Monday, January 30, 2012

A Glimpse

I happened to check out the Henan Kids International blog this morning, and I got a great surprise.  There was a post about a donation used to buy new bouncy seats for Nanyang babies.  This photo of some babies at the Nanyang LOCC was there.  Well, look at that cute girl sitting up in the background...that's Leah!

I thrive on every little scrap of information about her, so it was great to have this unexpected photo.  Besides seeing her cute face I did learn something from this picture. She's wearing a little fleece jacket I sent in the first care package way back in November.  Our care package did eventually get there, and I can stop cussing my local postal worker!  The clothes we sent then are probably getting too small now, which is a good thing, but I was so hoping the disposable camera and the pictures of our family made it to her.  Let's be honest, Jer and I (especially Jer?) are going to look very strange to her.  She has never seen anything other than Chinese faces and everything about us will be extremely foreign.  We labeled our pictures in the book with Chinese characters for mom, dad, brothers, etc., so I hope her nannies will look at it with her..maybe it will ease her introduction to us just a little.  I know she's never seen anything like Ian's blond hair and blue eyes, so he may be the biggest shock of all once we get home!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Baby, Happy Mom

On Friday we got our quarterly foster update, and I was so excited to see this picture!  Leah is smiling!  She is on her feet!  Her hair is growing!  She looks healthy!  She is not wearing the red, puffy suit!  The list could go on.  I have this on my desktop and I've looked at it a million times and each time it brings a big smile to my face.

This is by far the best report we've had about Leah yet.  She is about 15 lbs. and 27.5 inches, so she has grown quite a bit.  It says that she is improving a lot and that she looks around with a huge smile whenever someone calls her name.  It describes her as happy and active.  It says she can say "mama and dad" in Chinese.  She is now standing with support for a short time, and is excited to eat.  The best part was the news that "everyone loves her" and calls her "happy baby."

You may notice that the woman in the picture is not Leah's foster mom.  Apparently Leah has been moved from her foster home because it was too cold.  She is back in the orphanage in the Lily Orphan Care room. This is an addition/upgrade to her orphanage funded by our agency's charity work in Nanyang and named after Lily who is the co founder of the agency.  All of the caregivers there have been trained by CCAI, and it is a physically warm place where the babies are well cared for and receive lots of attention.  I am hopeful that now she is there she will just stay until we come for her.  She has had so much transition already in her life.  I was worried and kind of sad thinking about her separation from her foster mom, but I guess that has already happened.  I hope it went okay, and I'm so grateful for the  care she gave Leah for over a year.

On a lighter note it's always interesting to see the way Leah is dressed.  This is the first time I have seen her in any kind of western baby clothes.  They are obviously way big and there are some padded layers underneath (which may actually be needed to stay warm), but it is a change from what she wore in her foster home.  I still have seen no photographic evidence that she received the packages with clothing we sent her so who knows if they ever got there.  Another thing that makes me laugh are the typos and information that just kind of gets lost in translation of these reports.  This report states that is was done in January of 2011 and it also says her right arm is missing.  Oops.  Oh well, we know what they really meant and I'm confident there's a right arm and a little left arm in those sleeves somewhere.

I've had lots of questions about when we travel, and the answer is that we just don't know.  I am thinking March--hopefully towards the beginning.  We did finally after an extra week of hassle and delay get our NVC letter so all of our paperwork is now at the US Consulate in Guangzhou, China.  We are waiting on them to issue an Article 5 (probably about 2 more weeks), which goes to the CCCWA in China (another 2-4 weeks) and they issue Travel Approval.  Once we get that we actually plan our trip and will leave within a few weeks.  It's a long process, but we're getting there.  I'm starting to envision Leah at home with her family with some chubby cheeks and pigtails.  If you want to make this last (and worst) bit of waiting more bearable then send a quilt block for the 100 good wishes quilt (see sidebar).  It's so fun to get them, and I need lots more to make 100 good wishes.  Thanks!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Finally an Update!

Today was the best day I've had in quite a while because waiting in my inbox this morning was this picture!  We have seen her smile in a video, but this is the only picture we have with even a half grin.

So it's grainy and was taken on December 9, but hey it finally got to us and I've got it memorized already.  There were no measurements or anything to go with it, but I'm hoping those might roll on in one of these days too.  I must admit going the last three months with no updates whatsoever has been tough.  This week I've really let it get to me.  I have been checking my email like 20 times a day (unhealthy and irrational I know), and I've had a hard time focusing on my kids, the stuff I need to get done, life in general.  For a case in point, you could ask Jer about the meals I've been making lately...I've seriously cooked up at least five disgusting ones in the last two weeks.  I'm talking way gross.  My head is not in the game!!  I finally broke down to Jer last night about how desperate for news I was getting, and he was sympathetic but may have been questioning my sanity a bit.  I've been praying endlessly and then when I was about to snap there it was...just another tender mercy in this crazy process.  Isn't she beautiful?

Today was double awesome because I also heard back from Xia at our agency.  A few days ago when I realized that new news may never come I had the bright idea to ask her for Leah's old foster sponsorship reports.  Because Leah is in foster care our agency found sponsors to pay for that care and sponsors receive quarterly updates.  We now sponsor Leah and received the last update.  Xia handles the charity work that our agency does with the children who are still in China--many of whom will never be adopted.

Several hours after my first amazing email came a second from Xia that really floored me.  First, she traveled to China in December and actually met Leah in person!  She has held my baby girl.  She said she is darling and getting stronger and mentioned that Leah smiled and giggled for her.  Hallelujah!  She also included the first three foster care reports, and I learned a lot of new information about my daughter.  It's not all pretty but it answered a lot of my questions and gives me such hope for Leah's future.

So, here's what I now know.

Leah with her foster mom January 2011.

Leah was first admitted to the orphanage after she was found when she was about 20 days old.  (I already knew this.)  What I didn't know but assumed based on her tiny state now is that she was incredibly small.  The report that accompanied this picture said that when Leah got to the orphanage she was so small and weak that she couldn't even cry.  That made me cry, and makes me forever grateful that she is a fighter and they were able to save her.  In this picture with her foster mom she is already two months old but only weighed about 7 lbs. 11 oz. and was just over 18 inches long.  It's hard to wrap my brain around that since my boys (except Seth who caught up and then exceeded in about two weeks) were much bigger than this at birth.  Jer and I have speculated that Leah was premature and this seems to support that, but we still don't really know for sure.  I do know now that she was in bad shape when they found her.  My gratitude for her foster mom (who from my understanding has been taking care of her from the beginning) just continues to increase.  It seems to me that she has very lovingly cared for Leah during an incredibly difficult first year.

Leah and her foster mom April 2011.

This picture is Leah at 5 months old.  She was still a fragile 8 lbs. 13 oz. and almost 21 inches.  She at least looks more like a little person and less skeletal.  The report states that she does not have a good appetite, is having difficulty putting on weight, and wakes up a lot at night.  I can only imagine that taking care of such a tiny baby is a lot of worry and work.  I'm so thankful for the care she has received in a home with a foster mom she is attached to.  It does mention in this report that she loves to be held and that she smiles at you when you talk to her.

Leah and her foster mom July 2011.

Leah was 8 months old in this photo.  This report was much more positive and put Leah's height and weight at 22 inches and 11 lbs.  She's growing--albeit at her own pace!  It says that she likes to lie in bed and kick her feet, roll around, and babble to herself.  It also says she responds to her name and smiles at you.

I can't even say what these pictures and having a little glimpse into Leah's past mean to me, and I know they will mean a lot to her someday.  Sometimes the truth can be ugly, but I think when it comes to explaining this all to Leah we will just stick to facts.  It does seem obvious to me that she has a fighting spirit, and she has had some amazing help along the way.  I know God has big plans for this tiny girl.  She has come such a long way already, and I think with some hard work, time, and love she will really bloom.

Now that I've mentioned all the stuff that has kept me on cloud nine all day I'll vent a bit...
**Where is that NVC letter?  That is the next step.  I need a copy.  It's supposed to be in the snail mail, I've requested a copy via email, but nada so far.  I hope I'm not cussing at the mailbox again tomorrow.  As soon as we get this I can send it to our agency, and they send all of our stuff to their reps in Guangzhou, China who take it to the US Consulate there.  Come on NVC!

**When oh when are we going to finish the basement?  This one isn't so much a gripe because we are making progress, but it's just an annoyance.  We did lots of changing/finishing of heating and plumbing down there, Jer did the framing, Jer and his dad did the electrical (thanks Boyd), and we have finally moved on to sheetrock.  On the upside, most of the sheet rockers are Hispanic, and I got to listen to some  sweet Spanish music all day...and did I mention it was really loud?  It was actually quite entertaining.  I would have liked to see the guy that was singing along with it all day for all he was worth.  Oh wait, they're coming back so maybe I will!  The added bonus is the layer of white dust that has drifted up and covered everything upstairs.  Luke and Seth are chomping at the bit to have their own rooms downstairs, Ian is moving to their room, and Leah will get the nursery.  There's a lot to do, but I'm not sure we'll quite make it.  Oh well, we may have to return to a work in progress.

**Last but certainly not least I am aggravated with the USPS!  I got very bad advice from the clerk that helped me the first time I mailed a care package.  I sent it back in November and I think it really was on the "slow boat to China."  Thanks to his awesome help I also have no tracking information other than the fact that it did go through customs as it left California.  When I mailed the second one I got the correct information and used a different service, but according to tracking it's in China but still not at its destination.  It was supposed to take 7-10 days way back in the middle of December.  I just hope she eventually gets both of them.  Our agency suggested sending disposable cameras for her foster family to take pictures of her.  I sent one along with the instructions in Chinese, but I don't know if she got it.  Last minute I threw one into her second care package so we'll see.  The idea is that we get the cameras back when we travel to China, and we have some pictures to fill in the gaps.  Being a compulsive documenter by nature that would really mean a lot to me.  I also sent a little photo album with pictures of us in the first package so I hope Leah has had a chance to see her new family, but I don't know.  It would also be nice to see a photo of her in some of those new outfits with one of the snuggly toys we sent.  I just keep hoping!

Well, if you lasted this long you're more patient than me.  Lately I've reflected often on my patience or lack thereof.  It seems that a lot of what has occurred along this journey to motherhood has been a test of patience--waiting for years to get pregnant with Luke, waiting for the perfect birth mother to choose us for adoption, the awful two week wait after IVF.  I'm not very good at being patient.  I don't like waiting on other people and not being in control.  I'm more of a "take the bull by the horns" kind of a gal.  I do know though that all of these previous tests of patience have resulted in the most amazing gifts in my life, so I'm hanging in there.  I know that there are higher powers than mine at work here.  Miracles take time.  She's worth it.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Merry Christmas Leah

Leah's first Christmas was spent in China, so we are going to really have to make it up to her next year.  I was thinking about her all through the holidays and wishing she could be with us.  On Christmas Eve the boys opened a special present for Leah which was her stocking.  It is so cute.  I must say it has been fun to start shopping for a few girl things around here.  We hung it on the mantle, and Luke and Seth were so hopeful that Santa would bring Leah some presents.  He did!  She got some really cute clothes, a few soft toys, and new crib bedding.  We are going on round four with our crib and changing table, but she got the cutest new bedding, and we're going to transform the nursery into one fit for a little girl.  We are feverishly working away at finishing the basement so that may or may not be done before we travel!

The boys are each so excited in their own way to have a sister.  (Okay, so I don't know if Ian is really excited.  He doesn't exactly get it, and it may rock his world a little!)  Leah is one lucky little girl to have these three little men for big brothers.

We sent Leah some Christmas jammies in her second care package, so I'm hoping she got them.  I can't wait to have her in the traditional Christmas Eve PJ picture next year!

P.S.  Lots of people have asked me what they can do to help...check out my note on the sidebar about the 100 Good Wishes Quilt!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Adoption Again

I really have no idea where to start world's longest blog post.  There are quite a few people out there who know about this but there are lots of others I haven't even mentioned it to.  I think I wanted to keep it quiet for a while.  Because of our infertility issues we have always been very forthcoming with information that we might have otherwise kept private.  When your family and friends are hoping and praying you are getting a baby it's just cruel to keep them waiting.  Now after about 10 years of trying to grow our family I feel like we've come full circle.  After failed fertility treatments ending in a natural pregnancy, a domestic adoption, and successful IVF we have three amazing boys.  Now we are truly trying it all and are adding a beautiful baby girl to our family through international adoption....that's right we are adopting a baby girl from China!  We hope to travel in the next 8 weeks or so to bring her home.

Without further adieu here's our soon-to-be newest addition Leah Mei.

Leah was born in Nanyang, Henan, China on November 6, 2010.  She recently celebrated her first and last birthday as an orphan.  She is currently in foster care under the direction of the Nanyang Social Welfare Institute (her orphanage).  Her Chinese name is Dang Mei.  In China surnames, Dang in her case, are first.  Apparently, that is the surname given to all children in her orphanage.  Her first name is Mei (pronounced May).  Mandarin Chinese is quite confusing and characters are used in combination to mean different things but the character used in her name means rose.  We like the name Leah (pronounced lee-uh) and we are keeping Mei as her middle name.  We have been referring to her as Baby Mei for nearly the last three months so that will definitely stick.  In fact, the kids are still warming up to Leah and Luke says he's going to call her Katie!

Despite the fact that I have yet to write down a word about this we have been consumed by this process for months.  Our travel date is now fast approaching, and I feel like I have really neglected recording all the details and emotions of this process, but on the other hand it has been nice to savor it ourselves.  The time has come though and I'm worried my memory will fail me, so I want to get it all down to share with my daughter someday.

This process began for us back in March of 2011.  We attended a seminar for couples adopting through LDSFS.  At the seminar we heard the bleak news about numbers of placements, available babies, etc.  They presented us with information about other agencies and programs.  I left that night with my old doubts and somewhat guilty feelings about adopting again through LDS.  Looking around that room there were so many childless couples and couples that financially might only be able to adopt with LDS. I questioned again whether we should be throwing our hats into that ring when we have been so blessed with our boys.  Jer and I started to talk other options.

International adoption is something that wasn't really in my realm of serious consideration (for lots of reasons) when we adopted the first time but now I found myself really thinking about it.  After some internet research it immediately seemed that the most stable, reliable program was with China, and I was captivated by the beautiful Chinese children.  Sadly there are over half a million Chinese orphans.  It didn't take long for me to find out that the traditional Chinese adoption program has all but ground to a halt.  What used to take less than 2 years now takes 7 plus.  A couple putting their papers in now could realistically wait 8 years or more for a referral!  I was sad to think we had lost our chance.

A little more reading though led me to the Waiting Child program.  This is a program for Chinese children with identified special needs.  The referral process is different, and the timeline is much quicker. I'll be totally honest--the term "special need" was pretty scary at first.  A speedier timeline is obviously not a reason to go this route.  After some discussion and a look at the types of needs we may be asked to consider we realized that this was something we were open to.  I must add here that Jer is so awesome and when I bring up these seemingly crazy (at first) ideas he is quick to get on board and be supportive. We researched some agencies and chose the one that our neighbors used to adopt their daughter who is Luke's age.  It has been a great choice and since we submitted our initial application in April there has been no looking back.

One of the first steps was to submit a medical checklist.  This is where you check yes, no, or maybe to a variety of conditions. This was hard.  Both Jer and I felt guilty as we checked no to lots of things, but we also knew we needed to be realistic and consider our capability and our young family.  We ended up with a pretty restricted list open to some fairly minor and/or correctable conditions.  We began working on our home study in May and were done with our four home visits and all the paperwork by the beginning of June.  We had to use a local agency for this part and ran into some trouble (that could be a whole other post but I have cooled off by now so I'll take the high road), but we eventually got our home study back at the end of July.

 I must say that the amount of paperwork involved in this process has been incredible.  It puts a domestic adoption to shame.  It has been extremely overwhelming at times.  We have been fingerprinted and background checked at the local, state, and federal levels.  Jer's old "shooting the sling shot on the mission" incident even required some additional paperwork.  We have accounted for our whereabouts and actions in every place we've each lived since the age of 18.  We have disclosed every aspect of our marriage, finances, home get the idea.  It is an invasive process.  I also was introduced to the process of "sealing" all our official documents i.e. marriage license, birth certificates, etc. which involves getting them notarized, sending them off to your state Secretary of State, then the US State Department, and then the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C. via a courier.  Jer's coworker is a notary and that has been a lifesaver.  We got physicals including blood work, and we participated in 10 hours of online adoption training which was actually very informative.  Once we had our home study in hand we were able to send in our I800A which is the initial immigration paperwork you file with United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS).  In the meantime we sent everything else in our dossier (the collection of documents you present to China) to our agency for review.  When we received our USCIS approval we got a copy sealed and sent the last few things to our agency.  They reviewed it quickly and submitted our dossier to China on October 21, 2011.  I have become very familiar with both the post office and the UPS store, and I have rushed to the mailbox or front door in anticipation quite a few times now.

The awesome thing is that in the meantime we received a referral!  I knew we would need to be very close to complete on our dossier to get a referral because we wanted a girl around 12-18 months.  Believe it or not, in the Waiting Child program as opposed to Chinese adoptions in general, there are more boys available.  On October 6, 2011, we got that life changing call from our agency.  I was totally shocked it had happened so soon.  Sarah from our agency asked us if we would be interested in reviewing the file of a little girl.  She told me her name, dob, area of China, and read to me a little from the short bio they have on her.  She also told me that her special need was a missing lower left arm.  This was a need we had identified as a "maybe" on our list, and I was a little surprised.  I told her we absolutely wanted to look at it, and she told me she would email everything they had including a few pictures.

When I checked my email a few minutes later I opened up the picture above and the one below as well as a head shot and a close up of her arm.  I immediately thought she was beautiful, my eyes were swimming, and I couldn't believe it.  I forwarded it to Jer at work.  He called me a few minutes later and we both agreed she was an amazing little girl.  We certainly made it a matter of prayer and much discussion, but we both fell hard for her right away.  It has been our feeling all along that the referral process is not arbitrary.  We were given Leah's referral for a reason.  She was meant to be ours. We talked it over endlessly that night and the next day, prayed intensely, consulted two different pediatricians, and decided to tell the boys about it the following Monday.    They were so excited--Luke in particular.  We asked them if they noticed anything different about her picture and Luke immediately mentioned her arm.  We asked them how they felt about it, and they had questions but were not overly concerned.  They do think about it and Seth has asked me several times "why God made her that way," but they have no doubts about bringing her home and loving her as their little sister.  I too have spent lots of time researching her special need (more about this in a new post) and just pondering in general about these special Chinese children.  (About 85% of kids in Chinese orphanages have a special need.)  I haven't come to any conclusions, but I do know that a loving Heavenly Father has a plan for each of us and for whatever reason this is part of Leah's plan.  I know she must have been a very valiant soul to be sent to Earth under challenging circumstances, and I'm convinced my baby girl is a fighter already.  She is a child of God, and I can't wait to let her know that and make her a part of our forever family.

We have since realized that all children from Leah's orphanage have one of these green background pictures...often in this same basket. I'm glad that Leah is wearing a diaper--many of them I've seen have Chinese split pants on with nothing underneath.  And the black smudge on her nose is just in the picture...she has a perfect little nose!

We told our parents, TJ and Amy, and a few close friends and neighbors right away but otherwise have kept this news mostly to ourselves until the last month or so.  Our families have been so supportive and are excited for this new grandbaby.  We are all anxious to bring her home and it has been difficult to see her birthday and the holidays come and go with her still in China.  The process is moving along as quickly as it can, it's just not fast enough!

Well the adversary always tries to stop good things from happening, and we have had our share of roadblocks in this process.  Above and beyond her arm a big concern for us was (and is) Leah's size.  Our pediatricians were convinced the stats we received initially could not be at six months.  Her labs looked good but her weight was just over 8 lbs.  Shortly after we sent our Letter of Intent (LOI) to China on October 14, 2011 we received an update.  This confirmed the fact that her size stats were correct and incredibly tiny.  In October at 11 months Leah weighed just over 12 lbs and was just over 25 inches long--obviously the size of a much younger baby.  We were worried and a 30 second video clip we received added to our worries.  On the one hand Leah responds to her caregivers and smiles in the video which was great, but she also seemed to always clench her hand and we never saw her open it or use it.  We were worried that maybe her only hand was dysfunctional in some way.  We were absolutely heartsick but told our agency we needed more information about her hand.  The boys had been praying for baby Mei nightly and were already asking when their sister was coming home.  It was gut wrenching because we felt we were in limbo.  As this was happening we received our pre approval (PA) from China on October 25, 2011.  This basically locked Leah's file to us and made her unavailable to anyone else.

Our agency was so wonderful.  They validated our concerns and wanted us to have the information we needed.  Unfortunately even in this digital age it is not easy to communicate with Chinese orphanages.  Updates are few and far between and at the orphanage's discretion.  After over three agonizing weeks, including a very sad discussion with our boys about the possibility that Leah may not be ours, we received the much needed update.  It was in the form of a few sentences and another short video.  It shows Leah reaching out for a wrapped candy and bringing it to her mouth.  Her hand seems to function normally, and the information states that she uses it to hold her bottle, pick up objects, etc.

These are a few pictures from our October update.  This is Leah at 11 months old.

Leah with her foster mom.  Her head looks quite flat on the back which is common among orphaned babies because they spend a lot of time lying on their backs unattended.

She has such beautiful, somber eyes.  They look right into you.  I'm hoping we can put a smile on her face soon.

Chinese children from Nanyang are always dressed in these puffy suits.  Yes, those tiny baby socks are baggy on her.  After receiving the update we consulted with the doctors once again.  They agreed she was extremely small but didn't think it indicated a larger problem.  They felt like her development was okay for a baby in an institutional setting (developmental delays are very common among Chinese orphans).  Basically their final opinion was that she was a very small, beautiful girl that should be able to grow and thrive in a family situation.

At 11 months Leah could:
**roll over
**sit up
**stand up with help
**say mama and baba
**hold her bottle and pick up objects
**smile and laugh
**respond to her name and babble
**had two teeth, main food was milk

I still worry about her incessantly, but ultimately the decision was not really about medical opinions it was about the spirit and what we felt was right.  We know Leah is meant to be a part of our family, and we are prepared to cross further bridges as we come to them.  It is our hope that she will develop and thrive in a loving, nurturing family.  We are taking a leap of faith.  I must say though that I think about her constantly.  She is always at the back of my mind which is what I attribute my current "brain deadness" to--it's worse than pregnancy brain.  I wonder what she is doing, if she is growing, if she is being loved.  I pray constantly for her well being and ask Heavenly Father to open her heart to love us.  Please feel free to join us in praying for Leah.  I so appreciate the love and faith of others on her behalf.

In the midst of our little crisis we received the awesome news that our dossier was logged in in China very quickly.  Our official Log In Date (LID) was October 26, 2011.  That is a huge step in this process!  At that point we were told our wait to bring her home would be 4-6 months.  Fortunately Leah is in foster care and has been since shortly after she entered the orphanage when she was only a few weeks old.  It seems that she is attached to her foster mother.  I am so grateful she has had this relationship in her life.  I am so sad to tear her away from it.  I love this picture of the two of them together.  My heart aches for the sadness they will both feel when it is time for Leah to come home, but I am so happy that she has been loved and should be able to bond with us because of this relationship.  Her foster care is sponsored through our agency, and we have now taken that over.  Believe it or not, for only $40 a month you can provide for the needs of a Chinese child.

I wish I had more pictures to complete this post, but we haven't got any updates since the beginning of November.  I check my email multiple times per day hoping for one.  We have sent her two care packages now, and I don't even know if she has received them.  Please.  Please.  Please.  In the meantime I have been busy  with the never ending paperwork.  The next big milestone was the Letter Seeking Confirmation from Adopter (LOA) which we received from China on December 5, 2011--reducing the timeline to 11-15 weeks.  This was an exciting one, and I should have taken a picture of this event.  Jer and I signed this official document that has our names and Dang Mei's on it and sent it back to our agency for return to China.  At this point we also submitted our I800 to USCIS.  This typically takes 2-4 weeks to process, and I just received our I800 provisional approval today!  We are getting close now.  We now continue to do more paperwork, get visas, and eventually receive our travel approval.  At that point we can organize our trip.  We will be traveling to China for two weeks!  I am dying about leaving the boys for that long, but I am so anxious to go and meet Leah.  It will be nice to have the uninterrupted time to bond with her before we get back to our crazy house!

There's no way to write about this entire experience in one entry, but this is a good start.  Now I need to start writing frequently with more details and updates.  I hope this post hasn't sounded too clinical.  This has been a very emotionally charged process filled with lots of ups and downs.  I am just now starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I get butterflies in my stomach just thinking about holding my baby girl soon.  I really am longing just to hold her close and tell her I love her.  It's hard to think of your baby so far away, living in poverty, without her family.  I have learned a lot throughout this process, and it has certainly been an experience that has helped me grow in a lot of ways.  It has opened my eyes to orphans and to a culture I knew next to nothing about.  I have truly been touched by the experiences of other families that I have talked to and read about on blogs.  This process has blessed so many lives, and it is about to bless ours!  It will be so nice when our days of Googling Earth and reading blogs of others who have adopted from China to get inspiration and find scraps of information are in the past, and we are holding our baby in the flesh.   Pray for our sweet baby Mei.