This morning I dropped my husband off at the airport and found a rare entire 30 minutes of silence on the drive home (3 year old had headphones on). Yes, I was driving, so cue tears. I find myself continuing to feel grief, but already being more open to thoughts and feelings about where to proceed from here. Or at least what to consider thinking and praying about. I'll share a little bit more about that in a moment but first, a little explanation about writing this post...
I decided that since I'm not really ready to try to explain my grief to the world face to face (especially while unsure where we're going from here), but I figured that I'd try to write some things down. Ever since I was a little girl I found writing to be therapeutic. I started a journal before I was even in kindergarten and kept one religiously until I got married. Apparently I converted to verbally dumping my feelings at that point (lucky Mark). In any case, writing is always a fall back (especially when my feelings are this intense and the hubby is out of town). Hence the title of this post being therapy post.
First a little background. While international adoption is something I felt strongly about as long as I can remember, and adoption specifically from Ethiopia had been brewing in our hearts for years, we officially began the process just over 2 years ago. We excitedly submitted our initial application for the program on October 3, 2012. At the time we knew the wait lists had gotten longer to adopt from Ethiopia and that there had been some hold ups in the process due to red tape on the Ethiopian side of things, but we were told the adoption could take up to 2 years.
Right around the time we completed our paper chase, our dossier was complete and we were finally wait listed we received the disheartening news that the wait time had been re-evaluated to be 3 1/2 years. At the time that news was crushing. It was only a few months later that the agency explained that the slow down would be worse than projected and now was estimating a wait of about 6 years. That was a tough pill to swallow, but we felt strongly that we should stay the course. Now fast forward to this week and we got the email we've been dreading. While our agency isn't officially closing their Ethiopia program yet they are not anticipating receiving any more referrals of children and we are being encouraged to either change programs (to another country) or to terminate our contract with them.
They included a very detailed email explaining some of the very complicated facets of the adoption process in Ethiopia that has led to this, but if I get into many of those details this will become an even longer (and much more intense) post. It sufficeth to say that greed, corruption, and child trafficking has become more and more of a problem in Ethiopia. Our agency continues to maintain its stance against those things and to keep its distance from anyone involved in it. Unfortunately that, in addition to complicated adoption procedures/red tape that has been implemented trying to combat that corruption, has led to an even more drastic slowdown in the program. To put it into numbers....during 2014 our agency has been able to place only 10 children from Ethiopia with families, compared to 35 in 2013 and 62 in 2012.
While I will certainly continue grieving the loss that I feel personally right now and my thoughts certainly point to what path our future will take us down, my emotions seem to be more consumed today with grief I have over all the children in this country I've grown to love that NEED families and can't get to them because of greed and corruption. The sorrow I feel is so deep and complex that it is difficult to put into words. I'm grateful to be affiliated with an adoption agency that refuses to participate in corruption as a means to an end. The adoption process in Ethiopia is so broken and corrupt that I am finally realizing that it likely needs to completely close before it can be overhauled and fixed. Probably alongside Hague accreditation. I think that is eventually what will happen. In the long run that's a good thing. In the meantime that's sad for us, and even more awful for children that will languish in the meantime without hope of anything better.
I believe that there must be a reason that my heart has learned to love Ethiopia. Also, my heart has become even more aware of and broken over orphan care in general. And while adoption certainly holds a huge place in my heart and always will, I have always recognized that adoption isn't the answer to relieving the suffering of millions of children. There needs to be more concern over family preservation and the things that prevent that (see organizations like Help One Now that I love). I also believe though that even when great progress is made that there will always be situations where adoption is the only option available for a child to have a permanent home and family. My prayer is that leaders in Ethiopia and everywhere will feel the urgency to create ethical paths for those children to find homes in families that are ready and willing to call them their own.
As I think about the things I've learned, or things my heart has begun to love or bleed for over the last few years...I wonder if that was enough of a reason for God to have put us on this path? We still feel like our daughter is out there somewhere...was part of this path a timing issue? Why did we have to throw away $16,000+ for nothing when that money could have been used toward her adoption later? I have so many questions.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post I finally was able have the a little bit of quiet clarity this morning to consider some of the things we need to think and pray about when considering how to proceed form here. First, although Ethiopia is what we now have our hearts set on naturally, we are willing to at least look into other countries that we previously ruled out as a fit for our family (every country allows different perameters, it is nothing to do with race for us). Secondly, we would consider another domestic adoption (I'd like to share more about that in a moment). And third, we need to consider timing and finances.
Here is something on domestic adoption that we now find interesting. While we cherish our experience adopting Noah and know without a doubt he was meant for our family, but we never entertained the notion of another domestic adoption. It just wasn't something on our radar. International adoption was simply our focus for our next adoption.
After finding out last year that our Ethiopian adoption would take 6 years, we realized that Max (our youngest) would be 8 years old by the time we brought her home. For several different reasons we wondered if it would be a good idea to pursue a concurrent domestic adoption a couple years before we would complete our domestic adoption so she would have a sibling closer to her age...and considering our circumstance of adopting a child we knew would be black (being from Ethiopia) we figured that it would be wise to consider the possibility that when pursuing this domestic adoption that we adopt a child who is also black.
We felt strange considering the notion of limiting what race of child we were open to (we had no racial restrictions with Noah's adoption) until we began looking into things and were surprised to find out that there is actually a real need for adoption of black children, including infants, within our own country. We were aware that some people were not open to interracial adoptions, but had no idea how few adoptive parents are specifically open to adopting a black child, particularly if the child is fully African American (not bi-racial). We found several agencies that actually have a separate program for AA adoptions that boast a shorter wait time due to shorter wait lists (not that a short wait is high on our priority list right now). One agency we were aware of had a lengthy wait list for their "traditional" program, and only ONE family on their wait list for their "non-traditional" (AA) program. This was shocking to us and only increased our desire to take ourselves out of the pool of prospective adoptive parents waiting for babies that would have no difficulty being placed, and to eventually specifically pursue a domestic adoption of a beautiful little baby with brown skin and curly brown hair that for some reason are more challenging to place with waiting families.
While we had begun our initial searches regarding domestic adoptions and the idea had begun to marinade and feel good to us, we were in no rush to make any decisions anytime soon or even narrow down agency selection with how long out we were looking before pursuing this adoption. Now that the door to Ethiopian adoption is being closed for us, it causes us to consider this option more seriously and to re-evaluate our timeline for when we would want to begin that process. For a person (me) that always has a pretty solid 5 year plan this has spun me for a loop. Things happening sooner would be a different mindset for our family dynamic and for our finances (domestic adoptions cost about the same as international adoptions now days)...Not only all of this, but the agency we used with Noah's adoption ceased placements during the time we were waiting for our Ethiopian adoption, and I can't help but wonder if this was the path we had to take to get us to not only re-consider domestic adoption, but such a specific path for domestic adoption. The agency we are currently most interested in for an AA adoption I found out about from a women on AGCI's private Ethiopia Facebook page (she adopted a child through AGCI from Ethiopia). Is that what this whole journey was really about? Is that why we had to go through this only for the road to end?...to open our hearts to this specific type of domestic adoption, and to find this agency that will lead us to our child?
I look forward to the day that I can look back on this post and hopefully smile with 20/20 hindsight vision and understand at least in part the path that God took us on to find our child, how we leaned on Him, and what we learned. In the meantime, we will keep trying to educate ourselves on our options and pray for guidance on which way this crazy adoption path should take us to find our daughter.
I was going to end my post there, but I want to document one more impression that I had today that hit me very strongly. It is a bit more personal, but if I don't write it down here I know I'll forget about it. It's about decisions. Every decision we make has a ripple of effects. Some we can anticipate and/or see and others we cannot. Some of these effects and positive and some are negative. I believe also that some are just a trade off, not positive or negative. There have been times in my life where I have been deciding between two things. I have brought my choice to the Lord to ask if it is a good path and the answer that I have gotten wasn't a yes or no...it was simply the answer that either choice was good and that it was up to me. That doesn't mean that either choice I make will have the same consequences, but that both choices are good and would have different consequences. I don't know this for sure at this point, but I had a distinct impression that I made one of those choices years ago, perhaps not even realizing it. I'd like to share.
After years of aggressive fertility treatments failing and the grief that naturally came with that we excitedly moved onto the path of adoption for growing our family. We always knew we would adopt, but assumed that would come after bringing biological children into our family. Once we believed that wasn't an option for us we were excited to build our family through adoption, and even more excited after we experienced the miracle of adoption with Noah. Less than a year after Noah joined our family we felt compelled to begin our journey with international adoption (how we assumed we would add the rest of the children to our family). We selected an agency and country to adopt from and started paperwork to adopt a child from Haiti. Before turning this paperwork in we were approached about having a round of IVF paid for as a donation from someone. This was a change in mindset, but we couldn't turn it down.
We prayed about if it was a good choice, felt good, and decided to proceed. Because of that decision we were able to experience the joys and trials of pregnancy and childbirth of two children. We cannot imagine not having them in our family, but we always just assumed that international adoption would wait until we were ready. Little did we know how much the climate for international adoption in general would change over the coming years.
I always dreamed of international adoption, and I always assumed that I would bring children into the world. I can't help but wonder if back when we made the choice to pursue IVF if we were being offered two good choices and didn't realize it at the time that we had to choose one or the other. We thought we were taking advantage of a possibility that wouldn't be afforded us again and the timing on the other (international adoption) would just be different/later. Perhaps it was really the choice to either pursue this adoption in Haiti then OR to experience pregnancy/childbirth. I'm sure either choice came with heartache and joys. Different choices, but both good. I just didn't realize I was making that choice. I have to wonder if because we made that choice that the Lord used our continued desire to bring an orphan into our home to guide us in a very roundabout way back to domestic adoption, to a specific type of agency, and to our daughter here. Maybe He made what He knew became a futile desire into something He could use for our good. Maybe. We'll see. Like I said earlier, I can't wait to see what He does with our family. In the meantime we'll do our best to trust in Him and to celebrate the blessing of the 3 beautiful blessings He has already given to us.