Wednesday, November 30, 2011

{Meeting Little Brother}

Family Photos-2

Life is about to get very crazy around here with Jayden's long expected transition into our home and all the training we will be required to complete. It's actually quite overwhelming but we will do anything to bring him home. His care is not difficult at all bit since he currently lives in a medical facility we are required to train on everything -- from how to change a diaper and put him in a car seat all the way up to his trach vent stuff, which is really the only thing we actually need to learn.

It's gonna be difficult -- a swallow our pride and go along with the flow and be as flexible as possible type thing. He is so worth it. Looks like either Adam and I both or just myself and Angela will be making the drive to Philadelphia everyday to be with him.  The medical facility is a very difficult place to just hang out. It's so awkward, but again He is totally worth it. Like I posted on Twitter earlier this week -- Everyday that passes is one day closer to all being home together as a family.We will make this work.

 Family Photos-3 

Yesterday we brought the girls to meet their little brother for the first time. Madison was nervous at first but quickly fell in love. It probably helped that Jayden reached out for her and attempted to climb up her!  Madison quickly become her social self with all the kids there and even told me in regards to an older severely physically limited kid, "He's my best friend, he just doesn't know it yet." Love that girl.

Family Photos-4

Angela was equally thrilled with Jayden. Angela loves interaction.  Many times when little kids Angela's age come up to her a parent often quickly shoo's them away, as if they were a bother -- this couldn't be more disappointing to Angela -- she loves to be social. Jayden had no problem with this and was trying to climb up into her chair to share her seat and play iPad together. So much fun. We left feeling a little overwhelmed about how long this process could be but also full of excitement that we someday, sooner than later, will indeed bring this beautiful boy home to call our own.

Family Photos-6 

I've also meaning to update on Angela's progress since going on TPN -- she's off!  Her belly is finally waking up and she has been TPN free for about a week.  We even had trialled some eating by mouth and although her gag is a bit exaggerated she is doing great. On Monday we clamped off her drainage from her belly and she is doing fairly well with that. She is having distention but seems to be working through it ok. Our next goal is to try to introduce her J feeds back up into her belly. I'm confident that she will do just fine since she tolerated her purees in her belly -- but again we are trying to take it semi slow as not to disturb the harmony her belly seems to have found.

Family Photos-5Family Photos-1 

Thanks for loving our family. We will need some serious prayer as we start transition this week. Please pray for physical strength for Adam and I and peace for the girls as we will be away in the afternoons -- which we could never thank my parents enough for supporting us and helping with their care. Pray for understanding within the medical home and quick scheduling of meetings to determine when we can begin our medical training. And of course pray that we have a supernatural zipper placed on our lips (mostly mine) which will allow us to go with the flow even when it might be difficult.  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

{Thanksgiving RePost}

After Adam and I experienced the death of our little boy we were forever changed.  Our entire view on life and it's meaning was boosted to a whole new level.  I guess no one can really fully understand the frailty of life until they experience the process of death, particularly the death of a child.

After Gavin died I wrote this blog post and will probably rePost it as long as I possible can.  These words, coming just weeks after I said goodbye to my little boy, are raw and help remind me the importance of living life to the fullest and truly thanking God for the life he has blessed each of us with.

November 25, 2009...


Growing up I was always taught that Thanksgiving is a time to think about what we are grateful for -- the blessing we have in our lives.  I remember in Sunday School making little crafts often times listing the top ten things we are grateful for this past year.  In all honesty,  do we really actually take the time to think about just how grateful we are.  It's weird how our human minds work -- it's hard to recognize the good things in our life until they are gone.


This year my heart is overwhelmed and my mind is just about shot from the countless hours going back and thinking about the past four years.  Did I ever really thank God for life?  Not only my life but the life of my husband and the life of my children.  Life is such a funny thing.  We tend to think it's guaranteed -- and then *poof* one day it is gone.


I really feel in my heart that Adam and I tried to make the best out what we were handed over these past several years.  But I just have to think back at all the times I should have been thanking God and instead I was looking for a new day, a way out of our situation.  


Even when life seems unfair, when jobs stink and children are getting on our last nerves -- there is so much to be thankful for.  I remember the day before we took Gavin off the bipap -- I looked at the monitor and just prayed that one of those breaths would be triggered by his own little body.  Each time a breath was taken without the ventilator forcing the air in -- my heart jumped with such excitement. My entire being was so focused on each and every rise of my little boy's chest.  


 If only we lived each day as it was not only our last day of life -- but our last breath.  

God -- thank you for life. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

{Meeting Our New Little Boy}

Family Photos-1

Yesterday was one of those day you just can not possible describe in words -- the day you meet your child for the first time.  Adoption or birth -- it's all the very similar and very much amazing.  Yesterday we started out our day in the morning heading downtown to the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, who holds the legal custody of Jayden until it's transferred over to us in court.  We went down kinda knowing that we were already chosen to be his mommie and daddy, but we still needed to go through a formal interview and look over his more current file and make sure we all felt good about this match.

Family Photos-2

Interviewing for a child you love and want so badly is one of the most difficult of situations you can place a family in.  Just imagine if you had to interview before you were allowed to conceive your biological children -- awkward right?  Exactly.  But we got through it and all felt total peace that this was indeed the perfect match for our family and the perfect match for Jayden.

Family Photos-3

Jayden just turned two years old and has been living in a medical facility since a few months after birth when he suffered a non accidental head trauma.  It's not my place to give you details but it is a very hard story to swallow -- hard to imagine the suffering this little baby endured.  Jayden is a survivor.  Many children who sustained his injuries will never recover and many never survive the trauma -- but our fighter did.  His heart started to beat again and the life that was once stolen from him -- he stole right back and continues to heal and recover.  From what we were told this little boy has overcome so much.  He came into care with severe medical needs but now has been able to be weaned off a ventilator and really has minimal medical concerns.

Family Photos-4

The brain injury left him impaired in many ways but he is full of personality and typical two year old spunk.  He has cortical visual impairment just like Angela, has a trach to help prevent aspiration due to his inconsistent gag reflex and has a g-tube for feedings.  He is just learning how to walk with the assistance of a walker but this kid is a mover -- from what we saw yesterday he is a little boy on the go with things to do and places to explore!  

It was heartbreaking to see him in the environment he is currently living.  The staff have taken great care of him to the best of their abilities but it is still an institutional setting with rules and regulation that prevent any child from living a normal life and receiving the consistent love and attention they need and deserve.  It breaks my heart to think that this little boy has never known what it means to have a home or even the concept of a mom and dad. Needless to say leaving him was difficult.

Family Photos-5

This process is going to be a bit more complicated than it was when we transitioned Angela into our home.  Since he is in a medical facility they have their own guidelines on amount of training hours needed and length of transition and a whole bunch of other stuff.  We are going to make it work.  We are ready for the long haul and praying that God makes a way for this to be easier than anyone ever expected.  For now we will begin visits hopefully this weekend or next week, which we are hoping will be several times per week with both Adam and I and then I'm hoping to be apart of his therapies and also his doctor visits.  

Family Photos-6

Can't wait to bring him home -- give him a place in this family and live an amazing life together.  Trusting God once again and believe that his timing is simply perfect, no need to stress or have anxiety knowing that the details of our new little boys life and placement into our home and have already been worked out -- we're just along for the ride!

Monday, November 21, 2011

{Seeing His Glory}

Madi & Angela-5

In the last months of Gavin's death, while we watched his body fail and his horrific suffering, I like any normal human being would have times where I pleaded with God to show me just how this -- the death of my little boy could play any part in His plan for our families life.  At the time it was very hard to see -- but Adam and I trusted and believed that one day we would understand why Gavin's life played out in the manner that it did.  I remember after his death while I was training for my first triathlon, running on the treadmill listen to the song, Show me your glory.  I've mentioned this song before, but it basically is a cry to see the the Glory of God -- the intense awesomeness that our human minds could never possible comprehend.  I begged God to show me his glory in my life -- in the death of my little boy.  This song carried me through may difficult times of intense grief the months following Gavin's death -- each time I would cry out for understanding and each time He would give me just enough.

Madi & Angela-1

Last week after an early morning trip to the gym this song came on as I was driving home.  I had this crazy moment of understanding that literally brought me to tears.   It hit me -- This song no longer is a cry of my heart but rather a reminder of the His amazing Glory that I have seen.  So often people beg to see a glimpse of his awesome power and blessing and yet do nothing to seek it out.  I have found that it has been through adoption that Adam and I have seen the intense reality of who and what God is all about.  We have looked into a child eyes who was once deemed unwanted, broken and damaged and reclaimed them as wanted, sought after and perfectly designed.  This is a glimpse of what God's glory is all about -- helping those He loves -- extending the same grace to others that was places on us.  And the best part for me to wrap my mind around is that our ability to do this is a gift that our little fighter left us behind.  It doesn't take away the loss or pain but it gives me understanding, peace and excitement to know that his life was not in vain. As I drove home my heart and mind was overwhelmed with a deep level of gratitude that He would allow us to walk this journey.

Madi & Angela-4

Madi & Angela-2

I can't even begin to tell you how excited we are to welcome a new member to our family.  Tomorrow we most likely (as long as everything goes ok at DHS), will meet our new little boy and once again our life will be forever changed.  My anxiety is through the roof as there are so many unknowns.  The feeling of that first encounter is incredible but also filled with nerves -- there is nothing like being watched an analyzed as you meet your child for the first time.  How will he react? How will the staff in the facility perceive us?  How will DHS perceive us? All these things are running through my mind.  Please pray that Adam and my nerves will be calmed so we can simply enjoy our day.  I know it's gonna be amazing, I just have to make sure I limit my caffeine intake tomorrow morning **wink**

Madi & Angela-6

God is so good.  Everyday I am blown away that he would choose me -- Karen Owens.  I'm nothing special.  I have the same downfalls as your average women but God's grace is overwhelming.  Can't wait to blog about the littlest Owens!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

{Growing Our Family -- Again}


For the past ten years I have sat back and watched God do some amazing things in my life.  I can't say that there has been any one thing that was a fireworks, bright lights and heavenly choir singing moment -- but rather it's been the crazy way God has orchestrated the details in my life -- in our families life, to begin to tell this amazing story of grace, hope, restoration and joy.  This season of our life is no exception -- He has totally done it again.


As most of you know we have been looking to grow our family through adoption -- another amazing child to call our own and to have a place in our home and hearts.  Yesterday we received a call that our match has been found and we will be able to meet him -- a beautiful two year old little boy -- early next week after we visit DHS and talk with the worker. So excited!  Of course we still can say no if we were to feel like it's not right -- but I don't think that will happen.  When I got the call I wanted to just explode with joy.  But there is way more to this story -- it is mind blowing just how this little boy came into the picture.

Back in the early spring, on a lazy Saturday morning, Adam, the girls and I were sitting in the living room watching the morning news.  The weekly Wednesday's Child feature came on, which is a program that features stories on children waiting for adoption.  This beautiful amazing little boy was featured and my heart melted in that I know your mine, how can I bring you home type way.  But, Angela was just placed with us.  The time was not right.  We needed time learning how to be this type of family -- time to enjoy each other and time for our love to grow and bond.  This little boy never left my mind.  I thought about him so frequently since that first moment I saw him.  


After Angela's adoption was finalized Adam and I stared to throw around the idea of bringing another child home into our family.  We knew we wanted to, we just were not sure when.  It was after Adam and I both listened to a sermon at church about chasing after the destiny you know God has for you - getting out of the boat -- taking the first step and allowing God to do the rest -- we finally made decision to open our case back up and try to find a match.

We inquired about this little boy but to our disappointment we were told he was already matched with another family and that we were just too late.  Ugh.  My heart sank so deep, but also was trying to be happy that this little boy had found a home. 


A few months later Adam and I attended an adoption conference for both families and workers to gain credits towards our adoption certification -- great conference but again, crazy stuff happened there.  It was time for lunch and Adam and I didn't really know anyone there to sit with.  We got in the back of the line and after we got our food we sat down at a table with only two women. After eating a rather silent lunch one of the women asked us if we were a family or if we were agency workers.  We told her that we were an adoptive family and told her a little of our story. Then she replied -- I think I know you -- I've read all about your story.  It was the little boy's recruiter.  Amazing.  We exchanged a few words and we expressed our happiness for him that he found a family but also our disappointment.  The conference went on and we went our separate ways.


We continued on and looked at a few different kids but nothing really was going through.  Nothing that really felt totally, completely right.  As I was looking though adoption databases I noticed that this little boy was still listed for adoption. I knew that this happens a lot as even Angela was listed for a bit after she was with us.  I inquired once to our worker who confirmed what I was thinking already -- he just wasn't taken off yet. But then yesterday happened.

Yesterday I just couldn't get this little boy out of my head.  I searched online for the email address of that  recruiter we happened to sit with at the adoption conference.  I just wanted to ask one more time, and if the answer was still no I promised myself that I would let it go.  She replied within a few hours and confirmed once again that this little boy was not available.  Ugh. I called Adam and vented my frustration.  He agreed and shared my disappointment.

Then it happened.

Not five minutes later our adoption social worked called me.  She asked if I was sitting down. She told me the family fell through and they would like to match us with this little boy.  Oh. My. Goodness.  I told her that I was just in contact with his recruiter and she was unaware that this contact had occurred just a few hours earlier -- in fact it was DHS that contacted her not the recruiter.  Wow -- just wow.  


I am still in total happy shock.  We go to DHS in Philadelphia this coming Tuesday to chat and if we feel comfortable we then will head over and meet our little boy for the first time.  So exciting!  Madison was head over heels when we told her.  She too has been particularly attached to this little boy and even after we told her that he was matched with another family, his name has frequently come out of her mouth.  So excited to begin the process of bringing him home

We will save all the details for after we meet, just to make sure everything goes through.  So excited to share this next page in our story with you all! Enjoy the photos of Angela -- so alert and looking!  Poor Madison is hard to catch on film these days -- she's a big school girl now!

Friday, November 11, 2011

{Visiting Gavin and a Short Hospital Stay}

Gavin's Grave-1

On Tuesday we spent some time as a family at Gavin's grave.  We sent up a dozen green balloons to our little boy and also ate some yummy cupcakes, and made sure to leave one behind on his gravestone.  I know I've said this before -- but I couldn't possibly describe what if feels like as a mother to have all my children physically in one place.  Even though I fully know and believe that it's only Gavin's sick shell that is buried in the ground -- it's still the body I gave birth to and the body I was able to hold and care for, for the short time he was here on earth.  The feeling of sitting on the very ground that holds his physical body, and at the same time hold Angela and Madison, brings my mommie heart and mind such a feeling of wholeness.  

Gavin's Grave-2

Besides taking time to remember our little boy, we also have been dealing with Angela's belly issues this week.  On Tuesday before we went to see Gavin, Angela and I headed down to duPont for an abdominal xray to see what was causing the pain in her upper abdomen.  

Gavin's Grave-3

The xray showed lots of small bowel dilation and also showed that she still had barium that was used in her j-tube placement almost three weeks ago.  Her little belly is still struggling to wake up and is just not moving.  

Gavin's Grave-4

On Wednesday her pain seemed to increase and after draining a yucky thick green-brown drainage out of her g tube since surgery all the sudden it just stopped.  This, added to the increase is belly pain made us a bit concerned so we headed back down to duPont for another xray and some blood work.  After looking at her xray they decided that Angela needed to be admitted.

Gavin's Grave-5

Angela basically has a Pseudo Obstruction -- meaning that things just stopped all together.  They attempted to clean her out thinking it might help her pain but despite running the Golytle all night nothing happened.  But for some reason the next morning her drainage came back and her pain seems to have gone back down to manageable.  No one really knows what happened and why the sudden stop and start, although in the wrong direction, but we'll take it as she is comfortable and happy. So we were able to come home yesterday evening to heal at home.

Gavin's Grave-6

We are giving her belly time to rest and heal and will go back down to duPont on Monday for some additional studies and to see if things are moving just yet.  Despite this second setback she is still doing great!  Today we went to the indoor track at the YMCA and Angela practiced taking steps and made it half way around the track!  Today I decided to use leg splints to give her extra support and she seems to actually enjoy the walking.  Most of the time I used my toes to push her feet forward to step but occasionally she would flex and take a step on her one -- big exciting stuff!  We are still waiting on the KidWalk, which I was told today should be in by the 18th.  I'm not holding my breath on that, but rather trying to use this time to help strengthen her so she will be nice and strong when the gait trainer come home!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

{The Day He Died}

Photo Credit: Ryan EstesPhoto Credit: Ryan Estes

I remember the first time Gavin's doctor had the talk with us -- you know, the talk where the doc eludes to the fact that your child will have a shortened life, though the word death is not used, only implied in the dark gloom in the physicians eyes. We probably had that talk over twenty times, Gavin just kept beating the odds.  Infection after infection he would push through, even as more organ system begun to fail he still somehow was able to keep his little heart beating -- he fought so stinkin' hard.

By the time we had our last talk and the words were actually used I think I was almost in disbelief.  Gavin had full blown pulmonary edema.  His ANC, his ability to fight infection, was almost zero.  His little body was colonized with fungus.  Yet I told our doc that I wanted to take him home -- I felt in my mommie heart that I could make him all better -- at home.

And we did just that.  Ok, so it only lasted about six hours, but I think I really needed those six hours so begin to truly see the horrible suffering taking over my little boy's life. I drove Gavin home alone that night.  Seriously, I can't even believe it.  He was on 4liters of O2 and on a biPap system working as a vent.  He alarmed the entire hour drive home.  It was my mommie's gonna make it all better adrenaline that helped us both survive that car ride home.

Adam and Madison met me out at the car and we carried out little boy in the house.  I held Gavin out flat in my arms, as he was unable to bend, Adam grabbed all his IV's including his TPN, antibiotics and his morphine pump, the ventilator and the huge tank of O2 and Madison grabbed the vent tubing and we slowly carried our little boy home.

Photo Credit: Ryan EstesPhoto Credit: Ryan Estes

Wow -- looking back my heart and mind sees such a beautiful image of what our family is all about.  It makes me hurt and smile at the very same time - speaking to my soul on such a deep level.

Can you feel it?  

We loved that little boy more than words could describe.  We would have done anything to give him a life full of experience and quality.

After a few hours at home it was clear that Gavin was leaving us.  His temp spiked high and he was no longer being supported on the home vent as it was unable to give him enough support and O2.  We knew it was time to go back.  We differ from many families in that we didn't want our little boy to die at home.  I didn't want our home to represent death.  I didn't want to have to go back and ever see the very spot where he left this world -- so we took him back for one last time to the place and people that walked us through three and a half amazing years -- the place that helped us keep him alive for as long as we did.

From there on is a blur -- and I like it that way. 

His last days were filled with so many tears but also so many smiles and laughs.  I never once imagined that the moment of his death would bring such amazing comfort and joy -- but it did.  It was all apart of the process.  We lived witness to  his suffering for so long that by the time he took his last breath it was as if he finished the marathon he had been running all his life.  Of course their were tears of grief, but the overwhelming joy that our little boy was finally free from pain and suffering -- free from the body that held him prisoner -- it was simply breathtaking.

Today I mourn his death, but my heart celebrates his freedom.

Monday, November 7, 2011

{Looking Back Two Years}


Today I've been thinking a lot about just where we were two years ago -- as we were sitting by our little boy's bedside waiting for him to take his last breath and finally find the peace and healing he deserved.  I'm not sure anyone could have possibly prepared us for that last marathon -- the period after we took him off life support.  Everyone assumed he would peacefully die in my arms after the ventilator was removed, after he had not taken triggered any breaths on his own for over 48 hours.  They thought he may last a few hours but no one dare thought he would fight for 52 more long intense hours.  Gavin never did follow the rules, not in his birth and certainly not in his death.

Those last 52 hours, at that time, seemed like a nightmare.  after we had held Gavin, had Madison say goodbye, and after all the doctors gathered to pronounce his death and as the vent was removed, we mourned and said goodbye.  After death didn't happen, we mourned, grieved and said goodbye another ten or so times until it actually happened.  Ugh.  What a mess.  Adam and I didn't sleep and only would eat what people would bring us to the bedside.  

We spent those 52 hours engraving the memory of Gavin into our hearts.  Seriously studying ever inch of his swollen little body.  In the last 52 hours of his life he layed on the bed in a diaper with no blankets.  I remember stoking ever square inch of skin on his body -- and to this day I remember how it felt.  I remember the scent, I remember the color, I remember finally coming to the harsh realization that this no longer was my little boy -- it was just a shell,  a shell that was falling apart and ready to die.


So many things went wrong in those last 52 hours.  Gavi's doctor was out of the country and no doc could possible give him the same care -- no doctor could possibly understand just how complex and how not by the books our little boy was.  There are so many things that I could be angry about surrounding his death but looking back I treasure every moment those circumstances gained us.

God knew what he was doing.  

So many times is life when we are in the midst of the struggle we fail to see that the issues that cause us turmoil and pain might be the very things that in a few years we thank God for.  God gave me those last 52 hours to memorize my little boy -- the sounds, the scents and gave me time to come to the place in my own heart and mind where I could see that this swollen shell no longer was a good home for my fighter -- that he needed to be in the most amazing arms ever -- the arms of God.


After Gavin died I tried to hold his body.  It only lasted a few seconds -- My mommie heart knew that he was no longer there.  I couldn't feel him -- I felt his body, but the Gavin I knew and loved had already left and the shell he left behind really had no meaning.  I layed his body down on the bed and both Adam and I gently touched his cold skin and said goodbye.

I don't claim to understand why God choose Gavin to live a life of suffering and endure a difficult death -- but I choose to believe that God prepared Gavin for his life here on earth and what we may have viewed as painful suffering, Gavin perceived as once step closer to the most amazing reward ever -- heaven.  

So much I don't understand.  But by choosing to find hope, joy and peace, I am ushered into an amazing place of healing.  Healing that by most would be incomprehensible.  I mourn the loss of by baby boy, but at the same time I feel him closer than ever.  He no longer is my child to watching grow here on earth but rather is simply woven into my very being.

As we remember his death, I choose the celebrate his life.  

Friday, November 4, 2011

{Healing, Yoga & Progress}


Home is so healing -- even after returning home only to lose power due to a snow storm for four days.  Angela is doing great.  Her feeds are up at 20ml/hr and although she had some retching today she is still making progress.  Her belly is still draining a think green liquid so we haven't even attempted to clamp it just yet.  I think we are going to try to get to full feeds and then work on getting rid of the yucky drainage bag.  No matter what -- we are listening closely to what Angela's little body is telling us and trying to keep it happy and healthy and moving forward, and so far our plan is working.  I really hate TPN, but I have to say Angela has more energy than I've ever seen. I have faith that once we get her in a better nutritional place all around I feel like the energy will continue even after we are off the IV feedings!  


In other great news it seems like Angela's swallow has returned to about the same strength as it was prior to the fundo surgery.  After surgery she was choking on her own secretions and unable to swallow anything.  Yesterday I trialed her with some applesauce and she did fantastic!  Despite the thin consistency she was able to swallow with no problem.  I have great hope that once her belly is ready to tolerate volume she will be rockin and rolling.  I have a million containers of her special high calorie food just waiting for her to enjoy -- can't wait, but again we are taking it slow and listening her her little body.

I have no regrets of our decision to do the fundoplucation.  Angela is a different girl.  She is vocalizing so much -- sometimes for over an hour of constant babble and exploration of different sounds.  She is so proud of herself!  She seems free -- vocally free.  Before she was so guarded since her reflux was so bad -- she was constantly refluxing even her own secretions, it didn't allow for much freedom in fear that she would vomit.  She is just so amazing.  Social she is blooming.  To listen to her talk and interact back and forth is so beautiful.  She is truly a beautiful display of God's amazing ability to provide both healing of the mind and body.  So cool.  


This week Angela began a Yoga class at our local YMCA.  The class is geared towards children with disabilities and other kids like Angela.  Angela was a super star -- she totally loved the class and was eager to nod her head yes to anyone who asked her if she liked it.  The poses where very challenging for her tight hamstrings but she let me work her through them and we got an amazing stretch.  She was able to bear weight on her legs and even was able to stand in tree pose on one leg with me giving support on her bottom and holding her arms up.  So special -- we are so grateful that our YMCA offers these amazing programs.


Seeing God's hand on Angela's life and progress is amazing.  I truly see if as a gift directly from God to me.  After watching the suffering of Gavin -- my spirit needed this, and God knew that when he placed her in our family.  This coming week we will remember Gavin's death and also celebrate his life -- what better way to find peace in his death but to be able to see this amazing outcome -- the ability to be this kind of mommie to both Angela and Madison.  I see it as not only a gift from God,  but also just maybe a little gift from my baby boy.