If you would like to help us bring Elena home...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Our daughter, Elena!

Let me start by saying that we are the luckiest parents in the world (partly because I like calling us "parents" and mostly because we are getting a wonderful little girl).  I seriously am beside myself excited.  We found out on Ben's birthday on April 15th (also the first day at his new engineering firm he opened with his brother). Immediately after we were matched, I understood that thing my parents have been telling me I would understand the minute I became a parent. I finally "got" the intense love and simultaneous worry you feel for your own child. Our little girl, Elena, is perfect, but her little body has been fighting Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia now for over a year. She was diagnosed at 11 months and began an intense chemotherapy regimen 3 days later. The treatment lasts a couple of years. The Filipino adoption board submits a monthly email with pictures of children who have not been matched yet with forever families. These kids are either older, part of large sibling groups,  or have special health issues. It's called the Special Home Finding list. I first noticed Elena towards the end of last year and thought she was the cutest little girl I had seen, but we were not able to request her due to some more information the country needed concerning my medical history.  I knew she had cancer, and I knew it wouldn't be an easy road, but all of those feelings were outweighed by the fact that I knew she still needed a loving mom and dad, and I wanted to be that support system for her no matter what happened in her future.  It is hard for some people to understand adopting a child with cancer, but we saw her, fell in love, and felt a peace that we would be given the strength to deal with the details. On January 11,  Ben and I decided to submit a request for more information on her despite not being an "approved" family. We heard she was on hold already for another family but we would be notified if something changed.  On February  15, we found out we were generally approved and placed on our country's wait list. We had previously submitted for 2 children (siblings) 0-6 years old, so we assumed we would be waiting 2-5 years for our little ones.  We prepared ourselves for a long wait and i started planning 2 years worth of "babymoons." We were disappointed about not being matched with Elena, but glad to think maybe God had another family in mind for her.  A week or so later we received Elena's file with no explanation. I became more excited because I felt like this was a very good sign. We then learned more about her hard little life.  We also learned that she had been tolerating and responding to her chemotherapy fairly well.  She turned 2 on March 1, 2013.  This date came and went.  Without any news, I felt helpless and sad to be thousands of miles away from her on the other side of the world while she celebrated this birthday (and I wondered if anyone did celebrate it in her orphanage?). I couldn't do anything except write her a letter and pray I would get to read it to her someday.  Here's what it said,

"Happy Birthday Elena!

Hi little girl. I am thinking of you today and everyday since I first saw you. I want to be a part of your life and give you love and a family and everything else that you could want. Life is hard. You have had a rough start but I can tell that it has not hurt your spirit. You have a light in your eyes that makes me smile. I can't wait to hear you laugh. I hope you have a wonderful day and I hope that long before my next birthday I can hold you in my arms and give you a big hug. You are loved and prayed for all the way on the other side of the world by me and your dad and by lots more people that can't wait to see you. I can't wait for you to meet them!  Hope to see you very soon. 

 Love you, 


I couldn't bring myself to write "mom" yet. I think I was protecting my heart a little bit in case the whole thing fell through. That has gone through the window now. My 30th birthday is on Thanksgiving Day this year and I have a feeling it's going to be my most thankful year yet.  I have cleaned out her room downstairs, bought her a few dresses and toys, and started reorganizing rooms upstairs to make her a lovely little playroom. Oh and I am pretty hormonal. I am typically emotionally tough but the excitement and all of the new parent worry has me carrying around a pack of tissues.  We are waiting on updated information on her now. We have no recent pictures and no idea how big she is currently. We also need to know where she is on her chemotherapy regimen. This will determine when it will be safe for her to travel home. Ben and I (and maybe a grandparent or two) will be making the ~30 hour trip (just for one way!) over to the Philippines to get her.  We are excited to bring her home and settle in as a new family. We are going to need lots of prayers for a smooth transition and I am praying constantly that God will also heal her cancer. We are also having some difficulties figuring out a health insurance plan for her due to her medical diagnosis, but we are praying all of her current and future needs will be met.  I'm very thankful for all of the support and encouragement from friends and family. Life is about to get crazy, but I will try to keep those interested updated. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Looking back, looking forward...

Many of you have noticed that Ben and I are still enjoying child free living, despite being married almost 8 years and together for 13. It isn't because we don't like or want them, we both love children and want them more than anything on this earth. That dream experienced a hiccup when I had a health scare in 2008 and developed an extensive blood clot in my leg that developed into a pulmonary embolism (where the clot broke off and lodged in my lungs, becoming life threatening). It was discovered that I had a hereditary blood clotting disorder that was the root of the problem. God spared my life and I am so grateful for that. Due to some issues related to that illness and the three surgeries I had during that time, I have been strongly discouraged by multiple doctors from attempting to endure a pregnancy. The risk to my health would be very great and the likelihood of frequent late term miscarriages would be very high despite the large doses of blood thinners that I would be taking. This realization was devastating and heartbreaking. The reminder of it now makes me tear up but it was something that I was told a few years ago and I have made some peace with it. It's even more frustrating now since I am in very good health and feel great most of the time. Nevertheless, losing me during or after a pregnancy is not a risk that Ben is willing to take and I certainly understand his feelings.

The opportunity presented itself to try to become pregnant through IVF and the use of a gestational carrier. That means it would biologically be our child we would just be borrowing an "oven.":) It was one of the most special and selfless gifts that I could have ever experienced. This person took on our problems and heartache and attempted to help us. It wasn't easy, the medicines involved were not fun and the invasion of personal privacy was not comfortable, but she loved us so much that she endured months of this for us. We were so excited. The first time we tried, we became pregnant. We wanted to tell everyone immediately but decided to wait until a certain date since it was very early. We experienced a miscarriage within the first 8 weeks that was really devastating. We went in for our first ultrasound and they could not find anything. We had apparently lost the baby a few days prior. It hurt more than anything I can remember. We had allowed ourselves to get excited, and the fall from such a high was tough. We tried again with her and we became pregnant again! We tried to learn our lesson from getting too excited the previous time so we played it semi-cool. We actually were able to see this baby twice on ultrasound and have pictures of little Baby Berry that would have been born 6-15-2012. Looking at the pictures helps it feel more real. I didn't get to experience the physical feelings, such as mood swings or food cravings that our carrier experienced, so this picture is really all I have to let me know that I was a mommy for a short time. At around 10 weeks there were some complications. We went to the doctor, saw our baby was doing well, it eased our mind and we went out for lunch and dinner that day to celebrate. Here is one of the pictures from that day.

The doctor said that the risk of miscarriage at this point was extremely low and we became ecstatic. We had already picked out a boy and girl name and we began planning how we would turn the office in our house into a nursery. We planned on telling everyone the great news at Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, late that same night we got a phone call about some problems with the pregnancy and before we knew it our baby was gone. This stuff is almost impossible to talk about in person. I am not a person who likes to cry in front of people at all and I'm incoherent when I start bawling anyways. The fact that I have been unable to talk about it with more people makes me feel more alone and isolated as I've gone through this experience. This has all happened over the last few months so the pain is all very fresh. We have a great family and they have offered a lot of support. I don't like to be sad, I much prefer light hearted joking around, so I often avoid the one topic that hurts me the most. I also dislike receiving pity or being a Debbie Downer so I just smile and talk about other things.
These last few months have been very tough but I am trusting that better days are ahead. I recently was reminded of a great quote about friends dividing sorrows and multiplying joy. We have experienced much sorrow over the last year, and I'm trusting in God that there will someday be joy in this area of my life and I will want it to be multiplied, so I need to talk about the subject more with others. We talked about fears today in Sunday School and I would have to say my biggest fear is that I will never get to become a mother. However, I find it hard to believe that with all of the children in the world that need parents that God wouldn't pair a few of them up with Ben and myself, who would try our best to make incredible parents. So I hope and pray for the best. Since I first met Ben, I knew he would make a wonderful dad someday and I feel awful that I can't help him out with that. There is a song by the Dixie Chicks called "So Hard" that sums up these guilty feelings better than I can,

"It felt like a given
Something a woman's born to do
A natural ambition
To see a reflection of me and you
And I'd feel so guilty
If that was a gift I couldn't give
And could you be happy
If life wasn't how we pictured it."

Ben and I have talked about our desire to adopt for over 10 years, long before we realized that biological children were not in our future. He handles it so well (much better than I do) and is excited to be a dad no matter how it happens. I am very thankful for that.

Well, so that is looking back and explaining our past. We count our blessings often and we lose count because there are so many. All that's missing are little ones who can share in our many blessings. Another reason I finally decided to write about this now is because Ben and I wanted to formally announce that we are expecting...to adopt a few children over the next few years :). We are interested in domestic infant adoption and we are also in the paperwork stage of the long process of international adoption through the Philippines. We are excited to have started this journey. We had our home study recently and it went well. We will need love, emotional support, and prayers throughout the process as we look forward to bringing the little ones home that God has picked out for us. We are open for any questions and conversations about this subject. I believe that talking about painful subjects is therapeutic so I look forward to being healed of the pain surrounding this part of my life.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Exciting Times

Ben and I are in the process of building a house. It is so much fun! When we aren't at work we are usually at the new house hanging out and discussing the million large and small decisions that need to be made during house construction. The house is framed, the electricians are done, the brick masons are almost done, and roofers and siding crew are coming very soon. There is a lot more to do but at least I can finally see it all coming together. While we were out there tonight, it was extra beautiful and I took this picture while sitting on our porch. I look forward to many, many more nights sitting on the porch admiring the view, especially after we move all our stuff over there. Some other very exciting news going on in my life is my brother and his wife are expecting TWINS, like any minute (she is 37 weeks). I will surely be posting pictures of them as soon as they grace us with their presence. All I have to look at now is this pic of them at 17 weeks. I love you guys!!!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

House for Sale

Our house is for sale! Selling a house can be a difficult and long process. What will be most difficult is maintaining a tidy house that is always ready for potential buyers. It is exciting because it means we are getting closer to building and moving into a location and house that we love. We just purchased a couple of acres where we will be building a new home. We go by the new property several times a week and picnic there on pretty days. I'm excited about the future!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Weekend in the Mountains

I have an awesome job and work with people that I really like. I like them so much that I went on a girls' weekend to the mountains with them in October. They actually made pink shirts that say, "what happens on girls' weekends stays on girls' weekends" so I'll give the generic version. We rented a big cabin, went shopping, watched movies, hung out in the hot tub, talked a lot, ate a lot, and just relaxed! I am blessed to have a group of people like them to work with. I am also looking forward to many more work days, after work dinners, and vacations with these girls! Karyn, who is an AMAZING cook, baked us a cookie cake with our names on it. So cute, and delicious!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Amelia Island

My childhood neighbor and life long friend, Katie, and her mom, Sharon, invited me to spend a long weekend with them in Amelia Island, Florida. We had beautiful weather and the accommodations were amazing! Sharon's friend Marti also joined us. We had a great time and laughed so hard we cried on many occasions. It was a very memorable girls' weekend! Here are a few of my favorite pictures.

Here is the link to more pictures from the weekend, http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2097640&id=56705803&l=324c7bc551.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Baby Boy Berry

We have a nephew! We are so excited to welcome Paxton Michael Berry into the world today at 1:05pm.
He weighs 9lbs and is 21 inches long.
What a beautiful little boy!
Congratulations Chris and Cara!

Cara's nephew, Cade, meeting his cousin and new best friend, Paxton.
Too cute.