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Contracting Chikungunya: Our Rash Decision

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Chikungunya, how do I even begin to describe you?  I’m speechless as I consider this strange, arthropod-borne, African illness that had me down for 10 days.  Have you ever even heard of it before?  I hadn’t until this past January, when I saw a poster about it in the hospital here in Dominica. Locally, people are calling it “The Chik”, and every other person you meet has had it. In fact, it’s recently been declared an epidemic in the Caribbean. Personally, I think The Chik is a sneaky, little bastardo, and it’s worth it to go geeky for a few minutes and check out what the medical literature is saying. (Note: no plagiarism here! I’ve gotten this info by looking up “Chikungunya Fever” on UpToDate.)

Chikungunya was first identified in the 1950’s during an outbreak in Tanzania, and it’s here that The Chik got it’s strange name. It’s from a local language of Tanzania, and it denotes “stooped walk” or “that which bends up”. (I’ll soon describe how well Nic and I fit those descriptions.) During the 50’s there were many outbreaks throughout Africa, and it spread to Southeast Asia.  Oddly, at some point The Chik decided to take a break, and it was rarely seen for about 30 years. Then, it inexplicably made a huge comeback in 2004. Just compare it to William Shatner’s career (whose comeback I find totally awesome.)

WIlliam young

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In recent years it’s been causing outbreaks all over Asia.  It was thought to be a tropical disease until an outbreak occurred in northeast Italy in 2007. (No one is safe!) This stealthy virus made its way to our neck of the woods very recently; the FIRST time “local transmission” of Chikungunya was ever reported anywhere in the Americas was only this past December in St. Martin.  Now, just 5 months later, it’s all over the Caribbean.

Where, oh where, will The Chik strike next? Well, that’s up to two components: an outbreak can only occur in an area where one of two particular mosquitos dwell, and it must be during the time of year that those mosquitos are thriving (summer). The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the most common culprit. This nasty blood-sucker also carries dengue fever and yellow fever.  The other mosquito doesn’t transmit disease as often, but it’s got a cool name, so it’s worth mentioning. Aedes albopictus is also known as the Asian tiger mosquito.  This fella has been found to carry diseases with names as awesome as it’s own: Japanese encephalitis and eastern equine encephalitis virus. Both mosquitos have white spots and are a bit smaller than the mosquitos we Minnesotans are used to seeing. There is a standing order to kill on sight. Pictures included for identification. (Floridians, this info might be most helpful to you . . . )

Aedes aegypti. Take a close look--this one is in the process of feeding. Disgusting.

Aedes aegypti. Take a close look–this one is in the process of feeding. Disgusting.

Asian Tiger Mosquito

Asian Tiger Mosquito

Okay, time to conclude the science lesson and take a look at what this awful illness is like. For me, it started on a Friday night; I found myself really irritable. Yes, yes, irritability isn’t really out of the norm for my “passionate” self, but this was more like skin-crawling irritability. Sitting, standing, laying on the couch–every position was uncomfortable. Plus, as a med student, the weekends are all about getting extra work done, but I simply couldn’t focus and was just too tired to study. By Sunday afternoon I was sure I must be fighting something. I was expecting a few sniffles and sneezes to come my way . . . but, oh, The Chik far exceeded these expectations.

When I awoke Monday morning, I had 2 really random pains: my left thumb joint and my right jaw joint, or the TMJ. No big deal. I suspected it might be Chikungunya, but I wasn’t panicking, because I had no idea how bad I’d be feeling by the next day. When I got home from work that afternoon Nic greeted me in his nervous, hypochondriac voice, “Honey, I’ve got a rash all over my stomach.”  Yes, he most certainly did–a blotchy red rash covered every inch of his stomach, chest, and back.

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When I took a look at my own skin, I found little pink bumps all over my thighs and stomach. I’ve never had such a widespread rash, and it completely creeped me out. There was no turning back, The Chik had taken hold.

 

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Tuesday morning I had to call in sick.

Tuesday afternoon we had to ask our amazing neighbor to take care of our kids for the evening.

Tuesday night was a sleepless night that consisted of switching positions every two minutes because the current position was painful, shivering and covering up with a blanket, throwing off the blanket and sitting in front of a fan because you’re sweating, and thinking, “My God, My God, I’ve never felt this way before.”

By Wednesday morning we looked like this:

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Those red eyes are no joke, folks. I hadn’t just woken up and I wasn’t crying when I took this picture; that’s how they looked for 2 days.

Click HERE to see how we spent the next 3 days.

So, how did this illness completely lay us out for 4? The main symptoms of Chikungunya are fever and “polyarthralgia”, which means multiple joint pains. The joints that are most commonly affected are the ankles, wrists, and all the many joints in the hand. Our hands were stiff, swollen, and so weak and painful that we couldn’t open or grip things. Nic couldn’t get the microwave door open and he struggled to pop pills through their foil backing. Also, his feet hurt more than mine, and he described it as every muscle and ligament being sprained. And, unfortunately, the virus isn’t all that partial to just the wrists and ankles. Our backs and necks were stiff and sore; my neck was so painful that I couldn’t lean my head to the side in either direction. Oh yes, and all the muscles of our arms and legs ached as well. When we’d force ourselves off the couch to get a drink or use the restroom, we’d limp our way there, like so:

Hunched over

But, alas, that still wasn’t the extent of what this insane virus did to us! If you’ve ever had a previous joint injury, it gets a hot, firey anger from the virus and starts to hurt again. I’m one of the many people who is bothered by the oh-so-annoying TMJ (jaw joint). The right side of my jaw was so painful that it hurt to even eat spaghetti. And you know that motion where you rub your lips together to blend in chapstick or lipstick? Yeah, I couldn’t complete that minor feat. Chikungunya can also cause mouth sores, which both of us had. Eating was not it’s usual enjoyable experience during this illness. And let’s not forget the rash–we also had that freaky rash. Still, the worst part of the illness for both of us was that we FELT drastically and horribly ill. We were drained of all energy, and there’s no better way to say it than we felt completely awful. I didn’t even have the stamina to read. When we weren’t sleeping, there was no other way to pass the hours than to keep watching things on Netflix. Those long, uncomfortable days led us to watch things like this ridiculous movie. cry_babyColossal waste of time, but Johnny Depp does have a surprisingly nice voice in this extremely quirky musical.

By Friday we were beginning to recover and the rash was clearing up. Saturday brought continued improvement. When we awoke on Sunday morning, however, we both had a new and different rash that was the most maddeningly, intensely itchy thing we have ever experienced. It was getting ridiculous–was this stupid virus ever going to leave us?!

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And, well, I think the jury is still out on that. A week later, my appetite isn’t back to normal, our hands still ache, and several of our lymph nodes are still swollen. So, if you’ve got a Caribbean excursion planned anytime soon, you had better pack some mosquito repellent . . . and mosquito nets . . . and citronella candles . . . and those little fans that emit repellent . . . and a gas mask . . . and a biohazard suit . . . and never go outside. Other than that, enjoy your vacation.

Homecoming Queen Esther

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Our family grew by one size on Friday, March 7,

when the adoption of Esther Jemima Davidson was finalized!

This beautiful girl is now 4 years old

This beautiful girl is now 4 years old

 We kept her given name of Jemima, and also named her for Jacelyn’s great grandmother, Esther Anspaugh.

We have found Esther to smile constantly and love laughter.

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Below are a few images from our first day together. Her homecoming process was very personal and heart-wrenching. We literally had to pick her up from her former home. God guarded her little heart that day; no tears were shed and her smiles appeared right away.

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Christian Esther

Esther's 1st

Esther at our first court date:

first court date

Then, after our second court date, we became Davidson, Party of Five.

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The transformation into our superhero alter-egos, as a group of five, is in process. The Justice League is in the runnings.

Justice League

Gratitude, Amazement, and Inspiration, All In One Post!

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A lot of you have been following this adoption story, and we’re excited to share the next steps of this journey with you. Some of you may recall that back in early December, we sent out our plea for help with the adoption expenses. This was due to the fact that our boys’ biological sister unexpectedly came to be in need of adoption; while the Lord opened our hearts to this fully, finances seemed impossible, since we’d just gone through the hefty cost of two adoption only one year ago.

However, we are joyfully pleased to announce that ALL the necessary funds for the adoption were raised! Amazingly, the sum of over $8000 came in within THREE weeks; it was truly our Christmas miracle. Of the dozens of fund raisers we’ve been part of over the years, we’ve never seen a goal met so quickly. We experienced everything from donators who were skipping Christmas presents and giving the money towards the adoption, to people we’d never met hearing about our story and PayPal-ing us money. Acquaintances, old friends, total strangers, all showing the utmost in generosity! This touched and blessed our hearts immeasurably, and was yet another solid confirmation that God has led us down this road.  Better still is the benefit to our boys’ sister, because we are now able to progress quickly with the adoption process.

While we were home in the states over Christmas, we were able to take care of several important steps in the processing of our home study for the US adoption agency!  This was extremely beneficial, because many of the tasks are more difficult to accomplish here on the island.  As each step has accompanying fees and costs, the timely fund-raising is what made it possible to get things done so conveniently and more quickly while at home!  Here’s a summary of the progress so far:

  • In November, our US social worker visited Dominica to complete our home study visit
  • All four of us got the necessary, notarized, physicals and blood tests
  • We got official fingerprints for the FBI background check, and mailed out the forms
  • Forms and payments were mailed out for the additional required background checks
  • A myriad of documents were printed, signed, and mailed off
  • Here in Dominica, we are able to pay for updating our resident visas
  • The legal paperwork in Dominica is complete, and we are able to pay the lawyer in full
  • January 31 is the date set for the court to assign our guardian ad litem.  The guardian ad litem is then able to complete our Dominican home study (which we are also able to pay for)!  When she submits her report to the court, the judge will set a date for the final, official adoption hearing!

I guess, in the interest of full disclosure, we should clarify that WE didn’t actually do the mailings. We had to rely on family, because, well, you know us: always down to the line on everything. With our need to get back to Dominica for Jacelyn’s rotation, there was only so much we could accomplish. Thanks, mom and dad!

So, that’s our status for right now. Further steps of the process may go quickly and may drag on forever, being as it’s now out of our hands into the court/immigration system. Either way, we’ll keep you posted (pun!). While we’re not legally able to post pictures of our dear girl, yet, we can relentlessly post pictures of these two, so here:

Welcome Sister

If you pray, when you pray, pray for us…

On to the next thing…

Between the Pitch and the Contact

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Dear Readers,

I know you’ve read bits and pieces from us regarding this whole crazy 3rd adoption process, but you can consider this the definitive update on our current situation. It won’t be a long post, but it will be filled with info. PLEASE forward it to anyone and everyone!

As it stands, we’ve officially been given the amazing opportunity to keep these siblings together! (If you haven’t watched it, yet, watch our Three Little Birds video!) The birth parents have signed the initial papers, resigning their parental rights, and we’ve signed our initial papers, which tell the Dominican court system that we intend to adopt a third child.

To adopt a child as an American, US Immigration requires an official home study, done by a US certified social worker, which deems you a suitable party to adopt. It is usually specific to the number of children you intend to adopt. Last year we were approved by the adoption agency to adopt 3 children, but at that time our boys’ mother, who had our 2 boys and a daughter living in the home with her, was not interested in giving us her daughter. At that time, the home study still cleared us to adopt one more child under its seal of approval.

Then, as you may know, 8 months after the adoption was finalized the birth mother changed her mind and ASKED us to adopt her daughter! In a prior email to you all, I relayed how I prayed and got very clear direction that we should adopt her, which was exhilarating, to say the least! Then came the hiccup. As a new rule with our previous adoption agency, because our initial adoptions were finalized, our file with the adoption agency was closed and we officially have to go through the entire process again–including the expense.

Last year, God miraculously enabled us to fund the adoption of our 2 boys on our own by bringing a writing contract into our lives that paid for every dime (with nothing left over).  However, having to pay for all the same expenses again–less than a year later–is proving to be financially difficult.

Added to that, we have a very definitive time frame. If we were going to be on-island for an indefinite amount of time, then this wouldn’t be such an issue, since we could work and save and pay as we progressed. However, that’s not the case. We have to move back to the States on June 28, so that Jacelyn can finish her clinical rotations in New York City, which begin on June 30. (Yep, we’d have two days to move from Dom to NYC. Yep, we ARE that crazy.)

So, we’d like to know if you are interested in being a part of this by contributing to our adoption costs. Fortunately, although we are unable to pay all of them on our own at this time, the adoption expenses aren’t monstrous–so, any amount you may be able to provide will greatly help us on our way to bringing this little girl home to our family. Here is a PDF of all of our foreseen adoption costs, the vast majority of which are due towards the beginning, since it’s all moving so quickly, this time.

Please feel no pressure to do this if you don’t desire to or if you have any misgivings or reservations about us or the process. We just want to present this opportunity for you to be a part of something beautiful and, very literally, life-giving.

This dainty, shy, quiet, and raspy-voiced 4-year-old, has told us that she’d like to come live with us, for me to be her daddy and for Jacelyn to be her mommy. (Yes, it’s actually THAT heartwarming!)

How’d you like to become a part of her extended family?

If you DO wish to contribute, please contact me at: nic.davidson@gmail.com. You can keep up with the progress of donations by checking out the thermometer on our home page: www.nicandjacelyn.com.

Thank you for your time!

Three Little Birds: MUST SEE!!!

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Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

We wanted to let you in on some good news, and, true to form of the Fantastic 4, we chose to do it in song!

(The freaky section was completely Davey’s idea.)

Chapter 7b: Now This Is A Story All About How…

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My life got flip-turned upside down…

So, I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there…

Picking up where Chapter 7a left off; Friday afternoon arrived . . .

The three of us (Nic, Whitney, and I) took the half hour drive to Calibishie to pick up the boys. The most interesting thing we noticed upon arrival was that 13-month-old Jonathan was walking around the yard with a t-shirt wrapped around him in a MacGyver sort of way to serve as a diaper.  (Remember the last blog noting how very expensive diapers are in Dominica?)  We chatted with Stella briefly, letting her know 100_5824when we’d bring Miguel and Jonathan back home.  She did have a bag of clothes packed for them, but she didn’t give us any of the helpful hints we were hoping for—such as their food preferences, bedtimes, naptimes—anything.  Her habit of not communicating is something we became painfully aware of during our year of working with her.  She offers very little information and is quite difficult to talk to.  Therefore, it only took several minutes to reach that oh-so-awkward point where nothing more can be thought of to say.  We were also driven quickly out of their yard by enormous black ants that would torment us with their stinging bites every time we visited.  Just as quickly as we came, we drove away from their little home on the hillside—still feeling a bit clueless about the precious boys who now sat next to us in the car.  As we drove away, neither of them cried, and we counted that as a good start!

From the very beginning of our weekend, Jonathan took up his favorite pastime.

From the very beginning of our weekend, Jonathan took up his favorite pastime.

For our very first evening together, we decided to keep it simple: dinner, baths, movie.  Thankfully, one of our fears was conquered at dinner when Jonathan happily downed a bottle of formula!  Score!  We would not starve the child entrusted to our keeping!  We then received a big surprise when Miguel looked at his bubble bath with awe.  Not only had he never had a bubble bath, he had never taken a bath in a big indoor tub, or taken a warm bath.  At his home in Calibishie, they didn’t have indoor plumbing; they had an outhouse in the back and used a wooden tub in the yard for bathing.  It was heartwarming and truly amazing to see him enjoying himself so much.  For our first several visits, bath time was Miguel’s most anticipated part of the weekend.

When Miguel saw this pic of himself, he said, "I look like de Christmas mon'!"

When Miguel saw this pic of himself, he said, “I look like dee Christmas mon’!”

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After letting him play in the tub for so long, we weren’t ready to start the movie until 8:45.  Ending the evening at a time appropriate for a 1 and 6 year old took us a long time to conquer!  Nic and I have always liked staying up late, and we almost always ate dinner after 8 or 9.  We couldn’t believe how excessively early we had to start an evening’s activities if we wanted to finish a movie with the kids by 9!  For months, Miguel wouldn’t make it to bed until 10:30 on our weekend visits!  Don’t worry—we’ve gotten better, and he is no longer sleep deprived. J  So, at 8:45 the 5 of us settled in to watch the Disney classic, Pete’s Dragon.  Miguel was enthralled the entire time!  He hadn’t had many opportunities to watch movies, so though it didn’t end until after 10, he had no trouble staying awake.  When the happy ending closed out the movie, I looked over to find him smiling.  As soon as the credits began to roll, he excitedly said, “Another one?!”

As for little Jonathan, he fell asleep in my arms shortly after the movie began.  I could have put him into the pack and play, but I could not resist cradling him until my arms began to ache.  Being without children for so many years, I just couldn’t believe I was finally holding a baby that would soon become my baby.  I also couldn’t believe how utterly wonderful I found it to be.  Holding him close and looking down at his peaceful face simply took my breath away.  I was actually rather surprised at how enthralled I was.  I later realized what was beginning to happen in that instant.  This was the very first of many moments that would follow—moments in which a new part of me blossomed and I experienced something I had never felt before; I was discovering what it felt like to love as a mother.  This beautiful and blessed moment brought the perfect ending to our first evening together.

Though nothing that followed during the weekend could ever compare to rocking little Jonathan to sleep for the first time, I’ll share some highlights—and some great pictures!

Taking care of Jonathan was truly so easy—we were blown away.  He was quiet and docile all the time.  Not only did he not cry, he hardly made any sound.  He wasn’t interested in exploring, walking around, or playing.  Instead, he made it known that he preferred being held.  In fact, letting us know that he wanted to be picked up was pretty much the only time he did make noise—and we were more than happy to meet his demands.  Between Nic, Whitney, and myself, someone was always ready and willing (more like overjoyed and thrilled) to hold the little guy.  However, as the three pics of us above show, his excitement level for pic-posing came nowhere near ours. You’ll also notice his deep affection for his thumb.

Jonathan was also our sleeping angel.  During his two evenings at our home, he did wake up about four times each night, but easily went back to sleep after a bottle or some rocking.  For this, we counted ourselves extremely fortunate!  We were certainly not expecting him to sleep so well through his first nights away from home.  Furthermore, during the day we didn’t have to allot a nap time for him, because he IMG_4423fell asleep in any location, at any time of day.  He would drift off to sleep in typical settings, like the stroller or in my lap at church, but he’d also fall asleep in unexpected scenarios—like covered in salt water and sand at the beach.  His most unusual sleeping situation was in my arms while we were in the ocean!  As I stood there with him, trailing his feet in the Caribbean Sea, he didn’t seem excited or scared or even interested—he just laid his head on my shoulder and fell asleep.  In these beginning stages, we simply strove to give Jonathan the few things that he really seemed to crave: comfort in physical contact and rest.  In forthcoming blogs, you’ll be thrilled to learn of the personality that leapt out of this quiet little baby from a village by the sea. Even on this first weekend, we were fortunate enough to see him smile and laugh on a few occasions. I’ll admit, Nic was the first one to get a laugh out of Jonathan, which made Whitney and I pretty darn jealous! However, the green monster couldn’t last long in the face of such a beautiful smile.  PICTURE BREAK!!!

The first time we saw Jonathan laugh!

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Ahhh, the face of an angel.

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And what about dear Miguel?  Just like his brother, Miguel gave us no hint of difficult behavior, and he was very quiet.  Miguel, however, was very interested in his surroundings.  Everywhere we went, he spent most of his time intently observing everyone and everything.  Though he was quiet, it was intriguing that he didn’t seem frightened or even nervous to be spending the weekend with us.  He went along with everything we did that weekend without hesitation.  He needed simple instructions on activities, like “let’s sit down and all eat dinner at the same time” or “during church just do what we do, and try to be nice and quiet”; then, he’d just join in like part of the family.  Nic and I simply had a wonderful time sharing the weekend with him.  We only saw him get nervous one time—and that was in a boat.  While down at the beach a friend of ours offered to give us a free spin in his tour boat.  At first, Miguel was pretty excited; however, as the boat gained speed the smile slid from his face. 100_5860I kept encouraging him that we were fine, but I don’t think he was convinced; the instant that boat got remotely close to shore, Miguel jumped right out of that vessel and headed to shore before the rest of us had time blink.

So, we learned one thing that Miguel didn’t like, but we also discovered something that he loved . . . We tried out feeding the boys spaghetti on Sunday afternoon.  It turned out that Miguel didn’t like the tomato sauce; what he did like, however, was warm bread and butter.  After devouring his first piece of bread, his Caribbean accent came alive as he began to say in a low voice, “Bread and bo-daah.  Bread and bo-daah.  Bread and bo-daaaaaaah.”  Apparently, this was his way of asking for more, but for a few seconds Whitney and I got a little creeped out by what sounded like chanting!  Nic later admitted that terrible scenes from Blood Diamond played through his head every time he heard “bo-daaaaaah”.

It was all fun and games until . . .

It was all fun and games until . . .

Last, but not least, we have to relay the memorable moment when Nic, on this, our very first weekend with these two fragile boys, caused Miguel to vomit. It all began with the fact that we could hardly find any way to get either of these boys to laugh. So, while playing at the beach, Nic found that Miguel really liked it when he threw him into the air and let him splash down into the sea.  After a few throws, Miguel was laughing hysterically, and Nic, not wanting this amazing breakthrough to end, continued throwing him into the water. One of the splashdowns, though, just happened to coincide with one of Miguel’s belly laughs, at which point he was submerged, swallowed a bunch of sea water, popped his head up, and promptly vomited bright blue all over. The color was less a result of the beautiful blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, and more because Nic had also pumped him full of blue Powerade earlier that day.

Sunday evening we drove the boys home, clean and fed, and we couldn’t believe how well the weekend had gone.  They had eaten, they had slept, no one got maimed—perhaps Nic and I could learn this parenting thing, after all! Here’s a few more pictures from our time together.  Looking back at these photos, I see that we were just like brand new parents–we took a million pictures!

He was mesmerized with taking pictures of himself on Whitney's ipad!

He was mesmerized with taking pictures of himself on Whitney’s ipad!

Wanna hear the story from the beginning?

Check out the previous chapters–I, II, III, IV.

And, my personal favorites:

Chapter V: Miguel

Chapter VI: A Journey of a Thousand Journeys Begins with a Single Journey

Bashful, yet very pleased, to wear matching hats with Nic

Bashful, yet very pleased, to wear matching hats with Nic.

Who is this lady?

Who is this lady?

She won't leave me alone or stop smiling at me

She won’t leave me alone or stop smiling at me.

Chapter 7A: Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep

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Following the fashion of many great novelists before us, the chapters of our adoption story are not flowing in chronological order. This is quite fitting, however, because the journey we are sharing with you didn’t unfold as one, long procession—not remotely. Many adoptions follow a pattern of paperwork, paperwork, paperwork, then waiting, waiting, waiting, and then, finally, the family gets to meet their new child. One way in which our adoption was very different (and wonderful!) was the very unique opportunity we had to spend time with Jonathan and Miguel long before the adoption was final. Chapter VI illuminated part of our “paperwork and waiting” phase, leading us up to November 2012.  Now we’ll step back quite a few months to our first encounters with our soon-to-be children. Chapter V details that at our first meeting with the social worker, in June 2012, she encouraged us to begin spending as much time as we wanted with Jonathan. We asked if we could begin keeping him each weekend, and his mom readily agreed. She also agreed to let us keep his brother, Miguel, on these weekends.

This meeting took place on a Monday, and we were to pick the boys up Friday afternoon!  We were so excited, we were so happy, and we were so desperately unprepared! We had no idea how to take care of a 13 month old, and we had no clue what to expect from the quiet 6 year old we had only interacted with for several hours! So, the frantic scramble began! We had four days to get ready; we most assuredly needed help! There wasn’t time for our families to send supplies in the mail for this first weekend, so we turned to the amazing families at Ross University School of Medicine. They came through with flying colors! We were so very blessed, and we are still so grateful to each one of them for helping Nic and I through our very first weekend with children.

  • Kent & Naomi gave us a heavy-duty stroller their kids no longer needed, as well as toys.  This stroller held up for 11 months over broken sidewalks, dirt roads, and potholes.
  • Erica sold us a pack-n-play and booster seat for the amazingly low price of $40 EC, which is $15 US—and rather exceptional deal.
  • Delon & Brianna and Doug & Bree gave us more toys.
  • Whitney and Rob, owners of The Tomato, told us to stop by for a free meal. The Tomato is a major treat when in Dominica!  It’s got a menu full of American foods that one can really start to miss when out of the country—so we were pretty excited.
  • Then, we were given an immense blessing in the area of diapers.  As we began preparing for the weekend, we discovered that diapers in Dominica were outrageously expensive.  With all the adoption costs, we were pretty bummed that we’d have to pay so much for a product we could get far cheaper at home.  Then, on Wednesday afternoon, Nic received a call from Amy, an amazing mom of 5 kids whose husband also attends Ross.  For several months she had been praying that God would bring her someone who would truly benefit from her supply of cloth diapers.  When I say supply, I am referring to the hundreds of dollars worth of cloth diapers she had accumulated with her 5 children.  God had encouraged her to give these away, free of charge, and we have been overwhelming blessed by her generosity.  The diapers were in great shape, and we are using them to this day!  Some of you may be totally unaware of how amazing cloth diapers have become over the years.  I am now a huge fan of these economical and eco-friendly wonders!  If they pique your interest, check out this site.

With all of the “equipment” needed for Jonathan and Miguel in place, it was then time to consider other pertinent details: What on earth should we feed these kids? How often should we feed them? Though we had seen Jonathan eat a small amount of solid food, he was primarily breast fed at the time. We weren’t sure if he would eat for us at all, so our primary goal for Jonathan was to not starve the poor dear. We prepared with formula and fortified baby cereal, knowing that if he would eat one of these he’d be getting a decent helping of calories and nutrients. As for Miguel, we knew we couldn’t prepare food the way he was accustomed to, so we stocked up on some typically-kid-friendly food—hoping he would like something. And it didn’t stop there–we had endless questions! When should we put them to bed? How many naps does a 13 month-old need? How long should he nap? How long should we keep them at the beach? How much water should they drink in the island heat? Any experienced parents are probably rolling their eyes at us right now—but seriously, we were clueless!

Next we considered behavior. How would these boys react to staying with perfect strangers all weekend? How would they react to a relatively foreign environment? Would Jonathan cry endlessly once separated from his mom? Would he cry all night? Would he sleep? What Shawshank Redemptionabout Miguel–would he be scared? Would he speak to us? Would he be rude or belligerent? Having watched Shawshank Redemption one too many times, Nic was worried that he’d end up being shanked in the kidney. Fortunately, I was able to talk him down from this fear.

It was such an odd weekend to walk into, because we truly had no idea what to expect and no child-rearing expertise to back us up. To best prepare for whatever this first visit brought our way, we mentally braced ourselves for the worse. Basically, we didn’t want to imagine that we had a fairy tale weekend ahead of us—we had to throw some reality in there. I pictured Jonathan fussy and crying the whole time. I couldn’t imagine he’d react differently to his first extended separation from his mom—with perfect strangers. Then we got ready for some trying behaviors from Miguel. At that point, we were prepared to face this new adventure without preconceived notions. Now, we mustn’t take credit for this idea–we were taught this lesson by an amazing woman we met while working in China, Jody. Her theory was, “Low expectations, Jim Jody Jacelyn Nichigh happiness. High expectations, low happiness.” Incidentally, we heard a man share this exact sentiment in a TED talk, obviously confirming that Jody and her idea are pure genius.

As we faced this weekend of the unknown, not only were we given all of the material help listed above, we also had 2 more incredible blessings. First, we didn’t have to face this weekend alone—we had full-time reinforcement! Our dear friend, Whitney,Jacelyn and Whitney spent several months with us that summer. She was with us for this first visit, and many after. No matter how crazy the weekend might end up, we figured the three of us HAD to be able to handle two kids. Knowing that we had an extra set of hands on board was very reassuring. Blessing number two—I had the weekend off. In my ten months of med school so far we had not yet had a single weekend off. For those of you not familiar with he insanity of med school, weekends are not for resting. Weekends are for long hours of uninterrupted study. You need those two days of study to catch up with all the material covered during the week. But, in God’s perfect timing, this was my very first free weekend. Our tests were usually on Mondays, but on this one, magical, highly-anticipated weekend in semester 3, we had a test on Friday. It was truly an amazing gift that I could put all of my attention and time into our first days together—the very first days of The Fantastic 4.

Fantastic 4

As I began writing this blog, I was overwhelmed to see how thoroughly and incredibly God prepared us for that weekend. I was overcome at other’s generosity. I was powerfully reminded to be thankful. Additionally, I was reminded of how unbelievably well God takes care of us. Our adoption was full of unexpected delays, expenses, and frustrations, but there was no end to the encouraging reinforcements we received. Recently we have been presented with a need–a need that we would whole-heartedly like to meet. However, it appears to be an impossibility in more ways than one. In the face of this current challenge, looking back at how God has taken care of us in the past is helping us be more open to this seemingly impossible situation. In fact, one of our hopes in blogging about our lives is that you wonderful readers out there can be encouraged and filled with hope in regards to the seemingly impossible situations in your lives!

Friday afternoon finally arrived. Nic, Whitney, and I hopped in the van to go pick up the kids. However, I’m sure you’ll agree that this post is getting long.

…to be continued…

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