Sunday, April 29, 2012


We are leaving for Ethiopia on Thursday... that is four days from now... yep, 4 days!!!  (insert heartburn, palpitations, deep breath, repeat..... okay, I am kidding...a little)  I have thankfully had the last three days off to soak up time with Tedi, buy the rest of the stuff we need for the trip (snacks, donations, and such), and see family.  My mom drove up to visit on Saturday and we visited with her and my in-laws then.  We also had lunch with this girl, Brittney Armstrong, and her family at the local Ethiopian restaurant, Queen of Sheba.  Britt is learning to make injera to go along with her other wonderful Ethiopian dishes... glad I have friends that are good cooks. 

We let Tedi wear his new shirt that his Granny Sylvia got for him.  I mean, I must say...he is pretty darn cute.  It was great that he got to see most of his family this weekend and they made a big deal about seeing him.  The grandparents are always good for a bad toy (ie... Nerf dart gun with 50 foam darts) and some soda. 

Below is the face of a person who I love... like a sister, more than myself.... a woman who loves my child as if he were own.... will discipline him, hug him, bathe him, and make him behave.  I love Emily and her family.  It is with this family, the Fox family, that Tedi will stay for the half of the time we are in Ethiopia.  Despite my love for Em (and my in-laws who will also keep Tedi), it saddens this mom's heart that I will be leaving Tedi.  I have reiterated over and over to him that we are coming back.  We are not leaving him.  It is eight days.  We are making him a calendar so he can mark off the days until we come home... This will be more difficult than his normal week long trips to the grandparents because of limited access to phones and such.  Maybe I am over-reacting or worried preemptively.  He will probably be just fine but as his mom, I worry about him.... not just because he is my kid.  That is obvious.  But this is a little boy that has been left before, regardless of the reason... he spent time where he felt left alone...  so I need him to NOT feel that way now.
That is all.  You can judge.  Go ahead.  I am overreacting.  It's fine. 
Isn't it a good picture of me and Em, though. 

How to be the Village... by Jen Hatmaker

One of my friends who is also adopting a second time re-posted this blog by Jen Hatmaker written last year.  It is an interesting take from adoptive family's perspective about how others can help them in the initial days and weeks home after the adoption... Definitely check it out.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Older Kids and the Airport

Maybe I should be watching Thunder over Louisville on TV (for all of you non-Louisvillians, it is the pre-Derby fireworks show) or really, I should do laundry.  Or I should go to bed since I work tomorrow.  But I can't stop thinking about last night.

Late last night, we went to the airport to welcome home two families and their children from Ethiopia.  One family welcomed home their fifth child, the third by adoption.  I love this family, the Monks family.  Their daughter, Efrata, is a beautiful almost 11 year old girl.  This family already has daughters close to her age so it was a natural fit for them. 

Meeting Efrata and hearing about their experience left me sad for the all the other older children who may not find a home...who may stay in an orphanage until their 18th birthday, similar to a child in our foster care system who never finds a stable home throughout their bouncing around.  I don't know the statistics but I do know from experience that people rarely adopt children 5-6years or older.  It is scary.  There seem to be more unknowns.  I mean, we did this with Tedi.  (Chernet will be 5 when he comes home).

What makes my heart heavy even more is the fact that for the older children with HIV+, life without a family could mean so much.... think of the seven year old girl who does not find a family.  She then grows into the 16 year old girl.  She knows she is supposed to take this medicine everyday but it is a lot work.  Then she starts having sex because who ever really sat down with her and explained that taking the medicine is important to not passing on the disease.  And moreover, she likely has no access to condoms nor does the man she sleeps with.... so he may walk with HIV and because of the lack of protection, she may end up pregnant.  But you have heard that babies rarely get HIV from their mother.... well, that is only when the mom takes her medicine daily.  Then, this girl delivers her baby.  Even if this little baby does not get HIV from the delivery, what is the mom to do?  Does she give her baby breast milk that surely has HIV in it OR does she mix formula with water that may be infested with typhoid, parasites, or other water-borne diseases that we do not see here in America?  Well, the baby has a better chance of living with adequate nutrition with the HIV+ breast milk rather than the disease-laden water.... and here we are, repeating the cycle.  Don't get me wrong....we have a "cycle" here in America, but this cycle rarely involves deciding between HIV and death. 

So you see, I am sitting here while the laundry needs to be folded and I now hear the loud booming of the fireworks since we live downtown but are not close enough to see them.... I am sitting here knowing I can not save every kid, though I sure do try with this blog, my conversations and every day life.... but it is not enough.  I struggle with Not Doing Enough.  Each of these children are God's children just as Tedi is mine and I can not fathom knowing they will never have a Christmas or be tucked in or have a book read to them or have someone tell them "I love you" merely because they were unlucky enough to have been orphaned after infancy or toddler-hood when they were "less cute" or had "less trauma" "less issues" "less attachment concerns".....

You may be thinking.... "Well, Natalie, if you feel so strongly about this... why don't you adopt an older child... older than five with HIV or even without."  Well, I would not say all of this if it was not something that I ponder, pray about and struggle with.  I don't know what it means for my family right now.  Does this mean I will never adopt a younger child or even an infant?  Of course, not.  Never say never.  Does this mean that every child I adopt from here on out will be older or be HIV+ or be both.... again, no.  It does mean I will speak out and advocate and encourage others to consider these "older" consider "HIV."  Yes, we may move down this path at some point, but for those of you in the process, waiting to matched, pondering adoption, or advocating....consider the kid a little bit older...a little less cuddly and cute...that may be ready to braid YOUR hair rather than wearing headbands in theirs.   Just think about it...because I sure am...I am struggling with it right here with you.


So there are 11 days left before we leave.... or 6 ER shifts and 2 clinics.... I could not be more excited.  We still have not heard how the preliminary hearing went.  We assume we will know at the beginning of the week if something was wrong with our file, though our agency does not have worries that there is.  So as of right now, we are still leaving on May 3 in the mid afternoon and arriving home May 11 at 7pm.  I mean, I am super pumped. 

Tedi and I went shopping today for basic items for our trip....  The little things add up, especially in the toiletries section.  I was so proud of Tedi.  We were in a busy Walmart for an hour and a half and he was so very good.  Despite the cost,  I decided to think of the top 5 things that made Walmart worth it.

Top 5:
1) Malarone, the anti-malarial medication, was only $8!  (Unfortunately, JT's coverage is not that great for this med... $7/pill and 18 pills... do the math)  But we are celebrating a small victory with mine!
2) Watching Tedi pick out blankets to take to his birth mother stole my heart.  He said "I think she will like the ones with the flowers.  Let's get that one for my Ethiopia mommy."  If I cried, that would be the time.
3) Lightening McQueen and Francesco are making the trip to Ethiopia, along with a mini shark pillow pet.  Yep, that is what Tedi decided he wanted to take his brother as a gift. 
4) Creme Brulee Rice Pudding (2 pts on weight watchers).... not adoption related at all but oh so important in making a shopping trip Walmart rewarding
5) Tylenol PM and a 14 hour flight... need I say more

Thank you, Walmart.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bits of Anxiety

I have been trying to pinpoint over the last few days why I am so anxious about my trip.  I have traveled before. I know what to pack for the most part.  Long plane flights are tolerable.  Foreign foods and cultures are exciting...  And the more I think about it, dwell on it, I realize that my nerves, anxiety, and also excitement lie mixed in two places. 

I will be meeting my second son for the first time.  I will also be meeting Tedi's birthmother.  I do not which of these is causing the right side of my neck to tighten daily and slight acid reflux to occur.  I am overjoyed that in the next three weeks I will get hug and kiss and visit with my sweet boy.  But there is also this piece of me that wonders if his almost 5 year old self will be pleased with me....  And yet I have the same thoughts with meeting Tedi's birth mother.  Will she find me good enough, adequate enough, to parent her baby?  I honored and humbled to be meeting her yet very anxious. 

I wish I was better at explaining my emotions.....even more better at expressing them. 

In other news....  we went today for our travel vaccines... not a cheap or painless endeavor.  Between the two of us, we received yellow fever, typhoid, flu (JT), polio booster (me), Hep A/B boosters..... Tedi was with us and was very concerned that we were going to hurt.  He also enjoyed the bandaid removal this afternoon.  My right arm has been a bit sore today and he kept laying his head against it while watching Wipeout.  I told him it was hurting.... his reply "well, let me just make it better with a kiss."  Love that kid.

Also, today was our preliminary court date in Ethiopia where the judge reviews are file and gives permission to travel in two weeks.  Our agency did not see any issues...nevertheless, it will be nice once the confirmation comes that we are cleared to travel.  We probably won't hear tonight since it is already 1am in Ethiopia.  Maybe tomorrow...

Thanks for following our journey! 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

15 Days

We leave for Ethiopia in 15 days.  I would be lying if I told you that I was overwhelmed.  I am flipping my schedule again from nights to days...thus I got off at 4am and am still sitting up.  I have this crazy list of things I know I need to get done before leaving between working a few crazy ED shifts (hint: if you are not sick, don't come to the Kosair ED these two weeks.... okay, I am joking.... kind of)  and living life!

I can not even articulate my excitment for the trip.  I was unable to go with JT when he traveled in July 2010 to bring home Tedi.  I was heartbroken but was starting a new job as a resident physician and really could not do so.  So to go to Ethiopia, to meet my new son, to see the country, to serve medically, to love on little kids, and travel throughout the country....I am so very excited. 

In great news, yesterday (I think, since my days are running together) our friends Vince and Kelli Monks and Sarah Elliott went to meet our son.  They are in country picking up their children and took the time to see him, take pictures, and text us about him.  He is so so precious.  He has five or six spots of molluscum but is otherwise fabulous.  They said he is happy and loves to tall and thin....walked around holding their hands.  My heart can rest easily for a few more days.  I can not wait for Friday when we welcome these families home at the airport!  Always such a great experience!

Well, stay tuned.  I am on days now so I promise more updates, posts, and news.  Again, please email me with questions about adoption, HIV adoption, older kid adoption, or really whatever!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Guest Blog: HIV Adoption, Disclosure, and Everyday Life

The story below was written by one our adoption community friends who used to live here in Kentucky but has recently moved to Colorado.  She told me I could share this with my blog followers and hope to encourage more of you to consider these children. Ben and Jessica used AAI for their adoption and we are using Lifeline.  Regardless of your agency choice, please do consider this..and email with questions~ Thanks Jessica and Ben and Abiti!

Adoption has always been on Ben and I's hearts.  We thought YES we would like to adopt someday.  During the Spring of 2010 I read an article in a national publication about a woman who adopted a child from Africa and the child was HIV positive.  I read the article with great interest.  I didn't know anyone with HIV except my good friend Magic Johnson of course.  But what ever happened to him anyways, I thought?!?   So, after reading the article I thought "WoW- HIV treatment has come a long WAY! How did I miss all this?  I worked in healthcare and I had NO clue!  Why didn't I know it was such a manageable disease much like diabetes?"  We didn't need a "healthy child" like everyone in the world prays for!!  We just want to love a child who needs our love and I know our Gospel values don't teach us that a child with HIV would be unlovable or unadoptable!  Ben and I talked and said you know WE could do this!  So the next 5 months I read, read, read and we prayed, prayed, prayed!!!  And this was the path God was leading us down.  We signed on with an adoption agency in October 2010 (AAI) that was the 1st US agency to place children with HIV in Ethiopia and was placing them in homes all the time now!  I met wonderful families all over the country that had positive children.  We met with the knowledgable Pediatirc Infectious Disease Team at University of Louisville that would provide healthcare for our son or daughter.  In December we received the file of our amazing son, Abiti. WHY did we receive a referral so quickly after we just signed on with our agency???  Why because children with HIV and other special health care needs are waiting sometimes for years and years on lists waiting to be adopted.  Many are NEVER adopted! Yes Abiti was positive but he was completely HEALTHY!  And if you have met him you know he is a VERY active and healthy boy!!!  

So now that Abiti has been home with us for 6 months, we felt it was very important to help others understand what it means to have HIV and what it doesn't mean.
HIV can NOT be spread through casual/household contact. HIV is not spread through hugging, kissing, shaking hands, sharing toys, sneezing, coughing, sharing food, sharing drinks, bathing, swimming or any other casual way. It has been proven that HIV can only be spread through sexual contact, birth, breastfeeding and blood to blood contact through sharing a needle. HIV has never been contracted in a home or a school!!!  HIV is considered a chronic but manageable disease. With treatment, people who are HIV+ can live indefinitely without developing AIDS and can live long and full lives. People who are HIV+ deserve to be treated with love, respect, support and acceptance as all people do.

Abiti takes 3 medicines every day/twice a day.  He takes them like a pro!!!  Abiti will go to his Infectious Disease doctor/NP every 3 months to have his blood counts checked.  Very soon Abiti's virus will ACTUALLY be UNDETECTABLE in his blood!!  This doesn't mean he doesn't have the virus it just means the levels are SO low they cannot be detected by a blood test!   This is HOW amazing the advance in medical treatment are.  We rarely think about Abiti's status at our house.  The biggest issue for us during the 1st 6 months regarding HIV was disclosure. We knew once we told someone we couldn't untell them if they had a bad fear reaction.  So, being that we lived in a small town in the near south we were just unsure if our entire community could handle it.  Therefore we only told our immediate family members and a few close friends.  But, for us keeping it a secret was just feeding the stigma.  How would others ever know the truth.  How would anything every change if we didn't speak up?  HIV stigma is all about FEAR! It's because most of us aren't exposed to anyone with the disease therefore we may not have any knowledge about it.  Most of us are living with a 1980's knowlege of the disease!!!  HOW could we allow that to continue?

So, this is where we are today.....Ben and I want to spread TRUTH.  We want to educate and also encourage others to adopt children that are HIV +.   We want to support efforts across the world to eliminate HIV/AIDS.  We want to support families that are living with the virus, through making sure medications are available to ALL and families are kept together (unlike what happened to Abiti's 1st family b/c of the disease).

 We aren't looking to make Abiti a poster child.  We won't be talking about HIV around Abiti. His understanding of the disease is still very basic.  But, when there is an opportunity to educate, to speak UP, we will!  
And we are NOT looking for a pat on the back, "Wow good for you!"  The Wiederholt's have been blessed beyond measure with our son...there is no greater reward than that!  If you want to respond just let us know you support Abiti and you will also spread the TRUTH!

We hope that if you have any more questions you will email or message us.   Please don't allow lack of knowledge to cause fear.  Abiti and so many children and adults living with the disease throughout the world deserve our acceptance and love.  
Thank you for helping us Spread TRUTH.
Peace - Ben and Jess

If you would like more information on transmission, there is additional information on the Center for Disease Control website at:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

COURT and other updates

Yes, you guessed it.  We got a tentative court date... MAY 9.  Our preliminary date is April 19 and that is when the judge reviews the file and gives the travel okay.  You know what is so cool about this date?  When Tedi passed court two years ago (before the two trip rule), he passed on MAY 10.  Crazy, huh?  I am even more excited because I did not travel to Ethiopia for Tedi's adoption but this time I am able!  My job and co-workers have been so flexible and helpful and I am so thankful for them.

I know as I write about my excitement for our trip that there are others in the process reading this who have a feeling deep inside of "why not me?" or "why so easy for them?" or something of that nature...probably a similar pang I used to feel and sometimes creeps inside of me when I near the 100th person announce they are pregnant for the 2, 3, 4th times.  I understand that feeling so please understand I am sharing my excitement and our process.  Also, though, please understand the circumstances by which we are adopting... an older child with a special need...specifically a special need that is not as desirable in that country, and well, even ours...

So while I celebrate our upcoming dates of traveling to Ethiopia, meeting our son and all that involves, I also stand with you in the wait and understand you pain.  So please pray for peaceful travel arrangements. 

In other news, our Both Hands Project (if you include the matching challenge) was update this week.  The new number is $10,200!  How amazing!  That pays more adoption fees and some travel.  Again, we are thankful and blessed.  Thank you to those that have given.... you can still do so if interested! 

Thank you!  (Now off to sleep during the daytime)

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.
~Mother Teresa

Stop and think about this quote.  Each person, black or white, fat or thin, rich or poor, healthy or sick....each of them are Jesus in disguise. 

The coming post is not to sound judging because if it were, the finger would be pointed back at me.  So don't go getting your feelings hurt or think that you are being judged if you feel differently.  This is a call to move.... to move the hearts of people who may be straddling this push them over to where they know they need to be. 

I have said in many previous posts that we are not all called to adopt children, whether domestic or international, but we are called to do something.  This is directed at those of you called to adopt...those of you looking into it, know it is in your future, or are in the process.  This is for you!!!

I have never been pregnant.  There are days when I wish I had experienced that blessing that so many of you have.....that I witness everyday at work.  Yet, if I had, I would not be up at 23:49 typing this...I would not have my Ethiopian son sleeping in his boxer briefs in the next room and awaiting another son who is awaking in Addis Ababa.  So while I have not been pregnant, I do know a couple of things about it.... The biggest thing I know is that you don't get to choose.... (lets pretend that the world IVF where you can pick everything down to the right chromosomes does not exist)......

You DO NOT choose:
Gender: boy or girl
Hair color: Blonde, brown, red
Hair texture: curly, frizzy, thick, thin, straight
Health: healthy, heart defects, infections, spina bifida, Down Syndrome
Date: the date they are born (unless you have perfectly orchestrated C section)
and much more....

But I find so many of us in the adoption world dictating so much about our future child(ren).... for example: only girl, aged 0-8 months, 100% HEALTHY.  I am to blame just as much as the next person.  Our first adoption we wanted a child between ages zero to five years, only healthy...and lets be honest, as cute as possible. With that said, I understand that age is something important to choose, especially if you have other children and gender is understandable if you have all boys and want a girl and are unable to or are not called to conceive one.  However, I beg you to think about the "healthy" thing.  Think about "heath".... that little ole' special needs line of your application.

I have a friend from college, Neil and Kristi Hayden, who thought they were having a healthy baby until 32 weeks when they found out she has a bad heart defect.  Now little Jordan fights for her life in the children's hospital where I work.  Jordan, despite her health, has amazing, Godly parents who are fighting for her, sitting by her bedside, giving all of themselves, regardless of the outcome.

But now think about the kids out there in the US and abroad who are orphans. Kids who are not blessed like Jordan, who despite her broken heart, has parents by her side. Not only are these children "rejected" in that they don't have parents (regardless of the means by which they came to orphan status, there is an underlying sense of rejection in not having parents or not being wanted by one's parents).  Then these children....children who are just that... children.... who happen to have a special need, are then rejected for that need...  They are not "special needs kids" but rather children, who happen to have a special need..... They have Down syndrome, they have HIV, they have had TB in the past, they have hearing problems or a heart defect....All these, while seeming serious, are manageable, some more than others... I can only speak directly about HIV but have experience with all being in the pediatric medical field.

Think about that.. Rejected twice....once by not having their first, natural family and second by those wanting to adopt but not wanting them because of their HIV status (or other need).....which is something they did not ask for or get by their own choices, but by the sins of adults.  Just think about it....  What if Christ rejected us because of the sins our parents?  We could say nothing, do nothing to earn His forgiveness and kingdom because of something someone else did?  Man, I am glad that is not the case for us.  But it may be for them.

You may think HIV is too expensive to manage, that they may not live long, they may give it to your other kids...that your car pool/play group/work/country club/even church friends may judge you or worse, NOT BE YOUR FRIEND..... GUESS WHAT: HIV meds run $0-$200 per month depending on insurance but the government is required by law to provide them if you can not afford and offers assistance programs in such cases.... and their lifespan, if managed with medication appropriately, is predicted in British literature at 65 years old.... and they won't give it to others, even in the home, without having sex with or sharing needles with someone. Seriously.  And maybe, just maybe, those people who don't want to be around were not really the people who were real friends in the first place....

Maybe you are not called to special needs or do not feel you can do it, but think about it... pray about it.  Speak up for these children, sponsor these children, help families adopting these children.... ADOPT these children.  These children, like the healthy, "normal" kids are JESUS IN DISGUISE.  The video has so much to say about the stigma with HIV and gives resources to learn more.  Project Hopeful also has tons of info on HIV, HIV and adoption, info for family and friends, medical information, and waiting children.  Check them out....or email me and I will get you more info..

For interest in Down Syndrome adoption:

Our agency:  Lifeline Adoption, contact Lesley Scott (205) 967-0811 for the Ethiopia program.

Please feel free to email us with questions.  Save yourself the time if you have negative comments.  These blogs are meant to help those intending to adopt and to advocate for those who can not do so for themselves!

Thursday, April 5, 2012


We were FILED for COURT!!!!!!

So now, we wait to hear about a date.... we are praying for May so that JT and I can both go! 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

$2500 Challenge: Update

Since about two weeks ago when we issued the matching challenge (if we raised $2500, an anonymous donor would match it), we have raised $3230!!!!!!  So then add that to the $2500 match!!  How awesome is this.  We do believe some of this is from our Both Hands Project, but nevertheless, we are so excited.  This would not have happened without a big God, faithful friends and devoted family.  Between our personal savings, this project, money from tshirt sales, and an extra gift, we are ALMOST there to covering both trips and our agency fees.  I can not believe it.  Seriously.  When we accepted CW's referral a month ago, I did not know how we could get the money together so quickly.  (well, I did know because we have been provided for time and time again in our adoptions)  Now, we have the money together, we will wait on timing.

A great thing happened this week.  A guy I worked with offered to switch schedules with me at work so I could save my vacation until the end of May.  We do not have a court date and the end of May is optimistic.  However, regardless of whether we would travel or not, he was willing to change his schedule (in many ways), and my chief resident (my direct supervisor) worked extremely hard on my behalf to make this happen.  AND they did this with no guarantee that I would be going then.  SO.....please pray we get a court day for the end May... it would be a miracle, but they happen...  If it doesn't, well, JT will go when we get a date!

Thank you again for the all support.  It is not too late to give!  And we still have some tshirts left. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Adoption Update....

When we accepted the referral for CW back on March 2, 2012, we were told the case would be quickly filed for court with hopes of getting a court date during my scheduled vacation from work, at the end of April or first half of May.  Oh how silly would I be to think things would go as planned!  We found out this week that the hold up for court has been a document that was missing from his file....essentially making him not "paperwork" ready.  I won't lie to you.  It has me a little stressed out.  If any of you have ever known someone is medical residency, you know that the scheduling is not easy.  You can not peace out on your patients.  People need their doctors regardless of your adoption.  So getting the ole' schedule worked out is causing me sleepless nights...which ironically is okay for now since I am on nights for the next two weeks.... :-)

Despite this, I know God is in control....the timing will workout regardless if it is MY timing.  Sometimes, I struggle with reconciling His omniscience and the fact that my plan is just that..... MINE...

I pray we find out something this week..... if not this week, then this month.  I can not wait to see more pictures of CW's beautiful smile...  I wish you all could hear Tedi talking about his brother, how he wants him home, and how he PLANS on sharing.  We will see about the last part.

To lighten this.... here are a few fun pictures from the last month....

At the zoo with the Armstrongs.... I can't believe how tall he is getting...

At the Red Bus Project....

"Carla" from Cars 2

This really happened

Yes, the kid tried Kraft macaroni and cheese......  dipped in BBQ sauce and ketchup...

Waterfront Park Playground..... a pediatrician's nightmare.

"Gosh, Mommy, no more pictures."

At Avery and Dawit's birthday party

At the U of L playground in late February