This past week I read a post on adoption. It was titled "The truth about adoption 1 year later.." I love that some people have the courage to write about the real side of adoption. In this post, which you can read here, Jan writes about her experience with adopting two older, unrelated children from Ethiopia. There are many truths that she writes about that we've already experienced, and it made me wonder if we will see more of her story unfold in our own. You see, I decided that though I've touched on this with my blog before, I would write our truth about adoption, 1 month later. So here are some truths about our journey.
1. Adoption is not for the faint of heart.
When we first began the process, I was absolutely flabbergasted with all the paperwork involved. Granted, I'm asking for a stranger from another country to hand me a child, but I mean, we had to turn our lives inside out from birth to present. After the initial decisions of what country we would adopt from, and what agency to use, the real paper chase began. We had to fill out medical checklists deciding what medical conditions we could handle if we were matched with a child who had them, as well as an age range. We then had to obtain police clearance reports from every county and state we'd lived or worked in. Birth and marriage certificates. Have a physical. Get vaccinations. Be interviewed and fingerprinted by the local sheriff's department, AND homeland security. We had to write up asset and debt documents, and once we obtained all that, we had to have it notarized locally, then mailed off to the state the document originated in to have the notary verified, then we had to mail it to Washington to have the verification authenticated, and then it had to go to the Chinese consulate to have it sealed. FOR EVERY PIECE OF PAPERWORK! The last two steps required a courier as they had to be walked in to the Washington offices of the Secretary of State, and the Embassy. And that was just the beginning!
2. The wait does NOT get easier...no matter how close to the end you think you are. And the paperwork does NOT end, even after the adoption is final.
With each piece of paperwork, we received, we would mail it off to the next place and wait. When the dossier was complete, there was the wait to be matched with a child. When we were matched with a child there was MORE waiting for MORE paperwork. When we finally got to China, there was even MORE waiting, both for Annabella, AND for MORE paperwork. It took 3 weeks to get home, and it was all about the paperwork. Can you see how the word "paperwork" became, and still is, a very nasty word in our vocabulary?
3. Even when you finally get your child, the process is still not over...by a long shot.
So we finally got Annabella and of course we were elated. She was petrified, but has really begun to blossom. Each day she changes more and more into the child she truly is, the one who is hidden behind the mask of obedience and insecurity. She is finally beginning to fully see that we are her family and that we will always be here to meet her needs, to feed, her, change her, and love her. She is exploring more, and vocalizing her opinions more. She is feeling more confident, and more vulnerable at the same time. By opening up more, she is showing that she is learning to trust and even love us.
Some things are still very hard for her. She doesn't trust men AT ALL. This includes my Dad, who she sees almost daily. It is extremely hard for me to see her turn from him in fear, and to see the look of pain behind his eyes that he tries so hard to hide from me. He wants her to trust him so badly, and so do I. I don't know what it will take, but I do know that one day she will learn that he is an o.k. guy, and when that day comes, I believe she will become completely, without doubt or reason, whole heartedly SPOILED beyond belief by him. Until then, I pray God grants us both peace and patience to get through this process.
I know that in seeing all I've seen, especially in China, that a piece of my heart has been ripped out, and it stayed in China. I mean that to sound just as brutal as it does, because that is the feeling that I get each time I see my daughter's face, and each time I think of the faces that we left behind. That a piece of me was RIPPED out of my body.
We were blessed to be led to an adoption agency like CCAI who gave us so much information about adoption, what to expect, and helped prepare us for a worst case scenario. In some of the documentation we received prior to leaving for China, we received a short article about PADS - post adoption depression syndrome. Having suffered from post partum depression, a sister to PADS, after the birth of the twins, I wonder sometimes if maybe some of the sadness and hurt I feel is due in part to a touch of PADS. Or maybe it is simply God's calling. Maybe this is His way of stirring MY heart for another adoption...or twenty! You see, though I'd ALWAYS wanted to adopt, my whole life, I honestly thought our family was complete with the three boys. When God stirred Greg's heart to adopt, I followed with complete blind faith, but I never really completely gave myself over to it. I was never 100% excited about adding another child. I admit it. It may sound harsh, but that's just the truth of my story in our adoption journey. GREG felt the call, not me. I was excited, but also a bit, well, irritated. I really didn't want to start again with a toddler. I selfishly like to go back to bed after putting the boys on the bus, and sleep as late as I want. I like being able to hop in the car and go where I want, when I want during the day. I like that the boys can fend for themselves if I am sick, and that I can be sick in peace. You see the common thread here is that I was only thinking about ME.
I know now that my life was never about me, nor will it ever be. That much God has already shown me, and helped me to understand. I can't imagine life without Annabella in it. And maybe having finally stopped focusing on the ME of me, I have opened my heart to accept God's calling for more children. Or maybe it is just wishful thinking. Or maybe, possibly it is just ME again. Me wanting to feel the exhilaration of bonding between Mother and child again. I don't know. These are the thoughts that trouble me. These thoughts that occupy my head at night. And the faces of those we left behind. I simply can't get them out of my head. I've finally gone back and looked at the pictures we took in the orphanage. I've yet to go back and read those posts from that time, but just going back and looking at the photos we uploaded that day were almost more than I could handle. It brought tears to my eyes, and a sickness to the pit of my stomach that no medicine can cure.
Perhaps what has caused me to start and stop writing this post multiple times over the past 2 weeks is simply the rawness of bearing my dark parts for all to read. I've erased and rewritten this post, and have finally decided to just be honest. Though all adoption stories are different, and ours is certainly far from over, there is a darker side that not many people talk about, and that is the desperate longing that so many people feel after they get home. The longing to adopt again, to save the orphaned children who were left behind, the longing to be able to financially, and physically do more. The feelings of complete and total inadequacy to cope with the loss of the precious children who still waste away, who've never felt the love of a family, and who may never even be told of the love of Christ. And though I may smile, and even be joyful, I still have that piece inside that rots away with longing and desire.
So tonight I leave this post with this request. Please pray for me, and for all the adoptive parents who feel the same way. Pray that we will all be led by Christ to understand where He will have us go, and that we will all find peace with His decision, no matter what it is. That we will have our eyes opened to His path for us, and that we will all be able to accept, with complete faith His choices for our lives. If another adoption is part of His plan, then so be it. If not, then that's fine too. It's the not knowing that drives me mad. Perhaps it is all just God's way of teaching me more patience, or strengthening my faith. I just know that right now I feel weak. And vulnerable. And sad. And I also know that I'm not alone, that there are others who feel the exact same way. So thank you, all of our faithful friends, and readers. Thank you for continuing to be part of our lives, and thank you for continuing to lift us and others up in prayer. Thank you for all the things we may never even know you've prayed for along our journey for our family. And thank you for sticking with us and continuing to follow along on our walk of faith!