of the most godly couples I know have sought medical intervention for infertility. Some of the most precious children I know were born as a result. I rejoice with them when pregnancy is achieved. I grieve with them when it is not.

But what if one of the reasons there are so many Christians struggling through this same trial is that we have failed to carry out his command? God is trying to wake us up from our slumber, from our pursuit of the American dream. God is trying to make us break out of this box of conventional thinking. He is trying to show us the sad reality that we have failed the poor and the broken, the orphan and the widow, and we have left them to be the responsibility of our government.

Now, I don’t believe that the loving God I serve made me unable to bear children. No, the sinful, broken world in which I live brought about my disease. I do believe that my loving God works all things to the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). He allows circumstances in our lives that either make or break us.  My loving, all knowing, all powerful God uses the good and especially the bad to further His kingdom.

So what if we, instead of seeking to further our own bloodlines, chose to further the kingdom God? What if we stepped up and took in the orphan? What if we opened our hearts and our homes to children we did not bear? What if we made ourselves available to the kids who need mentors, mothers and father figures to look up to? What if we stopped seeking what we think is best for us and instead began to seek after God’s heart? What if we prayed for God’s kingdom to come here on earth, and what if we were willing to do what it takes to make that happen?

I have felt the hurt of being told I will never bear children. But I have also felt the healing that comes from letting go of my desires and embracing whatever it is God has planned for me.

To the woman who is hurting, to the man who is aching at the thought of never having a son, to the couple that is struggling with the decisions that are ahead of you: You are not alone. Whatever you decide, there is no shame. There is no judgment here, only love. I pray that God will guard your heart during such a painful time as this. I pray that you are protected. I pray that your heart will become a fertile garden, ready to receive the seeds that God wants to sow in your life.

And above all, I pray for God’s kingdom to come.

Piece By Piece Puzzle fundraiser

***Update! You have claimed over $4,000 in puzzle pieces! We are so excited!

David and I are doing a fundraiser right now on Facebook to help with the cost of our adoption. I know that not everyone has Facebook, so I’d like to share it with you here as well. 
To help with the cost of our adoption, I designed a 252 piece puzzle that will be assembled, framed and hung in our future child’s nursery. We are asking you to “sponsor” a piece (or several pieces!) of the puzzle. 

We will write your name on the back of the piece/pieces that you sponsor so that our child will always know who helped bring him or her into our family. 
Instead of selling each piece for a set amount, we’ve decided the way this will work is that each piece will be “numbered” 1, 2, 3, 4…..all the way to 252, and each piece will cost the numerical value that it is assigned. So piece #1 will cost $1, piece #10 will cost $10, piece #150 will cost $150….and so on. 
Once a piece has sold, we will cross that value off the list. In the end, if we sell every piece, we will have raised over $31,000!!! (Which is exactly how far we are from our overall fundraising goal!)
The person who sponsors the $1 piece is no less important than the person who sponsors the $100 one or the $252 one. In the end, it takes every piece for the puzzle to be complete. 
I have been praying about this fundraiser for several weeks. I am excited to share this opportunity with you and I hope that you will come alongside us to help build our family piece by piece. 

***To claim your piece, please choose from the photo of the remaining numbers and comment on this post with the  number you’d like to sponsor and your method of payment (PayPal or mail). At the end of each day, I will delete and repost the picture after I have erased the numbers claimed for that day. Hopefully this will minimize confusion about which pieces are still available to be sponsored. 

***Payment information: We are offering two ways to pay. You can pay via PayPal, sending the amount to dsiler82@gmail.com

OR

You can mail the amount to our address 

18 Sullivan Dr. 

Granby, CT 06035

Obviously, if you are able to pay in person that is also another option. 

Any questions can be emailed to ambersue2248@gmail.com.

The Story So Far – Part 3

This is the third and final installment of our story so far. If you haven’t yet, check out parts 1&2 before reading.

When thinking about and discussing adoption, both David and I felt strongly that we would adopt within the United States. There are so many children within our own borders without families. The numbers and statistics are staggering.

At the CAFO summit we attended in 2015 (see last blog), my eyes and my heart were opened to the idea of adopting waiting children out of foster care.  As I said, the statistics were staggering. I’m not going to go into the specifics, but the heartbreaking number of children in foster care and the bleak outcome for most of their situations stirred my heart. Both David and I walked away from that weekend knowing that we one day wanted to be foster parents.

One of the very encouraging things I learned that weekend was that adopting waiting children out of foster care is extremely affordable – free even! In some cases the state even pays for the child’s college tuition. Because the cost of adoption scared me, I was so drawn to the idea of adopting out of foster care. That isn’t the only reason I felt drawn, but I’ll admit it was a huge part of it.

There was this part of me that was SO afraid of the cost of adopting an infant that I wanted to completely drop that idea and instead pursue adoption through foster care. But I knew that it was God who placed the desire in my heart for a baby. Since I was 17, I have had dreams that I was holding a baby in my arms.

In the state of Alabama, they have a rule that you cannot adopt until you’ve been married for three years. Well, David and I felt that we were ready to start the process long before that deadline! We just celebrated our 2nd anniversary in February, so we would still be waiting if we were still living in Alabama.

God brought us to Connecticut with perfect timing. As we unpacked and got settled into our new home and new community, I started to feel a tug on my heart. I started to hear a whisper that now was the time. And for some reason I ignored it. People would ask if we were planning on starting a family, and we would always answer yes, that we were planning to adopt. But I didn’t take any real steps in that direction. I made excuses as to why I hadn’t: I was too busy, still looking for a job, etc.

In January our church held 21 days of prayer. And during one of the services, those in attendance prayed over us and over our future child. It was such a powerful moment for me as I felt God wrap his arms around me and tell me that I had all the support I needed. Don’t be afraid. Now is the time.

But it wasn’t until February, during one of our small group meetings that I made the decision to start pursuing adoption. We are studying through the book of James using video lessons from Francis Chan. He was talking through James 1:19-27. The bulk of the lesson was focusing on being slow to speak and slow to become angry. Our discussion seemed to be centered around struggling to control our tongues and to be patient with others. But during the entire meeting, I was stuck on the last verse:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…

Why, after knowing that we wanted to adopt and after waiting to be in a place that we could start the process, was avoiding it? Why was I running from my calling?!

The same day, I saw a video online of a young couple meeting their adopted infant in the hospital for the first time. I cried uncontrollably. The video had been posted by an adoption consulting agency out of Georgia, and after looking into them a little further, I decided to reach out. And now we are officially starting the process with that agency, Faithful Adoption Consultants.

I will tell you, I struggled with our decision to pursue domestic infant adoption. I felt completely selfish for wanting a baby after hearing the stories and statistics of children in foster care. I wrestled to the point of making myself sick. And then every time I thought I was okay with the idea of raising and spending the money, someone would tell me or David a story of how they know people who adopted infants out of foster care; babies that they brought home from the hospital and ended up adopting. Yes…that does happen, but there is no guarantee that it will. You cannot become a foster parent and specify that you are only open to taking infants. And even then, there is no guarantee that you’ll have the opportunity to adopt them.

But again, I let these stories impact me and I let myself slip into the mindset that my desire for an infant was selfish. Oh, how I struggled with this. I cried. I beat myself up. Why should I ask others to help me fund a $45,000 adoption?

After a lot of tears cried in guilt, I prayed for guidance. “God please show me what to do. And if we are not supposed to to have a baby, please take away this desire that I have for one.”

After my pleas to God were met with even more dreams of me holding a baby in my arms, I sought the advice of family and friends. During one conversation, after I’d shared my feelings and poured out my heart, my friend said to me, “Amber…I see what you’re saying, but I don’t think you should feel guilty about wanting a baby. After all, we are asking women to please not have abortions. We ask them to consider life and adoption for their babies. Well, who is going to adopt their babies?”

It was that conversation that settled it in my heart. David and I will adopt a baby whose brave birth mother chooses life. I have peace now that we are making the right decision, even though the cost is still daunting.

This morning we received from FAC the checklist of things to be completed before we can become active clients waiting to be matched. It’s a lot, but I’m driven and excited to start working through everything. I also have a phone conversation scheduled with them on Friday to ask questions and talk through some things.

We have been able to raise almost $10,000 so far, which is amazing, but it is still just a drop in the bucket. We will be applying for some grants and doing many fundraisers I’m sure in the next several months. I ask you all to please be in prayer for us as we wade through the mounds of paperwork involved and as we try to come up with the remaining funds.

Speaking of funds, my next post will be about the costs associated with adoption. I know many of you have questions as to where this money is going and why it costs so much, so stay tuned!

Any questions or comments are welcome!