Saturday, January 30, 2010

Riley's Story

I guess there are really two stories to be told here, ours and hers. Ours actually began first on a Sunday morning in August of 2007. None of us could tell you what our former pastor, Matt Anzivino’s message was about that morning, however, at one point he interjected a statement we will never forget. He mentioned the adoption of Ian Fitzgerald by members of his extended family and added, ‘they snatched that baby from the pit of hell.” He added, “adoption is the very heart of God.” Of course he was relating it to God’s adoption of us, but God spoke the words literally into our hearts. We went to lunch after church and both Brannon and I talked of how that had touched our hearts. We found out weeks later, when telling Pastor Matt about our decision to adopt, that those words were not in his notes, he just delivered them at the urging of the Holy Spirit.

Brannon, who rarely dreams of anything except baseball, dreamed twice about a little girl in the week following Pastor Matt’s message. Once he dreamed that he was standing outside our church alone and saw a little brown haired, brown eyed girl, in a pink dress standing next to the woods that surround the church. She then walked away into the woods. Later that week, he dreamed that all four of us were at a large building that he didn’t recognize. He then saw my father, who passed away in 1998, walk toward us holding the same little girl. Brannon says that he had never dreamed of his Pa Paw Hale before or hasn’t ever again. In the dream my Dad handed the little girl to us and said, “you’re doing the right thing.”

Mike and I both also felt a burden that just would not leave us. As a family, we talked it over and knew that we were being urged to pursue adoption.
We did lots of research about domestic and international adoption. After weighing all our options, Mike felt we needed to take a child out of an orphanage. We also knew in our hearts that our little girl was going to be found in Russia. We signed with Frank Adoption Center in October of 2007. We asked for a little girl under 36 months. We were told that we would probably not get a baby because the wait list was much longer for 18 months and younger, so we began planning for a toddler. We were first told that our waiting time would be 10-12 months. As most of you know, our wait ended up being 2 years. That wait could be explained by policy changes in Russia, the lack of relatively healthy girls available for foreign adoption and bureaucratic red tape. Not so! The wait was by God’s design; our wait was for Riley, “our little girl floating down the river in a basket.” (I’ll explain later.)

Now for Riley’s story! Judging by her birth date, Riley was probably conceived the very month we signed with the adoption agency. How far above our ways are His ways!! Her birthmother had already abandoned 3 babies. One she left behind in Moscow when she moved to Aleksandrov, one was adopted by a Russian family in Vladimir and one lived only one month after being born and abandoned. God had other plans for Riley!

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, Before you were born I set you apart”

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

On July 1, 2008 Riley was born in a maternity home in Aleksandrov, Russia. It was a difficult birth and Riley’s collarbone was broken. That proved to be a secondary problem because the major concern was that the birthmother had HIV. Riley also tested positive for HIV. Riley’s mother left her the morning after she was born and we were told she”disappeared.” Riley was taken from the maternity home straight to the Aleksandrov Baby Home and became available for domestic adoption. We were told that at least 8 Russian families looked at her but ultimately turned her down because she was on the HIV-infected list. She once again tested HIV positive when she was 8 months old. At this point, there was little hope of her ever being adopted domestically.

Now the grand design of God’s plan for this little girl begins. Our agency only began working in the Vladimir region, where Riley was, in July of 2009. After such a long wait, we were at the top of the baby waiting list as well as the toddler list. Riley, at her 1 year checkup, tested HIV negative for the first time. She then became available for foreign adoption. The agency that received her referral actually traded her to our agency because they were waiting for a boy. On July 20th, we officially received the referral of Riley. In the medical information we received they only reported the negative HIV test taken in July. We had no idea about her medical history until we traveled to Russia. We knew she was THE ONE, so we made plans to go meet her in Russia.

Most of you know that Riley was very sick when we first visited her. That was when we also learned of her HIV status. It takes three negative tests to remove a child from the HIV-infected list. The powers that be in Russia made sure that we realized that she was still considered HIV positive. Our hearts were crushed, however, it made not one bit of difference in our decision to adopt her. After holding her that first time, it did not matter how sick she was or was ever going to be. We knew we were going ahead with the adoption. Our coordinator, Anya, promised us that another blood test would be done that week. Then another one would be done in a couple of weeks so that we would have definite knowledge of her HIV status before the adoption hearing.

We consulted with our international adoption pediatrician once we got home. He told us a baby of a HIV mother could test positive for a few months and then turn out to not have the disease. He also told us that the Russian blood tests were not always reliable and we probably wouldn’t know for sure until we got her home and had her tested here. He spoke of the excellent Children’s HIV unit at Duke, however the prognosis was dim. Knowing all this, we still hounded our agency’s people in Russia for more blood test results. They ignored our requests. In the mean time, we felt we needed to tell the boys about her situation. We cried together but knew we were doing the right thing. Even if we brought her home and she lived only a few years, at least she would have a few years with a family that loved her and she could come to know the love of God.

We officially adopted Riley on Oct. 14 and didn’t learn until a week later that she had tested negative for the second time. How’s that for corrupt Russian timing! We then traveled to bring her home in December. She tested negative once again in Moscow at her exit exam for the US Embassy. We immediately called the boys and told them. We were on cloud nine. No, we were on cloud thank you Jesus!!!!

Our wonderful pediatrician, Dr. David Douglass, started doing blood tests on Riley two weeks after we got her home. He said the the PCR test would really give us a true picture of Riley’s HIV status. On Monday, Jan. 18th, while Mike was thousands of miles away in Oregon, Dr. Douglass called me to say that Riley’s PCR test came back…positive. There are no words to describe the depth of my sorrow upon hearing that. He said that he thought we should test her again. When Mike got home I told him and the boys. At this point, I couldn’t put into words how much we already loved this little girl. We just held her closer and longer and tried to keep the faith.

She gave blood on Jan. 20 again for three separate HIV tests. Once again we would have to wait a week for the results. Brannon would call me from school with “Mom, have you heard anything?” Logan would just hold her and not say anything… We all prayed the prayer of desperation. On Jan. 28th at 8:41 am Dr Douglass called. I could say here “as luck would have it” but that wasn’t the case at all. As God designed it, Mike was still home. He was with me to hear the news that our little girl had tested negative on all three tests. Finally, a terrible burden that we had carried since Sept. was lifted and we both could freely breathe again.

No doubt, Riley’s journey to us was a miraculous work of God either way you look at it. If she was truly born with HIV, then God healed her in July so we would get her as a referral. On the other hand, she was saved from domestic adoption only by her HIV status, which may have only been her birthmother’s antibodies showing up in her blood. Then in our way of seeing it, He used it to keep her safe for us to come along. I think of her as baby Moses floating down the river. It wasn’t a coincidence that he was taken out of the water by Pharaoh’s daughter, it was God’s design. Around here, we say that Riley’s HIV status was her safety basket. In it she floated down the river until we made it to the river. To God be all the Glory!!!

Monday, January 18, 2010


For the first couple of weeks after getting Riley home, we really had a struggle with bath time. She would cry anytime we tried to put her down into water. We tried all the tubs and sinks in the house with no luck. Finally I bought her a "whale of a bathtub" and put it in the great room with her other toys. We let her play in it for a few days ....
Then I moved it to the bathroom and filled it with water. She then got in just fine, no tears, no tantrums. She has enjoyed her bath since then.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Riley at Home

Many of you have asked how Riley is adjusting. Well, I truely cannot say enough here about the goodness and faithfulness of God. As many of you know, our visits with her in the orphanage did not go well. We went to Russia hoping to make a heart to heart connection with this little girl. Needless to say, she touched our hearts but it didn't seem as if we got anywhere with her. She seemed to not want to be around us and showed no positive emotions at all. Our visits were also discouraging because we were never able to evaluate where she was developmentally. We were told that she couldn't crawl or walk and we knew she was very small for her age. =(
My last visit with her was the first time I was able to even get her to play with me( and her tape measure, of course.) There were also some medical issues that we had to hound the powers that be in Russia to keep us updated on. We ended up never getting a definite answer to those questions. We look back now and know we weren't supposed to get those answers. Some things in life are just leaps of faith. You just close your eyes ......and jump.

I say all that to explain where we were mentally when we went to pick her up from the orphanage. We only knew 3 things for sure...1) We knew that God had called us to adoption and 2) No matter what medical or developmental issues this little girl may or may not have...SHE WAS THE ONE!!!!! 3) We loved her from the moment we first saw her. We just prayed that whatever God was calling us to with this precious little one, that he would make us equal to the task.

Now fast forward one month and my, oh my, she is doing just great!! She is walking everywhere and getting into everything! She weighed 16 pounds when we left Russia and now she is over 18lbs. She sleeps all her own bed! (Great hours too, 10 pm until 9 am.) She likes to eat all kinds of foods. She laughs and plays all day long. She loves people, is very outgoing and is curious about everything around her. Her IA pediatrician keeps giving us good news. Wow! I'll say it again, God is so good!

Here are a few pics of Riley's day to day life here in at the Shortt house. I will tell you that although our days with Riley have been wonderful...they haven't been without a bit of drama....more about bath time tomorrow!

Riley with our dog, Pugsley.

Riley with the cats, Villanova and UConn. (Yes, they were born in March
and named after that year's final four!)

"Helping" with the laundry!

With Daddy in the "mancave."

"Helping" with the dishes.

Pulling everything out of the cabinet.

Taking a break from pulling everything out of the cabinet.

Ready for church!!!
Daddy, come home!!! Be safe. We love you!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Riley's Virginia Christmas

Here are some pics of Riley's first Christmas with her extended family in Virginia.

Riley and Ma Maw Hale.

With Aunt Wanda.

With Uncle Jim and Aunt Mary.

With Logan and Pa Paw Shortt

And with Ma Maw Shortt

Brannon and Logan both got Nerf machine guns for Christmas. The following video was taken the night after Christmas when they were having a Nerf war throughout the house. Riley wanted in on the action, so she became the target. We honestly did not adopt her for target practice. =)

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Riley's First Christmas at Home!!!

Wow, I'm sorry it has been so long since we have posted. I'm going to try to get lots of pics and info on here in the next few days. Riley is doing great. Life is very good at the Shortt home!!!

Here are a few pictures from our Christmas here at home. I posted two of the family pics we took with our camera on a timer. It actually took 9 shots to get one where Riley was looking at the camera instead of her Daddy!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Home Sweet Home...At Last!!!!

Have we actually been home 3 days!? Never have I ever been more happy to see our front door than when we walked in at 1:38 am on Sat. morning. Mike had been sick on Wed. in Russia and had actually passed a kidney stone. Then on Thurs. evening before leaving Mike and I both ordered room service only to wake up Friday morning with food poisoning. We boarded a 10 hour flight, with a baby, with both of us sick as dogs. We took turns holding Riley and throwing up.

This first picture is of Riley getting ready to leave Russia forever!!!

Another picture of the flight between Moscow and Washington.

After an hours delay for takeoff in Washington we finally landed in Charlotte at 7:45 pm. These are all our possessions waiting to be loaded into our car for the trip home. The trip that would normally take an hour and 15 minutes took us 5 hours in the snow storm.

Finally, Riley is carried into her "forever" home!!!! Her family from Virginia and Nc were there to welcome her!!

Riley meeting Brannon and Logan for the first time!!!

These are just a few pictures of Riley getting to know her brothers, They play together, eat together and sometimes sleep together.