While Eisley was in the hospital, I was told I was brave. After Eisley passed away, I was told I was brave.

I can tell you this – I did not feel brave during either of those times. There were many other things I felt, but bravery was not one of those feelings. I’ve thought about it a lot since that time and I align with the quote in the image above, it isn’t about the absence of fear. It isn’t about this overwhelming sense of courage. It’s about forging ahead despite those ever-present feelings of fear.

For some, being brave means:

  • getting out of bed the next morning.
  • showing up at the polls to vote.
  • burying your child.
  • burying your spouse.
  • burying your parent.
  • getting a double mastectomy.
  • fighting to get services for your special needs child, even when the fight is so daunting.
  • trying to get pregnant after a miscarriage or the loss of a child.
  • leaving everything you’ve ever known to join your new family.
  • adopting a child.
  • walking into that hospital room every single morning.
  • walking into that office every single morning.
  • standing up against a bully.
  • calling your senators or representatives.
  • moving to a foreign country to bring home your children.
  • starting a nonprofit to help those in need.
  • being okay with major life change.
  • believing differently than your friends or family.
  • serving your country.
  • battling out-of-control wildfires.
  • standing up for the marginalized.
  • seeking help.
  • being a stay-at-home mom.
  • being a working mom.
  • giving up security to chase your dream.
  • being different from those around you.
  • rebuilding after every thing around you has crumbled.
  • loving others, especially those who are hard to love.

What is your brave?


The LOVE TREE – A Crafty Fundraiser

The LOVE TREE – A Crafty Fundraiser

First, a quick update for those following our journey. We were fingerprinted in early November and found out yesterday that our fingerprints have been approved. We are currently waiting on a hardcopy of this approval. Once received, we will have it notarized and state certified and then send it along with several other documents to DC to be certified at the US Secretary of State level and authenticated by the Chinese Embassy. After we get these documents back, we can FINALLY send months of paperwork to our adoption agency. And then the unknown wait really begins to be matched with our child.

In the meantime, we are entering the phase where the adoption fees start rolling in. This is the part of adoption that is hard for me to discuss – the financial aspect. How do you put a price on the life of a child? Each one is priceless and absolutely worth it. But someone (or many people) did determine there was a price involved. The fees for adoption through China include fees paid to our social worker’s agency, fees paid to our adoption agency, fees paid to the US government for paperwork, and fees paid to the Chinese government as well as a required orphanage donation. If you have been wondering about the cost to adopt from China, it averages around $30-35,000. Woah. That number can be staggering if you look at it in its entirety. But when you look at the face of your child, that number melts away so quickly and you realize you would go to the ends of the earth and do whatever it takes to bring that child home. So you break that number down and you approach it in small hurdles. What is the saying about how you eat an elephant? (Side note – who would really want to eat an elephant?) You do as much as you can to whittle down that number. For us, we have been selling anything and everything we can find that isn’t necessary to daily function in our house. If there’s something you’ve been looking for, let me know as we more than likely are trying to sell it. Both of us have been working extra hours. We will be applying for grants in the coming months. And we more than likely will do some other fundraisers as well.

And here is where we introduce our first fundraiser. I’m calling it the Love Tree.


Do you see that Christmas tree filled with ornaments? Or were you distracted by the beautiful girl beside it? I borrowed that tree from her and have decorated it with 100 different ornaments. And we need your help to UNDECORATE it in the coming weeks. I have spent the last several months working most evenings on handcrafting 10 different varieties of ornaments. Some of them have a connection to China and others have a connection to hearts – 2 themes that have been prominent in our lives the last few years. A lot of love and care has gone into making each ornament. We kindly ask that you consider purchasing an ornament (or several!) to adorn your Christmas tree or to give as gifts to friends and family.

You can purchase ornaments via my Etsy site HERE.

I’ll be posting pictures over the coming days and weeks of the progress we are making in emptying this tree of its ornaments.

And here’s a first look at all of the ornaments:

Thanks in advance for your support in our first fundraiser. We fully believe that it takes a village and we are so very grateful to those of you who have chosen to come alongside us in this adoption journey, walked with us through the last year of heartache and joys, and for those that have been with us long before adoption was even on our radar. Our wish for you this season is tremendous love – may you receive and give this love just as it has been given to us.

What Does Adoption Mean to Me?

Note: I recently had the opportunity to submit a one-page essay in response to the question in the title. Here are my thoughts on that.



When I read the question, “What does adoption mean to you?” I initially assumed that it would be easy to pound out a one-page response. Later, I sat down in front of my computer to type, but the words seemed to come out in a jumbled mess. How do you succinctly describe the complexity of adoption? That word encapsulates so many thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Adoption involves hours, days, weeks, months and sometimes years of endless paperwork. You have entities scrutinizing every aspect of your life from your finances, health, the safety of your home, and even the intimacy of your relationship with your spouse. Just when you think you have finished, another round of paperwork shows up. Sometimes you have a picture of a precious child that motivates you to work harder and move faster. Other times, it is the thought of seeing that face, that mystery yet to be revealed that keeps you going.  And yet, you do all of it. Because of LOVE – love for a child that you have never met. Love for this precious one that will someday become part of your family. Love that keeps you going when the task seems impossible, the costs daunting, and the unknown overwhelming.

After all of this paperwork, you are granted permission to adopt and are able to travel. For us, it meant flying to the other side of the world – to a new land and culture, to unfamiliar sites, smells, and language. And yet, when your child enters the room as you stand there breathlessly waiting, all of those moments required to reach this point fade away. Because of a CHILD. A beautiful, deserving soul that stands bravely before you and is walking away from everything he or she has ever known to become part of your family. This moment represents a dichotomy between a past that involved disruption, loss, and heartache; and a future that promises love, redemption, and forever.

This isn’t to say that the story that unfolds will always be rosy and the path smooth. There are long nights, challenging days, endless doctors appointments, surgeries, and many unknowns. This story has a thread of brokenness that has been woven through it from early on and this thread continues to intertwine through the story of adoption. But along with this brokenness, there is a thread of love that is strong. It is a love that is deep-rooted with fierce determination, redemption, and hope for brighter days. Another thread that weaves through this story – one that was previously severed and now has the opportunity to be forever connected is FAMILY.

So what does adoption mean to me? It is a story that is interwoven with the elements of brokenness, loss, and heartache, but at the same time a story that is redeemed through family, a child, and love. I am thankful for a God who orchestrates all of this, gave us the first picture of adoption, and for the children that so richly blessed my life through adoption.

Special Times in the PCICU with Eisley

Special Times in the PCICU with Eisley

“Sometimes you will not know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”
—Dr. Seuss

 There were many small, joyful moments from our time in the PCICU with Eisley that I’ll hold on to as long as I can. For example, I won’t forget the few glimpses of her eyes that we were fortunate to see, the shaky finger she offered me one day as she attempted to swipe left and right on my phone to look at pictures, and the times when her heart rate would return to a somewhat normal level as I sang her lullabies. I also wanted to share a few big moments that I’m grateful for and will remember forever:

 Chinese New Year & Baptism – In early February, Eisley’s condition rapidly declined, and we thought we would lose her. True to her fighting ways, she pulled through. A few days after one especially scary time, I decided I wanted to have her baptized. If she didn’t make it out of the hospital, I didn’t want to have any regrets, and our priest graciously honored my last-minute request. As this event also fell during the Chinese New Year, I took the opportunity to dress Eisley in her China silks to honor a tradition that we maintain with our older daughter. I had been debating for weeks whether or not I should bring silks to the hospital and go through the formality of dressing her. It certainly wasn’t the easiest task with all of the tubes and wires connected to her! Thankfully, our wonderful primary nurse didn’t balk at my request and even went so far as to make Eisley’s bed with special blankets and dress her in her finest silks. My darling girl looked so beautiful!

 Valentine’s Day – After 40 days without holding her, on Valentine’s Day, I FINALLY got to hold Eisley. 40 days. No mother should ever have to wait that long to hold her child. I was on cloud 9 for the entire hour and a half that I held her and for the rest of the evening as well. Considering that we almost lost her the week before that, this time with her was especially poignant. Despite the tubes, lines, ventilator and everything else she was connected to that could have made holding her awkward, I didn’t hardly notice them. I concentrated on her face. She snuggled into my arms and it was if time stood still and the problems of the world melted away. Every now and then she would open her eyes, glance at me as if she was thinking, “Oh good, you are still here with me,” and then close her eyes again. I half-jokingly instructed a nurse to hook me up to a catheter and a feeding tube and I would just hold her for the rest of our time together.

 Eisley’s second birthday – As we approached March 8th, I wasn’t sure what to do about her birthday. She certainly wouldn’t even realize the significance of that day as she had probably never celebrated her first birthday. Plus, under such heavy sedation, she wouldn’t know we were celebrating anyway. However, I decided it was still a milestone that required a proper celebration; not to mention, it was an outlet for me to channel all of my energy in a positive way rather than focus on gravity of her deteriorating health condition. I made a special birthday outfit for her, as I wasn’t able to slip a onesie on her. That day, both she and her sister had matching Cinderella tutus and headbands! I crafted decorations for her door and room, and my mom and brother helped me bring in food for both the day shift and night shift nurses. Our family gathered to sing “Happy Birthday” to her. We even had photo booth props on hand and captured some fun photos with the medical professionals who cared for Eisley that day. For an entire day I didn’t once dwell on any of the ups and downs of her vitals, x-rays, new diagnoses, etc. I simply focused on honoring her. I even got some birthday snuggles! I’m forever thankful for everyone who helped make my crazy ideas reality, as it made that day so special and an enduringly happy memory for my family.

 It would be easy to dwell on all of the difficult, scary, and overwhelming times during our hospital stay. We certainly had a lot of those moments. However, perhaps these dark moments were necessary to reveal the value of those special, bright moments and bring an appreciation to those moments that may not have existed otherwise.

blog 8-1

 “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
—Desmond Tutu

The Kindness of Strangers and Friends

“We must find time to stop and thank the people
who make a difference in our lives.”
-John F. Kennedy

I’m still attempting to process what we experienced while Eisley was in the hospital. My husband and I realized early on that we couldn’t handle this monumental burden on our own. Asking for help was not something we were comfortable with; it certainly wasn’t our first inclination. We did occasionally call for help, but more often than not, we didn’t even have to ask—so many people volunteered to help us and provide for our needs. We felt incredibly supported by family, friends, and even strangers. For that, we will always be grateful and unable to fully articulate our deepest thanks.

The actions demonstrated by others have caused me to reflect on gratitude. Robert Emmons in his Greater Good essay, “Why Gratitude is Good,” writes this about gratitude, “… it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in this world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.” He describes the importance of this “relationship-strengthening emotion” as it “requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.”

I’d like to share some examples of the many ways that people supported us during this difficult time. I hope that you will see the goodness in other people and your faith in humanity may be restored as mine was.

  • Eisley required a lot of blood transfusions—so many that I lost count. My sister Brad Giving Bloodrelayed to our Facebook group the suggestion that people donate blood. It wasn’t long before we had more than 40 people contact us to be added to the donation list.
  • When doctors began allowing Eisley to resume feeds, they told me she wasn’t a candidate for donor breast milk because of her age. However, some of the awesome staff on the PCICU floor went to bat for our girl and allowed her to have breast milk for two weeks. Near the end of the two-week period, I mentioned on our Facebook group that we were running out of donor breast milk. Within six hours I had eight people volunteer to bring more.
  • To maintain some sense of normalcy in the midst of all of the chaos, I decided it was essential to eat at least one meal a day with my husband and daughter. My sister spread the word, and we ultimately had more than 70 meals delivered to either the hospital or our home. Sitting down as a family to a warm meal—that we didn’t have to worry about cooking—was a huge blessing to us. Not to mention the fact that the meals were absolutely delicious! Many sent gift cards for restaurants, which was also a tremendous help since grocery shopping was the last thing we wanted to think about or had time to do.

    Dinner at Home
    Playing a game before a yummy meal.
  • In addition to worrying about Eisley, I missed my 5-year-old. A sweet friend invited anyone who was interested to send a care package to our big girl to let her know people were thinking of her, too, during this time. The outpouring of love symbolized by these packages brought me to tears—and made our 5-year-old deliriously happy!
  • Picture from a StudentOn one of Eisley’s sickest days, a friend from Facebook shared with me that 240 children at her school were praying for Eisley. They have continued to do so.
  • Shortly before Eisley passed away, a kind friend communicated a prayer request to his band. That night, 20,000 people joined together in prayer at a David Crowder concert to lift up our baby girl.
  • Shortly after Eisley’s passing, we began to receive anonymous pieces of art at our house. I finally discovered that someone had informed a “Free Art Movement” group of our loss. The group dropped off pieces of art that were reflections of Eisley, bringing us beauty during our time of grief.
  • The number of cards, notes, texts, messages on Facebook, and prayers sent on our behalf are more than I can quantify. Each message and note touched my heart deeply. What a gift to know that we were held so close by so many.
  • A kind friend set up an account that let people make monetary donations to help offset Eisley’s medical expenses. To this day, the generosity extended to us by so many people renders me speechless. We are humbled and grateful that you would give so freely to help in our time of need.

You extended light to us in so many ways during our darkest hours. You brought hope when it seemed hopeless. You held us at times when I didn’t think we could hold on any longer. You loved on us when we were weary, broken, and worn. You encouraged us to find ways to help others, just as this help was so graciously extended to us.

Grace and peace to you today.

“Go out into the world today and love the people you meet.
Let your presence light new light in the hearts of others.”
-Mother Teresa

Our Time in the Hospital

Our Time in the Hospital

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”
—Eleanor Roosevelt

This post has been a very hard one for me to write. I’ve started and stopped the telling of this part of the story many times. It brings me back to a mental place that I didn’t want to return. I wish I could gloss over the painful memories of Eisley’s sickness and long hospital stay—or have the details fade away, at least for a time. If only I could do a memory dump and store the most excruciating thoughts in an offsite location. But it’s part of Eisley’s story and now part of mine. I hope in recounting the details of this part of the journey, I find some measure of closure to one of the most difficult chapters of my life. Despite the dark moments, I hope you will see courage and strength, love and light, and a spirit, though it may be bruised, that cannot be broken.

We were the first on the schedule for heart surgery for Dec. 28. However, we got a call the night before notifying us that we were behind a heart transplant, meaning there was a good chance the surgery would be delayed. We certainly understood having to postpone our surgery for a heart transplant, but because we didn’t know how long the wait would be, we stopped feedings and water much earlier than needed. This would be trying for any child, but for a food-insecure child it was torturous. Eisley’s security was found in a bottle of water that she clutched tightly at all times. It broke my heart to say no to her signs for “water” and “snack.” We delayed our arrival to the hospital knowing there would be nothing to do but walk around and attempt to pacify a hungry baby. I ended up pushing the stroller in laps around the hospital praying that Eisley would fall asleep until they were ready for us.

They called us to a holding room at 11:30 am and finally took Eisley back for surgery around

Hospital 1
Hiding from the world.

1:30 pm. Before they took her back, Eisley buried her head in my chest as if she were attempting to block out the world. The anesthesiologist gave her some “happy juice” to help her relax before they wheeled her down the hall. During the procedure, the surgeon placed a band around her pulmonary artery. He hoped she would grow into it and it could help bring down the pressures from her pulmonary hypertension. Hopefully in a few years, we could do more palliative surgeries to help her perfectly imperfect heart.

Dec. 28 – 31
Hospital 6Eisley came out of surgery looking great. Her vitals were stable and she was only on one medicine to keep her sedated. That stability was short-lived as she began to require a lot of medications to regulate her blood pressure. Her heart surgeon told me she was by far his sickest patient at that time and that she was on a downward spiral. Finally her blood pressure stabilized and they rolled the heart lung bypass machine away from her room. We hoped those were signs she was taking tiny steps in the right direction. I posted the following comment on our Facebook group on Dec. 30: “We are holding steady and taking small steps. With each hour that passes and every small step that is made, I exhale a little and whisper prayers of hallelujah.”

Jan. 1-31

The New Year started with Eisley weaning down medications, doing CPAP trials to hopefully remove her breathing tube, and beginning feeds again. They extubated her for a time, but her breathing was so labored they had to reintubate. As the days wore on, we helplessly watched her abdominal area get bigger and bigger. Two weeks later, the surgeons determined she had developed necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). That meant another round in the operating room in which they removed a portion of her colon and gave her a temporary ostomy bag. She later developed Drug Reaction with Eosinophilia and Systemic Symptoms Syndrome (DRESS) in reaction to one of her medications.

Feb. 1-29
February was even more of a roller-coaster month for Eisley. I labeled her a “medical mystery” as her platelets continued to drop despite multiple transfusions, her bilirubin remained high (producing yellow tears), and her belly continued to get bigger. She made two more trips to the OR and one to the IR.

Feb. 5 was an especially harrowing day. When I got to her room that morning I was greeted by an attending doctor who asked me our plan if she went into cardiac arrest. Eisley was struggling to breathe, and the doctors thought she was in septic shock. I thought we would lose our beloved daughter that day … but our brave Eisley pulled through! After putting the drain on her gallbladder, the next day her color was better, her vitals were stable, her breathing was less labored, and she even opened her eyes! “She made it through the worst day she’s had thus far,” my sister said, “and I’m thankful for one more day with her.”

The doctors decided we needed to have a care meeting with all the specialists involved in her care to determine whether she needed surgery on her mitral valve—a very risky surgery that held no guarantees. Every time a different specialist walked in and said, “She’s a very sick little girl,” it was a verdict that was hard to swallow. I knew she was sick. I was under no illusions about her condition. But I wanted with all my heart for her to defy the odds. I wanted her to turn a corner and shock the pants off all these medical professionals. In a Facebook post that day, I reflected: “Today I am so very thankful to be here in this room, tears brimming in my eyes because my baby girl continues to fight and is fighting hard. I am so thankful for another day with her. Thankful for good reports on her. Thankful for small victories. Thankful for family and friends who continue to lift us up in prayer and support us in this long journey.”

At the care meeting, they decided to postpone any further heart surgeries for two weeks to see if Eisley’s body could begin to heal. I was so relieved about this decision. Shawn was going out of town for a work assignment for two weeks, and the thought of sending Eisley into a risky surgery while he was gone was almost more than I could bear. During those two weeks, she showed small signs of improvement. Her chest x-ray looked better, her platelets began to hold steady, and her bilirubin levels went down. There were a few other small victories as well. They were able to wean her completely off fentanyl, which was a huge step forward. She had been on it as long as I could remember and at times she was almost maxed out—to the point that one pharmacist thought the nurse had asked for the wrong dosage because surely a baby couldn’t be on that much!

On Valentine’s Day I posted the following comment to our Facebook group: “Good evening

Hospital 15
Holding my girl on Valentine’s Day.

to all! My heart has been on cloud 9 for a good part of this evening. I got to hold Eisley for an hour and a half. I haven’t held her in 40 days. It was the most wonderful Valentine’s gift I could have received.”

Later that week, I got a dreaded call from PCICU while I was at home with our big girl and Shawn was still out of town. They had to give Eisley chest compressions due to a mucous plug. I worried what implications that might have on her fragile body. Our next worry was that the doctors and nurses had some concerns that Eisley was having seizures, so they consulted neurology and ordered an EEG. Thankfully, the EEG showed no indication of seizures! I had joked many weeks earlier that Eisley demanded a lot of attention and wanted to see all the various service groups at the hospital. After neurology was called in, I told the nurse to go ahead and call nephrology so we could check that department off our list. Five minutes later a guy walks in and says, “Hi! I’m the kidney doctor.” He was called in to see if he could find a correlation between her low sodium, calcium, and potassium levels. (Personally, I think Eisley was just missing her chips and guacamole.)

Later in the month, Eisley’s SATs continued to drop randomly, she struggled with blood pressure issues, her gallbladder showed signs of inflammation, she suffered through drug withdrawals and delirium, and there was initial concern of a possible brain bleed. Despite all of this, I posted this comment one evening: “I’ve decided whatever will happen will happen and am going to trust God through this.”

March 1-12
Thankfully, a CT scan showed no indication of a brain bleed. However, we heard more disappointing news. Eisley’s labs and her lungs looked worse, and the word “septic” was tossed around again. They called in the hematology and immunology departments to get involved as well.

Her cardiologist was baffled by her case. He said he’s never seen a child survive fungemia (fungal infection in the blood) and viremia (viral infection in the blood) before. To be honest, there was no medical explanation for why she was still alive. During this time, she also contracted many infections including herpes simplex virus, CMV, aspergillus, histoplasmosis, pneumonia, and thrombocytopenia multiple organ failure (TAMOF). They performed a test to assess her heart function, and as my brother, Nathan, described it, “Her little-big heart has diminished in function.” The doctors said there was a 10 percent chance that she would pull through. And yet, we clung to that chance. As long as she still had a fight in her, we would be by her side cheering her on and loving every minute we had with her. As I wrote on a Facebook post during that time: “Despite all the tubes, wires, incisions & sores, when I hold Eisley all is right with the world and time stands still. Be still my heart, beautiful girl.”

Even with all the bad news, I was determined to celebrate her second birthday on March 8,

Hospital 13
Birthday snuggles

which we did in grand style. But two days later, I was afraid we were going to lose her again. I ask the doctors to do what they could to help her pull through. March 10 was a special day for her big sister because it was her Forever Family Day. I didn’t want that day to be split between one of our family’s happiest events and one of our saddest events. In true Eisley fashion, she held on.

On the evening of March 11, we read her Good Night Moon for one last time. We spent the evening and the wee hours of the morning holding her, singing to her, and just loving our baby girl. For so long I had been praying that she would survive and turn a corner and become even more of a medical miracle. However, that night, I prayed the pain would be taken away and that the suffering would end. I whispered in her ear, “You fought the good fight. You were braver than anyone I’ve met. You held on for so long. You have suffered enough. Now it’s time to let go. Fly high little one. You are loved more than you’ll ever know.” She took her last breath in my arms, free of the breathing tube, which had supported her for so long.

Hospital 10
Our fierce and tiny warrior.

Eisley had a strong spirit and fought so valiantly. It’s funny to remember that in the early days of her hospital stay I worried that her feisty spirit would interfere with her recovery. But this fieriness actually kept her going far longer than anyone would have guessed. In the end, the part of her body I thought was the weakest—her heart—was actually one of the last things to fail.

No one ever wants to say goodbye to his or her child. It isn’t something a parent should face. Perhaps rather than goodbye, we’ll consider our parting, “Until we see you again, beautiful girl.”

“Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depths of love.”
-George Eliot

Click HERE for the next post.

Our Time in China

Our Time in China


“If there’s a cause worth fighting for, it’s this: Children belong in families.”
-Nicole Skellenger

We raced to bring Eisley home. We knew her condition was serious and that she needed medical help as soon as possible. We hurried through the remaining parts of the adoption and medically expedited her case. We locked in her file in mid-June and got travel approval on Sept. 2. Those familiar with China adoptions would call that warp speed! Speed was essential since we were crunched on time: Two major events coming up in China—the Autumn Moon Festival and the Business Trade Fair—would cause travel for adoptive families to shut down for several weeks. We realized there was a chance that Eisley might not have an extra month to wait on us, so we miraculously found a flight for the three of us and flew to Beijing on Sept 9.

We met Eisley on Sept. 14 in Taiyuan, the capital city of her province Shanxi. Our guide escorted us to the civil affairs office and asked us to take a seat on the couch and wait for Eisley’s arrival. Another family whom we had met previously was there, and they had just met their adopted daughter. I remember my own heart pounding fast and furiously, and I may have held my breath until Eisley entered the room shortly thereafter, carried by two women from her orphanage. After I gathered Eisley in my arms, the rest of the time in the office was spent signing papers, taking official photos, and trying to get information from the orphanage representatives about Eisley’s medications and schedule.IMG_3064

She was so tiny and beautiful … and a sweaty mess! At 18 months old, she weighed a whopping 13 pounds. Those big eyes took it all in. We recorded a video from that first meeting in which you can literally see her heart beating through her shirt. She was so scared and yet so brave. (Ha! Who am I kidding? I was the one who was scared! I had officially become mama to a heart warrior without a clue as to what I was doing!) Eisley didn’t shed a single tear in those first few minutes. They told us she was sick and to not make her mad because, as they said, it would be “bad for heart.” Seriously? You hand an 18 month old to complete strangers and tell us not to make her mad? I wondered later: Did they really know this feisty child??

Our time in China was difficult as the realization sank in of how sick and malnourished our IMG_3113baby girl was. You could see every rib in her ribcage. When I undressed her for the first time to change her diaper, the site of her frail body caused me to gasp. She couldn’t roll over, crawl, or walk. We were so concerned about her condition, we took her to a Chinese hospital two days after we met her. In some ways, I’m thankful they dismissed us, as I didn’t want to spend another moment in that dirty, dingy facility. Even though I was with a guide, I felt so alone—I couldn’t understand a single word spoken to me, and they didn’t appear to understand the seriousness of my daughter’s condition. I resolved to get our baby girl home as soon as possible.

We didn’t get to see much of Taiyuan because we spent most of our time in the room pacing and walking, taking turns holding her, or letting her sleep on one of us. She didn’t want us to put her down, and she didn’t want us to stop moving. She preferred Shawn to me because he carried her facing out. We figured out that it was a trust issue: When he carried her, she didn’t have to continually face a virtual stranger.

IMG_3183We began to see glimpses of Eisley’s personality emerge, despite how bad she must have felt at the time. She loved bubbles, music, escalators, and birds. She studied everything carefully before offering up a smile or laugh. When we did get a hard-earned laugh, it was sweet music to my soul.

Another tricky layer in unraveling the mystery of our daughter was figuring out what she liked to eat. Whereas our first daughter would eat anything and everything we offered to her, it was a challenge to find something Eisley liked. While I feared that we had a picky eater on our hands, I later realized eating was one of the few things she could control. Eisley wasn’t picky; she just chose to be selective in what she ate until she trusted us more.

After a week in Taiyuan, we flew to Guangzhou in the southernmost part of China. All U.S. families seeking to adopt from China are required to spend the last five days of their trip in Guangzhou for medical and consulate appointments before the child’s visa is finally issued. I was anxious to see how Eisley would do on the short airplane ride with the altitude, her illness, and her heart condition. I think I prayed the entire flight and thankfully Eisley slept through it all!

When we arrived, we were happy to see some sites that were familiar to us from our first IMG_3413trip to China. We also connected with several other families and shared many meals with them. We particularly enjoyed a visit to Safari Park, which Eisley loved. She would try to “call” the animals to come closer by motioning her hands at them. In the midst of a long and arduous journey, this was a bright spot in the trip. We also had some fun times playing with a beach ball, blowing bubbles, and “walking” around the room, which entailed Eisley holding onto our hands and “ordering” us to walk laps.

We were so grateful that my brother was able to fly to Guangzhou to help us navigate the city, manage the children, and assist us with all the luggage through train stations, buses, and taxis as we made our way home. While we created some good memories in Guangzhou, we were ready to come home, especially since Eisley ended up sharing her para-influenza with big sister and me. At the end of the week, we took a train to Hong Kong and flew out the next morning. Again, I was worried how Eisley would handle the 15-hour plane ride home, and prayed fervently for an easy trip. Overall, she and big sister did great—even with the important layover in Chicago where Eisley became a U.S. Citizen! After a nap and a meal in the airport, we expectantly boarded the plane for home.

Here are a more pictures from our trip.

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