Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Pregnancy Scare

I learned something about myself today. I like to think of myself as sure, as confident, as immune to the stares and whispers of others. You can't live as counter-cultural as we do and have a thin skin. Just driving the fifteen-passenger van to the grocery store and watching people count the car seats would do you in. I use humor to deflect a lot of the criticism and most of the time, it bounces off.

But, today I realized what a complete wimp I really am. 

You see, today we had a pregnancy scare. I, or rather Shawn, did some calculating this morning and realized that I was days late. It wasn't until late this afternoon, one negative test, and a monthly visitor later, that we found we were in the clear. I was relieved, and a bit puzzled by my reaction. 

You see, when the possibility of a pregnancy existed, I wasn't upset about having another baby. Clearly, children are welcome here. I wasn't even that upset about another pregnancy, although they are hard on me and I generally loathe them. I certainly wasn't worried about my advanced maternal age and the associated risks of Down syndrome. In fact, that didn't cross my mind until just now. 

No, I was scared of what people would say. 

I could hear the whispers, the not-so-gentle teasing, the exclamatory cries of shock, and the words of admonition and warning from all of those around me, but specifically those at work. Frankly, it is sometimes fun to tell new patients when they ask how many children I have, and sometimes, I grit my teeth and avoid the question altogether. But it's easier when the family is already made. I know from experience that people feel much freer to comment when the newest member has not yet arrived. 

I found myself feeling ill at the thought of answering, "Is this your first?" multiple times a day, or worse, hearing one of my many co-workers answer it for me, "No, it's her ninth! She already has EIGHT!" And then having to paste on a phony smile and defend my family. Egads. 

It gives new meaning to the term "pregnancy scare" when what you're really scared of is not the pregnancy, but other people. 

So let me just say for the record, children are welcome here. Do not be surprised if another one joins this family at some point. Most probably that will be via adoption, but if God chooses to bless us another way, I will just have to dust off my phony smile, put on my big girl panties, and ignore the whispers. Because I refuse to let fear of other people rob the joy of new life. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

But God...

Setting off on our adoption journey, we were sure that we would be rescuing a child from one of those awful institutions we heard so much about. In fact, when we found out that Bogdan was in foster care, I felt almost guilty, like maybe his need wasn't great enough to warrant all the fundraising that we needed to do to bring him home. But we knew that God had a plan and that he was supposed to be ours.

On our first visit, our translator informed us that the social workers and foster family were already discussing which child would replace him. That gave me some measure of comfort and I often wondered about that child, who they were and where they came from.
I never thought I'd actually know anything. 

But God...

My friend, Leah, who was instrumental in leading us to our Bo and helping us navigate the world of Serbian adoption, is going back a fourth and final time to adopt a child with Down syndrome, this time a girl. 

Through the miracle of Facebook, I recently reconnected with Bogdan's foster family and received a whole bunch of early pictures of him. Wanting to share the wealth, I connected them with Leah who had also adopted a child from their home. 

In looking through their posted FB pictures, Leah made a marvelous discovery: Her new daughter, "J", is a foster child in their home! Through Google Translate, Leah was able to chat with them and discovered that "J" was the child that replaced Bo. She came from one of the worst mental institutes in the country and was in terrible shape when she arrived at their house. Even now, at 9-years-old, she weighs the same as our tiny 4-year-old Bo, thirty pounds. She needs to come home.

God didn't have to do that. He didn't have to fill that spot with a child in such dire need, a child that likely would not have survived much longer where she was. He didn't have to lead my friend to that particular child. And He certainly didn't have to put all the pieces together so I could see the tiny part we played in His grand scheme. I am so humbled and overwhelmed by it all. 

And excited!

There is a mad rush to this adoption. On April first, Serbia becomes a Hague certified country. Leah found out THIS MORNING that the adoption must be COMPLETE by then!

Funds are a priority. She does not have the luxury of waiting for her tax refund or creative fundraisers. She needs money NOW! The dossier needs to be shipped and translated, airfare needs to be purchased, etc. Be part of this amazing tapestry that God is weaving before our very eyes! Here is the GoFundMe page

Give a little, give a lot, but just GIVE!

And let's see what else God has in store...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Pox Parties

I want to say this with humility and grace. A day or two ago, I wanted to come on here and say it with guns blazing. That's the problem with being a justice girl. Everything is black and white and when an injustice is perceived, there is little inclination to consider all sides. 

In this instance, I took some time. 

Twice this past week, from two different people in two different circles, the idea of a pox party was brought to my attention. I admit, the concept was not entirely new to me. We are a homeschooling family, after all, and homeschoolers, for whatever reason, often tend to be of a crunchy bent. I never really paid attention to the idea of it before. It wasn't something that was on my radar. 

For the uninitiated, let me explain. A pox party is when the parent of a child with an active case of chickenpox alerts non-vaccinating parents so that they can get their kids together in hopes that those who have not yet had chickenpox will get infected. The idea is to have their children get this childhood illness over early and develop the natural immunity that comes with it. There are countless Facebook groups dedicated to connecting these families. 

As one who contracted chickenpox at the ripe old age of twenty-three from a patient who had shingles, I do like the idea of getting it as a child better. I had pox in every possible orifice, including down my throat and inside of my ears. I have never been so miserable and I have birthed seven children, some of them without medication and have had giant kidney stones on multiple occasions. But, I digress.

There is a vaccine for chickenpox. Many, many people had chickenpox as children and it was not a big deal. Those people roll their eyes and think the government has gone a little loopy and it is just one more unnecessary medical intervention and, of course, it's all about the money. And they may be right. It certainly is not a disease that comes anywhere near polio. However, before the chickenpox vaccine, 100 to 150 American children died yearly of chickenpox. One in 400 children were hospitalized, many with neurological conditions such as encephalitis, meningitis, convulsions, and even strokes. Within six years of the varicella vaccine being licensed, hospitalizations related to the infection dropped by 75%. Does the vaccine pose a risk? Of course. Every medical intervention has risks. But the risks and reported side affects of this particular vaccine are generally minor. 

Talking you into the vaccine, however, is not the point of this post. I think the reason it was on my radar and prompted this post when pox parties came up this time, is that now I have spent time in the world of special needs. I've walked the halls of the children's hospitals so many times, they feel like a second home, and I have healthy kids. But so many of my fellow parents on this journey do not. Many of them have children who are immunosuppressed. Their immune systems are not functioning as they should and they are at greater risk of developing illnesses.

Those children do not have the luxury of getting the vaccine that others are choosing to decline. What is a simple childhood illness for your child, can be a death sentence for them. 

A person is contagious for 1 - 2 days before the onset of the rash until the lesions have crusted over. A person usually contracts the illness between 10 - 21 days after exposure. In other words, a child could come down with chickenpox on average anytime between one and a half to three weeks after a pox party and will be contagious for a day or two before they know they have it.

So, here's my question for those of you who plan to send your kids to a pox party. 
Are you willing to keep them at home for up to two weeks while they may be contagious?
Because while the parents of those immunosuppressed children I talked about are less likely to have their kids out in public, sometimes it's unavoidable. One chance encounter with your infected child in the produce aisle could be the death of another child. 

I'm not being dramatic. Those 100 to 150 children who died each year from chickenpox before the varicella vaccine generally had underlying medical conditions, conditions that caused them to be immunosuppressed. Conditions that allowed a simple, normal, childhood illness to take their hope, their future, and their very last breath. 

See, you are free to choose. Vaccinate, don't vaccinate, partially vaccinate. Whatever. These parents don't have that luxury. They are counting on herd immunity for the life of their child. And if not that, then they are counting on common sense and decency from fellow parents. 

Recognize that these children exist, that they are fragile, and they are precious to those that love them, just as your children are to you. If you do choose to expose your children to a childhood illness, please keep them home until the risk of spreading it has passed.