She sensed impending danger and anxiously called loudly to her little ones. She didn’t want anything bad to happen to them. The world is an evil place and full of dangers. As to her babies, they were hers and so precious. They came running at the sound of her voice and gathered close to her, cuddling beside her till the danger is past…. “No one will harm you while I’m around” she vowed, “I won’t let them“. She takes such good care of them….even if NOT one of them is hers by birth……Nope!.. this wasn’t me or any other adoptive Mom, (although I’m sure we would all say the same thing), this was our Mother Hen a few weeks ago.
This was the beautiful picture of Adoption that I showed to our daughter Niamh (from our 1st Ukrainian adoption over five years ago now). Niamh loves the chickens and faithfully took care of them when we were gone to get her 8 siblings. She so wanted baby chicks this year. Her little brown hen had dutifully sat for 21 days on some eggs that failed to hatch and when we had some little orphan chicks from another hatch we gave them to her and she took them and cared for them like they were her own! She “Adopted” them! So beautiful!
SO much has happened to all of us since the start of 2020! and for us it’s been a long two years! We have been caught in the middle of a Global Pandemic, and travelled halfway around the world to bring our children home and SO much more. (Some of it not so welcome news, in fact QUITE the opposite). But through it all, we experienced one MIRACLE after another!
Before I say anything else, I want to say a huge “Thank you” to those of you who helped make our second adoption happen. (aka Steeves Adoption Volume 2). For you all we will be forever grateful. You are “Our Village” who will help us raise these precious children. And so begins the most difficult, and one of the most wonderful things Rob and I have ever done together.
As mentioned our homecoming with the children was quite the miracle because of Covid and the restrictions, closure of airports, rationing of food etc. Our welcome home in the community was something else!
One Sunday shortly after we got home Trish called me and told me to be at the bottom of our lane in 5 minutes. “Bring Rob and the kids too” she said “some folk want to drive by and say hello!”. She made it sound like it would be no big deal and thinking it would only be a couple of people, I didn’t put in a lot of effort into getting ready and we headed down there after lunch.
First to appear was her husband Mike, with all their kids in the back of their truck, shouting and waving, big smiles on their faces. Then another vehicle and another and so the line continued! Over 50 vehicles drove by to welcome us back to Canada that Sunday afternoon. The warmth of this made our hearts just swell with thanks! Some people threw out candies to the children. It had a real carnival atmosphere, a bit like the annual parade in Steinbach. Many had made banners with “Welcome Home Steeves” or “Welcome Home Family” in colored letters, some even with Russian lettering! The children felt so wanted, not only by us, but by their newly adopted community. It was beautiful. News of the parade of cars even made it onto Steinbach online as word reached them of this unorthodox “Welcome Home” in the middle of Covid restrictions.
Just in case you are interested and still reading, it wasn’t all fairytales and roses in those first few weeks. We had many meltdowns and anger outbursts in those early days, but this wasn’t our first rodeo and we were WAY better prepared this time and felt we knew more of what to expect.
When one of our daughters told me haughtily one day she “didn’t get adopted to do dishes” and that she “shouldn’t have to do ANY chores”. I looked her right in the eye and smiled at her, gave her a quick hug and told her “We all have to do chores, even me!” “I am going to Auntie Trish’s for a coffee before I say something I regret”. Rob was home working in his office so I let him know I would be gone for a bit and when I came back, maybe 30 minutes later, she was waiting for me at the door with an apology and a hug. We nicknamed this beloved daughter “the grand duchess Anastasia” for a brief time and only in private to each other. She never knew about it and besides it wasn’t meant in malice. Somehow that tiny bit of private humour helped make it easier on those difficult days.
I chuckle as I remember our darling Niamh saying the very same thing three years earlier after I had cooked dinner and she was helping me wash up. “You only adopted us to do dishes “she said with a pout, not wanting to help. I laugh now writing this. At that time, I told her “If I had only wanted my dishes done I would have bought a dishwasher my darling, it would have been way cheaper than an adoption”.
I think it is so sad the way these kids want a family but often they have NO idea how to be part of a family. The movies they watch have maids to do things and sad reality is that most rich people are not the ones adopting children, especially not older children and those from hard places with multiple traumas in their pasts. The ones we have chosen to love and who God has opened our hearts to.
We had to wait until our isolation was over before we could have medicals done on the children. We wanted to know if all we had been told about them was true.
According to the doctors in Ukraine, everyone was healthy except for Meara (6) who was supposed to have a ’heart murmur’. Nothing could have prepared us for the devastating news we got the day following blood work on the Wednesday May 13th 2020. We had only been home with the children since March 23 2020.
The news we got that day would change our lives forever and we couldn’t even begin to imagine just how much.
Fallon had just celebrated her 11th birthday that Sunday. It had been a beautiful day and we had enjoyed a barbeque outdoors. The sun had shone and the kids enjoyed playing in our yard.
Rob had taken Fallon in on the Wednesday following her birthday to see our family doctor as we both had noticed an unusual odor to her skin when we met her again that December of 2019. Her skin smelled like rotten fish and her appetite was really poor. Her attitude was still bubbly and she was very happy and affectionate and her smile just as big as ever. Thinking she maybe wasn’t washing herself properly I had helped her bathe a couple of times but nothing worked and the smell was still there.
Dr K called me the next day. “I have some bad news” he began “Fallon is in kidney failure”. “You need to take her to Children’s Hospital Emergency right away”. “Her creatinine is 1169!”. For those who don’t know, normal Creatinine is between 60-110 umol/L. Her’s was 10 times the upper limit of that!!!
DISCLAIMER: Some of the photos below may be distressing to some people. If you are a person that may upset by them, Perhaps an idea to look away now 🙂 but this is our reality so it’s is up to you .
Rob drove her in while I stayed behind to pack some things, sort out meals and get someone over to mind the kids until Rob came home later. I had planned to stay with Fallon in Health Science Center, Children’s Hospital for as long as needed. I needed to be prepared as it is 88 km away from our home and I couldn’t just run back home if I needed anything. My friend Carrie was happy to take me up to Children’s Hospital that afternoon. Fallon had just had an arterial line put in to give her medications to lower her BP and also to monitor it and a PICC line also as her blood pressure was dangerously high, 182/129, and the doctors were afraid of her having a stroke. Initially her BP would not respond to ANY medications even I.V. ones. She was in End Stage Renal Failure.
She stayed in the P.IC.U. for almost 5 weeks before being sent to the ward for 2 days and then contracting Sepsis from an infection in the hemodialysis line in her neck and almost dying, being brought back to P.IC.U. in the middle of the night by one of the doctors pushing her bed! Later the staff told me they were not sure if she was even going to make it through that night. She was that ill!
Rob drove up almost every night to see her and me. That meant he had to leave the other 10 children at home and have someone come in to stay with them.
It was a very stressful time for all of us. Covid visiting rules meant only one parent at the bedside so I had to walk the streets until he was finished visiting with Fallon. There was nowhere to stay in the hospital as all the eateries were closed due to the Covid pandemic and nowhere to just sit. There was a bench outside and I often sat there and just enjoyed the few minutes of sun on my face.
That area of Winnipeg is probably not the safest to walk around and I did meet some ‘interesting‘ people, but I knew I was protected. I couldn’t help but be thankful! I marveled in the fact that God doesn’t make any mistakes. He already knew that Fallon was sick even when no one else did. He knew her kidneys hadn’t grown from when she was a baby and they were the size of grapes and badly scarred. He also was fully aware that we were going to come and I marveled at the total goodness of a Father who loves Fallon and us so much that it just blows me away! He also knew she would need two nurses for parents. How she survived until we came for her is a miracle but her story isn’t over yet.
Fallon endured the pain of surgery to put in a Hemodialysis line in her neck, surgery to put her Peritoneal Dialysis Catheter into her abdomen, a PICC line in her arm, an Arterial line in her wrist, constant Emesis and retching every single time with her daily Hemodialysis until the two weeks had passed to allow for healing before starting her Peritoneal Dialysis. Needing to be lifted out of bed to use the commode, getting washed up and so on helped to bond us together. I was her main caregiver for all those weeks and in that time, Fallon became totally fluent in English, so much so that when someone in the hospital tried to speak Russian to her she pretended she didn’t understand it even though she did.
When we eventually started the daily Peritoneal Dialysis, the drain pain was so bad that Fallon would cry and whimper throughout the night every time her cycle would drain. It was exhausting for both of us. For 10 hours overnight, every 45 minutes the cycle would drain and she would be crying with pain. Only warm blankets helped a little and sometimes I just lay on her bed beside her and hold her in my arms.
It was very hard for me to be away from all the other children for so long and I was a little worried it would affect my bonding with them. When Fallon had somewhat stabilized after a few weeks into her hospitalization, Rob started to bring the children one at a time to see me when he would come to visit Fallon and while they were visiting the two of us would go for something to eat and talk about their day. We would sit on the bench and talk and cuddle. Conor fell asleep with his head on my lap the first evening he came. I guess he missed his mom.
Saoirse still talks about the sushi we had and that is over 2 years ago! We made some memories on those days and even though it may not have been ones we had initially planned on having, they are still ones we cherish. Meara and Patrick would come together and we had fun bug hunting in the woodchips around the plants in the front of the hospital. Imagine if they had got a mommy that was grossed out by creepy crawlies! Unthinkable 😊
Finally, as the middle of June rolled around we got home! Our church friends had been fantastic. A Meal Train had been organized when I was gone and Rob had meals delivered daily so he could continue working from home. This continued even for a few weeks after I got home too to allow me time to care for Fallon and the others without the stress of meal preparation.
“Auntie” Alyson had bought her a blue T-shirt and had the word “Waymaker” printed on the front with a yellow sunflower and a huge banner with “Get Well Soon Fallon” and signed by friends and well-wishers with lots of messages of support and encouragement. Even Rob’s manager told him to stay home as off site was preferable in the middle of the Covid Pandemic. Someone was always dropping by with some goodies and offers of help. This is what the hands and feet of Jesus look like! Love in action!
And so, our life continues. Good days and then some not so good but now that we are two plus years in, I think we have more good ones. Just don’t ask me that question in the middle of a bad one or I may be tempted to give you a different answer 😦
It’s hard to learn to live with so many people with so many different personalities, strong wills, trauma issues and medical conditions and not be affected by life experiences. It’s also the time consuming and bone draining effort of pouring into lives, often to not get anything back for a long time, if ever. Those disappointments I am working on releasing to God as I cannot carry them on my shoulders. That is the only way I can continue to have freedom.
For us, the cost of adoption was way more than just financial. Although this is a huge part of it, but it in many ways maybe not the most important part for us. God has blessed us, and continues to bless us more than we can ever ask or imagine. For me, it is also the almost certain knowledge that in doing this second adoption, I (Sharon) may never have the opportunity to see my mother again.
This journey is something that I went into with my eyes open, desiring to be obedient to God, and willingly but also something that, if I’m honest, I grieve from time to time. I am not complaining, it’s just fact. This is the reality of our lives. I am so incredibly thankful I was able to say ‘goodbye’ to my mother on a 3-day stopover in Ireland on our way to Ukraine to get children out of the orphanages after the required 30-day wait was over. We made some beautiful memories and those few hours I got to spend with her are something I will treasure for always. I think we both said ‘goodbye’ many times in those few hours! Her dependence on Jesus and her thankfulness in all situations leaves me with an incredible example to follow.
For now, leaving out the financial cost, how could I possibly go back home alone and leave Rob at home both to work and look after 11 children, do dialysis for 10 hours a night sometimes dealing with alarms, run a tube feed and make meals etc. Not to mention the emotional issues we deal with on a daily basis. Nor just now for sure. Fallon came home on 23 pills a day and an injection to make red blood cells once a week.
And just in case anyone thought I had too much time on my hands, Patrick spiked a fever and ended up being rushed into Emergency to have his appendix removed in July 2020. He ended up testing positive for Lyme at the same time. His diagnosis of ADHD, Microcephaly and Global Developmental Delay are a full time job, even though I also work outside the home as a Diabetes Educator 4 days a week, but I am eternally thankful for this adorable little boy and how he blesses our family. We just can’t turn our back on him for a second or he will be into something he is not meant to be 🙂