International Birthday Cake

Today is the little boy in Haiti’s birthday. The boy who may or may not come to live with us forever (in a year or two) is now one year old.

This is a day for reflection. I have been down this road several times, this road of celebration for the children I hope to love and cherish on this earth, but sometimes never come home. I have always felt that these moments need to be marked, though, because what if it does work out this time? In that case, of course, we will want these memories to share with him.

I made an ugly cake. I didn’t mean for it to be ugly, but it just didn’t work out the way I planned (and welcome to the rest of my life!). The love behind the gesture will just have to be enough. And you know what? I think it is enough. I started to realize this cake, with the swirling blues and splatters of gold balls, kind of looks like a globe if looked at lovingly with a lazy, far away glance (or maybe this is just me…but try to go with it). This cake – with the land masses sprinkled in the wrong places and the not-so-tidy or realistic purple border – seems fitting and even unitive (and what a joke it would be if I showed you the cake decorating ideas I got off of Pinterest for this attempt!).

Cake_high

Yes, this cake is a cake of love. This cake is a cake of connection. With this cake, I am celebrating the life of a boy I’ve never met…and hoping he won’t be too upset if one day he has to make a big trip (across golden land masses that look very different than the ones on my cake) and becomes part of our family. There is perfection in this imperfect sign of longing and invitation. Happy birthday, little guy. We love you already.

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Hitting The Restart Button (Whenever It is Needed)

This morning my Facebook news feed reminded me that I had a special memory from two years ago. The caption reads, “[My name here], we care about you and the memories you share here. You posted this photo exactly 2 years ago. We thought you’d like to look back on it today.” The memory is a photo, happily announcing my pregnancy with Adam Gabriel (at over 4 months pregnant). I was given the option to share the memory again with all of my Facebook connections. How thoughtful, Facebook. Really.

Pregnancy Announcement_privacy edit

*Edited family name for privacy.

Many of us whom have experienced loss have numerous instances like this. These moments bring out the immature, “life’s not fair” little girl in me. But, today, that’s all I am going to say about that and I am going to move on to brighter subjects because – in the end – that’s all we can really do. Unattach from the negativity, the sadness, the grief…and remember how lucky we are in so many other ways. Remember that we are loved. Remember that all our experiences give us an opportunity to grow in depth and compassion. Hit our restart buttons and press on, clinging to healthier attitudes and actions.

Life actually feels like it’s taking upward turns (slowly, but it’s happening). The days are long, the sun is vibrant, and – as I’ve mentioned – I’ve been given the opportunity to connect with many loved ones. Furthermore, my husband and I completed our first session with a spiritual director yesterday. We are so excited to have some spiritual guidance – some life-coaching so to speak –  from a woman seeming to know what questions to have us ask ourselves in order to help us flourish in congruence with reality and our faith. After ridding ourselves of some things that weren’t serving us anymore in our conversation with her, we felt relaxed.

And, within the hour, we got a call from our adoption agency. The birth mom of the little boy we are matched with completed her adoption training! This means that everything is still on track for a hopeful referral before 2015 closes. The birth mom still needs to wait 30 days and sign her intentions again, but – for today – we have made progress. Today, we notice that we have moved from the intense, relentless grief of losing our son (and three other, younger babies) to a place that feels like there is a crack of light.

July marks a flood of sadness for me ever since losing A.G. The sadness is still there, but THIS July we are making progress on our adoption. THIS July, we are working on our marriage. THIS July, we are learning hard lessons of perseverance and patience. I look around me and see others hurting more than I am. I think of how this Haitian birth mom is experiencing some of her darkest days and making brave decisions for her family. I say prayers for mercy. I say prayers of thanks. I can’t wait to see what next July brings for all of us.

My Haitian Adoption Timeline

A few readers have asked to know a little more about the adoption process and how long we expect to wait from now (soft match) so I will try to summarize the steps!

Steps we’ve completed:

-Sign up with an agency / a few days
-Complete home study (intense background check including home visits and personal interviews with social worker; review of family dynamics, goals, parenting styles, etc.) / a few months
-Complete dossier (family paperwork which includes psychology evaluation, background checks in all states and countries in which a family has lived, very thorough health examinations, half a dozen reference letters, financial evaluation, letter of intention to Haitian government…and many more things, but that basically covers it) / 3-6 months
USCIS approval (for US residents of course) to adopt orphans & fingerprint appointment / several weeks to a few months
Dossier Translation (into French) / few weeks
-Submission of dossier*, which includes home study approval, to IBESR, the Haitian government’s social services department

*Almost every document was notarized and many were authenticated by the Secretary of the State prior to translation and submission. This also takes time! Here is a picture of our dossier going off to our agency for review, approval, and translation…and then authentication, both in the U.S. and then again as soon as it got to Haiti!

IMG_1190

-WAIT/Start to point of IBESR / Almost 9 months (this may be a little longer or shorter than some…we’ve lived in many states and even different countries as adults so our information took longer to gather than it may for some others)

-WAIT/IBESR entry to Soft Match: 10 months (this step could take almost no time, but IBESR is understaffed and had many law changes this year to implement the Hague Convention. Also, new families, under the new Hague laws, will not get match news, only firm referrals.

THIS IS WHERE WE ARE NOW. HERE IS WHAT WE HAVE LEFT.

-Waiting for a Referral (official document where birth mom has relinquished all rights; this is where it starts to get real!) / Expect 6 months, give or take 3 months on either side
-2 Week (15 day) Bonding Trip (Meet our child; bond; are evaluated by social workers) / Immediately after referral
-Exit from IBESR / currently taking about 4 months post-bonding trip

(Are you bored yet? If you want to know, in detail, what every forthcoming step entails, please click here. Otherwise, I am going to start just relaying name of stage and expected wait.)

Parquet / averaging 4 weeks to a little over 2 months
-Legalization after Parquet / about a month
-Ministry of the Interior – MOI / a month to 3 months
-Passports / 2 to 3 months (Many times they run out of passport paper and it causes major delays!)
-USCIS approval / varies, but plan on another couple of months
-VISA approval / another month or so 
HOME! (and Post Placement supervision for many years!)

So, many of these steps VARY WIDELY in time frames. Yes, a passport, for example, *could* be printed very quickly…but there is often a backlog and a factor we call “Haitian time” which is very different than American, hyper-efficient time. I’m sure you can all do simple math and see why I say we expect more than a year, and possibly several more years, in process for this adoption.

There could be a miracle and our file could fly through all of these steps, but – more often than not – the timeline gets stretched, just as our IBESR wait before our soft match did (I was told to expect more like 3-6 months, not 10 months).

My readers (you!) have given me so much positivity and support through this process already. I am so beyond thankful for you buoying us up as we navigate this incomprehensible process. I don’t know how we will do it, but I keep on just taking each day how it comes, and we all know how fast months truly do fly by, so I know we will get there! Thank you for being interested and helping me celebrate the steps of this huge adoption journey!

Celebrating Progress

I love to celebrate, and – after getting a little more courage from MPB’s journey –  I decided I need to try and let go and purchase a thing or two for the little one coming, as well! Now, we still have a long time, so I don’t want to go overboard, but a few little things can’t hurt to help us celebrate the milestones.

I have a great affinity for children’s books and whenever I think of our child’s room, I always imagine a book case with stacks and stacks of children’s books. We’ve actually received two books in the midst of this process – one from a family member and one from a close friend.

Baby books

These books have been such a delight! They are vessels of light, support, and the promise of tomorrow. They also are the start of what I know will be an awesome collection. So, I decided to celebrate by purchasing my first ever items for a child of ours…I bought several children’s books on adoption and multicultural families. I can’t wait to read through them with our child one day and fill his mind with positive and nurturing stories of his journey (wow, I get to say “his”)!

These will be a surprise for my husband, so I hope he will also find joy in starting our journey with these little treats. Cautiously, we are opening ourselves up to this dream. It’s a great feeling to immerse ourselves in hope again after so much loss and patience!

Life’s Doors and Windows

Hibiscus

Receiving the news that our file is matched with a little boy in Haiti infuses energy into my life. Most of it thrilling, but some of it scared that we will lose this one, too. As I told my parents, it feels like the 5th pregnancy (not counting the Colombian twins to whom we also felt attached). We’ve gone through the whole announcing a pregnancy thing, and it hasn’t worked out so well. But, I opened this blog to create a space to be vulnerable, trying to sort out my thoughts and live more fully in my life. So, we commence the moment. We celebrate. We know there is sadness and uncontrollable situations, but we choose to be present for all the positives along the way.

The only information we have on the match is that a) he is a boy, b) roughly where he is residing now (geographically), and c) his birth date. One of the first things I did was to try to trace my life back through journals, emails, and social media to see what I was doing the day he was born. Life is so paradoxical! The day he was born, I found out my first methotrexate shot didn’t properly abort my baby, my last pregnancy, so I had to scurry around, trying to ensure I could get yet another shot of the poison an hour before boarding a plane to help my sister in need. So, the old saying could not be more true: when God was closing a door (ending my time with one child), he was opening a window (bringing my next child into this world).

I say this early, hoping this match really is the one. But beyond that, I say this to all of you reading this, hurting in one way or another. We just don’t know what life will bring us. We just don’t know the timing of things. We don’t have the whole plan laid out in front of us. However, I do believe in optimism. I believe the plan is out there. I believe our sorrows prepare us to be more of ourselves than we ever thought possible, stronger than our wildest dreams. And that, is beautiful.

It’s a Match!

After 1.5 years in process to adopt from Haiti…we received a match! It appears that we will be parents to a little boy!!!!

Haiti Announcement Card_Blog

Now, this news comes with a lot of disclaimers, but basically what needs to be relayed is that a) this could fall through and b) matches like this often do. But, where would we be if we didn’t celebrate these moments, especially if this is the one?

My first reaction to this news was overwhelming relief…the kind you get that is accompanied by a gulpy cry at the back of your throat. THANK GOD my soul was saying with every fiber in my body. Now this time, unlike last time, I actually told my husband he was having a boy seconds after I heard the news. Then there is that moment where you ask each other, “How do you feel about a boy, honey?” (Well, as we have covered, we’ve never experienced this before, even though I have given birth to a boy, but we’ve all seen this play out in movies and asked others having kids a similar question.) At the same time, we kind of looked at each other, and in the most affirming, overwhelmingly adamant way we both communicated we couldn’t have cared any less about whether the match was a boy or a girl. From our perspective, that is just the least of our thoughts.

It is, however, so exciting to think about all the fun styles his hair will be capable of, how we will decorate his room, dream about what his interests will be, what his name is, and what he looks like. We won’t have any more information until we get an official referral (hopefully in about 6 months).

And, of course, there are things that aren’t as fun to think about like the fact that there has been another tragic, racist, terrorist act that caused destruction in a SC church (and in a community, and in a nation) this week. I am not concerned about being up for the challenge of raising a dark skinned male in America, but I am concerned about his safety. Like all caring parents, I want to ensure my child’s safety, but when his skin color may be a target for someone else’s unwell, hateful thoughts…that kills me inside.

So, even though that juxtaposition has a place in my thoughts, we have a lot of love and positivity to celebrate this week. There is progress! Hope has nestled up beside us, giving us a warm and fuzzy feeling once again! It’s been a while and I was fighting resentment, but now I am back to dreaming. I have a lift in my spirit. There is a little boy, alive and well, being prepared for our home!

Colombian Heart A-Crack

Today another tiny crack formed in my heart. I just can’t help but feel it there, wounded with sharp edges like a shattered mirror or broken ice. Today, I finally wrote our adoption agency and said we would not adopt the Colombian twins. I know we basically made this decision weeks ago, but that didn’t stop the tears from falling from my eyes when I typed and, eventually, sent the email that will stop a part of our journey with them.

broken-heart_colombian

I say part of our journey because, in an abstract way, they will always be a part of our family. Not only did my husband and I fall in love with them, but our extended families did too. All of our hearts are yearning for them, although we are lucky enough to have our decision supported because our thought process and maturity are trusted by our loved ones. However, that does not take away the disappointment.

This disappointment leads to the big, unanswerable questions in life. Why is so much suffering tolerated? Why can’t we adopt them all? Why can’t love be enough? Why did my husband and I have a “God moment” when we saw their tiny faces for the first time and called our agency instantly? How can we be 100% sure we aren’t rejecting our divine opportunity to serve beyond ourselves?

I know we are expanding through this experience, but – if you readers are praying type of people, or sending positive energy type of people, or horoscopes or moon phase type of people – please keep these two little ones in your thoughts. These two affectionate, wild, beautiful children have endured a life not deserved, but maybe we can all send out some love to them in our own ways.

I, for one, will continue to pray that I feel the divine calling me with 100% confidence when the timing is right. I don’t know what all this waiting is about, but I am listening to the things that are hard to hear. I will continue to hold these two beauties in my heart, and know that – for some reason – we weren’t their forever family, but that family is out there, being prepared for them now.