Kiss me, I’m radioactive

Standard

I met my radiation oncologist this past Tuesday. He was very encouraged from my surgery. Even though the nodule on the right side showed signs of cancer, the left side did not! My oncologist likes to wait until thyroid levels are at 35 to administer the radioactive iodine (RAI) and sometimes it can take up to 6 weeks post surgery. This is called a thyroid ablation and it is to destroy any remaining thyroid tissue. We did blood work last Tuesday to check my levels and we had scheduled to do blood work every two weeks until I reached the desired level. I was hoping to be where I needed to be before the middle of August (we have plans to get away for a couple of days before school starts back up). They do a scan of my thyroid a week after the RAI is administered to make sure everything is going as planned. About a month after that, I will do another scan to ensure all of the thyroid tissue is gone. My oncologist gave me a 99.9% chance of the cancer never returning. He smiled as he told me, “You are a cancer survivor!” Sweet words to my ears.

I am very blessed in that I have not been too tired so far on this thyroid-less journey. There have been two Saturdays that I had to rest quite a bit, but really, it hasn’t been all that bad. I’ve tried really hard to keep my husband from staying home from work, but this last week he decided he wanted to spend a little more time around the house to help me out. He called a friend of his to fill the pulpit this coming Sunday so he could concentrate on being home and not have to study in the office every day. This would allow him to help out with the girls and he could still study from home during naps. (The girls naps and mine.)

Caution: radioactive materials

Caution: radioactive materials

Monday morning the oncologist called. He had scheduled my appointment to take the RAI and he had scheduled it for this Wednesday! I will meet him at the hospital Wednesday morning and I get to swallow that little pill that is encased in a glass vial encased in a lead pipe. (This dosage is about 60 times higher than the dosage I took when they found the nodule to begin with.) I have to be away from my hubby and girlies for 48 hours, so I am blessed to be able to stay in the church missions house for two days. I have already gotten things ready for my stay (I feel like a doomsday prepper) by stocking it with: easy foods so I don’t have to use the cook ware, disposable plates and plastic ware so I don’t have to use the regular dishes, old towels that I can just toss when I’m done, and lots of projects to keep me busy. Did I mention the chick flicks? The missions house doesn’t get regular TV, so I’m taking the wii to hook up for the use of dvds and Netflix. I will really be suffering. (Don’t get me wrong. If I was a betting woman, I’d bet by Wednesday night I’ll be calling my hubby lamenting the fact of how bored I am.)

My husband on the other hand will have sole responsibility of three girlies. By himself. Alone. With no safety net. I don’t know that he’s ever had all 3 together by himself for more than a few hours. So I’m sure by Friday night he will be ready for his wonderful wife to come home so he can stop watching Doc McStuffins and Little Einsteins. (Andy Griffith is thrown in there, too, but he doesn’t seem to mind those. I blame Bro. Ted.) And I expect him to gravel at my feet and realize I really do wear a Wonder Woman cape to get through the days. Ha! Seriously, he acknowledges being a mommy is a hard job. He says often he is glad God made him a man. I have no doubt he will be just fine. He is a fabulous daddy and his girlies adore him. He will have everything under control. And if things get too rough, he can always call Memaw. She’s always up to the challenge.

After I got off the phone with the oncologist I had to laugh. Isn’t that just like God? Here my husband really felt like he needed to arrange his schedule to accommodate me and asked someone to fill the pulpit to help make that happen (knowing he may have to do that again once I had my treatment). Yet God knew the whole time that I would have my treatment the same week every single thing had been arranged! That may not seem like a big deal to some, but to me that is huge. Not only that, but by the time we go out of town for a couple of days, I will have been on my thyroid replacement meds for almost 3 weeks. Plus, all of this is done before school and Classical Conversations start back up. And before Choral Society resumes its regular season. I love how God is in the details. No problem is too big and no detail is too small.

So if you think about it, would you pray that this RAI will do everything it is supposed to and that the subsequent yearly visits are just routine? And pray for the hubster. His schedule will be much more hectic than mine the rest of this week.

Advertisements

Thyroid surgery number 2

Standard

Last Monday, June 30th, I had my second thyroid surgery. They took out the left side of my thyroid, so now I am thyroidless. (I was really hoping that the thyroid weighed somewhere around 25 pounds, but alas, no.)

The original plan was to do an outpatient surgery, but I bled more this time and they had to install a drainage tube. I had the pleasure of staying overnight again. I was a little more alert this time after getting out of recovery. My husband was there for the surgery, but he had to leave at noon to take our church kids to camp. So I spent most of the day sleeping, flipping channels on the TV, and dining on chicken broth and jello.

I met with my surgeon yesterday. He said the incision looks good and the swelling and puffiness above the incision should go away in a couple of weeks. He’s confident that he got everything and that I should be fine from here on out. He has now referred me to an oncologist that I will see every year and a radiation oncologist. The radiation oncologist is the one to administer the RAI (radioactive iodine) and that appointment is next Tuesday. Unfortunately, my husband is out of town that day, so I will be going by myself. But I’m a big girl. I can handle it. If you know me, you know I am just a little bit independent at times. I am starting to write down questions to ask the oncologist so I can make sure I know what all is going on and what to expect. I need to write stuff down or I know I will forget something.  When you try researching on your own on the internet, you get all sorts of stuff to muddle through. I’ve read that I have to be away from my girls anywhere from 2-7 days. My doctor doesn’t think it will be a whole week, but that’s a question for my oncologist. (I finally gave up looking online. It can get depressing.)

Since the hubby was gone last Wednesday, we had a guest preacher. He preached on Psalm 121. What a great reminder of the God I serve. The creator of the world is my God. He created all that there is and He created me. The God who created the billions of stars cares about little me. He is my helper and my keeper. He will not suffer my foot to be moved. Psalm 37:23-24 states “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” I may stumble, but the Lord is there picking me up, protecting me, establishing my goings. Verse 4 of Psalm 121 tells me that “he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” Nothing takes God by surprise. I usually sleep 7-8 hours at night. Do you realize how much can happen in 7-8 hours? Yet, my God does not sleep, He is never caught off guard, and He watches over me day and night.

My cancer is no problem for my God. I may never know this side of glory why He has chosen me to travel down this road, but I know He is beside me every step of the way. I will trust in Him and follow His leading.

 

Surprise! 2011 was a banner year.

Standard

So far my husband and I have experienced infertility, adoption, and a miscarriage. When we lost our first baby in June 2011, we had no idea what God would do next.

In August of 2011, we found out we were expecting again. I told my husband, “Go figure. 15 years and nothing. Then I get pregnant twice in less than six months.” 🙂 We went to the doctor and sure enough, I was pregnant. Our due date this time was April 28th. I was still 39, but by the time this baby would get here I would be 40 years old. 40 years old having my first baby. God sure has a sense of humor. I think the medical community calls this a geriatric pregnancy. Some call it crazy.

This pregnancy went really well. I got past week 11 and that took a load off of my mind. Then I got past the first trimester and I started to breathe a little easier. They say your chances of miscarriage really decrease if you get past week 13. Right before Christmas we found out we were having a girl. More pink, more froo froo, and more hair bows! I was starting to look pregnant and not just like I had too many burgers the night before.

In the middle of January, I got really sick. I had a bad case of the flu (we think) and was sick from Sunday evening until Wednesday. Thursday I felt well enough to paint Lydia’s bedroom, although I was having some sore muscle pain on my side. I called my best friend who suggested it might be from throwing up for 2 days. She also suggested if it got worse, to call my doctor. About 2pm I decided I needed a nap. When I woke up around 4, I was still having this weird pain. It wasn’t very strong, just annoying. And it wasn’t constant. It would happen about every 8-10 minutes and last about 10 seconds. Yes, I timed it. My doctor’s office closes at noon on Thursdays, so I called my sweet friend again and she suggested going to the ER if it continued to get worse. I told my husband about 6:00 pm that we should probably go to the ER and get this checked out. The worst thing they could say was that it was gas or something and send me home. He was not very excited about sitting in the ER for hours to find out it was gas, but he humored me.

There is an advantage to being pregnant. When we got to the ER and they saw I was pregnant, they took me straight back to labor and delivery. No waiting room for me. Nope. Pregnant women about to enter their third trimester are special. 🙂 I didn’t even have to walk, they wheeled me back there in a wheelchair. They hooked me up to some machines and told us I was in labor. Ummmmm. Excuse me? I am only 26 weeks along. I can’t be in labor. Besides, don’t you watch TV and movies? Women in active labor are screaming and writhing in pain. I was not in labor. The nurses hooked me up to something like magnesium to slow down the labor and monitored me for a little while. Once they felt I was stable, they transported me to Tulsa. Bartlesville is not equipped for babies born earlier than 34 weeks, so I got to ride in the not-so-comfortable-and-not-so-fast ambulance 40 minutes south to Tulsa.

At one point on our ride I asked the ambulance attendant guy when this magnesium stuff was supposed to kick in.  He looked puzzled. “The contractions aren’t lessening?” “Nope.” Instead of lessening, the pain was getting stronger. He nervously answered, “We’ll be there in about 10 minutes.” During this time, my husband was following along behind us in the car. Unknown to me, he had already started calling people and asking them to pray for whatever was going to happen that evening. I was in the ambulance praying God would intervene so that by the time I got to Tulsa I could say, oops, false alarm. But, regardless, I had this unexplainable peace that everything was going to be okay. I had no idea what condition this baby would be in, or if she would even survive, but I knew God was in control. Again, nothing happens to us that God does not allow.

I arrived at St. John in Tulsa at 9:00 pm. and was wheeled (this time on a stretcher) straight to labor and delivery. They checked all my vitals and told us we would have a baby sometime that evening. Ummmm. No, I was only 26 weeks along and we hadn’t agreed on her name!! Right after 9:30 the doctor I was sent to see said I had a couple of hours yet, so she went into a c-section. I would ask for an epidural, but the nurse would say she was waiting on my labs to come back. It wasn’t a problem, she said, I had plenty of time. Just before 10:00pm I told my husband something wasn’t right. The room at this point was empty so he went into the hallway for help. The nurse came in to check things out and then went back for reinforcements. In less than 1 minute my room was full of nurses and doctors. Our tiny little bundle was born at 10:01 pm weighing 1lb and 14 oz. and was 13 1/2 inches long. (and I never got my epidural. Do you hear the Wonder Woman music playing? HA!) She was small, skinny, purple, and looked like an alien, but she was one of the most beautiful things I had seen.

Teeny, tiny baby. The nurse is holding the tube up so she can breathe. They were in the middle of intubating her.

Teeny, tiny baby. The nurse is holding the tube up so she can breathe. They were in the middle of intubating her.

She couldn’t cry because her lungs weren’t fully developed. We quickly decided on a name (I won!) and little Emma LeeAnne was brought over to me. I didn’t get to hold her as the NICU doctor quickly brought her over, let me get a glimpse, then whisked her away to the NICU. A couple of hours later, Brian reminded me I was only 39. I had her before I was 40!

Here she is. All purple, all covered in cords and cables and stickers and all beautiful. She still has a scar from one of her stickers holding a cord in place. It's her tickle button.

Here she is. All purple, all covered in cords and cables and stickers and all beautiful. She still has a scar from one of her stickers holding a cord in place. It’s her tickle button.

The first few weeks were touch and go. Emma would have a couple good days and then take a big step backward. I will never forget the day the nurse practitioner came in and gave us the worst-case scenarios. Pretty scary stuff. But we continued to place Emma in God’s hands, the best place she could be. It was very hard for me. I wanted to fix it. I wanted to do something to make everything better and ensure Emma would survive. But I couldn’t. I firmly believe God places us in situations that require us to rely on Him for our strength. I couldn’t do it on my own, but I knew Someone who could. I don’t like the phrase “God will never give you more than you can handle.”  If we could handle it on our own, we wouldn’t need the Lord. I believe God gives us just enough to make us turn to Him and not rely on our own strength.

We spent 89 days in the NICU at St. John in Tulsa. I have to say we had the absolute best medical staff you could ask for. We absolutely loved our nurses and nurse practitioner. (We loved the doctors, too, but the nurses saw her and took care of her every day.) They took care of our sweet baby like she was their own. The first day I got to hold her was February 14th, almost a month after she was born. The day before our nurse found out I hadn’t held her yet. At this point Emma was intubated and she was so tiny, there was very little room for movement with her equipment. I received a phone call at home the morning of Valentine’s Day and was told Dr. Siddiqui wanted to arrange it so I could kangaroo with her. (Kangarooing is holding your baby skin on skin. It helps them feel the rhythm of momma’s heartbeat and many believe this is the first step to them really starting to grow and develop.) He told the nurses to tell me Happy Valentine’s Day. It was quite the task to get her moved out of her bed and into my arms, but I was told I could hold her as long as she would tolerate it. So we took advantage of it. I know we were there together for at least an hour.

February 14th. The first day I got to hold this precious gift. (Laying her head on your shoulder is still her favorite position.)

February 14th. The first day I got to hold this precious gift. (Laying her head on your shoulder is still her favorite position.)

Those 89 days were an adventure. She had numerous brain scans, pic lines, and lumbar punctures (spinal taps). She developed pneumonia at one point, so she had scans for her lungs for a while. She had countless bradycardia episodes and some tachycardia episodes (those usually happened when she was mad at the nurses.) She developed retinopathy, so she had a pediatric ophthamologist come visit often. She had a grade 3 brain bleed, and up until the week before she was discharged, the neurologist wanted to put in a shunt. But God held Emma in His arms and protected her from any major permanent side effects.

Lydia meeting Emma for the first time. Looking at her baby sister through the open nicu nurses window.

Lydia meeting Emma for the first time. Looking at her baby sister through the open nicu nurses window.

We finally got to take her home April 17th. Lydia didn’t even get to meet her until the day before we brought her home. Emma was born in the middle of RSV season, so no one under the age of 18 was allowed in the NICU. Lydia only got to see her via facetime on our phones. The first day she met her was through the nicu window.

In her car seat ready to go home. Big bow on her head and heart monitor on her body.

In her car seat ready to go home. Big bow on her head and heart monitor on her body.

She was 3 months old and weighed 6 pounds the day we took her home. They never did install a shunt. She went home hooked up to a heart monitor and wore that until June.

 

She is now a very happy, healthy, and funny two year old. She wears glasses due to a weak eye muscle and ankle braces because her ankles turn in slightly when she walks. Both situations we hope and pray are temporary.

Emma playing in the church nursery. The smile on her face says it all.

Emma playing in the church nursery. The smile on her face says it all.

She is still a little behind in her speech, but I have no doubt that she will catch up. To us, she is a miracle.  It has been said that preemies usually are caught up by the time they are two. Our physical therapist told us that they are rewriting the book on micropreemies, that they should be caught up by the age four. We have great physical and speech therapists working with her to ensure that happens.

We may never know why God allowed this to happen. But believe me when I say Emma is worth every second of every minute. I can’t wait to tell her her story when she gets older. We even ordered a doll that is her exact birth weight and length so she can see just how tiny she was. I hope she realizes what an absolute miracle she is. And we are blessed to be her mommy and daddy.

Lydia and Emma coloring Easter Eggs.

Lydia and Emma coloring Easter Eggs.

Pathology Report Findings

Standard

This past Monday, June 16th, I had my thyroid surgery. The doctor removed the nodule and the right half of my thyroid. He said I did really well, which is good to know, because all I remember is “We’re going to put this oxygen mask on for right now and then (insert Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice here) blah, blah, blah, wah, wah, wah, wah….” Then I was waking up in recovery. I had already warned my husband that if any embarrassing videos showed up anywhere in cyberspace, he’d pay dearly. They decided to keep me overnight. I wasn’t real thrilled about that until I got to my room and couldn’t keep my eyes open. The only reason I woke up at all is because of the blasted automatic blood pressure taker thingy. It went off every 15 minutes. Pretty annoying if I do say so myself. My fabulous hubby stayed with me all day. At least I think he did. He said he did. I was pretty out of it.

I have this great little incision at the base of my neck being held together with surgical tape strips. Strips I am not supposed to take off. My husband says at first glance it looks like some piece of chunky jewelry. Ha! I can even make surgical tape look good. The doctor told me to use lots of sunscreen if I go out in the sun. He said it would scar kind of funny if I don’t. So I have decided to stay out of the sun for awhile. I don’t need permanent chunky jewelry.

After removing the nodule, they did a second biopsy. My surgeon called Thursday afternoon with the pathology report. The biopsy did indeed show signs of follicular carcinoma, or cancer. It is the second most common form of thyroid cancer. Success rate is about 90%. So now the plan is to go back in on the 30th and take out the other half of my thyroid. My doctor said the next procedure will be even easier and the surgery should be outpatient. Yippee! No automatic blood pressure taker thingy! Once that is done I get to take some radioactive iodine that is supposed to “kill” everything off. Rumor has it that I will have to stay away from my family for a day or two, but I’ll have to confirm that with my doctor. Going through airport security is pretty much out as well. Last thing I need is to be detained by Jack Bauer or Homeland Security for setting off radiation detectors. After about 6 weeks he will start me on some medication, but in the mean time I will feel “very sluggish.” I was also told to be prepared to be dumb for the next 6 weeks. I’m excited about this. I’ve used mommy brain as an excuse for about 2 years, and it will be nice to have a new excuse.

I’m doing okay with all of this. I keep telling myself, “Thousands of people before me have been down this road.” And, of course, it could be worse. I try not to complain about my health issues. They are what they are. No matter where I am, there is always someone who wishes their medical situations were as “easy” as mine.

This morning, as I was playing offertory, I realized what I was playing. I started smiling as I sang the words in my head:

Day by Day

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find, to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He Whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best—
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day, the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
He Whose Name is Counselor and Power;
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in every tribulation
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
Ever to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.

Just Call Me Sarah (continuing down infertility road)

Standard

Hopefully by now you have read our story about Lydia and her miracle adoption. God’s hand is all over her story. Even our case worker said, “I have never seen a case go this quickly and this smoothly. I just can’t explain it.” I can! It was God’s timing and for whatever reason, He orchestrated the whole process to go like it did. I personally believe it is so that neither I nor my husband can claim any credit. Only God can do what He did.

Fast forward to 2010, two years after Lydia’s adoption was finalized. I had weighed in at my heaviest weight ever. At ?xx lbs (did you really expect me to admit to it?) I was tired and sluggish. With PCOS, the heavier you are the more complications can develop. I was tired of being tired and knew I had to do something about it before my health got worse. A friend encouraged me to start Weight Watchers, so I started that journey in late summer of 2010. By the end of April 2011, I had lost 49 lbs! I felt good and my body was starting to get back to normal.

The first week of May I had a funny feeling, so without telling my husband, I bought a pregnancy test. Mind you, I have bought tons of these and always with the same result, though I hadn’t bought one in years. I always threatened to just use a stick from the back yard. The result would have been the same! May 6th, 2011, just a couple of weeks before our 15th wedding anniversary, my husband was getting ready to walk out the door to go to work. He was getting his keys when I walked into the bedroom. “Honey, you need to sit down.” says I. “I have to get to work!” says he. I start laughing, which makes him more annoyed. “Deidre. What?!? I have to get to work!” (Did I mention he is the only one on staff at the church and we lived across the parking lot at this point?) With each question I laugh even more. The more I laugh, the more he gets annoyed. “Will you just spit it out?!?!”

“I’m pregnant.” The look on my husband’s face was priceless. I so wish I had a camera at that exact moment. Surprise!! When he finally came to, he said, “But you’re old!!” (I had just turned 39.) Needless to say we were both in shock. I now have a new perspective on Sarah and how the Bible said, “Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I am waxed old…?” Been there. Lol…out loud.  I found a little place here in town that did pregnancy tests and, yep, I was pregnant. We called and told just a few people, told our mothers on Mother’s Day, then we told our church that night. (My husband started out so serious, I think some people thought he was tendering his resignation.) Needless to say, word spread of this old lady being pregnant for the first time. I found a doctor and we started down pregnancy road. Our due date? January 8th.

We started picking out names, looking at bedding, and dreaming about the first of January and our miracle baby. We were very excited. I remember telling a friend of mine, “I can’t imagine God allowing me to get pregnant after all these years only to take the baby. I’m sure everything will be fine. But, God is sovereign and can do what He sees fit.” Little did I know then that my conversation would be put to the test.

The middle of June (17-18) we had a Purposeful Parenting Seminar scheduled at the church. I got up that Friday morning and started baking and getting things ready. Late in the morning, I started bleeding. I called the doctor and the nurse said as long as it didn’t get worse I was fine. (I was trying not to be a hypochondriac. Ain’t nobody got time for that!) We got to the church, starting talking with the pastor doing the seminar, and only one parent came. After that parent was done speaking with the pastor, we went out for ice cream. Unfortunately, things did get worse, and on our way home I told my husband we needed to get to the hospital. We spent the next 6-7 hours in the ER. A very long 6-7 hours.  I remember how compassionate the doctor on call was, how sweet the nurse was, and how they blew a vein in my left arm. (I had the bruise for over a week to prove it.) I also remember John Bishop’s chorus ringing through my ears that night. “God is good and God is right. God is good both day and night.” That’s actually all of the song I could remember, but it was enough.

I remember these dates because the day you find out you’re pregnant is a big deal. Plus, we found out Mother’s Day weekend and miscarried Father’s Day weekend. Were we sad? Yes. Were we disappointed? Absolutely. Were we in despair? No. Years before this we had given our fertility (and lack thereof) to the Lord. Our lives were in His hands. So are the lives of our children.

II Corinthians 1:4 states, “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”  To those of you who reached out to me after those events, Thank You! Many of you have been through what we experienced and your testimony was a blessing to both of us. You lived out II Corinthians 1 and encouraged me to do the same. I may never know why God chose to take this baby, but I need to learn from it. The only way to be an encouragement to someone going through trials is to respond correctly through mine.

 

 

Today we celebrate 16 years of wedded bliss (and 18 years of marriage)

Standard

There are two times in my life I would never want to repeat. The first is junior high. Ugh. There is no reality show prize money large enough to tempt me to go back. The second is the first two years of marriage. Oy ve. An anniversary is a big deal, but especially when you thought you weren’t going to make it past the first two. I’m sure it was ALL his fault. I’m so easy to live with.

On our wedding day staring lovingly into his eyes. As they say, “Love is blind. Marriage is the eye opener.”

I did not marry my best friend. My best friends stood beside me that day. I might have spoken the typical, (insert engaged sweet sappy voice here:) “He’s my best friend…” But truly, he did not know me like my attendants did. He had never seen me without make-up, he had never seen me without my hair being perfect, and he had never known me to look frumpy in worn-out sweats and ratty t-shirts as I cleaned. He did not necessarily know my ugly side, the first thing in the morning face, my aversion to putting the toilet paper on the roll, the hives I develop from  putting my shoes in the closet (so I don’t), or my morning breath side. But he was going to learn. And love me anyway.

To say the first two years were rough would be a HUGE understatement. I was raised you argue until someone gives in (usually him.) He was raised that a married couple never argues. We had a lot to learn, because both sides are wrong. I was the baby and he was the oldest of three boys. Before we got married his idea of conflict resolution was beating up your brother and going on your way. He did at least know that wouldn’t work with his wife. Thankfully, we learned to get along. We learned to work together, control our tempers (most of the time), and pray for each other. Only God can truly change a person.

Each year gets better and better. I remember the night before we brought Lydia home, I told him, “I really like you.” He informed me I was supposed to. I reminded him the Bible says I have to love him, it never says I have to like him. And I really like my husband. We have endured a lot over the years: those rough first years, tough jobs, crazy family members, infertility, loss of family, health issues, and the list goes on. But God has been faithful in every situation and He has drawn us closer to Him which in turn draws us closer to each other.

I can now positively state he is my best friend and he loves me despite my short comings. We have a good time together. We laugh all of the time, we finish each others sentences, we think the same thoughts, and we’re working on him reading my mind. We love to spend time together. It’s much harder now with our three beautiful daughters, but I appreciate those times we do go out all the more. There is not anything he does not know about me. He has seen me at my best and he has tolerated me at my worst.

So to my fabulous husband: Happy Anniversary! I love you more than I could ever express. Thank you for being you and loving me through the crazy times as well as the good. You are the cream in my coffee, the root beer to my float, the cheese to my burger, the peanut butter to my chocolate, and I could never imagine life without you. May the next 18 years be even better than the first.

Gotcha!!

Standard

Today is a very special day in our family. Today is Gotcha Day. 6 years ago today, Lydia’s adoption was finalized and she became a Schexnayder officially. Her story is nothing short of amazing.

My husband and I had thought of adoption many times over the years. We would start an application and, for different reasons, would stop the process. It wasn’t until 2007 that we moved forward with the idea. We had been told of a foster baby that would be up for adoption so we decided to start the paperwork with DHS here in Oklahoma. That was in March 2007. We went to the first DHS meeting where we were told if we wanted a baby under the age of 2, we should go to a private adoption agency. Adopting a baby under the age of 2, especially white babies, was almost impossible. We decided we would continue with the process and see how God would lead. There is no cost to adopt through the state. The only things we would pay for were our physicals. ($25 each)

We were given a very thick packet of information to read and fill out. It asks all sorts of questions about you, your marriage, your extended family, your finances, your debt. There is also a large section on what type of child you would accept. How old, what ethnicity, how many in a sibling group? “Would you accept a child who wets the bed?” “Would you accept a child who is behind academically?” “Would you accept a child who tortures small animals?” (No, I’m not making these up.) I felt like we were special ordering our child. We finished our packet, turned it in, and set up home visits.

There are two types of home visits/studies. One was with our case worker who would come over, check out our home, make sure it had: the proper railings if there were stairs, outlet covers, fire extinguishers, a land line, etc. The second type of home study was a person who would sit down and probe into your personal life. How do you get along with your parents? How do you get along with your siblings? Do you smoke? Do you drink? Do you have a network of support? They also called all sorts of references. DHS was very thorough.

While this was going on, we had to attend somewhere around 28 hours of foster/adoption training. We drove to Norman from Bethany for a few weeks to learn how to creatively give your child exactly what they wanted. Also, how to correct your child without administering any type of punishment. 🙂  We sat there quietly, smiled and nodded, took notes, and watched the time pass. After our last class at the end of August ’07 we called our case worker, Jorge, and told him we had certificate in hand. We were ready to find our dream child. 🙂 And we wanted him/her by Christmas. Our case worker was amused.

Each month we received a list of adoptable children in the state. On an average it had 90-100 names each month, many of them repeats from month to month. At the end of October/first of November I noticed a little girl, Heaven, who was on the list. She had just turned a year old, parental rights had all been terminated 6 months prior, and she was legally free to be adopted. I remember thinking “Maybe we should call Jorge on this one” then quickly dismissing it, knowing hundreds of people would be calling on that one. The end of November Brian received a phone call from Jorge. He had a prospect, a little girl, for us to look at. Were we interested?

Were we interested? Is the pope Catholic? Is fire hot? Is water wet? We set up a time to go to his office and look at this little girl’s file. That was November 28. Guess what? Her name was Heaven.  🙂

The picture that was attached to her file. Who could resist those blue eyes?

The picture that was attached to her file. Who could resist those blue eyes?

I remember thinking during the whole appointment, “what’s wrong with her?” “why hasn’t she been adopted if the parental rights had been terminated months prior?” We found out that Heaven’s case worker had looked over all the adoptive parent files from the state and picked out 3. If the first couple didn’t want her, it would move to the second couple, and so on. We were the first couple!! As long as we said “Absolutely!” she was ours. We were told she was one of about five foster children and that she cries “all the time.” We figured we could work with that. I have to admit, in my heart, I kept asking “what is wrong with her?”

There is normally a series of meetings an adoptive couple goes through. A one hour visit, an extended visit, an overnight visit, and a weekend visit. They want to give a family plenty of time to decide if this child “fits.” Our first visit was set for Friday, December 7th at a McDonald’s. We walked in and saw this quiet, blue-eyed 14 month old beauty chowing down on fries and nuggets. She didn’t make much noise (see? something is wrong with her!) and she didn’t play much (that’s not normal, right?) but we fell in love with her.

Here we are in the McDonald's playplace at our very first meeting.

Here we are in the McDonald’s playplace at our very first meeting.

At the end of one hour the case worker called the meeting to an end and we started the journey back to Oklahoma City. We called Jorge and told him we were ready to proceed to adopt this little girl. He started to go into all the visits we would need to set up when my husband politely said, “Jorge, we will do whatever meetings we need to do. But we want this child. Do what you need to, but she is only 14 months old. She is not old enough to look at you and say, ‘These people are dorks. PLEASE do not place me with them!’ ” Jorge did ask how soon we could take her; the foster home was full and the foster parents were hoping to have her placed by Christmas. My husband told him if he called us Monday and told us to pick her up, we were on the road.

The next Monday, December 10, there was a huge ice storm that practically shut the city down. We had already begun clearing out the extra bedroom in anticipation of bringing this girlie home soon. In the middle of painting, the power went out. No electricity, no heat. But I was determined to get this room done. We had no idea how many weeks we had before we picked her up for good, and we wanted to be prepared whenever we got the call.

Due to the extreme weather, state offices were closed. That meant our case worker wasn’t able to get into the office and start working on our case. We were a little disappointed, but we were working on that room regardless. Tuesday came and we were still without power. (Have you ever painted in a house that was about 45 degrees? I love to paint, but come on. It was SOOOO cold. But, hey, it was worth it.) DHS offices were still closed, but our case worker was cool and talked to us over the phone anyway. He told us as soon as he could get into the office, he would get the file and get started.

Finally Wednesday came. The ice had started melting and businesses were starting to get back to normal. I went shopping with my mom and Brian went to work. When Jorge got into the office, he called Brian and told him he had the file. He was going to get started on setting up the rest of the visits and wanted to make sure we still wanted to move forward. Again, Brian told him yes, and reiterated that if he called and said go get her, we would hit the road. Brian kept me posted that morning as I was out and about trying to get ready for whenever the big day came. That afternoon Jorge called Brian and asked him if we were available to pick the girl up Friday, December 14. Brian enthusiastically said yes and asked which visit this would be. Extended, overnight, weekend? Jorge told him, “No, pick her up and take her home. She’s yours.” No more visits! Just a week after meeting her, she was ours!

Friday afternoon we headed back to that infamous McDonald’s to bring home OUR little girl. When we got there, the manager saw us. She came over, with tears in her eyes, and hugged us. She told us she knew why we were there and was very excited for us. She even gave “Heaven” a bag of cookies. (When my husband is asked where babies come from, he replies “McDonalds. And they come with a free bag of cookies. Dine in only.”) Even Heaven’s case worker was excited to see that we were getting to bring her home and so quickly. We put her in the car and away we went. We didn’t want to give anyone time to change their mind! Needless to say, with a day and a half notice, we didn’t have everything done. My father-in-law and husband were putting her bed together after we got home.

At Uncle Lantz's jewelry store right after we got into town. (I had to start her out right.)

At Huntington Fine Jewelers, Uncle Lantz and Aunt Lisa’s jewelry store, right after we got into town. (I had to start her out right.)

We still had home visits where Jorge had to come check on the girl and us, but they were a piece of cake. The usual waiting period is six months from placement to finalization, but we were able to finalize her adoption in five months. We were able to legally change her name and in fact, Jorge had us start calling her Lydia from the day we brought her home. She has fit into our family from day one. She even resembles my husband. So much so that most people would never guess she is adopted. And the problem of her crying all the time? Don’t know what that was about. There was also nothing wrong with her. 🙂 She was the perfect addition to our family and the best Christmas present we ever received.

 

So in honor of her court date, we celebrate “Gotcha Day” every May 23rd. She thinks it’s pretty awesome that while most kids get a birthday every year, she technically gets 2. We go do something special as a family. Just us. No friends, no extended family. Just our sweet little family celebrating the miracle that is Lydia!