We’re Adopting a Boy!

James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” 

I’ve always had a heart for underprivileged people, especially children. As a social worker, I have worked with children and adults who have endured horrific abuse, neglect, and trauma. Some of the saddest cases I saw were with foster children who were taken out of the home due to abuse. These children suffer so much because they move in and out of foster homes multiple times. I knew that one day I would want to become a foster mom or adopt. 

We have two beautiful girls but the road to bring them here was horrific. I battled a rare pregnancy disorder called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) with both pregnancies. HG occurs in about 1-2% of pregnant women and causes excessive nausea and vomiting which leads to dehydration, fatigue, malnutrition, and a general inability to function. I lost 15-20 pounds with each pregnancy and endured home IV treatment for one to two months. Needless to say, pregnancy has been a very traumatic experience. The chances of getting HG with subsequent pregnancies once you have been diagnosed is estimated to be 60-80%. 

With all of these things to consider, we spent countless hours this year debating and praying about whether getting pregnant again would be the best choice for our family. I was especially worried about how the hyperemesis would affect the girls. With HG, I knew that I would not be able to take care of the girls due to the chronic debilitating nausea and vomiting. They would lose their mom physically but also emotionally. The reality of facing depression again as I battle HG was also a big concern. 

Then we heard about the Foster Care and Adoption Summit at Grace Baptist and decided to attend on November 15th, 2014. At this point God was opening our hearts to the possibility of fostering to adopt. We knew that international adoption was very expensive and thought that financially it would make more sense to do a domestic adoption by fostering. After the FCA Summit, we felt convicted to pursue an international adoption through Korea! 

We learned that many babies are relinquished at birth by unwed mothers who do not want to carry the cultural shame of being a single mother in Korea. There is a need for international adoptive families due to the stigma of adoption in Korea. Because of this stigma, there are not enough domestic adoptive families willing to take care of all the foster children in Korea. We also found out that the majority of foster children in Korea are boys because most families in Korea choose to adopt girls. 

In light of thinking about all these things, God spoke to us clearly. How could we glorify him in our family planning? Why not bring a Korean foster child home and in this very concrete way meet the needs of a helpless child as well as live out the gospel while expanding our family? 

The biggest hurdle to making our leap of faith was – “How are we going to pay for this?!” But God opened up our hearts to trust Him regarding this matter. How can we compare thousands of dollars to a child’s life? If the Lord wants us to open our family to a child, then surely HE will be the one to provide the means! 

In February 2014, we were matched with a six month old boy. We are naming him Ethan! He is now 9 months. We are done with all the paperwork and we are now waiting for the Korean government to issue us an emigration permit. We are guessing it will take another year before we can bring Ethan home.

How can you help?

  1. Pray for us – Please keep us in your prayers. We really need them! International adoption with Korea is a long process, estimated to take about 2 years to complete. There is an incredible amount of paperwork that we need to complete. Please pray for us to be diligent in completing all the necessary documents and that everything will go smoothly. Please pray that we trust God with every step of the way, trusting that He is sovereign. 
  2. Pray for the baby – please pray for God to protect the baby and to place him in a loving and safe foster home until we are able to bring him home. 
  3. Finances – Our next biggest need is financial support. International adoption with Korea is estimated to cost about $40,000. If you find it in your heart to support us financially, you can visit our Adopt Together account at adopttogether.org/bringingethanhome

Blessings,

Mimi

xmas 2014 pic

 

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Glory in Suffering

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Mother’s Day has passed and today is HG Awareness Day. Almost a year and a half has passed since I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum for the second time. HG is a rare, debilitating pregnancy disorder which occurs in about 1-2% of pregnant women. It is a disorder which is commonly misunderstood and routinely minimized by the public as well as by the medical community. Often times family members and friends are clueless as to the severity of the disorder which complicates matters and the HG sufferer suffers alone and in isolation.

HG is characterized by severe and excessive nausea and vomiting which can lead to dehydration (and subsequent visits to the ER for IV treatment), weight loss due to the excessive vomiting and inability to hold down food or water, hyper olfaction (extremely strong sense of smell), fatigue, lightheadedness, and overall inability to function due to the severity of nausea. HG causes disruption in day to day activities – inability to care for oneself, inability to work, inability to care for children, inability to shower, etc, etc! Many HG sufferers are forced to stay on bed rest simply to avoid movement which makes the nausea worse.

HG symptoms are the absolute worst the first trimester. Some women find relief after the first trimester but many HG sufferers still battle severe nausea/vomiting to the very end of their pregnancy. Severe cases require in-home IV treatment or a PICC line for continuous IV fluids to make sure the HG sufferer is hydrated.

Heavy doses of anti-emetics (anti-nausea med’s) are given – Zofran, Phenergan and Compazine. The most severe case would require a feeding tube so that the woman is not completely malnourished. Fortunately most HG pregnancies end with successful full term births! However, I have heard of cases in which the pregnancy was terminated by the doctor due to the severity of the disorder in order to preserve the mom’s life.

Nausea seems like such a harmless thing at first glance but imagine being so nauseous that you cannot stand the smell of your own, dear husband. Walking around or trying to take a shower becomes an insurmountable task because you end up puking due to the motion. I have described HG as a 9 month bout of severe food poisoning or stomach flu.

The most challenging part about HG is not the physical suffering (as difficult as that is!) but the emotional toll it takes on the sufferer. Many women with HG suffer from depression due to the chronic medical issues day in and day out. Many women contemplate abortion as well as suicide due to the immense burden that excessive nausea/vomiting and dehydration take on the body and subsequently on the mind and soul.

My journey with HG started with my first pregnancy in November 2011. We didn’t even have a chance to rejoice in our first pregnancy because of how fast HG ravaged my body. I had no clue that this nightmare would hit me. But I found out very quickly that my pregnancy was not going to be normal when I threw up everything I tried to eat very early on in my first trimester. My mom kept insisting that I try to eat for the baby’s sake but I would get extremely frustrated knowing that it didn’t matter what I ate, my body was simply rejecting it! I remember telling my OB about my excessive nausea/vomiting and she brushed it off, saying that it was just normal morning sickness and that I should feel much better soon.

She, unfortunately, was very, very wrong. It got to the point that I was starving, not eating anything, but still vomiting! I was vomiting water and bile. I was on bed rest and the nausea was very relentless and there 24/7. My only relief from the nausea was to sleep. I remember very distinctly on Christmas day of 2011 just vomiting all day (maybe 10 times). I felt very out of it. I stepped onto our scale and was shocked to see that I had lost 15 pounds! My gut told me that something was very, very wrong. This could not be normal morning sickness.

We went to the ER that day and I was immediately admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum. The doctor ordered a PICC line (a long term IV line) for me and set up in-home IV treatment. I received in-home IV treatment for one whole month before I was able to start eating normally. During this time, Danny faithfully took care of me and even administered the anti-nausea medications through the PICC line for me daily. After my first trimester, I felt much better and was able to go back to work. I still had mild-grade nausea and had nausea till the day I delivered. Annelise was 8 pounds, 5 ounces – a healthy and big girl!

My second battle with HG was much, much harder than the first. I remember finding out I was pregnant and feeling angry that it happened so soon (Annelise was not even a year old)! I was not ready to face hyperemesis again. I hoped and prayed that my second time would be easier. But those prayers were not answered and my second HG pregnancy was an even darker nightmare than the first.

My symptoms were worse and lasted the whole pregnancy. I lost a total of 20 pounds with my second pregnancy. Again, the doctor ordered home health care and I received in-home IV treatment for two, long months. I hoped that by the end of the first trimester, I would feel much better. But no relief came and I continued to vomit through my second and even my third trimester. There were occasional good days where I felt good enough to go out and eat. But those were really rare. Most days were spent at home, in bed, watching television around the clock just to keep my mind distracted from the nausea. I had insomnia at night due to the nausea and would stay up till 3 am.

I was unable to take care of Annelise so I stayed with my parents for several months so that they could take care of me and Annelise. I was unable to shower regularly during my first trimester so my mom would wash my hair for me once a week. My hair would get so tangled; I felt utterly inhuman, like an animal, like a zombie.

I battled depression with my first pregnancy but the depression with my 2nd pregnancy was worse due to the longer lasting symptoms and my frustrations that I wasn’t feeling better. Every day, I wanted to die just to escape the merciless nausea. Every day, I asked my husband to shoot me, to end my misery. Every day, I felt the temptation to abort the pregnancy just to feel normal again. The spiritual battle was enormous and I am so thankful for God’s grace, the unconditional love of my husband and parents, and many friends’ prayers – for protecting me not only physically but spiritually.

Even after giving birth to a very healthy and even bigger baby (Katelynn was a whopping 9 pound, 5 ounces!), I had mild-grade nausea that lasted a month! I was petrified that this nausea would never leave me, but it did. And I’m grateful to have survived this ordeal. I’m thankful for my two, lovely girls – my reward and my gift after the suffering. If there is anything I’ve learned from all of this – it is this – that God is good all the time.

This is the lesson that Job and Joseph learned. This is the lesson God forced me to learn. There is glory and a purpose to our suffering because it molds us into Christlikeness. Suffering from HG has taught me to appreciate life and health. It has brought me a greater compassion and empathy for those suffering from chronic medical illnesses.

I am reminded of these verses from the book of Job which ministered to me during the long, dark nights I battled insomnia and nausea.

Job 1:8-12

“Did you notice my servant Job?” the Lord asked. “There is no one on earth as faithful and good as he is. He worships me and is careful not to do anything evil.”

Satan replied, “Would Job worship you if he got nothing out of it? 10 You have always protected him and his family and everything he owns. You bless everything he does, and you have given him enough cattle to fill the whole country. 11 But now suppose you take away everything he has—he will curse you to your face!”

12 “All right,” the Lord said to Satan, “everything he has is in your power, but you must not hurt Job himself.” So Satan left.

At the end of all of this, I still have my faith in Christ and that was the great test that Satan requested and that God allowed in Job’s life.

I hope that you have a better understanding of how debilitating hyperemesis is. If you have the means, please consider making a donation to the HER Foundation at helpher.org. We need to raise awareness as well as funds to research this disorder in order to find the cause and cure!

I hope my story inspires you to fight whatever battle you’re going through and to come out stronger at the end of it!

Blessings,
Mimi

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Postpartum Reflections

I am now almost a month postpartum and I still have a trace of nausea. It’s amazing how persistent the nausea has been with this pregnancy. But I am happy to say that the nausea is very mild so I am quite functional now! I have so much more energy compared to when I was pregnant since the nausea is almost gone. I’ve been able to shower regularly, run errands, go grocery shopping, wash the dishes, fold laundry, enjoy eating meat – day to day things that we all take for granted. I’m truly grateful for every HG-free day that I’ve been blessed with. I feel like I’ve been given a second chance at life – I feel so alive and free now!

Taking care of Kate and Lisi has been super busy! Finding time to just sit down and write is getting harder and harder. I will continue to occasionally update this blog as various topics regarding hyperemesis arise. But for the most part, I will be taking a break from blogging here.

In honor of starting life afresh HG-free, I have started a new blog called myriad impressions. It will be a mommy blog in addition to being an eclectic collection of things that inspire me.

Letting Go of Annelise

One of the most painful aspects of this HG pregnancy has been surrendering my daughter. It was an odd process…to let go of my little baby who had been so attached to me. For five months (when Danny was in Virginia for training) last year, it was just Annelise and her mama. And then all of a sudden, when I got so ill with hyperemesis, we were forced to separate.

I was unwillingly pushed to surrender my precious Lisi. I had no choice. My body gave me no choice. I was bed ridden and on IV treatment for two months. I had absolutely no energy for anyone but myself. I was on survival mode. It took every ounce of energy just to breathe and live, manage the nausea, and get through each day.

So I relinquished her…to my husband who took care of her after work and on the weekends. And to my parents who took care of her during the day while Danny was at work. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law have also been so wonderful with taking care of Annelise when they would visit us.

On the one hand, I was so relieved to have them take care of her – I knew I didn’t need to worry about her and I could focus on getting better. On the other hand, I was heart-broken that she no longer looked to mama. She looked to grandma, grandpa, or daddy to feed her, change her diaper, play with her, and hold her tight.

Some days, I couldn’t even look at her…I was just too exhausted to even acknowledge her presence. So that’s how two, long months passed, with our paths barely crossing. My parents and my husband became responsible for taking care of Annelise as well as me. They were overwhelmed with the dual responsibilities.

I had to grieve and mourn the loss of our relationship. HG killed our mother/daughter relationship. But the wonderfully amazing thing is how resilient Annelise has been throughout this agonizing ordeal. She adapted quite quickly to her new care-takers. And once I started getting better, when I could start eating again and had more energy, we began the process of rebuilding our relationship. I started to play with her and sing to her. I taught her “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” In fact, “twinkle” was her first sign. She loved that darn song. She would always sign “twinkle” for me to sing to her.

It’s been an excruciating journey to say the least. There are still days I feel as if I’m a half-hearted mommy to a very active toddler. Half-hearted because I’m still nauseous 24/7. I have battled feelings of guilt because I couldn’t be there for her when I was really sick. It’s heart-rending that I cannot fully be there for her even now. I find myself emotionally disconnected from her especially on my bad days. But I guess it’s something that an HG mama has to battle.

I’m letting go of Annelise in order to survive and in order to save her baby sister.

lisi sf

My Rock – My Husband

Where do I even begin to describe how grateful I am for my husband? He has been the steadiest of rocks throughout this harrowing experience of HG for the second time. Danny used to be a Navy EOD officer so I guess that should tell you a little bit about his personality. Being a military man, he’s one of the toughest people I know.

I’ve heard ill-fated stories of husbands bailing on their wives who are battling hyperemesis – it was just too much for them to handle. One of the best qualities about Danny is his loyalty and dutifulness. He didn’t waver once in terms of his commitment to take care of me and Annelise during our tumultuous nightmare with HG.

When I was on daily IV treatment for two months at my parents’ house, he faithfully would go to work, swing by my parents’ to spend time with Annelise and to check up on me, and go back to our place in Culver City at night to take  care of our dog. On the weekends, he would take Annelise out to give my parents a break. Danny would administer the Zofran pump for me and change IV bags for me like a pro. I think some men would be squeamish about doing things like that but it never fazed my husband.

There were myriad times I broke down crying and countless times I wanted to give up, but Danny was there to reassure me and tell me that this was temporary, that it would end, and that we would have our little girl in the end. HG is so unpredictable and I felt so out of control but I took comfort in knowing that I could depend on my husband. Danny took on extra responsibilities that I couldn’t do because the nausea was so debilitating. There were days where the nausea would completely knock me out and I would have to ask Danny to watch Annelise the whole day. He ended up doing the bulk of the chores and cooking.

HG robbed us of a normal marriage. We went from being best friends, lovers, co-parents, and partners to simply a very sick patient and her devoted care-taker. Danny also became a single dad overnight. It’s funny because when Annelise was just 2 months old last September, Danny left for a five-month training out of state, so I essentially became a single mom for those five months. And now that he had just gotten back from his training, here we were with reversed roles with him the being sole care-taker of our daughter.

This December marks our 4th wedding anniversary. I’m sure Danny never imagined when we got married that he would have to deal with a wife suffering from HG twice! He has truly exemplified the marriage vows we hear so often but take so lightly  – “I take you to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.” I’m so thankful for my fellow HG warrior. I would not have made it this far (34 weeks!) without him.

Annelise’s First Birthday

Have you ever forced yourself to smile even though you feel like hell on the inside? Nothing about nausea is pleasant. But what do you do when your nausea lasts for 9 months? People might be sympathetic for the first few months of the pregnancy but they expect you to feel better after a while. So, at some point, you have to suck it up and fake a smile for the world. And at some point, you have to minimize your symptoms and tell people you feel okay even though you don’t really feel all that great.

So I forced myself to smile for Annelise’s first birthday this past July.

Traditionally, Korean families hold big celebrations (called “dol janchi”) for their child’s first birthday. Apparently, this tradition came about because in the past, babies frequently died before their first birthday due to various diseases. So if a baby made it to his or her first birthday, it was a big deal. Of course, these days in Korea, most babies survive well past their first birthday but people still throw elaborate and extravagant “dol” parties.

Because of the HG, I hadn’t done a single thing to prepare for Annelise’s birthday party. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure I would feel good enough to even attend her party! We decided to do a simple, cozy family party. My mother-in-law made the reservations for the restaurant. My mom arranged catering for the fruit and dessert and she also bought a han-bok (traditional Korean dress) for Annelise. The one thing I did was order a custom-design cake for her.

It took every ounce of energy for me to get ready and go out to the restaurant for Lisi’s birthday. This would be the first time I would go out in public since my HG nightmare started. I had just discontinued my home IV treatment. Taking a shower was arduous. Getting dressed and putting on makeup for the first time in months felt strange. I was very anxious about throwing up during the car ride to the restaurant or during her party but thankfully I made it through the day without vomiting. I couldn’t eat too much because my stomach still hurt every time I ate anything.

I forced myself to smile during pictures – I really wanted a good family photo. It was pretty overwhelming to see all our relatives after being cooped up at home, but I was so thankful for everyone coming out, so I forced more smiles.

Annelise is quite a character. She became cranky and started bawling in the middle of the party because she was sleepy and tired. But as soon as we gave her a snack, she immediately calmed down. She loves food!

Looking at her gleefully chowing down on the puffs made me smile. And this one was a genuine smile…I was glad that my daughter was happy. I was thankful that the Lord blessed her for one year and that she is so healthy and chubby. My first HG miracle baby.

A Mother’s Love

I made it to my 28th week of an HG pregnancy! Thank the Lord for sustaining me thus far.

One of my biggest supporters throughout this pregnancy has been my mom. I don’t think I appreciate her nearly as much as I should. Only a mother would do half the things she’s done for me to help me survive the hyperemesis.

I stayed at my parents’ home for two months from June to August while I underwent in-home IV treatment. We decided that it would be best for me to stay at my parents so that it would be easier for them to take care of me as well as my daughter since I was physically unable to take care of Annelise at the time.

My mom is a nurse by profession so that came in quite handy during the IV treatment. I felt quite safe at home knowing that my mom would know when the IV had gone south and would require a change. She administered Phenergan (anti-nausea medication) through the IV for me at night.

Because my nausea was so bad, I had a really hard time taking a shower (the motion of even standing up and washing my hair was enough to cause a puking episode). I also had no energy to take a shower regularly. So my mom took up the tedious chore of washing my hair once a week just so that I didn’t look like a complete barbarian. She endured my frustrated screams at her to hurry up because even the smell of shampoo would send me over the edge. She also faithfully administered glycerin suppositories when I was extremely constipated (gross, I know!). I don’t think anyone but a mom would be willing to do that!

One time I was taking a shower and I got extremely nauseous from the heat of the water and I vomited my entire lunch onto the tub. The shower drain started getting clogged…so I yelled for my mom to come help me. She scooped all the vomit out of the tub.

On top of all this, my mom (on her days off from work) took care of my daughter. It was quite a stressful time for all of us – it’s an understatement to say that my parents were drained after a long day of taking care of me as well as my active toddler!

All of these things were amazing for my mom to do but I think what I’m most thankful for is her simple, unconditional love. I had so much frustration and anger regarding my pregnancy – it inevitably would come out in emotional outbursts toward my mom. And yet she chose to stand by me despite my frequent, ugly temper tantrums…

A mother’s love knows no bounds, can lift you up in the darkest moments of life. A mother’s love is unique is its ways and can be the most persistent and constant of loves that we’ll ever experience. It is probably the most thankless job in the world but it can be a glorious gift for her children. 

Here I am at 28 weeks about to become a mom of two soon. I hope that I can, one day, show this kind of unwavering love to my little ones.