Ainsley’s Arrival

For anyone who is interested in Ainsley’s birth story, here it is. (No worries – I left out the gory details!)

Miss Ainsley’s entrance into the world wasn’t what I expected. After such a smooth pregnancy (a true blessing!) I was ready for her to come early (like my brothers and I had for my mom). Everything was ready – my pre-baby checklist was complete, the hospital bag was packed, and my birth plan was ready to go. I was so ready for her to come that I think I tried almost every Old Wives’ Tale to get her out – long walks, spicy foods, evening primrose oil, etc. (The midwife wouldn’t let me try castor oil, but I was ready to!)

Evidently, I don’t take after my mother when it comes to pregnancy/labor.

As my due date inched closer and closer and I started to feel more and more ready (and more and more like I was a walking house), it was becoming increasingly clear that this girl was quite comfortable in there and not really interested in coming out. My OB was on vacation so I ended up seeing one of the midwives. I might have been in tears at my last appointment before my due date when the midwife said that there hadn’t been any progress and mentioned the i-word (induction). (I was glad it was a midwife and not my OB, who I’m pretty sure wouldn’t have known what to do with me crying.) We scheduled a scan to make sure she was doing ok for the Monday, with the hope that I would go into labor over the weekend.

Despite wishing and trying to convince her to come out, I didn’t go into labor.

So Monday, we did the scan and she was doing well (strong heartbeat). The midwife said she would schedule the induction for Thursday, April 24, and was still hopeful that I would go into labor on my own before then. I was intimidated by the idea of being induced, but my sister-in-law reassured me that it wasn’t as scary as I had imagined.

I did have contractions for four days, but Ainsley wasn’t budging.

Thursday bright and early, we went to Halifax for the eviction induction. They got me set up – even managed to find a decent vein for the IV lock (I have terribly small veins so IVs aren’t my favorite thing because the nurses often have to stick me a few times – The blood bank won’t even let me donate blood because of my veins, which is sadly because I’m O-, the universal donor.). At some point, the nurse asked what my birth plan was (especially whether I wanted an epidural). “It went out the window when we had to evict this girl. Bring on the epidural!”

The midwife arrived at 8am and broke my water, and at 9am they started the Pitocin. The contractions started about 20 minutes after that. I wanted to go as long as possible without the epidural because I knew it could slow down labor and I really wanted to get through it as quickly as possible. I got out of bed and tried walking around as much as I could tethered to the monitors and the IV lines. (The nurse who did our birth classes was a big proponent of using gravity to help the process along :-).) The hardest thing about the Pitocin was that the contractions were right on top of each other, making it difficult to catch my breath for the next one. When they checked my progress at 10:30, I asked for the epidural, which came around 11:30.

While the epidural definitely made me more comfortable and the contractions more bearable (Evan said my whole body just relaxed when it set in), it did slow things down considerably for hours. We tried shifting me in another position and my BP dropped and so did Ainsley’s heartrate. I knew something was wrong because all of the nurses were incredibly calm and there were many of them. Once they got me back in a position where my BP and Ainsley’s heartrate were both ok, I had to stay that way. Sadly, being in that position didn’t help me progress at all. By 5pm, the on-call obstetrician came in and said that if I didn’t progress in the next hour, she would have the staff prep me for a c-section.

That meant baby girl and mom had to talk. I told Ainsley that she had already stayed in there five days too long and she had to come out, that a c-section wasn’t an option. Not only did I want to meet this little person who was refusing to come, I didn’t want to try to be a mom to a 35-lb toddler for the next six weeks after having a c-section. Period.

Somehow that talk worked and by 9pm I started pushing.

At 9:43pm, Ainsley Grace was born weighing 7lbs 1oz and 20 inches long. Because she had swallowed some meconium in utero, I had to wait to hold her — but the moment I held her, she took my breath away. She was so beautiful and I couldn’t believe that we had lived any part of our lives without her.


After she was cleaned up


After her first bath – Both of us were pretty tired

Four and a half weeks later, we are all in love with this little girl.


Holding his “Ains-a-ley” as he says her name.

She’s pretty frowny, but when she does smile, her whole face lights up. (Also, aren’t baby yawns the sweetest???)


Ephrem is a fabulous big brother. He loves to hold her, and probably would hold her all the time if we would let him. He loves to make sure her toys play their music for her. I’m learning to be home with both kids and easing into a new routine. It’s getting easier every day, though the days that I get more sleep are definitely more bearable, obviously.


Cuddling with my two babies

After bringing Ephrem home, I didn’t imagine that I could be more blessed.

Somehow, it was possible.



Dear Ephrem (February 2014)

Hey Sweet Boy –

One thing that I’ve learned as a parent is how quickly the year goes by. I meant to capture all of the things you can do or love around your second birthday, and well, it flew by without me doing it! I’m so sorry, Bubs.

But you’re growing and changing so fast that I have to capture things as they happen. Otherwise, I’ll forget. And someday you’ll ask me what you liked to eat or do as a toddler and I’ll have to scrounge the back of my useless brain to try to remember.

So here’s you at 2.5 years old. You are an incredible kid. You smile almost all the time. You just started to do this fake laugh, which makes you really laugh and that makes mommy laugh with you. You love to be chased and tickled (“Mommy get you?” you say). You sing all the time – mostly Veggie Tales songs, but sometimes other songs. You love shapes – octagons and circles tend to be your favorite (and are the first to disappear from your shape puzzles). You love to pretend that your green oval is Larry the Cucumber and your wrist band is Bob the Tomato. You just started like to Thomas the Tank Engine (which mommy finds boring but endures because you do love it). You like the library, but only tolerate Story Time with Ms. Brenda. You wake up waaaaay too early some days, but you’re usually singing so it’s adorable, even before 6am. You would eat pizza or chicken “nugs” [nuggets] for every meal if we would let you. You love to run and are pretty fast! You give the best hugs and kisses a mommy could ever hope for.

Sweet Boy, you’re the kiddo I never knew I’d be lucky enough to call my son. I love you always.


PS – Stop growing up so fast! Mommy doesn’t feel like she can keep up!


The fight

Being pregnant has made me think a lot about the process to bring Ephrem home. I’m  not sure why. I guess because in the moment, I didn’t appreciate all that I learned through that process. Having not gone through physical labor, I can say that the adoption was one of the hardest things I’ve done. I thought a lot about how emotionally tough the process to bring Ephrem home was, for so many reasons. Some days, you feel like every step is a fight, and sometimes you’re fighting something you didn’t expect.

Baby Shows Referral

I was fighting the (vocal) opinions of people who didn’t understand adoption as Plan A. They didn’t understand why we didn’t “try” to have our “own” kids first. They hadn’t seen what I saw in orphanages in East Africa, so this decision to adopt first without knowing whether we could have biological children was boggling to them. I mean, I understood. What we were doing wasn’t “normal.” It was a little a lot different.  But, still, their reaction discouraged me. While we were overwhelmed by support, these few challenging reactions hurt because it felt so personal.

iPhone 009

We had to fight through the paperwork and the legal process. Our process was extremely and unusually fast, but it’s still hard to endure. You have a mountain of paperwork to complete and collect. You have to track down every document that says you’re you. You spend a lot of time in “hurry up and wait” mode. After the dossier is complete, very little is in your control or on your timeline. Because we got Ephrem’s referral so early in the process, it felt like he was waiting on us and there was relatively little I could do to speed up the process. I just had to pray and wait. Pray and wait. Pray and wait. And because we adopted internationally, we didn’t know a lot of what was going on. I still remember the day in January (right off the plane from a visit to Africa) where I got the email that we had passed court in his country. I didn’t even know that we were at the court process!

Group photo

We had to fight through the fundraising. There are legal fees, agency fees, immigration fees (for international adoption), and (in our case) foster care costs. The overall cost of adoption sucks. It’s a huge barrier for most families (and why some families will never start an adoption). Overall, our adoption was tens of thousands of dollars to complete. We had $1,000 in savings when we started. We had to pray, hold yard sales, pray, apply for grants, pray, and depend on the generosity of our friends and families (and sometimes strangers) to make this possible. I think God redeems the cost to bring Himself glory, because, honestly, there was no way on our own we would have been able to raise the funds we needed.

Nov 2013 125

Like so many things in life, I didn’t understand the process at the time. I mean, in my head I could say it was part of making our family through adoption. But in my heart, as soon as I saw his photo, I just wanted him home. I wanted the obstacles to go away. I just wanted to hold this precious little boy and tell him that I was his mother and that I would love and protect him forever.

Family photo MCO

What I didn’t realize was that the process was making the “love and protect forever” possible. The “fight” was making this child mine – so that when I said “I will love and protect you forever” I knew what that meant because I had been living it for a year before he came home. He didn’t grow in my belly like Baby Girl Shows. As I feel her growing, I think I take for granted that this child in my womb is mine. I couldn’t take Ephrem being my son for granted. I needed to fight for him because I needed to know what a parent would do for her child. I needed to fight for him because he and I needed to know that my unconditional love started before I saw his photo, when he was just a prayer in my heart. I needed to fight for him because he was the child who grew in my heart. I don’t ever want to take for granted what it took to make him our son.

So for those of you who are in the process, fight on. It will be hard. You will have moments when you don’t feel strong enough. You will have moments when you are discouraged. You will have moments when you ask why this couldn’t be easier. But the fight makes you a family. The fight is what grows this child in your heart.

The time Ephrem was granted citizenship

So this is a story about Ephrem gaining citizenship. It was all supposed to be straightforward and simple, but, you know, this is me and I like to make this different…

In August, we finally applied to USCIS for Ephrem’s citizenship. It’s not a hard process, I was just trying to figure out what paperwork I needed to submit, get passport photos for a two-year-old (no small feat, really), and submit the fee. Anyway, between parenthood, etc., it just took me a year to get myself together to apply. I applied in August and then the government shutdown happened at the end of September. I figured we’d probably get his certificate of citizenship (COC) by mail like everyone else I know by Christmas.

Well, then I got a letter from USCIS for an appointment on November 21 at 9am at their Orlando office. I thought it was weird, but the letter said to bring Ephrem’s Permanent Resident card and we’d get his COC. So I figured, meh, must need to do this in person.

We got up super early on Thursday to drive the 1.5+ hours to the office. Beside wanting him to be comfortable for the drive, Ephrem is still working on the potty training thing and I didn’t think that this was anything more than just an appointment to pick up papers, so I dressed him in track pants and a tshirt (easier to use the restroom) and I wore a tunic, jeans, and flipflops. You might be wondering why I would describe our attire. You’ll soon understand.

It was a miserable drive – mostly downpours until I about an hour in the drive. But by the time I got to the USCIS office, it was only overcast.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed that they were incredibly busy this day. Everyone getting out of their vehicles was wearing really nice clothes, like nice. I though, huh, I guess people have to dress up for immigration interviews? We went inside and the line to clear security was really long. A USCIS officer comes out and looks at our appointment letters and tells me, Well you can hold him [Ephrem] during the ceremony.


Oh crap. Oh crap. Oh crap.

I looked at the letter again…nothing about a ceremony – it just said “appointment.”

We cleared security and went to get Ephrem’s COC. I signed for him on all the forms. The person congratulated us and gave me his COC and told me not to remove a sticky note that says “adopted” until I go inside for the ceremony because they have reserved seating for us. Oh crap. Oh crap. Oh crap. I apologized and said I’m not dressed for the ceremony because I didn’t know. (Again, no one that I know had done a ceremony – the COC was just mailed to them…) She smiled and said that they’re doing a ceremony because November is National Adoption Month. And then told me to go “over there.”

We went to the ceremony room and where do they sit us (again, in our incredibly inappropriately casual clothes)? Front row. Wait, not just the front row: front row and center. I was laughing by the time we sat down (mostly to keep from crying). Evan and my in-laws should have been there, but I hadn’t had a clue that this was a ceremony. Of course, as I was thinking about the people who should have come and how inappropriately dressed we are for something like us, the news crews show up. Yes, multiple news crews. Because who doesn’t like to be the person inappropriately dressed sitting in the front row for for a citizenship ceremony that will be on the local news?

Ephrem's first selfie (as we waited for the ceremony to start)

Ephrem’s first selfie (as we waited for the ceremony to start). 

It was a packed house so the ceremony was delayed by an hour. By the time they USCIS director came out to start the ceremony, Ephrem was done. Done from sitting in the car for 1.5+ hours. Done from waiting in lines. Done from sitting. He made it through the Star Spangle Banner, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the swearing-in ceremony before he started “reading” his book to the keynote speaker and then stating loudly that he had to go potty. We ended up “enjoying” most of the ceremony from the hallway.

USCIS director leading the ceremony

USCIS director leading the ceremony

Citizens 14 years and older took the oath for citizenship

Citizens 14 years and older took the oath for citizenship

Keynote speaker talking on adoption for National Adoption Month.

Keynote speaker talking on adoption for National Adoption Month.

And I forgot to get a good photo of us, so this is what we have:

Our little American!

Our little American!

Apparently citizenship is exhausting for a two year-old because this happened 20 minutes after getting back in the car to drive back:

You can't see because the sunglasses, but he's sleeping.

You can’t see because the sunglasses, but he’s sleeping.

If you  have the opportunity, I highly recommend attending a citizenship ceremony. I felt incredibly proud to be an American and to see a whole room full of people who worked hard to join our country and ascribe to the values and principles of our nation. It was something I won’t forget.

So, Ephrem, Mommy is terribly sorry that we don’t have fancy photos of you in a suit with your parents by the American flag. I’m terribly sorry that Daddy, Nana, and Papa (and whomever else would have wanted to be there) weren’t there. But, this whole thing makes a much better story. Always, always remember to laugh at life. And dress as if you’re going to a citizenship ceremony at all times. Because you might not think that anyone you know watches the local news and then you’ll get a message from someone on FB that says, “I saw you and Ephrem becoming a citizen on the news!” 

The New Season

In 2011 when we first started talking about the adoption, we were expecting it to take two years. That timing would require a lot of patience, but it would work out because Evan would have finished school and gotten a job and we would have been in a better place for me to be home with the kiddo full-time. Of course, our plans and God’s plans are two different things.

We got Ephrem’s referral two days before my birthday in October 2011. (We accepted his referral on my birthday – best present EVER. Seriously, I have a big birthday coming up and Evan simply can’t top that ever again. :-)) Suddenly our two year wait was going to be a 9-month sprint through paperwork and fundraising. God was so faithful. Ephrem came home in June of 2012.

Evan had just finished his degree at the local state college and started looking for work, but nothing was coming up. At the end of my family leave, it was evident that our plans weren’t going to happen. Evan was going to stay home with Ephrem and I was going to go to work. And that was definitely not the plan that either of us had in mind.

Then, in October, he got a job. But it wouldn’t pay enough for me to stay home. So we had to look to daycare – something we just didn’t even consider when we were planning how things would go. I was devastated and felt the true weight of “Mommy guilt” for the first time. Fortunately, God provided an amazing child care center (which I still prefer to call “school”), with an amazing staff that helped us care for Ephrem in the best way possible. They were just opening and super small and it was perfect for all of us.

But as the year went on, I was more and more discontent with a job that I had BK (before kid) loved. I love being a grant writer in education and it’s a meaningful job. I know the funds that I help teams get and the programs those funds enable make a difference to students who often have less than a good chance of making it (especially where I work). But knowing that someone else got to see my Tiny Human learning and growing made my heart hurt. And the crunch being a dual-earner family with jobs requiring long commutes put on our family was hard. Out the door by 6:55am, home by 6 or 6:15pm, hurrying through dinner so we could do bath time, story time, and bed time, and then get ready for the next day. And I realized that’s all we were doing: surviving this day to get ready for the next day. Weekends were merely the time to do all the chores that we had no time to do during the week. Our family time was all of us exhausted and in a rut.

We began to seek God about how we could possibly get me home with Ephrem at least part-time but hopefully full-time. It was going to require a step of faith I was terrified to do. But when God calls, when He opens doors, it’s hard not to walk, even with great trepidation, to follow Him. I still remember reading Psalm 34 as we were praying through this decision and knowing that God was calling me to be home with Ephrem, even if it meant that we wouldn’t have the financial security of my job.

So, the season is changing (so appropriate that the first day of fall was this weekend). I have the opportunity to stay home with Ephrem. I have the opportunity to teach him at home. I have the opportunity to pick up side work when we need it. I have the opportunity to pursue some dreams and make this life more than a rat race. It has required some sacrifice of trusting ourselves and our jobs over God’s provision, but in the end, I want to rely on God first…not my own hand. As hard as it is to give up control, I long to live a life worth living. And, for me, in this season, getting to spend time with Ephrem is really a life worth living.

Wherever You Are

I’m celebrating because one year ago today I got to hold Ephrem for the very first  time. I had studied his little face for nine months and prayed so many wordless prayers for his health, safety, love, and care.

But this day, 365 days ago, I saw his beautiful little smile for the very first time.

This day, 365 days ago, a woman placed Ephrem in my arms in the airport parking lot in Africa, and he was physically a part of our family forever.

This day, 365 days ago, my heart got its second deepest wish: to be a mother.

Ephrem, you are one of the very best gifts I’ve ever received in this life and I cherish May 29 always because it’s the day that we met.

At a restaurant, the first full day together

“I wanted you more than you will ever know, so I sent my love to follow wherever you go…” – Nancy Tillman

A quick update on E

Sorry for the previous sappy post. Let’s talk about what you all come here for: Ephrem. Here, in no particular order, is our update on our Little Man.

Since Evan started his job in October, Ephrem has been attending an amazing school in our town. (side note – I prefer to call it “school” rather than daycare because it alleviates my mommy guilt. And speaking of mommy guilt, I need to do a post on that…) When your child ends up spending more of his day with his teachers than with you, you want to find a good place. We are so blessed that we found an amazing school. We have been so happy with how much his teachers are invested in him and love him. He is learning so much and making all sorts of connections.


Also, we get photos of E playing or doing activities throughout the day. Seriously, it makes it much easier to get through the day at work.

He’s been promoted from sleeping in a crib (child containment unit) to sleeping on his mat at school. How cute is this?


In January, we made a quick trip to Savannah to visit a dear friend from Texas who happened to be in town.


Chelsey was on my first trip to Africa and helped me combat missing my husband terribly and has a huge heart for Africa and orphans. She was a big, big supporter during our adoption and it was an honor for us to introduce Ephrem to her. (Unfortunately we failed to get any photos of her with him because he was sleeping when it was picture time.)


She also gave E this shirt – how cute is this? I think I might need to stock up on sizes 3t-5t at the rate Ephrem is growing.


I tried to get him to ride his bike the other day but he really wasn’t interested. He does look cute in this photo though…


Speaking of bikes, I finally got Ephrem a helmet so we could ride the bike trail with him. This is the result. (He was wearing the helmet on the trail — PROMISE!)


We have been working on fine motor skills. We were just working with spoons when I thought he should also have some forks. (excuse the poor quality of this photo. He moves fast and sometimes you just have to capture the moment. )


I’m training him to be a world traveler. Nana V got him his own rolling suitcase to help. Now, just for the time and money to go somewhere fun. (Anyone up for some chipati?)


Ok that’s enough randomness for one post! I’m hoping to be able to post more frequently. Balancing work, family, and everything else is a super challenge.

A new year

For the past two years, I have entered the New Year on this continent:

Photo courtesy of Austin Taylor

Photo courtesy of Austin T.

But this year, I’m here:

Photo Courtesy of Lauren Grow

Photo Courtesy of Lauren G.

It’s a little disorienting not to be traveling this time of year, to be honest. But, while I miss Africa, I miss the children that I get to meet, I miss serving the fatherless, I miss the food, and I look forward to going back at some point in the next few years, I am grateful for my reason for staying home this year: My beautiful family is on one continent this year. And I don’t want to be away from my husband or my toddler for two weeks.

2012 was a great year for us. When I got home from Africa last year, in addition to adorable photos of our Little Man, I got an email that the Congolese government had recognized our adoption. There was one less orphan in the world who was yet to be home. With a miracle of funding (through the generosity of many of you), Ephrem came home six months later. We have grown into our family. Attachment is a process, one that has felt overwhelming at times and is indescribably beautiful overall. When I consider what God has done in all three of us over the past six months, I am speechless. We have a son who calls us Mama and Dad. We have a son who is opinionated and loves spicy food. We have a son who adores Elmo. We has a son who sleeps. (Seriously, that last one is HUGE!) We have a son who seeks us when he needs to be comforted.

We have a son.

As we go into 2013, we are a family.

My heart is open and eager to see what awaits our family in 2013.

I am confident that God has big things in store.

May you be blessed as 2012 ends and 2013 begins.

The Lord bless you, and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.’

Numbers 6:24-26

This Christmas

Last year, in between finishing my day job before the holiday, teaching my third class of the semester as an adjunct for two colleges, fundraising for my second mission trip to Africa, packing for said trip to Africa, preparing for the holiday, and doing the paper chase for our adoption, I was mesmerized by this little photo:


I prayed and prayed for him.

Last Christmas, we were waiting.

Christmas 2011

This Christmas, Ephrem is home.20121226-215216.jpg

(It didn’t take him long to get the hang of presents!) My heart is so full. I learned that Christmas is infinitely better with kids of your own.

It was a quiet, beautiful day, and everything I had hope it would be one year ago.

From our family to yours, hope your holiday was full of cheer and love!