Sunday, March 31, 2013


The last couple of months I have been struggling with a decision.  I wasn't having any peace about the situation and more and more information was coming to light.  I have been praying and praying about it and finally came to a place of acceptance.

Yesterday, I officially withdrew from the Congo program.  They are refunding the small application fee I paid.   What the director said to me in response to my email further confirmed that this was the right decision.

I am very aware of how international adoption works and how information gets around, therefore; I will not be publicly stating why I chose to leave.  The DRC has a great, great need for adoptive parents.... and that is why it was really difficult for me to leave.  I will say that my personal journey and experiences with IA and the countries I've attempted to adopt from has a lot to do with it.  If you are contemplating adopting from the DRC or are in the program and would like to know my reasons for withdrawing, I am more than willing to share via email :)

I also know that the Lord isn't finished growing my family :)  I'm not sure where he will lead me, but one thing I've learned is that he moves mountains when I throw off my ideas and dreams and open my arms to his.  Munni wants a little brother and we pray for him every night, wherever he may be.

Today on Easter Sunday as we were standing in church singing, I was holding Munni and I watched her trying to sing along.  I got so choked up.  She is such a blessing to me and an amazing reminder of God's love.  Even though the decision to leave the Congo was a difficult one, I feel that I am in a really great season of my life right now.  We've finally had a week without any medical appointments and WOW what an amazing week it's been!  She and I doing really great growing in our relationship.  I feel like everyday is Christmas with her, because each day I learn so many new things about her - what a joy!!!

I know God is faithful and I know he will lead me....

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

3 Years, 8 Months, and 4 Days.....

later and she is FINALLY home!!!!  I would do it all again in a heartbeat :)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Week of Miracles I Never Want to Forget

On Monday night, February 11th, my caseworker L called me to have our last minute travel conversation.  I was leaving at 3:30 am to get to the airport and be on my way to finally bring Munni home!!!
After the pleasantries, she started the conversation by saying, "I have to tell you a couple of things..."  Now, when you are leaving in less than 8 hours, those kinds of words can make you nervous.  She told me:
1)  Munni's passport still wasn't in.
2)  The Embassy was closed on Monday due to President's Day
3)   Due to the big adoption conference, it would be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday as well.

My tickets were scheduled for us to leave Tuesday night, the 19th.  In addition, we were supposed to fly to Delhi on Friday, get the TB skin test on Saturday, have them read the test on Monday and start the Visa interview and either get the Visa later Monday night or Tuesday.

I told her, "Well, that isn't good but I'm not surprised."  We both agreed that we needed to pray.  A LOT.  I knew and she knew that there was a reason I was supposed to get Munni on Valentine's Day.  From the time I got back from the first trip to Hyderabad, Mer had been so encouraging to me when I would doubt I would get Munni then.  She kept affirming me that indeed that was God's plan for us.  Having someone else be so certain was a great confirmation to me.  I called Mer as soon as I got off the phone with L and asked her to please pray it would all work out.
Boy did it ever!!!
Here's what happened:

1)  When I touched down in Hyderabad and got to the hotel on the night of the 13th, M had left a note for me at the front desk.  We would be heading to the orphanage at 10:15.  She didn't mention anything about the passport but I was getting excited!!!
2)  Valentine's Day morning, M and I had breakfast together before going to the orphanage.  She told me it was a miracle- Munni's passport came in yesterday!!!!!
3)  When we arrived at the orphanage, A told M that Munni's file only needed one more signature so we could go right down to the orphanage to get her!!  Originally I was told we would be spending several hours in the office before I would be allowed to get her!
4)  After I got Munni, we went back to the office and signed all of the final papers for 2/14/2013 :)  Munni passed out the chocolates I brought.  All you mamas out there, chocolate is great gift to bring as well as the saris!!  They LOVED the chocolate!
5)  Munni and I were interviewed by the news channel!  Hopefully someone out there who saw it felt a nudging in their heart to adopt.
6)  M was able to get Munni and my tickets changed for us to leave that night instead of Friday.
7)  M was able to get us an appointment with the Embassy for Friday.
8)  We got Munni's TB skin test on Friday and successfully started the visa process on Friday.  While at the Embassy, I begged and pleaded for someone to be there on Tuesday.  I used all of my "How to Win Friends and Influence People" tactics I could remember.  But most of all, I prayed that God would weigh upon their hearts.  They told us someone would call and let us know.
9)  Late Friday M got a call from the Embassy asking if Munni had started the Medical.  She took it as a sign they would be there on Tuesday.
10)  Saturday morning M told me to plan on going to the Embassy on Tuesday.
11)  On Monday, we got her skin test read and it came back positive.  They took two chest X-rays and the doctor signed off on two different reports that she was free to leave.  THIS IS A HUGE MIRACLE.  I didn't realize how miraculous this was until several weeks later.  If he hadn't done that, she would have been stuck there for almost another year.  That would have been devastating and I honestly believe there would have been irreparable damage done to our relationship.  In addition, it's quite possible she could have died since the TB was now in her eye.
12)  Monday evening I met L for the first time in person in Ind*a!!!!!!!!!  She, M, Munni and I had dinner.  It was the best dinner!!!  L kept telling me she couldn't believe the change in Munni, that it was as if she were looking at a different child.  She had seen Munni for years and was worried about her.
13)  Tuesday morning I woke up at 4 am.  I was anxious.  I checked my messages and there were a ton from the people who were watching my dogs.  Something had happened to Lola and it wasn't good.  I will blog about this later, but suffice it to say that it started the day in high stress.  I tried to pray and I tried to skype Mer.  I left her a message to please pray.
14) At  9 am Tuesday morning we went to the embassy.   We got there and not only was someone there, but they were expecting us.  M told me it would be several hours.  She went to the bathroom.  5 minutes later, the Embassy woman called, "Munni Williams?"  I jumped up and ran to the window.  She handed me the super secret immigration packet and told me not to open it and to give it to the immigration people when we landed in the US.  Then she handed me the Hague certificate and told me, "Congratulations on the adoption of your daughter!"
I completely lost it and started bawling.  I couldn't help it!  The flood gates were opened and tears kept flowing.  I thanked her profusely!  I picked Munni up and we headed outside to the bathroom.  M was coming out of the bathroom and saw us and saw that I was crying.  She looked worried for about a second and I smiled and choked out the words, "WE GOT IT!!!!"  She started crying and hugged us.  From the time we entered the Embassy until the time we left, only 25 minutes had passed.  I didn't find out until a couple weeks later that Erin, a dear friend and another adoptive mama, had written to the Embassy and asked them to please help me.  She knows them well due to her case and they love her!!!
15)  Munni and I boarded the plane to come home on Tuesday night :)
16)  Munni and I arrived in Cincy on February 20th- the original scheduled date.

Time after time after time the Lord has showed me that HE IS FAITHFUL and that NOTHING is impossible for him.  There are times in my day when for a moment I will stop and think about all he has done in order to bring Sweet Munni home.  It brings me to tears every time.  I think about all of the people who have been praying for us and encouraging us.  I know those prayers were heard!!  One of the best things I have ever done was to get the tattoo of the verse he whispered to me when I was in my darkest hour, questioning whether or not I would be able to adopt Munni.  The situation had seemed hopeless and that's when he told me, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" - Genesis 18:14

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Post Surgery Update and a LittleTuberculosis Education

Let me start this post by clarifying that MUNNI IS NOT CONTAGIOUS !! Believe me, I understand the questions and that they are coming from a place of just not knowing. Tuberculosis is not very common in the US ( although it is on the rise) so we don't hear about it enough to really know everything about it. I myself didn't know anything about it except that it kills people and it used to be called consumption and it was really sad when Moll Flanders lover died from it. I feel like I had a crash course and thanks to my super investigatory skilled sister, I'm pretty sure we know more about it than some doctors! Yes, Munni had full blown TB and now her lungs are calcified. Yes, she contracted it in the last couple of months. Yes, she contracted it from an adult in her orphanage. Yes, I am angry that a TB active person is allowed to have contact with the children in the orphanage. Yes, I told my agency everything so they could inform the orphanage what was going on. Yes, please pray that if any other children contracted it from that person that they are able to get medical care or better, they are able to come home rĂ¡pido.

The biggest thing to understand is that you can only contract TB airborne and through pulmonary active TB. In addition, it is almost impossible to contract TB from a child. Since Munni's lungs are calcified, the TB there and in her lymphatic system is considered latent - non - contagious. When we got the CT scan last week, I was told to pack a bag in the event we would be admitted. Based on what they found in the CT scan, we would know if her lungs were infected by active TB and they were not. Although they were shocked she survived because it was an extremely bad case, we were cleared by Children's Hospital to go home without any type of restriction or quarantine. This is where it gets confusing: the TB in her eye is active. So why isn't she considered contagious if the TB in her eye is active? Because you can only contract TB airborne- if she cries on you or a toy, you still can't get it. Here is the statement from the Mayo Clinic:

Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that spread from person to person through microscopic droplets released into the air. This can happen when someone with the untreated, active form of tuberculosis coughs, speaks, sneezes, spits, laughs or sings.
Although tuberculosis is contagious, it's not easy to catch. You're much more likely to get tuberculosis from someone you live with or work with than from a stranger. Most people with active TB who've had appropriate drug treatment for at least two weeks are no longer contagious.

So now you may be thinking, well how did she get it in her eye? TB is super aggressive in children and goes on the rampage attacking other organs besides the lungs. The TB she contracted started in her lungs and then spread SYSTEMICALLY to her lymphatic system and unfortunately, her eye. Ocular Tuberculosis is extremely rare and very hard to diagnose. If it weren't for the several signs- extremely abnormal skin test, spot on the X-ray, confirmation through the CT scan and finally a positive blood test, who knows if they would have ever diagnosed it. A friend emailed me the night of her surgery and told me a heartbreaking story. A family they are friends with adopted a little girl and it turned out she had Ocular Tuberculosis. Only for her, it did not end well because it took them too long to figure out what it was. Remember, it is EXTREMELY rare. By time they diagnosed it, it had affected parts of her brain and eventually led to death. I can't tell you how sad I was reading that email. One thing about international adoption vs domestic adoption that I don't think people really understand is that with IA more often than not, you are literally saving a child's life. I know people complain about our health care system but we are so very blessed with the medicine and care that is available to us here.

Munni is not contagious and I would never put anyone at risk. I hope that is clear. I also am open to any questions; I am a teacher after all :)

Her eye surgery was expected to last between 30 minutes to an hour. It ended up taking an hour and a half. It was very important to me that I could be there when she woke up. They usually don't let you, I guess because of protocol, but my sister and I begged and pleaded and it worked! They had an oxygen mask on her when we got to the recovery room because she was so heavily asleep. It ended up taking Munni almost as long as the surgery to wake up! We finally got her to respond when I asked her if she wanted a mango. She nodded her head so fast I thought she was going to get dizzy and puke!

The doctor said it was deeper than he thought- it was 50% into her cornea and there were also some long feeder like blood vessels. You aren't supposed to have blood vessels in your cornea, which is another indicator that it is TB. She has a cloudy spot that will be permanent. We are hopeful that a good portion of the opaqueness will dissipate. Originally, they wanted to wait to start any TB medication until after they cleared her of parasites. After the surgery, the ophthalmologist wanted her to start her meds ASAP. He felt the protocol she was on (non TB meds) had worked in halting it a little bit but wanted her to start the real deal to keep from any further damage to her eye. He spoke with her ID doctor and they consulted with a bunch of other ID doctors and today they told me what they hope the regimen will be for her. We have to go back tomorrow for more blood work on her liver and renal system to make sure she can metabolize the medicines. Here's the bad news: one of the medicines, ethambutol, carries a risk for vision loss. The risk is low but since her eye is already compromised, it is more of a risk for her. I asked them to try and find an alternative. Whether they do or not, she will be monitored closely. The good news is that they are hoping she will only be on the drugs for 6 months instead of the 9-12 months they originally thought.

I would really appreciate your prayers for healing for Munni. This has been really difficult obviously, but also because this sweet little girl has already experienced so much abuse and trauma in her life. There are no words to express how much it completely blows to watch her scream in not just physical pain, but emotional pain. Please also pray for our bonding as mother and daughter. More the anything I want Munni to feel safe and loved with me. The language barrier makes it difficult because I can't explain to her that I'm bringing her to all of these appointments and procedures because I LOVE HER and want her to be healthy. I'm not so sure she understands that when she gives me her death stare. And if you think about it, will you pray for me too? It has been really hard to take everything in that I've learned about her and all this suffering. I know that I haven't processed it at all. I want to do it in a healthy way but honestly, haven't gotten to the place where I can let the walls down because we've had to forge through all of this stuff.

Finally, if you are adopting internationally, I implore you to please take your child to an international adoption clinic!!!! This might sound crazy but I wasn't going to do that with Munni. My thought process was that I saw the orphanage where she lived, it was clean and she was fed well. She is older and except for the sty, healthy. I have never been more wrong in my entire life.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

But By The Grace of God

I'm skipping ahead of several posts I wanted to write about India in light of the recent medical concerns that have surfaced.  It's a little long, but it was a journey finding the mystery illness.

When I picked up Munni on Valentine's Day, she had a nasty cold and a pretty big sty in her right eye. We flew to Delhi that night and on Friday we had our embassy appointment and medical exam.  They gave her the physical and TB skin test.  We would get the results back on Monday.
On Saturday, we toured around Delhi and had a great day!  But, Munni's arm was definitely sensitive where the skin test was administered.  By Sunday, it was red outside of the circle they had drawn and little tiny blisters were forming.  I was getting a little nervous but I knew it is common for people in Asia and Latin America to have positive TB skin tests.

Monday came and so did more blisters and more pain.  We went to the follow-up and sure enough, her skin test was positive.  They sent her to get 2 X-rays.  They both came back clear!  We headed to the embassy, got her visa, and left that night.  I also noticed that Munni's eye was very red in the morning when she woke up and at night before she went to bed.  I could tell it was painful.
We got back to the US on Wednesday night and by now, her skin test was getting worse.  On Saturday, we left for Florida so my parents could meet Munni.  Up until this point, I had been putting neosporin on it and putting a bandage on it.  Well, we decided in Florida to take off the neosporin and let it dry.  It looked like a second degree burn.  Her eye was also worsening and we tried putting drops in to see if that would help.  We weren't sure if it was pink eye or not.

We got back late Wednesday night and I was so glad to be home.  I was really looking forward to getting settled into our routine and concentrate on bonding and attachment.  I scheduled her first pediatric appointment for Monday.  Well, by Friday it looked worse than ever so I headed over to the little clinic thinking it was a bad case of pink eye.  The nurse immediately told me that I needed to head to the emergency room.  In fact, she felt so strongly about it that she called down there and told them we were coming.  We got to Children's and they took us right back.  All of the nurses were amazing with Munni!  We were there for about 4 hours and they did all kinds of drops and dilations and took pictures of her eye.  They wanted the ophthalmologist to look at it so we went back Saturday morning.  While we were in the ER, they also scheduled our appointment for the International Adoption Clinic for Monday morning at 8 am.

Saturday morning came and we headed back the Children's and the ophthalmology department.  Well, the Dr. didn't like what he saw.  It just so happened that a corneal specialist, who only sees patients once a month, happened to be there and came and looked at Munni's eye.  He said it was "very rare, very unusual, and very serious." They took all kinds of cultures and treated it as if it were ocular herpes, which was a possibility.  We had a follow up scheduled for Monday as well.

Sunday was my birthday so we went and celebrated with my best friend and her daughters. It was a nice little break from all the medical stuff.  I thought back to my birthday 3 years ago when I formally announced that I had started the adoption process and had been accepted to the Nepal program.  I looked at Munni sitting next to me and was overwhelmed :)  It was an emotional day for sure!

Monday was probably the worst medical/emotional day for Munni and me.  We were there from 8-5 and she endured all kinds of pokes, prodding, more eye exams and finished it off with 25 or so vials of blood taken.  They also scanned the X-rays I had from India.  This was a miracle because my carry on that had all of Munni's adoption paperwork, medical information, and my camera was stolen in the DFW airport (that's an entire post :)  the only reason I had her X-rays was because I didn't want to fold them so I put them in my checked luggage.

Tuesday they called me and said there was a spot on Munni's right lung in the X-ray so they wanted to do a cat scan and also a biopsy and shave some tissue off of her eye.  They scheduled the surgery and cat scan for Thursday.  Thursday morning came I had 15 missed calls and messages.  Say what??  I called K, the IAC nurse who had been orchestrating everything and she said Munni's blood test came back positive for Tuberculosis.  So they knew that she had the bacteria in her body but what they didn't know is if it was active or latent.  The facility where everything was going to take place didn't have proper quarantine facilities so they had to reschedule everything.  I was kind of freaking out.  I thought about all the people we had been around; we flew to Florida, we spent some time with my best friend and her daughter, one of which was only 3 months old, family, the list went on.  K told me we would cross that bridge when we came to it.  The worst case scenario is that she would be quarantined for 1-2 months.  That would mean I couldn't go back to school when planned and I would have all kinds of issues with insurance and money.  It also meant that all those people would have to be skin tested for TB.  I realized though that stressing about it does not solve problems.  I just prayed that everything would be in the Lord's hands and if that came to pass, I had to trust that he would provide everything we needed.

My sister volunteered to be my personal assistant and go to all the doctor appointments with me.  She also did ALL kinds of research so we would be well informed and know what kinds of questions to ask.  I can't even tell you how thankful I am for her doing this because Munni needs so much attention there is no way I could do this on my own.
On Friday, my sister picked us up and we went down for the cat scan.  The main IAC doctor, K, and another doctor met us there.  They told us what to expect and made sure I had my bag in the event we would be admitted for the weekend.

After the cat scan was finished, the Dr. and K came to talk to us.  They said it was a miracle that Munni  is alive.  She had a very, very bad case of Tuberculosis that was all through her body- her lungs, neck, chest and lymphatic system.  Everything in her lungs was calcified so she is not contagious but she still has some nodes in her lymphatic system that are not all the way healed.  One of them in particular may need to be removed.  We still don't know yet.  Because all of the nodes aren't healed yet means that she had it recently and that she contracted it from an adult in the orphanage.  The TB is active in her right eye but basically impossible to spread.  They were dumbfounded that she has survived everything that she has gone through in her life so far.  The next step is to get the eye biopsy.  They will grow it to determine exactly what kind of medicines she will be taking for the next 9 months - 1 year.

I called my caseworker to let her know about everything that was discovered and she is going to inform the orphanage.  I pray that no other children get infected as I worry about the health care for them in Ind*a.

L my caseworker told me that everything about Munni's adoption was one miracle after another and now we see why.  She NEEDED to get here.  She NEEDS this medicine and she needs love and a family to help her heal from her past.  It is truly a miracle that Ind*a signed off on her X-rays.  There should have been other tests done and those would have prevented her from coming home with me.  I really don't think I have processed everything.  I've been in "let's get this done" mode and forged ahead. Every morning when we wake up, she smiles at me and hugs me.  I think to myself what a miracle it is that she has joy in her heart.

Please keep praying for us:  1) that she will get the right medicines 2) that we can continue to bond as mother and daughter 3) that I can process all of this in a healthy way.

I love her so much and sometimes it's overwhelming to know that I have been entrusted with the precious little girl.  I pray that God gives me the wisdom to be the right mom for her and to give her what she needs.

Thank you for all of your prayers and support!!!!