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Remembering Uganda: A different kind of birth story

July 22, 2013

We are telling our adoption story through recounting memories and sharing a series of emails that were sent while we were in Uganda in July & August of 2012. If you have made your way here because you are thinking about adopting from Uganda or are in the process, please know that the process is very different now than it was in 2012.

Have you ever listened to a woman tell her birth story, or have you ever read a birth story that a woman has written? I have found that in most of the stories I have read or heard, there is much emphasis put on what was good and wonderful and happy about the birth, while the pain that always comes with the birth is mentioned rarely, almost as if it is a footnote or an amusing incident in a much bigger story.

And I think this is a sweet gift from the Lord. For some reason, in His mercy and grace, the Lord has designed women to remember the good, the blessing, the joy and happiness that comes with giving birth while He helps them to forget the pain. Now, I am not saying women have total amnesia and can’t remember the pain at all. I certainly remember the pain from both Eliza’s and Jude’s births. What I am saying is that the pain is not what stands out in my mind when I remember their birth days. The pain is not the biggest, greatest and most-rehearsed part of those days and those stories. The gifts of a precious daugther and son, the tender help of skilled birth attendants, the steady presence of their daddy and my husband- that is what stands out in my mind when I remember their births.

And I have found that it is the same with adoption. As I was going through my emails from our early days in Uganda, I came across one I wrote to “my girls.” These are the women who live life with me, know me inside and out, know my struggles, my joy, my pain, my triumphs and my failures. Most importantly, these are the ladies who hold me up in prayer. One of my first emails from Uganda was to them, and it was raw and real. Reading it again after such a long time made me so thankful. It made me thankful first of all for the gift of such precious friends who I could send an email like this to, who I was certain would be lifting me up and encouraging me.

(This email was written very early on in our time at Speke, before my birthday and before we received the verbal ruling that granted us guardianship of Naomi and Nate):

Sent July 15, 2012
Hi ladies, I know y’all are praying for me, because the strength and grace Tim and I have felt the past 9 days can only have come from God. I wish I could list all the ways He is answering your prayers, but I only have a short amount of time to write and I need to ask y’all to continue to pray for me. There is so much that I don’t even know where to start, so I’ll go by family member:
Eliza [age 3.5 at this time]: Ironically, she is my biggest challenge right now, and therefore my most needed area of prayer. Those of you who know her well are familiar with her most frequent areas of struggle: refusing to eat, whining/crying when disappointed/told no and ignoring instructions. These are usually relatively easily corrected through instruction and discipline, but since we have been here, they have all reached critical mass status and are all massive problems, barely responding to correction and discipline. I know that she is dealing with jet lag, being in a brand-new place, being out of her routine, being away from everything familiar and having two new family members just like the rest of us, and yet I find myself less willing to be patient and compassionate with her, and therefore more quick to anger and harshness, because she is the oldest and “should know better.” Please pray for her heart to be more willing to obey and submit in these areas and for my heart to be more gracious and loving toward her.
Jude [age 2 at this time]: He is having a REALLY hard time adjusting to two new siblings. It is making his new “2-year-old-ness” magnify to exponential degrees. Mommy’s lap is almost always occupied by someone else, and even though I scoot people over to make room for him, he does not like having to share. Naomi and Nate get into the things he is playing with, and he is very quick to become angry. By God’s grace, I have been more able to be compassionate with him, because I remember how hard it was on Eliza to be displaced as the baby of the family, but it is still very hard to see my normally happy/easy going boy get so upset and so quick to become sad/angry.
Naomi [age 2.5 at this time]: She is doing better than I could have anticipated, and I am so thankful for that. She seems like she is starting to attach to me because she wants me to carry her ALL THE TIME. While I am so very grateful for this sign of attachment, I am so tired of carrying her. As in, physically, my body is tired. She is not light-weight, and my arms and back are sore after just a few days of carrying her around on my hip most of the day. I am also so tired of constantly carrying her that it is hard to find the desire to snuggle, carry, rock or do anything else physical with any of my other children, which I know is not at helpful for any of them. Please pray for actual physical strength for this phase and for my heart to want to serve ALL my kids in any way that I need to- even if I am on touch-overload. It is also very apparent that Naomi is a two-year-old who has never been parented. She is defiant and possessive. This is completely normal, survivalist behavior, extremely common among kids raised in orphanages, but it is super challenging, and we just need wisdom to know how to respond.
Nate [age 15 months at this time]: Taking him away from the orphanage and it’s food and schedule has proved challenging. He is waking up hungry more often, and he seems like he is transitioning from two naps to one. He’s fussy in the morning like he’s tired, but if we put him down for a nap, he doesn’t sleep in the afternoon. Just pray for wisdom for us as we try to figure out his sleeping/eating schedule, and pray that I will find the time and energy to connect with him (I am so busy with Naomi most of the day that Tim has been Nate’s primary caregiver, and he is showing signs of attachment to Tim, which is great, but I want him to be comfortable with and attach to me too, since when we get home I will be his primary caregiver.)
Tim: We are definitely in survival mode with four kids under four, still battling jet lag, sleeping in different rooms (Tim is sleeping in with the boys and me with the girls for the time being) and we have had almost no time to connect. We are doing fine, but we miss each other. Thankfully, we are quick to remind each other that this happened when Eliza was born and again when Jude was born. We know that this too shall pass. Pray for endurance until it does, and for us to find ways to connect, however briefly
Sleep: Jet lag has kicked my booty, and I have not had a full night’s sleep since we have been here. It is getting better each night, but I am sooooo tired. Please pray for strength for me and for the gift of sleep.
Court: We have our ruling on Thursday, and I find myself fearful and anxious every time I think about it. Our attorney said it seemed like it would be positive, but I know ultimately it is up to the judge, and I am just praying, praying, praying God will move his heart to grant us guardianship of these kids. The thought of taking them back to the orphanage after having them with us for two weeks is more than I can bear. Please pray.
I miss all of you terribly. In some ways, I can’t believe we’ve already been here a week, and in some ways I can’t believe it’s only been a week, seems like much longer. I know this email sounds like everything is going horribly, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. God is good and is sustaining us. We see evidence of His grace everywhere. These are just areas where we are in need of even more grace. Love y’all, Sarah
After reading this, I was overwhelmed with thankfulness that the difficulty described in this email is not what I remember most about Uganda. Again, I am not saying I have total amnesia and that I don’t remember at all how hard it was. I certainly do, just like I remember labor pain with Eliza and Jude. It’s just that this hard stuff is not what stands out in my memory. It doesn’t hold the biggest, most central role in my mind as I remember those days. Which means that God, in His kindness, has helped push the hardship of those days further back into my thoughts while He has brought to the forefront of my mind the good, the joy and the wonder of our time there. I am so grateful.
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