I found the flask and poured in 2 ounces but it was as if I hadn’t put any hot water in it. My brain was just tired. I checked and sure enough - 7 ounces. He drinks it all and not a bit more. What was wrong? Frustrated, I checked the time to see that it was about 3-4 hours past when he usually eats. No wonder the water wasn’t as hot as usual. I poured 2.5 ounces back in and filled it again. 7 ounces. It was too hot. I finally got the temperature right and it was time to add the formula, which usually goes just as planned. This morning was different. With all the adding/removing water, I’d left some around the rim of the bottle. The very first time I added a scoop, water got on it and formula stuck to it. Then it was too messy to get down into the bottle and some fell on me, on the bed, and all over the floor. Great, something to attract even more rats in through our window and under our bed. I was definitely wide awake then.
I am learning so much about motherhood from both God blessing me as the mother of a biological child and as a mother to children through adoption. Adoption looks very different for us in contrast to people who come here and adopt internationally. Some of our children are too old to be legally adopted, so they would never have had the chance of being in a family through international adoption. I couldn’t imagine our lives without them, regardless of the fact that we will never have paperwork with our names and theirs on it. The only thing that makes us their parents is love.
Each thing that I experience with Josiah makes my heart wonder about each of our children. That day we went to the clinic because I was no longer getting out of the bed ready to hit the ground rolling at 7am, so we decided to check for malaria and take a pregnancy test. How did their mothers discover they were pregnant? The excitement far outweighed the anxiety in our hearts as the lab technician came out and said to me, “Malaria - negative, pregnancy - positive.” I remembered the overwhelming excitement that led George to pull 20,000 shillings (around $8-9 at the time) from his pocket and give to the technician for the news! Were they excited when they found out they were carrying a baby? Overwhelmed? Burdened? I thought back to the day I scooped up a spoonful of local food and the smell hit my nose and made my stomach turn. So we had a friend donate so that I could get some things that I could eat, but which were far more than we could have bought had we not had the help. I know it’s a fact that while carrying a child, some of the things you once liked are the same things you find unable to stomach, or even find repulsive. Did their mothers go through this also? If so, how did it play out when you eat the same thing every day because that’s all you have? As he grew inside of me and George made me drink juice or water, with the exception of drinking Sprite on special occasions during those first few months, I wondered what their mothers drank.
I struggled for months with dizziness and fatigue, having been completely thrown for a loop because of the heat. We were at the beginning of a dry season when we got pregnant and instead of it cooling off as we neared the rainy season, it got hotter and there were country-wide warnings that we would be experiencing a drought. We didn’t have electricity so I couldn’t keep my body cool. Their bodies were acclimated to the weather here but that didn’t keep me from wondering how their hormones played a part in how they felt those first couple months that were such a struggle for me. It was such a struggle that George put me on a flight back to the US. But not before we got an ultrasound at International Hospital Kampala. I honestly doubt if any of them were able to have one of those.
Although I was 7 months pregnant before my first doctor’s appointment, and even still I rarely took those prenatal vitamins they gave me, I wonder what, if any, prenatal care they received. A couple of the mothers of our children were alone during their pregnancies, and even if the fathers were around, it’s highly unlikely that they cared to feel the baby kick and/or be there for the women during this time. It’s just not culture here. As I felt Josiah kick for the first time, being 7900 miles away from George, I wondered about the mothers of our other children. Was this moment mixed with excitement and sadness that the ones that helped give them life were not around? For me, this was the one God created for me. The love of my life. My soul mate. My best friend. My heart. This would be different for each child of ours, knowing as much as their story as we do. I desperately missed our children back home. When George would call, it was so incredibly heartbreaking to hear their voices.
(Our family as we knew it, minus Linda & Arnie)
All of those middle of the night trips to the restroom because he was playing soccer with my bladder made me wonder what they did. I only imagined that most of them slept on the floor. It was difficult to not only be running on empty and deprived of sleep already, but to get up and find your way to the restroom without first wetting yourself. It is equally as difficult to have a running stomach and try to find a flashlight to go outside in the middle of the night and to squat over a hole in the ground. I went to the US when I was just entering my 2nd trimester but came home for 3 weeks when I was 6 months and I got to experience some of those hardships. We took in 2 more boys the day before we flew to the States and we all went to the pool the day George and I flew to the States. It was hard to soak up every moment with them knowing it would be months and months before I would be back. I smiled even though I wanted to cry and although I am thankful we had that time together, it gave me just enough time with them to feel the punch. And then everything just weighed even heavier on my heart times 2.
I really struggled those last few months with the extremes between what I was going through with our first biological child together (he has 2 from a previous marriage) and wondering what life was like for the mothers of the children that God had chosen to bless us with. As the time drew near for us to give birth, I knew more about “when” it would happen because of ultrasounds and dates. The mothers of our other children read their bodies and knew within a couple days of giving birth that they would. They didn’t keep up with dates and they certainly didn’t have access to ultrasounds to tell them. It still amazes me. I also had excellent medical care and family and friends who were ready and willing to do anything and everything to ensure those last few weeks were comfortable. Everyone went out of their way to provide us with things we would need when Josiah came home and most of his weight was gained by the good food we indulged ourselves on. Because, let’s face it, I was eating for him, not me. But how well were the mothers of our other children treated? Did they feel all alone or were they loved on by their family and friends? Culture here prevents the mother-in-law from being even remotely in the same area as the son-in-law so having support from both your mother and your husband at the same time is highly unlikely. I mean, they can support you from afar but it’s not the same as what I had. My mother and husband poured into my life during our pregnancy and they did it from the same room.
I was ready to give birth naturally and although I was past my due date, my mind never once entertained the fact that I might have to have a c-section. It just wasn’t part of “the plan”. I was admitted into the hospital on Oct. 5th for observation. My blood pressure had been high for the last couple days. Jennifer had gone with me and George was heading home from a meeting in Texas. Melinda rushed to Birmingham to pick him from the airport and after a short visit, I was alone in the hospital room. I won’t ever forget lying there as I watched the blood pressure machine and thanked God for the care I was receiving. Just as all the previous months, my mind wondered what those last few days were like for the mothers of our other children. The next morning, despite my blood pressure returning to normal, I was told by the doctor on call, that I needed to have a c-section. I was crushed. And although I knew my husband, my family and my friends-turned-family were just a phone call away, I was alone. Alone to deal with that much crushing news after this long, long journey. I wondered if they felt alone when things didn’t go as planned.