Friday, September 13, 2019

The Night I Bought a $1000 Baby Bed.....

When I lie down, I go to sleep in peace;  you alone, O Lord, keep me perfectly safe
Psalm 4:8

Sleep. It’s one of those things that gets taken for granted….until it’s gone.  I know moms and dads of infant children can identify whole heartedly with this statement! Having five kids, I don’t get the standard 8 hours of sleep that most doctors recommend.  Many nights I spend an hour or so finishing up some cleaning, doing laundry, taking a few minutes to work out, etc. Every now and then Zack and I will turn on the tv and catch the end of a game, or an episode of House Hunters, but not very often. I don’t say this in a negative or complaining way- our lives are full, God has blessed us with a houseful of children, and we are very thankful!

Fortunately for us, when it comes to sleep, our four big kids have been good sleepers.  They do have some occasional sleep issues- Eden wakes up probably 2-3 times every week in the middle of the night and needs help going to the bathroom.   When we brought Emmie home from China, she didn’t sleep well for several weeks, but if she wakes now, she usually is able to manage on her own. When we adopted Caleb, he was a year old and would occasionally wake from time to time during the night. Noah is out cold the minute his head hits the pillow, and always has been. 

When I found out I was pregnant with Luke, one of the first things I realized was that I needed to educate myself on infant sleep….and hopefully how to “make” the baby be a good sleeper. I’m smiling as I type this- I was extremely naΓ―ve).

 I began reading  books regarding sleep, and felt somewhat prepared as Luke’s arrival got closer.  I had decided to try and breastfeed, so I knew that factor alone would mean quite a bit of sleep loss in the first several weeks. I was not afraid of sleep training, and believed (and still do) that routines and consistency are very important. I also knew that Zack didn’t sleep well until he was almost 3 years old. Yes, Punky has lots of crowns in heaven. I, on the other hand, began sleeping through the night at one month old. I was really hoping Luke would take after me in this regard, and armed with my sleep books, I felt somewhat confident about the whole sleep issue.

Then, October 3, 2018 a little after 1pm, sweet baby Luke was born. And all that “knowledge” went out the window, just like my sleep.

I still remember the first time we tried to lay Luke down in the bassinet in the hospital room. He had been sleeping so peacefully in my arms. Anyone who has had the amazing experience of holding a newborn while they sleep knows just how precious moments like these are. I really didn’t want to put Luke down, but I knew I needed to try and get some rest myself.  So, I gently laid him down, swaddled up just right, in his little basinet. The second his tiny little body touched that bassinet- instant screaming and eyes wide open. Hmm, I thought. He must like to be held. So, that’s what I did. Then we tried again to lay him down. Same result. I remember being a little concerned, but not too worried. The first couple nights we let the nurses keep Luke in the nursery throughout the night  and bring him to us for feedings, and  they never mentioned anything about him not sleeping, so we just thought maybe it was just a coincidence. 

When we brought Luke home, like many babies, he had no problem sleeping all day long. No noise, no movement, nothing could hardly wake him from his sleep during the day. But when it came night time, he was ready to party.  We realized that he had his days and nights confused (as they say).  I knew to expose him to as much daylight during the day, make his room dark at night, etc.  I also knew that in the first several weeks of life, there really isn’t much of a circadian rhythm going on with infants. I figured this stage would last for a few weeks, maybe two months, then all would be well. Everyone kept reassuring and tell me he would “get himself straightened out.” In the meantime, we did whatever we could to get Luke to sleep and keep him asleep-  white noise machines, swaddles, rocking, walking, etc.  But none of our efforts seemed to affect the amount or quality of sleep he got at night. When he did sleep at night, it was usually for two hours at a time (he always wanted to eat!) and absolutely only in the rock n’ play (yes, the product that has now been universally recalled) with vibration and motion.  I worried that in the long run this would be a bad decision, and sure enough I developed a love/hate relationship with that thing, but at the time, it truly was the only thing he would sleep in.  

 As time went on, Luke did sleep less during the day, but his night time sleep didn’t improve as it should have. A large portion of every night was spent with me rocking, bouncing, walking, singing, swaying….whatever I had to do to get Luke back to sleep and to buy myself an hour and half or so of sleep. Sometimes he would sleep for two hours, sometimes an hour and a half, sometimes three (this seemed miraculous!).  I spent many hours with my phone screen brightness turned all the way down, lying in my bed, reading about promising baby products on mom blogs and browsing  Amazon while trying to coax Luke back to sleep. This honestly became my pastime.  I ordered a steady stream of sleep help products. We’re talking an Amazon Prime package in the mail like every other day. Everything from “miracle” swaddles, tummy wraps, homeopathic elixirs, vibrating mats, a variety of portable baby beds, mattresses, you name it, I tried it. Thankfully Amazon has an awesome return policy, because none of them fazed Luke! Time after time, disappointment, and no sleep.

 I began to develop anxiety about the night- I would feel the anxiety creep in during early afternoon. What would the night hold? How much would Luke cry? Could I really do this another night? What affect was this sleep loss having on Luke…and me? How would I have energy to make it through another day? It was during this sleepless time that Luke also began to develop acid reflux (we didn’t realize what it was at the time). He cried the majority of the day and night, and though you would think he would be exhausted by nighttime, he still didn’t sleep. As the sleep experts love to say (and its true) sleep begets sleep. Needless to say, he was not a happy baby his first few months of life, and again, we did whatever we could to keep him content, even if it was for a couple hours.  Thankfully a close friend and the Lord’s providence put us into contact with a wonderful pediatrician that helped tremendously with Luke’s acid reflux, so that was one less thing to keep him awake!  Zack and I continued to do whatever we could to help him sleep, or at least we thought we were helping.  Looking back, I now  realize this was part of the problem to some extent- We were so intent on helping him sleep, we never gave him the chance to learn to sleep on his own.  More on that later.

By the time Luke was about 3.5 months old, I was on the verge of total exhaustion, physically and mentally, as I was only getting about four hours of fragmented (not consecutive) sleep at night. When I looked in the mirror, I barely recognized myself. Breastfeeding had taken a toll on my body, and because we suspected a dairy sensitivity with Luke, I had eliminated dairy from my diet and could not keep at a healthy weight. I had the biggest rings around my eyes I had ever seen, and my eyes always looked red. I felt guilty because I didn’t have the energy and stamina I needed to give my big kids the attention they deserved. I was cranky and not much fun. I didn’t like it. Something had to change.

It was at this very low point when I read about a “magical baby bed” called the Snoo.  As part of my Amazon purchases, I had tried lots of different mattresses and portable type sleepers. I had even paid well over $100 for a portable baby bed that was supposed to make your baby feel like it was being cradled  in your arms all night long.  Well, it didn’t work and Luke screamed as soon as we laid him down in it. So needless to say, I was very skeptical of any baby bed that made such claims. But, the Snoo had basically perfect reviews on Amazon. Aside from that, it was being used by major hospitals to help premature babies sleep. And it was created by the best selling author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block”. It seemed legit, and it had to work, right? There was only one problem, and it was a major one. The price tag- it cost over $1000! I knew we could not afford that. I knew Zack Caldwell wouldn’t even entertain such nonsense. But, I also knew we had to sleep, and that I could no longer function in this condition.

This bed seemed to be the answer to all our problems. We had tried everything else, so in my mind, this was our last hope for sleep. Notice where I was putting my hope….
 One night while Zack and I were both lying in bed awake, I rolled over and asked him, “How much would you be willing to pay to get to some sleep?”  You see, I had figured out the monthly, weekly, and daily cost of the Snoo, and in my mind, it was totally worth it to get some sleep! And, as luck would have it, that particular weekend, it was on sale! Now if I could only convince my frugal husband that we needed this bed! Well, the lack of sleep must have gotten to him as well, because he didn’t need any convincing. Once I told him it had a 30 day money back guarantee, he was sold. I laid in bed and ordered it right then and there on my phone. I began counting down the days until it arrived. Finally, we would get some sleep!

I still remember the day the Snoo arrived. It came in a huge box and was very heavy. My mom and I brought it in from the front porch, and unpackaged it. If you google it, you will see a very modern and sleek looking bassinet type bed.  But I didn’t care so much about how it looked as I did how it would help our Luke, and us, get some sleep! I got out the instructions and read them over very thoroughly. I downloaded the app on my phone and did everything I needed to do to pair my phone with the bed.  The technology aspect of the bed was super cool. The Snoo also came with its own swaddle. The swaddle hooked into the baby bed. Once the baby was secure in the bed, the Snoo could be turned on, and then you could use the app on your phone to control it, or allow the bed to sense when the baby was upset, and do its magic- either way, the parent could always be in control.  I was so excited for bedtime that night…I couldn’t wait!

We were still living with my parents at the time, so we all gathered in Luke’s room to see what was going to happen. It was like a live exhibition or something. We put Luke in the new swaddle, hooked him in, and walked just outside the door and watched- I had the app on my phone, turned on the bed, and we waited. As usual, it didn’t take long for Luke to begin to fuss and move about. That’s when the Snoo kicked in. Here’s a brief synopsis of how the Snoo works-  at the first signs of the baby’s agitation, the Snoo begins to move gently back and forth in an attempt to calm the baby- this is level 1.   If that doesn’t work, it progresses to the next level, where the motion is a little more intense. If the baby calms down, the bed reverts to the previous level after a certain amount of time. If the baby doesn’t calm down, it moves to a higher level, which involves more motion (there’s a reason the swaddle must be strapped into the bed before it will turn on). The cool thing is with the app, you can actually override the bed’s suggestion and put it at whatever level you want, or just let it do its thing. 
Well, let’s just say Luke never made it back to level one that first night. In fact, within about five minutes, he had the Snoo at the highest level and it appeared there was an earthquake happening inside his little bassinet! He was being shaken, rocked and his feet were flailing up and around in the air while he screamed and cried!  It was like a crazy ride at the Chicken Festival for newborns or something! This was not at all what I had hoped and longed and prayed it would be! My mom couldn’t watch it any longer, she had to leave the room. Zack and dad just stood there with their mouths open, and I was screaming, “Turn it off! Turn it off! “ (even though I had the control in my hand). I shut down the Snoo, unstrapped Luke and tried to calm him down. The Snoo was no match for baby Luke.  I admit, I didn’t give it a second chance. The sight of Luke’s body being bounced around and his legs flying up in the air were just too much for me. We repackaged it the next day and sent it back, and they did thankfully honor the money back guarantee. Another hope of sleep dashed. At this point I had used up all knowledge of any remaining sleep products. Where to go from here?

I had read enough about sleep to know that most healthy babies could begin sleep training  at around three to four months of age. Our pediatrician encouraged this, but I just felt like Luke wasn’t ready. Why? I had no answers. Because he wasn’t a good sleeper? The logic of that statement, well, there is no logic to that statement. That’s the whole point of sleep training. It’s training your child to sleep. Sleep comes easier to some children than to others. Training is also easier for some children than others. But one thing is for sure- the parents can either hinder or help the training along, and looking back, the first few months of Luke’s life, I believe we were hindering it.  Poor Luke never got a chance to learn to sleep on his own because we never let him! We trained him to rely on us to go to sleep. So, now, it was time to, well, retrain him.

So, we went cold turkey, straight up Cry It Out sleep training. I was done with anything in between and ready to endure whatever Luke threw at us. First night, about two hours of non stop crying. We were still living at my parents house. Sorry mom and dad. I had to leave for the house for a while. I thought my mom was going to have to leave as well. It was tough. But the second night was better, and the third night was much better. His sleep ever so gradually improved for several weeks (by improved, I mean he would sleep for 4-5 hours at a time).  But, around 8-9 months we hit another wall.  So, we embraced another sleep training method, the Ferber Method. By embraced, I mean that I read the entire book and took into consideration what the author had to say about every part of sleep, including naps. I would encourage anyone who attempts sleep training to read the entire book of whatever you choose. I worked very hard with Luke to keep his naps in synch with his night time sleep and on a schedule, as well as his feedings. It was really hard work with Luke, and involved our entire family sacrificing in some way. I  know this drove Zack crazy, as he felt like our life was dictated by Luke’s schedule, but I knew that if we didn’t come up with a plan and stick with it, it would mean more sleepless nights and the inability to have any sort of routine or normalcy in regard to a family schedule at all. It took a week or so, but the Ferber Method of sleep training seemed to be more effective for Luke at that point, and so we have been sticking with it ever since.  I’ll be the first to say that sleep training isn’t easy, but it is well researched and documented, and if we hadn’t tried it, I honestly believe that I would have had a physical and emotional breakdown, and that Luke would still be a very poor sleeper and a very unhealthy and unhappy baby. It’s tough, but if you can hang in there and be disciplined in whatever approach you take, you will see positive results.

Our sweet baby Luke is now 11 months old, and he has finally become a mostly normal sleeper for a baby of his age. Some nights he will sleep from about 8pm-6:30 in the morning. Other nights he will go to sleep at 8, wake up at 4 or 5 to eat, and then sleep until almost 7.  He takes only one nap a day (gave up his morning nap before he was ten months old), which was very hard initially, but it’s usually a good afternoon nap, so I can handle that.
Helping Luke to be just an average sleeper has been a long time coming. I have cried many tears and have had many frustrating days and nights. I have felt like giving up on any sort of sleep training multiple times and sleep, in general, plenty of times. I prayed for God to give me wisdom, strength, to help Luke sleep, to help me sleep, many times not understanding why my prayers hadn’t been answered. 

Looking back, I think I now know why my prayers for sleep weren’t answered in my timeframe.  I had made sleep an idol, a God almost, in my life. Please don’t hear me say that sleep isn’t important. It certainly is! Sleep was created by God and God knows our bodies require it in order to live and to be healthy.  But I had made my peace, my contentment, basically my existence, subject to the quality and amount of sleep I got and how well my baby slept, not the fact that I was a child of the living God, the Creator God who alone could give me peace and rest. Again, please don’t hear me say that sleep deprivation isn’t an extremely difficult thing to deal with and live with- it certainly is and it certainly has real consequences, but nothing that is too much for the Lord to see us through.

 My new petition to the Lord is that Luke will continue to sleep well and will be unhindered by the arrival of baby  Levi  in late January.   I pray that God will help me keep my focus on Him and the peace he gives, despite what type of sleeper Levi is.

 At the beginning of this post, I referenced Psalm 4:8. This is a verse my mom used to recite to me at night when I would be afraid or anxious, which was quite often. As a young girl, my mom spent plenty of nights lying in bed with me until I fell asleep. Little did I know at the time that she was using this same scripture to quiet her anxieties and fears over the many trials and tribulations they were experiencing with my adoption.  I committed this verse to memory as a young child, and it is a verse that I share from time to time with my children when they are afraid at night. I always explain to them that God is the one who gives us peace and takes away our fears, so that we may sleep in peace.  Recently, the Lord has shown me how the entire chapter of Psalm 4 speaks to what we place our hope in, and how placing our hope in the Lord can bring more joy than anything else. It has brought great comfort to me, even on the most difficult nights, and I hope it will do the same for you.

Psalm 4- A Night Prayer
1 Answer me when I call, God, who vindicates me. You freed me from affliction; be gracious to me and hear my prayer. 
2 How long, exalted men, will my honor be insulted? [How long] will you love what is worthless and pursue a lie? Selah 
3 Know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for Himself; the Lord will hear when I call to Him. 
4 Be angry and do not sin; on your bed, reflect in your heart and be still. Selah 
5 Offer sacrifices in righteousness and trust in the Lord. 
6 Many are saying, "Who can show us anything good?" Look on us with favor, Lord. 
7 You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and new wine abound. 
8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, Lord, make me live in safety.

Hang in there moms and dads. Sleep will come….eventually. It may not be when you want it, how you want it, but it will come. Through those difficult times,  put your hope in the One who can give more peace than even the most fulfilling night of sleep. Our bodies need sleep, but our souls need peace even more.

(ps: I would be more than happy to share all the specific things we tried with Luke- what didn’t work, what worked a little, what worked a little more J  Just send me a PM! ) 

Friday, July 5, 2019

Eight is Great!

If you ended up here, then you must be a little curious….
or you want to see just how crazy we are…..or both!

Yes, that's right baby Luke!! 

You're not going to be the baby anymore! You're going to be a big brother!! 

Caldwell child #6 is on the way, scheduled to be here in late January 2020. 

 Caldwell, party of 8.
 Eight is great. 
That’s going to be our new motto!

So let me just go ahead and answer your first two questions πŸ˜€ yes, Zack and I do understand how babies are made, and no, we weren’t  trying to conceive πŸ˜„ 
So this baby is very unexpected, but such a blessing to think that God would entrust us with another precious child. As Psalm 127 says, “Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them”. I think ours is filling up!

Many thoughts went through my mind the day I held the pregnancy test in my shaking, trembling hand! I must admit,  that one of my first thoughts upon finding out that I was pregnant was “What are people going to think??!!” I worried that we might be seen as irresponsible? Weird? Crazy?  What would our explanation be?  I felt like we had to have an explanation. This must have been an accident, something must have failed, etc. As my mind was reeling and thoughts were racing, it was then I realized, I don’t need to explain a miracle such as this. When God chooses to create a life, to God be the Glory! He is the giver, and taker of life (Genesis 2:7, Job 34:14-15).  All life is extremely valuable and precious to Him. I began to wonder, why does it seem that our modern culture no longer values and beholds life as the great and amazing creation it is? I fear that often times  we come to see children as more of an inconvenience and surprise pregnancies as more of an "oops” than a life intricately created by our Heavenly Father. I speak these words to myself, as  it was something that I was forced to think about when I found out I was pregnant this time. I had to search my own heart and ask myself, do I really value life the way God does?

I have always unashamedly been pro-life.  As an adopted child and an adoptive parent, and believing that God knew us before He formed us in the womb, (Jeremiah 1:5) I believe life to be precious in all forms. But if I claim to truly be pro-life, then I must hold to that belief at all times. When life is “planned”, and “unplanned”. When the timing seems to make sense, and when the timing doesn’t seem to make sense. The value of life isn’t dependent upon circumstances.  I must confess that in years past, I have observed families with multiple children and at times wondered why they would choose to have so many children- maybe even thought they were a little “different”. I was tempted to think of things from a very worldly perspective. But as the Lord began to lay on our hearts to add more children to our family through adoption, and now with the addition of Luke and our new baby, God has began to  teach me through His Word and through my daily interactions with my own children just how much He values life. I am grateful He is so patient and willing to remind me of the things that I should already know. He is a merciful Father.

Please don’t hear me say that we have don’t have any doubts, anxiety or concerns about what adding another baby to our family will mean- we certainly do! Do we feel overwhelmed? Yes! Our lives are very full with our 5 precious children. It is hard to imagine how life will work with a new baby. Do we feel anxious? Yes. I especially worry that the new baby will sleep like baby Luke and I’ll be a zombie for several months all over again!  I wonder if my body can sustain another pregnancy so close to the first, the toll it will take, etc. Do we wonder how everyday things will work? Yes! I worry about how I will spend enough time with our big kids, help them with their homework, watch them play sports, keep the house clean, keep up with the laundry, etc.  Yes to all of these and more!

 But then we ask ourselves the most important questions: Is God the author and creator of all life? Yes. Before He formed us in the womb, did He know us? Yes. Is He faithful and trustworthy? Yes.  Does He loves us? Yes. To every doubt, objection and fear I have, comes a resounding “yes” from the eternal, uncreated, holy and loving God. 

Praise Jesus.   

God has also given us some very tangible displays of his mercy as we have adjusted to being a family of 7, and now soon to be to a family of 8.  We have four awesome big kid helpers that have really stepped it up over the last 9 months, and we know they will be up for the challenge. I can’t say enough about what a huge help they have been. It has been a beautiful thing to see God work in each one of their hearts, helping them to become little servants and more selfless as they help care for their baby brother.  Not perfect, by any means. There are many days that we have to have a family meeting because the kids have been so mean to one another, or haven’t honored their parents like they should.  It's not a pretty picture some days.  God will undoubtedly have to continue to work in all our hearts as we welcome and prepare for the new baby.

Another display-thankfully, just a few weeks ago, sweet baby Luke began to sleep for about 9-10 hours at a time, finally, at almost 9 months of age. It was a long time coming, and took a lot of praying, crying, reading,  ordering from Amazon and returning products that are supposed to help your baby sleep, etc. but I think God’s timing was just right. If I had found out I was pregnant while Luke was still sleeping about 4 hours at a time, that would have been extremely difficult!!  God’s grace to us is never ending.

And we would be amiss if we failed to mention the unending support that our parents have given us. God in his mercy allowed us to move back home to Kentucky, and I can’t imagine what life would have been like if we hadn’t. We simply couldn’t have thrived without the help of our parents. We would have barely been surviving and our big kids would have suffered greatly. Our parents have time and time again helped take our children to practices, performances, given us breaks so we could sleep, helped with our laundry, spent time loving on our kiddos,  given the kids breaks from one another and the list goes on and on.  It truly does take a village! It’s also the beauty of family and the body of Christ in action.

Being a parent has truly been the most sanctifying experience of my life.  To be very honest, we never planned on having 6 children. But, life doesn’t always work out liked we planned, and for that, I am very thankful.  My plans could never equate to the greatness of God’s plans. Though it might stretch our comfort zone, grow our faith, takes us to distant lands, and at times cause our hearts to break more than we could have imagined, if we believe in God’s sovereignty, then we must trust His plans. And in doing so, we see how He is conforming us to the image of His Son, even through the long days and sleepless nights, well, especially through those. With each child God has graciously added to our family, parenthood has truly shown me just how in need of God’s grace and mercy I am, on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. It has also shown me a glimpse of the amazing love, patience, and goodness that God has for his children.  

Please keep our family and this new life in your prayers. It will definitely be a transition, in every sense of the word. We need God’s wisdom, grace, and mercy to cover us every day. We pray our family will bring glory to God, even if it means we might look different, bigger and crazier than “normal” families.

 After all, eight is great!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Pregnancy Update and "My Story"

This is an exciting week for our family, as at the end of the week, we will discover how the tie between estrogen and testosterone will be broken!! After much prayer, Zack and I decided to have the first trimester blood work performed (an added bonus, of course, is getting to find out the sex of the baby sooner!). Because of my age and medical history, my doctor also suggested it. Zack and I knew that the results wouldn't change anything, but would help us be more prepared, if necessary. So we look forward to revealing our results this weekend with our parents who are coming to visit for this exciting time!

11 Weeks and Growing!! 

12 Weeks and I am not quite as far along as Caleb...hahaha!

I am thankfully feeling so much better. The nausea has subsided greatly, and I beginning to get some of my energy back as well. The smells still get to me, but I am tolerating them better. And as you can see, I am growing! 

Pregnancy certainly is a miraculous thing. I have always marveled at how God created life out of nothing, how he forms us in the womb, and all the amazing intricacies of his creation. There is no doubt there is a creator, God, when you view His handiwork.  Being pregnant has brought a new perspective to all this for sure! Each day I enjoy learning new facts about all that's going on in this little miracle living inside me...and so do my kids!

Speaking of miracles, I recently have been reading a book given to me by my amazing mother in law. It's written by Karen Kingsbury and titled, "A Treasury of Adoption Miracles: True Stories of God's Presence".

It has some amazing, miraculous stories of adoption. As I was reading it this week, I began to think about how, really, each and every adoption is a miracle, just as is each and every life God creates. My own adoption is a miracle. The adoption of my four children are all miracles. My life has been a story of adoption miracles.  And truly, it has. So, I decided to spend some time on this blog post telling "my story".

Many of you are familiar, at least somewhat, with my adoption story. Many of you, however, might not even know that I was adopted as an infant, and what entailed over the next several years of my life. From the outside, it might have looked more like a nightmare than a miracle, and at times, I am sure my parents felt like they were living through a nightmare.

It really is an amazing story and quite interesting to hear. I wish my parents could tell it to you, the reader. A book could literally be written about it, not only because it's an interesting, unusual and emotional story, but because the legal battle with my birth father spanned the course of about 13 years. Yes, 13 years.

It all began when I was born on August 21, 1982 in a hospital in Louisville, KY, to a very young lady, my birth mother. She felt that she didn't have the support system or means to provide the life that she would want her child to have, so she had chosen my parents to adopt me. A co-worker of a cousin to my mother knew of the situation through a friend of a friend. I am not sure about all the details and how they got it all worked out, but I just know I am thankful they did! From what I have read in newspaper articles and from his own statements, my birth father was supposedly not on board with me being placed for adoption. He attempted to not allow me to go with my mom and dad from the hospital, but a judge denied his request.

When I was 4 days old, I was brought home to the small town of London, Kentucky by two beautiful people, my mom and dad, Glenn and Linda Toney. Here are those beautiful people....

They had tried to conceive a child biologically but had not been successful due to my mom's medical issues. They had also attempted to adopt through the state of Kentucky, but had grown weary of the long wait. Many people in our small community of "Swiss Colony" knew of my parents longing to have a child, and, well, that's how they ended up with me!

I was received with open arms from everyone in my community, the way I understand it. My parents had a wonderful support system, and my adoption was finalized on March 11, 1983 in my hometown of London, KY.

I always thought I looked like a little boy....and that hair!!! 

 To my parents knowledge, their attorney had performed everything legally needed to terminate my birth father's parental rights, and had done so in the proper way.  Unfortunately, there was some room for debate in this area, and thus ensued what would be a 14 year long custody battle. Again, it would be impossible in one blog post to document what occurred in those 14 years,  but in doing some research (it is strange doing research about your own life), I found this timeline published in the Courier Journal. For those of you not from the Kentucky area, the Courier Journal originates in Louisville, KY and is the most widely circulated newspaper in the state of Kentucky.

Because of the back and forth nature of the court battle, and the decision in 1986 that restored my birth father's parental rights, there was a time when my birth father legally could have taken custody of me. Actually, an entire year passed from the time his rights were restored, until the time the ruling was appealed in my parents favor. During this time, he would call my mom at night and threaten to come get me. My mom would beg him to please not do that. My dad worked the night shift at UPS during that time, making these nights even more terrifying for my mom.

I knew I was adopted from a very young age. It was a fact that my family celebrated, and that I felt very special because of.  However, I knew nothing of the threatening my mom had to endure, or anything about any of the court proceedings.  I knew nothing at all, other than I had wonderful parents, an amazing extended family, and a pretty awesome life, overall. It was a happy childhood.

One story that has always amazed me occurred when I was around 7 or 8 years old.  My birth parents made a surprise visit to our home that evening. Somehow, they had found our home, and though not visiting as a "couple" they supposedly were visiting for the purpose of securing a picture of me to give to my birth mother's father, who was dying of cancer. My birth father, we would later learn, had ulterior motives.

I was in my room playing my Nintendo that night. My dad has told me this story several times, and he always notes that I never closed my door when I played Nintendo. But for some reason on that night, I decided to close my door. When my birth parents arrived, my mom immediately called her parents and sister. My grandpa came over with a shotgun (gotta love Kentucky) and my uncle came over and stayed with me in my room while I played Nintendo. I had no idea anything was going on, I was just concerned with advancing on to the next level in Mario.   My parents called their attorney and were advised by him to not give my birth mother the picture, but my parents tender hearts made the decision, and they gave her the picture anyway. My parents  learned  shortly after the visit that the father of my birth mother did pass away.

The photo my parents gave to my birth mother 
and that subsequently appeared  in the Courier Journal on various occasions

Curiously enough, the very picture they gave my birth mother appeared in the Courier Journal (the newspaper I mentioned earlier) along with a front page story, written from the viewpoint of my birth father.  It  did include the "facts" of the case, but certainly appealed to sympathizers for my birth father.   In doing my "research", I found that my adoption case/story appeared in the Courier Journal at least 4 times, with three of those times featuring a front page story. My parents never commented about the court proceedings, and did so per the advice of their attorney. Therefore, almost every story that was published in the Courier Journal was heavily weighted from the viewpoint of my birth father. Here are some examples of the headlines and a few excerpts from some of the stories:

In 1996, when I was 14 years old, my adoption case was settled, legally, once and for all.  Throughout the 14 year long battle, our case had reached the Kentucky Supreme Court twice, and had been sent to the United States Supreme Court of Appeals, but was never heard. The financial costs associated with the 14 year long battle literally cost my parents everything they owned, including our house. The emotional costs were high as well. Because of the stress of the case, my dad began having seizures and actually passed out while driving his UPS truck, which further complicated our financial situation. My mom has dealt with heart issues for as long as I can remember, no doubt at least partially because of the stress and anxiety of the custody battle.  This case definitely took a toll on them in many ways. But through it all, my parents provided the most loving and stable home that I could have imagined. My childhood was full of happiness, and I believed we were blessed. I will never know how they did it, aside from eventually having an amazing attorney who knew adoption law inside and out, the support, prayers, and generosity of family and friends, and of course and most importantly,  their faith and trust in God.

As with every story in life, will never know it all, at least not from the side of my birth father, and especially, I think, my birth mother. There are many questions left unanswered as to my birth father's choice of timing, his motives, etc. There are certainly "off the record" situations that occurred that will never be published in the Courier Journal or any other newspaper, such as the time he visited my home unexpectedly. There are numerous more. Thus, at the very least, I will always believe that his motives were very suspect. I think it is very important for you, the reader, to know that I came to these conclusions on my own, as my mom and dad never spoke an ill word of either of my birth parents. In fact, they always let me know they would support me and my efforts if I ever chose to seek out either of them. And they have kept that commitment. Shortly after Zack and I were married, at my request, my parents helped me contact my birth mother, and I, along with Zack and my parents, met her for the first time and had dinner together. I may blog at some point about that meeting.

I began this blog post speaking about miracles. Maybe after reading this, you aren't quite sure what the connection is, or how any of my adoption story could be considered a miracle (it was quite a mess!)

Well, I find it quite miraculous that I was adopted by two of the most loving, kind, selfless people that I have ever met. That out of all the people who could have adopted me, I was given these two parents. That I have my mom's eyes and love for hospitality, and my dad's love for music and sometimes his temper. That I grew up with the kind of relationship with my parents that I would just as soon as hung out with them on a Friday night than to have gone out with my friends. That I could approach them at any time, with any problem, and I knew they would listen. We have always been the closest of close. I don't know what I would do without them.

I find it miraculous that God can take what was intended for bad and what seemed like a desperate situation at so many points in time, and use it for good.  That He could use the trials my family faced throughout my adoption to build perseverance, character, faithfulness, and a deep, deep love for one another. That, because of my adoption and the impact it has had in, and on my life, God opened my heart to adoption, and we now have four beautiful, precious children from all over the world (more on this in the next blog). Not only this, but God has used my parents, and now Zack and I, countless times to minister to families who have had difficulties in the adoption process, or whom are considering adoption, etc. He, the one true and Sovereign God, has brought beauty from ashes in many ways. And that truly is the picture and beauty of adoption, in my opinion.

Please don't hear me say that adoption is a cake walk. Adoption isn't always easy. Being part of the adoption community, I know of many families who struggle daily with adoption related issues. Not every adopted child feels favorably towards adoption, as some children have been placed in very negative circumstances due to adoption.  In my case, the adoptive process was difficult, but the relationships I have with my mom and dad are priceless to me. Adoption has been a tremendous, unspeakable blessing to me.

We live in a flawed, sinful world, and that sin taints everything.  We are all born into the world as sinners, and we take this sin with us into our relationships, whether those are biological, or are formed through adoption, etc. None of us, or our relationships, are exempt.

The most miraculous news of all is that there is an adoption that we all can be a part of, one that only brings life, light, and love, and that is secure for all eternity.  We can be adopted into the family of God, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:5 tell us that God chose us, before the creation of the world, to be holy and blameless in his sight, and that in love, he chose us to be adopted as His children, through his son Jesus Christ. This means we have the opportunity to have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, not only now, but forever. This is the very best adoption of all.

Thank you for taking the time to read "my story". It really isn't just my story, as God clearly knit the story together using various people, circumstances, etc, as He does with every story. What an amazing God we serve. I don't ever want to miss a part of the story He has for my about you?

Friday, March 23, 2018


The Caldwell family is "moving on up"….in size and location!!

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Surprise!!! In a super shocker to everyone, and I do mean everyone, we are excited, blessed, humbled and to be totally honest, somewhat terrified, to be expecting a new little Caldwell this October. That's right, Caldwell child #5 is scheduled to make his or her appearance late October 2018!

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"How did this happen??!!" to quote my mother in law 😊 All we can say is Proverbs 16:9, "We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps".  We felt very content and our lives were very full with our 4 kiddos….so I can only imagine having a 5th will only sweeten this family God has given to us.

To be honest, having children biologically was never something really in our plans. I plan to write an entire blog post on this later, but Zack and I felt called to adoption from the very beginning of our marriage.  Through different experiences God allowed us to have both independently, and as a couple, adoption is how we felt called to grow our family. And once we adopted, God fulfilled any desire to grow our family and parent children. So, having a child biologically just really wasn't on our radar….but it certainly is now!

I began to suspect something was up when we were staying a few days in a hotel in Winston Salem before we closed on our house. I noticed the usual pregnancy symptoms…but honestly, I just figured the stress of being separated from Zack for 6l weeks due to his job, selling and buying a house, and moving were just throwing things off. On the day we closed on our home here in NC, I decided that I better check, just to make sure. So, while I was at the grocery, I decided to pick up a pregnancy test. Self checkout, please!!

I was shaking as I carried in the groceries, but I tried to carry on as normal, as I was surrounded by my mom, our kids, and the painters and other workers doing a few fixes in our home. I ran into the bathroom downstairs and read the directions as fast I could. I struggle with even peeing in a cup (sorry if that's too much info ) so I wanted to make sure I got this right. I did the deed then laid the test on the vanity with shaking hands, and waited, but I didn't have to wait long. As soon as the urine passed the little window, both lines appeared and my heart was beating a million miles a minute. Could this really be happening!? I double checked what I was seeing and compared it with the little instruction pamphlet. Yep, two pink lines meant….pregnant!! I shoved the test inside the box and stashed it under the vanity. I walked out like no big deal and realized that our world had just changed! In an amazing, blessed way of course, but still changed dramatically! A thousand thoughts were going through my mind until I heard little Eden's voice, "Mom, what's this?" You guessed it, she had found my secret box under the vanity. I quickly stole it away and put it in my pocket, and mumbled, "Oh nothing".

The next few minutes I thought about how to tell Zack, then my mom and dad. Zack was at work, though I was supposed to be meeting him soon to secure a U-HAUL so we could finish unloading our storage unit. I was supposed to drive the van with the trailer hitch, but my mind was so blown that I drove the wrong van all the way there, lol. I told Zack I had a good reason for my mistake, then I pulled the test out of my pocket. I can assure you, he was in shock as well! He was thrilled, though overwhelmed. He wanted to tell everyone immediately, but I assured him we needed to think through some things first . I also wanted to take another test, just to be sure. So, the next day, I went back to the grocery store, only the self checkout lane was closed, so the poor teenage boy that was my cashier and I had an awkward conversation, to say the least.

The second test confirmed the results of the first, so we were pretty sure we had a 5th child on our hands! The next day I told my mom before church, she and I together Facetimed my dad, and later that day Zack and I called his parents after church. All grandparents were shocked, thrilled, and excited. Now they are just totally elated!

I am thankful that so far I haven't had anything more than nausea off and on everyday (not just in the morning….Morning Sickness is inappropriately named, in my opinion ), and have just been flat out exhausted. One of the most interesting things is that I have had an extreme aversion to certain smells, unfortunately those smells happen to be the smells of our home. So, I just wear a mask in most rooms. I can stand to be in the kitchen and most of the time our den, and my bedroom and bathroom are okay. Walking into the living room, foyer, hallway, basement, and any of the kids room results in some serious gags. I actually have a box of surgical masks I have been wearing, and that seems to keep the nausea at bay, though I do get some weird looks from the neighbors if I forget to take the mask off when I go outside.

Yesterday was my first ultrasound, and we are thankful that everything seems normal and that the heartbeat of the baby is strong. My mom and Eden were able to be there, and Eden couldn't help herself when she first saw the baby- she let out the longest "Awe!" followed by, "The baby is adorable!". Zack unfortunately was out of town due to work, but with the wonders of technology, I was able to send him the photos and video, to which he responded, "Wow, wow wow!".  As this is our first ever pregnancy, and as I am early in the pregnancy (9 weeks), we know that there are still many unknowns. We also realize we are totally clueless about anything to do with being pregnant, and all that having a newborn entails. We trust God is in control of every aspect, and we look to Him for our joy and peace throughout this process.

Switching gears….We have also moved on up North in location, to North Carolina. The weekend of February 18th, we said goodbye to our home for the past 3.5 years in Charleston, SC, and began a new adventure in the other Carolina state.  

First, just to catch you up on the family (I realize that almost two years have gone by since my last blog post. That is rather shameful, and though my mind had lots of ideas and topics I wanted to blog about, I guess other priorities just won out…not saying that those priorities were better, or more important).

Noah is now a middle school student! So hard to believe as I can remember meeting him for the first time (now almost 8 years ago!) and seeing his sad eyes looking up at Zack and I…then that first smile…then the first time he experienced Ketchup. He has made a great transition from elementary school to middle school. He is in the band and plays the trombone. He is playing soccer this spring and beginning Tae Kwon Do. He is a strong, independent young man and we are very proud of him.

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Caleb is in 4th grade and keeps us on our toes! He is full of life and laughter, and has had no problem making friends here. He (like his mom and dad) loves this time of year because March Madness is in full swing-he is my basketball watching buddy.  He is also playing soccer and beginning Tae Kwon Do.

Emmie is in 2nd grade and has really grown to be a fabulous big sister to Eden. She is a huge help to me around the house and God continues to grow her sensitive, servant heart in beautiful ways. She is also playing soccer this spring and looking forward to beginning Tae Kwon Do soon.

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Eden is 4 years old now and though tiny for her age, has a huge heart and is a little firecracker! She made the most seamless transition into our family in almost every way. She has acquired English amazingly and is very articulate….just ask her brothers! She won't start Kindergarten until 2019 and that is just fine with her. She is looking forward to beginning gymnastics soon!

So, how did we get from one Carolina to another? For some time, Zack and I had been praying about a job opportunity that would allow us to be closer to home, (Kentucky will always be home) as the trip for us and our parents was starting to get old, yet we all desired to be a part of each others lives as much as possible. We also missed the Kentucky like seasons, hills and mountains, etc. God certainly was gracious to us during our time in South Carolina, and to be honest, we struggled to know if it was selfish to pray for God to open an opportunity for us to closer to family, as everything was going just fine in Charleston.

During the early spring and summer of 2017, we had three different possibilities that seemed "sure things", not work out. The first would have put us in Nashville, TN., the second outside of Atlanta, and the third in Greenville, SC. Each time the door seemed open, but then would eventually close. The first opportunity in Nashville was offered to us, but we just didn't feel like it was right for various reasons. The second and third seemed so sure that we even put our home on the market, but then at the last second, the opportunities were removed. As 2017 began to come to an end, we began to think that maybe it just wasn't God's will for us to leave Charleston at this time. Then Zack got two phone calls from two different companies around the same week, and things got kicked into high gear, to say the least. Both opportunities would have taken us North- one way North, to Cincinnati, the other to North Carolina. In the end, it was a pretty easy decision. Zack accepted his current position in North Carolina around Thanksgiving and was to report the first of the year.

We knew this meant we would be separated for some time- until our house sold. Zack would commute early Monday morning and stay through the week, then come home on Friday evening. I would be with the kids during the week and get our home ready to sell. It certainly wasn't the ideal situation, but we also knew the commute and separation wouldn't be forever. We listed our home around Thanksgiving, and we had it under contract the early part of January. We were thankful it didn't linger on the market too long. Getting a house "show ready" with 4 kids can be a little maddening, and we had some interesting prospective buyers….some wouldn't come in our home because the driveway wasn't long enough, some became upset because we asked all potential buyers to remove their shoes or wear the provided shoe covers- in our minds we were preserving the floors for someone who would buy our home…not everyone shared our perspective however! Others would cancel just a few minutes before a showing was scheduled. Needless to say, we prayed fervently for a buyer for our home! Wouldn't you know it, the family that ended up buying our home came the weekend I came down with a stomach bug and literally couldn't get out of bed… we had four showings scheduled! Thankfully my in-laws happened to be in town and helped get the house ready. Zack also knew the drill and directed traffic. A few minutes before the scheduled showings, he carried me out to the car, robe and all, and I just laid in the backseat until the showing were over, while he perused the neighborhood. 

We already had a home picked out here in Winston-Salem from our house hunting trips, so once our house was under contract, we were able to make an offer on the home here in Winston. We were hoping to find a home with a basement, a larger yard than our home in Charleston, and in a neighborhood where there would hopefully be lots of other kiddos for our kids to play with, as they had grown accustomed to that in Charleston.  Graciously, God answered those prayers. Our street is full of kids, we have a small basement that is a great little hangout spot, and a bigger yard with beautiful trees and privacy. More than we deserve!

The kids seem to be adjusting well to school. I am always amazed at their resilience. Eden is here with me, and will be for another year, as she can't begin Kindergarten until August 2019. I am working on getting my school counseling certification for North Carolina, so that when it is time for me to return to work, I will be ready (still determining when that time will be, especially with our new addition coming). My job may always be inside our home, which would be fine with me!

We knew when we moved, the most difficult aspect would be finding a church home. Not because there aren't wonderful churches here in Winston-Salem, but because we so dearly loved our little church family in Charleston.  I say[RC1]  "little" because we were members of a church plant when we left Charleston, and though our congregation was small in number, we were full of love for one another and for the Gospel. I can't say that I was excited about the church plant in the beginning (this should also be a blog post because God has done an amazing work in my heart in this area), but I can now say that I truly, truly, miss this fellowship, as does our entire family.

A quick rundown: a few weeks before we left for China in 2016 to bring home Eden, our current church at the time had a division that resulted in the current Pastor resigning and many members leaving. Our family was one of the families that decided to leave during this time (once we returned from China).   Our hearts were broken over the events, but we felt we had no choice but to leave the church. We weren't prepared to bring home Eden to an unknown situation in terms of our faith community, but that is what happened. In the beginning, I was very, very unsure of becoming part of the church plant, not because of the events that led to its formation, the leadership, the theology, or anything like that, but because there wasn't very much structure in terms of kids church, Sunday School, youth group, etc. Of course, when any church is in its infancy, none of those things just automatically happen, and that is okay. This was our first experience being part of a church plant, and there were many things I just didn't get and struggled with. Didn't I say I needed to write an entire blog devoted to this? I better just do that.  Let's just say that I am so thankful that God is so gracious and patient with our hearts, and I am forever grateful that He allowed our family to be part of such a sweet fellowship.

We have visited a couple different churches here, but have yet to feel fully called to a church home. There is definitely a huge hole in the life of our family as we miss the community that results when Christians fellowship, worship, and serve with one another. We pray that God will lead us to a church home very soon.  


So, there you have it, the quickest run-down I can give you of our lives over the last almost-two years. It has been an adventure in so many ways. The one thing that has remained the same- the steadfast, faithful love of God.  Scripture says in Hebrews 13:8 that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." So many things in this world can change- our location, our profession, our health, our church, our families. But praise be to God that He is unchanging, as is His love for us

Adoption is a GOoD thing :)