Monday, May 14, 2012

we carried them

Lately, our home has been trying to recover from Measles, Malaria, and just within the last couple days, runny noses and congestion. I’m longing for us all to be well again. I took a nap yesterday for the first time since I recovered from Malaria just 2 weeks ago. Even still, when Josiah woke up ready to eat at 6:15am, I was a little out of it. I untucked the mosquito net from in between our foam mattress and the wooden frame, and leaned over the side of the bed to gather everything I needed, which has been moved to the floor beside our bed so I don’t have to fight the rats that invade the kitchen in the middle of the night. We are blessed to have electricity now, when it’s on, but we don’t have it in our bedroom. So the light of the laptop is my only source. I opened the laptop and sat it on its side. I felt around for his bottle, which I’ve learned to go ahead and put 5 ounces of water in so that I can just add 2 ounces of hot as he whines. The child is impatient. Not sure who he got that from.

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 an
d 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 finally got it just right and for some reason he was patient this morning. He just started to get rowdy as I scooped him up to feed him. He has so many brothers and sisters who want to hold his bottle for him that he never gets the chance to do it. Not sure when other babies start to do things on their own but he was missed so much and prayed for so often that when we got home from the States, everyone wanted to carry him and although I didn’t search the internet for when they do this or that, it seemed like forever before he started rolling over. Then almost immediately after, he started sitting on his own. A week ago he turned 7 months old and he not only started crawling that day, but he started walking on all 4s. It’s the funniest thing to watch. The next day he started pulling himself up on the sofa and he stands there for up to 10 mins each time. Without falling. So I let him hold his bottle. But I didn’t want to. My mind raced back to that first day in the hospital, when after a solid 24 hours of not breastfeeding, he drank some from a nursette bottle. I remember how I held the bottle, prayed over him, and shed some tears as I thought about how this day would soon be missed. It seems to have flown by. So he held his bottle and I cried again. But this time for a plethora of reasons. Holding him, in that moment, on my second Mother's Day but the first Mother's Day to a child doctors told me I'd never be able to conceive, over a year's worth of memories flashed through my mind.

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.

As I ate my Momma’s cornbread smothered in large lima beans, coupled with mashed potatoes and cole slaw and topped off with sweet tea, I felt guilty a lot of the times. I felt so far away from how things were supposed to play out with our pregnancy. I was supposed to be home. With our children. But for reasons I won’t go into in this blog post, He had me in the States. Some of the things at the end of our pregnancy were too painful to revisit but it made me feel even closer to the mothers of our other children. As if that wasn’t enough to break our hearts and test our faith, when George went home to check on our children and work on some things with our ministry one month before Josiah was born, he found that two of the little girls in our choir were very weak. After practice one day he took them home to find that their grandmother, who they’d lived with since they’d lost both their parents when the youngest was one year old, had fallen sick and was unable to provide for them. He took them in with the intentions of nourishing them back to health and returning them. We helped her get back on her feet but she was still unable to provide them with the care they needed. As the weeks went on, God made it clear to him that these were our girls. So our family grew by 2 and my heart broke because I longed to be home. I missed them terribly.

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.

He was finally here and my insides threatened to explode with excitement. It was as if my heart was visible there on my chest. Swaddled in a blanket and in a little hospital hat, he was perfect. Created in His image in every way and He was about to teach me how to love deeper. And although the way we carried them was very different, we each sacrificed our bodies to do so. Each of our bodies nourished the children that now call me Momma. Their bodies carried the children who now sing “Baby Josiah” to the one my body carried. The love I have for our children has nothing to do with biology. They joke that I am Ugandan, however much my skin has not changed yet. And it’s funny to us. But the truth is that I can’t even pretend to look like them. We don’t share the same skin color, eyes or the same hair. Nothing about their personalities reflect me. And that’s OK. Those are things they got from their biological parents. The love we pour into them will build their character. It is my promise to God and to our family that I will raise them to reflect the love of our Savior because I will love them with everything I have. The way He loves us.

I wrote this blog post yesterday morning while the reflections of last year could still make their way from my head to my fingertips and onto this screen. However much we had power the entire day, we had no internet service so I couldn’t post it. If you are reading this, please know that I prayed for each of you yesterday. Maybe not by name but Jesus knows who you are. Every mother has a journey and we are in this together. Maybe you’re a mother who has just found out you are carrying a miracle. Maybe you’re a mother who has just found out that “the doctors” say there’s little chance that you’ll ever carry a baby. Maybe you’re a mother who carried her baby and he/she was delivered right into the arms of Jesus. Maybe you’re a new mother who is struggling to learn the ropes. Maybe you’re a mother to so many kids that you have to count them when they’re all in a room to see if all of them are there. Maybe you’re a mother who had to give her child to another family. Maybe you’re a mother who is waiting on your child through adoption. No matter where you are in your journey in motherhood, I pray that Jesus will meet you right there.


  1. Bless you, Christie. I needed to read your words today. Much love.

  2. WOW!!!! That is AMAZING!!!!! LOVED IT- LOVE YOUR HEART!!!

  3. Christie, this was a beautiful post...Please continue to blog, I was so excited to see a blog post from you. :) I cherish all the sweet memories I had with you and your family. I remember going with you guys to see the sonogram, and the Joy and excitement that radiated from you and George as you saw your little "Frog Man" for the first time. Me and John Paul got to experiance that a few weeks ago when we saw our baby on a sonogram for the first time. If this baby is a boy, he and Josiah will share the same middle name, because evidently without knowing it, we both picked out the name "Harper". So there will be a Josiah Harper and a Jonathan Harper. :) Of course, according to Wilson, this baby is a girl, so...... I guess we will see in about 6 1/2 weeks. :)

  4. Beautiful, Christie! Thank you!

  5. I love your writing. I love you. your family. Beautiful.

  6. Thank you, Christie, for pouring your heart out to us and to Him. You are such a great mom! HE is father to the fatherless and He has created you to be a mother to many that are motherless. May He shower you with His abundant blessings!
    Melanie Jay

  7. Christie... such a lovely post. And just the words I needed to hear today; isn't it funny how God works like that? Blessings to your beautiful family.