Miracle Miscarriage

 

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This summer, something that we thought was impossible happened. If you know us personally or have read our story page, you will understand the incredible shock we experienced when we learned I was PREGNANT.

I’ve never been pregnant.

About 10 years ago, I was told that my fimbriae around my Fallopian tubes were so damaged from endometriosis that natural pregnancy would likely NEVER occur. When my period was 2 weeks late in July, my first reaction was, “well, here we go… I’m starting early menopause!”

I had let go of the dream of carrying a baby many years ago. We weren’t trying for a baby.

We were happy as a family of three.

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It’s a MIRACLE!

I will never forget the way I felt seeing the word “PREGNANT” on that digital pregnancy test. Rich and I screamed with joy. It felt like a thousand butterflies were flying inside my body. I was on top of the world. My childhood dream finally came true!!! How did this even happen?! It was a miracle! I wanted to shout the news from the rooftops. I wanted everyone to know about our miracle baby!

I finally went in for my first OB appointment when I was about 8 weeks along. There was complete silence as the doctor looked for a heartbeat.

Nothing…

My heart sank.

“There is a beautiful amniotic sac, but no embryo.”

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Anembryonic Pregnancy (aka: Blighted Ovum, Missed Miscarriage)

The doctor told me I had an anembryonic pregnancy. Somewhere along the line, the embryo stopped developing (most likely because of some kind of chromosomal abnormality), but my body still thought I was pregnant. I waited another week to do some additional testing to confirm that this was true. Once confirmed, I went in for a D&C to clear out everything.

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Empty

My body has finally healed, but I’m still processing my emotions. Grieving will take time. I’m struggling to find the words to express my feelings, so I will wait on that. Many women (and families) experience miscarriage, yet we rarely hear about it. I share my story in hope of helping others to not feel so isolated. If you’ve experienced loss, I’d love to hear from you.

Your story matters. Your baby matters.

You are not alone.

Los Angeles

 

After much prayer, our family has decided to move back to Los Angeles. We feel called to “adopt” the city and be around the beautiful people there. We will deeply miss our family and friends here in Jacksonville. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we make this transition.

Happy Family Day!

Two years ago, today, we became a family. Enjoy this video full of memories in celebration with us. Thank you for being a part of our journey. Special thanks to Danae, Kelsey, Liv, Audrey, and Jen for the photos and video footage.

Celebrate!

A quick update:

Overall, things are going well in our world. We’re still slowly settling into parenthood.

(Ha! Does it ever get easier?!)

Liam is continuing to grow and thrive. He has become very chatty, spouting off the cutest phrases. He loves pre-school and has surprised us this month by showing us that he is ready to learn to read. We are incredibly grateful to be his parents and watch him grow.

Liam Turns 5

Liam turned 5 in November.

This was his first birthday celebration in the U.S., so we wanted to make it special. If you’ve spent time with Liam, you know that he is all about firemen, firetrucks, policemen, playgrounds, sprinkles, and most importantly–PEOPLE. He LOVES people.

And so, we decided to celebrate his birthday with all of his favorite things.

Cupcakes with Sprinkles

Police Car

Fire Truck

Fireman Liam

Immediately after his birthday came the holidays (which were wonderful).  Then, 2016 began… and suddenly it’s now March?!

Wow. Time flashes by!

Even though I’m extremely late, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to post about his birthday.

We have so much to celebrate!!

Liam’s 1st Gotcha Day Celebration

It’s been a crazy week, but I wanted to take a minute to write about Liam’s 1st Gotcha Day celebration.

First of all, I cannot believe it has been a year since we first met our son.

Time has flown by!

go Liam!

At Liam’s request, we went out for pizza and cupcakes with family to celebrate his 1st Gotcha Day.

Mr. PersonalityHappy 1st Gotcha Day

While he enjoyed a cupcake, we each took a moment to shower him with love –telling him all of the things we love about him and all of the reasons we are thankful he is in our lives. You should’ve seen his face. He soaked up each and every word while we all shed tears of joy. It was simple yet oh-so-sweet.

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Our Liam Kakooza Painter…

He is such a gift. A gift that was totally worth the (nearly 9 year) wait.

Liam Walking Forward

Finally, I wanted to take a moment to thank you ALL for the way you’ve shared in our adoption process. It doesn’t matter how you’ve supported us… whether it’s by following our journey on social media, by praying for us, by encouraging us, or by supporting us financially… WE ARE FOREVER GRATEFUL FOR YOU!!!

From the bottom of our hearts, we thank YOU.

xo

Mindy + Rich + Liam

Parenthood and Self-Care

Photo by Jen McDonald : www.jenmphotography.com

Photo by Jen McDonald : http://www.jenmphotography.com 

Okay, I am finally coming out of hibernation. Hibernation due to motherhood.

Motherhood is amazing and beautiful… and oftentimes… exhausting. It has taken me a few months to adjust to life with a child, especially jumping in at age 4. We have found a good rhythm now, but I sometimes find myself in an interesting space.

I ask myself questions like:

“Who am I, again?

What do I love to do for fun?

How should I be creative in this season?

What brings me life/recharging?

How do I care for myself?”

Ha! It’s like I have to get to know myself all over again post-motherhood!

After talking about this with some other friends, I know that I’m not the only one asking these questions. I thought I’d take a risk and open up about this with the hopes that maybe we could encourage other parents out there who might be struggling with something similar.

I would love to hear from any of you experienced parents out there. How did you care for yourself once you became a parent? What are some practical, life-giving ideas that have worked for you?

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas.

xo

Our Journey Home

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We took this photo minutes before our plane left Uganda on November 15th, 2014. We were thrilled to be heading home after being away for 3 months. We were also incredibly nervous. There were so many questions in our minds…

How will we settle into parenthood at home? How will our family and friends adjust to our new family? Will they embrace our son, who is going through so much transition? How will Liam adjust to life in a new country?

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We flew from Entebbe to Brussels to Washington D.C. to Jacksonville (Florida) which was about 35 hours of travel in all.

Liam was a champ. He loved watching movies and eating snacks on the flights. He only had one meltdown— on our last flight. He was so tired. As soon as we got in the air, he fell asleep. We had to wake him from a deep sleep when we landed in Jacksonville so that he could meet our family.

We decided to keep the welcoming party at the airport small as to not overwhelm Liam.

I would’ve loved having loads of people there because I felt like we were returning home from some kind of battle. After being away for 3 months, we were exhausted and really missed our family and community. (In fact, I am still processing and recovering from our time away. Crazy!)

I’ll never forget the way I felt, as we walked off our plane. Such relief! We took a few minutes to hug each other and thank the Lord for bringing our family safely home. Then, we tried to help Liam wake up and prepared him for the family welcome.

We were overcome with emotion as we walked down the hallway with our family in sight.

WE WERE HOME!!!

This was their view….

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And look at our view….

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There were signs, balloons, and beautiful souls standing in front of us. Just look at those kids!

So sweet! (I tear up every time I look at this photo.)

THIS is a moment I will remember FOREVER.

  Family and friends, who’ve journeyed alongside us for years as we’ve prayed for God to give us a child, were celebrating our return home with our son.

So thankful for answered prayers & a dream fulfilled!

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

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{ Btw, I have to thank to my friends, Grace and Lex, for capturing these special moments. }

This was Liam’s first kiss from his grandma (my mom).

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My husband, Rich– hugging his parents.

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Liam meeting Jja-jja and Grandad.

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Liam was very clingy and quiet as I chatted with our friends.

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But eventually, he flashed a smile.

photo by Lex Buckley

Something that surprised me: I anticipated being more emotional than I actually was.

I thought I was going to be covered in tears and a blubbering mess.

Nope. Not at all.

I think by the time we arrived home, I was so emotionally and physically exhausted that I was simply too tired to cry. I was running on fumes yet incredibly grateful to be home!

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A photo of our parents and my aunt and uncle (who happened to be in town during our arrival).

Beauty in Hardship: Our Final 6 Weeks in Uganda

For those of you that still have an interest, I wanted to share about the end of our time in Uganda.

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The last blog I wrote in Uganda was on October 9th while we were in Masaka, waiting to get our written ruling from the judge. Well, we finally got the written ruling on October 15th, nearly 6 weeks after our court-date.

KAMPALA

 We were so happy to head to Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. That is where we would need to go to retrieve our son’s birth certificate, passport, and visa. At that point, we were hopeful that the rest of our process would go smoothly and efficiently, but we’d soon discover that it wouldn’t happen that way.

Hardings'  garden

We were blessed to stay with a lovely family in Kampala—the Harding family. They had a beautiful home and were generous to share space with us for many weeks. Liam loved playing with their son, Emmanuel. We even got to go to a special pool with him one day.

 Emmanuel and Liam

Many of our days in Kampala were spent in waiting. We would fill our days with visits to the various malls in town (Garden City, Acacia Mall, and the Nakumatt Oasis Mall), where we would eat lunch and spend hours on the playground.

Garden City PlaygroundPlayground Fun

Step 1: PASSPORT

As we continued along in the adoption process, we were thankful to learn that we were able to use Liam’s original, long-form birth certificate to start the passport processing.

This process should usually take no more than one week, but we ran into some unforeseen issues.

passport office

The passport office was always busy, packed with people. We had to sit on benches under a white tent (because it was usually raining) for sometimes hours, while we waited to file paperwork or find out the status of the passport. Keeping an active toddler occupied during the wait was often a challenge. When we learned that Liam’s passport was going to be delayed, we decided to do something fun to lift our spirits.

A WEEKEND AWAY IN JINJA

 To help keep our mind off waiting on the passport, we decided to spend a weekend in Jinja. We stayed at a great little guest house and pizzeria called Surjio’s. Our room had a beautiful view of the Nile River, there was internet, and a pool that Liam enjoyed splashing around in all weekend.

Surjio'sLiam in the pool

We also took a boat ride to the source of the Nile. It was a beautiful place to get away and relax together.

Jinja

Painter Family

Source of the Nile

After 2 weeks and several (4) return visits to the passport office, we FINALLY got his passport on October 29th, 2014. As soon as we had the passport in hand, we sped over to the IOM (International Organization of Immigration) office to see if we could get Liam in to get his medical exam (the next step), but they were closing for the day and told us to come back on October 31st.

Liam's passport

Step 2: IOM MEDICAL EXAM

After Liam’s medical exam was completed, we went back on November 3rd to get his TB test read (thankfully, it was negative). We thought that his medical information would be sent immediately to the US Embassy, but we learned that the process had recently been changed. Instead, it would take a week to ten days to process his paperwork. This was bad news for us because it meant that we would have to change our return flights a second time.

On a walk in Kampala

Step 3: VISA FILING

We got a visa filing appointment at the Embassy on November 10th. We were so happy! They told us to be prepared to come back in two days (November 12th) to pick up Liam’s visa. Once we got that news, we changed our return flight to the night of November 12th because we were ready to get home.

LIAM’S 4TH BIRTHDAY

The next day was Liam’s fourth birthday! We were excited to celebrate together!!

Liam's Birthday

 We spent the day with some dear friends in Entebbe at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre.

It was a special day.

Liam watching animals

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Painter Family

Final Step: PICK-UP VISA

On the morning of November 12th, we got an email from the embassy notifying us of a problem uploading Liam’s visa file. They were unsure if his visa would be ready in time. We forgot that Liam’s birthday was also Veteran’s Day (November 11th). The US Embassy observed this holiday which meant the office was closed and they were unable to rectify the issue in time.

 We were sick. After nearly 3 months in country, we were becoming tired of the constant disappointments.

WOULD THIS BE ANOTHER ONE?

They asked us to keep our original appointment and come to the embassy that afternoon. We packed our bags, loaded them into the car, said “goodbye” to the Harding family, and headed to the embassy with the hope that we could fly home that night.

While we were waiting at the embassy, we watched as 2 families rejoiced over getting their visas. They were flying out that night. Then, we were called into the room where we were told that Liam’s visa wasn’t ready. We were gutted. I was fighting back tears. Rich was frustrated. He began asking questions. The answer to all our questions was, “I’m sorry, there was a glitch in the system.”

As I watched my husband’s emotions flare up, tears started streaming out of my eyes. I was holding Liam and didn’t want him to see me upset. He was caressing my face with concern in his eyes and repeating, “Mommy… airplane!” I was broken-hearted. How were we going to explain to Liam that we couldn’t fly home that night?

We had to deliver the sad news to our families and friends and change our flights a fourth time!

The next day, November 13th, we received word that the visa was FINALLY ready. We had to wait a few days before heading home because there were no flights available until Saturday, November 15th. We were excited and relieved to be heading home!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I will write about our travel and return home in a later post, but I wanted to share one more thing….

 We were warned that this process could be unpredictable. When we left the US, we thought we’d be coming back home with our son in 6 weeks. We ended up staying for nearly 3 months. During that time, we experienced many disappointments because things rarely went as promised or expected. Things were totally out of our control. After time, we struggled to trust anyone and wondered if/when we would get to go home.  Don’t get me wrong. We had many beautiful moments together, too. We were thrilled to spend so much time bonding with our son in his home country, but at times, we really missed our family and community. It was challenging to make the transition into parenthood so far away from our support network and for that length of time. It was one of the most difficult things we have ever been through, but oh, so worth it.

Thank you to those of you who supported us while we were away.

We are incredibly grateful for God’s strength, grace, and patience during our time in Uganda.

When I watch our son soaking up the love that surrounds him now, it makes all the struggles and frustrations that we experienced seem small. We are very blessed.

“Adoption is not for the faint of heart. But SO worth it!” – Unknown

Okoa Refuge

outside the gates

Now that we are back in the states, I’d love to share a bit about a special place called Okoa Refuge.

“Okoa” is a Swahili word that means “to save; to rescue; to redeem; or to take away from the fire.”

Okoa Refuge is a nonprofit organization with a vision to bring hope and healing to the people of Africa and the world.

Here is their mission statement:

“As an organization we strive to have the utmost integrity and servitude in all we do in order to grow orphans of all ages spiritually, physically and mentally to be responsible, motivated, educated and compassionate men and women who will be leaders and grow their communities and country. We aim to provide the opportunity for children to have a future and to give them a better life than they had previously.”

Our son lived at Okoa Refuge for nearly 18 months.

There, he received incredible love from Okoa’s amazing staff.

There, he had a family.

There, he learned about God’s love, and for that we are forever grateful!

His “orphanage parents” (Liv and Tyler) have become dear friends of ours. They, along with the staff, did a terrific job of preparing Liam for his new family. This made our transition SO MUCH easier.

Below, is a photo of our first moment together. Liam is holding Liv’s hand as he meets us for the first time. I cry every time I think about this sweet moment–the handoff from one mother to another. So beautiful!

the handoff

first embrace

Here are some more photos of our first day together, playing at Okoa….

go Liam!

dinner time

We loved worshipping with the Okoa family…

Okoa church

…and getting to know Liam’s buddies.

AffayoDennis

We are so thankful that we had an opportunity to see and experience all that’s happening at Okoa Refuge. We are especially grateful for the way this organization has influenced and changed the life of our son. Many thanks to Liv and Tyler (pictured below) for following God’s calling even when it’s been ridiculously challenging. We love you guys!

Liv and Tyler

Also, we want to thank another Okoa staff-member that has a heart of gold. Her name is Kelsey (she took many of the photos in this post). We are so inspired by the way she loves others and trusts God. She was a great influence in Liam’s life, and we love her!

Kelsey and Liam

food

Okoa is an INCREDIBLE organization.

This home for orphans is only a part of what they are doing (and hope to do) in Uganda. If you would like to make a difference in the lives of children and people there, please support them.

We cannot wait to go back and see what God has done!

hope

Oh! And there is an another organization close to my heart that helps support Okoa– The McKenzie Noelle Wilson Foundation. You can read the full story here, but I spent several years as a nanny for McKenzie’s family before she passed away unexpectedly in 2010. It was such a joy to stand with our son in front of the Girls’ Home that was built in her memory (“Amaka ga McKenzie”–McKenzie’s Home), knowing that she was rejoicing along with us in heaven.

We sure do miss you, McKenzie!

McKenzie's Home

We’re home!

painter family (taken by kelsey linduff)

We are thrilled to introduce you to our son:

Liam Kakooza (pronounced “Kakōza”) Painter.

After nearly 3 months in Uganda, we returned home from Africa on November 16th. A few days after we got home, I got sick with the respiratory flu and was in bed for 3 days straight. Thank God that we had family around to help us. Over the last 2 weeks we have been laying low, enjoying time with our families.

liam's joy

At some point, I would like to blog about the end of our adoption process, but that will have to come later. I am trying to spend less time on social media and more time “being present” so that we can enjoy quality time together as a family.

Liam is doing amazingly well. He ADORES his family. He is completely surrounded by love and is absolutely thriving. I can’t fully express how I feel now that he is home and getting to know his family—my heart is full. Adoption is an incredible thing. God is so good. He led us straight to Liam—this amazing child who is going to change the world. I just know it.

Thanks to all of you who have been following our journey.

We are forever grateful for your prayers and support!!

liam kakooza painter

Lord, help us to be parents that guide, empower, and equip Liam to go out and do amazing things for you!

Thank you for adoption.

Thank you for our new son!