Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Yes...We're Signing

One of the funnier stories of our adoption process - especially our time spent in country - comes from the "misdiagnosis" we were given about Silas. We were initially told he was completely/profoundly deaf...he would not be able to hear us nor would he ever be able to hear us. So our family spent the 8 1/2 months of waiting for our travel date learning sign language (ASL) through a DVD series called Signing Times (ah-MAZ-ing!!) and Learn & Master ASL. We worked hard and had fun, but we were nowhere near fluent when it was time to meet our boy.

And then...he could hear. And we'd spent exactly zero minutes learning Spanish. And somehow the thought never occurred to us that it would've been helpful to have a little Spanish as we made our way around Colombia. We had a translator for our major meetings and we just didn't get past that. Google Translate became a best friend.

So what do we do now that our son can hear and will be starting speech therapy soon and should receive his hearing aids in the next couple of weeks?

We sign.Yes, he can hear us. But he understands us better when we sign. Yes, he's learning words. But he can communicate and express his needs better to us when he signs. And he loves Signing Times. And there's a need for people who know ASL.

I can't pretend that I don't know what I've been made so clearly aware of over the last year.

I know what it's like to be that mom who tells her family her son can't hear...and see the fear in their eyes of learning a foreign language just to communicate with their new family member.

I know what it's like to be the mom who worries night after night how her son will have friends - when they'd be required to learn a foreign language to have a true friendship with him.

I know what it's like to be the mom who fears the church and Sunday School situation when there's not an ASL interpreter.

I know what it's like to be the mom who is terrified her son will be isolated because of a lack of communication.

But I also know what it's like to be the mom whose family fearlessly says they will learn sign language, no matter how long it takes them and how far out of their comfort zone it leads them.

And I know what it's like to be the mom who has friends and neighbors asking how to teach their children sign language so they can play and be friends with her son.

And I know what it's like to be the mom whose Preschool Director says, "What do we need to do so he can be a full part of this ministry?" And to have his future Sunday School teachers ask if I could teach them sign language or for resources so they can effectively teach him each Sunday morning.

And I know what it's like to be the mom who knows there's a Deaf culture that is beautiful and that we can be a bridge between the hearing and Deaf world.

I can't pretend I don't know these things. And because I know these things...

Yes...we will still sign. We're still learning. I want to be fluent. I want my kids to be fluent. I never want to encounter a mama or daddy or child who has these fears around me or my children.

So, we will sign. It will take a while to be fluent. But we have resources and we will use them.

And we will sign...because we know the need for it. And we can't pretend we don't.

Finally, we will sign because the Deaf culture is the 3rd most unreached people group in the world.

Yes...we will sign. We will sign because of the fears we faced. We will sign for all the moms and dads of deaf children. We will sign for all of the deaf children.

We will sign for Jesus.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Welcome Home, Silas!

Finally posting our airport pictures. Some families opt to do a huge airport celebrations, some families want it to be a "family only" thing, and some families - like us - want somewhere in the middle. We invited a few of our close friends to join and it was such a joy and a blessing to have those who could make it to stand there and welcome our son home...forever. Huge thanks to Mary for snapping several incredible pictures and to Jamey for editing them. Welcome home, sweet boy!

I picked the kids up early from school, went home to make "Welcome Home" signs, and headed to the airport! And I missed my exit in NOLA because...NOLA drivers. I seriously thought I was going to be late to my own son's arrival. But we made it with time to spare.

This boy was SO READY for his daddy. And his new brother.
And these little Daddy's Girls...their smiles don't even tell half of their excitement!

Couldn't have done this without these ladies. Plus a "few" more of my girl :)

Oh, Lea...I just love you. You helped get me here. Big time.

Double checking arrival times with our friend, Jack
Anxiously waiting and thinking every tall, brown bearded man in a cap is Jacob.

We just caught a glimpse of them...

When he reached for me....oh, you guys...
Being introduced to his brother and sisters.
I will never let him go.

And back to Daddy's safe arms among all of this craziness
First picture as a family of 6!

He had to get up at 4:30 am to get to the airport and he didn't sleep at all on the trip he passed out just as we left the airport parking lot.
It was awesome coming home to decorations from sweet friends like this....

...and this. We are truly blessed.
I'll never stop saying how much I love our teachers and schools. Lynnsie's first grade class made this for Silas and were so excited for Lynnsie to get a new brother!
Confession: This is our 2015 family picture....taken in 2016 when our wonderful photography came out of "retirement" to snap a few pics. We love you, Maggie Moreau!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Not A Good Enough Title

So the title for this post is exactly true...there's just not a small collection of words to use to crate a title worthy enough for the goodness of this post.

Two and a half weeks ago, I posted on Facebook an adorable picture of Silas and asked friends to pray for him as he had a procedure done that morning and also testing to give us an accurate look at his hearing loss.

When our social worker first called us about Silas almost a year ago (whoa!!), his medical/special needs diagnosis was profound hearing loss....complete deafness. Deafness was a special need we were open to in our adoption, so it wasn't something new we had to consider. Immediately after saying yes and sending in our letter of intent to adopt him, we were connected with several resources and other deaf adoptive families and a deaf adoption counselor. The more we connected, researched, and learned....the more we realized that this was so much more than "just learning sign language". And that cochlear implants weren't an automatic yes and certainly weren't just an easy fix. The reality of how life as the parent of a deaf child was going to be became scary. But we felt beyond sure that this was our son and that no matter what we faced with him and his hearing loss, God would prepare us for it. We immediately started learning sign language and spent the next 9 months learning everything we could about life with a deaf child.

About 2 weeks before we were going to leave, a friend whose daughter was in the same orphanage and room as Silas, sent me a Facebook message with pictures and videos of Silas. And she said, "Misti, he can hear!" I tried not to think too much into it becaus while he was dancing in the video, it was in an outdoor patio area with brick flooring and the music was loud with a strong beat. And lots of kids were dancing and he could have simply been imitating them.

But then we sat down with his orphanage workers and they went over his life history with us. The last thing they got to was his diagnosis from the previous year as being deaf. And they absolutely did not agree with it. They disagreed with it so much that they said they never treated him as if he were deaf. We still weren't sure what to think and just decided to continue with our plan to have him tested when we got home.

There were several things we noticed in him responding to his name when I said it on a crowded and noisy sidewalk....or when he started dancing to background music in the loud airport when Jacob and I hadn't even picked up on the music. But, still....we thought maybe we were just exhausted (because we were) or just extra hopeful (because we were) and didn't make any assumptions or conclusions.

We took Silas to the ENT a few weeks after returning home and I told him some of the things we'd observed. He took a look into Silas' ears and the poor kid had SO MUCH EARWAX built up. I don't know if his ears had ever really been cleaned. There was so much that the dr said he needed to be sedated to have them cleaned out.

So on January 8, we headed down to children's hospital and he was put to sleep to have his ears cleaned out really good and have an ABR test done....this tests the brains reaction to sound. Once the dr got into his ears really good, poor kid ALSO had a lot of old, old fluid behind his ears. I won't even give you the description the doctor gave me, but it made me want to vomit. So he cleaned that out, put tubes in his ears, and the audiologist came and did the ABR.

The result? No, I fact, my child IS NOT DEAF!!!

He does have moderate hearing loss, but you guys....our audiologist said that with hearing aides and speech therapy, he would hear and communicate just like any other kid his age.

This news follows months of repeating to ourselves just to trust and follow the Lord....even when our insurance said they wouldn't cover hearing tests or cochlear implants or hearing aides. Even when we thought for a while we might have to move so he could attend a good school for the deaf. Even when I would go to bed and wonder how he would make friends, who was going to take the time to learn to communicate with our son through sign language. And every night when I laid down with these fears, I felt the indescribable peace of God and I knew I didn't have a single answer, but it would all be okay.

So what's the plan now? He'll be fitted for hearing aides soon and will begin speech therapy. And how amazing is this? One of my best friends is a speech therapist! No, She won't be doing his therapy, but just knowing I have her to ask questions or clarification is such a comfort. And another one of my best friends has a son who went through speech therapy very recently at the same age that Silas is, so she been a huge encouragement and I sit and watch her kiddo play and talk and I just think, "Wow, Jesus."

We're also continuing with sign language. Silas is picking it up very quickly and for the first time in his life, he can communicate. He has a language where he can make his needs known. We will not take that away from him right now. 

And finally, we're researching different foundations and grants that help families with hearing aides. Our insurance doesn't cover them, but it's honestly the least of our concerns. We've watched Jesus do pretty big things over the years for Silas and we have no reason to doubt Him! 

Finally, a sat but of good news. It's been two and a half weeks since his procedure and we can tell a huge difference in bis hearing already! He now has 23 words that he can either say/use or repeat back to me. Twenty-three!!

Y'all....may this kid never stop amazing me and anyone who ever has the blessing to be in his life.

We may have had a little fun when the goofy juice took effect while we waited to go down to the OR...

Happy Monday, y'all!

Monday, January 4, 2016

He Knew His Name

One of the most common questions I've been asked the past (almost) 3 years, is if we would keep our son's birthname or change his name or have a combination of the two.  The truth is, we picked out the name Silas Wade in the very, very beginning.  I remember watching my dad put his sunglasses on when I told him his newest grandson would carry the same middle name that he did.  We were still very early in the paperwork process.

But we knew that even though we'd chosen a name for our son, we would consider keeping his birth name or part of his birth name depending on his exact age and all surrounding circumstances.  So when we finally got the official referral, we had decided to go with Silas John Coleman instead as a way to incorporate a part of his birth name and honor his birth mother.  Some of you may have noticed the change in his middle name from the picture announcement I shared on facebook to one of my blog posts titled, "Becoming Silas Wade Coleman".

You see, in the hour leading up to meeting Silas, we had to meet with his workers at the orphanage. We'd read a lot of his history and information from the file they gave us earlier in the year, but there were a lot of minor details they needed to tell us, as well. Nothing major - just small things to fill in and accompany what we already knew.

I will never share the details of Silas' history.  That's his story and it's his alone to share when and if he wants to. But I will tell you this in regards to his name...he didn't have one for the first 3 weeks of his life. He laid there...a nameless orphan for 3 weeks. His name was randomly chosen from a list kept by his assigned attorney.  It was just two words used to identify him.  It wasn't his name...his identity.

When they told this to us...I couldn't breathe. My chest and my heart and my stomach hurt so badly.  I wanted to vomit. I thought I seriously might. I couldn't hold it together. I knew his entire story and this final added was too much. To know that my precious boy was nothing to anyone for 3 weeks, and then what felt to us like a random call sign for the next 2 1/2 years was more than I could bear. Jacob and I looked at each other with tears flowing and simply nodded yes.  We knew without having to talk about it.  His name would be Silas Wade...fully chosen by us.

I shared this story with my friend, Mary, a few days after returning from Colombia. I told her that was the one thing I couldn't handle.  I could process the rest of his story.  It made me angry and sad, but I could handle it. But not this.

Mary: "So, remind me when you started the process and when you chose the name?"

Me: "We started January 23, 2013 and had already chosen it when we'd started."

Mary: "And when was he born?"

Me: "April 14, 2013."

Mary: "So he had a name. He. Had. A. Name. He didn't know it. His doctors and attorneys and caretakers didn't know it. But his mommy and daddy did. And Jesus did. He had a name. Jesus knew his name."

Again, I couldn't breathe. How sweet is the Lord to have my friend bring this insight? My son was never nameless. And this takes me back to October 2014, standing in a town, "F", in Colombia - listening and learning in a Colombian church as I served alongside 3 very close friends and my former pastor. I don't remember the circumstances of why he did it, but towards the end of our time in the church, Stuart (my former pastor) got up and sang a song, "He knows my name." He sang it in English first and then Spanish. It was beautiful and I knew it was Silas' song.

I have a song for each my kids that I sing for them whenever they're sad or upset. I chose each song when they were all just tiny babies. I'd sing it over and over until they settled down. It was also my prayer for them. So when Stuart sang that song, I knew it was the perfect song that I could sing in prayer for Silas as he waited for Jacob and I to come get him, and anytime after that when his tears were flowing. The song is so simple, but the lyrics I sing for Silas are so full of truth...

I have a Maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
My life was in His hands

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And hears me when I call

Beautiful, right? It is no coincidence that this is the song God showed me for Silas. It is no coincidence we had chosen his name before we even began to process and that he was born almost 3 months after we began and was nameless to everyone he came into contact with. That is purely the work of the Lord on Silas' behalf. 

And when we're both in tears down in the trenches of adjustment and attachment...and I sing this song to him...I can sing it for myself, too...and Anna Beth, Lynnsie, and Creek...and Jacob. Because none of this rough adjustment stuff is brand new to Jesus. He saw it before we ever looked at the first picture of Silas. And he sees how beautiful and completely adjusted our family will be in time. 

Because He knows all of our names.