Friday, December 23, 2016

Pregnant in Sierra Leone

I've been wanting to write about this for awhile, but to be honest, by the time the kids are tucked in and the clock strikes 9....I. Am. Done.  My brain refuses to function and the energy required to move my thumb to scroll down my Facebook feed is all I can seem to muster.  But right now, thanks to pregnancy induced insomnia, I have a quiet house, and a brain that won't turn off.  So I will grace the world with my thoughts on being pregnant in Sierra Leone. :)  

I found out that I was pregnant a few days before we came back to Sierra Leone. SURPRISE!!!!  Unfortunately a few weeks after arriving in Sierra Leone I started having the same signs of miscarriage that I had with my last pregnancy.  Stink. Now what do I do?  This is where I saw part of the blessing of my previous miscarriage because I knew what the doctor had done in the States so I decided to do my best to replicate it here.  

The first thing I needed to do was to get some labs done.  There’s a specific lab (HCG) that they will check once, then check again in 48 hours to make sure it’s doubling.  This indicates that the pregnancy is growing.  But where in the world could I get this done here?  I asked around and found one lab in Freetown that said they could do it.  When we got the first result, it was very low for the number of weeks pregnant I was.  It didn’t look good.  When we went back to get the second set done, it had increased, but only a tiny bit, also not a good sign.  I was six weeks pregnant but the labs indicated that I should only be 2-3 weeks…..and baby didn’t seem to be growing the way he should.  By this point, thanks to my limited medical knowledge and Dr. Google, I had my diagnosis’ down to either a blighted ovum (where there is a sac, but no baby inside) or an ectopic pregnancy.  An ectopic pregnancy is when the embryo implants somewhere other than the uterus (usually in the fallopian tube).  And they kill women. 

I’d been having some right-sided abdominal pain, which is one of the signs of an ectopic, so I decided that I needed to get an ultrasound to rule that out.  This is where it got a little tricky.  I needed to find a place that 1. Had an ultrasound machine.  2. The machine wasn’t broken. 3. Had someone on duty that knew how to read an ultrasound.  A difficult trifecta.

We’d had some luck with a hospital about 2 ½ hours away, so Peter and I decided we’d give it a shot.  When we arrived, we went and bought our little registration card and got in line.  When my turn came to go talk to the triage nurse, they pointed to a chair about 15 feet away from the triage nurse.  The table where she was sitting was surrounded by other people (mostly men) all looking at me, waiting to find out why I was there.  HIPPA is not really a thing here. J 

I took a deep breath and started. “Ok….so I’m 7 weeks pregnant today and have been bleeding-“ She interrupts me.  “Ok, come closer to the table.”  Well that was good. The people around the table didn’t move, but at least I didn’t have to shout across the room now.  I explained my symptoms, showed her my lab results  and told here that I wanted to get an ultrasound.  She sent me to the pregnant lady section of the hospital.  After telling my story to several other people and waiting for a couple hours, it was our turn for the ultrasound.

I explained my concerns to the “doctor.”  He put the ultrasound probe on my stomach to look around.  To his credit, he was VERY patient.  He found the little sac, which was a relief because it meant it wasn’t in my tube (ectopic).  But as hard as he looked, he couldn’t find a heartbeat.  Finally he told me that I needed to come back in two weeks and they would try again.  I was only seven weeks and knew that the likelihood of seeing a heartbeat from an abdominal scan would be slim.  I hemmed and hawed a little bit and then asked if he could please try it the other way….the much more personal way.  He looked kind of startled but agreed.  I looked at the screen and immediately saw the little flicker of the heartbeat.  I .  Was. Shocked.  I had been SURE this was going to be another miscarriage! It felt SO much like my other one, and that, combined with my discouraging labs, made me blink twice when I saw that beautiful little flicker.  And all for the low cost of a $6 ultrasound!

The lack of medical care here has definitely been a challenge at times.  The lack of medical care…..and the lack of food.  Two biggest challenges. J  I recently found a new maternity clinic that opened up in Freetown so we went to check it out.  When the doctor started interviewing me, he asked about my pre-pregnancy weight and my current weight.  When I told him, he told me that I hadn’t gained enough weight and he wanted to see me gain some more before my next appointment.  I told him he was the first person to ever tell me that I needed to gain weight….and that I loved him.  I explained that I’d lost quite a bit at the beginning because I was so nauseated and unfortunately every food I wanted to eat was thousands of miles away. 

At one point I heard a rumor that Liberia had a McDonalds and BEGGED Peter to drive on over and pick some up for me.  He refused!  Might as well have since they would have been cold by the time they got back to Sierra Leone and everyone knows that MickyD’s fries are best when they are piping hot!

Because Ben came so early, I’ve been a little more nervous about this pregnancy than I was with Ben.  When I was pregnant with Ben, I had to go to the hospital at 22 weeks in order for them to stop my contractions.  So when I made it to 22 weeks with no contractions I was super excited!  Then they started at 23. L  They seemed like your typical Braxton hicks contractions. They would start when I was on my feet for long periods of time and would go away when I lay down.

Probably perfectly normal. But in the back of my mind was the constant worry of “what happens if they don’t stop like they didn’t with Ben?”  I have a plan. I had someone bring in the same medicines that they gave me in the hospital to stop my contractions with Ben.  I’ve known what I would do since I found out I was pregnant.  But when push came to shove, it was a little scarier when it looked like it might actually come to that. 

So many of you prayed for me and I am SO thankful!  After about a week and a half of having lots of contractions anytime I was up too much, the past week or so I’ve had almost none!! Such a blessing to not have to worry about that right now!  Thank you so much for praying!

Although there are some challenges with living here while pregnant, there are also some benefits! Like the fact that you have friends with their own portable ultrasound machines who come to your house to find out the gender of your baby.  And……It’s a GIRL!!  I was shocked! I was SO sure it was another boy that we already had a boy name picked out and no idea about a girl’s name! 

I’ll be coming home in a month or so with the kiddos and Peter will follow a few weeks later.  Thank you so much for those who have been praying for me and this little girl.  I’m so thankful that no matter what happens, we are safe in the palm of God’s hand. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

I lost a child this week.....

I lost a child this week.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  She was never mine.  I’ve had family and friends who have lost their children and I would never want to minimize their pain by comparing my situation with theirs.  I don’t have a lifetime of memories with this little one.  I only had the dreams of them.

Before Peter and I even got married, we knew we wanted to adopt again.  But how? How do you choose one from the thousands of orphans in this country???  A little more than a year and a half ago, I saw her picture for the first time.  In a crowd of many.  She captured my heart.  We’ll call her “Sia” (not her real name).  Peter and I started praying, and continued to pray for months and months.  Things like pregnancies, miscarriages, emergency return trips to the US and changes in the visa rules all dictated that we needed to wait.  So we did.  We waited, and we prayed. 

After my miscarriage in the States, I was devastated.  I was sad about the child I’d lost but I was also really sad that the little one that was waiting for me, would have to wait longer.  While we were in the States, Peter and I talked a lot about what to do.  After a LOT of discussion, we decided that when we returned to Sierra Leone we would go ahead and begin adoption proceedings for Sia.  I. Was. Stoked. 
I started scouring the clearance racks, Goodwill and St. Vinney’s looking for cute, little girl clothes.  I bought extra hair supplies and tooth brushes, a new set of sheets and a new thicker blanket for the “cold” nights.  I spent WAY too much time trying to find just the right mosquito net that would match Marie’s and make their room look girlie and cute.  We had been talking with Marie about the idea of adoption for quite a while.  And Marie actually came to us one day and said that she thought we should adopt Sia. before we EVER mentioned a specific kiddo to her.  Once our decision was made, we told Marie our plans and she got really excited and picked out some matching outfits for her and her new sister. 

And then another curve ball.  A few days before we left I found out…..I was pregnant.  Surprise!  (Yes, we know how that happens….blah, blah blah.  But I’m telling you!  There’s a reason people say that abstinence is the only 100% effective contraception!)

So now we’re back to square one.  The problem is that we wouldn’t be far enough into Sia’s adoption to be able to get a visa for her to visit the States for me to have the baby.  This meant we 1) wait almost another year to start adoption proceedings 2) start the process, bring her into our home, but then have to leave her here when we went back to the States or 3) have our baby somewhere besides the US. 

Because Ben came so early and needed the extra help of the NICU, we knew that we wouldn’t want to have the baby here.  We started researching and discovered……Kenya!!  I spoke to a woman who had had both of her children in Kenya and LOVED it!  I started e-mailing her OB/GYN to discuss my options and found out this particular hospital has a NICU, a neonatologist and great success with premies.  It wasn’t ideal.  I would much rather give birth in my own culture, with friends and family nearby.  But it seemed a small price to pay if it meant we could all be together.  Finally.  October 1 was the day.  The day we would bring Sia home.

We started putting things in motion and began talking to her family members about the adoption.  Then one day it all stopped.  We found out that someone, somewhere along the way hadn’t been completely truthful.  Sia did have some family that was willing, able, and really WANTED to take care of her.  After investigating for a few days, it was decided by all parties involved that the best thing for Sia would be to go live with her biological family. 

I was so happy for her.  Adoption is wonderful, but it’s also very painful.  For her not to have to struggle with those tough questions of “who am I,” “where did I come from,” etc. would, OF COURSE be best for her.  I was happy for her.  I was devastated for us. 

This week has been a painful one.  The “memories” are just everywhere.  Well, not memories, but memories of plans and dreams.  I have a closet and dresser full of clothes that were specifically purchased for this little girl.  I can tell you where I stood in Old Navy when their swimming suits were 50% off and deliberated FOREVER about which bright color would look most awesome against her dark skin.  I walk by Marie’s room and see the empty bunk-bed that will remain empty.  The packet of toothbrushes and extra toothpastes I bought.  More ribbons and hair bows than one little girl needs….but just enough for two.  Yesterday I was cleaning up the top of my dresser and found the “Sisters” picture frame that I finally found at Hobby Lobby after looking all over town.  It feels like everything is tainted by this.  The staple meals that I cook are different now because I’d started wondering if this amount of food would be enough for THREE kids.  And would she like it?  My Amazon shopping cart has a baby doll in it that my mom was going to bring over for Sia’s birthday in November.  I have her stocking for Christmas.  I don’t know how many times I’ve imagined the five of us reading our Advent story by candlelight.  The “memories” are just everywhere.  And they’re painful.

But oh my goodness, how God is gracious.  Even in the midst of this pain, I can see His hand of mercy.  Thank you Lord, that we found out about this before she came to live with us.  How much more painful it would have been for all involved if we had started that process of becoming a family, only to have it ripped apart. 

I had the opportunity to go see Sia with her family.  At first I didn’t want to go.  I’d had a particularly rough evening the night before when I went through her clothes, trying to decide which ones to give her.  (I had an entire wardrobe for her but didn’t want to overwhelm her family and make them feel “less than” because they didn’t have that to give her).  After doing that incredibly painful thing, I decided I couldn’t go see her with her family. I was afraid I’d just start crying and make things more awkward than they already were. 

I changed my mind.  And WHAT a blessing it was that I did!!  The next day Peter and I went to see little Sia.  To be able to see her with her family, see how comfortable she was with them and they with her, was like putting cold water on a painful burn.  It was soothing.  And God was so gracious.  I held it together until we were leaving.  The pain isn’t gone……but being able to see them together, a family reunited, made my pain feel less in light of their joy. 

Although I see a lot of things here that make me ask, “Why God? I don’t understand this! I don’t see Your hand here.  I’m really confused,”  this wasn’t one of those times.  It was pretty simple.  We live in a broken world and people sin.  Someone that I’d never met didn’t tell the truth a long time ago, and that lie started events in motion that ended with our family being hurt.  Sin has consequences.  Our pain is one of the consequences.  Life here on earth is hard.  It’s not heaven.  But to see Jesus working……forgiving, healing, comforting……I’m so thankful.  Thankful that we haven’t been left alone.  Thankful that He makes things new, and makes beauty out of ashes.  He promised that we would have trouble here on earth, but He also promised to be with us in the midst of that trouble and pain.  And He will overcome.  What an awesome God we serve.  

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Tylenol how I love thee....let me count the ways....

Last night a caretaker from the boys’ house called to let me know that one of the boys, we’ll call him “Abdul” was unconscious.  Unconscious? Say, what?  My body immediately went into “fight or flight” mode as the rush of adrenaline swept over me.  In my experience, “unconscious people” don’t do terribly well here. 

Peter was in a meeting so Nicole offered to watch my kiddos while I ran to see what was going on.  I had just seen Abdul yesterday and he’d been fine. He’d complained of a headache and tested positive for malaria, so I started him on the treatment.  But the “positive” line hadn’t even been that dark…at least not as dark as the other boy who had tested positive.  And he came up to me to complain of his headache as I was leaving, almost as an afterthought. What the heck had I missed!??!

I started racking my brain trying to think of what could be going on so I could be prepared with some supplies.  I went to my little IV kit area and had IV fluid but couldn’t find the tubing or IV cannulas.  So…not super helpful.  Nice, Emily.  I ran to the fridge and grabbed a soda with some crackers and peanut butter. When I worked in the hospital, our malaria kiddos would often have really low blood sugars.  Depending on what exactly “unconscious” meant, I could see if a little sugar rush would help.
When I got the house I was led into a dark room, lit only by a single battery operated lamp.  Abdul lay on the bed with several caregivers sitting next to him and other children peering in the doorway.  They made room for me on the bed and I sat down next to him.  As I conducted my initial assessment by just looking at him, I saw a 15 year old boy with about 27 layers of clothes on, the top layer being a wool sweater.  He was laying down on the bed and responded by turning his head when asked questions, but wasn’t talking very coherently.  At least what I could hear. 

I got more of the history from the caregivers.  Apparently he’d been fine most of the day.  He’d eaten all of his rice and had been drinking water.  No vomiting or diarrhea that they knew about.  Ok. This lowers my suspicion for extreme dehydration or hypoglycemia.  Apparently he’d been doing just fine until 5 minutes ago when he said he wanted to lay down and came inside.  Now….5 minutes.  I’ve learned in my years here, that I can’t take things like “minutes” literally.  (Also, FYI also don’t take “I’m coming” or “I’m almost there” literally either).  They’re not meant to be taken that way).  So when they said it was “5 minutes” it really just told me that he hadn’t been laying in the bed for most of the day. 

I checked his temperature and it was 103.6.  Pretty high for an older kiddo.  When I asked about his last dose of Tylenol they told me it had been earlier that morning.  I took some out of my bag and, with the assistance of one of the caregivers, helped Abdul to take the Tylenol. 

Now what to do.  He looked sick.  He wasn’t “unconscious” in that he was completely unresponsive, but he was mumbling and really restless, moving around on the bed.  Although I had diagnoses like cerebral malaria and other scary words in my mind, I decided that because he had only been sick for “5 minutes” I would give the Tylenol an hour to work.  If he didn’t turn the corner by then, I would take him to the emergency hospital.

I had quite a bit of faith in the Tylenol.  Like 80% sure it would work.  The other 20% of me felt nervous just sitting there, but the 80% won out.  I sat there quietly, softly patting Abdul’s arm.  After swallowing my pride and praying for him in Krio (something that I’m STILL uncomfortable doing because I feel like I can never find the right words), I began observing what was going on around me.  

One of the caregivers began massaging Abdul’s legs.  Another one sat near his head and kept alternating the soaked cloths applied to his forehead.  Yet another one stood in the doorway, and with her eyes fixed on Abdul kept clucking her teeth and saying, “Eh, God.”  I wondered how many times she’d sat in a darkened room like this with some unknown ailment tormenting a friend or family member….and it not ending well. 

I debated about making Abdul take off some of the layers of clothes in an effort to help bring down the fever.  But then I remembered when I had malaria.  The first time I was in the village, and put on my own 27 layers of clothes.  Even though I knew it was the wrong thing to do and had chastised I don't know HOW many parents for bundling up their febrile children....I. Did. Not. Care.  I was freezing.  So I had some mercy and just prayed the Tylenol would work really well.

 After 15 min. or so, Abdul began talking.  He quietly explained to the caretaker that when he was small he’d had an accident while going to the market and landed on his head.  Since that time, every August this kind of thing would happen and his head would begin hurting the way it was now.  I didn’t want to just dismiss him but I felt like I had to explain that it PROBABLY wasn’t a chronic head injury that just flared up in August.  Instead, it was more likely due to the fact that August is the height of rainy season, which means it’s also the time that malaria is most prevalent.  Since headache is one of the hallmark signs of malaria, it’s more likely that he just gets malaria every August and that’s what causes his pain.  Everyone nodded their heads…..I'm not convinced they believed me. 

After about 45 minutes Abdul was less restless but still complaining of a headache.  I realized I ran out of ibuprofen in my little medicine bag so I ran home to get some.  When I came back, I noticed that all the caregivers were out on the porch.  That was a good sign!  I asked how he was doing and they said he was sleeping. When I went in to see him he was DRENCHED in sweat and finally agreed to let them pull off the 300 layers of clothes he was wearing. He took some ibuprofen and another dose of malaria treatment and went back to sleep.  Everyone (including myself) was visibly relieved. 

I went to see him today and I wouldn’t have believed it was the same kid.  All smiles, hanging out on the porch.  Jesus, fever reducers and malaria treatments for the win!! 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Kids are the same......

Well, it’s been over week since we’ve been back…….home?  I don’t even know anymore. We’re back to where most of our junk is. J  We jumped right in.  The day after we got here, we took a break from cleaning up the rat poop that seemed to invade every corner of our house and went to see the girl kiddos we’ve been working with.  We chatted with them for awhile and they ooooh’d and ahhh’d over Ben.  As we were getting ready to leave, one of the Auntie’s brought a 9 year old girl…..we’ll call her “Aminata” over to me.  They said she that her “belly hurt.”

The complaint of a “belly hurting” is probably one of the most common complaints I get when working with 50 little kids.  It is usually vague, non-specific and sounds suspiciously like what my sister would say when trying to get out of going to Kindergarten. (Sorry Lis, called out on the World Wide Web). 

But this was different.  This girl had tears coming down her cheeks as she walked towards me.  I asked how long this had been going on, asked about other symptoms, and did an exam.  All the little tests I did in school for appendicitis seemed to be positive.  They told me that she’d been sick for a couple of days so I didn’t want to sit on it and decided to take her to the hospital right away.  We’re very fortunate that to have a new emergency outpost near our house so I took her there.  They did an exam, gave her some pain medicine and called their supervisor.  After some discussion, they decided to let her sleep overnight (treat her for the malaria that of course she had as well) and the next morning she would go with Nicole to Freetown to the bigger hospital where they would do a more thorough exam, blood work, etc.

The next day she and Nicole went to the capital and spent the day at the hospital.  They couldn’t find anything definitive and thought it might be because she had received some pain medicine.  She was vomiting and dry heaving most of the way to Freetown but by the time the doctor saw her, she was looking better. They sent her home and said we should bring her right back if she started having the pain again. 

Then next day, Friday, I went to check on her and she looked much better. She wasn’t doubled over in pain and wasn’t in bed.  Great! Maybe it was just a virus or something.  However, the next night I got a call that she was vomiting again and was crying in pain.  I went back to see her and she looked like she had the first night I saw her.  My initial thought was that maybe her appendix had ruptured which was why she felt better the day before but was now developing some peritonitis.  It was Saturday night. I knew that if I took her back to the hospital in Freetown, unless she was in danger of dying THAT NIGHT, they would sit on her and wait for someone to see her in the morning. 

I decided that I’d take her back to my house so I could watch her closely overnight.  Marie was thrilled to have a “buddy” to sleep with her that night. (One of her biggest nighttime complaints is that it’s not fair that both Daddy and I have a “buddy” to sleep with and she’s all alone in her room.)  Aminata spent the night and the next morning…..looked better!! She wasn’t in obvious pain anymore, although her belly was still tender in that right lower quadrant.  I hemmed and hawed, trying to decide what to do.  I kept thinking about a girl I’d taken care of in the village several years ago.  She had had belly pain that I just couldn’t figure out.  I treated her for everything I could think of.  I asked the surgeons to look at her, but they didn’t think it was a surgical case so I told her parents to just hold on for a couple of days. The American doctor was coming and he could help me figure out what was going on. She died the night before the doctor got there.  That was rough. I couldn’t go through that again.

I decided that instead of taking her to the hospital in Freetown, I’d take her to a hospital closer to our house.  They have two doctors there, one being a recently arrived American surgeon.  He did an exam and decided that he didn’t think it was appendicitis.  She wasn’t in enough pain, and it had been going on for so long that if it WAS, she would be much sicker by this time.  He gave her several different antibiotics as well as some worm medicine. 

I took her back to our house where she was able to eat a little and then played with Marie for awhile before I took her back home.  The next day, she was doing well but then that night I got another call that she was crying in pain.  They gave her some Tylenol and the next morning when I went to check on her she was still crying in pain and wouldn’t eat anything.  Grrrrr. What is going on?  That night when I went to check on her again, she was still crying.  I decided to take her back to the hospital the next morning.  This was so weird! She’d been on the antibiotics for 3 days and I thought she should have started feeling better by now. 

The next morning when I went to get her…..she looked better again.  No longer in obvious pain.  Now I didn’t know what to do. Do I take her in when she looks better than she had looked when I originally took her in??  What I needed was a dang CT machine to give me a definitive diagnosis!  Nary a one to be found in the country.  With my previous patient in mind, I decided to go ahead and take her back in, just because she’d been complaining of so much pain the day before.

They wanted to do some more tests, one of which was a stool test.  They gave me a container that was about the diameter of my pinky finger (MY PINKY FINGER!!!!) and told me to put some of her stool in there.  I just looked at them. Excuse me?  Can you please explain to me how I’m supposed to get THAT from THERE to THERE!?!?!? Well, I can now explain it if you ever need to know!   Let’s just say that it was done using a pit latrine, an empty water bag and a stick.  No gloves of course. 

We waited for the doctor for a couple of hours…..and I started to get a little suspicious.  There was ZERO sign of pain.  She was happy as a clam, snuggling up to me, laying her head in my lap, watching the pictures and videos on my phone.  I started to feel like I MIGHT be getting played.  I knew that it would most likely be several more hours before we were able to see a doctor so……I decided to peace out.  I could always bring her back if I needed to (and find out the results from the hard earned stool test)  but honestly I felt like kind of an idiot bringing her back because she looked so much better than the first time I brought her in. 
As we left, Aminata asked if I was taking her back to my house but I told her no, I was taking her home.  A few minutes later she told me she wanted to go play with Marie.  Hmmmmm…….I told her that she was sick, so she needed to go home and rest.  I stayed at her home for awhile to make sure she was ok and there were a couple other things (such as requests for cookies after just complaining of nausea and deciding that she WAS in pain…..but only when I was paying attention.)  that made me think this sickness might have been extended just a little bit.  I think I’ve been well played by a 9 year old. 

I was annoyed at first, of course.  I was annoyed with the kiddo, but I was also annoyed by myself.  ER nurse rule #7:  Your patients lie to you.  (For example: Excuse me sir, I noticed that you cannot stand up straight, are covered in vomit and reek of alcohol.  How much have you had to drink tonight?  Patient:  ONE BEER I SWEAR!!!!!!!!!!)  But this was different.  This precious little one didn’t feel good and because of that got some extra attention, extra one on one time.  And she wanted more.  Can I really blame her for that?  She just wants what Every. Child. Wants.  To be loved and important to someone.  Not because she’s one of the crowd, but just because she’s HER. 

Thank you Lord, so much for the privilege it is to care for these little ones. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Pledging Allegiance!

Today a friend re-posted a blog that I’d posted exactly one year ago.  I read the first line of the blog and it was something akin to “we’re getting ready to go back to Sierra Leone!!”  I could start this blog the exact same way.  Whoda thunk. 

But here we are! Getting ready to back…..again. J  The last thing we were waiting for before we left was to get Marie’s citizenship.  And we got it!!  The significance was pretty lost on her.  While she and I were waiting for her interview at the immigration office, Peter, my mom and Ben went for a walk outside.  Marie repeatedly said that she really wished she was outside on the walk with Nana instead of  here in this boring office.  Sorry, not happening chica.

I was pretty nervous for the interview, just because it was the culmination of months of gathering paperwork….and really, years in the making.  I was formulating what my “plan B” was going to be if, for some reason they said no.  My mind was whirling, I felt slightly nauseated and my hands had a little shake to them.  Marie just wanted to go on a walk.

In the end it was pretty painless.  The officer had already gone through the mountain of paperwork I’d sent in, so I just had to verify that it was all true. We’d had an awkward interaction with the judge during Marie’s adoption in which she’d started giggling every time the lawyer answered the judge with “yes, my lady.”  I’d tried to explain that it was because that’s what princesses and queens are referred to in her movies, but it didn’t seem to translate very well.   I was praying we’d be able to skip that kind of awkwardness this time. 

I stood and swore my oath, spent some time going over the facts of the case…..and then it was done.  I was ecstatic.  Marie was glad she could go find Nana. 

Marie finally got to go on her walk with Nana

We had to kill some time until we could pick up the certificate of citizenship so we went for a celebratory hot chocolate.  Marie started to get into the spirit of things when she told the barista that she was now a “u…nisyn” (US citizen).  The barista got all excited and made a big deal about it. 

Marie's celebratory "tea"
When it was time to go pick up the certificate, Marie wrote her name at the top of the certificate.  They went to adhere her picture to the certificate and I cringed.  I stopped the woman.

“Wait. This is the picture you’re going to put on the certificate? It’s going to be there forever?”

You see, the picture that she was attaching to the certificate was a passport picture that I’d sent in.  And it was not good. The day we’d had the picture taken was one of “those” days.  I had quite a few things that just happened to need to be done the same day and I was just barely treading water.  I’d taken Marie’s hair out but hadn’t had time to fix it again so it was…..a little wild.  And she must have been feeling my stress because my amazingly photogenic child could give me nothing but her “constipated smile.”  We teased her about that smile for weeks afterward….and now they wanted to make it part of her permanent file.  I’ve sent in probably 1,000 passport photos in my day and I’ve never seen one again.  Now they want to make this one a permanent one. 

The woman graciously told me I could use another one if I had one, which I just so happen to have….a cute one with her hair all braided and beaded and her thousand watt smile lighting up her face.  I ran out to my car to get it and the crisis was averted. 

And now we’re headed back! Marie’s citizenship was the last box that needed to be checked off before we can go back. Our tickets are confirmed….July 25th we’re out of here!!