I FINALLY have some really, really, really exciting news to share about our adoption!!!
But first some backstory. :) Because the exciting part of the story simply wouldn't be complete without a big-picture understanding of where we have been.
In a nutshell, God has led us down a twisty, turny, upside down and inside out sort of path over the past several months. We have felt confused, frustrated, uncertain and directionless. Mostly directionless. It is hard having God slam a door shut, with not even a small inkling of what to do next.
We began the adoption process this time around to bring home two specific children, who we had met in 2006. They'd been waiting so long for a family, and quite frankly, time was (and is) running out. These children are older than our kids, and both are HIV+. Our decision to adopt these children was not something that we ever expected. When God began quietly speaking to my heart about this possibility, I brushed it off. Ignored it. Assumed it was just too crazy and that it was not something we could do. We assumed we would eventually adopt children with medical needs, including HIV, but hadn't anticipated moving forward with the adoption of older children.
I DID commit to praying for these kids, however, that they would find a family. I just didn't see how it could possibly be us...even though the idea kept nagging me in the back of my mind.
And yet months later, during a discussion about adoption, Kevin said he didn't see how he could return to Ethiopia and NOT bring home these particular children. Who we'd met and prayed for all all these years. I was shocked. Floored. I'd never, ever, ever mentioned to him about my prayers, or about how God had stirred my heart. Completely independent of me and my thoughts, God brought my husband to this conviction.
So the prayers and discernment and seeking of counsel began. We spoke to many people who have walked the difficult road of parenting older children who come from trauma. There are some seriously wise mamas out there and I am so grateful for their insights, wisdom and support that I received during that time. We prayed and felt that the Lord confirmed that yes, we were to move forward and begin another adoption. We felt certain that this is what we were called to do. Crazy? Sure. But sometimes God likes crazy.
We chose an agency to do our homestudy and began getting our paperwork in order. We mailed in our application to AAI (our placing agency), paid various fees, spoke to their social worker about the challenges that we were sure to face. I felt nervous, and a little afraid, but at peace with the fact that God had us on this path for a reason. We knew that it was Him putting this on our hearts and our minds, that it was Him asking us to follow Him into this process and into the lives of these two children. I wholeheartedly believed, with everything in me, that the Lord would not call us without equipping us. So we continued to follow.
I suppose that it was around this time that I became aware of the work Reece's Rainbow does. And fell in love with this blog. (I seriously canNOT get enough.) And fell head-over-heels-crazy-in-love with "chromosomally enhanced" kiddos. Children born with Down syndrome. I began learning about the plight these children face.
In the United States, all but 8% will be aborted. (Yes, roughly 92% of babies with Down syndrome are killed prior to birth.)
In Eastern Europe and parts of Asia, they are moved from the orphanage to an asylum at age four...and generally end up dying there.
In Africa, there are simply very few, if any, services available for these children, and resources and medical care are limited.
And on it goes.
My heart felt touched, and moved, and broken for these precious little ones. Kevin's too. We found ourselves drawn to this small corner of the adoption world, but of course knew that if we ever did adopt again after bringing home these two older children, it would not be for many, many years. Still, I found myself reading blogs and articles about Down syndrome.
It was in May when I received the phone call saying we could not, in fact, move forward with the adoption of the two children we'd been pursuing. I was devastated. Totally sad. Shocked. And the reason WHY we could no longer bring them home was the worst part. Some things had come to light indicating that it would not be a safe placement for our family. Even if we'd WANTED to move forward, our agency would not have allowed it. Because we have young kids in our home. Even now when I think about it I feel so incredibly sad for these two children...and what they have faced...and what they will surely continue to face. At the same time I feel so grateful that God stepped in and protected all of us--our children AND these two waiting children--from a bad situation. He is faithful.
Our feelings about the whole mess have always been hard to describe. They still are. We felt really sad...but not as much for us...moreso for these girls, who are victims of a hard world that you and I probably have no concept of. Will they ever have a family? I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not. Time is running out. And in addition to all of those heavy thoughts, we felt confused...because really...
We hadn't planned to adopt again so soon. We truly hadn't. We'd thought we'd begin the process sometime in 2011 maybe, if not later. Both because of finances and because of our unique situation, having so many young children. But God had spoken to our hearts. And we'd been certain that He'd asked us to move forward towards pursuing these girls. Which meant beginning the paperchase right away.
So where did all of that leave us? Mid-homestudy, several thousand dollars in, and no CLUE what we were supposed to be doing. We'd always anticipated adopting waiting children with HIV, but due to some circumstances out of our control (that had nothing to do with HIV itself), that now seemed unlikely. This was hard too...something that we'd felt so passionate about for the past five years became another dream lost.
And I hated that.
I know, I know. This may seem really silly to you. But honestly, when we were in Ethiopia in 2006, we swore we'd be back. We'd be back to adopt kids who'd been born with a stigma- and shame-inducing status that shouldn't matter as much as it does in Africa. Kids who at that time weren't considered adoptable. But things were changing. We have lots of friends in real life, that we see on a regular basis, who are raising children born with HIV. There is such a community of these adoptive families in the Denver metro area. It's nothing short of amazing. We have access to a top-notch pediatric HIV clinic where my friend is a nurse. I'd even joined the Community Advisory Board at the clinic where I attend meetings every other month or so. I'm a volunteer with From HIV to Home. We felt ready, equipped, prepared to parent HIV+ children. And we've felt that this was inevitable, for years now.
So needless to say, Kevin and I were forced to take a good, long hard look at our motivation for adopting and at what this whole proecss was about. We made the decision to take a break and catch our breath, to process all that had happened and changed. I contacted our social worker and told her that we'd continue gathering paperwork, but that we'd be going slowly. We requested she make sure that we were approved for a broad range of medical needs, since HIV was no longer probable.
And we didn't discuss adoption with each other all that often anymore. It was sort of this latent stress in our lives. "What are we going to end up doing?" one of us would ask the other every so often. "I have NO idea" was the standard response. Really we were just exhausted--weary of the tragic situation currently happening in Ethiopia with these girls, tired of not knowing where we were heading, sick of being in process but not being that excited about it because we had NO desire to sit on a list, waiting for the referral of a child who had lots of families lined up for them. But what need could our family meet?
Little by little though we inched closer to being done with our homestudy. I made it known to our placing agency that we were open to kids with pretty much any and all medical needs, though all the while my heart still felt drawn to children with Down syndrome. But you just don't see it that often among orphans in Ethiopia.
Sooooooo...I was shocked when I received an email from our agency asking if we were interested in seeing the file of a baby girl, T., who'd been waiting for a family (she'd had one lined up at one point, but they fell through.) This little girl was overall pretty healthy. Nothing too earth shattering in her file. And she'd been born with Down syndrome. She was BEAUTIFUL. Huge brown eyes, chubby cheeks, thick curly hair.
Total no-brainer. We emailed back and said we were interested. :)
Even though we'd been approved for two children, we couldn't sit around and wait for another child to come into care who met our specifications. This sweet baby girl needed a home and a family who could move on it quickly. So we adjusted our expectations yet again and started growing accustomed to the idea of bringing home just one little one this time.
Until our agency emailed again, some number of days later. ANOTHER little girl with Down syndrome, M., who they'd believed would NEVER be adoptable, 3-ish (probably older) years old with a big grin and sweet eyes, had suddenly, pretty much miraculously, had her paperwork issues resolved. After many months of waiting, with little hope of having a family, she could now be referred to adoptive parents.
And we began praying like crazy. One vs. two. We'd initially PLANNED to bring home two children, but these were YOUNG children living with developmental delays, potential heart defects, and the general unknowns that come with adoption. What was God wanting for our family, for these girls? I'd totally wrapped my head around just bringing home one baby. I'd convinced myself it made so much more sense for our already-large-ish family. We wouldn't have to buy a bigger van. Logistically much simpler. Lots and lots of reasons why one child is preferrable to two.
We serve an amazing, huge, sometimes (usually? always?) surprising God. He showed us, over time, that He wanted us to say yes to loving and parenting this precious little one as well. (She is so stinking cute that it wasn't hard from an emotional standpoint to say yes. :) ) He showed us that He is in the details. That this will probably be our last adoption, Ethiopian or otherwise, for the next many years (if not ever--though we will NEVER say "never" when it comes to adoption. Or biological children for that matter.) And that He is the One who had orchestrated this process from the beginning. He knew all along that two precious little ones would be in need of a family right when we became paper-ready to adopt. He knew that our family, who all along had planned to bring home waiting children with HIV, was intended to adopt children with Down syndrome.
So. Today we mail off their placement agreements. And now we wait for everything to go to Ethiopia and will eventually be assigned a court date, for which we will travel.
I've so loved the past few months of praying about and researching Down syndrome. We've read books, watched documentaries, talked to families parenting these sweet little ones. I feel ready--as ready as one can--and am so anxious to get our girls HOME!
And, yes, I'm nervous too. I can't predict how things will go, what health issues may arise (both girls are said to be healthy, but who really knows? We could have two children needing heart surgery in our future), what our therapy schedule will look like or how it will be meeting these various needs.
I DO know that our kids are SO.VERY.EXCITED. to meet their new sisters. We told them the news Saturday night. Sat them down and announced it. They got to see photos on the laptop and even a short video we have of one of the girls. They are over the moon thrilled. Every last one of 'em. The dinnertable that night was a flurry of excitement and questions and chatter over where they would sleep, when they'll come home, and the many hugs they will get.
My heart is so full.
God is good.
I'm sure people will have questions. And opinions. :) I know we are taking on a lot, and I assure you these decisions were NOT made lightly. It's been a months-long process of discerning God's will and evaluating our family's strengths, weaknesses and capabilities. I look forward to exploring various aspects of this adoption and decision-making in the coming weeks here on my blog. I will quickly just say that I think having an empty nest is overrated and that the love and joy that comes with parenting a child far outweighs any of the potential challenges. This is true of my biological children, of my adopted children, and will be true of my adopted children with medical needs.
Historically, people with Down syndrome have been misunderstood and underestimated. And thanks to a whole host of unideal circumstances, including a medical community that continues to perpetuate these myths, this will most likely continue.
The truth is though that these girls will most likely grow up just like my other children...they will play games, go to school, most likely learn to read and write and sing and dance. They'll laugh and cry and yes, disobey. They will however go at their own pace. There may be things they CAN'T do. They will face prejudice and social stigma.
Maybe they will live with us as adults.
And that's okay.
I consider myself a parent to my children whether they are 6 or 26. We'll do what we need to do. Because we love our children. I will never, ever be a mom who counts down the days until every last one of my kids is out of my house, when I can take trips to Paris or live in a Florida retirement community. Even if I feel like it from time to time. :) I believe children are blessings, family's important and motherly duties change over time, but they never go away. And I can't painstakingly plan out each and every detail of my life based on the future. Because I don't know the future. So I live for today like God tells me to, and today, there are two little girls without a home. They happen to have Down syndrome.
So that is our story, or at least the latest in a series of chapters in our story. I cannot, sadly, share photos or names of our girls on my blog until we've gone to Ethiopia and passed court. Bummer, I know. But they are cutie pies, I assure you! :)
And they've been waiting, and it's high-time they have a family. We are that family. I feel so incredibly blessed. And...more than a little nervous too.
But there is such peace.
God created these precious girls in His image, just as He wanted them to be. Extra chromosome and all.
I love it. Love, love, love it.
And so we are bringing them home.