Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Whole Lotta Everything

This summer was filled with every emotion imaginable.  I am extremely grateful for the moments of joy and peace because those moments helped get us through the rest.  By the end, I was completely worn out. Spent. Exhausted. Empty.  Ready for a new season.  One of the blessings that came out of the hard times is that I really grew in the area of taking it one day at a time.  Although I am far from perfecting that, I definitely reached a new level.  There were numerous circumstances of which I had no control - and that forced me to surrender each day to the Lord.  

During one overwhelmingly emotional week, God clearly spoke to me - at my bird feeder.  It was in the morning, the girls were still sleeping, and I was making coffee.  I looked out the kitchen window at the early morning sun and saw that the bird feeder was dangling empty from the Birch tree.  Ugh.  One more thing for which I was responsible.  The dogs were looking at me expectantly, waiting to go outside, and I was feeling overwhelmed.  I know that probably sounds stupid, but I hadn't been paid since the beginning of January so every little responsibility seemed like a mountain on my shoulders.  I told myself I would fill it later and kept going about my morning routine.  But something kept gnawing at my heart and finally I decided I would walk out to the tree and fill it.  I grabbed the half full bucket of bird food and went outside.  The dogs ran around the yard being their normal, crazy selves.  I walked out to the tree, head down, and unhooked the bird feeder.  This particular feeder has the middle part with the glass windows for the seed and then two wire sidebars for suets.  As I unhooked the feeder, it spun around and on the side I couldn't see when I first grabbed it, was a small sparrow who had gotten himself wedged into the wire suet holder.  It startled me at first!  The tiny sparrow stared up at me.  I set the bucket down and sat on the rock to try and help this little bird.  He was stuck so tightly that I was afraid I would break one of his wings or little legs.  As I gingerly moved him to determine if it was better to push him through or pull him back out, I felt God whisper to me, "You've spent 15 minutes caring for this tiny sparrow.  How much more do I care for you?"  And then the verse popped into my mind:

"Are not two sparrows sold for a cent?  And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows." - Matthew 10:29-31

Tears ran down my face as I continued to free the little bird.  When he finally emerged unscathed from his temporary prison, he sat in my hand and looked up at me.  It seemed as if time stood still.  That little sparrow and I held eye contact while he sat in my hand.  What an incredible lesson God taught me through that sweet, little bird.  And then the spell was broken and he flew away.  I could feel joy and peace flood my heart.  Throughout the summer, I revisited that moment many times.  When things got hard and I started to worry and doubt, I was able to focus on that touchstone which God so lovingly gave to me!

Here are some of the ways that God completely blessed and showered us with his love!  In June, the girls were in a mini-documentary about adoption.  This film is being entered into numerous film festivals and will be released in November during National Adoption Month.  The best part is that the film is being donated to the Cincinnati Children's International Adoption Clinic to help raise awareness about the plight of orphans around the world and the health issues that accompany many of them.  You can check out more about the group Found, here.  I can't wait to see this at the CIA's fundraiser in November!  Also, this year BOTH Munni and Roopa will be in the fashion show!  Munni is already planning their outfits lol!

One of the biggest factors contributing to my anxiety was trying to figure out childcare for Roopa once I returned to work in August.  I found an amazing nanny who loves Jesus and loves my girls.  This was a HUGE answer to prayer.  Those mamas who have adopted and haven't had their kiddos home for long, understand all the complexities involved with having to leave your child in the care of another.  Our nanny has a beautiful heart and is an incredible blessing to us!  She even bought the girls these adorable shirts!
"I am fearfully and wonderfully made!" - AMEN!!!
Securing childcare for Roopita relieved a ton of pressure off of me.  Next, I was able to focus on both of the girls' medical procedures.  Due to scheduling conflicts, the procedures were pushed back until August.  On the 12th, I re-adopted Roopa in the state of Ohio and then immediately after the court hearing, headed to Wisconsin to meet with Greg Gion at The Medical Art Prosthetics Clinics & Anaplastologists.  I can not say enough about Dr. Greg!  He is an extremely talented, kind, and compassionate man.  He worked tirelessly for two days, crafting the cutest, little, prosthetic nose for Roopa!  It's an incredibly complex process and I learned so much from it!  We are truly blessed to have been able to work with him!
They love to match!  Traveling in style :)    

Roopa with her new prosthetic nose!
Once we got back home, I had to do a photo shoot :)  

Roopa is seriously nonstop comedy!
A week after we returned home, I had my first day back to school and Munni had her scar revision procedure.  It was more difficult and heartbreaking than I could have imagined.  God gave me supernatural strength to keep it together throughout the procedure.  I knew I had to be strong for her and I couldn't let get anything in the way of Munni knowing that I was there for her 110% to comfort and love her.  I wrote more about it here.  I don't want to revisit that ever again :(

My beautiful Munni Bird right before the procedure

Last minute snuggles with her little sister before she went back for the procedure
I will never be able to express my eternal gratitude to Dr. Jon Mendelsohn.  There aren't enough words to describe his compassion and kindness.  This procedure was unlike anything I would have ever anticipated because of the emotional triggers and flashbacks.  Even the nurses were crying and had to take turns leaving the room to wipe their eyes.  His professionalism coupled with his empathy was beyond anything I have ever experienced.  Blessed doesn't even describe how fortunate we are to be able to work with him.  My thankfulness runs deeper than words and to know that he is committed to my daughters' physical and emotional healing is a priceless gift!

Some wonderful friends dropped by with some "cheer you ups"  

The next day :(
These were an unexpected delivery from Dr. Jon!  It was the first smile in two days :)
Dr. Jon knew her nickname is Munni Bird.  This just shows his thoughtfulness sending her Birds of Paradise!

The wristbands were a big hit in the healing process!
I made this collage to show the immediate differences.  She still has several more procedures to go, but with each day it looks better and better!

looking beautiful and happy :)
Roopa has been struggling a bit with me returning to school.  It's a juggling act meeting everyone's needs and making sure I get some alone time with each of my girls. 
Roopa is so fun!
We were able to spend quite some time at a dear friend's pool.  Much to Munni's delight, they also have a pear tree.  On Labor day, she was finally able to pick a pear!
Everything about this picture makes me laugh!
September 11th is Roopa's "Happy Birthday" as she likes to call it :)  For the past month, she has been talking about turning 4.  I got a very pleasant surprise email from her orphanage.  They sent her an ecard birthday wish and said they have pictures from her first birthday.  They are still trying to find them but the fact that they remembered her birthday and sent a card, I know that she is greatly missed and was loved deeply.

Shortly after I was matched with Roopa, Munni and I celebrated her 2nd birthday.  We thought FOR SURE we would be celebrating her 3rd together as a family.  Instead, we celebrated another birthday without her home.  FINALLY, we got to celebrate Roopita's 4th birthday!!  She loves, loves, loves Doc McStuffins.  One of my very good friends makes cakes for fun.  I asked her if she would make a cake for Roopa's first birthday celebration with us and thankfully, she agreed!  I was blown away when I saw the finished product!!!  And not only did it look amazing but it was delicious!!!  THANK YOU CATIE!!!!!!

Doc McRoopa!!

I mean, how adorable is this cake??!!
When we were in India, we were gifted all of these beautiful, traditional Bhuj dresses!  These two had been planning for weeks which ones they would wear for Roopa's big celebration!

My two Indian princesses!!
Even though the rain forced us out of the original park plans and back home, Roopa had no trouble digging right in and opening her gifts!

She was so happy to get Doc McStuffins!

I love her so much!

Mommy Roopa!!

Being silly :)

This whole summer I have spent hours reflecting on God and his goodness.  One day I was having a philosophical discussion with a friend and it struck me that one of God's greatest gifts to us is hope.  Where would we be without it?  I look at my girls and that theme resonates so completely in both of their lives.  Each day is a new day - filled with hope and promise!  Hope leads to redemption and redemption leads to love.  For without love, there would be no redemption.  When I see Roopa and the joy that fills her little heart, I get a lump in my throat.  I think back to May of 2013 when God gave me the vision for the Spread More Love t-shirts.  I didn't know about Roopa yet, but God did.  And I can't think of a more appropriate quote that describes Roopa.  Everywhere this little girl goes, she puts a smile on stranger's faces.  She brightens days and brings happiness and laughter to others.  In the essence of her being, Roopa Joy spreads more love.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Real Life - 4 Months Home

How are we really doing?  I was hesitant to write this post.  Not because I want everyone to think that adoption is all sunshine and rainbows, but because I really struggled with protecting my daughters' privacy.  From the beginning of this blog, I have tried to be as transparent as possible about MY struggles, hardships, and doubts that have occurred on this journey.  However, sometimes, my struggles are intricately woven with their struggles.   I decided to post it in the event that if just one other mama out there is struggling with something similar, she will know she is not alone.  And she is not crazy. But most importantly to encourage others that as one adoptive mama told me, "The trench is ALWAYS temporary."  This information is obviously very sensitive so please keep that in mind and be kind :)

I forgot how the first 3 or 4 months home bring out your basic survival skills.   From the moment we landed in India until about 2 weeks ago, it's been a complete whirlwind.  We really haven't had the down time that I had with Munni when she came home, which is why I am looking forward to summer like never before.  To not have a schedule, to not have to be anywhere at regimented times, to not have to pack lunches, to not have to race home from my mom's Sunday dinner so the kids can get to bed at a decent hour, to not have to worry if the uniforms have been washed, to not deal with homework, to not have to rush, rush, rush.

I am longing for summer so we can just be.

Our week in L.A. for the The Doctors has probably been the best time for us since we've been home.  It afforded us the opportunity to cacoon as a family, post Roopa's grieving, without the stresses of everyday life.  I didn't have to clean, do wash, or cook.  It was fabulous because we were able to just be together- living, laughing, and making positive family memories.  The bonding that occurred during that time was crucial for our family.  I am so, so, so very thankful for that week!

When we were in India and Roopa was experiencing intense grief, I was worried how it would affect her.  We didn't get to see any of her personality in India.  However, once she got home, she started letting us in and her adorable personality came shining through the fog!  She literally is a dream come true.  I'm not kidding when I say she is ALWAYS happy.  She has never had a temper tantrum.  I know, it's crazy.  It's like she's not a real toddler.  She wakes up with a smile on her face and tells me, "Mommy, Roopa happy!"  I also love that she feels confident enough to tell us what she likes and doesn't like and what she does and doesn't want to do.  It's clear she feels secure enough in our family to share.  But literally, she is smiling and laughing all the time.  She is definitely living up to her middle name "Joy!"

So while living with Roopa is a dream come true, her actual presence in our home has triggered emotional napalm.

Ever since Munni had started disclosing information about her past, I admittedly have not done a great job of processing it.  Instead, I've compartmentalized it.  I don't even know how to start confronting and dealing with it because I honestly feel like I will come undone.

When Munni entered the orphanage, she was a few months younger than Roopa.  Munni's memories of her life pre-orphanage are alarming.  So to see Roopa, this little person in front of me every day, sleeping in my bed every night, and then thinking about all that Munni has confided in me,  and thinking about her being so small and remembering too much it's,  well,  I don't even have words to describe my emotions.

The first 3 months home were emotionally jarring.  Munni is an observer and extremely introspective.  Roopa's age and seeing Roopa with me, with her, in a family, receiving love that every 3 year old should receive, has not gone unnoticed by Munni.  She saw what her life should have been.  She saw the incredible loss.  She sees the injustice of it all.  She has been grieving what can't be undone.  She regressed.  She wanted me to help dress her - as in, she would lay there and not participate and I had to dress her like a baby.  She still wants me to hold her all the time.  She wants me to feed her.  She wants to redo what should have been done in the first place.  One day after school she was changing out of her uniform.  I caught a glimpse of her and my heart sank.  She had worn one of Roopa's pull ups to school.  I wanted to cry.  I know based on ALL THE INFORMATION you receive when you are going through your pre-adoption training, that for some children, it is critical for them to be able to revisit points in their history where proper love and attachment didn't occur.  And when you read all of that pre-kid, you nod your head naively, vowing to do whatever you can for your child.  But in real life when it slaps you in the face, you look around and find your heart in a million little pieces on the floor and wonder how in the world will you ever be able to help this sweet child find a place of healing.

It has crushed my spirit.  I read and pray and plead and beg.  I doubt.  I fear.  I remember once when I was praying for Munni before she came home and God spoke clearly to me through the book of Joel.  I was lamenting what I knew of her past and he spoke to me through his promise, "I will give back what you lost in the years the swarms of locusts ate your crops" (Joel 2:25).  I clung to that verse and his promise of restoration.  I believed that he would restore the "locust" years of her childhood.  He has to.  But now that those years have resurfaced, I find myself losing my grip on his promise.  I feel the waves washing over me and I can barely breathe.

Because dealing with all of this isn't stressful enough, we also had some issues at her school with some mean girls and a teacher.  I did try to handle it the diplomatic way.  At first.  But then these emotional land mines started going off and I lost it.  Not my finest parenting moments, but I don't even care.  I am thoroughly convinced that William Congreve got it wrong when he wrote, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."  What he should have written to be correct is, "Hell hath no fury like a desperate mother protecting her child." Feeling so out of control over what happened to her in the past, I HAD to take control of this.  I had to make sure that these people wouldn't continue to hurt her.  I had to make sure that Munni knows that her mom will fight for her tooth and nail and will stand up for her to anyone, anywhere.  Before she came home, no one stood up for her.  No one fought to protect her.  No one stopped the pain.  Munni witnessed her mom turn into a pit bull, fighting with righteous anger to make sure the situation was resolved to her best interest.  It ended up being a positive factor in Munni's healing process.  It was a turning point.

As her mom, I struggled with knowing that I could not change her history.  I could not take away what was already done.  I could not remove the pain.  I know only Jesus can provide total and complete healing but it is HEARTBREAKING as a mom to feel completely helpless.  I felt like a crazy person - my stream of thoughts were erratically bouncing back and forth between every emotion you can imagine: Rage, revenge, hatred, sorrow, guilt, bitterness, helplessness, overwhelming love, compassion, empathy, confusion, and the list goes on...

I started doing a ton of research and talked to several different counselors.   I now know that I am struggling with PTSD.  It was a relief to finally have some validation for everything that I had been experiencing.   Unfortunately,  it is a topic that is not discussed in pre-adoptive education.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, can ever prepare you for the moment your child feels safe and secure enough in your relationship to open the pandora's box that has been hiding all of the traumatic events of abuse and torture that happened to them.  Prior to that moment, you've had vague information and presumptions.  When the truth is finally revealed, it feels as if all of the oxygen was sucked out of the room.

Part of my problem was wrong perspective.  I kept putting this enormous pressure on myself that she will be completely healed in X amount of time.  You know, all the pieces coming together and wrapped up nicely with the perfect ending like some sitcom.  But that's not real life.  And that's not what our journey to healing is.  Instead, it is a long walk in the same direction, hand in hand with Jesus.  There will be times when the tides are high and we are struggling to keep our heads above the water - like this past spring.  And there will be times where the tides are low - as we enter into summer.  I've spent hours and hours in prayer for her.  I know Jesus is faithful.  I know he loves her more than I ever will.  One morning while I was having my prayer time, I looked out onto my garden in full bloom.  Looking at the roses that took a beating from last winter, I thought about how my garden has shifted and changed over the 10 years since I started it.  And isn't that the same with us?  We go through some glorious seasons where we bloom profusely and our lives are fragrant with joy and contentment.  But then, there are seasons where too many weeds have popped up and our previous glorious blooms are shriveled and need to be dead headed.  But it is a cycle.  We have the winter of our lives where things may seem dead and hopeless.  Thankfully, that season isn't permanent.  It is followed by spring - full of new life and promise.  God spoke to me that morning through my garden.  I realized that as Munni goes through life, there will be seasons where her past may stop her in her tracks.  However, there will always be a spring to follow.  A season of new hope and new promise.  God clearly declares to us in Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord.  "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."  Being home with Munni for two years now and seeing the transformation in her DESPITE still having some shackles to her past, I have no doubts whatsoever that God has a wonderful future in store for her.

When we were on the set of The Doctors, I was anticipating some sort of assistance for Roopa and her nose.  However, when they also shared that they were providing plastic surgery for Munni's scars, I was completely blindsided.  The lump in my throat was so enormous that I could hardly even breathe.  My heart was beating a million beats a minute.  I love Munni with all of my heart and I think she is absolutely gorgeous just the way she is.  But the fact that her memory is tied to each and every scar and to know that there is a promise to "erase" these visible memories, is a priceless gift for which I will be eternally grateful.  I was completely stunned.  I still can't believe it!  Munni is THRILLED and can't wait for this to happen.

When The Doctors first contacted me, they only wanted to bring Roopa and me out for show.  I explained that we were a package deal.  I shared how the only reason I have Roopa, is because of Munni.  Their stories are intricately entwined.  When I finished telling the whole story, the intake person told me it was such a beautiful story and they completely understood what I meant.  I am astounded when I see it come full circle.  If not for Munni's scars and trauma, Roopa would not have been referred to me.  If not for Roopa's nose, Munni would not be receiving this healing gift.  My insurance flat out denied plastic surgery for her.  So when I look at my beautiful daughters and I get the opportunity to share their stories, I can tell you with full confidence that God's word is true when it says, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." - Romans 8:28  Others intended harm for my girls.  God is bigger.  He has redeemed them and given them a new life.  He has touched so many hearts through their stories.  He has changed so many lives.  I am one of them.  So while we continue on this path of healing, I am encouraged that we are stepping into the season of summer.  We are breathing in deeply the refreshing air of his healing.  We are stopping to smell the fragrance of his love for us.  We are basking in the joy of his light that fills our days and warms our skin.  And we are enjoying each day because we know at some point in the future, the tides will roll in again.  When that happens, we will cling to each other and we will keep our eyes our Jesus, knowing that he will keep us afloat.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Spread More Love T-Shirts Are Back!!!

I've had quite a few people ask me they could purchase a Spread More Love t-shirt.  I contacted the company and they were able to transfer all of my info and design over to their new format!  WOOO HOOOO!!!  So, the fund is up and running!  All proceeds will help cover her medical bills from Children's Hospital International Adoption Clinic.  I need to sell 17 shirts in order for them to print the shirts.  You will ONLY be charged if the 17 shirt target is met.  Obviously, I'm praying for more than 17 :)  Another added bonus is that now they also have the ladies slim fit t-shirt!!

If you feel led to purchase one of these t-shirts, we would greatly appreciate it!  And I pray that you would feel blessed and a smile cross your face every time you wear it!

You can get YOUR Spread More Love t-shirt HERE!

If you would like to read the backstory on this t-shirt and how God moved mountains, click HERE
Thank you so much for all of your love and support!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Catching Up….

My poor neglected blog :(
My last post was in early November and highlighted the fashion show in which Munni participated.  I was praying and hoping for court dates.  Sure enough, I received written approvals on November 29th, 2014!!!  I felt like shouting her name from the rooftops!!!!!!!  This was the announcement I posted on Instagram and Facebook:

There is such a validation when you can be fully open about your child's picture and name!  We hoped that we would be able to travel and be home before Christmas, but that wasn't the plan that was in store for us :)  Instead, Munni and I celebrated one more Christmas as "MommyMunni."

We truly did enjoy Christmas together and I savored the last few moments of our "MommyMunni" era!

Right after New Year's, I got word from my caseworker that the orphanage where Roopa lived wanted to have a handing over ceremony.  She was their very first international adoption and on top of that, they didn't think that she would ever find her forever family since many Indian couples passed her over due to her nose.  They were very happy that someone was coming for her!  The ceremony was planned for January 31st.  She had told me that it was a big deal, but I didn't truly understand how big this ceremony was until it happened.

The first surprise was that they ended up meeting us at the airport, the day before the ceremony.  I was completely surprised when sitting in the Mumbai airport, my in-country coordinator told me they would be waiting for us when we landed!  My heart started racing and my mind was going a million miles a second!  I couldn't believe that in 2 hours I would finally see Roopa face to face!

When we landed and gathered our luggage, we started heading for the exit.  I was completely shocked,  There were so many people there!  News reporters, the people from the RIPA, other adoption VIPs, and spectators.  It was completely bizarre.  They kept asking me if I was a pop singer.  My coordinator and I thought they were joking since I was an American adopting an Indian girl.  Turns out there is a pop singer (who my friend Mer said looks like I must have looked in my twenties lol!) with my same name.  Anyway, the scene was pure chaos.  Roopa was extremely stressed and crying.  Everytime she looked at me, she would freak out screaming, crying, and turning away from me.  Not the "Gotcha!" moment you daydream about for the last 18 months.  At first, I was told that they were just going to meet us there.  But it turned out that they wanted me to take her with us back to the resort.  I kept asking if that was ok because I wanted to do what was best for her.  The reporters kept asking me questions and taking our picture all while I was trying to juggle making sure Munni was handling meeting her new sister and being sensitive to Roopa's emotional state.  I felt pulled in a million different directions.  We finally made it out of there and back to the resort.  We were there for maybe 10 minutes before all the reporters showed up again.  We were in such a remote place in Bhuj that it wasn't hard for them to find where we were staying.  Roopa finally stopped crying and I actually was able to get a smile out of her due to my mad juggling skilz.  

Forever Family!!

I was in disbelief that I was finally holding her in my arms!

The news story broke first on the local channels…

The next day, the orphanage called and asked if they could spend a few last hours with Roopa before the ceremony.  How do you say no?  So we dropped her off in the morning.  They were all eagerly waiting for her at the gate.  I know that she was deeply loved at her orphanage.

My coordinator had a friend with her who was visiting from Canada. This woman D was an incredible lifesaver for us.  She and Munni hit it off from the start.  I was very thankful because I did not expect the amount of grieving that Roopa experienced.  D was able to give Munni an out and some normalcy to a highly stressful situation.  In order to pass the time, we decided that we should all go out to the Great Rann of Kutch.  It is on the border of Gujarat and Pakistan and is considered the largest salt desert in the world.  It was breathtaking.
I felt like I was on the set of an Indiana Jones movie!
The world is her oyster!

After a few hours, we headed back to the resort to get ready for the ceremony.  D was gracious enough to use my camera to document the ceremony.  I'm so very thankful for her willingness to come along and be a part of such a special time for us.
Great friends!
 Once we were ready, we headed to the RIPA for the Handing Over Ceremony.  There were news reporters from all over, including London.  I spent several hours giving interviews before the ceremony.

Some of the reporters who were covering our story

Meeting the VIPs of the adoption world

Waiting for the ceremony to begin
The ceremony itself lasted 4.5 hours.  It was very hot and obviously, very emotional.  Much of the ceremony was conducted in Gujarati, so I just sat there and smiled.  I was fortunate enough to be seated next to the doctor who treated Roopa upon arrival and thereafter.  Our conversation was invaluable but also extremely difficult to hear all that he had to share with me.  I kept feeling like I was going to pass out, throw up, or have massive diarrhea.  And then, at the very end, they asked me to stand up and speak.  Oh my goodness, I prayed like never before that I wouldn't pass out and that I would make it to the podium!  There were at least 300 people there, including the Parliamentary Secretary!  He was seated on the other side of me.  Please queue David Bowie/Queen "Under Pressure!"  It was very difficult to articulate all I was feeling and at the same time be sensitive to the adoption community - there is always a fear in the back of your mind that you don't want to say anything negative that would jeopardize the program in any way.  International adoption is by far the most stressful, taxing, anxiety producing, desperate, maddening, and feeling out of control experience that has ever happened to me.  There are frustrations upon frustrations.  With this in mind, I wanted to express my sincere gratitude that I was finally at the finish line but I also wanted to be a voice for these children.  I had no idea that I would be asked to speak, so everything I said came from my heart.  My in-country coordinator said that the translator did an excellent job and she thought that I nailed it.  Thank you Jesus!

Wishing I spoke Gujarati!
At this point, they brought Roopa to the stage and handed her to me.  I felt so badly because she was completely traumatized and clinging to her ayah for dear life.
She definitely wasn't feelin' the moment
  I had reporters in my face asking questions, pictures being snapped, poor Roopa crying, and I was still trying to find Munni in all of the chaos.  When I finally found Munni, she was running towards me and I towards her when a man put his arm in front of her to hold her back.  I grabbed Munni's hand, pulled her towards me, and told him to never, ever put his hands on her or hold her back from me.  Oops.  They were a little stunned but then smiled and said something along the lines of how I'm a protective mother. Um, you could say that ;)

When we finally got the car, the reporters were still all around, shoving the microphones in my face, snapping pictures, and the children from the orphanage came running after us.  They were all sobbing watching us drive away.  It was surreal with such an extreme amount of emotions swirling all around me and in my heart.

When we got back to the resort, there was a women's group waiting for us.  There were probably 30 women or so.  They had gifts for Roopa, Munni, and me.  They were so very kind to us!  They prayed blessings over us and wanted to thank me for all I was doing for Roopa.  This whole experience felt so weird to me - that people were thanking me.  In my mind, I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't want to be Roopa's family!  But this is where the cultural differences come to the surface.  Based on my experience, it seems to me that the stigma of adoption is still so prevalent and strong that even for the Indians who are open to adoption, the tentacles of the stigma run too deep.  Several Indians have told me that even though they were open to adoption, they couldn't do it because their parents weren't open to it.  Or their in-laws weren't.  Or their neighbors weren't.  It's a very different culture in that regard.  In the US, we don't care what our neighbors do.  If our families disagree with our adoption plans, we keep pursuing it anyway.  But in that culture, the families are so intertwined that even distant relatives have the power to make decisions for family members they barely know.   I've thought about this stigma a lot and what I've come to compare it to how IN GENERAL people would react in the US to someone who adopts an HIV+ child.  Even though HIV was once considered a death sentence, experts now call it a chronic but manageable condition; even though it is now considered easier to manage than diabetes; even though according to the US Center for Disease Control, the 3 main methods of transmission are unprotected sex, needle sharing, and birth/breast feeding; even though in the past 34 years since tracking the virus, there has NEVER been a documented case of the accidental transmission in a normal family environment; even though the many children who are on medication today have a medically defined "undetectable" amount of HIV in their blood; even with all of this progress, the HIV stigma remains.  There is still to this day so much misinformation and ignorance out there about HIV.  Stigmas are a powerful wrecking ball and it takes generations of education to overcome them.  Unfortunately, adoption is still branded with a stigma in India.  I could see by the conversations I had with many nationals, that their hearts were softened toward adoption.  But, they are still chained to society's approval.  The people who thanked me were truly grateful and touched.  I could see it in their eyes.  I pray that our story would give them courage to take more of a stand for the children still waiting for families and to be a catalyst in breaking down the walls of such a wrong mindset.

The next morning, our story was all over the printed news… 

And then the Times of India picked up our story.

Everywhere we went from that moment on, people recognized us.  They would ask to take a picture with us and thanked me profusely.  It made me sad because I wish that the stigma with adoption didn't exist.  There are so many children in need of homes and they are jewels just like my daughters!  Probably the most impacting interaction we had was with an old man at the India Gate.  He was dressed in tattered clothes, it was obvious it had been a long time since he had bathed, he was missing teeth, and extremely thin.  He was begging for anything, really.  He caught sight of us and a smile spread across his face.  He came over to us and shook my hand and started talking very quickly.  I heard, "Namaste, Baby Durga, television…." and he kept on and on in a language I didn't understand.  It was clear he was thanking/blessing me and that Roopa's story brought him such joy.  I got choked up, hugged him, and turned and walked away.

Many people have wondered why all of the news articles kept referring to her as Durga.  The RIPA named her Durga- a very powerful Hindu name.  Munni and I wanted to name her something that would have great meaning for our family and our journey to her.  My very dear friend Jincy helped us with the meanings of the names we were thinking about.  I had also been praying about her middle name.  Munni's name and how she got her middle name was a very important story for us.  When Jincy and I were talking about what to name my new little daughter and how I wanted it to represent who she is, she suddenly said, "I know!  ROOPA!!! It means perfectly formed in beauty!"  Roopa was a name on the list I had compiled - I couldn't believe it!  I said it back, "Roopa!" and I heard God whisper, "Joy!" in my ear and I just knew that was supposed to be her middle name!

So while we were in India, we mostly called her Durga or Roopa Durga.  She was grieving so much, it was hard to watch and not be able to take away her pain.  Every day she sobbed endlessly.  If she wasn't sleeping, she was crying.  She would hold her few belongings from the RIPA in a ziplock bag I gave her and point to the door.  Her whole world had just been ripped out from underneath her and she didn't want any part of this new life.  It was such a different experience from Munni.  In fact, Munni and I discussed it quite a bit.  Munni told me that she was a little bit afraid but that she was excited to have a mom and new adventures :)  I love her heart!  It also shows the difference in their histories and the effects of that.  Every day Munni and I would pray for Roopa.  I will be honest, there were times when I thought I may have completely ruined Munni's life.  There was absolutely no respite for Roopa's grieving.  I kept praying that with each new day, there would be progress.  But it never came.

The day before we left, I received a phone call from a reporter in London.  We clicked right away and ended up having a wonderful conversation.  She really wanted to share our story with her London connections.  She did an excellent job interviewing me and was incredibly respectful.  She asked if we could meet her photographers the next day; two Saudis who lived in India.  I told her we had to leave at 9pm to go home.  She said she could make it work.

Our last day seems like a whirlwind.  We picked up Roopa's visa from the embassy, I re-packed the suitcases, and finally met the photographers at 5.  These two guys were awesome!  One of them had the nickname "Ziggybird" which Munni thought was hilarious since her nickname is "Munni Bird."  They did such a great job with us and with the girls and it was the best time that I had in Delhi.  It was fun to go where the locals go :)  They took us to a beautiful park and then we walked through a village that reminded me of something you would find in Europe.  Cobblestones, amazing architecture, cafes, the people who were there were on the trendy side… it was incredible.  After the photo shoot was finished, we made it back to the hotel with an hour to spare!

Our new friends and Roopa's same expression for the entire time in India

We made it to the Delhi airport and after another grueling experience with the immigration people, we had 3 hours to kill before our flight left.  This was not good since Roopa cried the entire time.
It was as if she had lost her will to live
 She slept a little bit on the plane and then woke up and cried for the rest of the 9.5 hour flight to France.  We had a 4 hour layover in Paris.  The ceiling in the terminal was dome shaped, so that made for really great acoustics as she wailed the entire 4 hour layover.  I got all kinds of stink eye but at this point, I was exhausted from all the grieving, the traveling, the not being able to comfort her, that I didn't even care.  When it was finally time to board the plane, we had to take a bus out to the aircraft.  I had a huge backpack, Munni had her backpack filled, I had a rolling carry-on and so did Munni and on top of that, Roopa was in the Ergo carrier on my front side and doing everything in her power to resist being there.  A very kind Brazilian man asked if he could help me.  I don't know why it was so hard to accept help, but I told him that I was fine and thanked him anyway.  Apparently, my answer wasn't that convincing.  He watched me for about a minute more and then just stepped in and grabbed the two carry ons.  At that point, I had my meltdown :)  In that high-pitched, squeaky voice, I told him, "It's just really hard" and that was all it took for the floodgates to open.  I sobbed all the way on the bus out to the plane.  Everyone was very nice and comforting to me.  I think I had been holding it together in India for so long with no let up of her grieving that when a kind soul stepped in to offer some relief, I just lost it.   He was in first class and came back to make sure we were O.K.  He brought two of the comfort bags for the girls.  This man was truly a godsend.  

Roopa cried for half of the flight and slept for the other half.  When we landed, the Brazilian came back and helped us off the plane.  He even helped me get through immigration.  While we were waiting, he told me that he travels a lot for his job and that his wife is a flight attendant.  They have a three year old and when he saw me, he thought about his wife and how she has to manage when he's away on business.  I was extremely grateful for his compassion!

Finally we were making that walk down the corridor to the baggage claim!  Again, Roopa was crying the entire time.  The airport homecoming for Munni versus the homecoming for Roopa couldn't have been more opposite.  Munni was so incredibly ill, but happy.  Roopa was perfectly healthy, but emotionally heartbroken.  
28 hours of traveling later….

So very thankful for all my friends and family who came to welcome us home!
As soon as we got in the car and started driving home, Roopa went from crying to whimpering.  We grabbed some take out and headed home.  Oh my goodness it felt so good to walk through our front door!

The next morning, we woke up and I made pancakes.  It was as if a switch turned on in Roopa because even though she was still sad, she didn't cry again.  Our good friends had hung a welcome home sign, punctuated with red balloons.  Those balloons were the catalyst to Roopa coming out of her grieving process.  She started smiling.  And then laughing.  And then dancing…. and she has never looked back!

About 3 weeks after we were home, the London journalist emailed me to tell me that the article was published in the Daily Mail.  Our story went viral!  I started getting messages from all over the world- Serbia, Albania, Spain, Australia, Saudi Arabia, India, England, Italy, Russia… it was incredible!  And then it was picked up by the New York Daily News! More and more emails flooded my inbox.  The television show The Doctors emailed me and so did The Rachael Ray show.  I was overwhelmed and humbled that our story had touched so many people.

The Doctors asked if we would come to Los Angeles to be on the show.  I couldn't believe it!!  It was such a blessing to be on the show!  The entire staff was incredibly kind to us.  As an added bonus, it was such a healing time for the three of us to be together like that.  It was the tipping point in our bonding and I will be forever grateful!

Our segment is set to air sometime in May :)  We were completely surprised by what the show has offered us!  I won't spill any details until after it airs but believe me, we are beyond blessed!!!!  I can't wait to see it myself!

Throughout this entire journey, God has never ceased to amaze me.  He truly is the author of the most incredible stories.  I think about all of the decisions I've made in my life to get me to where I am today.  Not all of them were good.  In fact, some of them were downright horrible.  But that is where the beauty of it comes to light.  Even in our darkest pit of despair, even when we think we have messed up to the point of no return, God has the miraculous ability to take our deepest regrets and bring forth beauty from ashes.  Every night when I go to bed, I look at my two beautiful, precious daughters sleeping next to each other.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude and humbled that I am so incredibly blessed to be their mom.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" - Ephesians 3:20

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Fashion Show!

This year Munni and I were honored to be the cover family for the Cincinnati Children's Hospital fundraiser for the International Adoption Clinic.  Dr. Staat is responsible for saving Munni's life so this was an emotional experience!  I can't say enough about how amazing Dr. Staat is!  Munni of course, was thrilled to be in a fashion show :)

This is program.  The invitation was the same!  The photo was taken by my talented cousin, Anne Gregoire
First, we went to the salon to get her hair done…

This little girl was all smiles from the moment we walked into the salon!  Thank you Molly for styling Munni's hair so beautifully!

Next, we headed to the event so the children could have a dress rehearsal.  If you live in the greater Cincinnati area, I strongly encourage you to attend this event!  The silent auction has so many wonderful gifts and the raffle is amazing too!  My dad won a raffle by putting all of his tickets in one basket :)  He won the Valentine's Day basket which he ended up giving to us since Valentine's Day is our Forever Family day :)
This year's theme was India.  The drinks were a Taj Mahal (a delicious concoction of liquor and fruit juices!) and a shandy.  The food was "around the world" theme and uh-mazing.  They also had a woman there from Mumbai doing Henna.  My mom, my sister, my niece and I all got henna tattoos.
This woman was amazing and whipped these designs out in less than 5 minutes!
After the appetizers and silent auction were finished, it was time for dinner and the main event!
Munni was the first one on the catwalk!  She was a little disappointed that she didn't get to do her little hip fling and hair toss that she had been practicing all day lol!  But that didn't stop her from looking adorable :)  I made the hard decision to NOT bring my camera…I wanted to be able to be in the moment and I can get carried away when taking pictures so these are all from the event photographer.

She was so in her element!
I did run to the front of the stage to video it though….I couldn't help myself.

This is her glam shot :)

We had SUCH a wonderful time and I can't wait until next year when Baby R can join in the festivities!
If you are in need of a year end tax write off, I can't say enough about the International Adoption Clinic at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.  Literally, ^^^that beautiful, smiling, happy girl is proof positive of the amazing work they do!

I hope everyone who celebrates has a wonderful Thanksgiving spent with the ones you love the most!