WARNING: Most adoption journeys are not Hallmark Channel pretty. The outside of the package usually looks decent, but there's a big ol' mess inside. Ours is no exception.
Here's the Reader's Digest format:
August of 2007 we applied to our agency.
March of 2010 we finally got our act together and submitted our dossier.*
September of 2010 we received our referral.
January of 2011 we traveled to Ethiopia for court and met our newest daughter.
March of 2011 I traveled with a friend to bring Sophia home. Shout out to my friend Lori! It takes a very special and brave woman to travel halfway around the world with me.
OK, first point I'd like to make is that the most idiotic way to handle adoption paperwork is over a two and-a-half year period. May I suggest you not follow our example on that front?
But I digress.
Our story begins well before 2007. Adoption was woven into the hearts of myself and my husband while we were dating (2001-perhaps even earlier than that). It was somewhat of an assumption that we would, at some point, probably adopt. By 2006 we were married, had a toddler and a peanut on the way. After choosing an agency, we applied to their El Salvador program in 2007. Some of you may notice that Sophia is a shade darker than most El Salvadorans. Mid-process we switched to our agency's brand spanking new Ethiopia program (at our agency's suggestion). Africa has always held my heart captive, so it was a done deal.**
Adoption paperwork is a bear. Imagine the paperwork required for buying a house, selling a house and doing complicated taxes all rolled into one. Now, imagine that each document is spread out over your city and you need to gather them in a specific order, within a specific time frame. Add fingerprinting (three times) into this lovely process and you're beginning to get the idea. Did I mention these documents have expiration dates? When you take (going on) three years to complete the paperwork, you have to start over with a lot of it (I told you it was idiotic).
In the adoption community there is a lot of "hurry up and wait" going on. Once your dossier is in country, you just wait. And wait. And then wait some more. People have a tendency to ask a lot of questions during this phase, because it appears you're not pursuing adoption anymore. It's monotonous and painful to answer the same question with the same answer. "Our dossier is in country and we're just waiting for our referral."
In all fairness, we didn't have a very long wait until our referral. Considering we had two younguns at home, our attention was not solely on the calendar, marking the slow march of time, noting that we were nearing the end of the posted referral time-frame. It's almost surreal when that phone call finally comes in. When you first lay eyes on your child, something shifts and all that paperwork fades to a dim memory (at least temporarily). I couldn't stop staring at her beautiful eyes (a weakness for anyone who takes one peek at her lashes). I wanted more than anything to hop a plane, gather her in my arms and never lay her down as an orphan again. Directly following our referral, I was scheduled to chaperone a youth trip to Magic Mountain. These seemingly opposite worlds collided, resulting in a painful explosion. Deeply embedded in my heart was guilt-ridden shrapnel of frivolity and poverty. Here was a group of kids, gaily comparing their spending money totals and posting pictures on Facebook of them having a blast on the rides. Meanwhile, my eyes were practically glued to my phone as I gazed, teary-eyed at two thumbnail-sized pictures of a girl halfway around the world, who had stolen my heart and who had never known such joy as could be elicited from a trip to an amusement park. Joy for her meant a semi-full belly.
Christmas passed, and we took comfort in the knowledge that next Christmas, Sophia would no longer be "just another orphan". In January, we traveled for court, and anxiously met our third daughter. Never have I known so much elation and sorrow to simultaneously engulf my heart. She was finally in our arms, only to have us leave her an ocean away, with no idea of when we would be reunited. We hadn't passed court (a common obstacle) and didn't know when our next court date would be scheduled. It could be days or weeks or even months. Turns out, our next court date was later in January. We passed-Thank you Jesus! And were submitted to the U.S. Embassy. We fully expected to be investigated by the embassy, but surprisingly were not.
Just a couple of months after meeting our beautiful Ethiopian daughter, I was headed back across the big pond to bring her HOME.
That's when the adventure truly began.
To Be Continued...
Dedicated To Those Still Orphaned,
P.S. Here's a rough-around-the-edges video from our court trip.
*Aka ream of paperwork necessary for international adoptions.
**A mission trip to South Africa made sure of that.