Tuesday, August 28, 2012

5 Things I've Learned about Adoption

Merline arriving at the airport in Knoxville
It has been a little over a week since we brought Merline home.  Much has happened in that short time and I've learned a lot of things already but I know I have much more to learn (probably the hard way).
Since I'm an "expert" now, I will share a few things I've discovered about my new family, Haiti, and adoption. 

1. Understanding each other is tough.
I am impressed with how much English Merline is already speaking, but crossing the language barrier is still a big hurdle. The other night we spent about an hour trying to figure out what "Maggie" is.  We exhausted all our iPhone apps, let her go through literally everything in our kitchen cabinets, and called three different Haitian friends before we finally learned that "Maggie" is one of those little cubes of Chicken bouillon.  Go figure.   
Some of the misunderstandings are nice though.  She says lots of things that just make me smile.  I think my personal favorite is she says "yesternight" instead of "last night".  I don't plan on telling her the correct way just yet because for some reason it just brings me joy when I hear her say it.   :-)

2. I now know real zombies don't look like the ones on tv.
They look "normal like an alive person, except their eyes are totally black and they carry snakes in their coat."  And they don't really eat brains - that is just for movies.  In reality, zombies satisfy their appetite by eating babies.   This was all good information for me to learn.

3. Finding food she likes has been tougher than I imagined.
Merline is seriously confused about why all restaurants in America don't offer rice & beans on the menu.  I'm also amazed  by how much salt and sugar she wants on her foods.   And generous amounts of it too.  Sugar in milk.  Sugar on frosted flakes.  Salt on pork.  Salt on rice.  Salt on spaghetti.   It's becoming much clearer why we see so much diabetes and high blood pressure at the Les Anglais clinics - because Haitians apparently put sugar and/or salt on EVERYTHING.
Names of food are confusing to her also.  We went to sonic a couple nights ago, and she thought when we ordered a corn dog for Emmie, that we were actually feeding her dog.  

4. Adoption = Loss.
Merline with Cuadise, her birth father
Rachel and I had discussed this and read about this before we adopted so I thought I knew this before she got here;  but I didn't really KNOW it like I do now, even after just a week.   I had this idea of "she'll love it here because we have running water,  lots of food, good roads, and air conditioning!"   But I must remind myself, she lost her mom when she was 2, she lost her dad when she was 3 when he gave her to the orphanage; she lost her biological siblings (2 that died, 3 that remain in pap & jacmel); she lost her orphanage where she'd lived most of her life to the 2010 quake; she lost friends that died, were adopted to other places, or that remain at the orphanage;  she lost the culture she grew up with; she lost her normal way of life;  she lost the caretakers that cared for her;  she lost her biological dad and siblings a second time when she said bye to them 2 weeks ago;  she lost her language;  she lost her school & teachers & classmates.  She has essentially lost EVERYTHING that was FAMILIAR to her.   And even if we think her version of familiar of carrying buckets of water from a cistern or going without electricity for days might suck;   It is still 'her familiar'. And familiar is comfortable.  Familiar feels good. 
Now she spends her days learning new family parents, new siblings, new technology gizmos at every turn (like escalators, water dispensers, & automatic doors)  new foods, new schedules, new language, new friends, new culture, new rules, etc.   And the fact that we have a giant dog that not only comes inside the house, but he actually sleeps on our beds!?  That one is really hard for her to figure out.
It's all new.  It's all unfamiliar.  It's all steps to regain some of the things that she lost.  And it's baby steps. 

5. My family is awesome. 
Emmie, Merline, Riley, & Molly
Of course I knew this already but I have been reminded how blessed I am to have an amazing wife, great kids, and a supportive extended family.   2-1/2 years of waiting on the adoption process took it's toll on our family and now that Merline is here, there are still tough times coming.   But I can't imagine going through this life with anyone else.   The selflessness, grace, & patience of my wife and kids is amazing.   Looking forward to what God has in store for the 5, excuse me, 6 of us!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

We're Back!

It's been a while since I've blogged.  There's a reason for that...  I have been in a struggle.  Several struggles, actually, and I haven't had a lot to say that I felt I could share.  Translated: " If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."  I tend to be a little bit stubborn (yes, I know, shocking) and it has taken me a while to accept what God was trying to do with me.  Even in the struggles God is always faithful to stay by us.  We are definitely a work in progress.  Here's an update of what we've been doing. 

The update on Merline's adoption is this:  yes, we are still waiting.  Yes, Merline is still waiting.  Yes, Merline is getting older and we are losing time with each other.  Yes, we have done absolutely everything we can do to try and get her home, including trying things I swore I would never try.  Yes, it hurts, and not only us, but Merline, Riley, Emmie, and Molly too.  Yes, I cringe and feel like screaming every time someone asks about progress (even though it's well meaning and I really do appreciate the concern).  I have no answers to give.  All I know is that God has to be in control of it all and the fact that I am still able to get out of bed in the mornings and be somewhat productive is proof of His presence. 

The hold up on the adoption is that one of  the main papers we needed, a presidential dispensation, was completed with our last name spelled wrong.  It was spelled Loyd instead of Lloyd.  The irony of this is that Brian's dad's birth certificate was spelled wrong by the delivering doctor and the rest of his family spells their name Loyd.  We are the only 2 L Lloyds in the family.  REALLY?!?  Anyway, the paper was completed by the outgoing presidential administration in Haiti and the new administration refused to simply fix the document, they required us to go through the process again.  The first time was 6 months.  This time was about 4 months, but we have the new dispensation and it has been legalized.  This was a huge hurdle for us.  We don't know for sure how long it will be now before she comes home, but we are thrilled to be past this point.

We are also really concerned for Merline's health.  While I was in Haiti at the beginning of December I found out that Merline was getting sick quite a bit.  She told me that she was throwing up after eating almost every time she ate and had been doing it for almost 3 months.  I was shocked and worried.  I was so blessed to have my really good friend and our pediatrician, Abby, with us.  She watched her and checked on her and ended up calling home and getting medicines ready for another group to bring the following week.  We kind of landed it possibly being an ulcer being exacerbated by the stress of being the oldest and most responsible girl in the orphanage and the stress of knowing that she should be coming home and she's not.  During my visit there wasn't a 15 minute period Merline could sit without being called to help one of the younger girls.  Yes, it's Haiti and, yes, this is typical, but it's not easy.

We have researched the possibility of getting a medical visa and learned that it really wasn't an option for her.  We were also afraid that it would cause issues with the adoption and we don't want that.  We just want her home with us where we can care of her and she can be a kid for a while.   

Riley, Emmie, and Molly are all doing okay, but miss their sister and have moments of tears and "whys" for which we have no answers.  The good thing is that we have been put in a place where all we can do is trust God.  He started this craziness and I know He will finish it.

As for Harvest Field Ministries, God has been more than faithful.  There have been so many things that have been evidence that God is driving this train and we are just along for the ride.  The relationships that have grown with the people we're working with in Les Anglais, Haiti are great.  It's so clear that the people we are working with there are God led and willing to follow God's call regardless of the strain it may put on their lives.  It seems that our experiences in Haiti have taught us to second guess the motives and the heart of anyone we come in contact with.  It is becoming clear that Pastor Ivan and his family are not "typical" and we have much to learn from them.

The main lesson God has been trying to teach me in the last few months is to just trust Him.  Though I am not one to relinquish control easily, I am starting to understand that if I just let go He will take care of the things I've been struggling with for so long.  Whether it's forgiveness or my lack of faith or my sweet little girl, He holds it all, along with me.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Gladeis' story...from Brendan's eyes

This was written by Brendan, one of the med students on our last medical trip a couple weeks ago.  It's a snapshot into some of the tough situations these medical teams deal with.
From across the diagnostics/treatment tent I see Dr. Josh gesturing for me to come over.  It is a rudimentary establishment, some blue tarp extending from the side of a clapboard-and-t in building, propped up by metal poles on the far end.  A plank laid across two wicker chairs serves as
a backless bench for waiting patients.  It is only late morning and already the temperature is climbing into the 90s.  Although the tarp offers a modicum of shade, the sun's heat combined with the moisture emanating from roughly two dozen bodies crammed into a tight space make for a tropical microclimate.  As I make my way over the treacherously uneven ground I realize there is no classy way to wipe away sweat as it pours down the bridge of your nose.

"Put your stethoscope right there," Dr. Josh says quietly.  Gladeis Jeanly, a slender girl of seventeen, sits quietly on one of the wicker chairs borrowed from the adjacent shop.  Her face remains expressionless, but the sidelong glance she is giving me speaks of trust, tempered with wariness.  "May I?" I ask, gesturing to the bell of my stethoscope.  She nods silently before Jaques the translator even says anything.  As the earpieces nestle snugly within my ear canals, I hear the background noise fade to a muffled hum.  Nearly all of my sensory input now comes from that device.  As I slide the bell into place on her left chest, my eyes barely recognize the satiny red fabric of her dress.  My brain is disregarding their input as superfluous; what matters is the sound that is being channeled from within her chest to my ears, and that sound is unsettling.  "Rheumatic fever," Dr. Josh says "or at least, that's what we expect happened.  We weren't here." He explains the auto-immune disorder that occurs with a certain strain of untreated strep - the body begins to dissolve the valves of its own heart in a woefully misguided attempt at attacking the infection.  For whatever reason, rheumatic fever is incredibly rare in the U.S., but it seems to be disturbingly common in Haiti.  

A healthy heart makes the familiar lub-dub noise when you listen to it. A heart with a "murmur," as a leak is referred to, sounds more like lub-swish as blood escapes the heart chambers through a faulty valve.  The only sound coming from this heart is an agonizingly long, unpunctuated  whoosh.  "We've been following this case for about two years now," Dr. Josh says. "We had an echo-cardiogram done. We suspect that she got over the strep years ago, but now all of her valves are completely gone."  I stare in silence for a second at her chest wall, imagining that heart pumping in vain, raggedy valves flapping uselessly.  "So. what do we do?"  Dr. Josh's jaw sets.  He says nothing for a while, and then, quietly: "This is why it would have been nice to see her when it was just strep."  

He sits back down in his chair across from Gladeis.  They look at each other for a few moments wordlessly, Josh sweating beneath his weathered Hawkeyes baseball cap, Gladeis in her red dress, hands folded in her lap.  The sun filters through the tarp above and washes the entire area in a faded pastel blue.  Josh shifts in his seat, not looking away from her, but obviously grasping for words.  He makes a glance at Jacques the translator sitting next to him, who nods in acknowledgement.  Turning back to Gladeis, he says: "What you have is something rare in the
United States."  The translator quickly iterates the Creole version.  Gladeis remains stone-faced. Dr. Josh continues: "These doctors here, they don't see this disease that you have.  You are teaching them."  A blink from Gladeis.  "Because of you, other people will be better."  Blink.  "You should be proud."  Maybe a slight nod, maybe just a tiny bow of resignation.  

I've had the stethoscope out of my ears for several minutes now, but the background noise seems to have completely stopped.  Assessments are occurring behind me, procedures and conversations and research inquiries, but none of it registers.  Right now the entire world revolves around this one moment, between doctor and slowly-dying patient.  "May I pray for you?" Gladeis nods.  Her slender hands disappear almost completely in his has he leans forward, hunching over in thought. He gently caresses her fingers with his, his veins bulging in the heat and rolling with the movement of his tendons.  They sit like that for a few moments, Gladeis serene and melancholy as Josh's hands articulate the frustration and anguish his face refuses to express.  "God, please help this poor girl-" I hear him begin.  Jacques dutifully interprets.  The prayer becomes a mumble to me as the scene sears itself into my memory forever - the serenity of Gladeis' face and weary-yet-resilient posture, the blue tint in the air under the tarp reminiscent of light through a cathedral's stained glass, the physical connection between hands communicating intent far before language refines the details.  I step out into the blazing afternoon sun and make a bee-line up the road.  No way in hell my eyes are going to stay dry for much longer.  My task for the moment is to find a quiet place to lose it while thinking about the difference that a few cents worth of penicillin could have made some years ago in the life of Gladeis Jeanly.

Gladeis' case is all too familiar.  I think about how often my kids have had strep throat, and how if not treated, their heart could become like Gladeis'.  These medical teams see some very tough cases.  In the same day the docs saw Gladeis, they also saw a 30 year old, single mother of 4, with late stage breast cancer.  There was nothing they could do for her medically.  They prayed with her, held her hand, and talked with her about the need to find someone to take care of her children soon.

But for all the frustrations of what the medical teams can't help with, there are just as many success stories.  Pre-ecclamptic pregnant women who get IV meds and taken to hospital.  Men & women with blood pressures that could stroke at any minute that are given meds to get their hypertension under control.  Babies delivered safely in a sterile environment.  Children receive meds whose bellies are infested with parasites.  Sometimes it's just being willing to sit with an old lady and listen to her story.  But at every medical clinic we do, I know this...Lives are saved.  Hope is given freely.  Love is administered to every single patient.

If you are interested in being part of one of our medical teams, please email me at brian@harvestfieldhaiti.org