This is a really long post. But if you make it to the end, I'll leave you a little treat for your perseverance. :)
|You can see a more detailed timeline of our adoption here, but this shorter one is relevant to this post.|
This month, I cried for three days. The emotions were constantly under the surface, ready to erupt at the slightest jostling of my composure. And I think it's because I've spent all my hope.
But I don't mean that I'm giving up. Let me explain.
For the first time in seven months, I realized the reality of the way I was budgeting my hope. I should have been fixing my gaze with certainty on the object of my hope. Instead, like a confused Gretel (of "Hansel and"), I was depositing bits of hope along three different paths.
You see, about every two weeks (or sometimes more often), we get an email from our agency giving us information about the Ethiopia program. But really, as any waiting family will tell you, we all just skim the majority of the email, looking for the announcement telling us if there has been a referral. With every referral, we move one position closer to our baby. And so, I plopped down the change out of my Hope piggy bank every two weeks when I opened that email, expecting news of referrals, of progress toward our Ethiopian Small One.
And sometimes there was. But mostly there wasn't.
In the eight months since we became a waiting family, we have moved 11 spots - from number 99 to number 88. I just counted the emails in my inbox and in eight months we've received 23 emails, with less than half of those emails having had referrals announced. It's discouraging. I feel like we've had a good attitude about it, but it's still discouraging. It's an every-two-week cycle of dashed hopes. Path one.
And then of course there's the monthly hormone-laced cycle of hope. The month starts out with disappointment (and some lovely parting gifts from last month's Hope deposit of cramps and bloating and other gross things one shouldn't write about on the internet, but I can't seem to stop). Soon enough the hormones settle down and the days pass and the hope returns because there's a chance for this new month! So I plunk down a few coins onto the counter of Hope's Fertility Bank and we, um, you know. And then we spend another two weeks depositing our hope into that bank, hoping we can make good on our, er, investment. (Is this metaphor working?) But so far, the market has crashed, the recession has prevailed and we have cut our losses in the pregnancy department. Only to begin another month's cycle of hope and disappointment. Path two.
And on top of that, I decided somewhere along the line to add a third line of credit to our Hope Account: waiting kids. In April, I signed up to receive near-daily emails with profiles of children waiting to be adopted. These kids are usually on the waiting children lists because they are older or because they have a significant medical condition that makes them less desirable to the adopting community. Read that sentence again and tell me if you don't feel sick to your stomach. Let me tell you, looking at these waiting kids forces you to ride this sort of pendulum swing of indifference and heartbreak. You either have to view the profiles of the children as you would a listing of a house you might consider buying or as real-live children who need and deserve to be a part of a family and not an institution. And friends, you can't live in the latter for very long or very often because your heart won't survive it.
The problem is, these children are listed through several different agencies in several different states, working in several different countries. So it's not so easy as stopping by an open house to see if you like the floor plan. I have looked at these kids and even seen a few that we could and would parent, but felt like our hands were tied because they were in China or Russia or Colombia or Japan. The thought of switching countries and agencies was overwhelming and seemed, to be frank, impossible. Un-doable. Preposterous.
But I just couldn't look away. I kept thinking, "One day I'll open an email and the link will send me to a picture of our son or daughter." But each time, all I could see was the mountain of paperwork and money and the bazillion other factors that made it feel like considering that child was ludicrous. And so, the few pennies of hope I had left were spent each time I clicked away from a child's face in frustration and irritation at the injustice of so many orphans, so many hoops, so much money. Path three.
Daily, weekly, monthly, I spent our Hope savings account. And this month, I realized I'd scraped the bottom of the barrel. I can't do this anymore. I can't simultaneously hope for a biological, Ethiopian and waiting child. As much as having options gave us additional opportunities for hope, it also gave us additional opportunities for disappointment. And I can't handle three sucker punches of dashed hopes over the course of a month. My heart can't do that any more. Sometimes you just need all your eggs in one basket. I know, I know. I'm mixing metaphors - stay with me.
(Of course, all of this is coming out much more eloquently now than the Husband heard it. The version I gave him was "Blubber, blubber, snot, blubber, gasp, blubber, sniff, blubber, I WANT A BABY!" Poor guy. He's such a good man.)
So, the Husband and I went on a date and we talked about our options. We talked about countries and genders and ages and special needs. We talked about our "fleelings" (as Lila calls them) and how they matched up with the practicality of our options. We decided we need to declare one road and invest all of our hope there.
We talked about Ethiopia.
We talked about China waiting kids.
We talked about Russia.
We talked about the Democratic Republic of Congo.
We went all over the world. And we realized we have options, and that felt good. But then we realized we have lots of options and that felt overwhelming. And then there was this nagging voice that said, "Maybe you just aren't being patient. Maybe you just need to trust that God is going to make this happen in his own timing."
And the optimist Husband kept saying, "Our agency said two years. We have no reason to think it won't be two years."
We started calling on a few waiting kids. "Just to get some more information."
We started to figure out what an agency or country (or both) switch would look like and cost.
We started to feel very confused and overwhelmed.
I started to feel annoyed that we were asking the exact same questions we asked for six months before we started our paperwork last June.
Then, this past Sunday, I was praying in the shower (my best praying happens in the shower. I'm uninterrupted, the white noise of the water quiets my thoughts AND I'm in my pre-fall Adam and Eve costume just like God intended conversations with him to happen, right?) and I told God, "I don't know what we should do and I'm scared to move unless I know you are with us. Please show us what to do."
It was a very Moses conversation:
So I prayed, Lord, put a pillar of smoke ahead of us, and let us hear your voice behind us. Show us where we should go and be with us.
In my mind, I pictured a map of the world. And in my mind, I took myself to each country we were considering for our adoption - Ethiopia, Russia, China - and each place I stopped, a pillar of fire sprang up and covered that country. And I felt the Lord say to me, I will be with you wherever you go. And for the first time in many months, I felt peace in my heart. And that peace quieted my heart enough that we began to hear the voice behind us.
Ever since we started considering other options besides simply waiting out the two years on the Ethiopia list, I have had this guilty feeling that maybe I was just trying to take things into my own hands. I wasn't being patient. I wasn't trusting God to do what he said he would do. And even then, as we considered our options and prayed about our decision, I felt a little unsure that abandoning the initial plan was the right choice. After all, while not ideal, waiting two years for a referral wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Lila would be under five and perhaps our child would be a toddler and therefore they would be close in age. But I couldn't stop the worrying thought, "But what if it's longer than two years?"
Monday morning, I woke up and checked my email. We had an email from our agency which was surprising because they usually send the updates out on Fridays. Maybe there's been a referral! I thought. I opened it. My eyes scanned it and landed on the header, Questions about Referrals. Scan, scan, scan:
Don't get me wrong, if I had my choice, the wait would be lessening, not lengthening. I would much rather stay on this path, with our agency and bring home a baby from the country we've come to love so much.
As I read those words, it was like I heard this Voice behind me saying, "It's time to move."
And that peace I had felt the day before when I imagined the columns of fire springing up across the world rushed over me again.
We don't have anything decided. In fact, I've joked with our prayer team (a group of friends we recruited back in January of 2011 to help us process and discern what path to take) that we're on the "we think we're adopting from a different country every day" train. But, we feel permission to start asking questions, researching our options, and considering another path to our next child. Or perhaps not another path, just an unexpected turn in the one we've been on all along.
I can't help but think about Israel's Wilderness Detour (also in Exodus 13):
17 When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea.[c] Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle.[d]
For those of you who read this whole thing, here's your treat. Enjoy: