NATIONAL ADOPTON DAY

Chicgao

November 18th is National Adoption Day!  Although its seems like everyday is National Something day- I can’t let National Adoption Day pass without a post.

Now that Ashling has settled 100% into O’Cathain life, I actually don’t think about adoption on a day-to-day basis because I am too consumed with life! But every few days, I have to smile and think what adoption has meant to our family.

I imagine, like many people, I always thought adoption was wonderful but never really thought about it in my world. I just assumed Domhnall and I would “pop” out 4 kiddos and that would be life. I remember when I was having trouble getting pregnant with Keira Domhnall mentioned adoption. I remember being excited about the idea but not knowing where to start. Between our 3rd and 4th round of IVF we went to an Adoption Seminar at an agency in New York. We left the meeting excited but overwhelmed as we learned about the long waiting lists for US babies and about the doors closing for many international adoptions due to changing political climates.

We got pregnant with Keira shortly thereafter but, after that meeting we knew that at least one of our children would be adopted.Adoption is not easy. Adoption is beyond expensive, full of unknowns, can be heartbreaking (we will never forgot our girl in Haiti) but at the same time it’s amazing in the most life- changing way.

I can’t comprehend the fact that we could have missed having Connor or Ashling in our family. I can’t thank their birth parents enough for giving us the chance to be their parents. I cant wait to bring them back as teenagers to China to see where they are from and reunite with their orphanages and their caregivers.

I recently provided an update on Connor (can’t believe it’s been 5 years) to the American organization Love Without Boundaries that supported him. Hard to believe a little boy with failure to thrive, low muscle tone and a cleft lip/palate is now a competitive gymnast, a smart 1st grader, and more importantly, a very loved son and brother.

It’s hard to believe Ashling who had only been outside of the 2 rooms in her orphanage a few times is now an almost 5-year old social pre-K student, who has been on numerous plane rides, been to the beach, and playgrounds, plays soccer, rides a bike and, most importantly ,an adored daughter and sister.

And Keira… it’s hard to imagine how different her life would have been like without Connor and Ashling in it. They have helped make her the very smart, very caring, ery grown-up and very sweet girl she is today whom everyone adores.

So yes- I am thankful for adoption and will celebrate National Adoption Day (and only 11 more months to National Taco Day)!

 

Surgery Done!

IMG_0538

What a day! Ashling has surgery today to untether her spinal cord and to remove her sinus track that was open to the spine. Surgery was a success and she is resting comfortably in the PICU now. The next few days will be a challenge as she has to lay flat on her back.

We are so thankful for the surgeons today. If you look above you can see that Ashling spinal cord ends around L4 because it’s attached and pulled down at the bottom. Her spinal cord (and everyone else’s) should end at L1.  Today, the surgeons released it and it sprung back to L1. They also removed a sinus track that was completely open and attached to her spine. It’s amazing she has had no symptoms of anything.

The recovery is a little tough but the prognosis is in 2 weeks from now she will be running around and as though her spinal cord was never attached.

She truly is an amazing miracle child! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

 

 

 

Blog update and lots of medical stuff.

I recently read an update on one of our travel family’s blog. It reminded me that it is time to update this blog! Sorry!  It’s hard to believe Ashling has been home over 5 months.

We had such an amazing summer! A summer of fun- between cousins from Ireland, friends and a very long vacation to Nantucket- we were very lucky and thankful!

We have been back to real life for a month now.  Thankfully, it’s going smoothly. Keira and Connor are happy to be back in 2nd and 1st grade and loving their millions of activities. Ashling loves Pre-K and is a learning a ton! Every morning, she is super excited to be at school  and comes home talking about her new friends. She has settled in 100%. She is speaking really well, playing soccer, making friends and doing everything a happy 4 year old should do! She is very loving and a total ham. She is the actress in the family.

But this month reminds us that we adopted this beautiful little girl from a special needs program. I have truly hesitated on what to share and not to share about her special needs as its her story –not mine to share. … We have seen to a bunch of doctors and Ashling has had more testing that most people ever will have. The verdict is she is 100% healthy (which is beyond amazing) but has a tethered spinal cord and a sinus track opening to her spine.  If she continued to grow without fixing this, she would likely have serious neurological, orthopedic and urinary problems down the road.  Amazingly, she does not have any of them now.

So here we go. One week from today we check into Hackensack University Medical Center for neuro surgery where they will remove her sinus track to the spine,  remove her myelmonegocele and untether her spinal cord. We have a great team during the surgery and thankfully her prognosis is that once this is complete, she will be back to herself with no chance of developing the conditions I mentioned.

So here we go…. She should be in the ICU for 3 days and then the regular hospital for a few more and then a few weeks on the couch…. Ill make sure to update once we are done with this and Ashling is back to her smiley self!

The medical stuff…

Ashling at hospital

Ashling is so active, smart and happy its very easy to forget that she has some medical issues. As many of you know we adopted her from China Special Needs program so we were fully aware that she had some minor medical issues.

We spent yesterday at Hackensack hospital for some testing under general anesthesia. It was a long day but she did great. As they were putting in her IV she kept saying “no doctors, Nana perfect,” It was so adorable and  so sad at the time same time.

We will know more in the next few weeks but thankfully its all relatively minor.

But yes baby girl- you are perfect!

 

Summer!

June

Keira and Connor are done with 1st grade and Kindergarten and ready for summer! Ashling is very excited to have them home!

I can’t believe we only adopted Ashling 2 months ago! Ashling continues to do really well. She is picking up English so quickly and is just a happy, funny, out-going and smart child.

However, the more comfortable she gets at home, the more she is testing boundaries. Big picture this is terrific but day-to-day the temper tantrums when we say “no” can be very challenging. I don’t think anyone ever said NO to her before and I also think she gets frustrated (understandably) with the language.  The temper tantrums are pretty rough but thankfully she spends the majority of the day happy, loving and having fun!.

She also hates the daycare at the gym and refuses to go. It’s funny because she is fine with our babysitters. The gym daycare looks a lot like the room she was in at the orphanage and we think it must remind her of it.

So far,  all of her medical appointments have gone great but we wont  know too much until her sedated MRI in a few weeks. I am anxious to get the MRI done so we know what we are dealing it.

Going to Boston this weekend and excited to see one of the families we adopted with on Sunday!  Although it’s great to be home, there are days where I miss the excitement and hotels in China 🙂

 

Summertime

IMG_6745

Hard to believe it’s June and we have been home well over a month now.  Things continue to go amazingly!  It’s been shockingly how well Ashling has adjusted although the more comfortable she gets the more she is starting to test/learn boundaries. She loves saying “nope” but hates hearing it.

We managed a surprise family trip to North Carolina for Memorial Day, several nights out with sitters and lots of things we never imagined we would be doing at this point.

Langauge is still a bit of a struggle at times but she is picking it up so quickly. She has started to show an interest in books and tv- both should help. We found a school for her for September and I think it’s a great fit (besides the 7:30 start time!).

Tomorrow starts her medical appointments. I have to admit I am nervous for them. When we booked them before we went to china- June seemed so far away. Now it’s here. It’s clear Nana is developmentally and physically on or above target but we just don’t know what’s going on and whether she has spinal bifida or not. Tomorrow we start to learn a lot more.

I have gotten such amaing feedback on the blog that I am going to try to keep it going for  bit longer- especially during the medical appointments.

And the best news is that–Sami is home!

 

 

Getting into the swing of things

 

Last week was a blur of jet lag, no sleep, friends and family visiting and getting caught up at work. I don’t know where the week went. Capped off by a great 50th birthday party for Tricia- which Ashling did amazing at.

This is our first real week back. The kids are back to school, I am working reduced hours and Ashling is settling in. Overall she is doing us doing better that we could ever had expected. I haven’t had much to post because it feels like she has always been here. She really fits right in. I am still getting used to everyone’s schedules but that has more to do with having three active busy kids than Ashling herself. She is just such a happy smiley girl who is loving everything- as long as I don’t say no too often 🙂

We had our first doc appointment is week and are starting the process of getting all the referrals we need. I am anxious for the neurology appointment and still hoping we can get it before June.

In the meantim, I am upping my Chinese cooking skills 🙂

 

 

Home!!!

We are happy to be home! The trip home was long! 26 hours long but uneventful. Kiddos we’re  all amazing and played in their iPads, watched tv and slept.  We were met at the airport by my sister Tricia and her family and that was so great.

Jet lag has been tough and we are all exhausted and waking up way too early. I am beyond exhausted today and feel a little in a daze.

Ashling is a rock star. She is is adjusting so well to the overwhelming changes being thrown at her: we planned a low- key weekend but have had a bunch of visitors and she has done really well. Can’t thank everyone enough who stopped by! We have been feeling very lucky with all the friends and family who stopped by and all the generosity ( can’t wait for the massage-  thanks Mary!) Really looking forward to seeing everyone else!! The picture on the right is me showing Ashling her new room. She seems to really like it so far and is sleeping in her bed….although getting up super early.

She loved meeting grandma and grandpa today and got her first American girl doll! She has done ok with “American kids  food” so far- liked pizza, loved strawberries, hated bagels and mac and cheese but I have been happy to make her Asian noodles and rice.

The one hiccup (and it’s a small one) has been Ashling’s extreme dislike of our dog Madra and it’s extreme but I am sure it will pass.

Overall things continue to be going really well.

Going to miss this place

Good byes have been said, bags packed- I can’t believe this trip is over. There really are no words to express how thankful we are. We truly love this country  ( the people, the sights, and the food) and had such an a memorable and fun trip! However, even more than an amazing trip- we gained a beautiful daughter.

While we are sad to leave, the kids are ready to go home and we are ready to show Ashling real life and introduce her to our family, friends and her new world.

A few days before we left, I was running around getting stuff and saw these 3 matching  outfits and HAD to get them. Considering how little luggage we could bring, it was crazy to pack them but I had too! We got so many beautiful  pictures of the kids in them today.

Spent the day at the amusement park and pool. Had a farewell dinner with our Taiyuan travel group- it was hard saying goodbye. We were very lucky with our group and look forward to watching those amazing kiddos grow up!  Before we left, I connected with a mom on Facebook and it was perfect to end the trip with a glass of wine with her. Thankful for some new friendships.

Tomorrow is a long day. We get picked up at 5 am China time for an 8 am flight. We have a 3+ hour flight to Beijing, a 5 hour layover and then a 15 hour flight home.  Fingers crossed for as smooth of a day as possible. It’s going to be long.

Can’t wait to show Ashling her room, her toys, her extended family and her friends. But wow i am really going to miss being on vacation with Domhnall and the kids and getting to experience adventures everyday.   Also going to miss this country and all it has given our family. We will be back… for vacation!!

How did we get so lucky?

“How did we get so lucky?” seems to be our favorite phrase. Today was another memorable day but I think the highlight was  the hour long dance party in our room tonight (way tooo late). Ashling is incredible!

Today was packed! We joined friends at a local park which has lots of rides. The kids loved them and Keira scared me on a ride she was tall enough for but probably not old enough for.

The reason I included the pic of Ashling as a mess above is because it makes sure me happy.  She has skinned knees from playing with her siblings, she is wearing Keira’s dress because her clothes got dirty at the amusement park, and she has ice cream dripping all over her because she wanted it. All so different than her life in two rooms and she loves it!!

Afterwards, we hit the jade and pearl wholesale markets with a guide (thanks Catherine for the reccomendation) and purchased a piece of jade for our home and some beautiful jewlwey for me and for the kiddos when they get older. Just when we were about to pay for three “wedding quality” sets, I said we better throw in a fourth – just in case. LOL. I cant believe the pieces we got!!

Ended the night at the Hotel lounge for dinner and drinks. Ashling had. some day today –  in a huge thunderstorm and loved every minute of it. So many firsts!

Can’tIMG_0088 believe tomorrow’s is our last day here. I am going to miss China ( and hotel life) so much but can’t wait to introduce Ashling to her real life,