Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Unhappy Truth

It is hard to think about the staggering losses our daughter has faced by age three. It is no wonder that she is so serious in all of her photos. It's no mystery to me why she is so small still. We are thrilled to be her parents, but we know she has no reason to be happy about where she is and why and how she got there. This is what I do my best to remember every single day; it is all too easy to get caught up in our joy at having a daughter, but it's not right to forget her pain. She bears those losses every single moment of her life, and will still long after she has come home with us. She will for the rest of her life, I imagine. There is nothing I can do about that.

But I can be a soft place to land.

I can be a soothing voice in a dark and quiet room.

I can fight my hardest in the only way I know how to get to her as soon as possible.

I know that where she is that she is surrounded by love, that she is nurtured and fed and read to, that of all the places she could be until we can belong to her, it is one of the very best. We know that, and it makes it easier, but it still doesn't make me stop crying when I think of her in a room with other children, all going to sleep knowing that they have not yet arrived at their final destination.

If you think of us and our daughter tonight, say a little prayer. We'd like to get her home soon.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Magnolia By Any Other Name Would Be As Sweet

When it comes to a child's name, it's a lot different adopting a three-year-old as opposed to a baby. When we began this journey, we settled on a name because I wanted to think of our daughter as a person even before I knew who she was, because I wanted a name to signify the daughter we would have. But for three years she's had her Ethiopian name, and so to just change it to one that we prefer doesn't seem fair or right. Magnolia wasn't special to us for any particular reason--I just liked it because it's a little different without being totally weird, and there are a lot of nickname possibilities so that she can choose what fits best as she grows up. Our plan was to call her Nola, and it still is, sort of. Turns out that her Ethiopian name, which was given to her by her family, which is meaningful and beautiful all on its own, sounds pretty great with the name Nola. So we will begin by calling her by her Ethiopian name (which we are not allowed to disclose here until she is legally ours), then work into calling her Nola [Ethiopian Name], with the Nola part coming in as a term of endearment, much like some people preface their baby's name with the word baby when speaking of or to them sweetly. If, at some point, it seems natural to just call her Nola, we just might. If not, we won't. If she prefers to be called her Ethiopian name only, we will do that. If she chooses another nickname based on Magnolia or her Ethiopian name, then that's fine, too. Both her names will belong to her, and she may decide what to do with them. I will make little flag banners for her wall that spell out both Magnolia and her Ethiopian name, and I've got chipboard letters that spell out Nola, plus the first letter of her Ethiopian name. I call this particular combination her rapper name, and if she wants to go by that, well, hey, AWESOME. If not, we can name a pet something we can spell with those letters, and they won't go to waste. I have been wanting a hamster, so this will totally work out, no matter what our daughter decides about her name.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How Magnolia Got Found

It was shockingly simple, really, how we found our girl. We'd known from the get-go that we were open to adopting an older child; it's just that we thought it was a better idea to start with a baby. And older child was what was to come with our second adoption. "It's natural," I said, "to build a family from the ground up." It made sense to us and to everyone we spoke to. A baby! Yes! Start with one of those! I'd been trolling around the waiting child list daily, knowing full well that there are a great many things termed "special needs" that we would be open to but wouldn't think to put on our list, at this point knowing for sure that infants do, in fact, show up there. (See previous posts in which we'd expressed interest in an infant that didn't turn out to be our Magnolia--for which we are now so grateful.) On a Friday afternoon, I was at work, and my young charge was asleep. I logged into the website, clicked the appropriate places on the screen to get to the list, and I saw a face. Click again, and there she was full length, looking stern. (She didn't, I think, want her picture taken.) And I thought, "I want her to be our daughter." After which I promptly thought, "Mary, the plan is for a baby first." I then proceeded to argue with myself for a good ten minutes, sending Jarod a text and an email that just said he should look at this cutie, and wow, our process next time could be really fast.

And then I lost my mind. I proceeded to email and text that I thought this could be our daughter, and please look at her. PLEEEEEASE. LOOOOOOK. at HERRRRRRRRR.

Jarod proceeded to keep working, you know, at his job that he is paid to do and arrived home having had a frustrating afternoon, during which he had not looked at her picture. I did my best to listen to what he had to say about his day, and I feel like I did a fairly good job of being empathetic until the Adoption OCD took over and I blurted out, "Do you want to just look at her now?"

I logged in.

I clicked two times.

Then again.

He saw her.

He was quiet.

I told him it was up to him, that I was on board with waiting for a baby since that's what we'd decided, but that I also thought that this baby, who wasn't a baby, could be our girl. I told him that we could fill out the form, that we weren't obligated to adopt her if we reviewed her information. I hovered the mouse over the spot to click through for the waiting child request form. He said, "Let's see what happens." I nearly fell over with the force of my shock. What? I double checked that he really wanted to do it. He said yes, obviously, and my fingers shook as I typed in our information.

And then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

In the meantime, both of us told people about her. About the possibility. We may have bragged a bit about how beautiful she is.

And then I nearly went crazy with waiting. Because of course it was after business hours on a Friday that we sent the form in, and the whole weekend stretched out ahead of us. By some miracle, I exchanged emails with our consultant at the agency on Saturday, and what she said made it seem as if we'd get to review the file. On Monday, emails exchanged with the director of the Ethiopia program suggested the same thing. But no one said for certain that we were the only family interested. I didn't want to count on anything until we knew for certain.

And yet.

On Saturday I felt as if I were supposed to choose an outfit to bring our daughter home in, so I stood there in the middle of the Target baby section, like a loon, trying to find the softest shirt and the perfect leggings to match. It just felt...right.

So on Tuesday, when my phone alerted me that a voicemail had come through without the phone ever ringing, and it turned out to be the consultant in charge of the waiting child program, telling me that she had our girl's information for me, it was only confirmation for what my heart already knew. My young charge woke up and laid heavy against my chest, anchoring me in the relief of knowing our girl's name.

We went through the formal step of speaking with a pediatrician and discussing what she said. I tried to wait an appropriate amount of time that would indicate that we'd thought about it as opposed to just being impulsive. And then we said yes. A resounding, heartfelt, YES. Late that night, I thanked Jarod for agreeing to look at her information in the first place. He whispered back, "Thank you for finding her." Because I guess that's what I did.

Now we will bring home a three-year-old. All those baby dreams have faded into the background, and it feels like this was always the way it was meant to be. It probably was; we just didn't know it until we saw her. Now we do. We know it well.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What Now?

I find myself saying the same things over and over to people because everyone has the same questions. When do you go get her? What comes next? Friends, I am here to answer your questions.

On Friday, we received our official referral packet via FedEx. There are a couple of documents to sign, and we need to send in a check. That second part necessitates drawing funds from a few places and getting them in to the proper account. As soon as that is done, we will get our certified check and send both that and the paperwork in. Once they have received that, our dossier will be translated and submitted to the courts in Ethiopia, and they will assign a court date to us. We are hoping and praying and crossing all our fingers, toes, and paws (the cats have been charged with good luck help, too) that we receive a court date before the courts close for the rainy season in August. If we do not receive a court date prior to court closures, we have to wait until they reopen in October. We will travel to Ethiopia for the court date. From that time, it is generally four to six weeks until an embassy date, which is when we receive Magnolia's visa from the U.S., and she will be allowed to enter the United States as our daughter. If we get a court date before the rainy season, Jarod and I will both come home in between court date and embassy date. If it is after the court closures, I hope to take advantage of some offers we've had to learn about Ethiopia and stay in between dates. So on the short end, we hope to bring her home in early fall. On the long end, hopefully by Christmas. You can hope and pray with us for the former, if you please.

In the meantime, we have to update our home study paperwork to reflect the age change, and we will also do the same with immigration, just to be on the safe side. On the home study, approval is for a baby girl zero to twelve months, so that definitely has to be changed, and on the immigration form, we're approved for a child up to three years of age, but we want to increase it to four years just to be sure. We'll also take an additional course through Adoption Learning Partners which will address issues specific to bringing home an older child.

It's been a whirlwind since we got her file and said yes. The nesting instinct has hit me hard. I want not only to get her room ready, but also to get a bunch of things done on the house that we thought we'd have more time to do. Mostly, it's her room I'm driven to complete, but I also feel a pretty strong urge to get a dumpster rented so we can clear all the water damaged stuff from our basement and get the construction waste out of the garage. If you've got the hookup for that sort of thing, please do let me know. Otherwise, I'll be doing some financial juggling to make it happen because heaven knows we won't be hauling stuff up out of the basement once we've got some big brown eyes to look into.

We have already been so blessed by so many people. One of my dearest friends is planning a fundraiser for us while she is in town from Chicago (Saturday, June 26--let me know if you want the Evite and haven't already received one). I've got a ton of hand-me-downs, plus some special dresses as gifts, not to mention all the clearance shopping I've done as we move through this process (okay, okay, and some shopping once we saw her gorgeous face), so we're pretty well set for clothes. A gem of a woman offered her services to do all the boring things we need to do to get ready, and would believe she even brought up painting trim? And guess what needs to be done in the nursery! She gets to paint trim AND the ceiling, too, if she wants. I am just so grateful to everyone for all they are doing for us at this time, for the excitement they have for us as a family. We cannot wait to get this ball rolling and be on the way to meeting and bringing home our girl.

Soon I will write a little something about how we found our Magnolia and what that whole crazy process was like. We have especially enjoyed surprising people, hearing their excitement and joy for our family and seeing the looks on their faces when we tell them she's not a baby, but a three-year-old. It will be hard moving through this time between knowing who she is and having her with us, but I anticipated that, and I've got waterproof mascara on my list for Target. We are just so thrilled to know who she is. We cannot wait to meet her.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Oh, Such Joy

When I made the call this afternoon, when I left the voice mail that said, "Please let us know what we need to do next to proceed with adopting her," it was just a formality. I knew we'd say yes from the moment my husband, unexpectedly, said, "Let's see what happens."

She was a face on the page I'd checked obsessively every day, more than once a day, since we officially became a waiting family. She was a little girl in a dress that was too long. She was a little girl, not a baby. I was sure Jarod would say no, that we were going to stick to the course we'd set out for ourselves as a family.

But he didn't say no.

He said, "Let's see what happens."

She is three years old.

She is just who I dreamed about.

She is our Magnolia.

Happiness.

Let Me Be Vague

We've got a little something in the works, and I think you're going to like it. We like it. We like it a lot. Be prepared for some changes!

(Is your anticipation building?)

(A little bit?)

(Maybe more than a little bit?)

(Oh, I do love keeping you in suspense...)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Not Our Magnolia

Just a quick note to let you know that the waiting child we inquired about will be adopted by the other family who has been reviewing her information. To be honest, I feel relieved. Looking forward at our summer plans last night, I found myself wondering how we would ever make it work if we needed to travel twice to Ethiopia this summer. I trust that when it is the right time, the right Magnolia will make her appearance. We look forward to that day.
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