Saturday, May 07, 2016

On the Eve of My First Mother's Day as an Adoptive Mom

It is the eve of Mother's Day 2016. The past few days have been full of new thoughts processing this idea that I am about to celebrate Mother's Day as Kena's mom. I will not record all of my thoughts here. They are too raw and, honestly, too much to share on a public blog.

We watched The Good Dinosaur last night. One of the final scenes is of the little boy going from his dinosaur friend to live with a new human family who would adopt him. He doesn't look like the family, but they will be his. I wondered where that little boy came from and who is missing now that he is walking into this new family. And I felt...sad.

It is a great privilege to be Kena's mom, but I have been struck this week by the loss that comes with the fact that I am his mom. He is not ours by birth. There is family on the other side of the world who he is not with right now. There are connections that have been broken. He has said good-bye to so much. He has lost so very much.

Has he gained so much? Yes. He is our son. He has gained a second family, a covenant family, a family chosen by God to be his forever. He has brothers and a sister who love him immensely. God has given grace upon grace to bring him into our family - to make him a Friederichsen. Grace for him and grace for us. We are one - The Friederichsen Family of Six. That will NEVER change for him.

But there is loss and there is love on the other side of the world that was his for a time. On this eve of Mother's Day, my heart is so torn. I guess it always will be. I will love him fiercely, for he will need a fierce love to endure the reality of his first pain at such an early age. My love won't be enough. Lord, hold my baby's heart when I don't know what to say or when my love isn't enough. Your never giving up, always pursuing, and forever faithful love to your children is more than enough, so I will trust YOU to hold his heart when it feels torn in two.

So there are my thoughts on the eve of this first Mother's Day as Kena's mom. Not as flowery and "raindrops on roses" as you might think...but he is, by far, one of my favorite things. I have been given a trust with this darling boy. Lord, may I guard the trust well and walk into his and our pain and redemption and watch You continue to give beauty from ashes as only You can do.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Day He Stroked My Hair

Today was a special day. It's the eve of Kena's second birthday. He's been in my arms for 3 1/2 months. We've been through a lot of change and transition, and the road ahead is still long. It's a lifetime long. Today felt like a little glimpse into a lifetime ahead of love, affection, and oneness.

Today Kena stroked my hair. I held him on my left hip as I often do, and I realized that he was just gently stroking my hair. My other children have stroked my hair. It's a tender sign of affection that speaks a lot of love to me. It's a sign that he finds comfort with me. It's an answer to prayer.

In the past 3 1/2 months there have been many really sweet moments. There have also been really, really tough moments. I have been hit, bitten, have had food, toys, and all sorts of things thrown at me. My hair has been pulled. I have been slapped. I have lost much sleep. I have dealt with fear of what the next issue will be. I have cried...a, so, so much. I have gained weight. I have lost any sense of  personal space and time. I have lost lots of independence. I have despaired.

Then he stroked my hair. He also squeezed my cheek close to his and held it there for a long time.

Lately, he has started hugging me tight. It's not a hug out of fear and desperation. I have experienced lots of those over the past few months, and I am thankful he clung to me in that fear. Now, however, he has started hugging me on his own initiative. It's so sweet and affectionate. He looks at me, and I am starting to see connection. It's hard to explain, but it's an answer to prayer.

A significant change I have made since Kena has been home has been that I try to wake up at or before 6:00 a.m. Kena (and the rest of my kids) usually wake at 7:00 a.m. or later. I have learned that I really need time in my house when it is quiet. I turn on as few lights as I need, pour a cup of coffee, read my Table Talk devotion and Bible reading, read a daily Psalm, pray, and then I either read another book or shop online. :)

I have recently been humbled by the fact that I needed to pray for MY bond with Kena as much as I needed to pray for his bond with me. Only the Lord can make us one. Only the Lord can take his desperation for security and my desire for affection and create a true bond.

He did that. Today. When Kena stroked my hair and pulled my cheek close.

Things are changing. Our exchanges are more real and more authentic. I know it will come in waves. He (and I) will have good days and bad days. I will lack patience. His desperation and insecurity will overcome him. But things are changing.

So on this eve of his 2nd birthday, I am encouraged. I have not been there for all of his days. The significance of this loss has overwhelmed me all day long. I have missed so much. These days now, though, I refuse to miss. I will cherish everyday the Lord gives me to be his Mommy. He had a first Mommy, and I am so thankful for her and her decision to see him into this life. I am thankful for all the other arms who held him until he found his way into our arms. Now we are his family forever. I will hold him on my hip, let him stroke my hair, and move into whatever the Lord has for us next.

 Goodnight, little one. Get ready for Friederichsen Family birthday donuts tomorrow!!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Gift of a Meal

It's been a day over three weeks since Kena has been in my arms forever and two and a half weeks since he was home with our entire family. There is so much to write about from the past three weeks.

Today I want to write about meals. Since we have been home, we have had TEN meals provided for our family. There are more to come. I asked my church and other friends to provide meals for us once we returned. I knew I needed meals for the simple reason that my family would need some kind of nourishment outside of PB&J or Mac and Cheese during our first month or two home. It was a request for the purpose of survival. Little did I know that this provision of meals would mean so, so much more.

There has been something  unexpectedly special that has been happening around the dinner table of the Friederichsen household over the past two weeks. Bonding. After loooong days of getting to know our new son and trying to navigate this new normal that seems to change everyday, family dinners around the table have been a true anchor. We have been face to face enjoying a meal together, and our family of six has bonded. Since I haven't had to worry about shopping or cooking, I have been able to sit down for dinner, still weary, but not weary from food prep. Sitting down for dinner has been a welcome break and a surprisingly life-giving time to connect with my people. It's the one time of the day that Kena will always sit in his high chair. We are all face to face. We have shared new laughter. We have discovered new facial expressions. Kena has LOVED trying new foods. I have also loved watching him devour some meals that had similar flavor profiles to his and our beloved Ethiopia. Dinners have been an unexpectedly special oasis in the middle of hard days.

If you have provided a meal, THANK YOU. Without you, I guarantee there would have been a lot of hot dogs and tator tots in front of the TV and much less meal time bonding over the past few weeks. You have ministered to me and our family in ways I never would have imagined we needed. I knew we needed physical nourishment, but these dinners over these past two weeks have been so incredibly nourishing for our family in deeper ways. A moment to sit down and be together. A family of six figuring this new thing out. We're getting to know Kena, and he is getting to know us. God is doing a work around our dining room table every evening around 5:30 p.m. Bonding. Becoming one.

From the bottom of my heart to those who have brought a meal and facilitated this great work of God in our family: Thank you.

Want in on the fun??? There are still spots available on our meal calendar here.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Made for this Day

I am sitting in an airplane in Dubai that feels every bit as hot as the 110 degree weather outside. Delayed for push back, we're just sitting here in our own personal Middle Eastern sauna. We just finished a 12 1/2 hour flight from JFK to Dubai. Thankfully, sleep did come here and there throughout the flight. I pray that those few hours of sleep and adrenaline (and the strength of our mighty God) will get me through the next few very significant hours. 

It's time to go get Kena. Although he doesn't know it, he is spending his final few hours in the care of an orphanage. In a matter of hours, he will be in my arms forever. I am still a stranger to him, but the fight begins. The fight for his heart. The fight for our bond. He doesn't know me, and I don't really know him. I have spent maybe six hours total with him over the span of three days. What size clothes does he really wear? I fear the clothes I brought will swallow him. What food will he eat? Hopefully Cheerios, applesauce, animals crackers and puffs...because that's what mama brought.

I have so many questions:
Will you sleep? Will you play? When will I see your smile? How will you do outside of the orphanage in the specific, loving arms of your mama? Although the institutional setting of a orphanage is not ideal, it's what you know. How will you face your new normal? I will hold you while you grieve this loss of the life you have always known. I will try not to take it personally when my love and affection is not sufficient to help your hurting heart. Only God can soothe and heal the loss you will endure. Adoption is beautiful, but adoption is born out of pain and loss. Be brave, little one. When my and Daddy's love is not enough, we will trust that the Lord will be sufficient for you (and us) in all of our many weaknesses.

Mama is coming, little one. Only the Lord is fully ready to make this happen, because he is the author of our stories. Lord, be near and hold us up when our hearts don't know what we need. We were made for this day. So here I come.

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Letter to Our Friends and Family...

Dear friends and family,

Warning: This is a long but important post. Grab a beverage and settle in.

It is almost time to return to Ethiopia to bring Kena home. We hope he will be home before the end of August. As we prepare to bring Kena home, we would like to share some of our thoughts on some parenting decisions we are making. We want to help you understand how you can help us begin our new life with Kena as a family of six.

In Kena's short life, he will have gone through many significant changes and life altering experiences. While he may not consciously remember the events, he will still experience immense loss when we bring him home, including feelings of grief and trauma. He will soon experience the loss of familiar and comforting nannies, as well as the sights, smells, and language of his orphanage in Ethiopia. He will likely struggle with feeling safe and secure, and he may lack the ability to trust that we will meet his needs. Kena has not experienced God's design for family while living in the orphanage, and his world is about to turn upside down.

Throughout our adoption process, we have read books, attended conferences, and listened to stories from other adoptive families. One thing we hear repeatedly is that parenting a child from a hard place is very different than parenting a child from birth. Children who come home through adoption have experienced interruptions in the typical attachment process. The loss of a biological mother and birth family at an early age is a major trauma on their little hearts. He has spent more of his life in institutional care than anywhere else. He is a 20 month old baby boy with wounds that God has entrusted to us to help heal. The good news is that we can now, as Kena’s parents and by God’s grace, rebuild attachment and help him heal from these emotional wounds.

Everything around Kena will be new and he will need to learn not just about his new environment but also about love and family. The best way for us to form a parent/child bond with him is to be the ones to hold, snuggle, instruct, soothe and feed him. For the first few months home, Donny and I will need to be the only ones who hold, feed, bathe, comfort, and change Kena. We need to teach him that we are his people, his parents, and that we will always be there to care for his needs. As our love and care of him repeats over time, he will be able to learn that his parents are safe to trust and to love deeply. We are, essentially, recreating the newborn/parent connection. Once Kena starts to establish this important bond, he will then be able to branch out to other healthy relationships.

It will help us immensely if adults limit with Kena what is typically considered normal, physical contact with a baby/toddler. This will (for a while) include things like holding, hugging, and kissing and just seeking any kind of real attachment relationship with him. Children from orphanage settings are prone to attach too easily to anyone and everyone - which hinders the important, primary relationship with parents. Waving, blowing kisses or giving high fives are absolutely appropriate and welcomed! We want Kena to know that the people with whom he interacts are our trusted friends and family, but we also need to differentiate that we will be the ones who are always there for him as his parents. Please don’t try to meet his needs. Please redirect him to us.

"A well-tended newborn is fed, cradled, and soothed when he cries from hunger or crankiness. This scene plays out hundreds of times in the first month of life alone. Through this exchange, the baby learns to trust that his needs will be met and that he can rely on people." (from The Connected Child).

We have been professionally advised that it is best that Donny and I solely meet every need--quickly and consistently. Until he has learned that WE are his parents, we will need to be his primary caretakers at all times. Although it may appear that we are spoiling or babying him, we are not. You may wonder how long this will take, but the timeline is different for every child. We will follow his lead and trust our instincts as his mom and dad. After meeting him a few weeks ago, we learned that he is apprehensive and hesitant and even fearful in new situations. This confirms even more that we need to really work on developing trust and consistency with him and trust the Lord to bind our hearts.   

For the first few weeks or even months, it will seem as if we are kind of cocooning our family in our home. It will be our time, as a family of 6, to huddle in together and start fresh. We need to teach Kena that he has a stable, calm and predictable environment to live in. Donny will be working from home more often the first few weeks Kena is home, so he can establish himself as “Dad” for Kena. As I stated above, we are starting from the beginning and establishing a connection similar to a newborn/parent. 

"Children who come from hard places don't overcome their history in six weeks; it can take years before new, improved life skills and attachment take permanent root for these children." –from The Connected Child

A brief note about his story – Kena’s life has been hard, but there are obvious strands of God’s love, protection and redemption in his past. We will protect his story, and we are choosing not to share the details of his life before he was matched with us. It is his story, and we are blessed to be a part of it. We will wait to share more with him when he is older, and we pray that the gift of his story in the future will be used to help him see God’s kind and protective hand in the midst of the brokenness that came so early in his life.

We cherish each of you and the role you have played in our adoption story. You have helped us grow our family, and there is just no way to thank you enough for that. We need you. Adoption is restoration, redemption, healing. It is work. It is a different kind of parenting as it's parenting on the front lines of children who come from very hard places. While we wanted to offer some boundaries on how we will approach our early months with Kena, please don’t fear making a mistake that might threaten our attachment with Kena. We will give lots of grace just as we hope you will give us grace as we enter into this new phase of our lives.

I will follow up soon with more about how you can practically help us through this transition. Please keep praying for us. We know the Lord has brought us to this point, and we need to continue to rely on his grace and power to parent Kena in a loving and secure way. Please pray he will bond to us. Thanks again for your love and care. We can’t wait to bring Kena home, and we thank the Lord for this gift of our new son.

With love and thanks,
Donny and Kim (and all of us) 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

My Heart on a Screen

As I type, we are flying at 39,000 ft with 3 hours to go until we land in Nairobi. I've only watched one movie because I can't keep my eyes off the interactive map that shows our flight progress. I have watched us leave London, pass Austria and Greece (along with many other European lands), fly over Crete and the Mediterranean Sea and then enter air space of a land I know so little about yet love so much - Africa. Maybe it's the homeschooler in me who loves watching us fly over all of these places we have studied and will study again this year. I think, though, that it's because I have a promised son in this land. We will fly over Ethiopia en route to Nairobi, and I just keep staring at that map. He's there somewhere. Our soon-to-be son. And so I stare. Because it's the closest I've ever been to him.

Our travel process has been fairly smooth. We left our house yesterday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in a big, black suburban. A kind friend from church had a car service take us to JFK. The kids thought it was cool being picked up like the president or famous people. It was definitely nice to sit back and let someone else do the driving. As Donny and I took our final steps out of our house, he looked at me and said:  "Let's go get him." Mush. From that moment on, I have been fairly laser focused on one thing: adopting our son. It's time to do this.

Back to travel: Let me tell you - I have never driven with a native New Yorker before through lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. When you are super confident and know what you're doing, you can really get places. Let's just say I was a little white knuckled here or there, but he was great.

We got to JFK with lots of time to spare. Once we checked in and got through security, we got the kids McDonalds and took it to a restaurant where I could get a salad. I don't remember the last time I had a salad. It's been lots of frozen pizzas and breakfast for dinner around here while we've been packing/planning.

After dinner, I realized that I had forgotten lip balm, so the kids and I went into a "Hudson News" bookstore to see if they had lip balm. While in the store, I had my first New York star sighting. I saw Padma from Top Chef. I didn't have my camera with me, so I ran back to get it, and once she had checked out, I went up to her and asked if I could take a picture with her. She had her daughter with her, so she politely declined. I told her how we were flying to Ethiopia to adopt our little boy, and I thought it would be so fun that meeting her was part of our story. We introduced our daughters to each other which was so fun, and then she asked her daughter if she knew what adoption was. Her daughter didn't really respond. Padma said she would explain more about it to her later. She was very kind and gracious to me, her airport stalker, and Millie.

Once we finally boarded our plane, which was delayed, we sat on the tarmack for roughly an hour waiting to be cleared for take-off. Apparently the president was there earlier and had held up departures a bit. We settled into our flight, and we tried not to worry about whether we would make our layover in London.

The kids have been doing great. Will fell asleep during our wait on the tarmack before we even took off from JFK yesterday and slept the whole flight until I had to wake him to put on shoes and put his seat upright. The big kids watched a movie, we ate an unexpected meal around 10:30 pm, and we all fell asleep after about an hour and a half into the flight. I have no idea how long we slept, but I guess maybe 4ish hours.

Now we are on our final few hours before Nairobi. Thankfully, we made our connection, but it was close. We arrived at the gate about 10 minutes before the gates were scheduled to close. The kids have been awake this flight which I hope means they will sleep well tonight. The flight has lots of great on-demand movies and even some video games, so they have been well entertained. 

Overall, I don't know that it could have been smoother. I thank the Lord for his continued grace and provision for our family. We are ready to adopt our boy, and we couldn't be more thankful that we have our whole family here to do it together. Thanks for your continued prayers.

We fly to Ethiopia Saturday morning, will drive 3 hours to his orphanage, and then we will meet our boy for the first time. My heart is thrilled even writing those words. As the east coast wakes Saturday morning, we should have him in our arms. We will love on him with all that we can for three days and then head back to Addis Ababa to appear in court next Tuesday. We won't bring him home with us this trip. Once we adopt him, the U.S. Embassy takes 4-6 weeks to complete all they need to do to prepare him for immigration and citizenship. Then we will race back to get him and bring him home forever hopefully at the end of August or beginning of September.

As you sleep early Monday morning, we will be saying good-bye to him. Writing those words hurts my heart. Pray that our embassy process will be surprisingly swift. We can't wait to bring him home.

Thanks again for all of your love and support. I don't plan to blog much more while we are gone, although I may surprise myself. We'll post quick updates here and there on Facebook. An hour and 22 minutes left of flight time. I think I'll go stare at my map. We're coming for you, little one.

Quick pic of Millie and Will under their "tents" doing what they did most of the JFK-Nairobi flight: Movies and Video Games. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

An update, and the winner of our giveaway is....

Rusty Harding!!!!

Sorry we are a few days late on this, but Millie was excited to draw this morning for our Adoption Fundraising Giveaway. Congrats, Rusty!!!

We are humbled and in awe to report that, by God's grace and the generosity of many, we met 100% our adoption fundraising goal!!! The generosity of our friends and family has been incredible. It really does take a village, and we will continue to need your love, prayers and support now and in the many days and months ahead once we bring our little guy home.

If you had a desire to give and didn't get to it yet, you can still give. There are other "extra" expenses that will come along the way, but it is so good to know we have met all of the absolutely necessary expenses to bring our guy home. 

In case you missed my post on Facebook, we received a court date and will travel to meet him next week! We will officially adopt him to be ours forever on July 28. I will try to post again before we leave, but I can't make any promises. Please pray for our travel over the next two weeks. We are taking our entire family with us, so we are praying that the Lord uses this time to begin molding us into a family of six.

We will not bring him home with us on this trip. Once we pass court, it will take a month to six weeks for him to go through US Embassy  approval to be issued the proper paperwork to come home. Please join us in praying that we can bring him home at the end of August or very beginning of September. Our prayer from the beginning has been that he would be home by Hunter's birthday on September 14. 

Thanks again for your incredible love and support of our family.