Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A New Hope

     After a mourning period, we knew we had another decision to make. Were we done with this journey? Were we giving up? Was God just wanting to see if we would be faithful to Him even if we ended this path without a child? We weren't sure about it all. If we continued, that would mean to re-new everything and pay all of the fees one more time. But if we didn't..... were we going to be ok with that choice? I mean, with the age we were, it wasn't like we could change our minds in a few years and try again. It was all or nothing. After talking about it, we both didn't feel right about letting it go. We did decide though that this was it. We weren't renewing anything after this.
     We made an appointment with our case worker and went to see how she could help.  She showed us two files. One with Downs Syndrome and one with Spinabifida.  Both were outside of our boundaries. We left very discouraged. Almost to the point of saying "We are done."
     But then I got a message from my friend Amy who had adopted 3 girls from China. She encouraged me to look on shared sites for our child on our own. I wasn't sure about it but she gave me a few sites. One week-end I was determined to look at every child on a certain site. I looked at different files for about 12 hours. Finally, I saw a little round face with a red and white striped shirt looking at me.  Run Run.  That is what they called her.  I opened her file and saw that she had a congenital heart defect.  We didn't feel apprehensive about this because I work in the cardiac field and have connections in this area.  I emailed the contact and said we were interested. I also called our caseworker to tell her what I had found.  We were then informed that this particular child was only to be adopted through a certain adoption agency. It was not the agency we were with. UGH!!!!  How many road blocks were we going to hit??  After talking with our agency and emailing the other agency, we all agreed that we all had the same goal in mind.  Together, we could do this! We took the file to our cardiologist friend and got the OK. Of course, she'll have to follow up with a cardiologist when she gets here but all looked good according to the file.   We also got to talk with a Physical Therapist who travels to the orphanage where our little one lives.  She worked with our little one last summer and said that she is a real joy. A great personality and healthy as can be. :)  Still there was no real excitement from us like before. Not yet.... Still a little gun shy.
     So here we went again! Jumping through hoops trying to get everything completed. From interviews with Gladney, the new agency, and updates with our other agency, it was almost like starting all over.
It looked like we had everything in order pretty quick and soon we were approved to be her parents!  About a week later, we got a phone call that the wrong LSC had been signed and the agency had to send for a new one from China, send it to us to re-sign and then send it back. No big deal but with all that had happened, we just didn't want anymore speed bumps! We got that taken care of and cleared up.  But then, of course, Immigration told us they decided we would have to re-file our I-800 and I-800A because our other one was attached to Zoey. I have never had to do so much paper work in my life! After filing these forms and traveling one and 1/2 hours to be re-fingerprinted, (for the 4th time) everything was approved. Whew!
     Everyone could tell that we were a little skeptical about everything still. Not wanting to get excited just to be let down again.  But then our case worker called to say that we could send our little Run Run a package. This is when I think we started to understand that it might just work out. We shopped for an outfit, got her a panda bear, a cozy blanket, a back pack and winter hat with her name on it.  We also made a hard back picture book with pics of our family so she could actually see us. On the cover it said  "My Family".  On Dec 12, 2012, (my birthday) we received 36 pictures of our little Run Run opening our package. There was even one pic that looked like she was pointing to my face. :) What an awesome birthday gift! She was so cute in her hat and all of her little friends behind her looking on.
So incredible!  I couldn't believe that she was actually touching stuff that we had touched. It finally seemed real.  I posted a pic of her with all of her friends. Some of the other adopting families posted that they could see their child in the back ground. Then another family posted they had adopted from the same place last summer and had a bunch of pics of our little one from when they were there! This particular mom said if she could have she would have scooped up Run Run and brought her home because she was just full of personality and fun. This really warmed our hearts! It is great to be connected with families who are adopting children from the same orphanage so we can keep up the friendships of our children for years to come.
     On Christmas Eve, we received an e-mail that NVC had sent our letter to China! This is the final step before we get our travel dates to go get our sweet potato. We are waiting to hear back from our agency but due to the holidays, they have been out of the office. Hahah... another speed bump.
We are on the final stretch of this race we began 6 years ago. Please pray that in light of all that is going on with Russia closing their adoption program that we can cross this finish line with little Run Run in our arms and bring her home to her forever family!
I will continue to post when information comes about and when we travel. Hopefully, that will be soon.... WITH NO SPEED BUMPS! :)
You might ask how we have gotten through all this??  The following words explain it all......
For I know the plans I have for you", declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Sadness sets in

     This chapter of the story is a sad and difficult one to write. It is one of loss and heart-break. It is one that represents a wound on my heart that still gives me pain. If you look closely, you will see there is a missing piece. This piece belongs to a little girl in China whom I will never hold but will always love. It is held by my little Zoey.
     When I got into the house, I broke down. I didn't even really know what had happened. I just knew that our dream of bringing our little one home was somehow gone. My husband suggested we go for a walk to be able to talk openly away from the kids. We went for a walk and he told me of all the information in the email from our case worker.  She told us that when we asked for the updated health report, the medical staff "suspected" that our little Zoey had a genetic disorder. The testing would take 6 weeks. So they sent the report without the results of the genetic testing and without mentioning they had tested her. If they would have, we would have proceeded with caution and probably waited to see the results before moving ahead.... but they didn't mention it.   When they got the results back, it was confirmed that she was missing her 7th chromosome and had something called Williams Syndrome.
         This part of the story can be tricky. I don't want to offend anyone and would never want anyone to think that a child with this syndrome doesn't deserve a family. That is the farthest from the truth.  My husbands brother is mentally disabled and we know what it entails to care for him.  But as I said in my previous posts, we had set up boundaries that we felt our family could handle. I want everyone who decides to continue reading that I never want to offend anyone.
     My husband and I, thankfully, had a trip to California planned for the following weekend. We wanted to sit down with our kids and discuss what was happening before we left. We shared with them the info our case worker had given us and what we had found on our own. We wanted to know what they thought about the situation because their lives and futures would most certainly be affected. Our 19 year old told us he understood why we would take Zoey and he understood why we wouldn't. He needed no explanation and would stand by whatever we chose. Our 14 year old felt a little differently.  He said that he couldn't believe that we would turn our back on her just because she wasn't perfect. He couldn't believe this was his family.  It killed us. We understand that it is the narrow sight of a child, that he couldn't see the complete picture, the full repercussions on a family to have a child with this syndrome, but it was still like a punch in the stomach.
Was this the reason? If we didn't take her, could I even look at myself in the mirror everyday?  We had a lot to talk about on our trip.
     Needless to say, we cried many tears in California. We walked on the beach and talked about our Zoey. What we could handle and what we couldn't.  We kept coming back to the boundaries we had set back when we chose to look at the special needs list. If it were just the two of us, we would have taken Zoey in a heart beat. But to choose this for our sons futures, we just didn't think it was fair. We had no idea if her issues would be a huge financial strain on us and then, in turn, our boys and their families. This syndrome has mental issues along with medical and we also worried that a huge change might magnify her mental issues. We also had first hand experience of how a medical need could financially cripple a family. We didn't feel right making that choice for our children and their future.  But it didn't feel right not taking Zoey either.
     Even though it took us a few weeks to say it out loud, we decided not to take her. My case worker said she is cared for by a foster family who loves her and is fully sponsored through her foster home.
      I know some may read this and think my sorrow was brought on by my own choices. One would be correct in saying this. But I do know that it was one of the hardest decisions my husband and I have ever had to make. We felt as though we lost a child.  We will live with the sorrow of this decision forever.  Zoey has a piece of our hearts and always will.

Uncontrollable Events

     After receiving our log-in date, we thought we would be traveling to China around the summer of 2008. Our lives were going to be changing and all of us were so excited.  But we couldn't see what the next few years would bring us.  Waiting.... Waiting.... and more WAITING....2008 came and went with no match.
Over the next year, China experienced a horrific earthquake.....  A  speed bump in the road.
The summer Olympics were held in Beijing. This meant every governmental agency would shut down their normal activity to help prepare for the Olympics.....  Another speed bump.
Then yet ANOTHER terrible earthquake.  China made the decision that any family whose child was killed or severely injured would have the chance to adopt a child before anyone from outside of China. Although we agreed with this, it was still another speed bump to slow us down.
     2009 came and went. We were asked by our adoption agency if we would be willing to look at the Special Needs list of children. With our "American" understanding of Special needs, we said no. We wanted to wait for a healthy child.  Hindsight is certainly 20/20. I wish now we would have been more open to understanding the term Special Needs from an adoption stand point.
     Countries have a healthy child list and a special needs list. Children on the healthy list are just that.... healthy, with nothing wrong with them as far as anyone knows.  Special needs is anyone else. SO this means if a child is missing even 1/2 a finger... they cannot be on the healthy list. We didn't know this. We were thinking special needs meant the child would always need to be cared for, never live on their own.  We just thought that it wouldn't really be fair to our boys. For us to make that "choice" for their lives once my husband and I were gone. So we continued to wait.
     Our Home Study expired. Our fingerprints expired. Our immigration papers expired. We had to have a discussion about how long we were going to wait and if we were going to pay the fees to re-new everything.  We decided to try one more round of waiting and renewed all of our paperwork.  Now don't get the wrong idea. I know that a child's life is worth more than any amount of money we could obtain but this was getting a bit expensive for our budget. It's one thing to budget for the fees once but this was the second time we had to pay a pretty big lump of cash. Not to mention, we were getting older.
     And the waiting continued through 2010. Although our family had the happy times a family has, we were all just losing the excitement that had been building for so long. It was a real let down.
     In the winter of 2010, we decided to just look at the special needs list. We were given a few files that we reviewed and considered. We would take them to our physician to get a true understanding of what the particular disability entailed.  We would pray about it, talk about it and try to decide if it would work with our active family.  After having to make these heart-breaking choices not to take these little ones, we thought it would be best to set boundaries that we all agreed on. These parameters weren't set by any means to be hurtful.  Please know we always wanted to make the choice that would be right for everyone involved. It's easy to say what your limits are but when there is a picture of a beautiful child that deserves a family, it's hard to say no.  I wasn't sure about the "boundary" idea but I am so glad that my husband thinks with his head first and heart second. I am the opposite of this. It would be helpful later in our journey.
We continued to look through some files but the disabilities always seemed like way more than our family could handle. Finally, in April 2011, we made an appointment to go to the agency to talk about a game plan.
     My mother-in-law came too since she is a nurse and we thought she could help with the medical jargon.  Our agency had a file for us on a little one who was about to turn 4.  The file said she had been born with a hole in her heart (ASD) but it had been corrected. We must have looked at this file 200 times searching for something else this little one had.  Why would this little angel NOT already be adopted? I mean there are lots of people who are born with an ASD and don't even know they have it! Had we found our little one at last??? We asked our case worker to put a hold on her file so no one else could look at her for 72 hours. We wanted to take the file to our doctor to look at and take a few days to pray about it. Over that 72 hours, we must have looked at the picture of this little angel 1000 times. We were trying not to get too excited until we heard from the doctor. Our pediatrician, along with a cardiologist who had looked at the file, called the next day to give us the great news.  Neither of them could see any reason why this child wasn't going to live a perfectly normal healthy life. We decided to ask for an updated health report anyway just to be on the safe side. A few weeks later, it came back that she was healthy and had no other issues except the corrected ASD we already knew about. YIPPEE!!
We were more than excited! We were so in love already!
     Over the next few months, our love grew as we jumped through all of the final hoops of pre-adoption travel. All we were waiting on was the invite from China to come and get our little one.
     In late August, my best friend, Debbie and I had our kids at the Indiana Sand Dunes when I received a call from Beth, our case worker. I was jumping up and down before I answered it, thinking she was calling me to tell us when we would be traveling to China.  We had a very bad connection and all I could hear was "bad news"... "I'm so sorry" and "talk with your husband... Let us know how you want to proceed."
I text my husband and told him to check our email and call me if he could. My day was filled with anxiety and tears. I wasn't sure what was going on but I knew it wasn't good. When I pulled in the drive-way and saw my husbands face..... my world came crashing in.

The Starting Line

So we had made the decision to adopt. But what next??  I was at the starting line, feet in the blocks, ready to run this race.  But my husband was just warming up, stretching, slowly walking up to the starting line. Once again, we were on different pages of the adoption plan.  I decided to just start asking around about a reliable adoption agency.  We had a few friends who had adopted...The Blairs, the Devenoughs, the Grosso family. whose advice we trusted.  After investigating a bit more, we decided on Lifelink. I went to their web-site to see what direction we needed to go to start this journey. The first step was the application process.  This was to see if we even "qualified" as adoptive parents.
WHAT?? QUALIFIED?? We wanted to add to our family and give a child a loving home. What more did they need to know? I was about to find out!
     The application was filled with questions about ourselves, where we worked, did we go to college, how much money we made, how many times have we been married/divorced, where we lived, where we grew up, how many siblings we had, if our parents were still living, how were we raised, how were we punished, how we punished our children, how much we weighed, and on and on and on the application went.
     I finished my part and told my husband, who was still sauntering around the starting line, that he could get on the computer whenever he wanted and fill in his portion. I checked the application frequently hoping he had started but a few months passed and I was starting to doubt his desire to adopt.
     Christmas morning 2006, (yes this journey started that long ago), after all the gifts were opened, my husband said there was one more gift to open. He handed me an envelope. I was looking at this gift trying to figure out what it could be. The events of the past year were running through my head as I drew a blank to what was inside the envelope. I could see writing, like a list. And then, I thought, "Oh My Goodness!!! My husband has made a list of all of the financial accomplishments for the year! Are you kidding me??" You see, that past year, we had worked really hard to pay off some things and get our finances in order. He had typed it all out to show me all we had accomplished. I couldn't believe it. I was so disappointed......
     But then as I opened the folded papers, I saw that I was so wrong. He had completed the adoption application and written a check for the application fee. He was at the starting line standing right next to me! I broke out into tears as we celebrated the start of our family's new journey!
     A few weeks after mailing the application, we received a call from Lifelink and Beth, our caseworker. I remember seeing the words "Lifelink" on the caller ID and thinking, Is this really happening? I was jumping around before I answered it. :) Beth said that our initial application looked good and the next step was to set up an interview. Its a good thing she couldn't see me before I answered the phone. She would have thought I was crazy! :)
     A month or so passed and we went in for our initial interview. We were asked questions about why we wanted to adopt, if gender mattered, where we wanted to adopt from and what our fears were. We have two bio boys so we were really hoping for a girl. We were open to any country or nationality. Our only fear was, in the future, someone would come back and try to claim our daughter as their own and take her from us. After reviewing all of our answers, they suggested China. Mostly because they allow couples to pick the gender, they have an abundance of female orphans and that the chances of her parents coming to claim her would be slim. It is against the law to abandon your child in China so to step forward to claim a child would mean a penalty fine would have to be paid. I had read somewhere that this fine equals 5 years salary.
     So it was set.  We were going to get a little China doll. :) The next few months were filled with passports, physicals, immigration paper work, dossiers, family photos and anything else Lifelink told us to do. Our dossier was finally ready to go in May and was sent to China with many prayers of safe delivery. If you haven't prepared a dossier, you have no idea how stressful it was to place that packet into someone else's hand.  I know the post office girls thought I was crazy!
     We received our official log-in date on June 26, 2007.  This meant that China received our paperwork and approved us as adoptive parents. We were told 12 months for a "match" so we spent this time thinking up names, reading up on adoptive parenting tips, travel tips and anything else we thought we needed to know.  Little did we know we would have PLENTY of time to prepare.
From the beginning.....
        Where did this story start?  Well, let me head back a few years to when I was about 8 or 9 years old.  My Uncle Bud and my Aunt Mary had a son, Gary, who was a few years older than me. But they wanted to adopt a child too. I am not sure of all of their reasons and how they came to this decision but they were successful and soon Samantha a cute little thing from South Korea joined their family....and mine. She was my cousin and I was in awe of her. She was so adorable. I remember asking my mom to buy her and I matching Holly Hobbie sweatshirts to give her on the day she came to meet us.
      Now I know that the thoughts I had about adoption were immature and of 9 year old nature, but I remember feeling so proud that I was related to people who would become parents of a child who had none. So proud that I was now family to this sweet little girl. That was the day that God planted a seed in my heart for adoption.  He used my Aunt and Uncle in a way I don't think they realized.  He used them to bring another little girl to the US.
     My Uncle and Aunt's journey continued as they adopted 2 more girls from South Korea.  Each time, the seed God had planted in my heart grew. I knew someday, my desire to adopt would develop and I would also take this journey of adoption.
     Time raced on and I grew up, went to college, started working, got married and had two children of my own.  My husband and I were very content with our two wonderful boys.  But every once in awhile there would be a tug at my heart...a whisper from God telling me not to forget about the seed planted so many years ago.  When I mentioned this "seed" to my husband, his answer was "No way!".  I know it sounds harsh but let me tell you a bit about his experience with adoption.  It started long ago too.
     My husbands parents were very active members of the Illinois Foster Care Association for many years. They were so involved that they even held the VP position at one point.  Along with my husband and his four older brothers, the Myers house was filled with over 30 foster kids, mostly special needs kids.  Of course, not 30 all at once but there were always a few extra children running around the house.  This was difficult for my husband. First of all, he is an introvert and likes his alone, quite time to re-energize. Secondly, everything was shared. Food, clothes, toys, bedrooms and most of all, the attention from his parents. Since he was the youngest and the smallest, he had to learn to fight for what he wanted. Now this is not to say that my husband had a difficult childhood. He had loving parents and admired their desire to help those in need. But he wanted something different for his boys. He wanted to give them everything we could. He wanted them to have their own rooms, clothes, toys and quite time and attention. :)
     So here we were. On opposite sides of the adoption spectrum. But I was faithful to what I truly thought God was putting on my heart.  Whenever I felt Him tug, I would speak up and mention it to my husband. He would say, "No way".  Then I would say a pray asking God to work on softening my husband's heart toward adoption.
     Time continued to pass. Life went on. The boys grew up. We grew older. Everyone was happy and healthy. Our family was truly blessed in every aspect of life.   But I still felt a longing for something I was missing. Until one night.  My older son, Damon, who was involved in Manteno Youth For Christ, was asked to speak at a YFC event.  While we were there, we listened to a speaker talk about how everyone is given Gifts from God. He went on to explain that it didn't matter what the gift was but only that we use it. It could be that one was a plumber and helped those who couldn't always pay or that someone was full of compassion and could just sit and listen to someone who needed a shoulder to lean on. The speaker went on with different examples but always coming back to the importance of using whatever Gift God had given to you.  As we were leaving the facility,my husband stopped me in the parking lot, under the night stars and said, "I need to tell you something.  I don't know why it has taken me so long to see this but  after hearing that speaker and listening to a radio program about adoption, I realize God has blessed our family so much and we could easily take care of another child. We need to adopt."  It was so awesome to see that God had done it. He had softened my husband's heart and now the seed in my heart was ripe!