Catching up

I feel like every post I’ve written in the past few months starts out with me explaining my absence. Yikes, this last one was a long one. I know that many of you have been thinking about us and worrying about how we are doing. Oh boy, has this been a journey. Thankfully it really and truly seems like we are over the hump. I’m getting used to living the dairy and soy free diet and Briar is feeling much better because of that. She’s been able to tolerate some of the things I was avoiding, like egg, and I’m happy about that. We’ve got a good evening routine and she is sleeping well at night just waking 1-2 times to eat.

Let’s see what I can catch you up on. First of all, we have decided that I am going to stay home for the remainder of the school year. We had such a hard, hard first 10 weeks that I couldn’t imagine not being there to console her. It was a last minute and unexpected decision but one that I am so thankful for. Odette is going to preschool three days a week to maintain friendships, have a break from being stuck in the house and to continue to grow socially and academically.

Odette is a SUPER STAR big sister. Her favorite thing to do is dance and sing for Briar while she is in her swing. She is great at gently playing with her and does an awesome job calming her fusing in the car or out and about. She is loving that Briar is more sturdy now and can sit on her lap.

Can you believe that Odette is registered for kindergarten in the fall? She is very excited about it. She’s doing an amazing job starting to read and write a bit. She is signed up for softball this spring. Having played for many years myself, I am quite thrilled about that. We are hoping to also get her into a theatre camp. That girl was born for the stage. The tooth fairy has frequented us a few times lately. Odette is missing 4 teeth at the moment and has a six year molar popping through. My little girl is growing up way too quickly!! She asks about A coming home almost daily as she is looking forward to the playmate. (Unfortunately, we need a correction done on all the Congo paperwork. You can pretty much take all the progress made in 2013 and erase it. We are sad about that and holding on to the hope that it is God’s plan for him to join our family.)

Briar, Briar, Briar. She’s finally getting used to being out of my womb. Haha. She is learning so many new things and growing quickly. She’s close to doubling her birthweight. Yay. She has found her hands and sucks on them a lot. She also drools like a fountain. I haven’t noticed any real signs of teething. She most definitely recognizes our faces and voices and seems confused at times when looking at our large canvases of us. We are working on getting those daytime naps in our routine. Along with naps, she’s not too fond of tummy time. She is getting better at it and is really strong. Our favorite time with her is first thing in the morning. She is full of big, cheesy smiles and giggles.

I’m one blessed mama!
















The story behind her name

After taking about 12 steps backwards, it seems that we have things going in the right direction for Miss Briar. I’m working hard to eliminate dairy and soy from my diet as it appears to help a lot with her reflux issues. It seems that every few days she has a flair up and I add something else to the do-not-eat-unless-you-want-to-have-a-screaming-baby-and-never-sleep-again list. Things like tomatoes, orange juice, broccoli are now on there and I’m sure there’ll be more soon. I did ask Jeff to get me some dairy free ice cream since that is my go-to comfort food, but I discovered that it contains soy. 😦 We went to a pediatric chiropractor today to consult and see if an adjustment might be able to help. And if you are leery about that, I understand. I was too. But I have read a lot about the benefits and talked to a number of people who recommended the one we went to. She was extremely knowledgable, gentle, and kind. My fingers are crossed that we see some improvement. I’m really hoping to avoid medication, however that is our next step.

But what I really wanted to write about today was how we arrived at Briar’s name.

Many people have asked about our draw to the name Briar and where it might have come from. Some suggested the ice cream, Breyers, umm no. Or the princess, Briar Rose, double no. (I am not a princess girl by any means and actually have to defer to Jeff when Odette asks about specific ones.) Briar’s name came about randomly. We heard the name a couple of years ago and just liked it. It was a “normal” name but unique. We tucked it away in the back of our minds to use if we ever had a biological girl.

Briar actually has two middle names. This is because Odette does and we wanted them to have that in common. Odette’s second middle name is what we consider her family name. It was her middle name in Congo and we wanted her to carry on that piece of her African background. Briar’s second middle name is also a family name. Joyce was decided on years ago. Our first born daughter was always going to have the middle name of my grandma. And while she passed away before Briar was born, I think she would totally understand us not going with her first name, Mildred. I did tell my grandma some time ago that we would be using her middle name. I’m so glad that I shared it with her. Briar is our joy just like she was.

Our girls’ first middle names were both completely chosen by us and have a lot of special meaning behind them. It took quite some time and discussion to decide on Briar’s, which is Neema. As most of you know, our pregnancy was a complete surprise. We were/are in the middle of our second adoption and our lives were consumed in preparing for that. We were scrounging together every penny to fund it, working on putting together a room for our son and getting everything in order to have two preschoolers. God had different plans. It was just days after my grandma’s passing that we found out that I was pregnant. In a time of deep mourning, we were blessed with a most special gift from above. Instead of looking at the past and being brokenhearted, we instead could look to the future in hope. God gave us His grace. Of course He would. Amazing Grace was the song that always made me think of my grandma during her long time of illness. Amazing Grace is what I sang to her in the hospital her last days and even in my personal time with her as she ran into the arms of Jesus. As Jeff and I were talking about what it would mean to have this baby and began to prepare for her I couldn’t help but think about how blessed we were that God would see the hole in our hearts before it was even there and fill it for us in a way we never imagined. We talked about how fitting the name Grace would be for our baby girl, but didn’t think it was the best fit for us. We wanted something more unique. On a whim I looked up the Swahili name for Grace since Africa is so near and dear to our hearts and instantly we loved Neema.

Briar Neema Joyce is such a blessing to our family. We all love her so very much. While we are still adjusting to being a family of 4, we can’t wait to be a family of 5 and share with you A’s full name.



Briar’s Birth

Well, here it goes. Since my beautiful baby girl is now over 6 weeks old I figured I better get her birth story documented before I forget about it. (And in case you are curious, which I’m sure you aren’t, but I am able to blog while holding Briar in the Moby wrap and rocking back and forth to keep her soothed. This momma of a newborn thing, I’m getting it down. (Knocking on wood.))

**Forewarning, this post is probably TMI for some of you. Feel free to click that little red x and spare yourself the details.

Briar was due on December 25, Christmas Day. From the very beginning I hoped that she wouldn’t actually arrive on that day. It would have been cool and all if she was our first, but we knew that Odette’s world was about to be rocked in a big way and we really wanted to give her a special Christmas. Because in our family Christmas is about celebrating Jesus’ birthday, there wasn’t the possibility of faking an early or late Christmas.

When I was around 32 weeks I asked my OB if she would consider inducing on December 27 if Briar hasn’t made her appearance for then. We wanted the tax deduction were anxious to meet her before the new year. She agreed that that was probably possible but added that it depended in my cervix. Yeah yeah. In my eyes that meant a yes. Then as the days and weeks went on, I got bigger and bigger and more and more uncomfortable. I was sleeping less, irritable, not at all sure I would make it past my due date and remain sane.

This is one of the last pictures that includes my belly. I think they were taken about 32 weeks.


By the time I went for my 36 week checkup I was asking if I could be induced on December 20. My appointment was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and I was really dragging. I even joked some at work that I didn’t know if I’d make it till Thanksgiving. Between the excitement of my students, my exhaustion, and the preparations for Christmas that I wanted started early, I was feeling majorly over it. I could tell that over the weekend Briar had dropped and it almost felt as if she was going to fall out. In my delirious state I had decided that I had undiagnosed gestational diabetes and that our baby girl was already 8 pounds. At my appointment I asked the doctor about being induced even earlier and got the response about my cervix. She then asked if I wanted her to check my progression while she was doing the strep test. Because I felt like things were moving along I asked her to check. And wow was that uncomfortable. After my yelping was over she reported that I was 1 cm dilated and 80% effaced. She said it so fast that I had to ask her to repeat it since I knew my mom would grill me about it. I then asked what it meant. I laugh now thinking about her saying that it meant I could go into labor tomorrow or could stay that way forever. She did add that my cervix was up to my tonsils. Thanks for that visualization doc. Wow. I was pretty overwhelmed. We were going to have our baby before Christmas. Wow. Jeff was headed back to work and told him that I was going to go to Target to pick up some things that I would need for Christmas and for the delivery. I then called my mom and told her that she needed to go buy a Baby’s First Christmas ornament because baby girl would for sure be here to celebrate with us. I spent over 2 hours at that store buying the many things left in my list. Socks, nursing tanks, maxi pads, etc. that no fun stuff that I learned about on Pinterest. I bought the few things I needed for Odette’s Christmas gift and got an outfit for Briar.


Little did I know that that would be my last solo trip to Target for months. Still waiting on that bit of mommy heaven actually.

I barely made it through work Wednesday and then we immediately loaded up the car and headed to our parents’ for the holiday. We were about an hour away when I became comfortable and chalked it up to being hungry started having contractions but didn’t recognize that was what it was. I got up on Thanksgiving and watched the parade sipping my decaf coffee. Then we headed to Thanksgiving with my side of the family.



Our last pictures as a family of three.

Afterwards we were supposed to go to Jeff’s family’s house for round 2, but I just could not make it. I asked him to drop me off so that I could nap. I was feeling more and more irritable and exhausted. We were planning to head back to Indy that night but I didn’t feel up to sitting the car for 2+ hours. We got up Friday and went out to breakfast with my mom and I was feeling much better. I did tell Jeff though that as soon as we get home he needed to put the carseat bases in the cars. I napped while he took care of that and then we decorated our gingerbread house. I was determined to squeeze in as much as possible.


We then ran out to pick up a few things, slippers for me to wear in the hospital and matching pjs for the girls. That was the least amount of Black Friday shopping that I’ve ever done. We came home and had hot cocoa by the fire and watched a Christmas movie.


After sleeping well most of the night I woke up on Saturday, November 30 feeling different. I could tell that Briar had dropped and I was having to pee every 20 minutes. We had a friend coming over to finally wire Briar’s room for an overhead light and I asked Jeff to bring up the Christmas decorations for me to put out.


I went about it slow and steady, and between sparkle candles and nativity sets (needing a little super glue), I found myself googling mucus plug. It seemed that I was in the process of slowly losing mine, but everything I read said that labor could still be weeks away. By noon the light was in and decorations were done. There was a point when I said to Jeff that I had just dusted the entire house and maybe that and decorating was my nesting. I ate lunch and took a nap. I still have no idea how I was able to actually sleep, but I did. Thankfully. I awoke to more tell tell signs that yes my mucus plug was out. After talking with Jeff, my mom, google, and child birth booklet, I decided I should probably call the doctor. Before I would call though I insisted that we place our diaper order on Amazon, wrap our Angel Tree gifts for church, and, oh yeah, pack our bags. The order was placed and gifts wrapped before I started bleeding. I became worried and again turned to google, Jeff, a friend, and my mom. All wanted me to call the doctor but I was determined that a little bloody show could wait and I had to pack my bag. I was mid packing however when I started to bleed more and finally worked up the courage to call the doctor. She told me that everything I was experiencing was totally normal for 36 weeks. I called my mom and told her that there wouldn’t be a baby tonight after all.

I took a screen shot of the doctor returning my call to document the times.


As the evening went on, the bleeding became heavier and I started having “cramps”. For a while I thought I might have a stomach bug or food poisoning. I texted my friend and asked if she was available to watch Odette that night should we need it. It was ling before I realized that these were contractions and not cramps. I downloaded a contraction timer app and started timing them. I called the (on call, not mine) doctor again and explained that the bleeding was heavier and I was having contractions. I asked her how painful contractions would be and she asked if I took the class and watched the video. Did I see how uncomfortable those women were? It would be like that. Ok, not labor good. I kind of doubted her but trusted her at the same time. She did say that I was welcome to go to hospital if I wanted to. I tried to go about business as usual, but remember that at one point I jumped up from the dinner table in pain. After a few laps around the house I was fine and my “false labor” contraction was over. I was still on alert though that maybe this was the real deal. Remembering that everyone says to eat before going to the hospital I did snatch the last piece of Tombstone pizza before Odette could. After dinner I had another startling contraction and told Jeff that he needed to get Odette’s bag packed and ask our friend to come get her. She was not doing well watching me jump up and pace the house deep breathing. I continued timing my contractions and thought that they were pretty far apart, but I later learned that what I thought was a long contraction was actually many short ones very close together. Rookie mistake. Our friends came and while talking to them I mentioned I was having a contraction right then. She felt my stomach and said it would probably be harder if so. Once Odette was gone, Jeff brought our bags down and loaded the car. It wasn’t long at all after that I was contracting harder and faster and called the doctor to say we were headed to the hospital.


I was sure that I would be sent home and was already feeling silly for shipping Odette off. I called my mom in the car to tell her we were on our way but had to stop mid sentence and hand the phone off to Jeff. That’s when it sunk in. I remembered from class that the second stage of labor means that you are no longer able to be social. Jeff was hilarious during this time. He had been freaking out all day as I told him about what was happening with my body, and my lack of freaking out made him even more crazy. I insisted he park the car in the lot and we walk in like normal. We went in the mothers in labor door and made our way up the elevator where we were greeted by a nice woman who took us to the triage room. Once there, I asked to use the restroom for the billionth time that day. The labor and delivery nurse came in during this time. They started asking for insurance and doctor information from us since my file hadn’t been sent over yet because I was just over 36 weeks. Once I was changed into the gown it was time to be checked. I told the nurse that I was 1 cm and 80% on Tuesday, just 4 days earlier, and her comment was for me to not be mad at her if I still was just 1 cm. She was pretty short with us until she checked me. Joke was in her. Suddenly she became sweet, and with a big grin hugged me and said that I was going to have a baby that night.

I was 4-5 cm dilated and 90% effaced. I told her that I thought for sure I was going to be sent home and she said she did too. Haha. They quickly brought in a different bed for me to move to and then I was wheeled into my room. She asked how much pain I was in on a scale of 1-10 and I said a 7. I did say yes when asked if I wanted an epidural. She said that I would need a bag of fluid first so she would start that ASAP. Jeff remembered to tell her that I needed a pediatric needle since I wasn’t really able to talk but was instead doing my invented gritted teeth huffing to work through the contractions. The nurse kind of snarkly said she would use as small as she could, and that’s when I worried about how this would go. The IV went in with no problem and the monitors all showed that baby girl was doing well. My contractions were every couple of minutes but I was able to breath through them and squeeze Jeff’s hand. Because my strep test was just days before and Thanksgiving was in there, the results of it weren’t back yet. I was going to need an antibiotic as a preventive measure. She said that it would burn while going in but I mistakenly doubted her. Holy cow did that antibiotic hurt! I wanted to claw it out of my hand. As the pain increased Jeff was whispering in my ear that this was just like the marathon. I could put one foot in front of the other and push through it. I was almost there. I didn’t hear most of it but instead was squeezing, breathing and refraining from flailing my arm in pain. The anesthesiologist was called and I was counting down until the fluid bag was drained and I could have some relief. I was reminded by the nurse that each contraction was one closer to the end. By the time the anesthesiologist arrived a little before 9:30 I wanted to beg her to put it in my arm instead. I could handle these contractions, but man did my arm hurt. I thought for a minute about not having the epidural after all, but worried about the pain of pushing and any possible tearing. I am so thankful that the anesthesiologist was awesome. She got my epidural in with no problem and Jeff was back in the room with me. It was just a few minutes before all pain from the contractions was gone. And thankfully the antibiotic was finished too. The nurse made sure I was all situated and propped up a bit on the side and she told me to take a nap to get a little sleep and she would be back in two hours to check on me. I texted family and friends to tell them that I was going to rest and that baby girl would arrive on December 1.

It wasn’t 20 minutes later that she came back in and asked if I felt like I needed to push. I said no, but she said that the baby’s heart rate dropped and she was ready. I couldn’t believe it. Part of me was disappointed because we thought we’d have a Christmas baby, but instead she was going to be born in the month of November. She asked the doctor to be called and updated and told us that because I wasn’t full term yet (37 weeks) the NICU team would have to be present for the delivery. That’s the first time that I started to worry about this early labor and what it could mean for our baby girl. By 11:00 I was pushing. It was surreal. The three of us, nurse, Jeff, and I carried on conversation of all sorts of small talk and every 2-3 minutes she’d tell me a contraction was coming and she’d count down from 10 while I pushed. Then I would take a breath and push again. I wasn’t sure what I was doing and couldn’t really feel much but it wasn’t long before she told us that the baby had hair. I asked for the mirror to be brought over so that I could see the birth but I wasn’t able to see much yet. I do remember the look on Jeff’s face when he caught the first glimpse of her. I laughed mid push. When I saw her head for the first time I had to ask what it was. It seemed too small to be her. At one point during the pushing process I said that we could have 7-8 of these because it was so easy. The nurse got a good laugh out of that. Jeff didn’t. The nurse suggested that I not tell too many friends about my experience because it was quite abnormal and my friends would hate me for loving the entire thing. By this point then nurse and I were pals. She was a great supporter and encourager.

The doctor was there by midnight and admitted that she too didn’t think I was really in labor. After pushing for a while they put me on pitocin because my contractions slowed down to every 4-5 minutes. Throughout this entire time we were all just talking away like it was just another evening making small talk with strangers. It was so different from how I imagined child birth to be. It was calm and quiet with no excitement or drama. So weird. It didn’t seem real to me. A little before 1:00 am the NICU team arrived and the doctor scrubbed up. It was just going to be a few more pushes. I just couldn’t believe it. I felt like I was watching from the outside and not going through it myself. On the final push that got her head out I started laughing. Jeff’s eyes got huge and I couldn’t help it. It was one more gentle push and she was out. It was just a second before she wailed but seemed like years to me. There was our daughter! She was placed on my chest and it was love at first sight. The NICU team left as quickly as they arrived, but not before congratulating us and adding that they’d never seen a delivery like mine. I was the first to laugh.




My birthing experience was absolutely incredible. It was one of the most beautiful days of my life. It was not at all like I imagined it would be. It was so much better. Although not so good that there will be 7-8 more.

How appropriate for this to be posted today, my 31st birthday.


Thawing out

So like a lot of you, we are just starting to thaw out after near record setting snowfall and frigid temps. It was so cold that the schools have been closed all week and even Jeff’s company was for two days. But Odette’s preschool reopened today and Jeff was sadly expected to return to work himself. That leaves just me and Briar at home today. I was given strict instructions to do nothing but take care of myself and her. I can handle that. I figured since she is eating away and soon drifting off to sleep (I hope anyway.) I decided to blog one handed via the WordPress app on my phone. Formatting might be funky and pictures strange sizes but I’m trying to make due.

It is absolutely incredible to think that Briar is now 5 1/2 weeks old. Crazy business. In so many ways it seems like she was born yesterday, but then there’s all those ways that make it feel like she’s been around much longer than she has.

Briar is doing very well. She is eating well now after giving us that scare that landed her in NICU for six days. She is growing and changing a lot. It is amazing to see her development. She is up to about 7 pounds the last time we weighed her and is finally fitting into newborn size clothes. She eats about every 1 1/2 to 3 hours during the day and is learning to take a bottle from dad. She sleeps between 2 and 3 1/2 hours at night most of the time. Odette and I love to sing Itsy Bitsy Spider to her and play Pat a Cake. She is getting more and more used to tummy time and has a really strong neck. She tracks things with her eyes and with her entire head. It is fun to interact with her and watch her participate. Now that she’s past her due date we are able to put her in the Moby wrap and she likes that most days. She also likes to sit in her bouncer for a little while and watch the animals move. The sound of the hairdryer calms her down when she’s worked up and she absolutely hates getting changed or taking a bath. My girl seems to be like me and likes to be snuggly warm.

That sure sounds like it is all sunshine and rainbows here, but I will let you know that this adjustment to a family of 4 has been hard hitting like the foot of snow and frozen wind chills. Holy cow is having a newborn hard work!! We’ve been kicked onto our butts many times. Thankfully, just like the weather outside, we are starting to thaw out. I’m feeling more like myself again and less like I’ve been buried under a mound of snow and run over by a plow. I’m slowly adjusting to little sleep, eating dinner one-handed while feeding Briar, showering every few days, and my “me time” being spent listening to the hum of the breast pump. I am getting into a new rhythm and enjoying it more each day.

Briar is a dramatic one, beginning with her unexpected arrival 3 1/2 weeks early and not stopping since. She is having trouble with reflux and gas and spends most of her awake time upset. We have gone through a gamut of things to find the tricks that work for her. She doesn’t like car rides, her Mamaroo bouncer thing, or sleeping unless she is on someone’s chest or being held. There were days when she would cry from about sun up to sun down unless she was eating. When she does sleep she wakes very easily and often and needs a lot of soothing from us. Maybe all newborns are like that? We don’t know, but we do know that it was/is hard. One thing that has seemed to help us all is that we had Briar’s tongue tie corrected last week. It was something that the doctors, nurses, and lactation consultants went around about for a while to decide if they would recommend the surgery or not. Ultimately the pediatrician saw our exhaustion at our one month appointment (which was actually moved up a few days early because of our call for needing advice and suggestions getting Briar to sleep) and requested that I seek the advice of another lactation consultant and look into seeing an ENT about Briar’s tongue tie. It seemed to be possibly causing latching and feeding difficulties and leading to no sleep for anyone. We went last Friday for a consultation with the ENT and had the 3 second surgery performed that day in his office. I’m not exactly sure how much it has helped or how much time and adjustment for us has played a role. But things are improving. She’s sleeping more, feeding for longer chunks of time and less often, and even has happy awake time regularly. Praise God!

It is such a wonderful feeling to be holding this little life in my arms. I kiss her cheek about 172 times a day. She is so stinking cute and incredible. We all love her to bits and can’t imagine not having her in our family.

Life around here is on the up and up. I’m confident of it. Sure there will be many more sleepless nights ahead of us, but the most difficult times are behind us. The thaw is here. Soon our home will be warm and glowing once again.

I will leave you with random pictures of our days.

Visiting Santa

Peeking in on little sister. She sleeps better in this where she’s more upright.



Hanging out. Doing the baby thing.




Pre tongue tie surgery. Best picture I could get. Basically she had extra skin under her tongue that prevented her from lifting it much or sticking it out past her gum line.


Post surgery

Trying to keep warm in the bath.

Sisterly love



Hope you are all staying warm!


How about a look at the nearly finished nursery we put together for Miss B? I don’t know about you, but other than pictures of the faces of sweet babies, nurseries are my favorite thing to check out when there’s a new little one. While hanging out in there today I snapped a few pictures to post. I have much better pictures on the real camera but its gotten no closer to making its way to being connected to the computer for a massive (like since October) upload. So it goes with this season of life. That’s kinda become my mantra. Reminding myself repeatedly that this is a passing moment in time and I need to soak it in and make the best of it instead of dwelling on the challenges and diversions from my euphoric expectations.

But anyway, on to the pictures. We started putting this together early on. The inspiration for the colors was the blanket on the glider. It was unique and unexpectedly feminine.


From there, we ordered bedding and used it to color match the paint for the wall and dresser. The tiny Nikes were mine when I was little and the pink dress was actually worn by my mom and me. (Sweater was bought just for color.)


After lots of trail and error we finally mastered the strategy for the chevron wall. It was a handful of weekends to make it happen. It didn’t help that the yellow we first used was too buttercup-y and had to be repainted twice.

I love the end product.





I have to include a shot of her adorable bunny rocker from Grandma for Christmas. Odette is chomping at the bit to get Briar on it.


Now on to my most favorite part of the room.


So there you have it. It is just about complete. I want to order a canvas of one of her newborn pictures and have a set of mirrors to hang once I’ve decided where. Oh and blackout curtains will be added ASAP.


Checking in

Well, I’m here. We’re here. We are all alive and well. And delirious from lack of sleep. Major props to all you moms of newborns out there. This parenting (and nursing) a just-born baby is C.R.A.Z.Y hard. Quite possibly the hardest thing I have ever done.

I’ve likened it to running a marathon in reverse. I think of the actual race as the celebration. It’s the reward for all the hard work. Sure, it is a huge task, but exhilarating nonetheless. The most difficult part of a marathon is the training, especially those dreaded 20 mile runs. For me, childbirth was one of the most beautiful, divine, exhilarating, glorifying, empowering, and awesome things I have accomplished. And the medal I now wear around my neck is gorgeous. : ) However, now we’ve moved on to those damn long, long training runs, or the long, long days and nights as the case actually is.

As the sun sets each evening I get a little bit anxious thinking of the night ahead of me. Thankfully, as it has been promised, the sun rises each morning and pours through the window and I look into the eyes of this beautiful baby girl and I have an overwhelming sense of joy, happiness and determination.

So a belated Merry Christmas to you all! I might as well just go ahead and wish you a Happy New Year too since the chance of me being around before then is probably quite slim. Our Christmas was wonderful. At one point I looked over at Briar sleeping soundly (a Christmas miracle) and at Odette marveling at her presents and I whispered to Jeff that this is exactly what I wished my Christmas morning could be. I hope you found yourself as blessed as I did.

I’m currently laying on the couch next to the dimly lit Christmas tree with a now 6 pound (!!) Briar snoozing away on top on me. Odette and Jeff are quietly playing with one of her gifts while dinner cooks in the oven. I thought I’d take advantage and pop by with what I hope are a few semi-coherent sentences to catch you up.

While most of our pictures are on the real camera and it hasn’t been plugged in for months, I did find a couple if pictures on my phone that I will leave you with.





Briar Neema Joyce

Photo: Our little surprise blessing was born at 1:02 this morning weighing in at 5lb and 9oz and 19.5 inches. We introduce Briar Neema Joyce Alwine.

Our tiny little bundle of a blessing made her debut a few weeks early one week ago today.  Briar Neema Joyce was born at 1:02 am on Sunday, December 1st weighing in at 5 lbs, 9 oz and 19 1/2 inches long.  Jeff and I were immediately head over heels in love with the munchkin.  Due to being born three and a half weeks early, she required a five day stay in the NICU, but she is home now and doing amazingly well.  God is so good!

Photo: My tube is out!


A lot has happened since the last post.  I may play catch up and fill in the blanks or a may not.  Life is pretty crazy for us right now and I ‘m not quite sure which way is up.  I do hope to at least share a peek into Briar’s nursery and her birth story (hint: it’s short and sweet).  There was also Thanksgiving and some Christmas fun in the mix too that I’d like to blog about if there were 36 hours in a day.  For now we are politely turning away visitors and hunkering down as a family.

{To our friends and family reading, Thank you so much for everything, all the kind words, prayers, cards, gifts, and well wishes.  They mean a lot to us.  Slowly we will regain a sense of normal and immerge from our hibernation.  Thank you for understanding.}

Feeling extremely blessed,

Sarah Signature

This post really contains pictures

It probably won’t contain many words.  Just major picture overload. 

“Mommy, we’re twins”


Pumpkin Patch 2013


No caption necessary


Pumpkin Patch with her preschoolIMG_1020IMG_1021

Gorgeous school picture


Carving her pumpkin at home


Halloween marked two years since we got our referral and first picture of Odette.


The forecast called for strong winds and storms on Halloween night so our town moved trick or treating to November 1.  In return, Odette’s Halloween party at school was moved to October 31.  She had never heard of a mummy before and was very reluctant to participate in this activity.   



The timing of her new highly dentist recommended toothbrush was perfect.


Odette and Daddy had fun trick or treating while I stayed home and passed out candy.


We’ve only been there since August, and out of the entire school we are family of the month…I have many thoughts on that. Most importantly, could they have selected a worse picture?


My belly is getting huge.  I now have just 6 weeks until my due date.  Probably should write more about the pregnancy.  As this picture shows, baby girl loves hanging out on my right side.  Like.always.


Making her first PB&J.  I am hoping to get her doing many more things independently.  We worked hard to nip that when she first came home to show her that we were her caregivers, but she is totally ready for it. 


Out little beauty fell asleep on our way to our photo shoot. 


We had our first snowfall earlier this week.  This is how I celebrated.


Odette tore open her curtains with excitement looking for the dusting. 


So the post was pretty lame.  It has little story behind the pictures, but I feel better about being somewhat caught up.  The days, weeks, and months are flying by.  We are keeping extremely busy, and I am getting more and more tired as the days go on.  Baby girl’s room is just about finished, and we are all dreaming about what she will look like.  We continue to wait on our i600 approval.  I expectantly rip open the mailbox each day looking for THE envelope.  I have considered checking the neighbors boxes as well since we were told 3 weeks ago that our officer was hoping to get to it “by the end of the week or early the next.”  But in all honesty, our hearts and minds are at peace with the wait.  We long to meet our boy just as much as our baby girl, but we’ll hang on for as long as it takes.


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Did you live in a hut?

As I have said before, being an adoptive family, especially transracially, never turns off. Sometimes it is easy to slide into cruise control and forget this fact about your family, but just as soon as you do, you are reminded of reality. You just have to be one step ahead at all times.

I’m not the best at that. A lot of it has to do with the fact that our experience has been so positive. Our family, friends, and community have embraced us. When Odette first came home we were more proactive. I remember many conversations with her preschool, gymnastics instructor, even waiters about her language or cultural issues. We made a point to inform them of the uniqueness of her background. But then as time went on and her language exploded (Today you would never know that English is a third or fourth language for her.) we slipped into letting her just be another kid. Sure, when families look at us they can instantly tell she is not our biological child, but many expect her to be a domestic adoption or have no idea that she came home so recently and at the age she did. And typically those who do know those things, know very little about Congo.

Last Friday, I walked into Odette’s preschool classroom to pick her up. I wasn’t feeling the best and just wanted to quickly pick her up and get her home and changed for trick or treating. While she was cleaning up, one of her teachers mentioned that she asked Odette about Congo today. It went something like, “So I was talking to Odette and asked her about Congo. Like, I asked her if she lived in a house, like a big house with a lot of rooms, or did she live in a hut. Did she go to school? She didn’t really answer. I asked about her biological mom and dad and what she remembered about them, but she didn’t know.”

After I picked my jaw up off the floor and let me heartrate settle down, I attempted to put together my response. I explained that she probably doesn’t remember these things. I said that research has shown that often times children handle the trauma of adoption by completely forgetting much of their past. Her teacher went on to ask a few more things, and I kindly explained that Congo is the poorest country in the world. Very few children go to school. We call her birthparents her Congo mom and dad and talk about them often. She was living in an orphanage when we picked her up, but that is all we know. She has never talked about anything else. All the while I am trying to smile and be kind about these questions, but inside I wanted to curl up in a ball. Why did I set Odette up for this? Why didn’t I do my part to prevent this? How did Odette feel? Why can’t I just say what I really want to say to you (ie. it’s none of your *#@^ business)? I did pull myself together enough to say, “Just so you know, sometimes these types of questions really bother Odette and upset her. She struggles some with being different and likes to try to be just like everyone else. This is especially true about her skin color.” This was met with surprise and a story about Odette sharing with her teachers and/or the class about her playing with water and flowers that make everything smell good? Thankfully I did my part in learning about international adoption (All adoptive parents really should read Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child) and was able to once again, calmly and nicely, explain that sometimes children will create stories to patch up and piece together parts of their lives that they may block out or no longer remember. The conversation drug on I could add so much more that I heard about how Odette has bragged about being “café” during Spanish class or about a family she knew who adopted from country x and their daughter knew quite a bit about her biological mom and dad. They even stay in touch. It was like Charlie Brown’s teacher talking, won won wa, by this point. Thankfully Odette was now standing next to me with her backpack and jacket. I turned to her and said that we needed to get home quick for trick or treating.

Seething, at mostly myself, we walked out to the car where I immediately picked up the phone and called Jeff. I don’t think he finished his hello when I was rambling on and on about how I let my daughter down. How I knew better. How I could have and should have prevented this. How I should have prepared Odette with how to handle these types of situations. How I was so naive that this wouldn’t happen to her and happen so young. Not to mention me going on and on about this being none of their business. I get that they had good intentions and Jeff reminded me that we always have to think about that, but dang it, come to me with those questions. Not to her.

It is our job to not only protect Odette from hopefully being put in that situation again by a teacher or other adult, but to more importantly equip her with the words to handle it in a matter that empowers her to share what she wants. There is a fantastic blog post by Rage Against the Minivan that I read, and then forwarded to Jeff, and pinned on Pinterest, and saved to my favorites but never gave to Odette’s teachers. But the thing is is that we can only prepare others so much. I can’t go around and shove this into the face of every person Odette is going to come in contact with. My biggest failure was not in not printing the letter. My biggest failure was not being proactive and having the discussion with Odette that should have taken place long ago.

Learn from me. Take my advice. Talk about it with your child before it is too late. Talk about it with others before it is too late. Educate yourself.

Since then we have talked to Odette about this “conversation” and she doesn’t seem the least bit phased by it. She doesn’t really seem to understand why she might not want to answer their questions. But the point is, she now knows that she doesn’t have to!

Jeff and I have talked at great length about what we need to do to address the immediate issue. We are not going to print the letter and send it in. At this point the damage (not that there really seems to be any) has been done. We can’t bring it up to her current teachers without them feeling like we are offended. We aren’t confrontational and Odette is kinda stuck with them for a long time. We have to think of her. What we are doing is having the frank talk with Odette. We are equipping her with choices and examples and role playing. We have talked about letting her take some pictures of herself in Congo into class to share, but are realistic in the can of worms that could open. (Such as, why don’t you have hair?) Before we open her up to that we will be absolutely sure that she knows that she can talk about as much or as little as she wants. The power is going to be in her hands!


On giving birth

{Ok, don’t hate me, but this is not the photo dump you might be waiting for.  I know I owe it to you (and now I have even more pictures), but the cable is upstairs and I’m not and that’s just how things are going to stay for the while.  And while it might sound like pictures are faster, they actually take longer by the time I order them, crop them, center them, etc.  So you’ll have to suffer through another text heavy post or you could always click that red x in the corner and I’d be none the wiser.}

This past Saturday A couple of weeks ago (this has sat in my draft folder for a while) Jeff and I attended a child birth class at our local hospital. It was a 8 hour session that condensed the 7 weeks of evening classes into one LONG day.  My mom was quite surprised to hear me say that I learned a lot from the class.  She thought that I would have read up on all the stuff already.  Ha. I seriously laughed at her.  I reminded her that I barely have the time and energy to change into my pjs before bed, let alone get heavy reading accomplished.  I really did learn a lot from the class.  I can’t say for sure how helpful any of it will be when the time arrives, but it is nice having an idea of what I might expect to happen.

We are fortunate to have two wonderful hospitals within about 5 minutes of our house.  The hospital that our class was at proudly touted that it is the best facility around and even employs John Travolta’s former chef, with items such as glazed salmon and filet mignon on the menu.  The monitors (wired and wireless versions) for both me and baby, pain management options, state of the art emergency equipment/staff on site, and even the room amenities (complete with dimming “moon and grass”) were incredible to hear about.  It is amazing how advanced medical facilities can be these days.  It seemed that short of waving a magical wand, they have thought of it all.

But while I was sitting in that room in central Indiana with this baby girl kicking away at my ribs, my mind frequently turned to Odette and A’s moms in Congo and what their child birth experience was like.  When we were in DRC we asked our guide about this topic.  We were told that often times mothers would begin traveling by foot toward the nearest hospital weeks before they were due.  Then they would hopefully stay with a family member or friend until it was time for them to deliver their baby.  Our conversation ended about there, but it has always stuck with me.  Since then I have read a bit more on what it might be like to give birth in Congo.

I simply can’t imagine what it could have been like for Odette and A’s moms.  I think of how I feel when the temperature was warm here and imagine the constant heat of Congo and the lack of American luxuries that I take for granted.  I mean poor me would drive in an air conditioned car to an air conditioned building to work for 8 (or so) hours a day.  I lay on my soft pillowtop mattress surrounded my mounds of pillows to keep myself comfortable.  My every craving can be met with a trip to the kitchen or grocery store at worst.  I have seen my doctor at least monthly (now semi-monthly and soon to be weekly) and get every question or concern answered often before I have them.  While I am there I have multiple tests run to check on the health of me and the baby.  All of these things strictly prenatal related; they don’t at all begin to touch on birthing the baby.

I stumbled upon an amazing blog, Mama Congo, and was totally fascinated to learn about delivering a baby in DRC.  You really should check out the blog.  It is written by two moms who moved to Congo with their families.  They have written a couple of posts about maternity clinics and what a birthing mother may experience in that country.  I don’t want to copy all their pictures and information onto my blog, as it is theirs and not mine, but I will highlight a few things and link a couple of pictures of their visit to a clinic outside the city of KinshasaAll pictures are links to their post.

This is the delivering table and here is a list of ALL of the equipment available to them.

  • 1 pair scissors.
  • 1 pick-up/tweezers.
  • 1 bulb syringe (for sucking out baby’s mouth and nose).
  • 2 clamps (for the umbilical cord).
  • 1 syringe.
  • 1 needle.
  • 1 stainless canister (used with a little rubbing alcohol and fire for sterilization of equipment.)
  • 1 pack of matches.
  • 1 mostly-empty bottle of isopropyl alcohol.
  • 1 half-full bottle of Ketamine for emergency anesthesia.
  • 1 old vial of Lidocaine for numbing skin

And what is most incredible about this is that the authors state that they would give birth HERE any day over the clinic they assisted at once in the city.  I simply cannot even begin to wrap my mind around what it would be like to be a Congolese woman and deliver a child in a facility like the one above or worse.

Recently, Mama Congo, hosted a guest writer to share her experiences with seven maternity clinics in Kinshasa.  They are quick to point out that the readers shouldn’t feel pity, but instead should see the true success that the pictures represent.  In a country with nearly the highest maternal mortality rate the clinics written about have worked incredibly hard to drastically reduce the risk.  In fact, in over 20 years there have only have 5 total maternal deaths.

I show you these pictures and share the tiny bits of information (hoping you will go read more) just to open your eyes to the world outside of ours.  This planet that we are blessed to live on is made up of people JUST LIKE YOU AND ME yet our lives can be so different at times.

I can’t think about this baby girl growing within my womb without turning my thoughts to the women who carried my children in theirs’.  I often wonder what their pregnancy was like and what their dreams were for their unborn child.  I wonder what their labor was like and how much they each weighed at birth.  I wonder if they were born in the morning or at night and what type of baby they were.  I’m sure that as the day draws nearer for us to welcome our little baby into our arms that I will feel more of an indescribable bond with those two women from the other side of the world whom I have never met.

51 days and counting

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