Monday, January 28, 2008

John Makes Eight

John and Mary in the orphanage play room
Mary is not letting John throw blocks

St. Sava Church in Belgrade, Serbia

Duane and John playing with bubbles

John and Mary rocking on the horse!!!

(above) John in an orphanage daze

Reverse feeding-->

(Below) Result of American bombings 1995

Duane holding John during an emotional melt down. We interrupted his wild toy throwing behavior.

Hotel nice!!!

John Saying "NO-NO" to the water on his first
family vacation in September 2007

John on his first family vacation in September 2007. (below) Easter 2007 Casey, Christian, and

We continued to search for our older child on the Christian site. But, I did not feel that any of the children I looked at were mine. Then a message came onto one of my adoption boards which said "this little boy has blonde hair and blue eyes. He is one trip and both parents are required to travel." A BOY!!!! But, where is my older
GIRL??? This little boy was considered special needs and he was indeed considerably delayed. He lived in the Belgrade Serbia Baby Orphanage. We began to work on his adoption in July of 2006!!! I knew he was meant to be ours. This photo was taken about two weeks after we were home...what a change in this little boy!!!! COOL JOHN!!!!

We sent our dossier in to the Serbian Ministry in September (we also gave our first Russian dossier...for September two years before). The holidays came and went without a travel date for our boy. He turned two years old in October 2006. I had really wanted to bring him home before Christmas, but, it was not part of God's plan. We first learned of John in July and we waited month after month for the Serbian Ministry to invite us to adopt John-John. It was so agonizing to wait and no word came for our travel date. That is typical of Serbian adoption. The wait is horrible.

All the time they continue to try to get domestic families to take the child. So it is also very insecure. Finally, the week after Christmas, we had a travel date of January 22, 2007. Time drug by and it finally got to the time we were to leave. All our bags were packed and we were set to go. When we arrived, the orphanage doctor picked us up from the airport with her girlfriend. They are both very sweet woman. Dr. J helped us in every way she could.

Initially, we intended to rent an apartment. However, when we walked into the apartment it strongly smelled of cigarette smoke mingled with a dirty dingy smell like long used auto oil. The bed had a deep depression in the mattress where someone had been laying there for a good long while. Later we came to find out that the owner of the apartment died in the bed and was bed-ridden for a while. YUCK!!!! Duane was so tired he jumped into the bed and snoozed away. Not me!!!

Mary and I slept sitting up on the couch in the living room which smelled like car oil. The next morning we were taken to the ministry to review the child's medicals and get permission to make contact with him. Duane, Dr. J, and I walked over to the orphanage. I was quite anxious to met our little boy. When we walked up to the building it appeared well kept on the outside. But, when we walked into the building the air was very thick with cigarette smoke. People were actually smoking inside the building on all floors.

We were taken upstairs to an office located on the baby floor. This floor was also very heavy with smoke. It was shocking to me because, even though everyone smokes in Russia and Ukraine, I never saw anyone smoking around the children or in the orphanages. The building was almost hazy in the late afternoon with smoke. As we walked down the hall I recognized our boy right away.

He was sitting on the lap of a care giver with his face turned away from her. She was feeding him in a reverse position (see photo above). We proceeded to follow Dr. J to her office. A few moments later they brought John into the room. He was small and he did not look well at all. In fact, I could see he was very ill. I asked Dr. J if he was sick and she said yes very and they were giving him medication. John-John sat in Duane's lap and did not feel like playing.

Another thing of great concern to me was that he did not respond to his own name (Luka). When I would say "Luka" he acted as though he did not know his name. There was no response to it at all. When I tried to hug him he pulled away from me and would not let me touch him. So, Duane just sat there holding him while I tried to interact with him. Even little Mary tried to interact....but, it was a no go. He was in his own little world.

Then Dr. J suggested we take him into the play room. Now, one important thing to know, is that these babies spent many many many hours confined to their beds. They sleep a lot and they all suck their fingers for stimulation and comfort. The care givers do not interact much with these children. They just busily go about doing their duties and seldom talk to the children. I found them many times smoking in the open door break room at the end of the hall on the baby floor.
I brought these issues to the attention of Dr. J and she began to work on making changes. Dr. J adores these children and wants the very best for them.

When the children did get out of bed, they were placed in their sleeping room floor with toys. No attendant stays with them and they play alone with each other. The care givers place a mattress across the door or other types of barricades to keep them in their rooms. This play room we were taken to with John was not used. I could tell that by the dust and the fact that I placed the toys in certain places.

Those toys were never moved. It was very sad. They do keep nicer toys in each room in a laundry basket and I believe they alternate those toys from room to room. They just need more human opinion....of course from my observations. On the "up" side....the children are really well fed. They have appropriate shoes and clothes. Additionally, they use disposable diapers and do have some therapeutic intervention for various children (not all). I don't think my child received these services.

Back to the story..........I decided to go through the one basket with toys in the unused play room and take out the better ones. Then I set aside the broken ones. Duane and I set up a little play area. One area with cars, another with blocks, a few puzzles in another area, and some human figures of a family. Following our visit, we went to pack up our things in the yucky apartment and move to a better place. Dr. J knew the apartment was a big problem for me and so she helped us find another arrangement. We spent the next two and a half weeks in the Hotel Balkan which was very nice.

The next day, when we went to visit John, I went into his room and the care giver changed his diaper for me. I had bought John-John some little soft leather shoes and she put those on him. He really was not steady on his feet when walking. I felt he may be able to walk a little better in soft sole shoes. Next, we went into the playroom. He still did not like being held and was very stiff in my arms.

It was shocking when I put him down and he ran over to the blocks and just started throwing them wildly hand over fist!!! Mary's little mouth was hanging wide open in surprise. For the last almost twelve years I have owned a developmental care center for young children. I am particularly qualified to work with developmental delays. I have occupational and language development therapist who come into the school to work with my kids.

Mary and all my children (except the two grown ones) attended my developmental school. So, little Mary knew this was not acceptable. I walked across the room and took both his hands and said "NO" "DON'T" "THROW". He briefly looked up at me and tried to grab blocks again. Duane came across the room and picked him up and held him snugly in a time-out. In the above picture...John is having a big melt down because we would not allow him to throw toys everywhere.

When Duane and I went back to our hotel suite, I told Duane that I believed John had autism and he may turn into a violent child. If this were to happen he might hurt the other children or later us when is a teenager. I said that I felt we should not take him. I might as well said jump out a window from the 9th floor!!! He was furious with me and screamed at his agony to me. Then he turned to the door and left.

I thought "oh my goodness....where could he be going?" I cried and paced the hotel suite for a while. Then I called room service and got Mary some food after which I gave her a bath for bed. I tucked her in and read her favorite story to her so she would calm down. Duane is a very easy going guy and it takes a lot to blow his smoke stack. But, that's exactly what I had done by saying we should not take him. Duane said things to me that day, and talked to me in such a harsh way, like he has NEVER done before.

Several hours later he returned to the hotel. Mary was sound asleep. While Duane was out I had called Dr. J and explained how concerned I was about the child. I ask her if we turned him down would the ministry allow us to look at another child??? She flat out said "If you should ask this thing, they will be angry, and you will not adopt". I told her Duane was mad at me and he had gone out to cool off as he was very verbally mean earlier. About that time Duane walked into the room. I told Dr. J that he had returned so I had to go. I also included that we would be at the orphanage in the morning.

Duane came into the room and sincerely apologized to me for his earlier behavior. He just was so upset that we would travel all this way, spending thousands of dollars on dossier, doctor, plane flight, travel in country, lodging costs, and more without giving "his" little boy a chance. My gosh I felt bad when he said "his little boy". He also said "Trisha...this little boy is counting on us to get him out of here and into a good life....he's counting on us!!!" I hugged him and ask him to forgive me. At this point I decided that we would adopt him. At the next visit, I did a developmental assessment. He was very delayed and I began to formulate an intervention plan for his developmental delays and possible autism.

YEAH!!!! Dr. J came into the playroom that next morning with an antibiotic for John and he began to respond in a few days. In fact, he stopped going nuts with the toys. He began to realize that certain toys were to be played with in particular areas. He also learned that he was not to remove his beads I put on his neck and throw them across the room. In the picture above he is rocking on the horse with Mary and wearing his beads. Then we walked up and down the halls to strengthen his legs and steady his gait. I was very impressed by the way the orphanage daze left his face and he stopped repeatedly tapping his cheek while staring blankly.

We continued to visit and at the end of our trip we adopted our little boy. He has peeled his past off layer by layer since coming home. John-John is very aware of his environment now and is potty training successfully. Best of all....he is beginning to talk. Praise God and give Him glory as He knew this was our son, even when I did not. John is so loving now. He freely gives kisses and when I hold him he gently pats my back. I do love him so very much. I thank God and ask Him to bless His designated angel in Serbia Dr.J as she watches over the Lord's own children. Let me close this post by saying what a horrible mistake I would have made had I not taken our sweet little boy. I can not imagine my life without John-John. Thank-you Dr. J!!!!

Little Mary Elizabeth

Mary Beth January 2008

Mary in Borovichi

Mama and Mary in Borovichi

As the year went by I unpacked my house and we began to adjust to all these new life changes. But, I guess that's part of how we like things....on the go!!! The Christian web site which sponsors waiting orphans continued to draw my attention. It was as though I was drawn to this particular place. In fact, I wrote to the executive director of this site several times. I told her that I really referred her site to couples often. I also shared with her that I believed God wanted us to open our hearts and minds to an older child. But, so far I had been blessed with babies under age two years old. Believe me, I am not complaining, as it has been wonderful to have babies. It is just those DIAPERS get real tiring!!!!!

I also asked that should she have a waiting child, who came to her site and she felt I should know about the child, would she please contact me. During the summer and fall months she and I had various communications. Then she emailed to me and said she had a baby girl who was around a year and a half that had not had her picture posted to the site just yet. She thought maybe I might be interested. I wrote back to her and said we really think God has an older child in mind for us.

Well, this baby girl's photo was placed on the site and I fell in love with her. I could not move fast enough. We contacted the agency who had the waiting child listed on December 2, 2005. In February 2006, we traveled to meet our pretty baby girl. (Yes....we have began to think December through May has held a number of life changing events for us)!!!
When we traveled to Borovichi, Russia they were having the coldest winter in many years. The snow was horrible. It was so cold that I worried about our feet being frost bit....while in the van ride from Moscow to Borovichi. When I say it was a whirlwind trip....I mean that. We arrived in Moscow in the afternoon and checked into the airport hotel. About eight hours later the facilitator came and picked us up at around 2:00am. Borovichi is about six hours drive from Moscow. However, with all the record breaking snow on the road, it took us closer to eight hours.

The orphanage was typical...ran down on the outside, but cheerful and clean, on the inside. It was also the usual extreme heat inside. I am beginning to expect this when we go to Russia (or other EE countries). Duane and I were put into a little playroom and they came in with Mary Beth. We were so excited to see this darling little girl and she was not at all shy. In fact, she was a slight bit leery of Duane, but in no time she began to play toys with him. About two hours later, they came back in and told us our visitation time was up.

We then went to the director's office and were given her medical and family history. Then they asked if we wanted to adopt her. Of course, we had made up our minds to adopt her before we ever came. But, I was a bit disappointed that I only had a few hours with her and then back into the van. After another grueling eight hour drive we arrived late in the evening in Moscow. Six hours later we boarded a plane for America.

I learned something amazing during this adoption. It was very difficult to leave Mary, but we knew the drill. Hurry up and get there....then go home and wait!!!!! I came home and thought it would be another four month wait like for Annie Kate. I can not tell you how shocking it was when we received our court date for the end of March!!!

It felt like I had no sooner unpacked until I was packing for Russia again. Her adoption process was wonderful and the fastest process we have ever had. Court was also smooth as silk. We decided to stay a little extra time in Moscow and see some of the sights there. It was simply divine!!! Our Mary is quite the little stinker and we could not be any happier. I enjoy her every day and thank God for His generosity with us. Mary is the seventh child in our family.

And Then There Were Six

Annie Kate in June 2006

My Mom and Dad before their health failed them.
They are so much in love;-) This was in 1998. They never met Annie Kate, Mary Beth, or John Bailey. However, they are my guardian angels of my adoptions!!! Love you Mommy and Daddy!!!! They know who my "older" girl is before I do. They live with Jesus now.

Annie Kate looks just like my little sister Phyllis. Annie did not like her photographer. Phyllis did not like her's either...ha-ha........awww!!! The Older child is me;-).

Duane is looking out into the city of Krasnoyarsk, Russia in May 2005

Church on the hill top in Krasnoyarsk May 2006

Annie Playing Outside at her Orphanage
Annie Kate in her orphanage bed with the blanket I gave her.

Annie Kate's Orphanage in Minusinsks, Russia (Krasnoyarsk Region)

In writing about our sixth child, it seems the process was so much easier, than other adoption experience we have shared. But, I will tell little Annie Kate's story with much love attention. At the time my parents were very ill and getting up there in age. I also had a very difficult project I had taken in our life. It is well known that the top stresses in life are: Adding children to your family, moving, and a death in the family. We withstood all three of these things during that one year span.

Our first move was about six months before God placed Annie into our hearts. My parents had bought some land for us outside of town and we began construction of a big new home to accommodate our growing family. The home we had lived in for fourteen years sold on the housing market....for cash. Which the deal meant immediate evacuation. I hurriedly found a crappy rental house for us, but, it was anything other than nice or comfortable. I packed up our things of many years and we moved. My father was ill and had his leg amputated the previous year. Mother was also quite ill.

I felt like there was something ELSE I should be doing. We prayed often about adopting more children. Once we saw the conditions in Ukraine, for foreign born orphans, we felt we should adopt again. There was a Christian web site that I had been looking at for a while. But, I did not make an attachment with any child. We sponsored (and still do) orphans, but, it wasn't the only way we felt God had in mind for us to help His children without parent. While at the American Embassy in Warsaw, during our Ukrainian adoption, Duane and I had met a really nice couple.
They told us that their only son had died in Desert Storm and so it was their heartfelt belief that God wanted them to have another child. This wonderful couple adopted a baby girl from Ukraine and used an agency in Amarillo. Wow!!! I told them we were not too far from there and if we ever wanted to adopt again using an agency we would contact this agency. Well, that is exactly what I did. They sent a packet to us and then we prayed about which country we should adopt from.
Considering we had three little children at home, another seven week stretch in Ukraine was out of the question. The packet said Russia was two short trips. That sounded good to us so we began to put together a dossier for Russia. During this time, I worked to get our house built and prepare to move into it soon (yeah right). I never really unpacked my boxes and they were stacked up all around us in the rental. Good thing our home study agency knew us well and also considered our new home as immediate into our future.

This adoption agency was wonderful!!! They hand held me through my dossier process and we seemed able to miraculously gather the funds we needed (by God's blessings) to continue each step of building our new home and adding our new Russian daughter to our family. In September of 2004, we got news that our dossier had been sent to Krasnoyarsk, Russia (Siberia). Now the wait for our referral and we expected it would be a very long wait.
In the meantime, I continued to work toward finishing our new home. The holidays came and still no news of our referral. My parents steadily grew more and more ill. I would have days where I doubted my logic in wanting another child. The evil devil would creep into my mind and tell me to take a cruise instead:-(. But, we knew that we were on track because adopting a child seemed so much more fulfilling than anything else we could do. So, like a well trained athlete, we continued to race forward to the finish line. Waiting out life's moments is no swift process. January 11, 2005....Jesus called my sweet little Daddy home. My......but the world looks and feels so different without my this day.
Now with everything I had going on, my sister and I had to make the arrangements, for my Dad's funeral and burial. Our mother was in no physical or mental condition to do this and so it was left to us. I have to say I feel so much love for my "baby" sister again (like when she was a little girl) during this time. There was so much to do and so much already on my plate!!! I also was feeling very discouraged and insecure with the new agency. We had been waiting since September for a referral and NO word.
On January 25, 2005.....My grown daughter (Kisty) and I had been doing a very unpleasant task for my Mom. She ask us to box up Dad's things and take them out of her sight. Poor lady, it was so hard after 50 years of being married to my father to be without him and with his things. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders that day. I thank God for my daughter Kisty and the way she cared for my mother during those days after Daddy passed into the arms of our Jesus.

I was smelling my Dad's shirts in his closet for the last time in this world and placing them into boxes. My cell phone rang. Kisty LOVES the telephone. When she grew up we did not remove it from her ear....ha ha. She said: "Mom, it's your agency. Shouldn't you answer it?" I told her that they probably just wanted me to update more paperwork and forget that today. Kisty, as usual in regard to a ringing phone, picked it up. The conversation went something like this: " this is her daughter Kisty....can I give her a message?....WHAT!!!! A REFERRAL!!!! OH MY GOSH!!!" I grabbed the phone from her and our case worker told me to go to my computer, she had just received our referral.
My Mom did not know how to use a computer and we had already turned the service off to my Dad's computer. So I ran across the street to my sister's house. She was at work, but, my BIL was home. Mark switched his computer on...I was soooo crying. There was a picture of a little baby girl who was 19 months old. She looked exactly like my sister as a child. I have included Annie and Phyllis' pictures. I knew my sweet Daddy had sent me a gift he loved so much to me from Heaven...a girl like his little girl Phyllis.

It is difficult for people to understand....why we wanted and want our children. Why so many, why not spend the money on things for us, and do you do it?....are common questions. Well, it is difficult to explain God's Will. Why did Noah build an ark in the middle of the desert. Because, God told him to do this and God has born our children in my heart regardless of the sense it makes to humans. In the middle February 2005 we were on a journey to Siberia.
We arrived in Moscow and we were met by Russian agency representatives. They took us over to the domestic Russian airport. We met another adoptive parent while there. She was with her friend and her husband had worthy reasons not to come on the first trip. As we visited she told me about her precious little girl who was also in the same orphanage. Then we boarded our plane for Siberia together for another five hours of flying!!! There was a couple who got onto the plane late and they were also Americans.

Once we were allowed to move about, I went up a few rows to talk to the couple, who had boarded late. They told me they were also going to Minusinsk Specialized Children's Home. The woman told me they had a referral from there and turned it down as this little girl had a diagnosis of mild CP in her medicals. She then proceeded to tell me that they felt this child had many more medicals problems than those listed and she would be be hopelessly ill.
I sort of had a feeling that she had been offered our Annie Kate before we took her. I ask her if she knew the Russian name of this little girl. Yep, it was our referral. She was so apologetic when I told her that we were going to see this child and we intended to take her. When I returned to my seat and told Duane about it he thought it was ridiculous and told me not to worry about it. But, I admit it made the wait to meet Annie more difficult.

When we landed in Krasnoyarsk, two very sweet ladies were waiting to take all six of us to the hotel for a brief rest before we boarded a train for Minusinsk. It was extremely cold in Siberia. Bubbles froze in mid air...ha ha. We really loved the lady who had come with her friend. She was a very sweet and kind person. She offered me much comfort about our referral and helped Duane and I both enjoy the trip so much. Her daughter is darling and doing very well. We still contact one another. The other couple were looking at an older child.
When we arrived in Minusinsks we went directly to the orphanage in two cars. It was similar to Ukraine in that the building was very run down on the outside. But, inside they were excellent. the children were very well cared for and loved very much. Annie has bonded more easily to us than any of our other children. Perhaps, it was her orphanage care givers and her personality type. She is just darling and we are so proud of her. When she was brought into the room, we could not believe how healthy she looked.

She does have a mild touch of CP. However, it does not have much of an effect on her. I have posted pictures of her when we first saw her. Two glorious days of visiting and playing with her. We fell deeply in love!!! Then the time came when we had to leave her and return home. As the plane left the runway in Krasnoyarsk I cried. It was so difficult to leave her and to know it would be months before I would see her again. I also worried that some other couple (domestic) would see her and want her before court.
But, there was not much I could do. So the long wait began. When we got back home, my Mom perked up so much, when she saw Annie's pictures. She told me she thought Annie did look a lot like my sister. Then a few days later I took Mom to see the progress on our new home. It was disappointingly slow and little had happened while we were gone. Every day I went to work, checked the new house's progress and waited for a court date.

It seemed to consume me and we were still in grief over my Daddy. Kisty had brought my mother over to the rental house to visit in March. Mother told me it seemed we were never going to bring that baby home fast enough. She also told me she did not feel well that day. Our oldest son, Weldon, was staying at night time with mom to help with her care. Several nights after her visit to me she passed away in her sleep. I think daddy reached his hand down and said "Honey, come home with me. Enough is enough." She died peacefully as my adult son had no idea she passed until in the very early hours of morning...maybe around 6:00am.

I had lost both of my parents now and began to feel so sad. I just had to keep my self involved in work, the new house, and waiting for my baby. When it felt that I could not handle any more, God gave us our break. We got a court date for the end of May. It was a breath of fresh air for me!!! New life was coming into this family and we had all had great loss.

My brother in law had also lost his big brother right after my dad died. So our family needed something wonderful like our beautiful Annie. Two days after we came back to America with our new daughter, Annie Kate, we moved into our nice home. We have lived here three years and Annie has adjusted to her new life with us wonderfully. It is as though she has always been with us. Thank you God. He is good to us.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Adventure in Ukraine (Karissa)

Karissa "Ukrainian Princess"
Karissa (Maria) outside swinging at the orphanage in Sevastopol, Ukraine. They actually sent us outside in the early evening. It was not cold that day.

CHRISTIAN AND KARISSA JUNE 2002 MY BOY AND GIRL VIRTUAL TWINS Virtually twinned by God's special Design
+ <><
Meet the Gartner's boy and girl virtual twins!

Isn't God Amazing! This photo was taken in June 2002. They had not been home long. I never understood that there exists in reality three distinct types of twins and they are; fraternal twins, identical twins, and virtual twins. They act alike, look alike, think alike, plot alike, and are just closer than any of my children to each other. They have been together since newborn babies. Karissa (Maria) came to the orphanage at two weeks old and was put into the bed that touched rails with Artem's bed. Artem was almost 4 weeks old when Maria was placed next to him. The beds were set up with touching bed rails two by two. They ran side by side down two rows from one end of the room to the other. Christian and Karissa grew up in side by side beds all that time until we took them. Often they crawled into each other's beds and the care givers told me this was cute;-).
Gotcha Day! Karissa and her new Mama;-)

On the morning of February 2, 2002 we went to the orphanage to visit Christian. Usually the director did not come to visit with us. Today was different. She ask us to come into her office. I was very nervous as I thought maybe something was wrong and we would not be able to get our court date. The director must approve the adoption before court. Well, she was smiling and said she was now allowed to release the information regarding our daughter. I was so excited and Duane was delighted. We sat down at the table while Ira translated Karissa's medical and family history.

Her Ukrainian name was Maria (they called her Masha). We named her Karissa Ann Gartner. She and Christian are 27 days a part and have never lived without each other. They shared the same group since early infancy and had cribs side by side. After the exchange of information the director stood up and we were instructed to go to the baby room and a care giver would give her to us. She was not at all shy or afraid of us. In fact, she reached to me. Although she would not let Duane hold her, she did not cry. So each day we continued to go to the orphanage to visit the kids.
Court for Christian was set and everything became final. Christian was our son on February 8, 2002 and our fourth child. We gained custody of him late that evening and took him to our hotel room. He was so darling and looked around in trusting curiosity. Duane called home to tell everyone the good news. Our adult daughter Kisty had been staying with Casey at our home in the USA. She told us Casey was crying often and not sleeping at night. He was having many difficulties at school and seemed very depressed.

After a lengthy discussion, Duane and I decided we would return to Kiev, fly to Poland and out process Christian. Then the three of us would fly home and I could spend a week at home. I would return for Karissa and finish her paperwork. When a court date was set, Duane would fly back over and go to court. He would immediately fly back home to Christian and Casey. Karissa would be out processed by me.

It seemed like the perfect plan and it was approved by the judge, the orphanage director, and the NAC. We officially accepted her referral. Duane would need to be present for 3 more visits before her adoption could go to court. They said he could come for two visits the day before court and one visit the day Duane and I went to court.

We returned to our apartment after our visit with Karissa and began to pack for our trip to the USA. Leaving her behind was one of the most difficult things that I have done. Casey was getting so depressed and he really needed to see his Mommy. Additionally, the matter was complicated as Duane had no leave time from work left and this adoption was costing much more than we had anticipated. I felt I needed to be home for at least a week to help Christian adjust to his new environment.

So, we packed up the three of us, and on the next morning returned to Kiev, to complete more paperwork. After which we flew out to Warsaw, Poland. It took us about three days in Warsaw before we left for the USA with my plane ticket to return in five days. I cried as the plane pulled off because my little girl wasn't with us. But, for Duane to stay three and a half more weeks without any pay from his work was sure disaster for us financially. We had no savings reserves to fall back on so he had to get back to work. I also hated leaving my wonderful and exciting new baby boy once we got home.

It seemed I was just getting to know Christian and then I would be separated from him three and half weeks upon my return to Ukraine. The worst part of the deal was for Karissa. She was left behind with no one. Her crib-mate was gone, the family who had been loving her with Christian was gone and she was left with no one to sooth her loss at 14 months old. No familiar face when she woke, no familiar face next to her as she fell asleep at night.

Duane, Christian, and I landed to one happy little seven year old boy in Lubbock, Texas. Casey was eagerly waiting in the airport with our two grown kids, my sister and her husband, and my precious mom and dad. What a wonderful reunion. And our grand babies little Trish and DeeDee were there, as well. It was such a happy reunion and yet there was a very big part of our family missing.

I had five days to rest up (I did not recover before traveling), visit with Casey, plus get Christian to the doctor for his scabies. My business also needed my attention greatly. It was a whirl wind for those short five days. I also had to restock the supplies in the house, repack, buy clothes for our new daughter, and do a lot of laundry!!! The best part of that time was seeing my family and going to the Gymboree store to buy clothes for Karissa.

Before I knew it, the time had come for me to return for our little girl. This is where things get really crazy. I flew into Kiev after being very jet lagged. When I got to the passport check point the guard just looked at me very curiously. He ask me where was my visa for entry!!!! Dumb all our hast to get things done on my brief week home, we did not think I would need a double entry visa, and ours was SINGLE entry. I could not believe it!!! They put me back on the first plane to Paris, France.

When I landed in Paris I had cried my eyes out and really did not know what to do. The French security met me as I got off the plane and took me to a holding area. They collected my luggage and after questioning me basically turned me out into the streets of Paris as all the airlines had closed for the night. I kept trying to get a taxi to help me find a hotel, but, none of them would take me. Finally, a very nice woman could see I was very distressed and ask me if she could help. I pointed to the big hotel across the way that I had been trying to get a taxi to take me to.

She walked over and in french called the hotel transportation to come for me. After I checked into a room I got on my knees and began to pray...for a miracle. How could I get into Ukraine before they considered her abandoned? Which we had agreed that I would return no later than the 16th of February. I left the USA with plenty of time to spare. But, this was more time than I had planned. No way would there be enough time to return to the USA and wait for the Ukrainian Consulate to send me a visa.
I had called Duane earlier and he suggested I return home. After, crying and praying half of the night, jet lagged to the maximum degree, and confused in a foreign country, it occurred to me that maybe there was a Ukrainian Consulate in Paris. Finally, I slept for a few hours and then got dressed. When I walked up to the concierge my heart was pounding. I asked him if there was a Ukrainian Consulate in Paris and these beautiful words came out..."Yes Madame...would you like to go there?" Would I like to go THERE!!!!

Hastily, I went out to the taxi and we were off on a ride to downtown Paris. The taxi driver looked into the back seat and said..."What, you are in the city of love on this day, alone?" I had not even realized it was Valentine's Day...ha ha. When we got downtown in Paris, that Ukrainian flag flying, looked so good to me. I got into line and when it came my turn I received the bad news that they only accepted Paris Bank checks!!!!

So I left the Consulate and began going from bank to bank. I could not get a bank check without an account!!!! I returned to the Consulate and with a room full of people I asked if there was anyone who would write a bank check and I would pay twice as much in cash for the check. A very nice man said he would do it. Proudly, with check in hand, I proceeded to the window. The lady took my passport and returned with a beautiful Ukrainian entry visa in place. I walked out of the consulate and realized that I needed a taxi to get back to my hotel.

Every taxi that I flagged did not stop. It was beginning to get dark and all kinds of strange people were wandering about. They were staring at me and I was really frightened. I began to pray and kept trying to remain calm. However, I was so exhausted, jet lagged, worried about Karissa, and about being killed in the streets of Paris, it was difficult to think straight. There was a narrow alleyway I had wandered blindly into. When I realized this, my heart leaped, into my throat. In a panic, I looked up and saw a street with cars. My pace picked up and I almost ran toward this street. Then I saw the most beautiful sight.....flags of every country.

It is funny to me now, as I sit safely, writing about it all. I was so in shock that I did not even realize what I had stumbled across. There was a little security gate with a guard. I said to him "Sir, I am an American citizen and I'm lost."He quickly ushered me into the gate and escorted me to the building. It was so pretty inside with white marble and a receptionist who ask me if I was alright.

I told her I had been wandering, trying to get back to my hotel, but no taxi would stop. The big problem was that I did not have a telephone card for the public phones. I know at first she thought...what a nut case!!! She said..."why, you are in the United Nations, madame." Truthfully, I had had enough and I broke down and cried. I explained why I was in downtown Paris (not a tourist). She was kind enough to call a taxi for me. Upon, returning to my hotel, the front desk seemed very worried and said my husband had called many times from the USA. I hurried to my room and called him. Next, I called Ira who was extremely worried as to why I was not on the flight the day before.

The first thing, the next morning, I got up and went to the airport in hopes of catching a flight to Kiev. I did not have a problem getting a flight out and by the afternoon I was in Kiev. Within a few hours Ira and I were on a train for Sevastopol. We walked into the inspector's office on the morning of February 16th. The first evening of my return I took Karissa outside to swing. She was so glad to see me and I can not describe how happy I was to see her.
Three weeks later, Duane flew in to Ukraine the day before court, and flew out the day after court. He was brought by car to Sevastopol. Karissa became our daughter on March the 6, 2002. It was during our court hearing, that I realized how God had given to me, what we had prayed for in 1990. Our virtual twins have been a huge blessing in our life and have fulfilled our hearts in so many ways. God has blessed us greatly!!! Karissa became our fifth child;-).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Adventure To Ukraine (Christian)

Christian snoozing in 2006

Christian and Karissa's orphanage in Sevastopol, Ukraine

Mama and Papa in Warsaw, Poland 2002

Christian in the orphanage
Gotcha day in 2002

As Weldon became an adult, Casey began to tell us, that he was lonely and he wished for a little sister or brother. I kept telling him that Mommy and Daddy were lucky to have him. It was not possible for us to have any more babies. But, Duane had other ideas. He ask me to look into adoption for us again. I had begun to look at different possibilities of adoption. It seemed that I could not stop researching information about International Adoption and particularly in the country of Ukraine. I felt so drawn there.

I had looked at several agencies and decided we would use one in California. We sent in our fees and I began the paper chase. Theoretically, I was expecting!!! It was a few weeks before Christmas when we received a call that we would be traveling to Ukraine in January of 2002. The agency had told us that they had made the travel arrangements and we should not be gone longer than three weeks. It was very difficult to leave our little seven year old boy at home.

However, we felt it best that we not take him to a foreign country where we had no idea what to expect. We had applied to Ukraine for two girls between the ages of two and four years old. This agency had promised us that if we paid fees for two children in advance that we would get referrals for two girls who were young and healthy. So it was our expectation that we would be referred within our requested adoptive parameter. Were we in for a surprise!!! After many hours of travel we arrived exhausted, dirty, and ready to find our "girls". In Kiev we were met by a woman and man who claimed to be our translator (Ira) and adoption coordinator (Valerie).

They told us that they had an apartment for us and we would first be taken to the grocery store. Great....we had traveled 5,000 miles and now they wanted us to go to the grocery store!!! Well, Duane learned his first Ukrainian word on the way to the store...peeva (beer). Additionally, I bought onions, potatoes, ham, butter, cheese, jelly, and a wonderful fresh baked loaf of bread. When we arrived at our apartment, our coordinator (through the translator), said he wanted to talk to us about our meeting at the National Adoption Center (NAC) tomorrow.

Duane ask him to come in and we all sat down in the tiny living room. Valerie proceeded to tell us that he knew of twin girls and we should go to Sevastopol. He told us that it did not matter which child we chose, all that mattered was getting to Sevastopol. I ask if we did not understand the procedure here? I thought we were to get information from looking through books of children. He stood up and told us to do what he said and everything would be just fine. Otherwise our agency will expect us to return to America. I thought this was a bit mean, but, what can we do in a foreign country. We had to trust Valerie and we knew God was going to take care of us here.

We were so excited. I kept telling Duane that God was giving us the opportunity to parent twins after all. In the little kitchen I was frying potatoes, ham, and onions in butter. What a fattening dinner!!! But, it was ever so delicious. It was so difficult to sleep that night. All I could think about were those twin girls. It seemed that I had no sooner gone to sleep than Duane was waking me up to get dressed for our appointment.

We arrived that morning at the NAC early for our appointment. It was so nerve wracking!!! A long hallway with doors on one side and a long line of chairs on the opposite wall. We were the only couple there. People who worked there would come out of a door and slam it shut. This went on for a good hour before we were called into an office with a woman sitting behind a desk in the corner. She had several large blue books on her desk. Ira discussed something with her and I heard the word Sevastopol. The woman looked at one particular book and gave it to me. Ira ask me to look through the book. I did as I was told. Next, Ira ask me to just pick any child. I told her to tell the woman we wanted to see this child.

She stood up and walked over to the door and opened it. We followed her out and she told us to sit down. Then she went into a door slamming it behind her and a few minutes later she came out slamming the door. I don't think it was us, it was just how they worked all day, coming, going, and slamming doors behind. The woman handed some papers to Ira who told us to follow her. We had no idea what we were doing, but, we just kept following directions. Ira took us outside the cafe. She and Valerie had a heated discussion that was not translated for us.

Ira seemed very distressed, but, when I asked her if everything was alright.....she replied with why would it not be. Next, we walked down the street to a little cafe and were told Ira would wait with us while others took care of getting us permission to travel to Sevastopol. Several hours later Valerie came back and told Ira that everything had been arranged and he would take us back to the apartment.

That night I got everything ready to go as we would be catching a train very early in the next evening. All I could think about were those two little girls. Valerie told us they were only 13 months old. It was just hard believe that we would get twins. Two chances in a lifetime to parent twins!!!

That night I fried the remainder of ham and we had sandwiches on the most delicious bread I had ever ate. We had nothing to eat all day and it was such wonderful food. I spent another night laying there dreaming of my little twin girls. I finally fell asleep and did not wake up until near noon. We were so hungry and decided to try to find a restaurant. The neighborhood looked quite shabby. Like we were living in a dumpy rundown high rise apartment building among many of the same type buildings. Our apartment was quite nice and cozy, but, it was scary in the hallway. I kept thinking this must be the bad side of New York City;-). But, no one seemed to notice we were not residence's of the area.

It was very cold outside and we walked briskly making sure to map out where we were going. There was a little store on the corner. We went inside and used the money Ira had exchanged for us the day we were in the cafe outside the NAC. We bought food to cook and snacks to take on the train. The day seemed to be going by so slowly. Like we were stuck in slow motion. Since we did not see a restaurant, Daune and I returned to our apartment, and I cooked another delicious meal. It was even better, as we found a green pepper which I added that to the mix, plus stirred in a few eggs. I laid down on the bed and tried to take a nap, but, I just couldn't stop thinking about our babies.

Soon, Valerie was knocking on our apartment door. I almost jumped through the ceiling. Duane hurriedly got our luggage and we went downstairs to the waiting van. It was getting colder and had began to snow beautiful clean white flakes. As we drove through the city I could not help but think about all those people living in the apartment buildings. Each building looked much the same. All in very poor condition on the outside. I hoped and imagined that they were living in apartments that were nice on the inside.

The train station was quite pretty. It was old and very nostalgic. We boarded the train and found our compartment. Duane, Ira, and I sat at the window and watched as we pulled away from the train station and out into the city. Soon I noticed we were in the beautiful country and had left the city behind us. We were off on an adventure that we never dreamed we would be on.

The scenery was beautiful with small quaint houses and the biggest chickens I had ever seen. They were amazingly large!!! That still jumps out in my memory;-). It looked so much like the pictures that I had seen with older women who had on scarfs and a man walking with his dog and a big stick. Ira suggested we go to the dining car and have some dinner. We walked in the rocking train from one car to another. You could look down into a space between cars and see the tracks clicking by quickly. It was so extremely hot on the train and bitterly cold outside. The smell of cigarette smoke was horribly strong.

We entered the dining car and ate our dinner then made our way back to our compartment. Ira had a compartment next to ours. She shared with another female who was traveling. Our compartment was reserved with just Duane and I as occupants. A lady came around in uniform and asked us (in Ukrainian) a question. Ira popped her head out of the compartment next to ours and spoke with her. Ira ask us for (Ukrainian money) to rent sheets and a hand towel. We bought her sheets as well. The lady handed us two sets of sheets and two hand towels.

We settled into our rocking train beds and I went to sleep immediately. I woke to a gentle knock on our door. It was still dark outside. Finally I was adjusting to the time difference. We excitedly got up and dressed. Duane and Ira went to find coffee. I won't even describe the train bathroom....lets just say outside would have been so much better!!! The worst part of the train ride had been the unbearable heat. It was like a sauna. I had rather dreaded getting dressed as it was almost tolerable without clothes. Of course, our window would not open so we had no way to relieve the heat.

Soon, Duane and Ira returned with mission accomplished. Nice hot coffee with cream and sugar. We sat there as the sun came up shining with a golden glow in the clouds with the backdrop of a gorgeous blue sky. It reminded me of a magical picture. We were sipping our coffee and eating some of the food that I had bought the day before at the little store in Kiev. Finally, the train pulled into a city and slowly jerked to a stop as Daune, Ira, and I gathered our luggage. When we stepped off the train Valerie was waiting for us. Maybe he had flown or came by car, I didn't know how he arrived ahead of us.

But, soon we were loaded into a tiny car. It was amazing how many people can fit into a tiny foreign made car. The driver (not Valerie) was a reckless maniac. I kept thinking we would never to make it to our hotel in Sevastopol. The driver always managed to narrowly miss hitting other cars in motion, or parked at the side of the street, or worse yet...pedestrians who scurried out of this maniac's way. Duane and I just kept looking at each other and smiling. I guess we were glad for each moment we continued to live without crashing.

Eventually, we pulled up to the side of this very old, yet nice, hotel. We went inside with Ira and she discussed everything with the clerk. Duane handed over his Master Card. Next, we were handed keys for two rooms. One for Ira and one for us. Our room was quite nice with a small refrigerator, balcony, and bedroom off to the side of the entry. There was also an electric pot for heating water.

This brought me to realize it was lunchtime. We called next door to Ira and ask her if she was settled into her room. Then we ask her if she wanted to go out to find some lunch and a little store where we could buy a few things. You guessed it...peeva, Coke Light (diet Coke), ham, cheese, butter, jam, and yummy bread. When we returned to our room several hours later I was ready to drop. Ira walked faster than any person I had ever seen, at a near running dash. Again, I slept like a baby.

The next morning was our day to meet with the inspector and get permission to go to the orphanage. I had this horrible feeling inside, like when I was laying in the back of our SUV, on the way to Lubbock when we lost our twin boy and girl. It was a feeling of gloom and doom. In fact, Duane asked me a million time if I was alright. I just felt empty inside and scared something was horribly wrong. Valerie was waiting for us in the lobby downstairs. He had arranged for us to walk down the street and get into another tiny car. This time I do not even remember the ride. I was just in a daze.

We pulled up into what seemed like an alleyway only much wider. The building had a small foyer with a lady standing there smiling. I smiled back at her and somehow felt she was not a bad person. Valerie, on the other hand, I kept getting very bad vibes from him. He would not look at me and he barely would look at Ira or Duane. We followed the lady with Ira into a small office. Valerie went out the door and this frightened me even more. We sat down and this lady began to tell me about the picture she had of the child I picked out in Kiev at the NAC. He was a very ill child as were all the children in that big blue book I leafed through.

I kept asking Ira when would she mention our twins. Ira finally ask her (in Ukrainian) about twin girls. The lady shook her head no. I clearly understood that much. Ira whispered to me that someone who had been visiting a little boy saw them and had accepted them. I couldn't help myself when I started to cry. I tried not to and then I saw Duane with tears coming down his face, too. All those feelings of loss from twelve years before came rushing back to me. I had lost another set of twins.

There was a picture of the Orthodox Jesus on the wall next to her desk. I just kept staring at this picture and asking why in my mind. It seemed that I could not hear anything going on around me at this point. When I glanced over at the lady, she was looking at me, as I looked at her picture. She actually got tears in her eyes and she turned to Ira. She and the lady in the office were having a conversation and Ira turned to me and said: "She has a baby boy who is only 14 months old. He is a pretty boy. Won't you look at him?"

Duane was furious and said we had come to Ukraine for girls and was there not one baby girl in Ukraine? The lady looked at Duane and said in English: "Little boy need Mama and Papa, too." Duane took me by the arm and turned around. We walked out the door as I looked back over my shoulder. Duane was saying that he was going to kick Valerie's rear end. He was so mad. However, Valerie had already been paid half of his fees which came to $8,000 dollars and was not outside the building.

We got into the taxi in the street and all three of us were so very upset. Duane and I went straight to our room and Ira told us in the lobby of the hotel that she would contact us later. Once inside our room, Duane began to pack, and I laid down on the bed. I was tearfully praying and all I could hear in my mind was "Little boy need Mama and Papa, too." Duane repeatedly called our agency, the agency executive director's home phone, the emergency numbers for traveling families, and no answer. In fact, we received no call back until we returned to the USA weeks later!!!

At one point he had called my Dad who had advised Duane not to return home without a child. I briefly spoke with him, but, was just too upset to think. As the day got later, I could hear that Duane was still very distressed. It was close to 4:00pm. I went into the living room and Duane was sitting on the couch with his face in his hands. When I walked over to him, he stood up, and took me into his arms. Duane has never looked stronger to me than when he looked into my eyes and said: "Even little boys need a Mama and Papa, too."

I almost ran to the phone and called Ira's room. I said: "Ira, can we see the little boy?" Then I heard a click as she hung up on me. No sooner had I turned around and there was a knock at our door. I just knew it was Ira. When I opened the door she had her cell phone balanced on her shoulder and she was putting her boots on. She told us to hurry and she flew down the hallway to the stairs. We grabbed out coats and threw on our shoes. We literally ran all the way down stairs and out the door into the street. She hailed a taxi. I thought she was going to throw her self in front of the car. We all jumped in and she told him where to go while trying to catch her breath.

This taxi driver drove like a wild man through the streets and out into the opposite side of Sevastopol. The lady in the office was waiting and got out of her car when we pulled up to the orphanage gates. She handed Ira some papers and got back into her car pulling away from the curb. The building was very run down on the outside and I thought my heart was going to pound out of my chest. The three of us went into the building. It was very quiet and I could smell food being cooked. Eventually, I learned to distinguish this smell of cabbage cooking. Ira handed the papers to a man behind a desk which was several feet back from the door.

The man picked up his phone and made a call. I am assuming it was to the director's office. Soon a woman in a white lab coat came down the stairs and into the foyer. Ira introduced her as the orphanage director and we followed her back upstairs. The director opened a door and we went into an office with a huge long wooden table. It could have seated an entire corporation of people. The director sat down at a small desk and we were seated at the table.

Ira was translating what was being said about this little boy's birth mother and she stated that he had severe food allergies and would not eat normally. They were giving him sea salt as part of his treatment. During her information there was a knock at the door. It brought Duane and I to our feet. A care giver came into the room holding a baby with peach fuzz for hair and big light blue eyes. His skin a was very fair and he had a rash. He looked very nervous and confused. I looked at Duane who had the same shocked look on his face that I had on mine. Our eyes met and we looked at the baby again. I walked over to the baby and took him into my arms. He started to cry and Ira told us to bring him this way. Duane said to me "Here is our son".

He was so extremely cute!!! We accepted him that evening and began our visits. His name would be Christian Mikeal Gartner. We called him by his orphanage name initially which was Artem. He was very small and wore a size 12 months loosely. The way to his heart was definitely through his stomach. He ate like a horse and I noticed that his rash was actually scabies. As time went by he was getting stronger and happier. Of course, Valerie showed back up the next day after we accepted him. This was a good thing, as we needed him to complete our adoption paperwork.

A few days after we had been visiting him, Ira came into our hotel room, she was highly excited. She said she had a surprise for us and could we go to the lady in the office before our daily visit to Christian. Much to our surprise, the lady in the office, told us that Christian had a group mate who was just available for adoption. It was another baby and "she" was 13 months old. They were waiting for her paperwork to be completed in Kiev before we could meet her. We were on top of the world and very ready for our court date to make Christian our's forever.

The first picture above is the Sevastopol Baby Orphanage where approximately 100 babies live. The next two pictures are of Duane and I with Christian in Warsaw, Poland. In 2002 the American Embassy in Kiev could not issue an exit visa. They were all processed out of Warsaw. Going back in time a little is a picture of Christian in the orphanage and the one beside it was gotcha day!!! Our little boy buried his face in my neck as we walked out of the orphanage gates and he never looked back. Christian fell asleep in the car ride to our hotel. The final picture is of the orphanage director and Christian in my arms the day we left the orphanage three and a half weeks after we met him.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bio Baby Bunting

Duane and I were beginning to settle into the idea that Kisty and Weldon would be our only children. It seemed logical to stop here since we had a girl and boy. We certainly were grateful to God for these special gifts. Things seemed to be going well until I begin to have difficulties medically. We decided to see a specialist in Albuquerque. He recommended that I have a surgery.

When I woke up from the surgical procedure, the doc told us that things had gone a lot more positively, than he was expecting. Perhaps we might want to consider trying to conceive now, as he had hopefully, repaired a few things that he believed were keeping me from getting pregnant. His suggestion was to first try intrauterine insemination (IUI). Then, after a number of courses, if I did not conceive. we would be good candidates for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).

Duane and I discussed this for several months and tried to make sense of the direction our lives should take. We decided to contact an infertility specialist closer to our home. I had heard of a really good doctor who was female and her success rates were really high. But, our medical insurance would not cover and it was very expensive for IVF, Actually, it was not inexpensive for IUI. We made an appointment to consult with her about our options. Since this is a public blog I will refer to her as Dr. D.

She recommended that for the IUI's I should try first taking fertility drugs by mouth. It was about $500 a month with medication, ultrasounds, blood work, and the procedure. I was so excited that first time we tried. The idea that we might actually get another newborn baby and a biological child seemed like such a God given miracle in our life. But, unfortunately I did not conceive. Nor did I conceive during any of the 22 tries that followed. I had been in treatment for nearly two years at this point. Dr. D suggested we up the chances by doing an IVF attempt.

Now we would really be getting into some expense. During 1988 and 1989, the IUI expense each month had taken on the financial burden, equivalent to a nice luxury sized car payment....only we weren't getting a car. We just got a lot of failure and disappointment month after month. It really wares on the heart when you try and try with nothing but failures. So my spirits of hope were pretty low at this point.

But, I bucked up and started taking the inject-able drugs for one month to prepare my body to receive the fertility drugs and hopefully succeed with IVF. Dr. D checked my lab work daily. I spent many hours traveling over to Lubbock. I would get up very early every morning that month before the procedure and get the kids to school. Then go for my ultrasound and blood work. After about a week of strong hormone injections my eggs were ready for harvest.

In the late summer of 1990, Duane and I were very excited about trying IVF. So, I went onto the procedure table, to surgically have my precious eggs removed. We had three very nice large eggs that developed into 6 and 8 cell embryos. They were so beautiful to look at under the microscope that day they were implanted into my uterus.

The human embryo looks like a colorful jelly fish without any tentacles. And they make little quivering movements in the incubation tank in their lab dish. Very beautiful sight. This procedure was costing us $15,000 dollars to attempt conception once. Pretty pricey financially, emotionally, and physically for what other couple acquired from the pleasures of love.

With the transfer complete, I was told to go home, and lay around on the couch for ten days. Then I could come back to Lubbock for a blood test. I never realized how long ten days could be!!! Finally, on the tenth day, I drove over to Lubbock and the embryologist (Dr. P) drew my blood. He told me that it would require a couple of hours to have the results and for me to go occupy myself. I went and walked around the grounds at Texas Tech Medical Complex. Then over to the hospital and looked at the new babies in the window at the maternity unit. Bought a snack in the cafeteria and then returned with my heart in my throat to find the results.

The moment I walked into the lab, Dr. P had a huge smile on his face. He laughed and said "we're pregnant". I just broke down and cried. He said "Aren't you going to ask how pregnant are you?" His question took me back momentarily and I said "What do you mean?" Dr. P said "Your test boomed with positive....I think it is twins or triplets!" I could not believe it as we only had three embryos to transfer. Although, they were very high quality embryos. But, how could they have all implanted!!! Dr. P had called Dr. D who came over to the lab. She brought a bottle of progesterone in oil and informed me that I would be taking these painful injections every day and having blood tests weekly.

Okay....not a problem if it meant it would help me carry my babies. She sat up a follow up appointment for two weeks and an ultrasound. Duane and I loaded up the two kids and we went to show our children their new babies. The ultrasound reviled that it was twins. Oh, I was so hoping for boy and girl twins. We were so excited and happy!!! God was so good to us and now He had performed another miracle in our life.

I felt really wonderful physically, although the IM injection of progesterone in oil everyday was not something I looked forward to. Plus my hip stayed painfully tender, as once my body absorbed the progesterone, it left the oil behind. It actually takes up to one year after each shot for the oil to completely dissolve from the muscle. So each day I made a new deep muscle injection to leave it's knotty tender spot.

As my pregnancy grew, I gained more and more confidence, that we would have a second family of children. Kisty and Weldon were so excited. Duane and I were walking on cloud nine!!! Fall was passing and our pregnancy grew. At Halloween, I felt so well that I walked a few blocks with Kisty and Weldon so they could trick or treat. Kisty would be going to a party at her friends house after she walked with Weldon and I through the neighborhood for trick or treat. Several people giggled and made pumpkin jokes about my tummy. Although I was only about 23 or 24 weeks....there were two babies in there and it showed.

I felt pretty tired when we got home from our walk. Kisty left for her party and Weldon sat down at the kitchen table eating his selected "safe" treats. I got into a relaxing bath and watched my tummy move. The amazing acrobats were in there. Duane and I went to bed early that evening. The next morning, I still felt tired, and so Duane recommended I lay on the couch that day.

In the evening, when the kids came in from school, we got homework and baths out of the way before dinner. I sent the kids to bed early....with much protest from them ;-). Then I got into bed and slept all night. The next morning, I felt like I might be coming down with a fever. I thought maybe I had caught a flu bug. I took a couple of Tylenol and remained in bed all day. During the night I woke to a ruptured membrane. I woke Duane and said; "Honey, my water broke." I was softly crying. He was in immediate denial and said I must have accidentally wet the bed. I was crying harder and he knew it was serious. He jumped up, dressed, got some blankets for me and put the seats down in the SUV. Then Duane put me in my little car-bed comfortably and we took off for Lubbock.

When I arrived, Dr. D and Dr. P were there waiting. Dr. D said yes it was amniotic fluid and I needed to be put into the MF/ICU immediately. They put me on strict bed rest. Not to get up for ANY reason. So there I laid flat on my back for three weeks. Never have I prayed and cried so much. It was unbelievable that this could be happening to us.

On the morning of November 11, 1990 my second amniotic membrane ruptured and our tiny preemie twin BOY and GIRL were born. They were such tiny little doll babies. One weighed 13 ounces and the other weighed 11 ounces. I had made it to the 27th week of pregnancy before labor forced them into a world they were not ready to be in. The doctors said it was a slim chance that little Terry Austine and Tranelle Lynette would survive. If they did....they would likely never be normal. Shortly after their birth, Jesus called them home.

Now, at that time, I could not make sense of why God would not allow my babies to live. Duane and I cremated them and they are waiting for me in a pretty little brass box in the top shelf of my closet. I just had to have them near to me and we could not bare putting them into the ground. Someday, when the Lord calls me home, I will be buried with their urns.

There were so many things going on, in my mind and heart, coupled with poor health after laying in bed for 3 weeks. It really took about one year before I was healthy and mentally stabilized enough to try IVF again. However, for the next seven years following their death, I could not make any logical sense of why I lost my twins. Eventually, I learned why God had brought me down that painful path, and the answer was in a far away foreign country. I will explain that later.

Finally, I felt I had rested sufficiently, maintained super nutrition, got good exercise, and went through much mental healing. It was the right time to do another IVF try. Unfortunately, I did not conceive. So I waited six months and we tried again. Again, I did not conceive. This was so disappointing, but, we waited six more months and tried again. I still did not conceive!!! I felt like God did not want us to have our heart's desire. Duane completely disagreed. He told me that as God cares for the little sparrow...he so much more cares for me. So with Duane's insistence I tried one more IVF and I tested POSITIVE!!!!! In 1993, our beautiful biological child was born full term and healthy. We named him Casey Jay Gartner.

Duane and I have enjoyed this child so very much. Kisty was sixteen and Weldon was thirteen years old with this newborn baby in the home and it was wonderful. My family was so proud of him. My sister had two right after Weldon and a second child three years later. So Casey was they only baby in the family and everyone showered their affection on him. He was a beautiful baby!!!!

About a year later Kisty graduated from High School. Weldon was finishing elementary school and going into Junior High School. Kisty moved out of the house and now we began to adjust to another heavy transition. Which was a lot more difficult than I thought. I had cared for her, protected her, kept her close under my wing for 18 years, and now how could the time passed so quickly! Wow!!! Weldon became the oldest child in the house. He helped me accept Kisty growing up and moving out, by saying how happy he was to have his own room, and did not have to share a room with a baby!!!!...LOL

So our little family had grown by one more child. Yet, it had decreased by one child. It was only three years later in 1996 that Kisty gave birth to a daughter...Little Trisha. I then became a grandmother!!!! Now that was so cool. Trisha was a beautiful little girl and I had her with me a great deal of the time. Little Trisha and Casey really enjoyed one another. They are still very close. I felt that life was very sweet!!! The pictures above show our new family of five, Casey at 10 months old, me barefooted and nine months pregnant, Casey at the age of 23 months, and Little Trisha and Casey at our 25th wedding anniversary. They were two and almost five years old.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A place to begin our story

Hello readers and welcome to our family blog. This is something I have wanted to do for several years. I just recruited a little help from my 14 year old son, Casey Jay, to begin. So I want to open with a big thank you to him for encouraging his Mom. Hopefully, you will enjoy our journey to our new child we anticipate adopting from Russia this year. Our little girl is six years old and she will be the ninth child in our family. Her name will be Katie Aunna. She is waiting for us in an orphanage in a city bordering the Arctic Circle. It is our dream and prayer to have her home by this summer.
To give you a little history about our family, we were married in a beautiful Catholic Church, August 18, 1973. Duane and I were first time bride and groom. We were two young adults very much in love. The Vietnam War was coming to a close and the world seemed to be going a little crazy during those times. But, they were ever so sweet to us. I actually met Duane at the military base here in our home town where he had been stationed. During that very first year of our marriage we desired to have children. Unfortunately, I did not conceive and so we began to discuss the idea of adopting a child.
Because Duane and I were very young we wanted a newborn baby. We first attempted to adopt privately. It was a huge disappointment to say the least. However, we persisted to search, as we knew God had a plan for us. There was an employee of Duane's company who had a niece living in California. She had become pregnant and wanted a young couple who shared her Catholic beliefs to adopt her baby. I was very insecure after the first failed adoption attempt. Then again, what did we have to lose by trying? So we accepted the offer and much to our surprise and joy our first child came into our life during 1977.
What a beautiful little girl she was!!! We named her Kisty Elaine. I held her in my arms at only a few hours old. Two days later we took her home from the hospital and presently she has blessed us with two beautiful grandchildren. Further, she named her first daughter after me! We call her Little Trisha and she is a delight to my life. That is Little Trish in the third photo above....Isn't she a doll?!?!?! Next, Kisty gave birth to another healthy little girl, DeeDee Marie, who is full of zest for life. She is the darling little girl in the second photo above. So my first blog pictures are of our first family of children and our precious grandchildren...what a typical Grandmother I am...ha ha.

Going back in time a thirty four years ago....Kisty was the only grandchild to my parents at that time. Duane's family lived (and still do) in Kansas with Dorthy and Toto. There had not been a baby in our family since my younger sister, who was a teenager, at this point in time. Needless to say, my family spoiled Kisty rotten and I adored her. She was the prissy little girlie-girl of my dreams. Actually, she is still very special to me as my first born child and oldest daughter. I love to brag on my children....those grown and not so grown up. Forgive me if I do it too much!!!

In 1980, after Kisty was almost three years old, we wanted to add another child to our family. This time we decided to use an adoption agency in Albuquerque. We live in a small rural town in New Mexico and so we qualified for an in-state domestic adoption with this agency. Amazingly, we applied for an adoption of a newborn baby boy and received his referral exactly one year from that date. I adore my father and named our first son after him and my most handsome husband. We named our son Weldon Duane and he was darling. He was placed into my arms at the age of five days old.
I will never forget the drive back to our home from Albuquerque with him. We were all dressed in beautiful clothes for the day we picked up our son. Kisty had on at least three can-cans (with tiny bells) under a sky blue velvet dress with cream lace trim. Duane had a black three piece suite with cream silk shirt and blue matching tie. I had a slim line blue velvet mini skirt with a cream silk blouse. Little Weldon was dressed in a velvet blue newborn jumper with a little cream shirt. I had custom ordered these clothes from a family clothing store over in Lubbock, Texas months before we got our referral. I was just so sure it was coming soon and we had to look sharp;-).

We had driven to Albuquerque the night before we were to pick Weldon up from the agency. Duane, Kisty, and I had a nice dinner out with my mom and dad who accompanied us to Albuquerque. Following dinner we all went to our hotel rooms to rest before we changed our family of one child into two. One thing which I find very annoying about my husband....he can sleep no matter what. Me, on the other hand, must have all things in perfect order to sleep. Kisty stayed in the room with her grandparents. Duane took his shower, jumped into bed, and began sleeping like a log.

NOT ME!!!! Oh no....I got my shower, cozy into my PJ's, and paced the hotel room. I watched a few hours of TV, listened to radio, read a book, posted into Weldon's baby book, paced the room, tried to conjure up visions of what this new baby looked like. The bottom line, I might have slept three or four hours tops, that night. When the sun finally came up I was dressed in my finest and ready to go!!! I got Duane's clothes from the closet and took Kisty's next door to my parents hotel room. There I dressed her and fixed her hair beautifully. My goodness, I can still see that image in my mind....she looked like a little princess with tiny flowers and cream ribbon in her curly hair. My parents were also beautifully dressed...we made a fine looking family that day.

We all loaded up in my parents vehicle and drove over to the agency. The agency director and our social worker were waiting for us and took us into a tiny office. We sat there for a few moments before the door opened and a baby wrapped in a blanket entered the room in the arms of the director. She said to me; "and here is your baby son!" and laid him in my arms. That thrill of getting the baby put into your arms is so indescribably wonderful. It is the most elating feeling ever imaginable. The soft sweet pride in my heart almost took my breath away. My husband's chest was swelled with fatherly pride and my parents smiled at the new baby sweetly. Kisty was just jumping up and down and saying "it's my baby boy's my turn to hold him's my turn". So I sat her in a chair and carefully allowed her to hold him. SWEET MEMORIES!!!!!
I changed his clothes and put his matching outfit on him. All the while everyone awed at him and our family. We signed a million documents and then packed up to return to home. On the way we realized that we had not had anything to eat that morning. Kisty was getting very fussy and I thought I might pass out from lack of sleep, no food, and lots of emotional excitement. So, we pulled over at a little Mom and Pop type breakfast cafe. We strolled in looking like a million bucks wanting fried bacon and eggs...ha ha.

I had Weldon snuggled down in a carrier car seat and Kisty in tow with my free hand. We sat down at a booth. I put Weldon in his carrier into the seat of the booth. He was fully covered as it was January and a bit cold. We all placed our order as the waitress admired us and smiled so sweetly at us. She was a middle age lady who showed special interest in wanting to see this baby under the covers. There was a man and woman sitting in the booth behind us. When the waitress brought our breakfast to us, little Weldon began to squirm and fuss, with that unmistakable tiny newborn baby cry. I uncovered this beautiful little baby and began to feed him his bottle.
He was having some difficulty being comfortable with it and so I stood up with him swaddled in my arms. I was standing between our booth and the booth next to ours. The lady who was sitting there had been, nonstop staring and smiling. She asked me; "Is this your baby?" to which I proudly replied; "Why, yes, he's my baby." The lady looked a bit puzzled and said; "How old is he? He seems very young." I replied; "He is five days old today...isn't he darling?!?!"
The tiny cafe had gotten very quiet and their attention was focused on our conversation and my newborn baby. The lady stood up and surveyed us openly and shook her head. Then she said "My, My, My, if I looked like you, honey, with a newborn baby....and five days after giving birth....why, I'd have at least one dozen. In fact, I'm gonna give you a blessing to have a huge family!" I smiled proudly and turned quite red. Little did she know....that was secretly what I wanted to do. So I feel she blessed me and I now have eight beautiful children and we are hoping for God to bless us with one more.

I have found a picture of our little family, around the one year mark, after this day I so fondly recall. It is a family picture of Duane, myself, Kisty at age 4 years, and Weldon at 14 months old. What a sweet little family. We were on top of the world with our two beautiful children and life was so good. God had blessed us abundantly, and to tell you the truth, we were very content. Duane felt our family was complete back in 1982. Little did he know what God and I were actually planning. I will continue on the Yellow Brick Road with the next post.